One I question I get a lot from triathletes training for an Ironman is how to create a meal plan that works with their busy and exhausting schedule. After having spent months training and now finishing Ironman Louisville, I can appreciate this question. We are tired all the time, hungry all the time and busy all the time. Sometimes the thought of making a sandwich for dinner seems like a challenge. Typical meal planning where you cook something fast each night is just not going to cut it when it comes to Ironman training. You need to take the time to really plan what you are going to do in the kitchen for those 3 months.
Cook in Bulk
I recommend picking one day a week or maybe one day every other week to cook a few recipes or several meals in bulk. This does require a good amount of time in the kitchen for that day, but in turn all you have to do is fire up your oven several nights a weeks. Make a double recipe of a few things and then freeze in individual portions. Ideas of meals that easily freeze and reheat: Bolognese Sauce, Soups, Lasagna, Enchiladas, Chili’s, Chicken Stroganoff, and Casseroles.
Stock Your Pantry
As simple as this sounds, it’s one of the most important things you can do. Unfortunately, most people keep a bare pantry instead of a well-stocked one. You should keep things like canned tomatoes, legumes like beans and lentils, rice, pastas, coconut milk, stocks and other whole grains like barley in your pantry. These ingredients are the base of so many recipes. For a more comprehensive guide to how to stock a pantry, check out The Athlete’s Pantry: Stock up on the Basics.
Use your Slow Cooker
Repeat after me: I will use my slow cooker! Seriously it is a great tool for every single athlete. The slow cooker is versatile and you can use one any day of the week or any time of day. Make a double recipe of pot roast on a Sunday and then freeze some individual portions to eat later on in the coming weeks. You might be too tired to make dinner when you first get home at night, but usually there is a burst of energy after showering, eating and putting your feet up for a bit. Throw a bunch of ingredients into the slow cooker before you go to bed so tomorrow night’s meal cooks while you sleep.
Eating leftovers throughout the week shouldn’t be thought of as a chore. It’s actually a very healthy option for you. Think about it, you’ve already planned a meal that is healthy and probably beneficial for recovery, why not give it a go for a few more nights? Maybe alternate it with another recipe throughout the week or eat it for lunch.
Schedule Your Long Run During the Week
I bet you are probably thinking what in the world this has to do with meal planning? So many age groupers either have their coach schedule a long run on Sunday or they schedule it themselves then because they believe that is what you are supposed to do. There doesn’t really seem to be very good reasons for this except for maybe shift workers. Most people can run 2-3 hours after work on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Again, you are probably asking why is this important? Well, it frees up a Saturday or Sunday for you to be able to put together a meal plan, grocery list, go shopping and cook what you need. (Possibly in bulk) Then on the days you don’t have to cook, you can go play with family and friends.
Meal planning and cooking while training for an Ironman is challenging, but if you plan ahead and use the tips above, you should be able to conquer the challenge!