Meal Prep for the Busy Athlete

I have shared several meal prep posts in the past but, with a new school year underway, many college athletes are looking for inspiration! I know you are probably thinking “don’t college athletes just get free training tables after all of their workouts?”. It doesn’t work like that if you aren’t competing for a fully funded athletic department, for example, in the SEC. If you are living an athlete-life like I did in college, you may be living off campus in your own apartment your junior and senior year, having the occasional on-campus meals with your younger team-mates extra meal plan swipes. For much of the rest, other than travel and competition days, you’re likely on your own!

I am not here to tell you to measure and weigh out every gram or ounce of food you are going to eat for the week. Nor do I think you should eat the same thing everyday for lunch and dinner – please don’t do that!! Maintain some sanity as a student-athlete. What you do need to do, is remember that healthy eating for an athlete is not the same as healthy eating for a non-athlete. You still need your fruits and veggies – have lots of them! – but, you must ensure you have enough calories, healthy carbohydrates, and protein for the week. Here are some simple, inexpensive meal prep ideas for the busy athlete. Not in college? Not an athlete? It’s okay, you can eat this all too! You just might not need the same portions or need as many snacks during the day in addition to these meals.

In addition to what I prepped below, I recommend having the following on hand to go with what you prep:

  • Hummus
  • Guacamole or avocados
  • Cheese if you can have it, a cheese alternate if you can’t
  • A vinaigrette salad dressing
  • Peanut or another nut butter
  • Ezekiel or whole grain breads/tortillas

You need snacks too! In addition to using hummus, guacamole and nut butter mentioned above, having the following on hand means healthy fueling and recovery with snacks too

  • Low fat milk or soy milk
  • Low fat yogurt or soy yogurt
  • RxBars, Larabars, Clif brand bars such as Z bars pictured below
  • Hand fruits (apples, bananas, pears)
  • Dried fruits (raisins, dates, figs)
  • Whole grain crackers
  • NSF certified for sport / organic protein powder
  • Roasted edamame or chickpeas
  • Baby carrots
Here are the main foods that were prepped (black bean sliders and oats not pictured)

You’ve got some ginger and cayenne roasted tofu on the bottom left that cooked in the oven while sweet potatoes/oriental yams, broccoli, flounder, and chili lime shrimp were baking too. On the bottom right is bulgur to mix with black beans to stuff the peppers on top left and then use leftovers to mix with veggies and eat with the flounder or shrimp. Above the bulgur is lentil taco “meat”. Take my black bean taco recipe and use lentils instead of beans. Add some turmeric and ginger to the taco seasoning for an anti-inflammatory boost. Grab some Food for Life soft corn tortilla shells (see below) and guacamole and you’ve got multiple meals (yay leftovers!). The top right are my new pumpkin energy bites which are great snacks, especially before morning practice when you don’t feel like eating. Finally, make the black bean sliders in minutes to eat on whole grain bread or rolls with some dairy or vegan cheese and a side salad, the frittata to pair with potatoes and fruit for breakfast, and invest in a slow-cooker for slow cooker oats.

This picture highlights some easy healthy snacks & ingredients to keep on hand.

What do you do with all of this food you are thinking? Be sure to always pair a healthy carbohydrate with a protein source at meals and snacks. At meals, ensure you have a fruit or veggie and some healthy fat.

Sample day with double workouts:

  1. Pre AM workout: 2 pumpkin energy bites
  2. Post-workout breakfast: egg frittata w/ large prebaked sweet potato topped w/ hummus, side apple
  3. Lunch: PB & banana sandwich and side baby carrots; yogurt
  4. Pre-afternoon workout snack: Larabar
  5. Post-workout dinner: 6 oz flounder, plenty of bulgur w/ a vinaigrette mixed in, roasted broccoli
  6. Night snack: Bean brownie and 1 frozen banana blended with a scoop of protein and some almond milk

Easy, inexpensive options if you have a cost club membership such as BJ’s:

Below is the ginger people ginger spread I put a touch of on the tofu.
I then sprinkled some cayenne before baking. Next is the powdered ginger, garlic and honey that I added to the shrimp. I also mixed in fresh squeezed lime.

Tortillas I use for my tacos:

And how they look when I pack them for work (may be easier as a dinner for a college athlete. Carrying this to class may not be the easiest):

If you run out of food, later in the week these ingredients a plus a few eggs are all you’ll need for my quick and easy farro fried rice .It has the perfect carb to protein ratio for a post workout meal!

I mentioned bean brownies for a post-dinner snack. I know you are a student-athlete and have no time to bake. Want to know one of my favorite ready-made healthy desserts? Pure Genius blondies! Athletes can work up an appetite that extends far past dinner so if I were still a D-I swimmer I may be snacking on one of these delicious bean brownies or blondies many nights with some peanut butter a couple of hours after dinner. They’re sweetened with maple and athletes can have a touch extra sugar.

You’ll balance your blood sugar reaction from the maple syrup with fiber and protein because they’re made with beans and if you add PB like I suggested get a little bit more protein and healthy fats for recovery and joint health. Yay! {Disclosure: I was sent the 4 bars pictured below but, these opinions are my own. They’re in Whole Foods in NYC and CT and my sister was supposed to grab me some this past weekend in CT and they were out! Luckily I just got an email this morning for 15% off – head to their website to sign up!}

Hope you use some of these tips for an energetic week with better recovery than last!