Guide to Easy Meal Prepping for Busy Runners

Guide to Easy Meal Prepping for Busy Runners

The Busy Runner’s Guide to Easy Meal Prepping

Life as a committed runner is a busy one. Not only do you have a whole list of other obligations to deal with, but you also have a dedicated running routine to follow, and it's imperative that your diet can fuel your intense schedule. While grabbing something out of the fridge and hustling off to complete your to-do list is fast and easy, it isn’t the best way to meet your nutrition goals. We have a more straightforward solution - one that will ensure you stay energized and satisfied.

Welcome to the fantastic world of meal prepping!

Meal prepping has quickly become the newest fad, with everyone from fitness enthusiasts to busy moms hopping on board. Every social media outlet has tips and tricks for cooking in bulk, and it can be overwhelming. With so many posts on the subject, it's hard to know where to start or if it's even worthwhile to begin in the first place.

We are here to tell you that as a busy runner, meal prepping will be your best friend. With this easy-to-follow guide, we will show you why meal prepping will make your life easier and the simple steps you need to get started.

Need help planning  your meals? Be sure to check out our article on meal planning for runners.

So what are you waiting for? Let's get prepping!

Benefits of Meal Prepping

Before we jump in, let's take a quick look at how meal prepping is going to change your life.

It will save you time

Meal prepping saves time(1)

Who doesn’t need some extra time in their lives? When you set aside a few hours a week to prep your food in advance, you will save yourself the time and effort that it takes to cook and clean up afterward daily. Plus, you get the added advantage of always having the extra time to squeeze in a run with the bonus of knowing that healthy and nutritious meals will always be available at your fingertips whenever you need to refuel.

It will help you meet your nutrition goals

Meal prepping helps meet your nutrition goals

Nutrition is one of the most critical aspects of your life as a runner. Consuming the correct macro combination and proper portion sizes at the right time of day is going to either make or break your success in reaching your fitness goals. Having healthy and nutritious meals already prepared for you to eat when you need them most will enhance your performance as an athlete and leave you feeling full of energy all day long.

It will keep you from making poor meal choices

Meal prepping keeps you from making poor meal choices

Let’s face it, grabbing a quick snack out of the pantry or zipping through a drive-through is a fast and easy way to curb those feelings of hunger. We also know that fueling our body this way isn’t the healthiest of choices. When we are hungry, and there isn’t a healthy meal prepared for us, we are more likely to make poor food choices. These low-quality snacks and meals aren’t going to give us the nutrition that we need to recover from our run sessions and are going to leave us feeling tired and completely zapped of energy by the end of the day. By incorporating meal prepping into your regular routine, you ensure that all of your meals are planned out and ready to eat whenever hunger strikes. Say goodbye to fast food and highly processed snacks, and hello to freshly prepared, nutritious meals right from your own refrigerator.

It will save you money

Meal prepping saves your money

We could all use a little more cash in our pockets, and prepping our meals in advance can help us accomplish this! Not only will it keep you from making unexpected purchases at the drive-through, but it will also prevent last-minute trips to the grocery store and keep food from going bad in the fridge. Meal prepping allows you to plan out each meal and purchase only the food that you need. No more waste and more money in the bank - it doesn’t get any better than that!

Getting Started

The great thing about meal prepping is that it's quick and easy. All you have to do is set aside a designated meal prep time once a week - usually, only a couple of hours are required. With a bit of planning, some organization, and help from this guide, you can have an entire batch of meals created in no time flat.

Planning your meals

This is probably the best part of prepping your meals. Choosing what you will eat for the week is fun and lets you get creative. It also gives you the chance to look over your nutrition and make sure that you are getting all of your energy requirements to fuel your busy days.

When planning your meals, consider the following:

1. Who are you prepping for? Will it be just yourself, or will it be for the entire family?

2. How many meals and snacks per day are you going to prepare? Make sure to take into account your pre and post-run snacks and all other meals that you usually eat. It also doesn’t hurt to prep a few extra servings for those days when you get in some additional mileage and need a bit more sustenance.

3. What type of food do you like to eat? When searching through recipes or meal prepping websites, make sure that you choose the types of food you are used to eating and the ones you like to eat the most. Enjoying your meals will help you feel more satisfied throughout the week and lead to less temptation to stray from your diet. Also, switching up foods to those that you are less familiar with may lead to digestion issues, or you may not like the taste as much as you thought you would. Nobody wants a refrigerator full of food that they don’t like!

