by Matt Weik
When trying to add quality lean muscle mass to your frame, on top of having a solid training protocol, it comes down to not only a caloric surplus, but it also matters what kinds of foods make up that surplus. Clearly, if you added ice cream to every meal, you’d get to your surplus quite easily. However, that route tends to have you putting on body fat which is the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish here. There are some tips and tricks in the form of kitchen gadgets you need to achieve maximum muscle growth, and I’m going to touch on them below. While these won’t directly build muscle (they’re simply gadgets), they WILL make your meal prep and nutrition much easier to follow and adhere to. You can think of these gadgets more as “convenience” items.
1. Kitchen Scale
One of the easiest ways to make sure you are hitting your daily macros is to weigh out your food. Some people may think this is overkill, but how do you truly know what you’re putting in your body if you are eyeballing everything? You could severely be over/under your macros if you aren’t willing to be precise. A kitchen scale will keep you true and let you know exactly what is in each meal you’re preparing to eat. Get a digital scale to make things easier on yourself. And try to find one within your budgetary constraints that can change back and forth between grams and ounces – this will make your life much easier than having to worry about converting measurements and weights and mitigate some frustration.
2. Slow Cooker
If you are in a rush and don’t have a ton of time to prepare meals such as dinner, a slow cooker will become your best friend. I like to think of it as a “set it and forget it” kitchen gadget. As long as you have all of your ingredients prepared and ready to toss in the slow cooker, you’re good to go. Put everything in, set it on low before you head out the door (make sure you plugged it in – don’t laugh, I’ve forgotten this before when in a rush), and come home to a nice cooked meal. With so many different slow cookers on the market, find one that has the features and specifications you are looking for (temperature settings, digital, timer, cooker size, etc.) and make the investment. You could even get one that is programmable and set it to start at a certain time during the day if you don’t want it on the entire time you’re away.
This should go without saying if you read my articles as I say it frequently – don’t skimp on these appliances. Buy once, cry once. In the long run, the appliance/gadget will work better and last longer than the cheaper versions. With something like a slow cooker, you’ll even be able to save leftovers for other meals such as lunches that you can take with you to work.
3. Rice Cooker
Maybe it’s just me, but others have mentioned similar experiences – there’s just something about rice cookers that make the rice taste so much better than making it any other way. Like the slow cooker, a rice cooker is a set it and forget it kitchen gadget. You can set it in the morning, and come home to perfectly prepared rice. It’s almost impossible to mess up your rice with a rice cooker.
I like to use this in conjunction with the slow cooker. I can use the slow cooker to prepare chicken or some type of meat and obviously the rice cooker will have my rice ready to rock and roll when I return home from work.
Listen to how simple this is… I get home from a long day at work, I grab myself a plate, scoop some rice onto it, add my protein and vegetables from the slow cooker, and BOOM! Dinner is served. It’s that simple. I’m no chef, and because I have no skills in the kitchen, a rice cooker and slow cooker are a saving grace.
I like a blender for two reasons: one is that I love making my own protein shakes, and the second is because if you get a good one it can double as a food processor. This is not a sponsored or paid for plug, but I have the Ninja Blender – and the things is a beast. In fact, when I first got it, I hated it because it was so powerful. I’d be trying to make a protein shake with some ice added to it for thickness and it would basically turn my ice into a liquid. However, I loved the fact that I could put nuts in the blender, fruit, vegetables such as spinach, just about anything and it would mix right up.
I even splurged on the model that came with the tiny little single serving mixer/bottle which my wife loves to make smaller shakes for herself. Me, I like the gigantic 24+ ounce shakes that fill me up and keep me satiated for a while (don’t tell my wife, but I sometimes even drink my shake right out of the blender itself – don’t judge me, it saves washing an additional cup/glass).
5. Measuring Spoons/Cups
Sorry, there’s nothing exciting about measuring spoons and cups. I’d like to say there are special ones out there, but they are all boring. However, they are a necessary evil if you want to make sure you measure everything out correctly for your meals. Personally, I recommend getting the measuring spoons that are stainless steel and have the sizes engraved on the handle. Why? Because if you’ve ever had the plastic measuring spoons with the sizes on the handle as a decal/sticker, you’d know that after a few washings you’re no longer going to be able to make out what they say. The same goes for measuring cups. Get the good glass ones and not the cheapo ones where the lines and numbers fade after two washings.
6. Collapsible Steamer
I’m not going to lie, when my wife pulled this out of the cabinet the first time I thought it was a pasta strainer. Little did I know, this little gem helps produce the quickest and healthiest steamed vegetables. It only costs a few bucks and it’ll last you a very long time – even if you use it every day. When using the collapsible steamer, your vegetables come out hot and tender, while keeping all of the important nutrients in place. When you’re done using it and it’s washed, it folds flat for easy storage so you aren’t left with a huge strainer-looking device that you need a ton of room to store. I use this all of the time for vegetables like broccoli and they come out delicious.
7. Macronutrient Tracker
Ok ok. This isn’t exactly a “kitchen gadget” but it’s one that I feel is extremely important when it comes to reaching your goals so I had to add it to the list. As mentioned earlier in this article, you need to be hitting your numbers without completely blowing them out of the water. How do you ensure you hit your numbers? By tracking your food. You already have a scale. You already have measuring cups and spoons. So, now by adding a tracker like MyFitnessPal, you have the ability to see where you stand nutritionally any time of day.
Enter all of your meals into the app and you’ll be able to see how many calories you hit for the day thus far, how much protein you took in, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, fiber, everything. This is an extremely powerful app right at your fingertips. The best part of it all? It’s FREE! Sure, they have a paid version, but for the things you’re going to be using it for, you should be able to get away with using just the free version.
In addition to the dietary applications, you have the ability to track your progress over time. You can put in your weight and body fat to ensure you are on your way to hitting your growth goals. If you see you are adding some body fat, you can tweak your macronutrients and daily caloric intake to get back on track. With something so user-friendly, easy to use, and free, you can’t go wrong with downloading the app to your smartphone. I highly recommend everyone have and use this app regularly if you want the quickest results. The user interface is loaded with tons of helpful graphs and data and inputting foods is incredibly simple. Is it an extra step compared to what you’re used to? Yes. But I’m telling you, it’s worth it.