How to Meal Prep: For Beginners
What if we told you that you can have the body of your dreams, and all you have to do- is meal prep?
Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?
You probably have a lot of follow up questions. What are my goals? What should I be eating- and when- and how much? How much protein do I need, and what are good sources of protein? Are carbs bad? How will I make time? But I don't know how to cook!
Slow down there! Our heads are spinning faster than Lance Armstrong's bicycle wheels circa 1999.
There is a lot to sort through here, but we are going to give you the â€œHow to Meal Prep for Beginners" crash course of the century- and we'll even make it easy.
Build Muscle, Lose Fat.
You want to know how to meal prep for beginners? First things first. You need to decide what your goals are. Most likely, you are looking to burn fat and increase muscle. (Note: this does not mean â€œbulking up". This means that you will be firmer and more toned. Bulking is a horse of another color.)
This will require that you strength train. Cardio is a godsend for your heart, but the mirror is only interested in how heavy, and how often you lift. Weights, weights, weights, people. We cannot say enough about weights.
Because you are now working your body to its maximum potential, you will need to become more protein-centric. The Recommended Dietary Allowance suggests that we get around .36 grams of protein per pound (to find your required intake, multiply your weight x .36). This means that the average, sedentary 150-pound adult will need about 54 grams of protein a day. Depending on your goals, you may need more than that.
Plain and simple: muscles can only grow when you are building them at a faster rate than your body can break them down. This is called muscle-protein synthesis. When you rest after a serious lifting session, your muscles do a lot of complicated sciencey things that ultimately result in self-reparation, and increase in thickness. If you fail to intake enough protein, your body will not be able to synthesize the muscle proteins faster than it breaks them down. It's like trying to outsmart an hourglass.
Who knew meal prepping for beginners would include so much science? That is why it is important to know how to meal prep, for beginners or even those with further levels of nutritional knowledge.
How Will I Get All This Protein?
This is so much more manageable than you think it is! One cup of cottage cheese has 25 grams of protein, and one Oikos Greek Yogurt packs around 12 grams. One cup of chicken breast has about 43 grams of protein and a 5 ounce salmon filet (slightly larger than a deck of cards) has 36 grams. (Note: 4 ounces of meat is approximately the size of your palm.)
Remember that you will also need to make sure you are getting all of the macro and micro-nutrients your body needs. Be sure to factor in higher glycemic carbs (whole grains and root vegetables), fats (nuts and seeds), and nutrient dense carbs (fruits and veggies) when planning next week's meal prep. Fill your containers with these bad boys, and let your 6 Pack Bag be the yellow brick road to healthy!
What You Need To Know About Carbs and Fat
Carbs and fats are not the enemy. People associate weight gain with excess carb intake, but replenishing your cells with a carb-rich bowl of oatmeal and a tablespoon of flax seed is not the same as being infiltrated by a swat team of malicious donuts with a fat-vengeance. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and Crisco to your lips. If somebody offers you a spoonful of peanut butter, and a chocolate croissant- TAKE THE PEANUT BUTTER. There are healthy and unhealthy carbs and fats.
Know the difference.
Consolidate Your Time
Secret's out: you are busy. Ain't nobody got time to prep meals every night, and still catch up on Game of Thrones. We're teaching you how to meal prep for beginners, so we're going to make this simple. Pick a day (preferably a weekend day) and dedicate a couple of hours to prepping your meals for the week. Find a healthy recipe (this is the age of Google) that includes protein, whole grains, and vegetables, and make enough for seven meals. (You can also find tons of inspiration with our Meal Prep Sundays recipes.)
Throw your containers for the day in an amazing meal management bag designed to keep your food cold (Have we mentioned that we make those? Coincidence?) and take the easy street to lunch time. Get hungry, eat the food you packed, repeat.
The weight will practically lose itself.
Be careful not to sabotage yourself at dinnertime. Just because there are Twinkies in the pantry doesn't mean that you should loosen your belt buckles. In fact, throw all the Twinkies away and do not keep them in the house. It will be painful to sacrifice your culinary genius concoction of preservative disaster to the trashcan gods, but in time Twinkies won't even sound appealing to you anymore, once whole foods sneak their way into your food porn fantasies.
What to Meal Prep
What came first? The chicken or the meal prep?
Simple. The chicken. Boil, bake, or grill 30 ounces of chicken (don't forget to salt and pepper it) and set aside. You are Picasso and chicken is your canvas. Now that you have your cooked chicken you can make a few different dishes to add variety to your week. Some recipes to teach you how to meal prep for beginners:
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
P.F. Chang's doesn't have a monopoly on the lettuce wrap market. Exercise your right to lettuce wrap, and make your very own!
Combine cooked minced chicken, diced mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic, and ginger.
Sauce: Combine 3 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk.
Mix it all together. Put it inside the lettuce cups you pre-prepared. Enjoy!
(An iceberg lettuce wedge will make this easy on you, as the leaves naturally curve into a bowl shape.)
Sacha's BBQ Pulled Crockpot Chicken Sandwiches
Our badass marketing intern, Sacha Krin, swears by this recipe to fill you up- and satisfy your basic BBQ needs.
Mix together onion powder, garlic powder, a couple cloves of garlic, one cup of water, ten tablespoons of sugar free BBQ sauce, and 54 ounces of uncooked chicken breast. (To make it spicy, throw in a chopped jalapeno)
Leave in the crockpot for 6-8 hours, at high heat.
Kris' Spur of the Veggies Stir Fry
Our Customer Service Swat Team commander Kris, brings spontaneity to stir fry and makes routine a thing of the past.
Literally grab whatever veggies you have lying around, and sautÃ© them over some minced onion and garlic. Throw in your chopped (cooked) chicken and a couple dashes of â€œEverything Spicy" Flavor God powder, and you've got yourself a stir fry du jour that could kick off Anthony Bourdain's next season.
Hopefully you are feeling acclimated to the world of health and gains, and ready to help answer questions others might have on how to meal prep for beginners. Just be sure to post photos of your progress and tag us @6PACKBAGS to inspire someone with your success! For more meal prep knowledge, check out all our How to Meal Prep posts - including Vegan Meal Prep, Mediterranean Diet, and If It Fits Your Macros Diet.
This post on how to meal prep for beginners has been brought to us by 6 Pack's social media maven Jade. Check out Jade's interviews with Firefighter Trent Vann and Maribel Lalanne on how to love your body, as well as her posts on being proud to prep and how to build muscle as a vegetarian. Browse our original meal management bags, gym totes, gym backpacks, and more to find the perfect 6 Pack Bag for you!