Hopefully by now you are well underway on an offseason training program and you may be wondering how to take your progress to the next level.
One of the most important things to have in order is your eating habits. Specifically, you want to make sure you are eating in a way that supports your health, your lifestyle, and your goals. As far as health goes, I won’t recommend anything extreme one way or the other (at least in this article). And since your nutrition has to compliment your lifestyle, I won’t be asking you to do anything unreasonable, or prepare food in ways that are simply not realistic.
Here are three simple meal hacks that you can use to support your offseason goals:
1. CHICKEN THIGHS ARE KING
Want an incredible bang for your buck whole food protein source? Chicken thighs are your answer. Not only is chicken an incredibly healthy source of protein as is, but it also is cost effective, delicious, and versatile. Ditch the dry, nasty chicken breasts and get yourself some bone-in thighs. Thighs are naturally fattier than breasts, meaning they taste better, remain juicier throughout the cooking process, and offer more fat-soluble vitamins and minerals than their gross breast counterparts (I’m obviously biased).
Here’s an awesome recipe you can prepare in bulk. It stores well, and can be reheated in the microwave. If you need a condiment, try some authentic ground mustard.
Baked Chicken Thighs
bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, 8-12 pieces
salt, pepper, thyme
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place chicken thighs skin side up on baking sheet, evenly spaced.
- Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.
- Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re really savvy, you can save the bones in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you amass about 30 thigh bones, use them to make yourself a high protein bone broth by simmering them in a pot of water for 2-4 hours. If you’ve never had bone broth, you’ll be stunned by how delicious and filling it is!
2. The Peanut Butter and Jelly Protocol
A lot of athletes have a simple goal in the offseason: gain weight. Unfortunately, they also think the answer to that question lies in special supplements or adding a workout or two to their normal training days. If you are eating 3-5 meals a day, training rigorously with a properly planned and periodized weight program, and at least 7 hours of sleep a night, the peanut butter and jelly protocol might be for you.
Here’s how it works:
Every morning, prepare 5 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Pack them in sandwich bags. You’ll be taking these with you throughout the day (whether it be to school, to work, to your friend’s house, etc). Whenever you eat a meal, you must finish a peanut butter and jelly sandwich immediately after.
- Bacon and eggs for breakfast? Add a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Baked chicken thighs (see above) for lunch? Another PB&J coming up.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a snack? Make that two.
- Steak and potatoes for dinner? Wash it down with a sandwich.
- Pudding for dessert? Pudding is disgusting, but too bad here’s another PB&J.
It’s really that simple. Five extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is an additional one thousand calories. If you struggle to gain weight, definitely give it a try!
3. Sweet Potatoes For The Win
You wouldn’t think it, but sweet potatoes make a ridiculously good on-the-go food option. They are nutritious, high in fiber, contain healthy carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen stores, and are a really cool color. All you’ll need is a microwave (and maybe some thick gloves).
For an ultra quick, healthy, and cheap on-the-go snack, pop a sweet potato in the microwave for 6-8 minutes (depending on how strong your microwave is). You can poke some holes in the skin with a fork before you heat it through, but I don’t really think it makes enough difference to justify the extra effort. When it’s done cooking, carefully take it out (it will be super hot), and cut it into half-inch slices. By slicing it, you’ll expose more surface area and it will cool way faster, meaning you can get to eating sooner.
More about potatoes:
Immediately after we won the 2014 Florida State League Championship, I found myself embroiled in an epic celebratory food fight with the rest of my teammates in the visitor’s locker room at Jackie Robinson Field in Daytona Beach. On the menu were freshly baked potatoes. One teammate, who shall remain nameless but can throw a baseball over 100 mph, grabbed some baked potatoes, and took the term “hot potato” to an entirely new level.