4. How well does the food store? Some foods can be cooked and prepped in advance and will last the entire week in the refrigerator or even longer in the freezer, while others don’t keep nearly as well. Salads will go soggy if mixed too far ahead of time, and fish and seafood should be eaten within a few days of cooking. Be sure to keep these things in mind when planning out your meals.

5. What’s your budget? Sticking to a budget while meal prepping is a great way to save on your monthly grocery bill. Choose recipes that contain items that are on sale and that fit within your spending plan.

Prepping your pantry

Before you dive headfirst into meal prepping, taking stock of what's in your pantry will go a long way in helping you to create flavorful and healthy meals for weeks to come. Take a few minutes to get your pantry into tip-top shape and set aside a specific area for spices, baking essentials, quick-grab snacks, and anything else that may come in handy for your meal prepping adventure.

As a runner, some of the most important things that you can stock your pantry with include:

Snacks

Healthy snacks
  • Protein bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts/Trail mix/Seeds

Spices

Spices
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Condiments
  • Any spices that you enjoy cooking with

Baking Supplies and Other Pantry Essentials

Baking supplies and other pantry essentials
  • Quick oats
  • Peanut butter
  • Flour
  • Protein powder
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Grains
  • Canned beans, vegetables
  • Canned fish

Meal Prep Supplies

Having certain supplies on hand when beginning your meal prepping journey will make things a lot quicker and easier as well. The equipment and supplies you will need will depend on the type of meals you plan to make.

Here is a list of the most common meal prep supplies:

  • Sheet pan
  • Pots and pans of different sizes
  • Mixing bowls
  • Air fryer
  • Slow cooker
  • Instapot
  • Rice cooker
  • Aluminum foil
  • Saran wrap
  • Sandwich bags
  • Assorted storage containers (Look for containers of all different sizes. Some will be best to carry around snacks, others will serve well for a single-serve meal, and larger ones will work for storing food in bulk.)
  • Kitchen scale (A scale will help you portion out your meals equally and will allow you to be better able to meet your specific nutrition goals.)

Types of Meal Prep

There are two main types of meal prep techniques that we are going to delve into today. Depending on your lifestyle and the amount of time that you have to devote to prepping, one may work better for you than the other.

Pre-made meals

Pre-Made Meals

To prepare pre-made meals, all of your food is fully prepared, cooked, and portioned into separate, individual containers. Each container consists of one meal that you can grab and heat up whenever you need to refuel. Prepping pre-made meals gives you the convenience of freezing your meals and ensuring that everything is portioned out correctly for your specific nutritional needs. The downfall to this type of meal prep is that it doesn't allow any wiggle room for those days when you require a larger meal, and it can be difficult to portion out meals ahead of time for other members of the family. That’s where batch prepping may be helpful.

Batch prepping

Batch Prepping

Batch prepping is another great way to meal prep, and it takes away any hassle that may come from individually dividing up your meals. In this prep method, each component of your meals is prepared in bulk and stored separately in the fridge. When the time comes to sit down and eat, all you have to do is portion out your plate. Most batch preps consist of vegetables, protein, and a carbohydrate source, such as rice. You can also batch prep things like hard-boiled eggs, breakfast muffins, or energy bites. It takes a bit more time to portion out meals to take on the go with this meal prep method, but it's more convenient for feeding the entire family.

Whether you are training for the next marathon or just enjoy getting up for an early morning run, time is of the essence for you. As a busy runner, your days are packed full of essential obligations to yourself, your work, and your family. Incorporating a regular, weekly meal prep routine into your schedule will not only save you heaps of time to spend doing more important things, but it will also allow you to meet all of your unique nutritional needs plus, it will keep more money in your pocket, where it belongs!

Once you enter the wonderful world of meal prepping and begin to see the benefits for yourself, we promise you will be hooked! You will always be well-fueled to smash out your runs, and you won’t have to deal with unfavorable afternoon cravings again. Your fridge, freezer, and pantry will be stocked with wholesome, nutritious food that will power your busy runner's lifestyle.

Additional Running Resources

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About the Author Steve Carmichael

Steve is a RRCA / USA Track and Field Certified Running Coach who has helped thousands of runners since 2010. He coaches online as well as locally in the Columbus, Ohio area. He is host of RunBuzz Running a top rated running podcast with 150+ episodes available for free on all major podcast apps. Steve resides in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife, kids, and dog.

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