With the first semester of college now underway, many of you may find yourself stuck inside a dorm room wondering what this means to your muscle-building potential. You made great gains during the summer but that was when you were living at home and had all the access to food you'd ever need.
Now, not only do you have a crammed schedule, but you have limited storage space for food, not to mention minimal, if any, means of cooking it. You may have a meal plan that comes with the school's residency, but it doesn't take much to realize that many items on the meal plan aren't exactly going to promote lean muscle mass.
The bad news? The major issue you're going to be faced with is temptation day in and day out. With all the people you meet at school regularly making midnight trips down to get grease-filled foods to power them through their all-night study sessions, you're going to have to fight the temptation to join them.
Not only will these foods move you in the backward direction, but staying up all night doesn't do much for your natural growth hormone release and recovery either.
The good news? If you put some time and effort into your planning, it's more than possible to maintain a balanced muscle-building diet, even if you don't have a fridge or oven.
Consider A Microwave
First things first, you know by now your cooking methods are very limited. In some cases you may have a small fridge cooler in your room that you can keep cold products, but that's a luxury many won't have.
If you don't have a microwave, you should check about policies for getting one. This will dramatically increase the number of options you have for meals and since microwaves are very small and only run on power, there is a chance you could get this into your room.
Food Choices For Breakfast
For breakfast, you really can't beat oatmeal. If you have a microwave, this is easily made right in the microwave, but even if you don't have that, you can also prepare it using a coffee maker (run the water through the coffee maker and then pour it into the oatmeal to cook).
Or, if you don't want to do either of those, have it raw. You may not be able to have milk with it, but many will mix it right into their protein shake and drink it that way.
Alternatively, there are a number of cold cereals that are healthy and calorie dense as well. As long as you keep the sugar content on the lower side, it should be a good choice. Especially look for lower sugar varieties of granola or cereals with nuts because they typically contain a few more calories, which is helpful for muscle building.
On the protein side of things, protein powder will usually be your best option here since it's convenient, easy to store and really fast to take when you're rushed to get to your first class.
If you prefer a solid source of protein, check and see if you can get some eggs prepared without a great deal of butter at the cafeteria as that would be an option as well.
Food Choices For Lunch
Moving on to lunch, canned tuna will make for a really simple protein source that's cost effective and requires little to no prep work. Have it on whole grain bread, or with rice or pasta, which can be cooked in a microwave as well.
For some healthy fat, add in a couple handfuls of your favorite nuts and finish off with a piece of fresh fruit for added antioxidants. Apples will usually keep for weeks at room temperature so these are good for storing in your dorm room.
Food Choices For Dinner
For the dinner meal, canned salmon will prove to be slightly more substantial than canned tuna since it has a higher healthier fat content and will give you a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
You can also look at some of the flaked canned chicken breast meat products available as many are high in protein and low in fat as well. Both of these will not require refrigeration so are good for protein sources to store.
Since you should avoid high amounts of fish every single day due to the mercury content found in them, having another canned meat you can choose from is a smart plan.
Alternatively, if you can find a low sodium variety of beef jerky that also can be a good source of protein to have in your room.
Some meal plans will offer a decent source of protein for the dinner meal, so consider checking that out too. Even if it does have a bit more fat naturally, as long as you choose well the rest of the day the impact of this will be minimized.
If you can get a baked potato to have with this meal (either from the cafeteria or you can microwave it yourself), that will also be ideal for a carb source. If not, whole grain bread or oatmeal would work again.
If you're having salmon or a fattier meat, the fat intake of this meal will already be taken care of but if not, consider having more nuts or seeds to help get your calorie intake up higher.
Flaxseeds can also be used for healthy fat and this will work really well if you're going to have oatmeal for dinner (since they mix right into it nicely).
Food Choices For Snacks
Finally, you're also going to want to choose some good, calorie dense snacks to have throughout the day since this will allow you to get the calorie intake needed to build muscle.
Good snack options include bagels smeared with peanut butter, whole grain crackers or soft tortilla shells also with peanut butter, trail mix created with whole grain cereal, pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit, as well as some of the protein bars available.
These all contain a good balance of proteins, carbs, and fats to help keep your day balanced and prevent energy spikes and drops throughout the day.
So be sure you are keeping these tips in mind. It's vital that you maintain some form of diet as you progress through your workouts and you definitely do not have to let being in a dorm room stop you from seeing success.