An Athlete’s Guide to Eating on the Go
So, you wanna build some muscle…
Nutrition is a key component of building muscle, that’s not guess work, that’s a fact. Far too often we see hard work at the gym go down the drain because of poor nutrition habits. You need to eat well every day to get the results you want. The bodybuilder’s biggest challenge when it comes to nutrition? Eating on the go.
Schedule & Plan Ahead
Try as much as possible to plan your week down to the smallest detail. You know your workout schedule ahead of time, there’s no reason you shouldn’t know your fueling schedule ahead of time either. Schedule eating into your day by planning to consume meals and snacks every 2-4 hours. The excuse “I don’t have time to eat in the day” just doesn’t cut it. If you pack small portable meals/snacks to bring with you during the day, you should be able to take a few minutes here and there to refuel.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. After an 8 hour fast your body is unable to provide your brain with a constant supply of glucose, this forces your body to convert protein (that’s your muscle!) and fat into energy, very inefficient energy, that your brain can use thus resulting in lowered brain performance.
Starting each day with a healthy balanced breakfast will get your body out of that catabolic state and kick start your brain.
Even if your mornings are rushed, make sure to set your alarm 10-15 minutes early to get in a proper breakfast. You can even prepare a simple breakfast the night before and eat it on your way to work or school.
Preparing your food is more than half the battle. If I had every meal cooked and weighed out for you, you would succeed without a doubt! Take the time to prepare your food so you can literally “grab and go”. Take a cooler with you, that cooler represents control. You know that in that cooler, you can have only those meals. Nothing more, nothing less.
Nicole Costa – Pro Fitness & Bikini Model, ALLMAX Athlete
What to Eat?
Small snacks like almonds, dried fruit, and ISOFLEX protein bars are things that can easily be stored in your gym bag, briefcase or pocket.
That being said, most people tend to have access to a fridge, toaster and even a microwave at the office these days, so get out your tupperware and fire up some high protein, high fibre meals! I even go so far as to keep a few slices of Ezekiel bread in the fridge along with a small jar of natural peanut butter so I can have a high-carb snack at 4pm before my 6pm evening workouts. For those without a fridge, bring items that won’t spoil, and store them in your desk or your car.
Prepping in Bulk
Taking time on the weekend to prepare all of your weekly meals is a key to successful nutrition. Cook all your chicken, prepare that high fibre bean salad, and portion out all of your vegetables in one intense session. A friend of mine once told me that the best bodybuilders treat their workouts like business; they get in, they get the work done, and they get out – all the while keeping it intense and working at the highest level of their ability. The same thing should apply to preparing your meals. It doesn’t take that long to do in the grand scheme of things, it just takes some concentrated, dedicated, effort.
What if you have a busy weekend? Pack your meals the night before for quick options in the morning. When it comes to lunches or dinners, try to prepare them the night before so that you can easily grab them in the morning and go. For example, pack a salad with grilled chicken and dressing on the side, or a turkey sandwich on wheat bread. Another option is to bring leftovers, as they can make for a quick and healthy lunch the next day.
If you’re really in a bind, a peanut butter and banana sandwich only takes 30 seconds to throw together!
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
Chances are you eat healthy most of the time and are aware of the many benefits clean eating can bring into your life. When your life starts to get busy and time is tight it can become really easy to fall into the habit of buying fast food or skipping meals, this is a bad pattern to fall into.
Fast food is the quickest way to derail your hard work.
Fast food restaurants are loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and excess calories. One take-out meal can easily be the equivalent of your daily calorie intake, and exceed your daily fat and sodium limit. Even if you think you’re choosing healthy options, it’s hard to know what exactly the cook is putting in your food and how they’re preparing it.
If I didn’t have my meals prepared in advance it would give me an excuse, so instead of making excuses about not having meals available, I MAKE TIME! I take 2 nights each week and cook chicken, turkey, fish, sweet potatoes and veggies. I always carry quick foods like rice cakes and oatmeal so in a pinch all I have to do is throw them in the microwave.
Chris Villa – NPC Physique Competitor, ALLMAX Athlete
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you have to be somewhere last minute with no snacks or meals with you; or maybe you just really didn’t have time to make it to the grocery store one night. Try and avoid simply not eating, skipping meals can leave you hungry, undernourished, and even slow your metabolism. When times likes these arise, don’t fret – when you’re dedicated to your diet 90% of the time, eating out here and there isn’t the worst thing in the world, as long as you choose wisely. Try looking for salad bars or sub shops where you can choose whole grains, lean proteins, and ask for sauces on the side.
Remember to load up on veggies and drink lots of water to counteract any added sodium.
The Bottom Line
If you think about it, there are very few valid excuses for not eating clean on the go. It does take some effort and a little planning on your part, but if you’re looking to support your gains in the gym, then it’s absolutely imperative to support your diet and nutrition with the same intensity and steadfast dedication. Remember, it only takes an hour on the weekend to prepare your weekly meals, or alternatively, a few minutes each evening or morning. The time is well spent, before you know it eating on the go will become second nature, and guess what – you can keep that muscle you built at the gym.