Fuel Your Fitness: Mastering Meal Prep for Athletes

Weekend warrior? High school basketball player? Competitive triathlete? What any athlete eats can impact how they feel during a workout. Having a good nutrition plan is key to maximize your exercise performance. And that boils down to healthy meals and snacks all day, erryday. But who has time for that? I’ll be the first to admit that it is HARD to plan nutritious and yummy meals all the time.

That’s where meal prep comes in. Taking time once a week to plan and make healthy meals is a great habit to get into. As a mom and a sports dietitian, I rely on this strategy to keep our household well-fed. Not to mention that it helps keep my sanity! So let’s dive into my tips on meal prep for athletes.

Meal prep for athletes
Meal Prep for Athletes

A Refresher on Nutrition for Athletes

What you eat can play a big part in your athletic performance. There are plenty of general healthy eating guidelines floating around online, but those don’t always align with what athletes need. Timing of meals and snacks is so important to make sure that an athlete’s body is fueled up for exercise. Focusing on carbs and protein will help to provide energy and help with muscle repair.

It can be confusing to figure out exactly what an athlete needs to eat. Here’s my chance to plug the value of working with a sports dietitian. Cut through the social media hype and get straight answers based on the research. If this sounds like something you need, work with me! Click here to find out more. 

Understanding the unique sports nutrition recommendations is the first step. Translating that into actual foods and meals is a whole other thing. You mean we have to create super creative and nutritious meals multiple times a day? Everyday? Forever? Oi vey. For most of us, meal prep is a huge timesaver and crucial for our mental health. Let’s face it. We are all creatures of habit. So we are usually okay with having the same meal or similar ingredients multiple times a week. Especially if that means we don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen making each meal. Convinced to give meal prepping a try? Next I’ll share some tips to get started.

Meal Prep for Athletes: Start with a Plan

Ironically enough, we need to do a little prep before we prep. No worries – this will ensure that your meal prep meets your needs! 

First things first, identify which meals you should focus on prepping ahead of time. Look at your calendar for the upcoming week, and ask yourself the following questions: When are you exercising? Will you need to prep a meal before or after your workout (or both)? Where will you be for meals? Will you be able to heat up your meals? What meals do you tend to struggle with the most? For example, if you typically work out in the afternoon, then you may want to prep dinner to make sure you have a good recovery meal even if you are tired. And since lunch will be your pre-workout meal, prepping that can also help guarantee you get solid fuel to your muscles ahead of time. But breakfast may be less important to prep if you usually make a bowl of oatmeal or enjoy a breakfast sandwich. 

From here, we need to come up with a weekly menu. Think about some of your favorite meals, or check out the recipes listed below. One tip is to focus on multiple ways to use the same protein. I love cooking a big batch of chicken in the slow-cooker, then shredding it and using that in several recipes across the week. Once you settle on the menu, now it’s time to make a grocery shopping list. Check what you already have in your pantry or fridge so you don’t overbuy. You should also make sure you have enough meal prep containers. Nothing special is needed – it really depends on your preference!

Grocery Shop Like a Pro

When you are grocery shopping, think about snacks and other meals as well as the meals you are about to prep. It’s a good idea to stock up on trail mix, or dried fruit + nuts, since these can be a great pre-workout energy boost. Greek-style yogurt or pre-made smoothies are a quick post-workout snack option. What’s your go-to breakfast? Grab those ingredients so you never have to skip the first meal of the day. 

Now, even though we focus on carbohydrates and proteins, we still need to eat our veggies too. Load up a sandwich with leafy greens (and I’m not just talking ‘bout Iceberg lettuce), avocado, and cucumbers. Toss some pre-chopped peppers and onions into an omelet (who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner sometimes?!?). Add a bag of frozen mixed veggies into a stir-fry. 

Let’s also get enough protein for our prepped meals. Look for family packs or value packs of chicken, pork chops, and steaks. Grab the pack of 18 eggs. Find the large bag of frozen shrimp or fish filets. Buying in bulk can help keep the per serving cost down.

Meal Prep Success: Staying Consistent

Alright, the time has finally come: Meal prep! If you are using a recipe, check to see if you need to prep any meal ingredients – cut up veggies, cook the meat, make a sauce, etc. Then lay out your containers and create an assembly line. Using a measuring cup or spoon can help keep your portions consistent between containers. Then just repeat with any other meal you planned for the week! 

Wow. That’s it. Meal prep for athletes in a nutshell. The best way to make meal prep part of your weekly routine is to dedicate the same day and time each week. For a lot of us, that might be Sunday afternoon. It also helps to throw in a few new recipes or meals to add some variety. Check out the suggestions below. 

