With a full-time job, gym time, social time, relax time, and anything else life demands, meal prep can be a daunting task. Fall brings back-to-school time, and that can be the last straw.


Poor meal planning or a poor mindset (or both) can ruin all of the hard work we put in during training sessions. However, in order to see results, efforts must be made in the kitchen. The tough part about reaching fitness goals isn’t the one hour in the gym, it’s the other 23 hours of each day that require proper nutrition.


The Mindset: Food is Fuel

Proper nutrition for part-time athletes with full-time jobs can be a chore. Mindless eating is an easy trap to fall into when work gets stressful, life becomes hectic, and training goals become the last thing on one's mind. Mealtime can quickly become a daily routine of mindless eating in the breakroom, just to give yourself a mental vacation from life’s stressors.


While mindful and intuitive eating can be a great tool for many individuals with eating disorders or poor relationships with food, it can also be a positive tool for athletes leading busy lives and full-time jobs. I often tell clients not to think of food as just another meal, but food as fuel for training and recovery.


The athlete’s body is constantly laboring to prepare, work, and recover before, during, and after strenuous workouts. The fuel we put in our bodies throughout the 24 hours in each day is constantly serving a purpose.


Willingness to Change

It is no mystery that proper nutrition is the key to fitness results, whether it is weight loss, weight gain, maintenance, or performance. Although this is common knowledge and often stressed by trainers and coaches, nutrition changes tend to be the most difficult changes to make. The most common excuses I hear:


  • “I don’t know how to cook.”
  • “I don’t like to cook.”
  • “I don’t have time to cook.”
  • “I don’t know what to cook.”


All excuses express an unwillingness to change. So the first step towards nutrition success is the willingness to change the attitude and mindset behind those excuses. A new mindset can turn those excuses into opportunities.


Here are a few quick tips for changing your mindset on nutrition and meal planning:


Excuse 1: “I don’t know how to cook.”

New Mindset: Take a cooking class. Learn the basics of cooking or learn a new, healthy, nutritious recipe that you can take home. Find a cookbook for beginners with quick and easy meals. Cooking does not need to be complicated and learning a few basic skills can transform your attitude towards cooking.


Excuse 2: “I don’t like to cook.”

New Mindset: Most major grocery stores have fresh or frozen plain produce that you can steam in the bag in a microwave. Any store with a deli or pre-made counter will have plain grilled proteins (poultry, beef, fish) with minimal seasoning on it. If you can work a microwave, you can make a complete, healthy, nutritious meal that won’t require any cooking. This is what your “fast food” should look like. Still not feeling it? There are several meal-prep companies that you can spend the extra money to get your meals for pick-up or delivery.


Excuse 3: “I don’t have time to cook.”

New Mindset: First, see above. You can make meals in minutes. Second, write out your regular “day-off” schedule (whether it is a weekend or weekday). Are you spending more time on the couch in front of the TV than you think? Are you sleeping in a little later than you should? Meal prep and making meals does not need to take hours. Find an extra 1-2 hours to dedicate to your nutrition. Place everything in grab-and-go baggies or containers for quick meals and snacks.


Excuse 4: “I don’t know what to cook.”

New Mindset: Meet with a nutritionist. Your goals will determine what you should be cooking and eating. The Internet is full of blogs and websites with inspiration if you are just looking to change up your daily menus.


Sure, it's easy to have excuses for not attending to your nutrition needs. But, as you can see, every excuse has a new mindset to employ. No matter how busy you are, even during the hectic back-to-school time, you only need to try and put yourself in the right mindset, and you'll find the solutions are simple and within reach.