By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training
If you're like me, you sometimes find yourself short on time to cook yourself a good meal.
And if you're also like me, meaning a lazy cook, sometimes the motivation to really make a grand meal is short, too.
So what do you when this happens but you still want to reach your muscle-building goals?
I've got three great "recipes" (and I use the word "recipes" in the loosest sense possible!) to share with you that will help you stay on track towards massing up.
Keep in mind, even though I'm going to inject a little humor into this list, these are examples of actual things you can prepare for yourself to help make your life easier! I just want to show you that decent nutrition doesn't have be dull as dirt or taste like it either.
These recipes are simple to make, don't take long to cook and are geared to my own personal skill level of cooking, which is boiling, microwaving, toasting (in a toaster, not one of them fancy toaster oven things), some basic fry pan work and ripping open packages like a starving raccoon.
With these recipes, I'm not going to include salads. You're on your own with those.
Personally, I eat them as often as I can (and you should too!), taking advantage of the convenient prepackaged salad bags from the store, throwing in some grape tomatoes, almonds, broccoli, carrots and whatever else is in the fridge that looks like it might go well in a salad and isn't TOO far past the date. Add some healthy dressing (on a side note, salsa is actually surprisingly good on salad) and voila! You're good to go.
Getting plenty of vegetables is also important - rather than force my personal vegetable preferences onto you (which are broccoli, snap peas, carrots, and chocolate covered almonds) just make the effort to eat vegetables as much as you can every day.
Fresher and less processed is better, as is organic, but just do the best you can with that. You would have to REALLY go to town to eat TOO many vegetables so don't be shy with them.
I'm also a big fan of taking vitamin and mineral supplements because no matter how "balanced" your diet appears to be, food is so depleted of nutrients right from the start these days that you're probably not getting nearly as many nutrients as you think you are from your food.
Let me put it this way, I'd rather have "expensive urine" (many doctors seem to think this is all you'll get from taking vitamins) than a debilitating illness caused by simple vitamin and mineral deficiencies that I then have to take expensive drugs to basically just mask the symptoms of.
But I digress...
To make best use of these recipes for those short on time, Tupperware will be your best friend. Make a LOT when you DO make something and save the rest for later. It's great to make things fresh but it's also great to just sling something you made yesterday into the microwave and eat it again (and again after that, if you made a WHOLE LOT!).
It'll save you from eating cereal three meals a day (not that I've ever done THAT, of course...).
Serving sizes are totally up to you. I usually eat the majority of what I make then save some for the next day, especially if it's a post-workout meal.
So let's get into those muscle building recipes...
1. Pasta with Spicy Meat Sauce
This is a great, protein-rich post-workout meal. Tastes great and serves 1 to 4 people, depending completely on how hungry you are and your willingness to share with others.
- 1 pound of pasta (I like to use quinoa, lentil or brown rice pasta)
- 1 jar of sauce that's thick enough to cover up the taste of those kinds of pasta (that's my own opinion, at least)
- 1 pound of lean ground beef (If you can get grass-fed beef, definitely go with that. I get mine in frozen 1 lb blocks here and it's fantastic and convenient...just needs defrosting)
- Some pre-packaged spices - This really spices up the meat sauce nicely.
First, put some water in a big pot and set the stove on high to bring it to a boil. As soon as the water starts boiling, dump the pasta in and let boil for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Put some coconut oil in a fry pan to get some grease and some flavor then dump the ground beef in. If you're using frozen ground beef, make sure it's defrosted first. You can do that in the fridge overnight or in some cold water to speed it up.
Mash it up with a wooden spoon and keep moving it around to brown it all over.
Once the meat has been cooking for awhile, throw some spices in the pan with the meat. Stir it in and smash the meat up so it's not all clumped together.
Drain the pasta when it's done. then empty the sauce jar into the spaghetti pot and stir it up. If you find the cold sauce cools the pasta too much, turn the burner back on and reheat it until the sauce bubbles.
If you're not sharing the pasta with someone who doesn't like meat, feel free to throw the meat in the pasta pot, too. If you ARE sharing, serve out some pasta into a separate big bowl THEN toss the meat in there. It'll just work out better for all concerned that way.
And just fyi, the end result ends up looking more like the picture below rather than the picture above...
Serve sitting on the couch with an oven mitt under the bowl because it'll be dang hot on the bottom. And it's better NOT to wear a white shirt while you're eating it...trust me on this.
2. Scrambled Eggs and Oatmeal With Yogurt And Fruit
This is a great breakfast meal that will keep you from getting hungry for HOURS. The fat in the egg yolks keeps you satisfied while the thick oatmeal will keep your digestive system busy for a long time. Lots of fiber to work on!
- 6 whole eggs - not egg whites, WHOLE eggs! They're not bad for you like many people seem to think. The yolk is where most of the nutrients are. Tastes a whole lot better with yolks, too. Adjust the number of eggs to your preference.
- 1 gob of Smart Balance margarine to coat the bottom of the pan. Cooking spray will work for this as will olive oil.
- 1 dry cup of Quaker Oats - either the Old Fashioned or 1 Minute oats are fine here. Adjust the quantity of oats to your preference.
