I can only apologise in advance for the abundance of Star Wars references in this week's blog. It might have a little something to do with seeing the Rogue One trailer again. Man that film looks goooooood. I'm excited as a kid in a candy shop.
But I digress. This isn't a film hype blog, it's a fitness blog, so let's get on with it.
"Do or do not. There is no try."
The little green man is a wise old jedi. But is it really THAT simple? Is getting stuff done, really just a simple case of pure will power alone?
Trying to reduce body fat and stick to a specific nutrition plan is a difficult to thing to do, let's be honest. There'll be be plenty of diet gurus out there that will tell you different. They'll tell you that their latest pill or powder will lead to you shedding kilo after kilo in a matter of days. But to me this is just akin to snake oil and witchcraft. It's NOT TRUE.
Experience tells me that will power is only part of the puzzle.
You're a human being (well I assume you are if you're reading this) and at any point in time during a weight loss programme it's easy to be lured and tempted by those treats lurking in the cupboard, in all their sugary and chocolate coated goodness.
You feel like the treat drawer is some mystical gateway to a Willy Wonka land of chocolate rivers and candy rainbows just waiting for you to dive right in and gorge yourself til you go pop like Augustus Gloop.
You resist. You're sticking to your meal plan and you tell yourself that the delicious and nutritious food you've got prepared is going to get you to your goal quicker and pay off in the end.
So you slam back the treat drawer. Those treats can wait for another day.
But inevitably that willpower only last for so long and before you know it you're buried knee deep in sweet wrappers with a chocolate covered grin as wide as the Cheshire Cat. That is until about 10 minutes later when the pangs of guilt set in and you wish you'd stuck to your plan.
Ok. In reality it might be quite as vivid as that, but it is definitely a REAL problem for a lot of people trying to lose fat or build muscle. And I'm sure it's something you can relate to as well.
You've probably spent your time researching the right fitness programme and possibly even spent money getting a meal plan from an online coach or from your personal trainer at the local gym. But then you're kind of on your own. Left to figure out for yourself what the hell you should do when you need to do the school run and haven't got time to make your egg white omlette in the morning. You trying to get your head around how to deal with a busy day in the office when you've got back to back meetings, skipping from room to room feeling hungry all day. You've had no time to eat the food you know you need, so you grab the first thing you see that's quick and easy.
This can be ok as a one-off, but do it often enough and it can seriously hamper your progress. Every time you deviate from your plan, you're potentially setting yourself back by a week, or more, depending on how far into Willy Wonka land you've gone.
In the worst case scenario this leads you to feel that it's all too difficult and you might as well just ditch the plan, go back to your old ways and settle for not achieving your goals.
But I don't want that to happen to you and neither do you.
Being able to bring a level of consistency to your nutrition and being able to flex your diet around your lifestyle and any unexpected events, is a skill.
In this article I want to short cut the process of acquiring that skill and make you into a MEAL PREP JEDI in just 7 simple steps. By the time you get to the end of this article you'll be armed with the techniques you need to take your meal prep game to Jedi level.
This is your sneak peek behind the scenes at Iron Paradise Fitness and an insight into how I personally make sure my nutrition is always set-up correctly. This is also giving you a preview of the advice and guidance I give to my coaching clients each and every day.
So grab your lightsaber my young Padawan learner. It's time to head over to the Dagoba system and turn you from some scruffy-looking nerf herder into a JEDI.
#1. Make a plan
It might sound obvious, but the start point on your journey to becoming a Meal Prep Jedi is to know what you need to be doing. Just as Yoda had planned out Luke's training, you need to plan, not just your training, but also your nutrition. And this all starts with your meal plan.
If you've downloaded by Free eBook on the 7 simple steps to creating a nutrition plan (and if you haven't you need to stop reading this and click here to go get it now) you will know all about the importance of properly understanding your your calorie requirements, macro breakdown, supplement intake, meal timing, etc.
Once you've worked through all these elements it's at this point you'll have a nice shiny new meal plan sat in front of you.
But it shouldn't stop there.
Part of the reason for calculating your macros is so that you can be flexible and adapt your daily routine as and when you need to.
My top tip is to take some time every week to look ahead to the upcoming week's schedule and figure out what days you need to be flexible with your diet and make changes. It's much easier to plan and make changes in advance than on the fly when you're rushing around during a busy day.
It might be a change to your normal work schedule, an off-site workshop perhaps, or you are just stacked with meetings?
