Less than a month to go and I am feeling more and more prepared as each week passes. I think a big part of this is that I reward myself mainly with food. I rarely go out to eat at this point, but when I do I make sure it is something I can track easily such as a baguette and jam for weekend brunch instead of eggs benedict covered in who-knows-what-is-in-that sauce. It’s all about smart choices!
I wanted to take this week as an opportunity to let people know that it is possible to embark on a bodybuilding journey in a healthy way. I have complete trust in my coach Curt Griffin and I have been following my macros which has allowed for flexible dieting. I don’t deprive myself of anything and I am pretty satisfied with how much I eat. Now that the show is quickly approaching, people keep asking me, “So where are you planning to eat out after the competition?”. It is so hard for me to answer each time and this is why - I prep and plan delicious home-cooked meals, I am not starving myself, and I test out new recipes all the time. I plan when I want to eat chocolate so I don’t binge, and to be honest, I rarely crave anything in particular. What I do miss is being able to eat what I want, WHEN I want. I have been meal prepping and tracking for a quite a while now and this means that pretty much everything is planned… so my answer to the ‘where are you going to eat’ question is, “Whatever I feel like!”.
A lot of people think that I am following a “diet” and that I deprive myself of certain foods, but that’s not true. Most don’t understand how much I love food and this journey has been so easy for me because I put the effort to cook delicious recipes, and I plan ahead when I know I have an event that involves going to a restaurant or eating at a friend’s place. The way I eat has become part of my lifestyle and is definitely not considered dieting.
With that said, here are 10 tips and tricks to meal planning and prepping…
Make it a priority: You MUST schedule time to do groceries, find recipes, cook AND clean into your weekly schedule, otherwise you will find excuses not to do it. Decide when and how often you will have to do this. I personally usually aim for Sundays and Wednesdays but a few weeks ago I did a big meal prep on Sunday evening - chilli, breakfast quiche, chicken curry, sweet potato brownies, zucchini noodles, cauliflower alfredo sauce, mashed sweet potato, and baked chicken breasts... and I still have food! I had to put tupperware in the freezer for the first time and I had so many options of different meals that I didn’t get tired of anything I made. It also allowed me more time in the week to work and do other things instead of cook.
Do your homework: Decide what recipes you need before hitting the grocery store so that your time is spent more efficiently. It’s so easy to spend too much time in there and get frustrated when you don’t get inspired on the spot. I like to look up new recipes a few times a week. When I am watching TV or need a small break at work I just Google away or pick up a cookbook and note which ones I would like to try… this keeps it exciting!
Don’t waste food: Keep track of how much you are buying, how many portions it makes, and how long it lasts you. The last thing you want to do is to be throwing out food! Don’t be scared to put your meats or cooked meals like soup or chili in the freezer… you’ll thank yourself in the future. I try and cook my vegetables within 1-3 days of buying them so at least they are ready to be eaten and won’t go bad as fast. My last resort is to chuck them in an omelette or my breakfast quiches.
Decide what kind of meal prep you want: For me there are two types of meal prep. The first consists of ready dishes like chili, soups, and chicken vegetable curry - these are your grab-and-go’s. The second type is where you have multiple things cooked separately like chicken breast, asparagus, mashed sweet potato, cauliflower, vegetable stir fry and tomato sauce. This type is not necessarily grab-and-go, but it gives you the option to play around with it. By having your main (chicken) separated from your sides (asparagus and rice), you can mix and match and make it easier to have a different meal almost every day. I like to do this when I don’t have much time to cook. You don’t need to really follow a recipe so when you cook things separately like that it goes a lot faster. It may not be as satisfying as eating a nice hearty homemade soup, but it can be an option every few days. I like to make it interesting by cooking with different spices (curry is my favorite) or vegetable based sauces.
Prep with a friend: That big meal prep day I was talking about was done with my friend. It made it a lot more fun to share recipes and cook with a friend compared to doing it alone at home in front of the TV. I left with a bunch of bags and most of her tupperware, but it was good times and you should definitely think about doing this every few weeks. Make sure you have enough kitchen space, bring the ingredients and appliances you need, and use a dishwasher if you can!
