Food being cut on chopping board (Alamy)Food being cut on chopping board (Alamy) © Copyright

How to plan your meals effectively

Last month, we looked at how to fuel your workout based on two key principles of performance nutrition – your goals and the physical demands of the training session. Now understanding what to eat pre- and post-workout is a good start, but where most people fall down is in not having a practical plan in place to eat well from day to day.

Many new clients I see admit to being stuck in a rut; preparing the same meals each night at home, and visiting the same café chain for the same sandwich at lunch the next day.

To combat such monotonous and potentially damaging habits, you need to be able to plan out your nutrition properly. In this article, I’ve mapped out an effective system to make sure you can really make your nutrition work for you.


Your starting point must be to take ownership of your time and start building a 20-minute planning slot into your weekend. This is where the ‘mind and body’ element of performance nutrition is key.

Take the time to relax with a coffee and fully engage in your week ahead – if you don’t, you’ll just follow the same old habits, which have brought you the same old results.


With any new programme, it’s important for you to challenge yourself and think differently about your nutrition. Start slowly, and plan to try one new recipe out each week. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your confidence and cooking repertoire grows.


To help map out your week, you need to ask yourself these key questions. Doing so will help eliminate gaps in your schedule that can potentially force you to revert to old habits.

  • What are my work, training and travel plans next week?
  • When will I go shopping?
  • When will I try out a new recipe?
  • What are my pressure points during the week? (Long-distance travelling, social commitments and so on.)


Some of the biggest frustrations shared by many are that recipes (i) take too long to prepare, or (ii) contain too many ingredients that need to be sourced from different locations (health food shops, supermarkets, or weird and wonderful spice stores).

I hear you, so that’s why I’ve challenged our chef team to ensure that not only do all the recipes here take less than 15 minutes to prepare, and also contain no more than ten ingredients. Give it a go – you might enjoy the results. 

James Collins performance nutritionist for FS magazine. Meal preparation guide ()


Smarter shopping guide

One of the biggest potential stumbling blocks against a better diet is the way you shop. Modern life has changed our shopping behaviour, and often it’s a change for the worse.

For many, this means a nightly trip to the local ‘metro’ supermarket, often with phone in hand, and usually very hungry. While a convenient option, it’s not just expensive, but far from optimal, nutritionally.

This simple three-step system is one you can use to minimise fuss in the kitchen and maximise the effect of your nutrition outside of it.

Kitchen essentials

These are the multipurpose ingredients that need one big shop, once in a while. Don’t forget your utensils and Tupperware in this list.

  • Oils, butters & sauces: olive oil, coconut oil, almond butter, butter, Thai curry paste, low-fat coconut milk, white wine vinegar
  • Seeds & grains quinoa, couscous, granola, dried noodles, rolled oats, pumpkin, chia, flax
  • Beans & non-perishables: kidney beans, chopped tomatoes
  • Spices: salt, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika

The Sunday primer

An hour in the supermarket on a Sunday will eliminate those pesky nightly shops and regain ownership of your diet for the week ahead:

  • Dairy: free range eggs, low-fat Greek yoghurt, milk, low-fat cottage cheese
  • Bread: wholewheat tortilla wraps, bread (rye or sourdough)
  • Lean meats: eg, chicken, turkey, salmon
  • Herbs: eg, garlic, coriander, rosemary
  • Fruits: eg, blueberries, banana, apple, tomato
  • Vegetables: eg, mixed leaves, onion, sweet potato

Refresher Wednesdays

Pop into your local health food store or supermarket on a Wednesday to replenish any of the perishables you may have used.

  • Dairy
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Specific ingredients for new weekend recipes
Food being cut on chopping board (Alamy)


Time to get smart

It’s Sunday – time to prep meals for the week ahead. The shopping is done and you’re in the driving seat, so now it’s time to get creative and perform. While the expression ‘food prep’ may conjure the image of blandly filled Tupperware containers stacked high in the fridge, we simply mean prepping.

The meals can be batch prepared on the Sunday to eat on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – it just cuts down the admin for when you get home from work.

If you prefer to cook as you go, however, that’s fine – simply having the ingredients stocked in your fridge on Sunday for dinner, or after the gym on Monday and Tuesday, is ‘preparation’, too, meaning you’re already set up for a successful week.



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