- 2 cups of water (basically, double the amount of oats you put in).
- A bunch of fruit - whatever your favorite fruit is. I find berries or grapes work best because you don't need to cut them up. Wash them before eating them.
- 1 Thing of yogurt - this is the technical term for however much yogurt you want to put in the oatmeal. If I have individually packaged yogurts, I'll just dump one of those in. If I have a bigger container, I'll scoop a pile of yogurt in until it looks like enough. You'll figure out how much you want to put in.
First, get the fruit ready. Wash it up and put it in a small bowl. Crack the eggs into a bowl/cup and scramble them. If you're talented, you can crack them with one hand and not slop them down the sides. After cracking about 30,000 eggs in my lifetime, I'm still not talented. I managed to do it once then the next time I ended up with a dripping fistful of egg and shell.
** On a side note, it IS possible to squeeze an egg with one hand and break it. A friend of mine once told me that you can't put an egg in the palm of your hand, squeeze it and break it. He said it wasn't possible (he was a physics major). So I grabbed an egg and squeezed it REALLY tight. Three seconds later, it exploded so hard the yolk popped out and flew 6 feet across the room and actually landed right in his shirt pocket!
So anyway, THAT being said, measure out a cup of oats, dump it in a good-sized bowl, then add double the amount of oats in water, e.g. 1 cup of oats, add 2 cups of water. You can adjust the water later, depending on if you like your oatmeal a little soupy (like I do) or masonry thick (like my wife does).
Nuke it for about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. While that's going, turn on the stove and get the pan for the eggs heated up. Throw a gob of Smart Balance margarine in the pan (that's a great brand - it's actually a reasonably healthy margarine and tastes good). Olive oil works really well here, too, as does non-stick spray.
With the olive oil, it's a good idea to have a spray bottle for it so it doesn't all pool up in the corner that your stove burner leans to (you know what I'm talking about).
Make sure the whole bottom surface of the egg pan gets covered with something slippery or you'll regret it later when you try to keep eggs from getting all crusted up and nasty along the sides.
Pour the beaten eggs into the pan and watch them cook. Stir them around once the bottom starts to get solid. Keep stirring and scraping the sides off to avoid the crust I mentioned above.
Your oatmeal should be done about the same time the eggs are. So put the eggs on a plate and set it aside for now.
Take your bowl of oatmeal out of the microwave then dump the yogurt in, then the fruit. Stir it all up (not the eggs, just the fruit and yogurt) and you're good to go.
This meal will keep you going for hours.
3. Meat and Potatoes
"Meat and potatoes" might be a cliche but for me, there's not much that works better for supporting muscle growth than a nice piece of meat (or chicken or fish) and a big bucket of potatoes. And if that sounds corny, it should, because sometimes I'll throw some corn in with the potatoes.
Let's talk about potatoes first, then I'll give the inside scoop on how to cook meat (I think I can hear my wife laughing in the background as I write about my cooking skills...).
First, grab 3 or 4 good-sized potatoes. I try to get red potatoes since they can't be stored as long as other potatoes therefore they're fresher when you get them rather than having been sitting in storage for a year.
I prefer to boil potatoes as it helps them retain moisture better. Boil for about 20 minutes.
Dump in a big bowl, mix in some butter, NOT margarine, which is basically garbage. Or if you're eating low-fat, pour some ketchup in it, add some sea salt and you're set. You can also throw in a can of corn or other frozen mixed vegetables to spice things up.
As for the meat, if you're good with a gas or charcoal grill, more power to you. You're a better cook than I am and I don't know why you're even reading this part.
If you have one of those George Foreman countertop grills, those work really well for meat (especially the ones that you can pull the grill things off and put them in the dishwasher - the ones that you can't remove are a pain in the butt to clean, so if you're going to get one, get the removable grill version). Follow the instructions that came with the grill for the meat or chicken or fish you're cooking.
If you've got some chicken breasts that you just want to "fire and forget" rather than tend to on a grill, throw them in pan, pre-heat the oven to about 400 degrees, dump some spices on them (whatever you like), cover with tinfoil to keep the juices in, and cook for about 30 minutes or so (SET THE TIMER). If you want to get REALLY fancy, slice up a lemon and toss a few slices on top with some black pepper.
There you have it. Meat and potatoes. Perfect for a big post-workout meal that will help you pack the pounds on.
I also like to use potatoes, corn and ground beef (or sirloin) to make "Lazy Cook" Shepherd's Pie. Boil the potatoes and corn as above. Boil the meat as in recipe #1, then dump it all into a big bowl and stir. You'll be 5 pounds heavier by the end of the meal.
As you can see, cooking tasty food for building muscle doesn't have to be hard and recipes don't have to be these complex things that take hours to make and require more than very basic cooking skills. With my recipes, if you can do a few simple things without burning yourself, that's about all the skill you need.
And if you're interested in learning some recipes for fat loss, I've got 3 excellent ones that I can share with you as well. Go back up to the top of the article and reread it. It's the same stuff...now just eat less of it.
If you're concerned about getting enough nutrients, take this stuff - Athletic Greens (seriously, it's nutritional insurance...I use it every single day).
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