Meal prep ideas for Athletes that work full-time

Staying consistent with your nutrition when trying to balance work and training is a struggle for many athletes, across a variety of sports.

How are you meant to have super healthy, tasty food without having to prep for 3 hours per day or spend £20 a pop in wholefoods? 

One of the single biggest elements that dictates whether an athlete is successful with their nutrition plan or not is consistency. Everyone & anyone can eat well for one or two meals, or even for a whole week, but how can you keep it up regularly?

 

Breakfast

This meal can make or break your day. Get it right and you supercharge your energy levels and focus for the day. Get it wrong and you run the risk of falling asleep & craving snacks by 10.30am. Two simple, quick recipes which I suggest to all the athletes I work with who are short on time (and the below ideas can be tinkered with to suit your tastes), are:

Frittata

Whipping one of these up is super simple. Use a base of onion, garlic and 6 eggs & you can chuck all sorts in...

  • Pop in some carbs such as sweet potatoes, black beans or squash.
  • Use leftover meat from sunday lunch.
  • Use spices to add extras flavour and antioxidants.
  • Top with extras such as avocado, yoghurt or have on good quality bread.

Making this and then cutting it into 4 big wedges will give you a healthy breakfast option that you can take in some tupperware or foil to have at lunch, or as a mid-morning snack.

Overnight oats

Now these are close to my heart. I love them. Sometimes I go to bed and can’t wait for morning so I can eat them (you think I’m joking!). Anyway, they are the simplest meal prep breakfast you can do.

Get a small shaker or jar. Use 150ml of liquid (water, milk, nut milk) and scoop in some oats, yoghurt, berries, chia seeds and protein powder. Shake it all up, pop it in the fridge and it's ready to grab in the morning. Use this recipe!

The best part is that you can change it depending on your goals and preferences. Don’t like oats - use buckwheat. Need more fats - add some almond butter. Need to boost your gut health - add glutamine and kefir.

Sooooooo many different flavours you can do. Have a go and tag Performance Kitchen in them!

 

Lunch

So your choices are canteen style food at work, a meal deal from the supermarket or grabbing something from a cafe or deli. WRONG!! There are so many different ways you can have a healthy, nutrient dense meal without breaking the bank.

First of all there are a few things every athlete wants to tick off the list when it comes to lunch. Vegetables are essential. No getting away from it. Get them in your lunch EVERY SINGLE DAY! They will help to offset the afternoon energy crash, provide a boat load of nutrients to help you recovery from your morning session or fuel your evening training. Portion control is a key area. Both undereating and overeating can result in unwanted symptoms such as bloating, tiredness and lack of concentration. Try using this as a guide

  • 1 palm of protein
  • 2 fists of veggies
  • 1 fist of carbs
  •  2 thumbs of fat

The biggest part of the lunch is food quality. Do not eat food that is deep fried, covered in sugary sauces or loaded with cheese. This is going to compromise your training performance in the evening or recovery from the lunchtime or morning session. Let's give you some ideas -

  • Use leftovers from the night before - got to love some tupperware! Chicken risotto
  • Prepping a batch of meals extra on Sunday and / or Wednesday. This chilli is perfect
  • Making better choices when grabbing food from Leon, Pret, Itsu or POD. Less toasted sandwiches more protein and grain bowls, soups and salads
  • Bringing extra food to supplement the work canteen food. Simply some hummus or extra meat can help bump the lunch offering into a proper meal.

It really does come down to planning and decision making. Professional athletes cannot do things by halves. Be organised & be disciplined.

 

Dinner

In The Performance Kitchen the focus is on real food to help you maximise your training and health. There are lots of ways to get super tasty, nutrient rich and quick to make meals into your weekly nutrition plan. Here are my top tips for making dinner easy and enjoyable.

Pre-prepared meals

Having food prepped will lower the decision stress of what to eat, what to buy and will prevent late night shopping… which always ends in some form of doughnut or brownie being slipped into the basket! Here are some tips on how to achieve this –

Again it comes back to food quality. You have to fuel your body with minimally processed whole foods. If you do - you will supercharge your performance.

Quick-cooking meals

Quick, healthy, nutritious food isn’t bland and it isn't just steamed veg and poached chicken. What I want you to do is to identify 3 quick cook meals that you like and are easy for you to cook.

1 needs to be protein and carbohydrate based, 1 needs to be protein and fat based, 1 needs to be a mixed meal. ALL WITH VEGETABLES! 

You can then mix and match the recipes depending on your training schedule, work commitments or body composition goals.

A little planning goes a long way. Don’t just wing it. How much better is your training when you turn up knowing what you have to do? When you just rock up and try to think of something, often it is a bit half hearted. This is the same with nutrition. Get a plan, implement it and be consistent! When you do….your health and performance will sky rocket.

 

About the Author: Liam is a writer, personal trainer & performance nutritionist based out of London who currently works with Copenhagen F.C.  Read more about Liam's work here.