Lastly, don’t forget to adjust your meals as your nutritional needs change across your training year. Pre-season needs will be different from competition season and off-season. Another reason to work with a sports dietitian to help you tailor your meals all year long!

Meal Prep Idea #1: Grilled Chicken with Quinoa and Roasted Vegetables

This recipe works for lunch or dinner. It’s super easy to customize the flavor of the chicken and veggies! 


– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

– 1 cup quinoa

– Assorted veggies (such as bell peppers, zucchini, and broccoli)

– Olive oil

– Salt and pepper to taste

– Optional: herbs and spices for seasoning (e.g., garlic powder, paprika, or Italian seasoning)


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Toss the veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cover a baking sheet with foil, then spread the veggies out. Roast for 15-20 minutes until tender.

3. Preheat the grill or stove-top to medium-high heat.

4. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs or spices.

5. Cook the chicken for about 6-8 minutes per side, until the thickest part reaches an internal temperature of 165oF. Let it cool, then slice into strips.

6. Cook quinoa according to package instructions.

7. Divide the grilled chicken, quinoa, and roasted vegetables into meal prep containers. 

Meal Prep Idea #2: Overnight Oats with Berries and Almonds

Got an early morning workout? You still need breakfast! Give this easy oatmeal recipe a try. Note: You can increase the amount to make more servings.


– 1 cup rolled oats

– 1 cup milk (cow’s milk is recommended – the Fairlife brand is lactose free!)

– 1 tablespoon chia seeds

– 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

– 1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)

– Handful of almonds, chopped


1. In a bowl or jar, stir together the rolled oats, milk, chia seeds, and honey/maple syrup. 

2. Add the mixed berries and chopped almonds on top.

3. Cover the bowl or jar and refrigerate overnight.

4. In the morning, give it a good stir and enjoy immediately or pack it into individual containers for meal prep.

Meal prep for athletes
Overnight oats

Meal Prep Idea #3: Turkey and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Brown Rice

Who doesn’t love a good stir-fry? Add in whatever veggies you have on hand! Easy peasy!


– 1 pound lean ground turkey

– 2 cups mixed vegetables (such as bell peppers, carrots, snap peas, and broccoli)

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 tablespoons soy sauce

– 1 tablespoon sesame oil

– 2 cups cooked brown rice


1. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and cook until browned and cooked through. Remove and set aside.

2. In the same skillet, add the sesame oil and minced garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the mixed vegetables and stir-fry for about 5-6 minutes.

4. Return the cooked turkey to the skillet and stir in the soy sauce. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to let the flavors blend.

5. Divide the turkey and vegetable stir-fry along with the cooked brown rice into meal prep containers. 

Meal Prep: Check!

Phew, we did it! Congrats on getting through your first round of meal prep. Trust me, it will be a gamechanger for you! Now comes the fun part – giving all those meals a try this week! Bon appetit!

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Nutritionists for Athletes: How We Help

Giving 100% in a workout is only part of the recipe for success. Athletes also need to take care of their bodies in other ways, like getting enough sleep, keeping stress levels down, and eating right. Yup, that’s right, we’re going there. 

Ugh, diet. It’s such a tricky thing to navigate. 

One day, carbs are good. The next day, carbs are evil. 

It’s a good idea to take supplements, but be careful because they may be harmful.  

Make sure to drink a sports drink with electrolytes like sodium. Hold on, too much sodium can cause your blood pressure to rise. 

How the heck are we supposed to keep it all straight? 

Well my friends, that is exactly why there are nutritionists for athletes. These sports nutrition experts can help figure out the best way for an athlete to fuel themselves. 

Hi! I’m Jessica, a sports dietitian and nutrition professor. In this blog post, I’ll explain the role of nutritionists for athletes and why it’s a good idea to make sure they are part of the team! 

Who are nutritionists for athletes?

Believe it or not, you are what you eat. That is certainly true for athletes. Eating the right food at the right time can make all the difference between crawling to the finish line or effortlessly sailing across it. Coaches and teammates may have some advice about diet, but sometimes that can be more overwhelming than helpful.

That’s where nutritionists for athletes come in: the experts in all things sports nutrition!  

While anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, I recommend finding a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who works with athletes. An RDN specializing in sports nutrition has extensive training in both nutrition and exercise science to provide you with practical, safe, and effective strategies to improve your diet while supporting your athletic needs. Working with a sports dietitian, you can expect an initial appointment plus a few follow-up sessions as needed. 

Read on for the top 5 reasons why nutritionists for athletes are beneficial!

