For athletes, each meal is both recovery from a prior training session and preparation for the next. But after a tough workout, no one feels like cooking, and we don’t always make the best nutritional decisions when we’re tired. Having a nutrition plan for each day and week will help to optimize recovery and performance.
As a coach and athlete, nutrition is something I have to plan and put into practice. It’s tough to come home after a long ride or run and figure out what to make for dinner. In addition, between work, training, and other commitments, it’s tough to find time to prepare meals. Here are a few things I do to help prepare fuel and prep for performance.
- Plan dinner for the week. Every Sunday, I plan out each night’s dinner. I usually plan 6 meals and leave one night for a dinner out with friends or date night with my husband. Breakfast for me, usually consists of an omelet with veggies or a fruit and veggie smoothie, and lunch is always leftovers from dinner the night before, so if dinner is planned the rest is easy! My goal for each meal is to include a lean protein (chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish), lots of vegetables (spinach, kale, peppers, broccoli), healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts) and a little starch (sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, squash). A few of our favorite meals are: stuffed peppers, chicken and veggie kabobs, spaghetti squash with meatballs and marinara sauce, and baked salmon with vegetables.
- Make 1 big grocery trip for the week. From my dinner plan, I create a grocery list. Because I have a plan I know exactly what I need for each lunch/dinner plus my breakfast items. When I go to the grocery store, I leave with nothing more than what is on my list. Because I make 1 large trip, I don’t have to go back every couple of days.
- Keep it fresh. My goal when I go to the grocery store is to shop the perimeter and stay out of the aisles. The aisles contain all the processed foods full of sugar, sodium, and preservatives. The perimeter is full of fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy.
- Make double for dinner. By making double for dinner, I have lunch for the next day. This makes the morning easy and lunch nutritious.
- 45 minute rule. I choose meals that can be cooked in 45 minutes or less.
How are you doing on your nutrition plan? Do you have a plan? Try it for a week and see how it goes!
By: Lauren Higgins, M.S., CSCS, FMS
SPARC Sports Performance Coordinator