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Nutrition tips and ideas for tradesmen

March 2, 2017

Tradesmen have incredibly active days! I know a lot of tradies who come to the gym where I coach, & I hear a lot about their typical work days & the challenges they face especially when it comes to getting in the right nutrition. Tradesman work long hours, generally start very early in the morning, and their working day involves A LOT of manual labour. In most cases the typical tradies will do more work in the first few hours of their day than the combined physical exertion of the typical office worker throughout their day (including their gym session). This is a credit to all of the tradesman out there!

I think one of the biggest challenges for tradies (especially those who also train hard at the gym, athletes, those who CrossFit etc), is finding the right balance between energy expenditure and food intake to maintain muscle strength and a healthy body weight.  Access to nutrient-rich meals and snacks at the right times is important and something that is not always the easiest in their line of work.

There are many reasons why tradesmen don’t eat enough fresh food and eat too much fast food on the job. Most start work very early, so fast food outlets for breakfast are a convenient (and often times the only) option. Younger guys who may be living away from home for the first time have often just never learned the skills of cooking fresh food. As well as that takeaway is just way more convenient than cooking lean meat and vegetables. And other times, it’s simply a case of no access to healthy food anywhere near the worksite.

So I get it.

The challenges are real & your diet isn’t always going to be perfect, but I hope these ideas will at least give you a few new tips and maybe help you a little bit so that you can improve your nutrition and performance at the gym as well.

First of all, plan ahead:

If you require lots of energy on a daily basis for your work, the most important thing you can do to ensure you eat well is to be organised.  Schedule in a weekly grocery shopping days to stock up on all of the supplies you need. Buy an esky (if you don’t already have one). Cook meals with lots of veggies and make extra food for dinner. Take the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Pack your food the night before:

Try to pack your food the night before. It doesn’t take that long, it’s easy once you get in the routine, and you’ll save time the next day.

Pack healthy snacks that are easy to eat for snacking in between meals:

I think a big mistake lots of tradies make is not eating frequently enough. Because the job you have is very physically demanding and you train hard on top of it, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to be snacking or “grazing” (especially on good protein options) often on healthy foods. I realise that this isn’t convenient for everyone depending on your role and job, but if you can get something in every couple of hours this will help you out heaps with building and maintaining muscle as well as having energy for the gym at the end of a long day. What you don’t want to happen is to have your body start burning your muscle for fuel because it’s not getting enough of the right kind of fuel. So having enough protein throughout the day will make a big difference.

As well as that it will help keep your energy up throughout the day so that you have enough fuel left in the tank for a good training session at the gym after work. Having healthy and easy snacks on hand will keep afternoon hunger/energy lows away.

Another tip, if you know you a have a particularly demanding week ahead of you then consciously increase your portion sizes! If you know you have an easier week ahead of you ease back on the calories and limit any potential fat gain.

Make healthy nutrient dense food choices and you’ll have more energy, be sharper on the job, & you’ll be able to put in better sessions on at the gym or on the footy field etc.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day

Reaching for a soft drink, sports drink or energy drink to get through the day may seem like an easy option but your body and energy levels will suffer in the long run due to all the sugar.  A single bottle of soft drink contains as much as 60g or 12 teaspoons of sugar. Give these drinks a miss if you can. Coffee is a better choice, but nothing beats plain water.

Always keep your water bottle handy and drink lots, particularly in summer. This keeps you energized and won’t cause the sugar crash you can get from sugary drinks.  Aim for water to be your primary drink of choice. Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated makes a huge difference in your training as well.

Now on to some easy meal/snack ideas that are pretty easy to prepare ahead of time.

Good protein ideas *these can be eaten without needing to re-heat:

-Meat patties. These are really yummy cold and you can use any mince meat to make them with, and rotate between pork, turkey, chicken and beef. I like them dipped in a little bit of chili sauce.

-Canned salmon and tuna

-Chicken breast leftover

-Beef strips or beef jerky

-Boiled eggs (easier and better to eat cold than scrambled etc.)

-Cold roast chicken


-Whey protein shakes

-Processed meats are okay as well but I would go easy on them and try not to have them every day.

Good Carb ideas:

Wraps, bread etc.

Cold rice salad

Cold quinoa salads *see recipe idea below

Cold couscous salads *see recipe idea below

Sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot salads

Rice crackers

Overnight oats *good breakfast option, see recipe below

Fruit, always a good carb source. Obviously convenient ones that aren’t too messy would be best, i.e. bananas, apples etc.

Good fat ideas:

Nuts & seeds

Nut butters




Good meal and snack ideas:

Sushi rolls (just make sure you keep it cold)

Caesar salads (you can pack a big protein punch with these, adding boiled eggs, chicken, etc.)

