Canned food for quick healthy bodybuilder meals
Is this a joke? Someone who advocates health, fitness, and cardio telling people to eat CANNED FOOD? Yep, thats right! I am here to tell you that some of the quickest and cheapest high quality bodybuilding meals come right out of a can! I am also willing to bet you that they are a lot healthier than what 80% of you had for lunch yesterday!
I need a quick healthy meal!
I have been answering people’s fitness questions for nearly two decades now and I can tell you that the number 1 problem people face when trying to get those sixpack abs or trying to gain muscle mass is how to deal with eating during the day when they are at work or school. Here are many of the obstacles that people face:
- No kitchen facilities
- No time for long, leisurely meal
- No refrigeration facilities to keep meal cold and safe till needed
- No healthy bodybuilder options at nearby cafeteria/restaurants
- No time to shop, do batch cooking, or make protein bars on weekends
What usually happens is that these people make the same mistake every day. They show up to work/school with no meals in their backpack, they get really hungry. Hungry people make really bad nutritional decisions, its a fact. That candy vending machine starts to look good. McDonalds starts to look good. Or what is worse, they eat nothing till they are nearly passing out from low blood sugar then binge on something bad.
“If by 7am you do not know what you will be eating for each meal, you will fail at your fitness goals” – Scooby Werkstatt
If you are trying to lose bodyfat to get those sixpack abs or are working out hard to try and gain muscle, if you do not know precisesly what you are going to eat for each of your meals then you will fail. Good bodybuilding nutrition does not happen, it has to be planned! If you do not plan your nutrition then someone else will. Do you want someone fat and out of shape planning your nutrition? I thought not.
Canned food is bad for you!
In my video “Healthy meals for students and other busy people“, one of the most common viewer comments is:
“Canned food is bad for you!”
.. to which I reply, “why?”. Canned food has an undeserved bad reputation. Here are the all the things I have heard people use to explain why canned food is “bad for you”:
- “high in sodium“. To which I say, yes, so what? Its lower sodium than most fast food restaurant meals or restaurant meals. Unless you have high blood pressure and are one of the 10% whose blood pressure is affected by sodium then you do not have to worry. Salt is not inherently bad, its only bad because it is typically delivered to consumers in junk food like “sour cream and onion” flavor potato chips. Its not the salt that is the problem in these chips, its all the bad fat and artificial flavors that is the problem.
- “Bisphenol A (BPA) contamination“. Yep, this is a definite problem. Once again our mighty science and technological innovations have failed us. BPA was the latest and greatest advancement … till we figured out that it leaches into food and increases estrogen levels which is not something that most bodybuilders want :) The reason it has not been banned yet in the USA is that it is not clear if the low levels in canned products represent a problem but if you are like me, its just not worth the risk. Its fairly easy to avoid the BPA now, most of the organic canned foods have BPA-free cans. Remember too that if you eat at restaurants, a lot of their foods and sauces come out of cans as well … you just dont see them.
- “Because its canned, not cooked“. A lot of people do not understand the canning process, it just seems un-natural to them. Canned food is simply food that was cooked in a can! If you are making a pot of black beans, you wash them, soak them, add spices, cook them, and cool them. This is exactly how canned black beans are made! The only difference is that the top is welded on the pot (aka can) before cooking. Because the normal cooking temperatures kill off everything that can make the beans spoil, the can keeps safely for years. Its not because there are preservatives in the can, its simply because its a tight, sterile environment. Canned foods are one of the few prepared products in modern grocery stores that do not have preservatives in them.
Canned food is not unhealthy per se, its what you put IN the can that matters!
- healthy: put organic beans in the can
- unhealthy: put meatless pig remnants, sodium nitrate, modified food starch, sodium phosphate, and preservatives in a can to make SPAM.
Just like you can’t say definitively that “all drugs are bad” because there are very beneficial drugs as well as lethal and highly addictive ones, you cannot say anything definitively about “all canned food”.
Suggested canned foods for bodybuilders
No carb protein sources:
- tuna – Awesome source of lean protein, too bad about the mercury. If you limit it to three cans a week you are safe though.
