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Meal Prep 101

Meal Prep 101

Nutrition is the foundation of performance inside and outside the gym.  It fuels your training and your life. Here at Icehouse we encourage taking the whole foods approach to nutrition that sounds a lot like, “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” ~ Greg Glassman, or the abbreviated version, “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants” ~ Ben Bergeron.

Eating real food takes real time to plan, shop for, and prepare, and one of the most commonly used “hacks” to making real food more approachable and convenient is “meal prep”.  It’s no secret that I’m the Meal Prep Champion of the coaching staff here at Icehouse and for that reason have chosen to impart some of my meal prep tips, tricks and techniques to help you up your meal prep game.

Why do I Meal Prep?

I like to automate as many decisions as I can.  I have a limited amount of good decisions I can make for the day, so when my discipline is high, I prepare.  I preload a shaker bottle with post workout protein and pack it, along with my workout clothes, in my gym bag.  I lay out my clothes for the following day and I meal prep. When I’m pressed for time in the morning, I just grab my gym bag, throw on the clothes that are on the top of my dresser and snag the meals on my top left shelf in my refrigerator on my way out the door.  It’s taking advantage of my “past self” ‘s extra time to take care of my “future self”.

What is the Process?

Plan your work and work your plan.  Principles of meal prep do not change.  You need to know which meals of the day you want to prep, along with the days of meals you want to have on hand; pick your recipes you 

want to cook, shop for what you need to make the meals, make the meals, portion the meals out into containers, store (freeze or refrigerate) and consume as planned.  You need to decide what will serve your household best when it comes to which meals of the day, how many days of meals, whether or not to include snacks, and then go from there.

To Freeze, or Not to Freeze?

This is generally the difference in meal preparation.  Are you planning on filling your freezer or not? In theory this is a good idea, but in practice, it’s complicated.  My recommendation is to have a plan for the meals if you’re going to fill your freezer. I currently live in the land of moderation when it comes to filling the freezer. I generally have no more than 4 containers of 2 different meals each in the freezer.  This allows me a little flexibility throughout the week and saves on freezer space.  Earlier this year meal prep got a little “out of hand” and I ended up with 30 of the same meals (photo above)…  Let’s just say that was a fairly predictable couple weeks, nutritionally speaking.

Pro Tips

  • Bulk cook lightly flavored protein, then flavor separately (taco, pasta, bbq…)
  • Slow cook protein overnight
  • Instant Pot (what else can give you a juicy and perfectly cooked beef roast in less than 35 min?)
  • Pick your Top 3 Breakfasts and Top 5 Lunch/Dinner recipes to start
  • Costco membership…
  • Looking for recipes?  Head over to Healthy Steps Nutrition: Recipes
  • Need a breakfast recipe with protein? Try Amish Oatmeal

My “Perfect” Meal Prep Day

My perfect meal prep day is Sunday and it starts off with a leisurely cup of coffee, followed by breakfast.  After breakfast I’ll head over to the local grocery store and pick up the last minute items that I need cook up all of the meals.  Not shocking, I’ll generally have the big ticket items; protein (eggs, chicken, pork, beef), starches (potatoes, rice, quinoa), and non starchy vegetables (broccoli, peppers, onions, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers…) already picked up from my weekly Costco trip.  Either late morning or early afternoon I’ll spend a couple hours chopping, sauteing, roasting, baking up Amish Oatmeal for breakfast for the week and 5 or so servings of 2 separate meals.  I’ll freeze some and leave a couple in the fridge as options for early in the week and then call it a day.  

 

Being the Fit Friend

Being the Fit Friend

It can be really difficult to keep your fitness goals on track when it seems like no one understands the commitment you made to yourself to make a change.  Aside from the people in our community at Icehouse, who are already on their own fitness journey and share your goals, there are family members, friends, and even co-workers, who do not. The people around you generally don’t want to derail your wellness train. Think about how it looks from their perspective. Something as simple as reducing the amount of sugar we consume can look like eliminating a whole list of foods. Making time for the gym could mean no longer watching as much TV with your significant other. These changes can look drastic to others.

How Much Do You Talk About CrossFit

Often, we want to talk about CrossFit with everyone we see, and why wouldn’t you!? It has completely changed your life, you can move like you were meant to, and you feel good because you are making progress from showing up consistently. We take time out of our day to make a difference for ourselves, one hour just for us. Not for your kids, not your spouse, just for you and your health both mental and physical. What else besides work do you deliberately plan time for in your day? This one thing is so important to us that we deliberately block out time in our busy schedule to make it fit, even if that means waking up before the sun to be here, 5:30 AM people I’m looking at you. OBVIOUSLY, WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT! Those people that tell you, “You only talk about the gym” eventually fall silent after a few months and you have made some gains. If they are good friends they notice the change it has brought to your life, and how much it means to you, and they begin to ask you about it.  Maybe you gain another gym friend.

“Are You Really Eating a Salad?”