Don’t plan everything: I try not to plan my suppers because I am usually home and I have time to cook or plan on the spot. I realized that planning everything all the time got annoying because there was no element of surprise and sometimes I would be eating a meal I wasn’t necessarily craving. By leaving supper out of the plan every few days I can eat what I want when I want, to a certain extent. It also allows me to have fresh food and not a tupperware that I have to heat up.
Multitask: Don’t be shy to get everything going at the same time. You don’t want to be wasting your whole Sunday cooking now do you? Get the oven going, rice cooker, crockpot, and stovetop! Okay, so maybe you might not be as good a multitasker as I am, but I believe it’s a skill that you can develop if you really want to. A crockpot is definitely a must since it’s so easy to find recipes and usually doesn't require that much work. While that’s going, you can prep another meal.
Figure out which recipes you don’t get tired of: You should already have an idea of meals you like to eat. If you keep this in mind when meal planning, it will be easier for you to eat the same thing all week. I personally can eat sweet potato, anything curried, asparagus, omelets, and protein pancakes every week, so when I am stumped on what to cook, those are my go-to’s. I make sure to always have eggs, egg whites, sweet potato, and curry powder in the house. Start to make a list of your favorite meals and recipes, and don’t be shy to share and get some new ideas from a friend!
Plan around eating out: Like I said, the way you eat should be part of your lifestyle and saying that you will not eat in restaurants is just not realistic. If you have a birthday dinner on Friday night, plan to eat less fat and carbs during the day leading up to the event because we all know you will be having a slice or two of cake and taking the opportunity to eat things you usually don’t cook yourself at home.
Know your kryptonite and plan for it: Chocolate is my kryptonite and it is so easy for me to eat a whole sea salted dark chocolate slab in one sitting. To prevent binging I hide my chocolate (yes it is out of my sight or I will eat it), and plan to eat one square every few days. I also started to make a batch of sweet potato brownies every week. I have one brownie a day which allows me to get my fix and feel like I am not depriving myself of chocolate. My other kryptonite is pizza and when I crave it I just make it at home. It’s all about healthy choices, so I make my own pizza on naan bread or pita bread and get the satisfaction of eating the WHOLE thing.
What is important is that you find something that works for you. If you make meal prepping a priority and plan ahead you will succeed. These are my tips and strategies based on my experience with meal prepping for about 10 months now. If you’d like help with a meal planning or more guidelines of how to make healthy eating part of your lifestyle, feel free to contact me!
“Success is not easy, and is certainly not for the lazy.” - Samantha Saifer-Berngard
The challenge has officially started. Five weeks left of preparation and I am definitely feeling more tired and less motivated, which is leading to sugar cravings, a decrease in the intensity of my workouts, and a late blog post. On top of my 5 lifting sessions a week, I have added 4 cardio and 2 yoga sessions so you can just imagine how I feel after doing this for 2 weeks now. Let’s just say it’s been hard to find the energy and motivation to work out at 6am and say no to free cookie tastings at the cafe upstairs.
That’s my struggle right now, so what am I going to do about it? Quitting is not an option for me and I believe that this experience will help develop my mental toughness. I have been reflecting these last few days and really trying to become aware of how I can lift myself up. I’ve noticed what works and what doesn’t, but still have some serious planning to do in terms of my mental prep for my workouts. For those of you who have trouble getting to the gym or notice that you are easily distracted and are not able to fully focus during your trainings, hopefully these next few strategies will help you out as well.
Making sleep a priority There are only so many hours in a day, so prioritizing is key to making sure that I accomplish the important stuff! The competition is in about 5 weeks. I have worked so hard the past several months and it is without a doubt that my health and fitness is my focus right now. This week I realized that sleep and proper rest is essential if I want to make sure I can function in and out of work, as well as make sure that I can train consistently. This meant that I had to go back and revisit some goals to make room for more sleep.