Sometimes it's a case of day-to-day personal responsibilities getting in the way. Are you acting as taxi service for your kids at the weekend, ferrying them from sports clubs to dance classes (personal experience coming through there)?
These bare all real challenges that we all face and need to handle each and every week.
All these scenarios will require you to be flexible with your nutrition, so take the time to plan and work out what meals you need to vary and how you can best fit them into your macros.
What you'll find is that you actually only need to make some subtle changes. And that little bit of effort upfront removes the mad panic when you're rushing around day to day. Your nutrition ends up being one less thing you need to think about. So a little planning up front pays dividends.
But before you head off to start planning, keep reading. There are 6 more tips to go. Luke Skywalker made the mistake of heading off to face Vader before he had completed his training. Don't make the same mistake, read on...
#2. Pick foods for batch cooking
I love scallops. Especially with a bit of black pudding on some crispy pancetta. Mmmmmm. I can almost taste it while I'm writing.
But what I don't love is a rubbery, day old scallop, microwaved to within an inch of its life sat on a soggy piece of bacon that stinks out the whole office come lunchtime.
Food choice for meal prep is so important.
Yes. We'd all love to be able to prepare food fresh every lunch and dinner time, but in the real world this just isn't practical. There has to be a compromise to fit everything in with your busy lifestyle. So in order to succeed, you'll need to prepare your food ahead of time and this involves picking foods and meals that lend themselves to being pre-prepared.
For the uninitiated, batch cooking basically means pre-cooked a large quantity of a particular dish (or dishes), so they can be apportioned over multiple days in the week.
The fact is there a some foods that never really work when prepped ahead of time (my tasty scallops being one). You need to know what these are and save them for evening meal you want to cook fresh, or that weekend treat at some fancy restaurant.
There are some awesome recipes out there and you can get really creative. Don't let yourself be drawn into the notion that you have to have steamed chicken and dry rice every day. Worse still, don't let yourself turn into this guy...
Think about foods that can be cooked and used in multiple different types of dishes. For example, using lean mince as a base means you can create a cottage pie, or chilli con carne, or spaghetti bolognaise. That gives you 3 different tasty dishes from a few basic ingredients (which are all pretty macro-friendly I should add).
Let your imagination run riot and spend a small amount of time upfront to figure out all those dishes you love that you can cook ahead of time and will still taste great. This will ensure you don't have to worry about dashing for the tasteless fat-filled pre-packed sandwiches from the canteen at lunch time.
#3. Up your Tupperware game
I'll be clear straight away that I'm not advocating you host some weird gathering of Old Age Pensioners to sell each other plastic boxes. No, no, no.
What I'm saying is that you need to make sure you have enough containers to box your food up into, so that you can either store it in the fridge or freezer and grab it every day when you need to, without any fuss.
It's also a great idea to get containers of all different shapes and sizes. This is so that you can carry around all the snacks and main meals you'll need for the days ahead. The more meals and snacks you're able to prepare ahead of time, the more likely you are to stick to your plan.
Food containers are great as they can be carried around on the go and in cool bags (see tip #4), which means that wherever you are and whatever you're doing you can keep your nutrition on point and keep making those gains.
Now's not the time to drift to the Darkside. Spend some of your hard earned cash on a few of these little plastic lifesavers.
#4. Get a meal management bag
What's a meal management bag? I hear you cry...
A meal management bag is possibly the one thing that has made my life so much easier when it comes to sticking to my meal plan. Essentially, it's a glorified cool bag, but one that is specifically designed for fitness types like you and I.
These days they come in all shapes and sizes. There are ones that combine your gym bag with a chilled area for your meals and shakes. There are ones that are incorporated into a rucksack. Or there's the simple and straight-forward type that is shaped to carry as many of those glorious Tupperware boxes we covered in tip #3 as possible.
I carry mine around with me all day. On any typical day it has my post-workout shake, egg white ommlette & spinach, lunch, nuts, watermelon, sultanas, dinner, and all of my additional supplements.
Quite the amount of food I think you'll agree.
Because everything is planned and I'm able to carry it with me, I never feel tempted by other food when I get hungry. When those moments come, I simply reach for the bag and delve into the treats inside. Do the same and you'll quickly see those temptations become a thing of the past and easily avoidable.
Think of your meal management bag as your very R2-D2. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but it's essentially and bails you out of some difficult situations.
If you want to know what meal management bag I use, click here.
