The Importance Of Prepping Your Meals
Bodybuilding and fitness is not just about the work you put in at the gym. There are several factors that will eventually influence how strong you are and how great you look.
Above your training, one aspect of your lifestyle will take precedence over the amount of energy you have and how strong you can truly become - this is your diet.
Many lifters make the mistake of focussing solely on the amount of time they spend in the gym with little to no concern on the amount of calories they eat or the type of calories they eat.
Both of which are completely essential to your success.
Take for example a high performance race car - without the cleanest and most concentrated fuel sources it will struggle to produce the optimal amount of power. In this same way, you must see your body as a machine that requires fuel in order to function on a daily basis.
Only by feeding your body with the most complete sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats will you be able to thrive in strength and endurance in the gym.
The best way to maintain a clean and optimal diet is by meal planning.
Importance Of Meal Planning
No one wants to do it, yet the importance and benefits behind meal planning may just change your mind.
Not only is meal planning one of the most economical ways to eat (especially as a bodybuilder) but it is the easiest way to truly track your calories - which is essential when you are training for optimal body composition.
Economic Benefits of Meal Planning
Perhaps not the most important reason why you should be meal planning, but it is important to keep in mind. As a bodybuilder or strength athlete you will be eating a surplus of calories - especially form protein sources.
This surplus of calories, as your bank bill will show, costs a pretty penny.
Meal planning becomes an economic situation because you are buying all of your food in bulk, but also, generally, not eating out or wasting any of the food you bought at home - this is simply not on your macronutrient scheme.
Tracking Calories and Macros
The most important reason why you should get into meal planning is because it provides you with one of the more accurate ways to track your macronutrients.
Tracking your macronutrients and meal planning is completely essential when you have variable goals.
Simply put, someone who is bulking will have very different dietary needs than someone who is cutting - or even someone who is based in powerlifting sports.
Your food will determine how your body responds to various sources of training.
Quite literally, your nutrition will affect how your body handles certain calories and how it provides you with energy for a workout.
How Nutrition Affects Physiology
The overall benefit of food and its relation to your performance in the gym has been undermined for far too long.
The most interesting component to food is that it has a very unique trait to completely affect how your body responds to certain training methods.
If you were to eat a high fat diet, you would struggle to perform at a high level in sports that require maximum energy output - such as powerlifting.
This is because muscle glycogen (from carbohydrates) is the main source of readily available energy - especially when it is required in rapid amounts.
In contrast, if you have a diet that is very low in fat you will struggle to perform at a high level in endurance based activities. This is because ketones (from fat) are a perfect source of fuel when muscle glycogen stores are running low.
This might seem a little overwhelming at first, but the basis behind what we are trying to say is that depending on your specific goal you will need to find balance - with specific focus to nutrients that will influence your personal goal.
Meal Planning For Various Goals and Body Types
The best thing you can do to boost your overall performance is to train specific to a particular goal, and eat with respect to the needs of that goal.
We all have different goals, different body types and various dietary needs - lets walk through some of the most common and create a unique meal plan to accelerate your performance.
Strength Based Goals
Strength goals are perhaps one of the easiest goals to eat for. The basis behind your strength goals is to constantly stimulate hypertrophy during your training sessions. Only by stimulating hypertrophy will you help your muscles to grow in size and strength - without breakdown.
The most important aspect there is without breakdown. We must not forget that the type of training you are doing will put massive stress on the muscle - and without adequate nutrients your body could become catabolic (muscle breakdown).
The basis behind limiting muscle breakdown and ensuring the most recovery for each meal is to eat a diet rich in protein and complex carbohydrates.
- Eat 0.8-1.2g/pound of protein
- Eat 1.5-2g/pound of carbohydrates
More important than the amount of carbohydrates and protein you are eating is the type of each.
