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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
November 13, 2022
One of the most sworn-by practices within the fitness community is meal prepping, and for good reason! If you want to make serious gains, nutrition must be a top priority. That said, eating a healthy high protein meal once in a while will not cut it. Consistency is key.
Cooking your food in advance is the best way to ensure you stay on your diet long-term. Being prepared is an essential component of consistency. As an added bonus, it will also save you time and money.
Prepping high-protein meals is one thing. Making them taste great is another. But don't worry. This article will cover a few critical tricks and tips to master the art of high-protein meal prepping.
In this article, we will go over the following:
We all know eating the right foods and in the right amounts is critical to achieving your fitness goals. However, time and money are two common excuses for why people can't get it done.
Meal prep is a simple concept. Instead of cooking each meal from scratch when it’s time to eat, meal prep involves preparing a bunch of meals ahead of time and storing them until they are needed. Not only does meal prep for weight loss make staying on your diet more manageable, but it can also be cheaper.
When you are on the go, meal prep makes sticking to your macros as convenient as possible.
Similarly, meal prep makes it easier to stick to your diet as people tend to make the worst food choices when they are hungry. It's a similar concept to the reasoning behind not going to the grocery store hungry, or you may end up buying a bunch of junk food you don't need.
The same line of thinking needs to be applied to eating meals. If you try to decide what to eat when you are starving, something quick and accessible from a drive-through is appealing. At that point, the last thing you want to do is go home and cook.
But if you already have healthy meals prepped, it's not a big deal. It's also going to help you meet your goals, whether it's to build muscle or lose weight.
Although high-protein meal prep is not hard, there are a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the process. Here are ten strategies to get you started.
If you are new to meal prep, it might seem like a daunting task to cook food for three or four days. If that is you, start small. Begin by prepping one or two days' worth of meals and going from there. Once you see how convenient it is to have a delicious meal ready to eat after your workout, you'll become hooked.
Before going to the grocery store, map out your meals for the week. Sit down, write out what you need, and create a grocery list.
Ensure you get everything you need to complete your recipes. A half-made meal won't do you any favors. You can make it even easier and reduce your time spent planning by simply following this high protein meal plan instead.
When eating healthy, you end up eating a lot of the same foods. Fitness staples like chicken breast, eggs, oatmeal, rice, potatoes, etc., are cheaper if bought in bulk.
It might make sense to get a membership to a discount grocery store like Sam’s Club or Costco.
Food loses its freshness after a few days in the refrigerator. One way around this problem is to cook meals twice a week. Sunday and Wednesday work well for most people.
From a scheduling standpoint, it helps to know what days you need to plan to cook. Some coaches have their client's meal prep on rest days from the gym. You can put meal prep into your calendar for the same time you are usually are at the gym tackling your workout split.
To be more efficient, utilize different cooking tools simultaneously to cook multiple meals. This can include the air fryer, stove, oven, slow cooker, instant pot, and rice cooker.
If you need one of these items, think about purchasing it. Many of these will make your life easier.
A crock pot is a fitness enthusiast's best friend. You can set it and forget it. Out of all of the kitchen tools mentioned in the last point, if you are only going to invest in one new item, choose the slow cooker.
When creating your meals, use a food scale to measure the serving sizes instead of volumetric measuring (cups, tablespoons, etc.). Not only is a food scale more accurate, but it also allows you to avoid washing extra dishes.
Glass containers are preferred, but plastic will also work. Make sure you buy nice ones since you frequently use and wash them. Check out our post that covers the Best Meal Prep Bags on the market, so you're able to carry your food with you while you're on the go.
You don't have to eat bland food. Feel free to add spices and low-calorie sauces to your meals. Simply using a different seasoning or marinade can change your feelings about the meal.
Utilizing low-calorie sauces and spices is one of our favorite weight loss tips.
If you don’t have the time to meal prep, you can hire someone else to do it for you. There are tons of meal prep companies available to choose from.
All you have to do is pick out your meals and schedule them for delivery.
Before we move on to the recipes, here are the best ways to create a well-rounded high-protein meal prep recipe.
If your goal is to eat healthily, you need to first determine how much protein you need per serving. As a starting point, every meal should contain at least twenty grams. When meal prepping, make sure each meal has enough protein for you to hit your daily protein goal.
To do this, take how much protein you need each day, and divide it by the number of daily meals. For example, if you need to eat 200 grams of protein per day and you eat four meals, each meal should have 50 grams of protein.
Once you calculate the amount of protein you need per meal, the next thing is carbohydrates. Unlike protein, the carbs you eat for each meal are sometimes different.
When prepping your meals, determine what meals will have higher or lower carbs. For example, if one of the meals is for post-workout, label it as such. The easiest carbs to meal prep are rice and potatoes.
If your recipe includes veggies, great. But, if it doesn't, you can cook up veggies and store them separately, so you always have them available to add as a side dish. Frozen veggies can work for this, too.
Here we go! Below are six protein packed meals for you to cook and enjoy. There are two options each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each will help you hit your protein goals so you can build muscle and gain muscular strength.
Breakfast is often overlooked when meal prepping. However, if you have to be to work or school early, having some pre-made breakfast options can make your mornings a lot less stressful.
And a less stressful morning means you're more likely to get to the gym and tackle your leg workout later!
Overnight oats are one of the best breakfast foods to meal prep in advance. They taste great, are high in protein, and are simple to make.
Looking for some alternatives or additional add ins? You can top your oats with berries, bananas, sliced almonds, or a nut butter.
This recipe makes 3 servings.
Overnight Oats Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving: Calories - 375 calories, Fat - 9.5g, Carbs - 35g, Protein - 37g
For more oat-based dishes, be sure to check out our article on the best high protein oatmeal recipes, one of which is another great overnight oats recipe!
