When it comes down to becoming a stronger athlete, nutrition plays a primary role. In order for our tissues to move heavier loads they must get larger. In order for this appreciable gain in size to occur, our tissues must get in enough calories to provide for our daily training, practice, and other life demands. This gain can only come at a price, and the price is very simple. If you dedicate your time and effort to accomplishing your goal of gaining muscle mass you will become a better performer on the field. Therefore, let yourself strive for greatness in training and in life, not weakness.
How Do I Gain Weight? Girls Not Exempt
Simple. Eat like it’s your job. If the athlete reading this really documented their nutrition on a daily basis, they would probably see they eat like a bird most of the time. He or she might frequently eat at fast food chains at the end of the day to make up for their lack of preparation for the day itself. I cannot stress the importance of meal preparation enough. No matter who you are, you have time to make your meals. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal and a packed lunch. For starters, engrain in your mind you need to eat constantly. Having three big meals through the day is a nice way to ensure you are getting enough calories in. The fillers come from snacks like whole milk with a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Do not bother counting calories or whatever else, eat right and train hard.
What Do I Eat?
In the previous paragraph, I gave you a little snippet about a snack idea. Most of your meals will probably mimic a “cheat” meal because the goal is weight gain. You cannot gain weight eating tons of clean calories, i.e. broccoli, nuts, and egg whites for every meal. This is not efficient nor would you do it anyway. In truth, most of your calories don’t need to be from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates hold onto molecules of water which aid in your energy, strength levels, and help you gain weight. Carbs will also get you hungry faster, if you’ve ever had sushi you know what I’m talking about. The feeling you get of hunger when eating sushi is due to the white rice elevating and lowering your blood sugar levels. Good news for you, you want to eat again! Anytime you have trouble wanting to eat more, just focus on starchy carbs like potatoes and rice. However, it should be noted that more carbs are not the be all end all, you must focus on the entire meal.
Here is a shopping list for the parent/athlete to work with; this is your new homework assignment.
CARBOHYDRATES FATS and OILS (cooking)
Grains (Energy replenishment) Coconut oil
Oats Olive oil
White Rice, Brown Rice Flax Oil
Quinoa Fish Oil
Sweet Potato, Yams Ghee
Breads (Ezekial or Whole Grain) Butter (Kerrigold)
Whole grain Pasta
Greens (Eat w/oils, fats)
Spinach Coconut Water
Bell Pepper Coconut Milk
Broccoli Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Zucchini DAIRY (choose FULL fat)
Asparagus Whole Milk
Mushroom Goat Milk
Green Beans Cheese
Fruits NUTS n SEEDS
Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries) Natural Peanut Butter
Peach Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower seeds
Quality of What You Eat
Just because you need to eat a lot to improve your training does not mean you can eat garbage foods all the time. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t read what is on the ingredient list don’t eat it. You may have noticed most of the foods listed are of decent quality and somewhat “clean” calories. You CAN gain weight using this list. However, it is not that important to follow this list to the “T.” Stay to the list as best as you can and allow for cheat meals a couple days of the week when you’re feeling very hungry, tired, and weak.
Cheat Meals, Fast Food Restaurants, and Sweets
This one I may be on thin ice with. Many strength coaches who know what they are talking about will encourage the athlete to avoid these a majority of the time. But this is America, and we are free to eat what we want. Whatever it is, pizza, burgers, burritos, or chips, if you are craving it, go for it. Choose a couple days of the week where you have these indulgences and eat it. Sweets are something I would be more mindful of. Anything that can stay on the shelf for years is not something you want in your body. This type of treat will not aid in your recovery as an athlete and can destroy progress. As a tip, stick with the occasional ice cream or frozen yogurt on cheat days.
Boys vs. Girls
Boys, let me start off by saying that six-pack abs are overrated. Would you rather be a force to be reckoned with on the field or more worried about your summer six-pack? I would rather have someone ready for battle on the field with me than someone ready for a photo-shoot. Although size and decent physique are not impossible to achieve together, they are two different goals and nobody cares what your abs look like if your tearing up the scoreboard. Forget about your abs, train hard, and eat BIG meals. From the high school up to the pro levels, if want to gain weight put forth the effort and get ready for some serious eating.
Girls, when I say mass building I mean lean muscle mass building, this is the good kind of building. Just because guys make up 99.99 % of the majority looking to gain weight, does not mean that you should be looking to avoid doing so! Truthfully ladies, looking like a super model does not necessarily make you healthy nor the best athlete. The misconception that the “ideal woman” is a string bean was fed to your brain by the deceiving global media machine. In reality, you are not going to look like a huge jacked up steroid monster lifting heavy weights and eating lots of food. In fact, you will get toned and look great! Now if you are overweight and can lose some weight for better movement, there are adjustments to your nutrition that should (and can) be made. Boys, same goes for you’re on the heavy side. This article is about strength gains, size gains, and calorie consistency, not limitation. Obviously caloric differences will apply because girls have smaller structure. You won’t be eating as much as the boys, but eating a lot should still be in your daily repertoire.
How can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you are? Track your progress weekly by keeping weigh-ins, diet logs, and your daily nutrition count to see if your food calories is up to snuff.
Drink it. You should be carrying around a gallon of water with you everywhere. If you want to be taken as a serious athlete you need to drink water constantly. Water intake varies per person so use this basic formula to determine how much you need per day.
Bodyweight(kg) x 0.333 = liters of water per day you should be drinking
1 kilogram(kg) = 2.2 lbs
Example: 220 lbs / 2.2 = 100kg
100kg x .0333 = 3.3 liters
Goal = 3.3 liters of water per day.
There are several options per meal time, not intended to be one meal.
Example 200lb guy
1 cup oatmeal, 1 tbs peanut butter, blueberries, 4 whole eggs, 1 cup orange juice.
Spinach Omelet cooked in butter, 3 slices Ezekial bread with jelly
Cereal with sliced banana and whole milk, 4 egg whites, 4 bacon slices
2 Tuna Sandwiches on whole grain toast
2 Peanut butter and Honey sandwiches
Whole grain pasta in turkey meat sauce, salad w/olive oil
Homemade Pizza with mozzarella cheese, ground beef, bell peppers, and olive oil – 4 slices
To me, supplements are an easy way out. Focus on your eating. Supplements come and go, so spend your money on food, not a poorly made product. Not only are quality supplements few and far between, they are also very expensive. If you really want a protein shake, drink 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon of whole milk or coconut milk a day.
The athletes I work with do a good job of getting to bed on time. This is HUGE for recovery and strength gains. Take naps during the day and get 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Testosterone levels are higher when your body’s cortisol levels are down. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone and can reek major havoc on progress and must be kept low, especially at night. The best way to do this is to turn off the lights, television, computer, and wind down by 9:00 p.m. You should be asleep by 10:30 p.m. at the latest. Have your body work for you, not against you.
“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”
Matt Brown earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health from San Diego State University. Matt holds a CSCS and NSCA – CPT credential. Matt competed in athletics from a very early age, from soccer to baseball, and eventually to high school football and track where he was a standout athlete in both. After graduating from high school Matt turned his focus from competing in sports to understanding how the body functions both during sports and everyday movement. He believes the body is an amazing organism and his passion ever since high school was to learn how this organism functioned both in high performance and everyday life.