How To Meal Prep On A Plant-Based Diet

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These 9 tips for meal planning and meal prepping will help vegetarian athletes perform at their best. Get started with the FREE 3-day vegetarian meal plan!

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After a long day of work and training, the last thing you probably want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen cooking a nutritious meal from scratch. But as an athlete, you care about your health and the foods you put into your body. 

How can you meet in the middle of wanting healthy and tasty food but not having the time to prepare it on a daily basis? There is a solution– meal prep! 

plant based meal

Prepping your meals, aka “meal prep”, take some organization and planning, but it’s worth the effort. Rather than coming home to an empty fridge or ordering unhealthy take-out, meal prepping ensures that you have homemade healthy meals already prepared. 

And before you say it–I know that the prospect of meal prepping seems overwhelming and tedious. Heck, I’ve felt that way from time to time, but I’m here to help!

This article outlines everything that athletes need to know about meal planning and prepping, including:

  • a quick sports nutrition 101
  • the Benefits of meal planning
  • tips for meal planning success
  • 3- day vegetarian meal plan for athletes

Nutrition for athletes

To put it simply, there are 3 facets of fueling– pre-workout fuel, during workout nutrition and post-workout recovery. Of course, there are tons of topics about sports nutrition that I won’t discuss here. If you’re looking for more info, check out The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Athlete.

But if you just need a quick refresher, here are the basics of fueling:

Pre-workout fuel

Eating something before a workout is vital for maintaining energy levels and optimizing performance. Your body is like an engine, and you need gas in the tank to perform at your best. 

I always say “what you eat depends on when you eat”. In other words, how soon before a workout you eat helps you figure out what to eat. Here are some examples:

TimingWhat to eatExampleWhy?
2-3 hours before workoutMixture of carbs, protein and a little fatWhole wheat toast with egg or tofu scramble and avocadoA combo of whole grain carbs, protein and fat will slowly release energy into bloodstream and keep you fueled during workout
60 minutes (or less) before workoutSimple carbsFruit (fresh or dried), juice or white toastSimple carbs are digested quickly and rapidly deliver fuel
to a moving body

I have tons of suggestions for pre-workout snacks in these helpful articles:

During workout

The primary fuel sources during a workout are the carbs you eat and the carbs your body stores (called glycogen). Working out for longer than 60 minutes depletes those carbs, which can negatively affect energy levels. You may need to fuel during a workout to keep energy levels up. 

To do so, take in 30-60 grams of carbs every hour after 60 minutes. Here are some examples:

  • 2 Medjool dates
  • 1 large banana 
  • 1 pack of gel or gummies
  • 16 ounces of sports drink [Grab the recipe for a homemade sports drink or watch the video below to see how to make it!]

Recovery nutrition

Getting proper fuel in your body after a workout is just as important as eating before. The rule of thumb for recovery nutrition is to follow a 3:1 carb to protein ratio. Why carbs? Because you need to replace the glycogen used during the workout to help with muscle recovery. 

Chocolate milk is a great portable refueling beverage. Smoothies, veggie omelets and nut butter on toast also do the trick! 

Benefits of meal prepping for athletes

Whether you’re a recreational or elite athlete, there are benefits to planning and prepping your meals. 

1. It saves you time.

Some may argue that major con of meal prepping is the time and energy it takes to get it done. That said, once you get the hang of prepping your meals, it will actually save you time. Here’s why…

Preparing homemade healthy meals takes a lot of time, even if you’re only cooking one meal per day. If you cook on a daily basis, you’ll likely spend at least 1 hour in the kitchen each day. Whereas, if you cook everything on one day, you might spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen to have your meals for the week. 

If the thought of spending that amount of time in the kitchen at once is overwhelming, think about it as “me time”. Pop in your headphones and listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook and the time will fly!

2. It’s good for your wallet.

How many times have you struggled to figure out what to make only to give up and order take-out? Meal prepping ensures that you never have to think about what to eat and you’ll stop frivolously spending on random $20+ take-out orders.

3. You’ll never be underfueled.

Fueling for a workout requires thinking ahead. It’s all too common for athletes to have the best intentions, but they don’t have the time to fuel or they don’t have any healthy options on hand. A good meal plan has plenty of pre-workout meals and snacks, so you’ll never be underfueled for a workout. 

4. You will recover properly every time.

You know you need some carbs and protein, but you don’t feel like cooking and just order ramen instead. Having a healthy meal already prepared guarantees that you get the right nutrients into your system for recovery. 

Tips for meal prepping success

Now that you’ve had a recap about the basics of fueling, you can utilize your meal plan to help you fuel. In order to make your meal prep work for you, follow these guidelines:

1. Plan ahead

This goes without saying, right? You have to think ahead to buy the ingredients, pick out meals and set aside time to meal prep. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry because I’ll send you a FREE meal plan if you enter your info below. 

2. Buy the right containers

Since you’re batch cooking all your meals, you need the proper containers to store them and keep them fresh. These suggestions are some of my favorites, but any tupperware will work.

Stasher bags

Wean Green Glass Containers

3. Use pre-cut ingredients

Work smarter, not harder. If you hate chopping and slicing, buy pre-cut ingredients. Personally, peeling and chopping butternut squash or shredding cabbage are two of my least favorite things ever, so I buy these ingredients already prepped. 

4. Start with basic recipes

Now that you’ve decided to meal prep, start with something simple. Although a homemade pizza dough with fresh cashew cream ricotta and marinated chili oil Brussels sprouts sounds divine, it also sounds complicated.

If you’re overwhelmed with what to put on your plant-based plate, check out the 4-Week Plant-Based Athlete Roadmap. This self-study course teaches you how to build a well-balanced plant-based plate.

5. Do what you can

Although many meal plans are 5 or 7 days, if you think you only have the capacity to prep 1, 2 or 3 meals per week, that’s a great place to start! Start simple and build your way up from there! 


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I’m Natalie Rizzo, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian.

My mission is to help everyday athletes fuel their fitness with plants.

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