My college transition from 150-pound lightweight rower to 185-pound Strongman wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of big and healthy eating along the way. However, with jobs, school, and practice all to pack into a day, there’s no way you can efficiently cook each meal individually. This is where I discovered bulk cooking–simple, healthy recipes made with minimal prep time and in enough quantity to last through the week. You can do a lot with a slow cooker, oven, big chili pot, and some baking pans. Don’t waste your efforts in the gym or in practice by half-assing it in the kitchen!
All of these meals have a solid amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. I’m a strong believer in a balanced diet being the answer to most nutritional issues and recommend staying away from fad diets. You’ll be surprised at how far diligent attention to basic balanced nutrition will take you. Especially as athletes, reducing caloric intake from one macronutrient in particular can really be detrimental to health and performance. Carbohydrates are essential to an athlete for maintaining energy and fruits and vegetables carry fiber and micronutrients that are essential for health and recovery from training. Fats are necessary for energy and health (like hormone balance). Protein builds muscle. Rather than hop on the latest fad diet by reducing or eliminating completely one of these macronutrients, just focus on getting them from healthy sources.
Carbohydrates: fruits (not fruit juice), vegetables, whole potatoes (not french fries), other starches with fiber (whole wheat bread rather than white bread/bagels/breakfast cereal).
Protein: Meat and eggs, dairy if you can tolerate it. Preferably meat that you could identify on an animal (like a thigh or steak) rather than lunch meats that come from other unidentifiable sources.
Fat: Meat, eggs, dairy, nuts. Avoid the oily greasy fast foods.
- Shredded Chicken
- 4+ boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 12-oz bottle of hot sauce.
- Place at least 4 chicken breasts in a large (6-7 quart) slow-cooker. Pour in at least 10 oz of hot sauce to mostly cover the chicken. Cover the slow-cooker and set it to LOW for 4-5 hours. When the chicken shreds easily with two forks, it is done. Enjoy in burritos, tacos, or sandwiches as an easy high-protein meal.
- Beef Roast
- 4+ pound beef roast, 1-2 cups of mushrooms, 1-2 cups of carrots, 1 yellow onion, 1 cup of beef stock per pound of roast, salt, pepper.
- Chop the carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Coat a 4+ pound roast in oil, salt, and pepper while heating up a skillet or cast iron pot. Brown the roast on each side for 2-4 minutes on each side. When roast is browned on all sides, put it in the slow-cooker and cover it with the chopped onions, carrots, and mushrooms. Pour the beef stock over the roast to mostly cover the meat. Cover the slow cooker and set it to LOW for about 5-6 hours. Check to see if the roast is done after 5 hours by slicing into the middle with a knife. Add more time as necessary, then enjoy as a complete meal with bread, rice, and vegetables.
- Chipotle Beef Barbacoa
- 5-7 pound beef brisket, 4-6 cups of beef stock, can of 4 chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, 1 red or yellow onion (finely chopped), 1 head of peeled garlic (finely chopped), 2 teaspoons ground cloves, juice of 4 limes, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper (amount up to you), and 1 bunch of cilantro.
- Blend with a food processor the chipotle peppers, sauce, onion, garlic, salt, lime juice, cilantro, and vinegar, then pour into the slow cooker. Place the brisket on top of this mixture and add the stock to cover the meat. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or WARM for 10 hours. It will shred easily with two forks after all this time. Shred the meat and then lay it out on a baking sheet (or two if you have a lot). Broil the meat on high for a few minutes until browned. Enjoy in burritos and tacos galore.
- Will’s Virginia Home Recipe: Southern Style Pulled Pork
- 4-5 pounds of pork butt or shoulder, 2 white/yellow onions, 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, 1 cup of non-alcoholic ginger beer (recommend Reed’s), dry rub mix (store bought or make your own).
- Chop the onions and place on the bottom of the slow-cooker. Put the pork on top of the onions fatty side UP, add your dry rub and liquid smoke, and pour on the ginger beer. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. After 8 hours, shred the meat with two forks, drain the extra juices, and add your BBQ sauce (bonus southern points if you take the drained sauce, cook it down in a pan, and then use it as gravy). Cook on LOW for another hour or two. For not as wet/sloppy sandwiches, broil your pork on baking sheets in the oven on HIGH for a few minutes before serving to get that nice crispy brownness on the top. Excellent with some corn bread.
