What Is Meal Prepping? What are the best meal preparations for runners?

Runners need a nutritious diet with the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. A poor diet can affect performance, cause muscle wastage, and overall hinder your fitness goals.

However, getting nutritious meals can be challenging when you’re busy or on a tight budget—those branded fitness snacks can get expensive!  The solution: meal prepping for runners. You can save a lot of time and money, and give your body what it needs to run in top form.

But what is meal prepping? What are the best meal preparations for runners? This simple guide can get you started.

What is meal prepping?

Simply put, meal prepping (shorthand for meal preparation) means planning your menu, ingredients, and even some of the cooking beforehand.

Some people will do bulk meal prepping in one day—cutting and freezing all vegetables, pre-marinating chicken breasts, or boiling all the beans—then store them in the refrigerator to be used for the rest of the week.

Others will do meal prepping just for the next one or two days.

It’s really up to you. The point of meal prepping is:

  • You consider your body’s nutritional needs. What is your daily calorie intake? What are the recommended amounts of protein, carbs, and fats for your age, weight, and fitness level? Do you have special dietary considerations, such as gluten-free, vegan, low-carb, etc?
  • Make a list of the recipes you want to try. There are many healthy recipes out there, so it’s just a matter of searching for the ones that cater to your preferences. The more you like the flavor of your food, the more you’ll enjoy your diet and stick to it.
  • Prepare a weekly meal plan and shopping list. Now you know you have the ingredients on hand.
  • Identify what you can prepare ahead, and when. If several dishes call for the same ingredient (like steamed chicken or pork bone broth) you can pre-cook it and divide it into different portions.

Related: Best Energy Gels For A Half Marathon

What are the best meal preparations for runners?

Runners need nutrients that can give energy for runs, and help with muscle recovery. These are some of the best ingredients to include in your shopping list: easy to get, budget-friendly, and can be included in a number of recipes.

  • Healthy grains. You need complex carbohydrates that can fuel your workout, without a sudden sugar spike or crash. Look for whole-wheat pasta and bread, quinoa, farro, etc. These can be made into a sandwich that you can pack in the middle of a long run or a nourishing post-workout snack.
  • Frozen produce. These are just as nutritious as buying fresh, and won’t spoil right away. You can either buy them (many of them cost less than a dollar) or blanch and freeze your own. Frozen produce can be added to vegetable dishes, fried brown rice, soups and stirfries, and more. You can also make them into smoothies or green juices, or add to a salad.
  • Eggs. Eggs are a wonder food that gives a lot of nutritional bang for the buck. A dozen eggs are just a few dollars and are rich in protein. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile: eat them boiled or sunny side up, steam them, turn them into an omelet or frittata, or bake them into a veggie-loaded egg casserole.
  • Nuts and nut butter. Nuts are a good source of plant-based protein. You can eat them on their own (they’re easy to carry in a ziplock bag in your belt bag) for a mid-run energy boost, or add them to salads, cereals, and stir-fries. Nut butter is also a fast energy fix—just slather on bread or eat right off the spoon!
  • Beans. These are one of the most affordable, accessible, and versatile ingredients for meal prepping. Not only are they rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, but they keep really well. Dried beans can last for months if properly stored, and once you cook them, you can freeze or cook then store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. Use in burritos, tacos, salads, or make into a bean patty.
  • Oatmeal. Oats are a good source of energy and fiber, and one of the easiest things you can prepare even if you’re short on time and cooking skills. You can make overnight oats, or make a sweet or savory oat porridge.

Related: What Should I Eat For A Half Marathon Race

Examples of meal-prepping dishes for runners

Not sure where to start, or running short of ideas? Here are some easy recipes for runners that you can make ahead.

Breakfast ideas

  • Overnight oats. Put ingredients into a mug or bottle at night, and wake up to a delicious breakfast.
  • Green smoothies. Tip: Prepare enough for several smoothies, but freeze ingredients ahead in single portions.
  • Vegetable omelet. Chop the veggies the night before and add to the beaten egg in the morning.

Lunch and dinner ideas

  • Buddha bowls. Recipes vary, but in general Buddha, bowls will contain protein, grains, veggies, sprinkles (like nuts, seaweed, etc), and dressing. You can prepare the protein, grains, and veggies ahead and store them in separate containers, then assemble them when you’re ready to eat.
  • Burrito or fajita bowls. Think of these as deconstructed versions of your favorite Tex-Mex meals. Loaded with beans, the meat of your choice, cheese, and served with guacamole or salsa.
  • Egg casseroles. Casseroles keep really well, and they’re amazingly easy to prepare ahead. Just pour ingredients into a dish and bake—the oven does the work for you, and you have a ready lunch the rest of the week.
  • Roast chicken. Roasting chicken is budget-friendly and versatile. You can eat as is, shred the chicken and top over salads, or add it to a sandwich or tortilla.
  • Stews. Stews actually taste better over time, so they’re a good make-ahead lunch for runners. Make a big batch on your stovetop or slow cooker, allow it to cool, and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.
  • Meatballs. Whether you make them from meat or plant-based proteins, “meat” balls are a great make-ahead meal. You can cook and freeze a big batch, and then thaw and serve with any sauce you like.

Related: Which Diets Are Best For Runners? Paleo, Mediterranean, or Keto?

Related: What Is The Whole 30 Diet? Is It Good For Runners?

Snack ideas

  • Egg salad. Mash boiled egg with pickle relish and mayo. It’s ready to be eaten on wholewheat toast or wrapped in lettuce and eaten like a roll.
  • Tuna salad. Aside from putting it in your classic tuna sandwich, try rolling it in lettuce with rice paper for a Vietnamese-inspired snack.
  • Homemade energy or granola bars. Why buy them when you can make them at home? You’ll find great recipes that use nuts, cereal, dried fruits, nut butter or honey, and other simple ingredients.

These are just some of the make-ahead recipes that runners can make. They’re healthy, cheaper than buying pre-prepared fitness snacks, and (if you plan ahead) take a lot less time and effort than you think.

Related: Is Blending Food Bad For Me?


Meal Prepping For Runners


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