For an athlete struggling to gain weight, eating can be like a chore. But, gaining weight does not have to be hard or exhausting. Think of it as applying the same effort to proper fueling as you do for your training.
Test the things that you are doing daily. For example, track what you eat so you can know how many calories you are eating each day. It can happen that you are under-eating without even knowing. When you measure this, you can manage it, too.
You can gain weight only if you eat enough, or actually, more than enough calories because you need a calorie surplus. We prepared some tips and ideas for you that can help you gain weight.
Tips for athletes trying to gain weight
How to simply start your weight gain journey:
- Identify how much you are eating and then add 300 to 500 calories per day to your food intake
- Double up your portions if you can, or simply add liquid calories and stay consistent
- Don`t discourage if it doesn`t happen fast, it can`t be done overnight
- Sleep at least seven to nine hours per night because that can have an impact on recovery and synthesizing muscle
- Do not skip your meals or snacks
For active individuals and competitive athletes, gaining weight might not be as easy as it seems. Eating more can get you there, but, there is more to it. You want to gain weight in a healthy way and have functional muscle mass so your performance can be better. Here are seven tips that can be helpful to you:
1. Eat every two to three hours
When you eat more often that will make the increasing energy intake easier and it will allow your body to absorb and utilize a bigger amount of protein. Always have a snack before and after your training so you can use the muscle protein synthesis window.
2. Concentrate on energy density
Eating more and having an energy surplus can be tough on your digestive system. But, choosing the right food and increasing the energy density of foods can help. For instance, you will get the same energy in eating fifteen rice cakes and in a bowl of oatmeal with banana and peanut butter. Additionally, it will be better if you choose avocado spread instead of mustard, whole instead of skim milk, or trail mix instead of crackers.
3. Don`t forget a bedtime snack
Consuming protein before your sleep time will help you increase muscle protein synthesis. Protein-rich snacks are trail mix and milk, greek yogurt with berries and granola, cheese with grapes, and whole grain crackers. Make sure you have your snack.
4. Watch out for appetite suppressants
Try to avoid overconsuming protein powders or protein shakes. Also, alcohol, tobacco, appetite suppressive medications, and stress when even possible. Likewise, over-training can also suppress the appetite and make it more difficult for you to gain weight. Whenever you can stay away from these things.
5. Remember carbohydrates
If you overdo it with your protein intake, you will be too full and that will not increase the functional capacity of your muscles. However, carbohydrates fill your muscles with energy that becomes power, explosiveness, and speed. That is why the key is to focus on carbohydrates.
6. Ask for support if you need it
Seek support from a professional, teammate, dietitian, or coach. Gaining weight is a unique process for every person and if you are struggling, you should ask for help. Many athletes use too much supplementation and they get no results because there are gaps in fueling foundation. Be strategic, and educate yourself about your weight gain plan from a reliable source. They can understand your unique nutrition needs as an athlete and help you effectively and safely reach your goals.
7. Gain weight during your off-season
If you want to increase your weight gradually, the off-season is the best time to do so. One of the reasons is that you have time to focus on that only, not thinking about important events, games, or competitions. During the off-season, you have time to commit to weight gain. Trained, slow growth with no more than two pounds a week, is the best.
Healthy food weight gain tips
As we mentioned, eat frequently and have a snack right before bed. You can add to your vegetables, potatoes, or meat some olive, avocado, or coconut oil. One tablespoon has 120 calories.
To your sandwiches, meals, and smoothies add sliced avocado. To clarify, half of an avocado has 161 calories.
Nut butter and nuts are an easy snack and they are calorie dense. Peanut or almond butter is a good addition to toast or you can pair them with apples and bananas.
Choose higher protein or higher calorie granola and cereals that are low in added sugar. Have two servings with yogurt or milk. Avoid low-fat foods such as fat-free cheese, yogurt, milk, or granola bars.
To shakes and smoothies, you can add peanut butter and oats. One cup of oats has 300 calories and two tablespoons of peanut butter have 200 calories.
Use whole wheat bagels instead of bread when you are making a sandwich. Adds flaxseed, sunflower, or chia to yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, etc. Plan these, and keep healthy snacks in your locker, gym bag, or car. Make sure that you are always prepared for snacking.
Make sure that you are getting nutrients at breakfast. Eggs, toast, and peanut butter with whole-fat chocolate milk are high-calorie and quality options. Avocado egg toast is super easy to make and has a lot of calories. Greek yogurt with nut butter, fruit, and oats is a great idea, too.
Try to eat snacks that are high in calories every two hours. Set an email or alarm reminder on your phone so you will never forget to snack. Eat more energy-dense snacks and drinks without increasing the volume of food you are eating.
Why weight gain can be hard?
Gaining weight can sometimes be harder than losing it when an athlete is constantly training. The key is calorie surplus and making sure that you are getting more energy than you are burning.
Firstly, the training itself is an appetite suppressant. Usually, we are not hungry after an intense and long practice and the last thing we want to do is eat. That is because exercising suppresses appetite by moving our blood flow from our digestive tract and tricking our mind to think that it is not hungry. This last shortly, so we need to prioritize recovery nutrition to get the most out of every training session.
Secondly, some athletes may struggle to put on weight because they often forget to increase their energy intake when they increase their training. Additionally, besides physical activity, normal development and growth burn calories, too, the same as daily life stressors. To gain weight number of calories you consume must be bigger than the number of calories that you burn. It happens that without knowing you are under-fueling your body.
While trying to gain weight it is important to eat healthy food. Depending on several factors, including body size and activity level gaining weight can come differently for every individual.
Try to eat whole, minimally processed, or unprocessed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, whole grains, and lean proteins that should make up all of your diet, or at least the majority. Food like potato chips, bacon, cookies, candies, sugary drinks or sweetened cereals should be limited.
Every change is in some way hard, but be determined and you will reach your goal. Do not hesitate to ask for help if you need it. You can contact us for support, or talk to a dietitian or other professionals. Believe in yourself!