- salmon – Great protein source but more expensive than tuna. Also has the benefit of having huge amounts of healthy fish oil and omega-III fatty acids.
- chicken – The staple food of bodybuilders. Try different brands if you dont like the first one you try.
High carb protein sources:
- black beans – High in protein and high in fiber. This is my persona favorite meal-in-a-can.
- lentils – High in protein and high in fiber, a great meal in a can.
- pinto beans- High in protein and high in fiber, a great meal in a can.
- refried beans- High in protein and high in fiber, a great meal in a can.
- chili – there are healthy ones and disgusting ones, read ingredients closely! Vegetarian options the healthiest in the chili category.
- bean soups – These are basically lots of beans with spices and vegetables thrown in so they make excellent meals.
As always with fitness, health, and bodybuilding nutrition you MUST READ THE LABEL! Forget about the chart and look at the list of ingredients, is there anything you don’t want to eat listed? Is there anything you do not recognize? If the answer is yes to either question then DONT BUY IT, its that simple. The beans and meats above should have at most three items on the ingredients list, for example “beans, water, salt”. Anything else in the list of ingredients should send up a big red flag. The exception of course is the chili and the soups which will have a lot more ingredients, just read over it carefully.
Suggested canned food meals
Cold and desperate options
You dont have a refrigerator. You dont have a microwave, what do? Eat the food right out of the can. I know this sounds disgusting but its not. Please read in the “Canned food is bad for you” section about how canned food is made. The only thing that is disgusting is if you forget a can-opener and/or a spoon … and I have done both.
- KETO MEAL – I know this sounds disgusting but try it, mix tuna with natural peanut butter. Sounds disgusting but tastes REALLY good and provides healthy fats. To make this a full meal, add some celery, cucumber or other low carb vegetable.
- MEDIUM CARB MEAL – Just pop open your can of beans or bean-soup and eat it with a spoon. Lots of protein, lots of fiber, excellent! It tastes a lot better than you would imagine cold. To make a complete meal add five or six big carrots and an apple or orange.
When you have a microwave, there are a zillion options so I will just share my two favorite bean meals.
- Beans and salsa – Awesome every time. I could eat this every meal, every day, all week long and never get tired of it. Heat up a can of organic black beans for 2 minutes, add a big dollup of salsa, enjoy!
- Beans and yeast – A high protein treat! Heat up a can of organic black beans for 2 minutes, add three huge spoons of nutritional yeast (very high in protein), enjoy! The yeast gives the beans a great nutty, cheesy flavor and adds LOTS of protein!
Canned food tastes like DOG FOOD
“It doesn’t TASTE good”!
What is more important to you, the way your food tastes or the way your body looks and your health? Stop whining and make hard decisions, you can’t have it all. If you want delicious home made meals from fresh foods purchased at the famers market that morning then either allow 2 hours for that every day or hire someone big bucks to be your personal chef. Life is about making goals and prioritizing them. If you want to have a freezer full of healthy, tasty batch cooked, individual serving meals you can pull out and eat then you need to spend 2-4 hours every weekend shopping and cooking for the upcoming week. If you dont want to do any of the above then you can either eat healthy canned food or fast food garbage. Its up to you, make the hard choices and stop whining.
Holier than thou
inb4 all those “holier than thou” judgmental comments from people who shop at the farmers market every morning to buy their fresh food and then spend hours in the kitchen preparing delicious healthy meals. Yes, I would agree that spending 4 hours a day shopping and cooking meals from fresh, locally produced food IS the healthiest BUT who on earth has time for this? Certainly not me and certainly not 99% of Americans. If you have time for this, knock yourself out but stop preaching to everyone else that THEY should do this too because its just not within our means.
I would also warn you that the reason that many people cannot get single digit bodyfat is that their food tastes too good! People love to say its possible to make healthy bodybuilding and fitness meals that are delicious and mouth watering, and I always respond with “photo proof please!”. Seriously, show me physique photos of someone who eats delicious healthy meals all the time. People love to say its possible, but it does not work for 95% of us. If food tastes too good then they we eat too much of it, simple as that.