In the Oven
- Shepherd’s Pie
- 4 large potatoes, 2 pounds of ground beef or pork, 1 tbsp butter, 1 onion, 5 carrots, 2 cups of frozen peas, 2 cups of mushrooms, 2 cups of shredded cheese.
- Chop carrots, onions, and mushrooms.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Quarter the potatoes, then add them to the boiling water and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. Mix in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook until clear. Add ground beef and cook until well browned. Pour off excess fat.
- Layer a large baking pan with the meat, then the peas, carrots, and mushrooms, then the mashed potatoes. Top the pan with shredded cheese, then put in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown.
- Anytime Potatoes
- 8-12 red or yellow potatoes
- Cut off the “eyes” or brown nasty bits, but don’t peel them. Chop the potato in half length-wise, then chop each half into bite-sized pieces (generally about 6 pieces per half). Place chopped potatoes into a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then add salt and pepper (optional: add chopped garlic, rosemary, or steak rub). Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lay potatoes out on baking pans one layer thin (no stacking potatoes) then put in the oven for about 45 minutes. Take the potatoes out when the tops are golden-brown and starting to get crispy.
- Enjoy as a side dish or, Will’s favorite, as a bed for fried eggs.
- Chicken Thighs
- These can be made in a big batch in a bunch of different ways as a great source of proteins and fats to go with any meal
- 8-10 chicken thighs (skin-on and bone-in) and your choice of: 8-10 chopped cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup soy sauce, taco seasoning, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper
- Place thighs in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add your spices and let sit while your oven heats up to 375 degrees. Once the oven is heated, put the thighs in one layer in baking pans (no stacking the thighs, they won’t cook evenly) skin side up and cook. Check after 45 minutes. The skin on top should be golden brown and crispy. Cut into one and make sure it’s cooked all the way before you take them out.
- Crispy Chicken Wings
- 5+ pounds of chicken wings, favorite hot sauce, olive oil.
- Put the wings in a big mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and as much hot sauce as you can take. Sprinkle on some cayenne too if you like them really hot. Put the wings in the oven on 450 for 25 minutes per side. Get the oven fan going, because it’s going to get smoky! The hot temperature is what makes them crispy. Take them out of the oven when the skins are browned and crispy and enjoy!
- Option B: Same process, but marinate the wings the night before with 2 chopped jalapeno peppers, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1/2 cup lime juice, and ground pepper and/or cayenne. Chili lime wings! Don’t marinate for longer than 10 hours or the lime juice will make the wings soggy.
- Omelet Bites
- Muffin tin, 10 eggs, 8oz chopped cooked meat (chicken, chicken sausage, ham, etc.), 12 slices of bacon (turkey or pork), 2 cups spinach, 1 cup chopped red pepper, 1 cup chopped onion.
- Preheat oven to 400, then bake the bacon on a flat baking sheet covered in foil until just underdone, approximately 10-15 minutes. It is important to slightly undercook the bacon so it doesn’t get crispy. While the bacon bakes, scramble the eggs in a large bowl and chop the meat and vegetables into small cubes. When the bacon is finished, remove it and line it around the individual oiled muffin tins. Add the meat and vegetables to the muffin tins, distributing evenly, then pour the scrambled eggs in to fill the tin the rest of the way. Return the muffin tin to the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until egg is cooked. They should come out looking something like this!
- Easy Wholebody Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, olive oil, chili powder or fajita seasoning. Must use cast iron pan at least 2″ deep, don’t try this with a non-stick or shallow pan. You also need a meat thermometer and a good oven mitt/potholder.