With the rush of everyday life, it is easy to get caught up in a cycle of eating out.  Meal prep is a great way to make sure your body gets the fuel it needs. For something as simple as bringing a lunch we can sure catch a lot of grief though. “Woah, on a diet?” “Chicken and rice again!?” “Vegetables? What are you a rabbit?” The comments about your meal prep can be annoying at times. What these comments often mean is that they are insecure about their own choice of food and want to project it on to your healthy choice to make them feel better about their poor nutrition choices.  We get that it can be hard to say no when someone asks you to go with them to get lunch. Having a meal prepped makes it easier to say, “No thanks, I brought a lunch today.” If you didn’t bring a lunch and you choose to go out, use this neat trick that I have learned. Be the first to order. That way you’re not the last one to order a salad when everyone gets a burger and fries. This throws your friends off balance and often they even make better choices. If no one else is as health savvy as you, and you are still the only one, the wait staff is quickly asking everyone their order which leaves no time to give you grief! By the time everyone has placed their order, they forget about what you ordered, and conversation resumes.

Navigating Family

Family and health can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Especially with the holidays right around the corner. Grandma doesn’t take to kindly to you saying no to the plethora of sweets at family gatherings. There are a few tricks to keep grandma happy as well as stay on track. Snag one sweet, make certain she can see you, eat it in view, and enjoy it like you have never enjoyed anything before. Make a comment about how full you are while holding that last bite and take your time to finish. That way you have set the stage to say, “no thanks” when she comes around a second time. The third trip you can say “no thanks I had one already, they were so good!” Boom! Just like that we avoided 7 cookies for the price of one.

Another problem we can encounter at family functions is the lack of healthy options. Fruit pizza, delicious yes. Healthy? Not so much. Apples? Yes but cut up and hidden in whipped cream with snickers?  Not exactly! The best way to ensure you stay on track is to prepare a healthy option to bring to the cookout or pot luck. That way you know what’s in your food, and you know there will be a good choice. If all else fails, fill up on the meat, potatoes, the carrots, and the corn. This will leave less room for the cookies and bars. Have water instead of pop or fruity beverages. With some time, your family will begin to pick up on you not choosing pop and will begin to not even ask or even go as far to say, “I forgot that you don’t drink pop.” This sets you up for success, that way you can agree, and reinforce the idea that you are the type of person that no longer drinks pop. Even the most stubborn people we know, our family, can help us on our fitness journey. They love you and want to see you succeed in anything that you do.

The Alcohol Conundrum

Living in the Midwest, it’s almost like we are obligated to consume alcohol. Maybe it’s to cope with the weather?  Being a college student, it is expected that I go out Thursday through Saturday night and party. However, that doesn’t fit in with my wellness goals, and obviously wouldn’t be good for my grades. I go out on occasion, but more often than not, I’ll turn my friends down when they ask if I want to go out. This doesn’t mean that I can’t have a social life.  You have options and some of them include not drinking. Be the designated driver. Paying someone to give you a ride is expensive and being the DD can save your friends a lot of money, not to mention the money you save yourself on drinks! There are a few restaurants in the FM area that offer a free meal to the DD. Even if you go with and aren’t the DD you can still have fun without drinking. If you choose to drink “Make good choices!” Being 21, the choice to not go out often has often left me feeling like I had lost many of my friends. They stopped inviting me places because I didn’t want to drink. It can be really difficult to maintain friendships when you don’t see those people often. I have since learned that if the only thing that our friendship was based on was social drinking, we probably weren’t that good of friends anyways.

While you might feel alone, know that we are right here with you. This gym is bursting with people that are on a similar journey. Every member and even the coaches face the same criticism from people that we know outside of the gym about our fitness. We are sometimes “fit-shamed.” We are criticized for making healthy choices, but we continue to make them, even in the face of doubters, because consistently making those choices is what helps us make progress. As you make progress it gets easier to make those good choices. Losing some friends because you chose to go to the gym instead is okay. For every friend that I have distanced myself from because they didn’t support my fitness goals, I have gained ten at the gym. The best part is the friends that you make here share your goals, share your drive, and will help you make good choices. If you think I’m not going to call you out for eating a cookie, while I myself am eating a cookie, you’re wrong. I expect you to call me out too. We want to see you succeed. The best part of being the fit friend is having other fit friends. Icehouse is FULL of fit friends that NEVER get sick of talking about CrossFit.

Sugar

Sugar

Sugar is everywhere these days.  It’s not just in your common violators like ice cream or pop.  It’s also in foods labeled as “health foods”, such as protein bars, smoothies, sports drinks, and basically any item labeled as low fat.  So why is this a problem?  Well, if you have been through our 6-Week Challenge you have probably heard why sugar is causing problems, so in case you have forgotten or need a refresher, this is for you.

Junk In, Junk Out

Too much sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease – all things that we are fighting against at CrossFit Icehouse.  You have probably heard it before that you cannot out work a bad diet.  So even if you are going to the gym 5-7 days per week, but you are eating and fueling yourself with junk, you will get the health results of eating junk.

How Much

So, how much sugar is a safe amount?  The World Health Organization recommends that sugar be no more than 5% of your daily calorie intake.  This works out to be about 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams.  The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to no more than 100 calories/day or 6 teaspoons for women, and 150 calories/day or 9 teaspoons for men.  In Greg Glassman’s Fitness in 100 Words he says, “Eat meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar”.  He does say “no sugar”, but that is with the idea that you will be eating good quality whole foods that have a normal amount of natural sugar in them.

