For Busy Triathlete’s

Meal Planning Guide

Many individuals who prepare meals, including athletes and their families, lead hectic lives where they may eat at unusual times and rely on fast food, shakes, and protein bars for most of their meals. This can result in a lack of necessary macro and micronutrients. While consuming these types of foods occasionally is not harmful, it will ultimately impact one’s endurance. Additionally, cooking meals that meet both your dietary requirements and the preferences of other family members can be highly stressful. Therefore, consider choosing a practical approach that allows you to prepare your own home-cooked meals, snacks, and packed lunches.

A strict meal planning regimen is credited by several famous athletes for their fitness and success. Meal planning is confirmed to be important for athletes in maintaining their nutrition. Eating regular meals and snacks every 3 hours is particularly important for individuals who engage in daily sports. Therefore, if food is not planned and prepared in advance, it is easy to fall behind on nutrition. This is where a meal planning guide proves to be useful.

Why Meal Planning?

At first, meal planning may require some effort, but as you continue doing it, it becomes easier. It is recommended to have weekly meal plans, particularly for the meals favoured by your family members. These can serve as a guide when creating other meal plans or you can use them again. Planning nutritious and well-balanced family meals for the week can be advantageous even for those with hectic schedules.

In fact, research indicates that meal planning:

  • Saves time.  
  • Reduces stress.  
  • Ensures that a wider variety of meals is enjoyed.
  • Reduces food waste.
  • Enables one to prepare more healthy meals.
  • Saves money.
  • It helps make sure that the chosen recipes are suitable for all members of the family.
  • Encourages all family members to be involved in meal preparation.

Meal Planning – Let’s Get Started…

The ideal situation would be for all family members to participate in meal planning. By involving everyone from the start, family meals will become more efficient.

  • Make a list of (family) favourite dishes. Get all family members involved and ask them which meals they like the most.  Aim to have around 20 meals on your list.  Divide your meals into groups (e.g. pasta, chicken, salads).  Don’t forget to give your recipes a twist to make them suitable for your dietary needs and the likings of other family members.  

During this stage, it is crucial to pay attention to the advice given by your coach and nutritionists. However, it is equally important to be mindful of the foods that provide energy, cause bloating, or hinder digestion. Therefore, it is advisable to listen to your body and develop a deeper understanding of its needs.

  • Look at your (family) diary and events.  Take note of any commitments/training sessions you might have after school/work hours.  This will help you to know who is going to be around and how much time is available for a meal to be prepared.
  • Share responsibilities. When possible, check who will be available to help in the preparation of meals (e.g. preparation of ingredients, cooking, washing up).
  • Time available.  Decide how much time you can dedicate to the preparation of meals.
  • Choose recipes. Taking the above factors into consideration, choose a suitable dish/meal for every day.
  • Packed Lunch.  Decide what type of packed lunch/es you will prepare for the following day.  Be creative and use some of the food chosen in Step 5 to ease preparation and save time.
  • Prepare your shopping list.  List any ingredients that you would need to buy.  You may sort out your shopping list according to where the ingredients are found at the supermarket.
  • Reminders.  Make a note on your plan of whether you need to take something out of the freezer, or if you can prepare part of the meal in advance.
  • Finally, stick your meal plan to your fridge or another prominent place where you can take a look at it in the morning.

Meal Prepping – Putting Your Plan into Action…

After selecting the most suitable recipes and completing the necessary shopping, the next step is meal prepping. This crucial final step involves preparing the ingredients and/or meals in advance for the upcoming days or weeks. Picture opening your refrigerator to discover cooked grains such as pasta, barley, or quinoa, as well as washed and sliced or chopped vegetables for salads, grilled vegetables, and pre-cooked chicken or beef ready to be used in a wrap. The possibilities are endless, and the option of fast food or unhealthy snacks will no longer be a temptation. Taking it a step further, you can even prepare entire meals ahead of time, portion them into individual containers, and store them correctly in the refrigerator or freezer. The specifics of meal prepping can vary depending on individual storage space and available time.

Even though it may take time to establish a routine, meal planning can ultimately save time, reduce stress, and enhance nutrition for each individual by allowing more time to prepare home-cooked meals. These are all advantages that athletes strive for to improve their stamina and endurance. Additionally, meal planning can create an ideal opportunity for the entire family to come together and enjoy quality time.

How to Meal Prep Like an Elite Athlete

By following these guidelines from the pros, you can eat like them quickly and without having to go through a long and labour-intensive meal-prepping process.

Sara and Ryan Hall

Marathon runners who are professionals.

When you are a professional athlete, Sara explains, you are constantly conserving energy due to the amount of energy expended during training. Furthermore, having an efficient meal-prep strategy becomes even more crucial with the addition of four kids.

