When it comes to preparing meals it can be quite daunting starting out, but you will get the hang of things in no time and get a good system in play!
Here are my top tips on meal preparation to make life a little easier & get you organised: Every Sunday (then again when you run out) cook a big portion of green/mixed vegetables & keep them in tuppaware containers in the fridge. Do the same with brown rice ~ as it takes about 30-40 minutes to cook a batch so you don't want to be cooking this every day! By doing this you have it all ready, so the night before, you simply put them into individual containers for the meals you need to take with you for your day! Buy enough chicken/turkey/red meat/fish etc for the week, weigh it up into individual servings, cling wrap them, have some on standby in the fridge & freeze the rest. Then each night you have your potions all ready to cook, your veggies & rice are ready to go, and you only have to spend 20 minutes each night preparing all meals for the next day. This saves you time the next day, and works out far cheaper this way ~ as buying lunches & snacks can really start to add up... plus you will never be tempted to grab a greasy, processed lunch out of "convenience". So meal prepping is kinder to your wallet - but most importantly your waistline, general health & wellbeing.
This is the system I have developed & it's so easy now! I could never go back to the disorganisation of the past.
To get organised, all you need is plenty of tuppaware containers, cling wrap, kitchen scales, your food and you are all sorted! :)
MEAL PREPARATION WHILE TRAVELLING
As I have competed interstate & internationally, meal prep has been taken to new levels! Flying 14 hours to the USA to compete at the Arnolds' in 2012 & to Vegas for the WBFF Worlds in 2013 & 2014, certainly tested my organisational skills! There was no way I was going to eat plane food or miss any meals! So I planned all my meals to get me through the flight & even one to get me through customs & settled into my hotel room :)
But it's not only for the sake of competing ~ anywhere I go now, I have my meals ready when I need them. You just simply apply the same method I have explained above~ treat it like any other day. When we are removed from our regular routines, this is when meal planning is most important, as these are the times when we can "unravel" and feel like we have lost control.
If you are away and staying in a hotel where you have no access to a kitchen, order grilled lean meat with steamed veggies or a salad with avocado & pumpkin (YUM). All you have to do is ask & they will be more than happy to cater for special requests ~ just because it's not specified on the menu it doesn't mean they can't make it. It's all about planning ahead!
So whether you are home, or travelling, eating small & frequent meals with a balance of low GI complex carbs, good fats & lean proteins is the quickest way to ensure that you stay on track and reach your goals!
FAILING TO PLAN
IS PLANNING TO FAIL!
DINING OUT & ALCOHOL
One of the most frequently asked questions by my clients is "What do you choose from a menu when out at dinner?". My answer is always simply: Always ask the wait staff for a specific thing ~ chefs at most restuarants around the world are more than happy to cater to your needs. It is more than likely they will all have some sort of lean protein, low GI complex carbs & fresh vegetables on hand. I ask for a grilled chicken breast, white fish or lean steak, cooked with no sauces or salt, but instead with added fresh herbs or lemon zest & a side of steamed seasonal vegetables, quinoa or brown rice. Every time I have asked, they have delivered, with no quames or hestitations! Sometimes you will find they have this type of thing featured on their menu, but for the times they don't, just ask! Just because you have decided to live a cleaner lifestyle ~ this does not mean you need to avoid dining out & other social occasions that involve food ~ life is too short not to enjoy these things! You can have both!
That brings me to the next frequently asked question:
"What do you do if you're going out 'on the town' or to a social gathering involving alcohol?"
My advice would be to enjoy a healthy dinner/meal prior to going out so you line your stomach, and to drink plenty of water throughout the day so you are well hydrated. If you want to enjoy a drink or 2, I suggest sticking to Vodka, Lime & Sodas as they have zero carbs/sugars and only 25 calories per 250 ml drink. To avoid getting 'accidentally' intoxicated, have a few glasses of water in between your alcoholic beverages. I would strongly suggest having 2 drinks at the very most, ideally, but I know what it's like when you're 'out with the girls/boys'!! So pace yourself & always keep track of what you consume, have a planned limit & stick to it! Once alcohol is in our system, it can seem like a great idea to have more than we should, and we get to a point where our judgement is compromised, so do not get to this point!
If you are going to be out for quite a few hours, keep drinking plenty of water ~ not more alcohol, you don't need it! Take a serve of nuts or a protein bar to snack on and to keep your metabolism firing, these both conveniently fit in your handbag or pocket. Having something in your stomach will slow down the effects of alcohol in the blood & make you less likely to get ravenously hungry at 2am and heading straight for the closest Kebab store!
Before you go to bed, drink a few tall glasses of water & take a Multi Vitamin & some Vitamin C. If you are hungry, have a small & macro balanced meal: lean protein, good fats & low GI complex carbs. The next day, avoid any cravings for oily, processed food, by dosing up on water & fish oil in the morning and having a healthy breakfast. Make sure you still eat all your meals to keep your metabolism happy, spacing them roughly 3 hours apart & keeping hydrated all day. A long walk in the fresh air helps to make you feel revitalised :)
If you are someone who likes to enjoy a drink or 2 on any given night of the week, I advise to limit your intake. In an ideal world I would say cut it out completely. It really can undo our hard work, especially if we are consuming alcohol every day or weekend. One glass of red wine for instance has 250+ calories. It’s easy to start adding 100's of extra calories to your daily intake, this is the equivalent of a big “cheat meal”. On these occasions, 1 or 2 should be your limit and no more than once a week. The body views it as a poison, hence why it does anything & everything to get it out of our system. And as you may know, when alcohol is in our system, the body neglects other macros/food in our stomach and makes us more likely to store this extra energy as adipose tissue (body fat).
