"It's 20 per cent training and 80 per cent diet."
That's long been hailed as the formula for body transformation — the lesson being that while exercise is vital for health, you have to revolutionise how and what you eat to make the biggest changes to how you look.
Overhauling your diet is easier said than done. It's one thing to promise to eat only lean proteins and high-quality carbs and fats, but another thing to do it once you factor in the demands of work, family, and a social life.
Which explains the rise of the prepared meal industry, which now turns over an estimated $972 million in Australia.
Deliver unto meal
You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner delivered to your door and tailored to both your health goals (such as fat loss or muscle gain) and dietary preferences (plant-based).
Store them in your fridge, pop them in your microwave when you're hungry, enjoy your convenient and healthy meal — and await the health gains.
If you're a meal delivery first timer, here are some need-to-knows:
Go fresh, not frozen
All of the providers I reviewed below supply chilled meals that sit in the fridge until you microwave them. These are far better than frozen meals I've previously sampled, which have to be totally thawed — these keep longer, but taste like they've been defrosted.
Bonus advice: after a few days in the fridge, chicken-based meals generally spring back to life better than red meat-based meals. And steer clear of fish-based meals altogether — they are uniformly unpleasant. Fish should never be microwaved.
Many of these meals come with some vegetables, but I recommend adding an extra serve — either fresh or frozen. It not only lends the meals some much-needed crunch, but boosts the nutrition points.
Most of these services average between $10-12 per meal, which may stretch your food budget. On the bright side, that locks you into eating them — and sticking to your diet goals. On the downside, you'll end up with pricey meals rotting in your fridge if you make last-minute plans to meet a friend for dinner.
And a bit repetitive
While there seems to be a lot of variety in meal providers' menus, the texture of reheated meals all start to taste very same-y after a few weeks.
Beware delivery to apartments
I had zero problems having any of my meals sent to my inner-city apartment, but I've heard horror stories from friends who've had their meals pinched, or left sitting in the heat for hours. If possible, have meals delivered on weekends or when you're at home.
There's so much waste
All these meals come in individual plastic containers, and they're delivered in huge boxes lined with protective wrapping (usually gel-filled freezer bags). It's an astonishing amount of packaging — I heard Greta Thunberg's "How dare you" ringing in my ears as I carted it all down to the bin. If you're determined to cut down on plastic use, that rules out any meal delivery service.
Nutrition-wise, your best option is to prepare all your meals yourself in your kitchen so you can precisely control what you're eating.
Obviously, that's a fantasy for many of us.
So healthy meals-on-demand are a good back-up — as a short-term fix to reboot your diet.
But in the name of research, I also trialled four meal providers based in Sydney, asking for meals tailored specifically to muscle growth:
The best of all the services I tried in terms of both the varied, tasty meal choices and the packaging, which conveniently displays the nutrition stats of each meal. (I'm a particular fan of the jalapeno chimichurri chicken.)
My Fitness Kitchn
If you want to pack on muscle you have to eat a lot of calories (not just protein), which is a lot harder than it sounds. This service is an excellent way of delivering those calories in a tasty, nutritious form — one meal I sampled (chicken breast with fettuccine) packed an epic 718 calories.
If you remember the chain of health restaurants of the same name, you know what you're in for: simple and tasty meals. A downside is that the packaging doesn't display nutrition info, although it is available via Thr1ve's website.
Bondi Meal Prep
The ketogenic diet is not one that I'd generally describe as delicious, but this service provides keto meals that taste pretty great. It also uses recyclable materials in its packaging, so it's a great choice if you're trying to cut back on waste (more on that below).
To be honest, the differences between various meal providers aren't huge — so pick one that suits your budget, tastes and health goals, rather than fretting over finding the perfect service.
According to Sam Downing, the secret to wellbeing is just to keep it simple. A qualified personal trainer, fitness instructor and nutrition coach, Sam is also a writer focusing on everyday health.
Follow him on Twitter.