To prevent themselves from resorting to convenient yet less nutritious meals when they are short on time, the Halls ensure that their kitchen is well-supplied. They purchase rice, lentils, and complex grains in large quantities, opt for prewashed and chopped vegetables to save time, and always have a few fillets of fresh-caught and wild Alaskan salmon, cod, and halibut stored in the freezer. Their main guidelines are to prioritize natural ingredients and eliminate processed foods.

One of the preferred recipes for meal prep is Alaskan Salmon Pasta Puttanesca.

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  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 small yellow pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 1 jar (25 ounces) marinara with herbed pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 can (14 3/4 ounces) traditional pack Alaska salmon, or 8 to 10 ounces skinless, boneless salmon (canned or pouched), drained and chunked
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta

Follow these step-by-step instructions without altering the information provided. In a sizable saucepan, warm the oil on medium-high heat. Put the onion and pepper into the pan and cook, frequently stirring, for five to seven minutes until they become tender. Stir in the garlic and chile flakes and cook for one minute. Combine pasta sauce, capers, olives, and basil, and heat until it becomes hot. Mix in the salmon and decrease the heat to low while the pasta is being cooked. Prepare the pasta as directed on the package, then mix it with one cup of the sauce. Lastly, garnish with additional sauce.

Mikaela Shiffrin

The person who won the gold medal in Slalom at the Olympics in 2014.

Even though she is a winter athlete, Shiffrin is constantly training. Shiffrin states that there is never a sufficiently long period where she is not either training or racing, so she cannot afford to neglect her diet. Having her meals planned out is crucial, especially when she doesn’t have someone to cook for her, as it is easy to neglect this aspect.

Shiffrin avoids the trap of relying on frozen microwave meals by dedicating time every week to strategize her meals. She subsequently goes to the grocery store to stock up on nutrient-rich foods like milk, eggs, cheese, orange juice, and fruit.

On weekends, when Shiffrin’s schedule is less packed, she prepares most of the week’s meals. “I have a couple of uncomplicated chicken recipes that I enjoy and can be eaten as leftovers,” she explains. “In addition to that, boiling a box of pasta and preparing a salad or cooking some vegetables to complement the chicken is quite effortless, hence creating easy and nutritious meals is not too challenging.”

Here is a step-by-step favourite recipe suitable for meal prep: Farfalle pasta combined with edamame, lemon, black pepper, and Pecorino cheese.

Ingredients are to be thought about step by step.

  • 1 box farfalle pasta (Shiffrin uses Barilla ProteinPLUS)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups edamame, frozen shelled beans
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, shredded
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

The first step is to cook the pasta as the package instructs. Once cooked, drain the pasta and set aside 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Next, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the edamame and garlic to the skillet and sauté for one minute. Then, pour in the reserved pasta water and add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Finally, serve the dish in bowls and garnish with cheese and coarsely ground black pepper. This recipe yields seven servings.

Juliana Buhring

An individual who participates in ultra-endurance cycling.

Buhring easily has access to fresh fish while living on the Italian coast, making it a regular part of her diet. Alongside the fish, she consumes a significant portion of vegetables, which make up almost 75 per cent of her overall dietary intake. These vegetables are predominantly grown in her personal garden, and presently she incorporates homegrown zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers into her salads and omelettes at lunchtime. Additionally, as part of her ketogenic diet, Buhring consumes adequate quantities of nutritious fats, such as those present in cheese, eggs, avocado, olive oil, and nuts.

Buhring states that her diet is rather straightforward, yet highly nutritious.

Buhring doesn’t cook in large quantities or plan meals for the whole week. She shops for groceries once per week but cooks almost every day. She dislikes using recipes and prefers to decide spontaneously what she will cook each day. Despite time constraints, she usually chooses to make her own meals because she believes it is better than buying pre-made food, as she is uncertain about the ingredients used in the latter. Buhring also emphasizes the importance of finding healthy food that one enjoys eating. If a person dislikes their food, they will not be able to maintain the habit for long. She suggests finding a balance between healthy and enjoyable food to avoid developing a negative attitude towards life.

One of the best recipes for meal prep is the Caprese Salad with Avocado Slices.

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  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce container mini mozzarella balls
  • Olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • Thyme and oregano to taste

First, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella and mix them together in a big bowl. After that, drizzle a substantial amount of olive oil over the mixture. Then, proceed to slice the avocado and include it in the bowl. If desired, add extra olive oil and spice it up with thyme or oregano.

Laurenne Ross and Tommy Ford

Skiers who participate in the Olympics are known as Olympic skiers.

Despite taking great care to prepare healthy and wholesome meals, these two individuals do not devote excessive time to cooking. Following their intense five- to six-hour training sessions, they have discovered that stir-frying vegetables and meat, creating a simple sauce, and pouring it over a bed of grains is both fast and nutritious.