There are also plenty of other brands out there, such as the ones below, although I've had no personal experience in using them.
6 Pack Fitness
#5. Get your ingredients
Again, it sounds obvious but one key tip for achieving Jedi mastery in the kitchen is to make sure you've planned out and bought all the ingredients and foods you need for your meal prep.
How many times have you come to prep your meals but your missing that vital ingredient? Or maybe you've gone to weigh out your snacks, but haven't got quite enough.
Whatever the scenario might be, it's another opportunity for you to veer away from your plan. And this is essentially what good meal prep boils down to (no pun intended). You should be aiming to reduce the obstacles to being consistent. You want to remove any potential roadblocks in front of you that could knock you off the straight and narrow.
Once you've planned out your meals and you know your macros, hit the supermarket in advance and make sure you get everything you need. And don't leave it til the last minute! Being in a rush can lead to you forgetting something. Plan it and act on it.
After all, every young Jedi needs their blue milk!
#6. Pick your day
You know your macros. You've planned what you're going to prepare. You've bought your containers. You've got a bag to put them in. And you've bought all the food you need.
Next, it's time to pick your meal prep day. For most people this is Sunday, if the plethora of #mealprepsunday hashtags Instagram is awash with every week (me included) is anything to go by.
But you need to go further than just picking the actual day. Make sure you set aside some specific time to crack through all the prep work and get the job done. And don't leave that kitchen until you've got all those containers filled with some delicious food. It may take a couple of hours, but it will be time well spent in the end.
If you can, prepare meals for 5 days in advance. I've found this to be a great tactic as it means that the working week is sewn up and there's no hassle or fuss around meals times. No figuring out what I want to eat or wondering whether or not I can be bothered to cook it. It's all there just waiting for me.
I'm sure you're the same. After a busy day at work and a trip to the gym, the last thing you want to be doing is cooking dinner, making protein shakes, and prepping tomorrow's lunch.
Make life easy for yourself and take the headache out of the process.
Whatever the day you decide to choose, make sure it works for you. Don't pick the day when you're supposed to take the droids to Anchorhead to have their memories erased. Pick the day where you've got the time to do your prep properly.
#7. Enjoy the process
That's right. Enjoy the process. After all, if you're not enjoying it, you're much less likely to stick at it week after week.
For me, it's 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon. Heavy metal cranked up to 11 and some NFL on the iPAD. I'm sure it looks a strange sight, but thankfully no-one can see me in my own little meal prep world.
So it's time for you to crank up the music. Put your favourite movie on the iPAD. And complete your training for now you are a Meal Prep JEDI!
You've definitely earned these...
Need help with your nutrition?
I recommend you take the 7 tips in this article and combine them with the information in my FREE eBOOK. This will give you a lot of the information you'll need to get an awesome nutrition plan in place and also the methods to actually stick to it.
Do you need me to take the guesswork out of the process?
If you feel like you need some more guidance or you want me to take the headache out of the process for you, then checkout my meal plan creation and online coaching services.
If it's a meal plan you need, then I can work with you to develop a plan that works around your lifestyle and those foods you love. Together we can look at your typical day and develop a plan that incorporates specific meals that you will enjoy and look forward to eating. We'll be taking tips 1 and 2 from this article into full consideration and we'll be making sure the food selection is fully optimised.
And if you want to go that step further and benefit from my support and guidance along the way, then you'll definitely want to look into my coaching services. You'll find that these services are unrivalled in terms of my dedication to you and your success.
So head over to the information page here for the lowdown on what's on offer.
I offer a 12 week transformation programme, which will look at both your training and nutrition as a complete package, designed for you to make significant gains in just 12 weeks.
My full 121 coaching package takes my dedication and personalised approach to a whole other level. Not only will I set up your complete training and nutrition programme, but I'll be reviewing your progress on a daily basis, providing feedback and guidance as you go. There'll be a weekly report emailed to you from me personally and a fortnightly Skype call where we can talk through your progress and plan ahead. I'll be your personal Yoda, on your shoulder and with you every step of the way.
But you'll need to be quick!
This 121 coaching service is so highly personalised and involved that I only take on 5 clients at any one time, so don't miss out on your place. Click here to register your interest and I'll set up a call to talk through exactly how I can help.
PS. I always want to hear your feedback, so if you like the article or have a specific question add a comment below and share with your friends. Alternatively, ping me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
May the force be with you.