5 Muscle Building Diet Tips for the Busy Bro
It’s a beautiful Monday morning. You’re standing over the hot stove cooking up pounds of beef, chicken, and rice for the upcoming week; all while trying to eat breakfast and get the kids ready for school. At the same time, you have emails to reply to on your phone and remind yourself that you still need to pack gym clothes. Suddenly, your children decide to turn your living room into a WWE ring to decide who rides shotgun.
As with all WWE matches, a referee is a must- you’re parenting duties are calling.
Next thing you know, the forsaken proteins and rice catch fire, causing you to be late getting your kids to school. Your kids, with one too many absences, are flunked out of middle school.
You, with your week’s groceries up in flames, lose all your hard earned gains, something quickly noticeable to everyone you know. The entire family has to move away in shame, small muscles and middle school expulsion in tow.
None of us want this to happen, and sometimes hours of meal prep each week can make us all feel in danger of a breakdown. I hate to see gains lost and kids’ futures ruined, so instead I’ve listed a few strategies I personally use and also suggest to my clients that can help vastly reduce the time necessary for weekly meal prep, and allow for more time referring your kids or taking care of those endless emails.
5 Diet Tips For the Busy Bro
#1 Invest in a Slow Cooker and Rice Cooker
This is easily one of the best time saving meal prep tips I give to my clients. As busy times of the year approach, I personally can’t stand the thought of spending precious time standing over a stove cooking pounds of chicken and beef each week. However, resorting to only protein bars and shakes every meal isn’t very ideal either since I of course want as much variety in my diet as possible for general health.
That’s where investing in a slow cooker and rice cooker is extremely beneficial. With these, you can combine proteins like chicken, roasts, and turkey with virtually any spice or sauce you can imagine, set the timer, and have your proteins cook overnight. The next morning, they are finished cooking and ready to eat for the following days. Switching to a slow cooker will easily save 2-3 hours each week.
The same holds true for a rice cooker. Despite the name, rice cookers can be used to prepare various types of rice, quinoa and even to steam vegetables. Just like slow cookers, rice cookers typically have timers that can be set and allow for food to be cooked while sleeping or at work, once again saving time we can spend doing more important things.
Once your proteins and grains are prepared, they can quickly be placed into large containers and kept in the fridge, then portioned out as needed throughout the week, or spooned into individual containers and thrown in a meal management bag to take to the office or on the road.
#2 Reduce Meal Frequency
The same people struggling to find time to maintain their diet are often under the impression that it’s absolutely imperative to eat 6-8 meals each day in order to make progress. Every couple of hours they are forced to stop what they’re doing to cook or unpack a full meal to eat.
For years it was thought that eating smaller, more frequent meals would “stoke the metabolic furnace” and lead to a better body composition. However, a growing body of research in recent years is beginning to show that higher frequency feedings may not result in a significant difference in terms of metabolism and body composition. 
It seems that anywhere from 4-5 meals spread throughout the day will lead to very efficient promotion of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), and result in no less favorable body composition than eating more frequently.  After spiking MPS through the consumption of sufficient protein, there seems to be a period following the spike where additional protein isn’t likely to further enhance the spike, suggesting that some time is needed before a subsequent feeding and response is seen in MPS. This would of course mean that eating less frequent, slightly larger meals might be more favorable for stimulating MPS.
Without digressing too far, it should be noted that muscle growth is dependent on more than just stimulating MPS, however the above point does help to highlight the likely unnecessary, and possibly less effective practice of eating much higher frequency meals. Knowing this, we can rest assured that reducing meal frequency within a reasonable range can help save much needed time each day, while still allowing for progress.
After all, over the long term I would rather see a client eat slightly less meals yet remain consistent with their plan than to stress themselves over exact meal frequencies and continue a pattern of yo-yo dieting.
For clients that have trouble getting in all their meals during the day, one of the first adjustments I will make is to reduce their meal frequency by 1-2 meals. Generally, I suggest clients get in at least 4 protein containing meals, which I base off ensuring sufficient MPS.
At four meals, clients are still supporting MPS but also giving themselves more time each day to devote to other responsibilities. If it takes an average of 30 minutes to unpack/prepare, eat and pack up a meal- that could be an additional 1-2 hours each day saved.