Taking naps: I realized that aiming to do yoga 3 times a week was not realistic and that it would be better for me to replace one of those sessions by a 2-hour nap.
More efficient meal prep: I decreased my meal prep time by making big batches of food (such as fish soup), which allows me to get to bed earlier since I tend to cook before bed. Yes, this means that I will be eating the same lunches for a week, but trust me, I make sure the recipes are delicious so it doesn’t phase me!
Scheduling sleep into my agenda: I made sure to plan my day around my new bedtime which is now 9pm. I know if I aim for 9 it will probably turn out to be actually 9:30, but that’s okay.
Setting alarms: I put an alarm at 8:45pm during the week to remind me to get ready for 9pm bedtime. The sound of the alarm lets me know that I should either drop everything or hurry up - so far so good.
Meditation: I usually don’t have difficulty falling asleep, but there are days where I sit in bed and think about work, projects, interactions I’ve had that day, and so on. I believe that my meditation practice has really helped me turn off that voice, which in turn enables me to fall asleep much quicker. Once I notice that I am thinking too much, I start to focus on my breath, which gets me to knock out sooner than later.
Finding the motivation to workout when you just don’t feel like it I have been training at least five times a week for the past ten months now and not once have I felt this unmotivated to lift weight. I believe that it is because I now have a goal of participating in this competition, and the added perceived pressure and obligation to train has affected my way of thinking. I have been having more off days than usual, so it is important for me at this point to reflect on what makes my good days good. On the other hand, I have not skipped a single training yet so I want to make sure this stays the same. This issue is quite new to me and so here are the strategies I have come up with for the next few weeks...
Add in a new exercise here and there: I just changed my program so I don’t want to change it again, but this does not mean that I can’t change sets of bicep dumbbell curls to drop sets of bicep EZ bar curls. Remixing my plan for the day definitely makes it more interesting and exciting to do.
Look good feel good: Since the gym is my second home, I spend more time in shorts and Nike tank tops than in jeans and nice shirts. I noticed that when I wear new, fresh gear, I feel good because I look good (I am sure you can all relate). These are the days that I will post on my social media and to be honest, this helps me keep my intensity during my workout. Now this doesn’t mean I will go out and buy new shoes every week, but I can plan to reward myself with a new piece of clothing if I sleep a certain amount of hours in 2 months for example.
Notice distractions: I don’t know about you, but when I train with my phone next to me I tend to get distracted which leads to longer breaks between sets, a decrease in intensity, and a workout that sometimes lasts 2 and a half hours. When I leave my phone at the reception where I can’t see it, I tend to have more focused training sessions. Obviously there will be times when I check to see if I have messages (or grab it to take a video or post), but when this happens I try and punish myself by adding an extra set to whatever exercises I am doing.
Create a motivating playlist: If music changes your mood like it changes mine, have a playlist ready when you need some tunes to get you in the zone. I usually just put on any playlist on at the gym, but this week I have been noticing that certain songs get me in the right mind state (such as “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child). So I have started to make a list on Spotify and hopefully by then end of the week I will have a workout playlist to keep me motivated at the gym on Monday.
Know the ideal environment - I am sure you hate to train when there are too many people at the gym, because then you’re stuck waiting on machines which disrupts your whole plan! Now some people are good at adapting, and I have enough experience to be able to change things on the fly, but you want to know your ideal environment and plan your workouts around that. Yes, there will be times where you will have to wait on a machine, but focus on the controllables. Since the New Year there have been more people training in the morning when I usually like to train, so now I wait until they leave to work before I start my workout. In addition, I have the privilege to be control of the music since I train during my shift! Create the an environment that works for you.
Motivational images and cheesy quotes: Positive vibes help inspire positive self-talk. I find that looking at those cheesy motivational images and quotes on Instagram really gives me that kick in the butt that I need sometimes. I have started taking note of the words and pictures that work for me, so I can make Post-its to serve as visual cues. Know what motivates you and try and make sure to expose yourself to it as much as possible.
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle” - Napoleon Hill