Why Meal Prep Isn't The Only Way
Before we dive into this, I wanted to ask: what’s your relationship with food? You may say to yourself, "relationship with food, what does that mean?"
Do you label certain foods as good or bad? Do you feel guilty after eating certain foods while feeling healthy after eating others? Do you often go "All or Nothing" and completely cut out certain foods just to binge on them later? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time to evaluate your relationship with food.
This may shock you but I'm going to tell you a secret that I want you to eternalize in your brain:
THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD OR BAD FOOD.
Now you may be like woah woah Coach, hold the phone...What about Pizza? French Fries? Burgers? Ice Cream? Nope --- nothing wrong with those things. Nothing at all. How could I be an online fitness coach and tell my KronicFit Fam that those foods ain't bad?
Because they're not.
But I’m going to have a whole separate blog post on developing a better relationship with food. This post may actually help you get there if you’re struggling with that relationship currently.
Okay, let’s dive in. We’re going to analyze some different ways to get to our goals beside meal prepping everything. Because like I said in my post on IG (@coachkronic), meal prep isn’t the end all be all. It’s definitely a viable strategy that can be incorporated into a balanced and sustainable nutritional strategy, however it can’t be ALL you do. Let’s talk about some other ways to get what we want from our food.
The Small Meals Myth
So if you were like me back when I started meal prepping I thought I had to eat a bunch of little meals to help boost my metabolism and get shredded. So far from the truth. Meal frequency is completely dependent upon the person and how they can adhere to a certain amount of meals per day.
If we can lock in a certain amount of servings, macros, calories etc per day in 3 meals, dope.
In 4 meals, dope.
In 5 or 6, DOPE.
The point is, it will vary between each person on a case by case basis. Some people can intake high amount of carbs, proteins or fats in one sitting and be PERFECTLY FINE. Others have trouble and need to break things up. The point is you can do a bunch of little meals, or a few big meals, doesn’t matter!
There’s been a huge trending craze around this strategy for fat loss making things so complicated. IF is fancy for skip a meal, that’s it. If I want to get technical there’s a few ways to do it. It usually involves restricting the times you eat. These windows typically range from 12 to 20 hours and usually involve skipping breakfast. Some use coffee in the morning as it is a hunger suppressant due to the caffeine.
There is some research that shows IF can have an improvement in insulin sensitivity (a biomarker for diabetes risk), a reduction in the risk of heart disease and obesity among other benefits but it’s still unclear of the long-term impact from a physical and mental perspective. There’s just a ton of mixed results with this strategy so try it out and see how it makes you feel. Remember, adherence is the #1 thing we care about.
ANYTHING can work if you stick to it and enjoy the lifestyle change. NOTHING will work if you don’t stick to it.
Meal replacements represent a huge industry of products designed to increase the convenience of the consumption of nutrients while also aiding in weight loss due to their low caloric content. These are definitely viable options that include bars, powders and pre-made shakes. Protein shakes aren’t necessarily included in this industry, however from a caloric restriction perspective, they count.
Replacing one meal a day with a high quality meal replacement product has been shown to be an effective strategy to lose weight and improve some biomarkers like inflammation and oxidative stress (an overproduction of free radical molecules in your body that cause disruption of signaling activity in your cells that can lead to cellular damage) during weight maintenance.
There are a ton of meal replacement products out there that work quite well! Some are just more expensive that others so be careful where you buy from if you decide to choose this strategy.
Meal Prep, But A More Realistic Version
Like I said in the beginning, I think meal prep is a great strategy for any goal you have, but we need to keep it real. Living out of a tupperware container 24/7 is not realistic. However, prepping one meal, that’s a bit more do-able. Applying a more realistic version to meal prepping is definitely dependent on your environment as well as your own adherence.
If you know where you work has NO wholesome, nutritious food around you, prepping your lunch may be a good idea. It’ll save you money, decrease your ingredients list (HUGE REASON) and allow you to again, accurately plan your serving sizes. The reason I identified your ingredients list as being something that should be factored in, is because the QUALITY of your food matters so freaking much.