#1: Create a Personalized Eating Plan

Every athlete has different needs, even if you play the same sport or are on the same team. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work when it comes to sports nutrition (and it shouldn’t for exercise either, but that’s a blog post for another day…). A sports dietitian can be a HUGE help when it comes to figuring out what to eat (and when to eat) to get the most out of your body during your practices and games.

When you meet with a sports dietitian for an initial nutrition session, expect to chat about what a typical day of eating looks like for you and how this is balanced around your current exercise training. You’ll also talk about any supplements you take, where you tend to get your food from, and what your level of comfort in the kitchen is.  

From that initial consult, a nutritionist for athletes will help develop a personalized plan to make sure all of your nutritional needs are met in a way that aligns with your current exercise routine. Your dietary preferences and daily habits will be accounted for in this customized plan. WAY better than some generic plan you might stumble across online, or a random athlete’s diet that they share on social media!

#2: Nail Your Timing 

Nutritionists for athletes are experts in sports nutrition. They understand what your body needs before workout, and how best to refuel after exercise. Working with a sports dietitian, you can map out your day from the time you wake up until bedtime to make sure that you are giving your body what it needs EXACTLY when it needs it. 

Along the way, you’ll learn why it’s helpful to eat quick absorbing carbs before a long run, and the benefits of drinking low-fat chocolate milk after a tough strength training session. 

Feeling sluggish at halftime? We can help with that too! Timing is so important for athletes to make sure that you are loading your body up with the nutrients that can help power your workout.

#3: Expert Advice on Supplements

These days, you can’t look at social media without seeing posts promoting a supplement, amiright? From protein powder to creatine to a plain ‘ole multivitamin, it seems like there’s a supplement out there for every athlete. But the bigger question is, do you really even need to take a supplement? And if you do, which one? 

If you are feeling overwhelmed just thinking about it, you’re not alone! But guess what? This is another way that working with a sports dietitian can help an athlete. By reviewing your diet, they can ID any nutrient gaps and figure out if a supplement might be useful. They can also walk you through the different brands and forms and weigh in on which one makes sense for you. 

If you are competing at the NCAA level or in a professional league, there may be certain regulations about which supplements you are allowed to take, and certain ingredients that are banned substances. Nutritionists for athletes stay updated on the go/no go lists for sports supplements and can advise you accordingly.

#4: Supports Your Training

Every sport has a schedule that changes throughout the year. It usually looks something like this: pre-season conditioning to the main competition season to the off season (however long or short that is). As athletes, your training will adjust with each of these transitions. But what about your eating plan? Well, turns out it needs to adjust too.

Working with a nutritionist for athletes year-round gives you the support to figure out how to tweak your eating plan to keep up with your changing exercise demands. Chances are, your goals will shift too. Want to improve your body composition? It’s best to do that in the off season, when making major diet changes is less likely to risk your performance in a competition. 

Life happens too. Whether it’s an unexpected injury, the emergence of a food allergy, or a new pregnancy, your diet may need updating to reflect what you need right now. Thankfully, sports dietitians are well versed in all things nutrition-related and can give you expert advice to tackle whatever new life change is impacting your eating habits.

#5: Straight Talking Myth Buster

You know that sports is a place full of myths and superstitions. So many recommendations exist because they have been passed down from coach to player, teammate to teammate. But does that mean they work for you? Not necessarily. 

Guess what? This is yet ANOTHER place where nutritionists for athletes are valuable members of your team. They can help settle debates about pre-workouts, sports drinks, and whatever the latest trend is better than any Google search. 

Let’s be real – there are thousands of sports nutrition products out there, and even more people who claim to be sports nutrition “experts”. Don’t go at it alone: work with a sports dietitian so you have an expert to help you find your way through all the noise and understand what the research says about specific nutrients, supplements, or diet trends. 

Overtime – bonus tip: Help Navigating Travel

We’re not done yet! Athletes of all levels have to deal with travel, whether it is a weekend tournament in the next town or flying across the country for a postseason competition. The best laid plans for healthy eating can be wrecked when travel is involved. Your normal routine is disrupted, and on top of that, you may be dealing with a change in time or unexpected reactions to food. 

Planning ahead is the best way to lower your anxiety about travel and to make sure that you have healthy options available to keep you fueled. When you meet with a sports dietitian, you can create a meal plan that is specifically designed for road games or other travel. You can plan out where to eat, and what to order off the menu so that you still hit all your nutrition goals. 

Game Over!

As you can see, nutritionists for athletes, specifically Registered Dietitian Nutritionists with experience in sports nutrition, are a valuable addition to the team. Their guidance can help athletes stay well-fueled and at the top of their game. 

If you’re ready to work with an expert sports dietitian, click the link below and book your initial session with me!

Book with insurance on Zaya

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