If you run regularly each week and want to stick to a good diet, you will know the importance of healthy meal prep for runners.
Proper nutrition will go a long way to help you achieve your running goals. After all, you don’t want to feel hungry on your runs.
Likewise, you don’t want to feel tired all the time because you’re not eating the right foods.
Meal prep is a simple and affordable way to ensure you are getting all the right nutrients in your diet each week.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- What is meal prep?
- How to meal prep for the week
- What’s the best way to do healthy meal prep for runners?
- How long does meal prep last?
- What are the best meal prep ideas for runners?
- What are the best meal prep containers?
Let’s get started!
What is meal prep?
Meal prep is essentially the process of creating meals each week and portioning them throughout the week.
The benefit of doing this is that you don’t have to waste hours each day cooking because all the meal prep has already been done.
Another great reason for doing meal prep is that it gets you into the habit of sticking to a healthy diet.
You are more likely to opt for processed food or order a takeout if you are short on time or don’t want to cook after a busy day.
This is all the more important for runners who find themselves fitting in a run into a busy schedule.
How to meal prep for the week
The key to successful meal prep is prepping for the whole week.
This normally means you plan and cook all your meals on a weekend for the week ahead.
Before doing this, you will need to calculate how many meals you need for the week.
To do this, think about how many meals you will need for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You may also want to include snacks here too.
If you want enough meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for example, this means you will need to cook 15 meals (3 meals per weekday).
What’s the best way to do healthy meal prep for runners?
When it comes to healthy meal prep for runners, especially if you’re new to the meal prepping game, the key is to make the whole process quick and simple.
After all, you don’t want to be spending your entire weekend meal prepping, especially if you need to fit a long run in.
Here are some tips on how to make meal prep easier:
#1 Avoid complicated recipes with too many ingredients
When meal prepping, you’ll want to cook recipes with a staple set of ingredients that you can easily find in your local supermarket.
You’ll also want to ensure you are not cooking with lots of ingredients as this can easily mean you’ll be cooking for hours and hours.
#2 Opt for easy cook methods – use an oven or slow cooker
Your oven and slow cooker really are your best friends when it comes to healthy meal prepping.
Both of these methods mean you can simply chuck a load of ingredients in a pan or pot and wait for them to cook.
Slow cooker recipes in particular are simple to make and mean you are not constantly checking on your food.
You can also leave slow cooker recipes to stew overnight which is a big bonus!
#3 Cook food in large batches then split into portions
As discussed earlier, you’ll want to cook food in large batches so you can split into portions for the week ahead.
This will save you so much time and effort in the long run.
#4 Use leftovers for lunch if you make extra for dinner and vice versa
Making separate meals for lunch can add hours to your meal prepping time, so where possible, use leftovers for lunch.
#5 Write a list of ingredients before you go to the supermarket
When it comes to planning your meals, you’ll want to have a list of ingredients that you need before going to the supermarket.
A supermarket visit can quickly become overwhelming (and time consuming) if you don’t have a clear idea of what you need to buy.
Write your ingredients out in sections according to the sections in the supermarket. For example:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat and dairy
- Frozen foods
- Dry goods like pasta
- Canned goods
#6 Use frozen foods
Frozen fruits and vegetables like broccoli, peas, sweetcorn and berries are a great way to make the process of healthy meal prep easier.
Many supermarkets nowadays offer frozen versions of your favourite fruit and veg, and despite what you may think, they still contain all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need.
Some supermarkets even offer ready-chopped fruit and veg, meaning you can avoid all the preparing and cutting.
#7 Stock up on sauces and seasoning
Ensure you stock up on a selection of sauces and seasoning to spice up your meal prep.
Meat like chicken or beef can be used in a variety of dishes, and with seasoning you can ensure it tastes a little bit different each time.
Seasoning like salt, pepper, cajun spice, garlic granules, Harissa paste and BBQ seasoning can all be used to make a meal more creative.
#8 Pre-portion your snacks
Snacks like nuts and berries can easily be pre-portioned and batched to save time and effort.
What are the best healthy meal prep ideas for runners?
Each meal you cook should ideally include a good mix of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein.
Avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar. These will cause a spike in your glucose levels and will leave you hungrier and more prone to snacking.
Carbohydrates in particular are a very important fuel source for runners, especially if you run regularly or you’re training for a long distance event.
You can read more about carbohydrates in my guide on carb loading for runners.
So if you are training for a half marathon or marathon, for example, make sure you cook recipes that have carbohydrates as the main fuel source.
Here are some sample recipes:
- Overnight oats
- Green smoothie
- Chocolate and peanut butter smoothie
- Healthy egg muffins
- Chicken salad with sweet potato
- Vegetable soup with brown bread
- Vegetable chilli con carne with brown rice or sweet potato
- Baked salmon with green vegetables and brown rice
- Teriyaki chicken with green vegetables and quinoa
- Goan fish curry with brown rice
- Tofu and red pepper kebabs with brown rice
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Healthy granola bars
- Raw chocolate with dried fruit and nuts
How long does meal prep last?
It is recommended you meal prep a week at a time. This means if you prepare your meals at the weekend, they should last you through the week until Friday.
Cooked meat, for example, can safely be stored for up to four days in a fridge.
The other option is to prepare and cook your meals and then freeze them straight away and eat them a few weeks later.
Make sure you write the date on which you cooked the meat and label your containers accordingly.
What are the best meal prep containers?
Clear glass containers are best when it comes to meal prep.
Not only are these more environmentally friendly, but they are easy to stick in the microwave when you need to heat foods up.
Brands like Pyrex offer a range of affordable glass containers.