Cold quiches & egg cupcakes *see recipe below

Chicken tandoori *see recipe below

Thai beef salad *see recipe below

Guacamole and chicken strips

Recipe ideas:

The easiest way to work with these recipes is to prep a batch of them ahead of time, divide a carb source with a protein source & a fat source, as well as some extra veggies/salad in individual containers, and you can make quite a few meals to cover a few days at a time.

Overnight oats with blueberries

Servings: 1

(Per serving:)

Calories: 427

Carbs: 58g

Protein: 15g

Fat: 15g


1 cup oats

1 tablespoon chia seeds

10 blueberries

1.5 cups almond milk


Use an airtight container.

Combine all of the ingredients in the container.

Shake container to combine all of the ingredients.

Store in the fridge overnight. Serve cold in the morning! *You can mix in a scoop of whey protein powder to increase the protein as well.


Simple Egg Cupcakes

Servings: 6 (muffins per serving)


1 red capsicum, diced

2 tomatos, diced

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

3 spring onions, chopped

6 whole eggs

4 cups egg whites (can use carton of egg whites)

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 180c degrees. Coat 2 12 cup muffin pans in cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, add the capsicum, tomatoes, basil and spring onions and mix well. In a separate bowl, add the eggs, and beat until combined.

Add 1 tbsp of egg mixture to each muffin slot. Then evenly divide the vegetable mixture into the muffin slots. Finish by filling each slot to the top with the egg mixture.

Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until they are firm on top. Wait until cool to remove from pans.

Add salt and pepper on top.

Macro breakdown:

Recipe serving: 6

Calories: 169

Protein: 26 grams

Carbs: 4 grams

Fat: 6 grams


Couscous Salad


1 box (350 grams) couscous

2 lemons juiced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 piece (100 grams) low fat feta cheese, crumbled

3 plum tomatoes chopped

1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 onion finely chopped

1 can sliced black olives (70grams) drained and rinsed

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped


Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place your couscous in a separate bowl. Add the boiling water and mix well. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or according to package instructions.

In a small bowl, add your lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, mustard and oil. Whisk to combine the ingredients well.

In a different bowl, combine the cooked couscous, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives, pepper, and parsley. Once mixed, stir in the lemon juice mixture.

This dish can be served warm or cold.

Macro breakdown:

Recipe servings: 8 (serving size: 1 cup cooked)

Protein: trace

Carbs: 30 grams

Fat: trace


Lemon and Coriander Quinoa


1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped


Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. Once cooked, add the lemon juice and fresh coriander. Mix well and serve.

Macro breakdown:

Recipe servings: 3 (serving size: 1 cup cooked)

Protein: trace

Carbs: 30 grams

Fat: trace


Tandoori Chicken Breast with cucumber salad

Servings: 6


3 cups plain yogurt

2 tablespoons peeled grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus a bit for the pan

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

750 skinless, boneless chicken breast

1 teaspoon salt

For the cucumber salad:

2 medium cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey


In a large bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine the yogurt, ginger, coconut oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate in the fridge for 2 hours or even better, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C degrees. Lightly coat a roasting pan with coconut oil.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard any leftover marinade. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with the salt and place in a single layer in the prepared roasting pan.

Bake for around 30 minutes turning once, until browned and cooked through.

Meanwhile make the cucumber salad. In a colander toss the cucumbers with the salt and let sit for 20 minutes to render its liquid. Press any excess liquit out of the cucumber and then rinse with cold water and pat dry.

In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar and honey to combine. Add the cucumber and toss to coat.

Serve hot, accompanied by the cucumber salad.

(You can save leftover chicken in the fridge to use for other meals)

Macro Breakdown (per serving):

Protein: 25 grams

Carbs: 10 grams

Fat: 6 grams


Thai beef salad:


1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar (or palm sugar)

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, crushed

130g beef rump steak

1 x 200g pkt grape tomatoes, halved

1 continental cucumber, halved lengthways, thinly sliced diagonally

1 red onion, halved, cut into thin wedges

2 long fresh red chillies, halved, deseeded, thinly sliced lengthways

1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked, large leaves torn

1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked

1 bunch fresh Thai basil, leaves picked, large leaves torn

55g (1/3 cup) toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

4 kaffir lime leaves, centre veins removed, finely shredded


Whisk together lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic in a jug. Place the steak in a glass or ceramic dish. Drizzle with half the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge, turning occasionally, for 2 hours to develop the flavours.

Preheat a barbecue grill or chargrill pan on high. Cook steak on grill for 2-3 minutes each side for medium or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate. Cover with foil and set aside for 10 minutes to rest.

Place the tomato, cucumber, onion, chilli, mint, coriander, basil, peanuts and lime leaves in a large bowl. Thinly slice steak across the grain and add to the salad. Drizzle with remaining dressing and gently toss to combine.

Macro breakdown:

Carbs: 7g

Fat: 15g

Protein: 30g



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