Ross and Ford are extremely dedicated to using fresh, high-quality ingredients above all else. To achieve this, they have developed a fondness for visiting the grocery store and farmer’s market, often making trips up to three times a week. They prepare breakfast daily, opting for options such as gluten-free pancakes, oats combined with nuts, seeds, cashew butter, goat’s milk yoghurt, or eggs served with sweet potato, kale, and bacon. Additionally, they prepare the components like side dishes, sauces, and bases for their lunches and dinners in advance.

Ross and Ford frequently place sweet potatoes, beets, or various vegetables in the oven while preparing dinner, ensuring that they are prepared for consumption on the following day. Additionally, they prepare excess rice to store in a Tupperware container. “I prefer to make large quantities of sauces and store them in the refrigerator for the week, allowing us to enhance any meal while maintaining simplicity in the preparation process,” stated Ross.

A favourite recipe for meal prepping is the Black Rice Protein Bowl.

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  • 1 to 2 cups black rice (makes enough for a week)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons organic ghee
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 sweet potato (The darker orange the better—more nutrient-rich.)
  • 1 orange bell pepper or 1/4 cup chopped peppers
  • 1/2 cup broccolini heads and stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, cubed
  • 1 cup kale, cut into small strips
  • Protein of your choice (Ross and Ford recommend chicken or fish.)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 egg per meal
  • Avocado oil to taste
  • 1 cup arugula per meal
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced

Follow the package instructions to cook the black rice. As the rice cooks, heat one tablespoon of Ghee over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic. Include ginger, turmeric, and a pinch of salt. Once the onion becomes translucent, add the sweet potato and sauté covered for a few minutes. Gradually add the pepper, broccolini, eggplant, and kale, cooking until they are soft but not soggy. Use additional ghee as necessary. When the vegetables are mostly cooked, incorporate your choice of protein and cook until fully done. (If you plan to save the extra veggies for later, cook the protein separately.) Season with salt and pepper to your liking. In ghee or avocado oil, fry one or two eggs over easy. On a plate or in a bowl, stack arugula, black rice, protein, vegetables, and the fried egg. Optionally, include avocado slices or drizzle with olive oil.

Tim Olson

An individual who participates in ultrarunning events is referred to as an ultrarunner.

Olson explains that the way he eats significantly affects his training and racing. He relies on organic food to provide his body with energy for running, racing, working and playing with kids. He prioritizes consuming high-quality fuel. However, he also enjoys indulging in snacks like coconut ice cream and gluten-free beer occasionally.

The Olson family usually cooks their own meals and prepares food daily. Despite trying to buy all necessary items once a week, Olson and his wife both enjoy cooking frequently, resulting in them inevitably making an extra trip to the store.

They frequently prepare large quantities of snacks such as kale chips, consistently keep smoothie ingredients like berries and kale on hand, and frequently bake muffins with hazelnut flour that are free of grains and sugar. They usually prepare extra portions of their meals to ensure leftovers for the following day.

Olson recounts recently having friends over for dinner, where they prepared a grain-free and dairy-free eggplant lasagna. The process involved slicing eggplant, creating cashew cheese, and making a tomato sauce with grass-fed beef. As a result, they made extra portions to last the entire week.

Olson’s love for cooking his own meals is accompanied by his recognition of the occasional need for assistance. This is where Real Athlete Diets (RAD), a meal delivery service that delivers organic and locally sourced food to athletes’ residences, comes into play. The contents of the RAD box are subject to seasonal changes and are based on the weekly availability of produce from local farmers. However, everything included in the box is already prepared. In the Olsons’ box, it is common to find fish (such as salmon or trout) and various types of meat (such as bison, chicken, and turkey). Due to Tim’s adventurous taste in food, the owners of RAD sometimes include unconventional items like beef tongue or oxtail in his box. Among their favourites are turkey meatballs made with chickpea flour and chia pudding topped with berries.

Avocado Vinaigrette over Brussel Sprout Slaw is a preferred recipe that is suitable for meal prep, according to Kelly Newlon, Real Athlete Diets.

The avocado vinaigrette recipe is being rephrased without altering or omitting any information.

  • 1 tablespoon mustard (Dijon or whole grain)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Pinch of cracked black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs. (The Olsons use a combination of parsley and basil.)

To achieve a smooth consistency, follow these steps: First, gather all the necessary ingredients and add them to a blender. Next, mix on high speed until the desired texture is achieved. Finally, taste the mixture and make any necessary adjustments to the seasoning according to personal preference.

A slaw made with Brussels sprouts.

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 red cabbage
  • 2/3 cup lightly packed fresh herbs, like parsley and basil

To follow the instructions, begin by washing and cutting the Brussels sprouts, carrots, pepper, and cabbage. Utilize the shredder blade on a food processor to individually process each vegetable, ensuring not overload the processor. Transfer the shredded vegetables into a spacious bowl. Chop the herbs roughly and incorporate them into the bowl. Carefully and thoroughly mix in one cup of the avocado vinaigrette. If desired, add additional dressing. The prepared dish can either be stored in the refrigerator or dressed right before serving. Lastly, include your preferred protein.


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