Healthy Muscle and Weight Gain Strategies

I used to teach sports nutrition to the athletes at the local high school. The basketball coach told me pointing to one of his players, “That kid needs to gain weight or he’s going to get cut next year (his senior year). You need to help him gain weight.” That kid was one of the best players on the team, but he was small and skinny. “Would coach really cut him? He’s too good to get cut!” I thought. That kid and I both needed to make a fast break and slam dunk before next season! I met with the team throughout that season and these are some of the methods I taught them to gain weight for peak performance.

By the way, today, “that kid” is playing for the NBA!

  • Add supplement drinks (i.e., protein shakes) in addition to meals, not as a replacement for meals.
  • Eat lots of starchy veggies such as potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and beets.
  • Reduce fluid intake just before mealtime, as it reduces appetite.
  • Eat your main course first, but also make sure to eat your colorful veggies!
  • Take a general multiple vitamin approved by your physician.
  • Amino acids for bodybuilding: glutamine, arginine, alanine, carnitine, ornithine, branched chain amino acids or BCAA, methionine—methionine is critical for creating creatine—food sources include fish, grains, beans, nuts, poultry, seeds, oatmeal, couscous, and millet.
Amino Acid – Arginine (I don’t endorse any brand over another)
  • The amino acid arginine builds muscle, enhances the metabolism of fats, assists in releasing growth hormone from the pituitary gland, and helps fight off infections (Heal With Amino Acids and Nutrients, Billie Jay Sahley, Ph.D. And Katherine M. Birkner, CRNA, Ph.D.). Creatine forms from the amino acid arginine.
    • Subnormal levels of arginine are consistent with muscle weakness, fatigue, and chronic infections. Arginine is very safe with minimal side effects (avoid supplementing if you are experiencing herpes infection—please check with your doctor. Follow instructions on the bottle).
    • Arginine food sources include milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, and meat.
    • Arginine can be combined with glutamine, ornithine, and lysine to enhance growth hormone production.
    • Creatine taken out of balance with other amino acids can cause dehydration and muscle cramping. It can also cause stomach upset and diarrhea.
    • Supplementing with arginine lets the body convert it to creatine naturally.
    • Your body naturally produces creatine in the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Creatine is made of three amino acids: arginine, methionine, and glycine. It is found in pork, beef, chicken, and fish.
    • Vegetarians have lower levels of creatine in their bodies.
  • Eat enough calories! You can’t gain size and strength without eating enough calories. Eat roughly 20 times your body weight in calories per day. Example: 160-pound growing teen should consume around 3200 calories. Breakfast = 800 calories, post-workout or practice meal = 800 calories, four other meals or snacks = 400 calories each.
  • Eat protein at every meal and snack. Do not eat carbohydrates without protein. Combine apple + peanut butter, crackers + cheese, yogurt + fruit, veggies + meat, etc..
    • Lean meats include sirloin, chuck, loin, and round
    • Choose “choice” or “select” grades rather than prime
    • Eat extra lean ground meats
    • Lean pork cuts include loin chops or tenderloin.
    • Remove skin from poultry.
    • Remove visible fat from meat and poultry before cooking
    • Choose cold-water fish high in omega-3 fats, such as wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring
    • Eat a variety of beans combined with brown or wild rice
    • Enjoy soy. Mix it in with rice or spaghetti, and you’ll never know it’s there!
    • Eat a variety of raw, unsalted nuts, seeds, and nut butters. Try various nut and seed butters such as almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter, tahini butter (made from sesame seeds), sunflower seed butter, pumpkin seed butter, poppy seed butter.
    • Eat a variety of whole grains. Oatmeal is one excellent choice!

****Please see your physician before beginning any weight gain program or before supplementing vitamins, herbs, amino acids, and any additional supplements.****

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

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