Protein pancakes are always a big hit. You can make them from scratch, or cheat and use a pancake mix as we do in this recipe. Hey, we are here to make meal prep as easy as possible for you.
If you want to make a bigger batch, you can freeze the pancakes to make them last longer. If you're looking for some alternative toppings options, try sugar-free syrup, add fat-free whipped cream, or include strawberries on top. For a great pancake alternative, try protein French toast.
The recipe makes around 12 pancakes in total, and four pancakes are in one serving.
Protein Pancake Nutrition Breakdown Per Four Pancakes: Calories - 550 calories, Fat - 14g, Carbs - 73g, Protein - 33g
*You can add or subtract the amount of almond milk used based on how thick you want the pancakes.
Since most people are not home during the day, lunch is what meal prep is all about. We guarantee these two will quickly become your favorite lunch go-to's.
Everyone loves taco night, and with this recipe, you can have it multiple days throughout the week.
The best thing about this high protein diet recipe is it is all cooked together in one pot, so the clean-up time is minimal. Packed with the best foods for muscles, this meal won't disappoint.
For some topping ideas, add avocado for healthy fats, light sour cream, or jalapenos.
The recipe makes four servings.
Chicken Taco Bowl Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving: Calories - 391 calories, Fat - 6.8g, Carbs - 43.5g, Protein - 39g
Sriracha shrimp and rice is an easy meal you can make with minimal hassle anytime you're craving a healthy shrimp meal prep recipe. Feel free to get creative with this recipe and add various fresh veggies or sauces.
We guarantee this meal will make a filling, muscle-building high protein lunch!
The recipe makes three servings.
Sriracha Shrimp and Rice Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving: Calories - 268 calories, Fat - 8g, Carbs - 27g, Protein - 22g
Last but not least, dinner meal plans for muscle gain. When you get home from a busy day, nothing beats having a complete meal packed with protein in the fridge ready for you.
Simply pop it in the microwave, and you are good to go.
Instead of going with Chinese takeout, meal prep a healthy version at home. Instead of chicken, you can use shrimp or lean beef. You can also throw in more vegetables if you desire, and this can easily be turned into a protein bowl.
The recipe makes three servings.
Teriyaki Chicken Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving: Calories - 319 calories, Fat - 3g, Carbs - 32g, Protein - 41g
Pot roast is a classic homestyle meal that just feels right in the winter months. Unlike most homestyle meals, pot roast is high-protein and healthy. Instead of beef, you can use pork in this recipe as well.
The recipe makes four servings.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving: Calories - 401 calories, Fat - 21g, Carbs - 28g, Protein - 25g
Although weekly meal prep can be a big help in your quest to follow a clean bulk workout and diet plan and build muscle, it's not essential. You can build muscle without prepping your meals ahead of time. Plenty of people have done it. But building muscle is more challenging, time-consuming, and expensive if you are not prepared.
So, if you don't meal prep, what do you do?
There are a couple of options. The first is to prepare and cook all of your meals as you need them. This might be possible if you are a professional athlete or can afford a personal chef. It is nearly impossible for the rest of us to cook multiple meals fresh every day. Doing this would be a part-time job.
Another option is to depend on quick and easy meals. Things like canned chicken and tuna, precooked rice, protein shakes, protein bars, protein balls, beef jerky, and eating at restaurants.
These options can work in a pinch, but should not be your everyday plan.
We live in a fantastic time. Food is abundant and, for the most part, quick and easy. There are microwaveable rice pouches, oatmeal, potatoes, and vegetables that taste as good as cooking them any other way. There are also ample best protein powders for easy on-the-go shakes.
However, with all the modern conveniences, we still need to get a ton of quick, healthy, high-protein foods. Protein doesn’t quite taste the same cooked in the microwave.
You can get away with not meal-prepping your carbs, but you can't get away with not meal-prepping your protein.
Meal prepping is often considered a bodybuilding strategy, but anyone interested in eating healthy would benefit from high-protein meal prep.
As mentioned, it's challenging for anyone to eat high-protein meals without meal prep consistently. But, it is even more challenging for busy people.
If you are constantly on the go, meal prepping might be the only way you can consistently eat healthy. Additionally, if you work long hours, the same idea applies. By preparing your meals ahead of time and packing them in a cooler, you can take a full day of meals with you.
Another group of people who would benefit from meal prepping is new parents. When you have a newborn to take care of, one of the last things you want to do at mealtime is cook a meal for yourself.
Take advantage of when the baby is sleeping and meal prep.
Knowing the best carb, fat, and protein sources (we love high protein low fat foods!) is critical to meal preparation. Below is a detailed list to take with you to the grocery store.
Of course, you won't need to buy everything listed. Highlight what you need for the week and stick to only what your recipes require.
Sauces, Spices, & Liquids:
When storing prepared meals, you have two options – the refrigerator and the freezer. The fridge is perfect for the cooked meals you will eat in the next few days; however, if you cook them for more than three days out, it's best to freeze those.
After three or four days in the fridge, food is no longer safe to eat, and the risk of food poisoning increases. But, if you freeze the food right away, it can be stored safely for a month or two.
When you are ready to eat your frozen meals, just put them in the refrigerator about 24 hours ahead of time, giving them time to thaw. The next time you need a ready-made meal to eat before a workout, you'll be so happy you put the time in when you did.
Make sure to invest in some nice meal prep containers to make storing your food even easier.
Affordability is often cited as one of the main reasons why people can’t follow a healthy diet. However, there are ways to meal prep protein sources on a budget.
You are now armed with everything you need to know to be a meal prep master. If nutrition and strategies for adding more protein have been holding you back from making the type of gains you want, this could be the missing link.
Now, all you have to do is make time to do it.
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December 08, 2023
December 07, 2023
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