If you are serious about making changes to your physique & overall health, then work towards only having alcohol on special occasions, not just out of "habit". Life is short 'n sweet and to be thoroughly enjoyed, so of course I am not going to say to eliminate it, however this is your journey ~ you are doing this for YOU! So don’t let alcohol sabotage all of your hard work!
I wanted to share some of my secrets with you to help you lead a heatlhier & happier life! These are systems I have developed & lessons I have learned along the way ~ I live my life to the extreme & have been through MANY phases... From partying to an excess to over-training & under-eating/over-eating, both triggering the depression I had experienced as a teenager. Even though fitness & health have been with me from the very beginning, I went through some crazy years!!! It took me a while to become the super fit, healthy & incredibly happy that person I am today! I do not beleive in creating a facade and making out that my life is all "sunshine and rainbows" ... I have my fair share of darker days... and these certainly help the journey of evolution! Everybody is 'perfectly imperfect' and we all have the ability to grow and and improve our quality of life! IT'S NEVER TOO LATE!
As I have competed both interstate & internationally a number of times, I have learned ways to make life easier, less stressful & to remain on track with my nutrition, no matter where I am in the world, and no matter how pressed for time I am! This is not only for the sake of competing ~ but for life in general. Being organised truly is key to your success!
I am a very passionate advocate for rest & recovery as so many people are over-training, leading to an aray of health issues: hormonal imbalances, fatigue, exhaustion & injury. I used to be one of these people! Also the myth that all carbs are "evil"~ cutting carbs in the past was simply the worst thing I could ever do and I hope that through sharing a few of my stories I can make a postive change. It's a vicious cycle, but one you can and WILL break free of! I hope this helps you along your own journey!
THE IMPORTANCE OF REST!
Feeling exhausted & fatigued all the time? The importance of rest is often overlooked in this fast paced world we live in. We all try to do so much!
Cortisol is the stress hormone released along with adrenaline. This is a survival instict ingrained in us ~ just incase we needed to stay awake all night to defend ourselves from predators, back in the caveman days. This is often referred to as "Fight or flight" mode. Being in this mode all the time causes an array of health issues. Constant physical & mental stress causes our cortisol levels to rise to an excess, which not only disrupts our sleep, but also leads to weight gain & hinders muscle growth. So if this is how you often feel, listen to your body ~ take a rest day, or 2 if need be! This will not set you back, but help you move forwards!
When we rest, ture progress takes place. This is because growth hormone gets released & muscle fibers repair. Without enough rest, our body simply cannot repair & muscle breakdown occurs, creating a softer looking physique & a slower basal metabolic rate ~ as the more lean muscle we have, the faster our metabolism is. Not to mention we get exhausted and leave ourselves prone to illness & injury.
Rest and recovery are just as important as the actual training we do.. without adequate rest you will see your progress diminish. So be kind to yourself! By resting more, your progress will really start to accelerate!
So play hard, train hard & recover harder!
CARBS ARE NOT EVIL!!!
During my early competing days, I was vuleranble & impressionable & took on advice from people thinking it was the be-all & end-all. Constantly hearing I needed to cut carbs to reach my goals, put on ketosis-style diets (high fat, high protein, very low carb)... Sure this may have some initial "success" as the bodies' main source of energy (glucose) is suddenly removed, so the body taps into fats as a source of energy... but after a few months or even weeks, this stops and hormonal imbalances occur, muscle catabolism can start & lethargia sets in.
After being on this super-low carb diet for around 8 months, I developed symptoms of hypothyroidism, fatigue, depression, lack of menstruation & my results were at a standstill, in fact regression was occurring. This led me on the path of doing things on my own, no longer relying on others... in search of a solution & answers to why this was happening. So in January 2013, I begun my gradual re-introduction of carbs & here I am now, stronger, fitter, healthier & HAPPIER than I have EVER been in my entire life!
I have since been able to achieve epic conditioning, reaching 6.2% % body fat for my Pro debut with clearly more muscle than I had prior, AND with higher energy levels than before... so I guess the answer was quite a simple one! CARBS ROCK MY WORLD!!!!
The reason I love sharing my experiences with others, is because we read & hear it all the time: about carbs being evil and that we shouldn't have them after 5pm, and that to get lean you need to cut them, blah blah blah! There are just so many urban legends & myths that it can be very confusing for those who are just starting out on a journey to better health & fitness.
It's true that some people have a lower tolerance level to some, or all carbohydrates, and that obviously those who train harder & have faster metabolic rates should eat more... but at the end of the day EVERYONE needs a specific amount included in their daily intake. Not only for training, lean muscle growth & maintenance, but for BRAIN POWER & FEELING GOOD! *Unless a medical professional says otherwise due to illness, diabetes etc.
Obviously I am not referring to simple highly processed carbs like junk food, lollies, cakes refined sugars etc. I am referring to complex carbs like brown & Basmati rice, quinoa, rolled oats, sweet potato, brown/gluten free pasta, all veggies & fruits ~ YUM!