A common practice among serious weightlifters and bodybuilders is to meal prep. Meal prep is the practice of cooking and preparing the meals for the rest of the week before the week begins so you don’t have to cook on each individual day and it’s easier to stick to calories.
This method of prepping meals is an easy way to streamline the process of tracking calories, hitting macros, and making food by doing it all at once on only one day of the week. By prepping meals, it will make tracking calories and macros much easier and gives you more control over what you’re eating on a daily basis.
Meal prep is not necessary for creating a diet that builds muscle but it does make the process more efficient and helps you stick to the diet you are on. If all of your calories and foods are already logged and accounted for, all you need to do is eat what’s been made.
Why Should You Prep Meals?
Meal prep makes sticking to a diet easier and more efficient because it allows you to predetermine what you eat on days of the week beforehand. This makes it so you do not need to cook on each individual day and will be less tempted to go over or under your calories for that day.
It also makes it so you do not have to track every food you eat as you are eating it. This is much better as opposed to constantly needing to scan or weigh food items and log them onto an app.
Meal prep also saves you time overall and gives you the freedom to quickly take meals with you as you go places during the week. This ultimately saves both money and time. Instead of needing to cook a meal after getting back from work, you could prep a meal and take it with you to work and eat it there. These prepped meals can substitute grabbing takeout or eating at restaurants which will most likely cut your weekly spending for food in half.
The Best Foods For Meal Prep
The following list contains some easy food items to prepare and store. All of these foods can be prepped into meals pretty easily and are among the common food items used to make meals in advance. For more high protein low-calorie foods, check out this post. There are also sample bulking on a budget and cutting on a budget grocery lists to use as references in addition to this basic list.
- Overnight oats
This list does not cover everything but it does give a good base of food items that are easy to prep and could last for a week while hitting your macros.
When first doing meal prep, you should buy foods you normally eat and make meals you normally would cook. This simplifies the process of cooking for the week ahead. The best foods to do meal prep with are just foods that can be used to make meals you like and that fit your macros. It doesn’t have to only be chicken, broccoli, and rice. Those just happen to be the foods that are easy to make and have optimal ratios of macronutrients.
Pros vs. Cons of Meal Prep
The pros of meal prep are that it makes sticking to calories and macros easier. It also gives you more free time during the week because you don’t have to cook.
Additionally, meal prep can help you save money and add organization to your life. The expenses of eating out can add up and meal prep removes the allure of restaurants that charge you a lot for calorie-dense foods.
The cons of prepping meals are that you have less freedom to eat what you want on individual days, you have to spend time prepping meals, and it slightly limits the amount of food you can eat since if every calorie of the week is prepped, you can’t eat out or grab food besides the meals you’ve already prepared.
Of course, you could just prep 2,500 calories of food and leave 500 calories left over for eating out (assuming you are on 3,000 calories per day). This is fine and is a way to find a medium between the two extremes of prepping every meal and only ever eating out or just snacking randomly.
To summarize, meal prep can be a very useful method to save time, save money, help you hit your calories consistently, organize your life, make hitting your macro split easier, and avoid eating outside of your diet.
The negatives to doing meal prep are that you have less freedom to eat what you want during the week, you have to spend 1-2 hours one day a week cooking all your meals, there is less overall variety in the foods you are consuming, and you have less chances to eat out and buy food that interests you when you see it.
To reduce these drawbacks to meal prep, you could prep only for Monday through Friday which gives you the weekend off from pre-cooked meals to eat out, you could leave calories in your daily meals after prep, and you could make a larger variety of meals so that there is more options to choose from during the week when eating.
For more on dieting, such as how to volume eat to make cutting easier and how eating 12 eggs a day could affect your testosterone, click here.