Carbohydrates: Dark grains, fruit and lots of veggies
Protein: lean meats, beans, nuts and fish
Strength Meal Prep
Preparing your meal should take priority with 1-2 servings of protein with 3-4 servings of fruit and vegetables. Not only are these lower in calories but they provide your body with everything you need in order to succeed in the weight room.
NOTE: Meal planning for strength will require you to eat based almost completely around you workout schedule. Spread 3-4 meals out throughout the day, but be sure to have one meal 1-hour before your workout and another directly after your training session.
Assessing Weight Loss VS. Fat Loss
Many of us view weight loss and fat loss interchangeable, when in reality they are very different.
Weight loss: lowing the total mass of our body - this includes the factorring of water weight, muscle tissue, bones, organs and body fat. Traditional weight loss goals are to lose a certain amount of pounds off total body weight - regardless of fat loss or muscle density.
Fat loss: lowering the total amount of stored adipose tissue (fat) within the body. Your goal could be to lose 5% body fat, yet you may not actually low and total mass when looking at a scale.
NOTE: Your weight can fluctuate 3-4 pounds in any particular day, whereas your fat levels will remain consistent. For this reason many people, although the goal is oriented around weight loss, could see more benefits from long-term fat loss goals.
Let's break down each of these goals in detail.
Weight Loss Goal
Weight loss is a tricky concept that will be experimental for many people. With that said, a higher protein intake has been shown on many occasions to be the most effective method for weight loss.
Since protein is not a stored macronutrient, and it is low in calories your body will use whatever energy from the protein it needs to sustain itself and the rest will be passed off as waste.
Carbohydrates and fats should be limited when you are trying to lose weight.
The most important factor when you are trying to lose weight is the amount of calories you are eating. You need to actively be in a caloric deficit - that is, eating less calories than your body requires in order to function each day.
Weight Loss Meal Prep
Your meals should emphasize a surplus of protein that is low in fat. Do your best to avoid red meats as they will contain the most fat - especially saturated fats.
For best results you can consume 2-3 servings of protein and the rest of your container should be focussed on low-calorie carbohydrates such as cabbage, lettuce, and dark grains.
For a great source of low calorie protein be sure to try a low-calorie protein shake. Not only will they provide you with a quick source of energy, but they are low cost and great for growth of muscle tissue.
NOTE: Try to make your meals into smaller servings and spread them out throughout the day. 4-5 smaller meals will be more effective for maintaining a fast and active metabolism.
Fat Loss Goals
When you are trying to lose fat the most important aspect to consider is the frequency of your meals. As a general rule of thumb, fat loss is best accomplished when you can maintain a state of ketosis for as long as possible.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a state of fat oxidation where your body will source ketones as fuel rather than muscle glycogen or blood glucose.
Maintaining a state of ketosis is best achieved with a diet that is higher in fat and extremely low in carbohydrates. Although you may feel fatigued in the first 1-2 weeks of this diet, your body will adapt and new energy will surface.
Fat Loss Meal Prep
Prepping for a fat loss goal you should do your best to eat a diet that is high in fat, moderate in protein and very low in carbohydrates (similar to a ketogenic diet).
You will want to avoid any processed grains as these will only limit your state of fat oxidation.
Your meals should contain 2-3 servings of fatty foods such as nuts, fish, and healthy oils, with a moderate intake of protein (chicken and fish are best) and very low carbs.
You will need to eat some carbohydrates - generally sticking to dark, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli and even cauliflower will be best as they contain higher protein and lower carbs.
Meal Prep And Planning
The only way you will be successful in meal planning is if you prepare them ahead of time. It is always best to set aside at least 2-3 hours each weekend to prepare your meals.
If you think about this as an opportunity cost, this is far less time than you will spend making your meals each night, and in fact, it will be far less expensive to do it this way.
If you are serious about your goals in and out of the gym, you cannot pass up the opportunity to prep your meals and see faster progress.
At the end of the day it will save you money, time and work to increase your results, both in strength and weight loss.