I’ve found that even a lot of my pro boxing friends don’t really know that much about nutrition. They know how to cut weight, but in between matches they often gain a lot and aren’t getting solid fuel for their practices. Food is often overlooked in boxing gyms other than when it’s time to tell a fighter to knock it off to make weight. With a lot of my women fighters, on the other hand, I’ve found that I should just record myself saying “You HAVE to eat more!” to play on repeat throughout practice. Food is fuel. When we get busy, we forget to eat. When we just don’t have time, we don’t want to mess up, then we just don’t eat anything until we’re so starving. Or, we eat off of our kids plates of leftovers because it’s already made and, honestly, it often comes down to ten minutes to shower, nap, or eat and only one is going to get done for the rest of the day. That’s why I’m starting this nutrition information off with the very, very basics on nutrition.
The first step is to not worry about caloric numbers actually. The first step is to change your mindset and habits about food, and then the numbers will start to fall in line as your body has an ability to actually tell you—unhindered by trickery fake foods, extra salt or sugar—what it needs. Plus, sometimes your kid asks you to hold his corn dog while you're in the middle of a workout. If you're hungry at that moment, good luck resisting taking a bite and waiting to refuel with real protiens after a hard core lifting set.
You know how you’ve always got to get the angle when you’re in the ring? You’ve got to stay one step ahead of her at every turn, and once she catches you, or she gets ahead of you, it’s so hard to get that control back? Nutrition—especially when you have a family—is like that.
That’s why I’m a huge advocate of food prep. I know, I know, it’s an old story to prep your food ahead of time, and I can probably tell you what you’ve just thought to yourself reading that: “Yeah. Awesome. If we all had the time to be professional athletes or it was literally our job to stay in shape like you, then we’d do it. Great for you. I, meanwhile, am pretty busy with the rest of life, and definitely can’t afford the crazy new super food that I’m apparently supposed to be eating to get my six pack.”
I hear you. Most boxers around the world hear you, and definitely all of my clients hear you. I’m a pretty busy lady believe it or not. And when I don’t take an hour and a half after I buy groceries to prep my food, I will eat badly through the week. So will my kids. I also am a single mom college student who’s starting a business. Money is an issue when we buy groceries.
I see tons of posts on fitness blogs (or people’s personal pages when they very first get hyped on fitness) where they’ve got every single meal packed and ready to go for the week. I have literally done this once: when I went to a week-long national championship and had to prep my food and take it to make sure I could weigh in all through the week. That’s all way too complicated to maintain long term even if you’re a single person whose actual job it is to eat perfectly. It’s also insanely expensive Let’s talk about a much more realistic way to change the way you’re eating and doing food in general.
First, when I go to the grocery, I do my best to buy enough fresh food for about one week, and then I get flash-frozen vegetables and fruits as back up. Fresh is best, yes, but with technology what it is, almost zero nutrients are actually lost when they flash freeze food now, and it is FAR less expensive. I just returned from our giant shopping trip of the month and spent $98 at Auldis. I will go back to the store about once every week to week and a half and spend an additional $30 to $50 each visit in order to refresh things like milk, eggs, and fresh food. You can see from these pictures that we’re talking about some seriously healthy eating for the three of us, and that is a pretty do-able food budget for most families of three. Most of it does take cooking. If I don’t food prep, I end up grabbing a frozen pizza or chicken nuggets, or whatever else I can quickly make for the kids because I don’t have time to do an entire cooking “thing” during the week. If it’s not cut up and ready to get moving on (also creating far less dishes through the week!) then I’m going to go the easy and desperate way—which also ends up costing our family a lot more money too.
Second, I prep in bulk. I boil eggs and those go in a bowl. I cook up some turkey bacon in the oven and that goes in one container—same thing for any other meat I may use during the week, such as chicken. That chicken gets seasoned and cooked in the oven in a healthy way, and then cut up to be reheated and thrown on salads, in stir-fry, whatever happens to come along during the week. My veggies are cut into slices and put into clear plastic containers that my kids can grab a handful of raw ones out of, or that it would take me two minutes to cut a little further and throw into a pan to go with some eggs or can stay raw and get tossed into a salad. Why clear containers? Look at how beautiful, and colorful, this fridge looks as you look into it. My kids (and me too!) are a whole lot more likely to desire these types of foods when they are easy to see and grab, and look appetizing to the eye. We also don’t keep sweets in the house. I don’t mind at all when my kids eat them with their grandparents or as a “sometimes” food. But in our house, if you’re craving something sweet, then your body probably wants fruit. Again, it's much easier to convince yourself and your kids of this truth when it looks delicious and colorful and is so easy for your eye to see and your hand to grab.
Why do I keep everything still separated out? For one thing, my kids don’t enjoy the same food I do, and they definitely don’t have the same nutrition needs. We all eat different things at every meal, and I did this even when I was married. We can all eat together, but if I am truly worried about making sure that my family gets good nutrition, then that starts with realizing that we all have different nutritional needs. My kids need a lot higher healthy fats than I do. They also need less protein and more carbohydrates than me. While I’m lifting, running, and boxing for hours a day, they are not building that kind of muscle at pee-wee soccer practice and they’re definitely still developing and growing more than I am. By spending a few hours in the kitchen after getting groceries, I can throw together three or four completely different meals for each of us within 10 minutes for dinner, and we can still all sit together and eat it.
If food prep is new to you, the first thing that I want to make sure you hear is to not jump in hard core. With any life changes, take it baby step by baby step. Find one way to make your life easier. For a lot of people, that might start with just the hard-boiled eggs and some turkey bacon to grab in the mornings for yourself. Breakfast is something that’s really hard for a lot of people to get in there, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat breakfast. This is a solid first choice to change because it will make a huge difference with very little extra effort to start. After you’ve got that habit truly solid, start to add in another food prep: perhaps one meat that can easily be thrown into multiple dishes is the way to go next.
Life is complicated enough already. Let’s not make something as easy as eating any harder than it needs to be. Every nutritional decision matters, so changing each little one matters too. It’s a step-by-step process that takes congratulating yourself for each one along the way or else you’re going to end up feeling beat down and giving up. Can’t manage to drag your family along with your new changes? That’s okay. It might take them longer to make changes if they aren’t working towards a goal like you are. However, even food prepping for yourself will make a huge difference during the week to help you stay on track even while you feed them something they will bulk less about eating.