Eating fewer meals each day (4-5 meals), aside from very likely being just as effective for fat loss and muscle growth as higher frequency feedings (6-8 meals), will make it much easier to reach your macro and performance goals, all while cutting down on the time it takes to pack or prepare meals. Not to mention, I actually have clients often tell me they notice less hunger throughout the day after reducing their previously very high meal frequency; something that could be beneficial while dieting.
#3 MRP & Sludges
Something else I’ve found myself doing when I’m traveling, or just have a ton of office work to do and prefer not to stop to eat and prepare a full meal, is using a quality meal replacement product or making protein sludge.
I personally use the Rich Chocolate or Snickerdoodle flavor Core MRP a lot. A few scoops along with just enough water to make a thick, batter-like pudding makes for a great tasting meal I can enjoy whether I’m at the airport terminal, in the office, or on a day trip to the beach with friends.
The great thing about Core MRP is this product actually uses oat and barley flour for its carb sources, is low in fat, and also includes whey protein, digestive enzymes and an additional vitamin blend. It allows me to get in quick calories while still consuming the nutrients I shoot for in my daily diet. Not to mention, it’s Tiger Tested for meeting label claims!
(MRP Link: https://www.tigerfitness.com/Core-Nutritionals-Core-MRP-p/coremrp.htm)
A few variations I often use are to add ground flaxseed and various fruits if I want additional fats and carbs. When I’m dieting, I’ll switch out the Core MRP for our Core ISO or Core PRO to keep my carb intake lower.
I should note that not all meal replacement products on the market are created equal. Many products use cheap, nutrient lacking carbohydrates like dextrose or maltodextrin* to pad their profit margins. It’s important to look for a meal replacement that can be trusted to not use amino spiked protein or other low quality ingredients.
*Side note: Maltodextrin is often used because it can technically be labeled as complex carbohydrate due to its chemical structure, despite being very cheap to use, digesting very similarly to pure sugar, and lacking the nutrients that are commonly included in the type of complex carbs that we often think of.
#4 GROW Dough
Another easy “meal” I use when I’m in a higher calorie phase is our GROW Dough recipe. Core GROW is a whole food based weight gainer using ingredients like sweet potato, avocado oil powder and whey protein as an easy way to get in more calories while simultaneously consuming plenty of healthy foods.
Mash up some pinto beans for added texture and additional complex carbs, a few other ingredients, and some water for a meal that tastes like cookie dough but packs plenty of complex carbs, healthy fats, and muscle building protein without taking much time to prepare.
Core GROW Dough Recipe:
- 120g pinto beans (rinsed and mashed)
- 2 scoops S’mores Core GROW
- 3tbsp zero calorie sweetener
- 1 serving sugar free chocolate pudding mix
- Approx. 1tbsp water
- 8g Fat
- 85g Carbohydrates
- 38g Protein
Combine ingredients and just enough water to form a thick dough for a quick, quality on the go meal!
#5 Easy Shakes/Smoothies
If pudding and cookie dough isn’t your style, or you’re just really pressed for time and need a lot of food, I suggest just preparing some basic smoothies with a lot of the staple foods we all keep in our kitchens. There are of course nearly endless variations that can be made, but usually I’ll add 1-2 from each of these lists and blend together for a meal I can take on the go or knock back while I’m finishing up emails.
- Whey/Casein blend protein powders
- Meal replacements
- Weight gainers
- Greek yogurt
- Ground flaxseed
- Favorite nut butter
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
These are just a few tips that can add up to a lot of time saved each week when that to-do list is growing like a Chia Pet and WrestleMania is going down in your living room. At the end of the day, no matter what diet hacks you implement, taking time to plan ahead each week can go a long way in maximizing the time available to take care of life’s responsibilities without giving up on our health and physique.
1) Bounty, P. M., Campbell, B. I., Wilson, J., Galvan, E., Berardi, J., Kleiner, S. M., . . . Antonio, J. (2011). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Meal frequency. J Int Soc Sports Nutr Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 8(1), 4. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-8-4
2) Norton, L., & Wilson, G. (2009). Optimal protein intake to maximize muscle protein synthesis Examinations of optimal meal protein intake and frequency for athletes. Agro Food Hi Tech, 20(2), 54-57.