1. Plan All Meals and Snacks for the Day
You probably hear it all the time but I cannot stress the importance of planning in advance for helping you stay on track and consistent with your goals. We all have days where life gets in the way, where the day doesn’t quite go to plan, and meetings overrun. However, if you at least have your meals and snacks planned out it will help to prevent the desire to just grab anything you can find or even just graze.
Spend a little bit of time on the weekend to simply plan your breakfast, lunch and dinners for the following week, as well as snacks. If you enjoy cooking your own food and are happy to spend some time on the weekend preparing some food, I suggest prepping what you can on the weekend. This doesn’t need to be all meals, it could just be lunches for the week, dinners for the week, breakfasts for the week or even just preparing some components of meals, for example, cooking protein sources, carbohydrates and vegetables so you can easily build meals in the week. I have found component cooking very helpful for clients in the past, for instance having a tupperware of cooked chicken, a tupperware of cooked quinoa and a tupperware of roasted vegetables. It is then very easy to build a healthy and delicious meal.
2. Structure Your Meals and Snacks Into Your Diary
To prevent you from getting to the end of the day and realising you missed out on lunch and haven’t eaten since breakfast, at the start of the day when you check your diary for the day or when you’re creating your to-do list for the day, structure in your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as a mid-afternoon snack into your diary. This can make a huge difference to your overall energy levels, mood and productivity for the day.
3. Know What Time You Are Training
You want to be getting the most out of your workouts so it’s important to be going in well fuelled and refuelling efficiently between workouts too.
If you’re training first thing in the morning I suggest having a small snack before your session, whether that was a piece of fruit, a slice of toast with honey or a glass of fruit juice. Ideally, something predominantly carbohydrate based that can be absorbed quickly. You then want to ensure you have breakfast planned ahead of time, otherwise, you’ll likely rush straight to work and get stuck straight into work or meetings. Perhaps take a protein-packed smoothie with you to have afterwards, overnight oats or have something prepared in the office such as wholegrain cereals and yoghurt to have when you get to the office.
If you’re training at lunchtime, ensure you have had a well-balanced breakfast, packed with protein, carbohydrates and fats 3-4 hours before your session. You may also wish to have a small snack 45-90 minutes before your session. Again, make sure you have lunch planned ahead so you can start that recovery process straight away.
Finally, if you’re training after work in the evening, a well-balanced breakfast, lunch and then mid-afternoon snack are going to be key. If you don’t structure that mid-afternoon snack in, you’ll get to your workout without having eaten in as much as 6-8 hours, leaving you likely feeling under fuelled and low in energy.
If you fall into this final category of evening training, I suggest always keeping some emergency snacks in your bag or at the office. Some examples would be greek style/skyr yoghurt with fruit and raw nuts, fruit and a nut/cereal bar, an egg and salad wrap or a bagel with banana and nut butter. Ensure you have something planned for dinner, either pre-prepared or a simple meal to prepare to be time efficient in the evening.
4. Cupboard, Fridge and Freezer Essentials
This tip is here to save you on those days that things haven’t quite gone to plan, life has got in the way, you’ve got home later than planned or you’re short on time.
Favourite cupboard essentials: tinned beans, tinned lentils, tinned chickpeas, tinned sardines, tinned tuna, eggs, pre-cooked pouches of grains and rice, couscous sachets, oats, cereals, nut butters, nuts, seeds, nut bars, cereal bars, protein bars, protein powder, olives, bread/wraps/pittas, pesto, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Favourite fridge essentials: precooked meats/fish, tofu, vegetables, fruits, boiled eggs, yoghurt, spinach, homemade salad dressings, pickled vegetables, salad, milk and dark chocolate.
Favourite freezer essentials: fruits such as berries and peeled bananas for topping on porridge, yoghurt bowls and smoothies, spinach, vegetables, individual homemade chilli/bolognese portions and bread/pittas/wraps.
By ensuring your cupboards and fridge/freezer are always stocked you know you’ll be able to build a meal quite quickly and easily. This also helps with preparing lunch and breakfast in the evening for the following day. For example, preparing a bowl of overnight oats to take to work after the gym or building a quick lunch such as a pouch of grains with tinned tuna and spinach.
5. Fix Your Fluids
This is a very important one and often overlooked. Adequate water intake is vital throughout the day for multiple health-related reasons but three points you may not always remember – concentration, energy levels and mood. If you are someone who is constantly reaching for a tea or coffee every hour, take a look at your food and water intake. Rather than going straight for the caffeine, make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres of water a day and getting regular meals and snacks in. Ideally, you want to be reducing your caffeine intake after midday to ensure you are getting the highest quality sleep possible.
Before you reach for the 3 pm coffee and pastry to get you through your mid-afternoon slump, try a more nutritious, well-balanced lunch, as well as structuring in a well-balanced, high-protein snack. This is going to be much more beneficial in providing energy throughout the afternoon than another cup of coffee. By structuring a mid-afternoon snack in, you’ll also be less tempted to reach into the cookie jar on a daily basis!