As college students, we all know the stress placed on us between keeping up with our school work, our social lives, and any extracurriculars that we may have. This stress makes it tempting to come back home after morning classes, plop into bed, turn on some Netflix, and snack the day away on pints of Ben & Jerry's and potato chips
While this lifestyle is nothing short of amazing, each one of us should try to replace that post-class Netflix-and-snack session with a short gym routine at least three times a week after our morning classes. The upside? Justification for making a delicious lunch beforehand that will compliment your gym routine, reduce stress levels, and make you feel completely energized.
Here are 10 quick and healthy meals that you can prepare before heading out to the gym.
#SpoonTip: All of these can be easily modified for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
This first one is quick and simple. You can use pita, a corn or flour tortilla, or even a rice flour wrap. Quickly warm up your base so it's pliable, slap on some smooth hummus, and top with any juicy, vibrantly-colored vegetables you want. Try out cucumbers and bell peppers, then top it off with some alfalfa sprouts for texture.
You can use a variety of beans for this, such as garbanzo, navy, kidney, or black beans. All you're going to need is a can of beans, drained and rinsed so as to remove the coating that's difficult to digest. Next, dress the beans in a bowl with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil, and lastly salt and pepper to taste.
If you're feeling really adventurous, add in some cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. This quick meal contains an immense amount of fiber and it's packed with protein and healthy fats that will keep you going during cardio day.
This next one is simple, and especially tasty if you skipped breakfast that morning. Here you have a classic omelet, but instead of coating the pan in butter and folding gooey cheese into it, we're keeping it clean.
You start off with 2-3 farm fresh eggs, crack them into a bowl, add a splash of water, and a couple pinches of salt. Next coat your pan with a tiny amount of coconut oil and pour in the eggs. You can add some fresh spinach leaves and any other diced veggies that you desire. Finish cooking it as you would any other omelet, and serve it up with half of a sliced avocado on top.
Now this lunch can be transformed into almost anything your heart desires. Ever heard of açaí bowls or nice cream? Well, this is a twist on the two of them to make a smoothie bowl. Start off with a base of frozen bananas, which you'll need two of already slightly broken up before you put them in the blender. Next, go for a tablespoon of raw cacao powder, 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter, 4-5 frozen strawberries, and 1/4 cup increments of cold almond milk, which you'll continually add to your smoothie as it's blending until you reach the perfect consistency.
The smoothie should be thick enough to be eaten with a spoon, and once you've gotten there, top it off with some granola, honey, and any other sliced fruit you'd like. Feel free to change up this smoothie bowl by adding in some greens or other fruits. Trust me, you'll be full after this smoothie.
Salads are a natural part of a healthy diet, but I have one way of making them that takes the eating experience to a whole new level. Start off with a bed of romaine lettuce, throw in some sliced cucumber, tomato, hearts of palm, or canned artichoke heats. And while they're still in season, go for a handful of berries and sliced grapes for a sweeter addition to this meal. Finally, you're going to take a big scoop of any protein-based salad you want, such as chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, or a bean salad.
This next part is where most people go wrong, and that's with the dressing. Most bottled dressings are packed with added sugars and saturated fats, so opt out of buying one at the store and make one at home. All you need to do is take a mason jar and add some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a dollop of honey, a bit of dijon mustard, a sprinkle of minced onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Put a lid on the mason jar, shake it up, pour on your dressing and voila, double salad complete.
This next option can be made with so many variations. Try using a low-fat yogurt base that is plain in order to cut out any added sugars, preferably Greek yogurt or even coconut milk yogurt. Next, find a granola at the grocery store that has little added sugars or you can even make your own at home.
Some brands even have chia seeds or quinoa as the base of the granola, eliminating the oats completely. Next, throw on a handful of dried fruit and lots of fresh fruit. Drizzle the top with honey or fruit preserves for a naturally sweet meal.
7. Sweet Potato Hash
When it comes to a filling pre-workout meal, the key is to stay full without weighing yourself down halfway through your workout. A great way to avoid a carb crash is by eating sweet potatoes, as they provide plenty of fiber, energy, and enough carbs to keep you satisfied.
To convert this sweet tuber into a more savory meal, turn it into a hash by throwing some chopped up, precooked sweet potatoes into in a pan with sautéed onions, peppers, and any other vegetables. And of course this wouldn't be complete without a healthy topping of fresh avocado slices.
Whether you're going for a cold or hot version of oatmeal, this is a perfect way to stay energized for leg day. Try these 5 overnight oat recipes, where you essentially let your oats soak in a liquid base overnight rather than cooking them. But of course you can throw a cup of raw oats on your stove top, pour in some vanilla extract, almond or coconut milk, and wait for it to thicken before garnishing it with cinnamon, honey, and any fruits you desire.
Finally, the ultimate pre-workout meal: the sushi burrito. This version can either have cooked salmon or cooked chicken breast in place of the raw fish, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. Start out with a square piece of sushi nori, shiny side down on a parchment-lined surface. If you have a bamboo sushi roller, feel free to use that too. On top of the nori, place a thin layer of rice (you can also use quinoa) over the entire sheet, but leave about 1/2 an inch uncovered on one edge.
Next, in the center of your nori sheet, place your protein and vegetables horizontally so they are parallel with the bare edge of nori. Try out some sliced carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, and lettuce or sprouts. Once you're done filling it, roll that baby up starting with the side across from the bare edge, that way the rice doesn't seep out of the roll. Finally, dip it in some tamari or soy sauce.
This is one of my all-time favorites because you can find it at any main grocery store for under $8 in most cases. If you're willing to make a grocery trip before your workout, you can enjoy this baby while it's still warm. This meal option doesn't take a lot of preparation time, but it is best to pull the meat off of the bone while its still warm, trying to leave most of the skin behind, as that is what adds the extra fat and cholesterol to the meal.
You can add the rotisserie chicken meat onto a salad or in a wrap with veggies. The best part about this lunch option is that you're sure to have more meat when you get back from your workout, and it can store in the fridge for up to four days.
When it comes to a finding a pre-workout meal that won't weigh you down while still keeping you on your game, it's important to have a balance of protein and healthy fats with lots of fresh produce. Many people think that they need to carbo load or heavily increase their protein intake prior to the gym, but there are so many other alternatives to this. Just remember to stay hydrated, and don't miss a planned gym day, because after all, it's just incentive to eat more beforehand.