You’re not gonna sit there and tell me that a pre-packaged teriyaki stir-fry meal from the frozen isle (in most cases) is going to be higher quality than putting fresh vegetables, some kind of protein and carb together yourself? With your own control over what’s in that sauce?
Take a look at the back of some of those meals. If the ingredients list is longer than your face, we got problems and you’re probably better off avoiding that.
On The Go
Okay, so you don’t have the option to cook stuff because you’re traveling for the weekend, week, day, whatever the case may be. That’s totally fine.
WE CAN STILL ADHERE!
Your goal is to be balanced. You have that choice to stay on track. You have the choice to pick things you know will keep you on your path.
With that in mind, here’s what we want to do: combine protein, carbs and fat in some way. I’ll elaborate. Let’s say all you have time for is a run in a convenience store or a gas station. Here’s what I recommend:
There’s a TON of different options, flavors etc when it comes to protein bars so you have a bit of wiggle room here. Yes, it’s going to be pretty processed, but this will be way better than grabbing a bag of chips or some kind of packaged sweet which will have a crap ton of calories, sugar, and 0 nutrients to fuel you.
Peanuts, Walnuts, Cashews and just about any nut will be a great source for fats. Fats are so important for helping your immune system function correctly and keeping your hormones in check. If you’re allergic to nuts, you can grab some sunflower seeds instead!
Fruits are amazing for you. They are also a great source for carbohydrates. Bananas, apples, pears, grapes etc are usually available at most convenience stores but are often skipped over! If you should hate fruits, opt for some kind of popcorn option. Do your best to find one that doesn’t have any cheeses or excessive flavoring on it.
In general that’s what we want for our meals: a protein, a carb source and a fat source.
What About Pizza?
Again nothing wrong with pizza, burgers or any of those foods we view as fattening etc. If you are going to eat those things, you can always modify/add things to it to make it a better option. For instance, throw some veggies on your pizza. Boom, some extra fiber and micronutrients to improve the quality of that meal.
I’ve seen this on social media a lot and I really enjoy it:
“One salad won't make you lose weight just like one donut won’t make you gain weight.”
It’s all about moderation and balance. If you know you’re going to a work event where there’s going to be alcohol, pizza, fries or anything like that, limit your intake before hand. AHA! Perfect opportunity to maybe try fasting that morning or using a meal replacement.
I like to call it putting calories in the bank. Let’s say Saturday you KNOW you’re going to go out and eat something you really love and drink. Instead of panicking…
PLAN FOR IT.
Deposit 100 - 200 calories in your bank (you can track calories for a few days, it’s not going to kill you) everyday until Saturday. Just like that you have an extra 600 - 1200 calories to work with. When Saturday comes --- booya, CASH OUT!
See, you can always plan, you can always find a workaround, you can always find a way to make things work. It takes time, it takes patience, it takes know-how and experimentation. It’s definitely not easy and can’t be simplified. I present you with these strategies because if you’re reading this (thank you for reading this), you’re probably meal prepping, considering it, or you’ve done it and quit. I was there, RIGHT THERE. I considered, I did it, for a year, and then I was done forever. I’m still in the best shape of my life, performing and getting strong in the gym without it.
You don’t NEED to implement any ONE strategy. If you hate it, scrap it. It’s not worth it. As a friend and mentor always says “Flexibility Leads to Sustainability”.
If you’re still struggling with this like I was for so long and need some guidance, let me help. I’ll help you skip all the hurdles I went through, all the trials and fasts and replacements and money lost.
Click HERE to schedule a free 30 minute strategy call with me and let’s talk about how we can figure out a nutritional strategy that works best for YOU.
- Davis, L. M., Coleman, C., Kiel, J., Rampolla, J., Hutchisen, T., Ford, L., . . . Hanlon-Mitola, A. (2010). Efficacy of a meal replacement diet plan compared to a food-based diet plan after a period of weight loss and weight maintenance: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal,9(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-11
- Patterson, R. E., Laughlin, G. A., Sears, D. D., LaCroix, A. Z., Marinac, C., Gallo, L. C., . . . Villaseñor, A. (2015, August). INTERMITTENT FASTING AND HUMAN METABOLIC HEALTH. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/