With action-packed and unpredictable schedules, top trainers need to be at the top of their meal prep game. After all, all those perfectly portioned salads, steamed veggies and quinoa bowls help them stay energized — so they can focus their efforts on…you. But that doesn’t mean those meals have to be boring. From delicious breakfast smoothies, to snackable energy bars, to quick and easy dinners, these trainers gotta eat! So we asked 15 of the fittest foodies we know to share their meal prep secrets so you can skip the hanger pangs and start bringing it at your next sweat session.
15 Brilliant Meal Prep Ideas from Top Trainers
1. Lisa Tanker
Founder of The Amazing Transformation Movement
If you want to take a break from overnight oats and yogurt parfaits, Tanker loves meal prepping egg white, veggie and bean burritos. Simply sauté bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions, black beans and fresh spinach in a large skillet, and then scramble the egg white in a separate pan. Lay the egg and veggie mixture over a whole-wheat tortilla and wrap it like a burrito. “You can prepare a week’s worth of burritos on the best day of the week or weekend for you. Once they’re prepared, pop them in the freezer and re-heat them in the morning for a quick and healthy breakfast,” Tanker says. The Atlanta-based trainer pairs her burrito with sliced avocado and salsa on the side.
Co-founder and owner of Speedplay
Want to expand your healthy cooking skills? Quimbo likes to prepare most of the proteins in his meals sous vide. Easy and Top Chef-approved, sous vide makes meal prep a breeze, especially if you’re crunched for time. “Simply put, sous vide is to cook in a low temperature with all the ingredients sealed in a vacuum sealed bag and submerged in water,” Quimbo explains.
His favorite recipe: Take a heavy-duty plastic Ziplock bag and throw a fresh filet of salmon in it. Add olive oil, coarse sea salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice into the bag. Submerge the bag in a pot of water to vacuum seal it, then set the water over stovetop to 122 degrees for about 35 minutes. “Those 35 minutes give me time to respond to emails, mobilize my joints or just breathe,” Quimbo adds. Once the salmon is cooked, the Speedplay trainer decorates his plate with mixed greens.
Co-founders of The LIT Method
Cooking together can make the heart grow fonder, according to power fitness couple Taylor Gainor and Justin Norris. The LA-based couple spends five hours every Sunday meal prepping their dishes for the week. “Tray veggies are my go-to. I usually do a mixture of Brussels sprouts, acorn squash slices and green beans, Gainor says. “I also make chicken breasts and salmon fillets ahead of time, which typically last for three to four days.” When it comes to storing their meals, Norris says their favorite container brand is Sistema. “They’re easy to open and close, BPA-free and they fit easily into our gym bags.”
5. Rhonda Hunt
Trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp
There’s no such thing as a Chipotle pit stop from the gym for Hunt, who takes recycling leftovers to the next level. Hunt’s favorite dish to meal prep is her chipotle-lime chicken breast. “The first night I serve the broiled chicken breasts with brown rice, black beans with jalapeños, grilled corn and a big green salad.” On day two, she uses the leftover chicken, black beans and corn to prepare a grilled salad. Simply add fresh avocado, tomatoes, grilled peppers and lots of leafy greens. “Dress with a huge dollop of Greek yogurt and salsa — you won’t even miss the salad dressing and prep time is minimal. Dinner in 10 minutes!”
Founder of The NW Method
Snacking is key for Winhoffer, the dance maven who is constantly on the run between private clients, group fitness classes and meetings. “I love Pure Protein Crunch and the Pure Protein Dark Chocolate Coconut Bar. They’re only a few grams of sugar and are packed with protein to keep me going. I always keep them in my bag in case I get stuck somewhere,” Winhoffer says.
The celeb trainer often spends Monday mornings shopping for food and packing her meals. “I like to use glass as much as possible, but I sometimes use sandwich bags to store things like nuts and seeds so I have handy portions available that I can grab when I leave the house,” she says. Some of her favorite veggies she stocks up on include cauliflower, sweet potato, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and kale.
7. Keely Ahrold
Trainer at modelFIT LA and Cardio Barre
Ahrold’s magic meal prep formula is simple: Cook once, eat twice. She adds her own twist to this Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro recipe by adding black beans, green and red bell peppers, carrots and jalapeno. “If I’m not feeling like I want to eat meat, I take out the chicken and add an egg instead for protein,” Ahrold says. The best part is it’s a one-pot dish so the clean up is also easy breezy. To refuel between classes, she packs a half-cup of Greek yogurt in Tupperware and a bag of granola or fruit to graze on between classes.
Former NFL athlete and performance coach
Williams didn’t make it to the NFL by cutting corners. And if you’re even half as committed to your fitness, you’ll want to take a page from his meal prep playbook. First up: chicken and veggies. “I usually make chicken with either quinoa or brown rice and combine it with a green vegetable, like broccoli, asparagus or steamed spinach,” Williams says. He’ll also throw in a sweet potato in the microwave for 12 to 15 minutes for more filling fiber.
When that chicken dish gets boring, Williams will fix up some whole-wheat pasta, served with turkey meat or leftover chicken. His side salad of choice: leafy greens, feta cheese and raspberry balsamic vinegar. Oh, and for Taco Tuesday (or any which day), Williams swaps traditional flour tortillas for whole-wheat wraps. “All you need is chopped chicken breasts, shredded cheese, guacamole and sour cream. You simply throw them into whole-wheat wraps that you can warm in the microwave,” he says.
9. Daphnie Yang
Founder and owner of HIIT It!
