There are plenty of reasons why people start to meal prep. From dieting, to simply wanting to be proactive at the beginning of a busy week, meal prepping takes a lot of different forms. While the reason behind prepping can vary immensely for plenty of us, there remains one particular reason that is always popular amongst meal preppers, and that is the desire to get fit, and in particular, to gain muscle mass.
Whether you are training to be a bodybuilder, or just looking to tone up a little after becoming a little out of shape during the lockdown, building muscle mass involves some seriously diligent meal prepping. Of course, exercise is just as important when looking to ‘bulk up’, but if you fail to fuel your body with the correct ingredients, you will soon find out that building muscle is an almost impossible task (a task that is made a little easier when you buy the correct meal prep containers, even if we do say so ourselves!).
Now, even when it comes to building muscle, the difference in your end goal can mean quite a difference in how and what you eat to achieve it. Bodybuilders eat differently to power-lifters, and both eat differently to those who are just meal prepping to build muscle and look good on the beach, or achieve a certain type of physique.
For bodybuilders, macro counting is a hugely important part of their meal prepping. The whole idea behind macro counting is that the precise amount and ratio of protein, carbs, and fats, is accounted for throughout an entire day. To achieve this sort of muscle growth, an extreme version meal prepping is an absolute must (one that our 3 compartment containers lend themselves to perfectly!). While not everyone needs to be quite as fastidious about their intake as this, there are, however, some rules that remain steadfast, whichever of these muscle growth categories you fall into.
When it comes to muscle growth, you most probably already know that your protein intake will need to increase. There is, however, a slight misconception about carbohydrates that many of us have wrongly believed for a long time now. Carbs are not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, they often give you the energy you need to complete your workouts, and allow those proteins to be used by your body in the right way. More than cutting carbs out of your life, it’s more important to just get the balance right.
So what ingredients should you fill your meal prep containers with? Let’s first take a look at some of the best foods associated with muscle gain.
Meat, fish, and poultry
Meat lovers out there rejoice, because your time has come! Meat, quite obviously, is extremely high in protein. From beef strips to chicken breast, any lean piece of meat is a great way to get protein into your system. Fish too, is particularly high in protein content, with oily fish such as salmon and sardines being the preferred types for those looking to build muscle. The reason for this is that the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (which are plentiful in oily fish) are known to ease muscle soreness, while simultaneously helping you maintain a good range of motion in your joints (potentially giving you an edge when working out). With up to 26g of protein in a 100g serving, meats, poultry and fish are unrivalled in the protein stakes.
Want to avoid the meat, poultry or fish for a few days? Then make sure you meal prep some eggs. Each egg contains around 5 to 6 grams of protein, and with very low calorific intake to boot. The great thing about eggs, in particular, isn’t just the volume of protein they hold, but the type. Eggs happen to contain the type of protein that lends itself to muscle growth in an extremely efficient way. Even if you aren’t including eggs in your main meal, they make a great protein-rich snack that should sate the appetite until the next meal, and are particularly useful for a pre or post-workout refuelling.
Beans and pulses
Perhaps you are vegan or vegetarian and wish to keep away from the meats or animal products in their entirety? Then beans and pulses are for you! Beans contain high quantities of plant protein, and as such also make a great accompaniment for meat-eaters too, who are looking to top up on even more natural protein. Fair warning to the vegetarians out there, you do need a large portion of beans and pulses to promote muscle growth, as they aren’t quite in the same league as meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, but none the less they are a great alternative for those of you who are on plant-based diets. They are also an extremely inexpensive way to get more protein inside you, when compared to meat and fish in particular. With around 15g of protein per 100g serving, double up on your beans and pulses when trying to build muscle.
Looking for a protein-packed snack, or perhaps something to add to a dessert that will help you build muscle? Look no further than the humble almond. As a rough guide, a quarter of a cup of almonds can contain up to 8 grams of protein, along with other healthy fats that are great for an energy boost pre-workout.
Lastly, when it comes to cheeses, nothing builds muscle better than low-fat cottage cheese. Around half a cup can contain up to 15 grams of protein, and if you pick the low-fat version, is a great way to add a little extra protein to your diet without including lots of unwanted elements that are present in the full-fat version.
Remember, a balanced diet is still important
Whilst most of the foods discussed here are all about the protein content, it is also worth remembering when you meal prep that a balanced diet is not only healthy, but is also necessary to give you the energy to work out in the first place. While you may not want to fill up on stodgy carbs during your muscle-building phase, fruits contain natural carbs, vitamins, and minerals that can give you energy, and boost your immune system. Natural fats too, are useful as fuel for the gym sessions, as is whole-grain bread, quinoa, and rice. Rather than cutting out the carbs, just make sure you are only putting in the healthy, natural ones, as the petrol for your engine. This just means less pizza, and more cereal!
Building muscle mass is not easy. It requires a lot of effort and dedication. But with the right mindset and a suitable diet, you may find that six-pack showing quicker than you initially anticipated. If you are looking to achieve results in this area, grab yourself a pack of our meal prep containers, and get planning!