I made a suggestion yesterday on a post about spending time while on the IC concentrating on meal prep, and had what I thought a rather odd response, and it got me thinking about the subject.
A lot of people on her state wanting to lose weight as their motivation to start running, or to become leaner. A few trying to gain mass or struggling to maintain it. The 80% diet 20% exercise maxim gets bandied about a fair bit, and there is occasional discussion of ‘healthy eating’, but how much time do you actually spend on nutrition planning and meal prep? I don’t mean how long does it take you to cook your supper, but how much of your week do you devote to working out your food strategy, calculating your macros, shopping and prepping etc specific to your fitness/training/health/weightloss goals?
We generally understand the importance of having a training plan to achieve our running/fitness goals, be it C25k or a 10k/marathon plan or whatever and generally pretty good at sticking to it, but if that is the 20%, how much time do we put into the 80%?
Do you have a clear picture of your calorie requirements, your protein/carb/fat targets? Are going high carb/low fat or low carb/high fat? How much protein you are getting at eacg meal?
Josh Hillis famously suggests that the most effective way of ramping up your weightloss and/or athletic results is to drop two workout sessions a week and spend the time on food prep and shopping instead. The key to long term success being developing consistent habits
Habit 1- Plan- Plan your meals for the week, either Sunday or Monday. Grid your free meals ahead of time.
Habit 2- Shop- Go shopping for the food on your plan, either on Sunday or Monday.
Habit 3- Cook- Prepare, cook, and portion the food on your plan on Sunday or Monday.
Habit 4- Journal- Keep a daily food journal. Review your food journal weekly, either on Sunday or Monday.
Habit 5- Protein- Make sure you’re getting protein with every meal. Shoot for three-quarters of a gram of protein per pound of target bodyweight, per day.
I generally review where we’re at and what our macros need to be for the coming week on Saturday, and plan meals and do a big shop accordingly. Sundays experiment with any new dishes and find workarounds for things (replacing sugar and grains mainly), and prep my wife’s lunchboxes for work for the first half of the week. I also prep containers of basic goto stuff like quinoa salads and so on that just sit on the fridge and can be added to snacks and quick meals. Hardboil a couple of dozen eggs, bake a bunch of sweet potatoes etc, so these things are readily to hand as and when needed. Then Wednesdays I do much the same again, with a smaller shop for more fresh veg and stuff and the remainder of the week’s lunches. Everything else – breakfasts, evening meals, the kids lunchboxes I just do on the day.
I don’t weigh and measure quantities as I can do this pretty accurately by eye now, and don’t track all the time in MFP, although every 3 months or so I will do a couple of weeks of tracking just to see exactly what the picture looks like. There are always a few things that surprise me.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t really. It takes more thought that hands-on effort, and if anything it frees up time – particularly as my meals, my wife’s meals and the kids meals are different according to our differing requirements and it is very time consuming trying to do all that on the fly.
In terms of results it works very well. My wife has lost 6kg in weight and a 6% reduction in bodyfat since Christmas. I have put on 4 kg of lean muscle in the same time. The kids get sugarfree Snickers bars and even the dog is healthier. In terms of payoff for time put in vs results out, every hour spent on meal prep definitely outweighs hours spent running or chucking weights around. Probably in that 80/20 ratio.
So, meal prep. That’s why I think it time well spent. And you can still do it while on the IC.