For Yang, starting her day on a positive note means enjoying a delicious and nutritious smoothie. But the last thing she wants to do is get up early to wash, peel and cut produce. “At night, I chop apples, cucumbers, lime, orange wedges, ginger, banana, spinach and kale. I store them in a large Ziplock bag and freeze it.” This shortcut saves Yang time in the kitchen the next morning so all she has to do is throw everything into her Vitamix and add a little water, coconut oil or avocado. “Sometimes, I’ll include some nuts or protein powder. It literally takes two minutes to blend everything,” Yang says.
On Sunday evenings, Yang will make four to five Ziplock bags’ worth of fresh produce for morning smoothies. “Another thing I’m religious about is always having snacks in my bag. I have a little plastic Tupperware that I always refill the night before with almonds, walnuts, cashews, cranberries and chocolate chips. This little Tupperware has saved my life on countless occasions,” she says.
10. Mat Forzaglia
Trainer at The Fhitting Room and co-founder of Stronger With Time
As the other half of Stronger With Time, Forzaglia trains and cooks with his girlfriend, Diana Mitrea. “We like to meal prep on Sunday evenings. It is always great to get everything set up for the week ahead. Diana and I enjoy eating different foods and combinations. On meal prep day, we aim for 2-3 proteins, 3-4 veggie dishes and a large batch of grains — our favorite is quinoa,” Forzaglia says. To help maximize time in the kitchen, the Fhitting Room trainer says they like to have all four burners — and the microwave and oven — going. Here’s how they break it down:
- Burner 1: Boil quinoa in a large pot
- Burner 2: Sauté spinach in a pan
- Burner 3: Sauté chicken tenderloins in a pan
- Burner 4: Blister small colored peppers in a pan
- Microwave: Steam Brussels sprouts
- Oven rack 1: Bake butternut squash cubes on a baking sheet
- Oven rack 2: Bake pork tenderloin on a baking sheet
Daily Burn 365 trainer
Because Fogleman is allergic to dairy, nuts, gluten, soy and coconut, most premade breakfasts or snacks are off the table on the way to class. Instead, she bakes her own Super Omega Chocolate Bars. “These bars have tons of omega-3 fatty acids but aren’t too sweet (but the cocoa gives me a good pick-me-up!). The chia seeds and oatmeal are also quite filling,” Fogleman says.
Super Omega Chocolate Bars
Here’s what you’ll need:
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup sunflower butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups gluten-free oats
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/3 cup ground flax seeds
1/3-cup hemp hearts
1/2-cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 1/2-cup toasted rice cereal
First, pulse the oats in a food processor and combine them with all the seeds in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, add all the wet ingredients before mixing it with the oats. Next, line an 8 x 8 square pan with foil and pour the mixture into the pan. Pop the pan into the refrigerator and let the mixture set for a couple of hours. Lastly, cut the bars up into the size you want them and store them in sandwich bags in the fridge.
12. Theresa Croft
Trainer at modelFIT LA
Aside from eating healthier, another benefit of meal prepping is it’s cost-effective. “Each week I view the sales flyer for my grocery store, and see what produce items are on sale so I can take advantage! I mostly purchase fresh fruits and veggies, and almost always buy apples and lemons,” Croft says. The modelFIT trainer makes time each night to prepare her meals for the following day. She stores sliced fruit, seeds and veggies in sandwich bags or Tupperware so they’re easy to grab and go in the morning. “I also love making a fresh smoothie or juice before I leave, and use a Mason jar to store it as I head into my day,” she says.
13. Kevin Donoghue
Spartan elite athlete and head trainer for Daily Burn Spartan
Although Donoghue is not a big meal prepper, he likes to make a week’s worth of poké bowls to eat throughout the week and always keeps fresh fruits in his house to grab and go. “I also have a good selection of nuts that I can quickly throw into small containers. I’m able to split out the door at the drop of a hat with an adequate supply of healthy fats, carbs and protein,” he says. Donoghue is also a big fan of Boku Superfoods, which are 100 percent certified organic, vegan, kosher and gluten-free superfood powders. “Last year, I traveled over 65,000 miles to compete, and took Boku wherever I went. I could make a quick shake right on the plane as easily as I could on a beach in Hawaii,” Donoghue says.
14. Terra Castro
Ultra endurance athlete and founder of Be Bold Crew and Detroit Body Garage
After going vegan three months ago, Castro heavily relies on super salads and soups — made with greens, quinoa and beans — to fuel her throughout the week. She meal preps dishes for Monday through Saturday and is all about the Mason jar. “I use them for smoothies, apple cider vinegar mix, stir-fries and soup mixes,” Castro says. She also preps smoothie fixings the night before, so she can blend kale, spinach, berries and banana slices with water and Vega protein powder in the morning. “I have to be on top of my meal prep because I’m up at 4 a.m. to run before I coach class at 6 a.m., and I’m usually teaching until 8 p.m.,” she says. Her ultimate grocery shopping advice: Don’t shop hungry because you’ll want to buy #allthethings, like snacks you don’t need.
15. Liz Barnet
Trainer at Uplift and SLT
Meet the slow cooker, Barnet’s meal prep BFF. She uses it to prepare a big batch of protein that can be served in a variety of ways. “Slow cooker pork carnitas are my personal favorite and can be added as a side to eggs and avocado, thrown over a salad or served in lettuce wraps for ‘tacos,’” she says. Barnet keeps things simple by adding sliced onions, salt, pepper, garlic and herb seasoning to her proteins. Meanwhile, starchy vegetables are her go-to source for nutrient-dense carbs. Roasting squash, sweet potatoes and beets makes them taste sweeter for very little work. “All you need to do is chop them, toss them with a little healthy fat and sea salt, and roast them on a baking sheet to perfection,” she says.
Want more meal prep ideas? Check out these 50 resources that make meal planning a breeze.
Contributing reporting by Jordan Shakeshaft and Mallory Creveling.