Good Sugar

Good sugars can be found in almost all whole foods, especially fruits.  The reason we want to get most of our sugar from these sources is because the sugar is supported by fiber, water and nutrients that keep your blood sugar levels from spiking like they do with added sugars.  However, too much fruit could be a bad thing as well.  Primarily if you pack a lot of fruit in a smoothie.  Blending up fruit breaks it down further so that your digestive track doesn’t have to do as much work, thus increasing the blood sugar spike.  So, do your best to eat fruit in its whole state and don’t over pack a smoothie with more fruit than you normally eat with a meal.

Big Picture

We know too much sugar is not good for us, we have an estimate of how much sugar to eat and we know what sources to get our sugar from.  It is our responsibility to make sure we are not harming ourselves with too much sugar.  However, you are not in this alone.  If you struggle with binging on sweets or having too much sugar, reach out to someone who could be your accountability partner.  You could also talk with a coach or sign up for Precision Nutrition Coaching to help dial in those cravings.  Overall, try and pay attention to food labels and become an informed consumer.

Managing Stress

Managing Stress

Stress, it almost feels like a buzz word these days.  It seems like people are always under constant pressure from all around to do more, work me and be more.  Stress can take a real toll on our bodies, both physically and emotionally.  Let’s dive in and talk about different ways we can manage some stress and the effects that can have on our performance.

The Stress Family

The stress family is not one to mess with especially when it comes to performance, we’re talking about anxiety, fear, pressure, nervousness and panic.  There are lots of theories out there on what causes these things to arise at the onset of performance but some common symptoms include, clammy palms, negative thoughts, profuse sweating, nausea, inability to focus, and/or trouble sleeping.  None of these sound like a good time.  Now that we know what it is let’s talk about some ways to manage this stress.

It Starts with Awareness

It is known that some amount of stress can be a really good thing.  Going into a workout or an event can cause a bit of butterflies which then turns on our “fight or flight” response, and this is  a good thing.  It can aid in performance and help us crush that new clean PR.  When this turns bad is when we start to doubt or fill our head with negative self talk.  The first step is to be aware this is happening.  Once you hear that little voice start talking take a second, breath and try to find out where this is coming from.  Is this your body telling you, hey you haven’t slept, you at a cheeseburger at lunch, I’ve had no water and now you want to do this?  Or are you not trusting yourself, filling yourself with and then starting to panic?  If this is the case it’s time to change the story in your head and start crushing some PR’s.

Managing The Story

The first part is making sure you are doing the little things outside of the gym, sleeping, eating clean foods and managing your recovery.  Once that’s taken care of we need to recognize the story in our head and understand that sometimes it really is just that, a story.  If all things outside the gym are on point, then take time to analyze what you are telling yourself.  Yes you can do most workouts, yes some days you just need to move, yes you are a really strong human; it’s about managing the negative thoughts that create too much stress.

Helpful Tips

One of the ways I’ve found to help with this is on my way to the gym.  I like to play upbeat music that helps keep my mood light, some people I know like to rock out on their way, maybe toss in some car singing and steering wheel drum set.  Once you’re at the gym dive straight in before you can have all the thoughts.  If you’re there early find a foam roller or do some mobility work to get the kinks out.  Once in the gym I like to laugh at the barbell like it’s my frenemy.  You know that laugh you give when you’re like “oh you say I can’t, watch me.”  If I follow this little routine, I don’t get super stressed about my fitness and it becomes a very welcome part of my day.  To recap, recognize your stress symptoms, find a routine or mantra that works for you, and keep the workout routine going.

 

Fitness is a Journey

Fitness is a Journey

When’s the last time you carried groceries to your car and didn’t lose your breath?  Do you remember the last time you started your day without a handful of medications?  WE want you to know what it’s like to feel good and move well.

SICKNESS

We know a lot about sickness in America.  If you watch TV you see pharmaceutical ads every other commercial break.  If you open a magazine it feels like every full page add is a new medicine to help with your old medicine.  What you’re not seeing is adds for how to move, or how to cook, or how to solve the problems you have.  Taking medication everyday or having pain every time you move should not be accepted as “normal.”

WELLNESS

Don’t you want to wake up with energy, have energy at night to play with your kids or even learning how to cook, eat and enjoy real whole foods?  Feeling energized, reducing anxiety and depression and moving pain free should be “normal”.  These are the things that we are really good at providing at Icehouse.  It’s more than just moving weights, it’s about changing your entire lifestyle.  It’s about the journey of fitness, moving out of sickness to finding energy to keep up with all of life’s obligations and feel good about who you really are.

FITNESS

Once you understand what it’s like to move well and eat real whole foods we can really start finding what you are made of.  Dialing in your nutrition and focusing on meeting goals you never thought possible. Can you see yourself as the person who workouts out 4-6 days per week?  What if you became the “fit friend” in your circle of friends?  How awesome does that sound!  This is what we love to do, help you become the best version of yourself.