- Place your cast iron pan in the oven and turn it to 500 degrees. Disable the smoke alarm and turn on the fans, it’s gonne get smokey. Just don’t forget to re-install! While your pan is heating in the oven, rinse the chicken in cold water and remove the giblets. Pat it dry and place it on a plate or deep bowl to add the oil and seasoning. Cover it lightly with olive oil and chili powder, fajita seasoning, or just salt and pepper if you’d prefer. When the oven is heated, carefully remove the pan and add the chicken, **breast side down.** It should instantly sear a bit when it contacts the hot pan. Put it back in the oven at 500 for 10-15 minutes, or until the top of the chicken is golden brown. Turn the oven down to 375 and leave it for 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. Check it periodically after 25 minutes by sticking the meat thermometer in the thigh. When the internal temperature reaches 155-165 degrees, remove the chicken and pan from the oven, turn off the oven, and re-install your smoke detector. Let the chicken set for a while in the cast iron pan on the stovetop, then enjoy!
On the Stove
- Strongman Chili
- 2 pounds ground beef, 1 pound ground pork, 3 15-oz chili beans (drained), 1 15-oz chili beans in spicy sauce, 2 28-oz diced tomatoes with juice, 1 6-oz can of tomato paste, 1 large onion, 1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 2 jalapeno peppers (core/stem removed), 12 slices of bacon (chopped into small bits), 4 cubes beef bouillon, 1/4 cup chili powder, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 6 gloves of garlic, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 2 tbsp hot sauce, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp salt, black pepper to taste, 1 tsp cayenne pepper.
- Heat oil in a large pot. Brown the beef, pork, and chopped bacon.
- Pour in the chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, bacon bits, and bouillon. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, hot sauce, and cayenne to taste depending on how hot you like it.
- The (Pasta) Sauce is the Boss
- 3-4lbs of ground meat (sausage, beef, chicken, and/or turkey), 2-3 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes, 1 6-oz can of tomato paste, 1 onion, 2 red bell peppers. Optional: mushrooms, garlic, kalmata olives, crushed red pepper, basil, rosemary.
- Heat oil in a large pot. Brown the meat then set aside. Cook the onions until they’re soft and slightly browned on the outside, then add the bell peppers, optional mushrooms and garlic. Cook until slightly soft. Add the meat back into your pot and pour in the crushed tomatoes (add it all, don’t drain the liquid out). Turn pot down to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes. Add your spices—approximately 2tbsp of basil, 1 2tbsp rosemary, crushed red pepper and garlic powder to taste. Add your olives here as well if you like. Enjoy by itself as a protein-packed meal or over pasta or a baked potato. Think of it as Italian chili!
- Southwest Chicken Skillet
- 2 cups shredded chicken (from the slow-cooked section!), 1 cup DRY rice, 1.5 cup canned beans, 1 cup water, 1 cup salsa, 2 tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp chicken bouillon (or sub 1 cup water for 1 cup chicken broth)
- OPTIONAL: Cheese, hot sauce, pickled jalapenos
- Combine all ingredients in a deep (at least 2″) cast-iron skillet and stir to mix everything together. Cover and bring the skillet to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to simmer. Stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the skillet. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until rice is cooked and excess liquid is absorbed. Add cheese and hot sauce if you want. This can also be made with cooked ground meat. I’ll also sometimes add some chopped kale about 5 minutes before the skillet is done.
- Wholebody Chicken Soup
- 1 whole chicken body, 4-5 carrots, 1 onion, 4-5 sticks celery, garlic, salt/pepper/red pepper flakes.
- Rinse the chicken in cold water and remove the giblets. Put the chicken in a large stock pot and cover with water by an inch or two, then turn on high to boil. While the pot is boiling, chop half the carrots, half the celery, and all the onion and garlic and add it to the pot. When the pot boils, turn it down to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Chicken is done when a leg pulls off easily. Turn off the stove, remove the chicken from the pot, and set it aside to cool. Add the rest of your carrots and celery to the pot. Shred the chicken with your hands when it’s cool and add it back to the pot. You can really scour it and get all the meat off the bones here. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy over rice, noodles, or by itself.
- Thai Peanut Sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp roasted red chili paste
- 1/2 tsp fish sauce
- 4 tbsp peanut butter
- squirt of Sriracha sauce to taste
- garlic to taste (I like mine with 5-6 cloves)
- juice of half lime
- Combine all ingredients and blend. Use a food processor or immersion blender. Add more peanut butter if you like it thicker, more rice vinegar and lime juice if you like it tangier, and more Sriracha if you want it spicier. I use this by itself on meat or in a salad (chicken, spinach, red peppers, sauce) or as flavoring for fried rice.