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Meal prep for when life is busy

31 October 2022 - Written by  Ellie Baker

Meal prep for when life is busy

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.

My name is Ellie Baker and I am an 800m and 1500m runner for Great Britain. The amount of training I do a day requires me to ensure I am consuming consistent protein, nutrients and energy but also leaves me with very little time to cook everyday. I need to ensure I have balanced but training centric meals, so prepping in advance always helps me keep on track.

Why meal prep?

There are many reasons why meal prepping can be advantageous. The ability to manage portions as you prepare can help you avoid overeating and having meals readily available can combat making poor food choices, not to mention saving money on takeaways when you are just not in the mood to cook.

The reason I love to meal prep

Personally, I find it is always best to prepare for the week ahead by meal prepping. This way no matter if the madness of life gets in the way of your plans your nutrition won’t suffer. Being a full-time athlete leaves me feeling exhausted most days which often means I am too tired to cook from scratch when I get home from training. It’s also extremely important that I get the correct nutrients into my body to aid the recovery of my muscles in a timely fashion. To make sure I get those nutrients in to replenish my energy stores I usually bulk cook my meals on my rest day for the next week ahead. This ensures I always get the right foods straight after training without having to start cooking from scratch when I’m already tired.

Top Tips for meal prepping

Perhaps the best tip for meal prepping is to keep it simple to start.

You haven’t got to become a Michelin star chef and create fancy recipes. Cooking a lot of food at once can be tricky to start with so stick to simple to prepare meals. Variety is also important as eating the same meal repeatedly can become mundane. If I am bulk preparing a dish served with rice and vegetables, I will rotate the protein (e.g. salmon and chicken) so that not every portion is exactly the same.

Pick a set day to prep! 

Whilst meal prepping ultimately saves time in the long run it does require some extra time upfront to cook in larger quantities. Make sure you choose a time to cook where you are least likely to be distracted.

Another top tip is to divide the cooked food out into portions. 

Investing in good containers will help with this point.  Dividing into portions means you won’t find yourself in a position where you have overeaten and will also ensure the food lasts as long as you planned. 

A quick meal idea and the importance of timing

A lot of the time I will bulk cook my meat and my vegetables and then pair it with a microwave packet of Tilda rice. The ability to have rice ready for consumption in 2 minutes means the overall time I spend preparing meals has decreased significantly. For an athlete it is particularly important to consume a carbohydrate within 30 minutes of training to allow the body to efficiently replenish glycogen stores. During this period your biggest recovery gains can be made as your body is screaming out for nutrients and a high carb intake. The ability to quickly prepare Tilda rice and allow my carbohydrate intake to be met cannot be underestimated. For anybody looking to reduce the time spent meal prepping and to make prep easy this is a great go to idea. 

How to store meal prep

After cooking in bulk, I break down the storage of my meals to ensure they are as fresh as possible and safe to consume. Normally my prepped meals for the first half of the week are stored in the fridge and then microwaved as and when I wish to consume. The other half of the prepped meals are frozen on meal prep day so that they can be safely consumed towards the end of the week. Typically, I remove frozen meals from the freezer in the morning so they will be defrosting while I am at training.  On my return the meals will be ready to be microwaved and then consumed.