4 Nutrition Tips to Help Athletes Build Muscle

For many athletes, gaining weight is a source of pain and frustration.  In many sports, size can be a limiting factor in performance, or even in seeing the field at all. 

The problem is there is an  over abundance of info on how to gain muscle. If you were to google “How athletes can gain weight” 73,200,000 search results would pop up.  I know, because I’ve done it.   And like most things on the internet, 98% of is overcomplicated and garbage.

So today, we’re going to give you what you want.  What’s real, and what actually works.

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Eat Whole Foods 

No you don’t actually have to go to Whole Foods to get whole foods.  Although it wouldn’t be a bad place to start. What I mean when I say whole foods is, you know, actual REAL food with nutritional value.  Often times, we’ll see athletes who eat nothing but chips, granola bars, and crackers. These are not whole foods, these are snacks. 

Most are usually short on calories and short on nutrients, and in order for an athlete to perform at their best, they need both. When putting together a meal plan, athletes should think of things in categories.  Protein, carbs, fat, veggies, and fruit. Your goal should be to include all of those food categories in your meals throughout the day.

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Tip:  Instead of eating a bowl of frosted flakes and orange juice in the morning, try 3 eggs, toast, and berries.  That is a much better way to start out the day.



 Gain Weight Slowly 

When gaining weight, athletes need to have the right mental approach.  Often times athletes will say they want to gain 20+ pounds as a weight gain goal and want to accomplish it in a short period of time.  There are a couple big problems with this.  

One, is it makes the task of gaining weight seem very daunting.  Rather than just thinking about gaining 20 pounds, think about how long you have to gain the weight. If you have 4 months before the season starts, then you only have to gain 5 pounds a month.  The task of gaining weight now seems much more manageable.

The other problem with a fast weight gain approach is the concern of athletes gaining bad weight.   When athletes gain weight too fast we have to start worrying about the athlete gaining the wrong, sloppy kind of weight and losing speed.  At the end of the day, an athlete who weighs 7 pounds less but is significantly faster will always win. 

Tip: When gaining weight an athlete should focus on gaining 1-2 pounds per week.  Anything more than that and you risk adding additional body fat.

“Sneak In” Calories 

At the end of the day, gaining weight and muscle is largely a numbers game.  The number that matters most is calories ingested (how much you eat per day) vs calories expended (energy burned throughout the day).  That’s where many athletes fall short. The challenge is it’s often hard to physically eat more calories, or there are time restrictions that inhibit you from eating more.

adding in oil to a shake is one way to add calories

adding in oil to a shake is one way to add calories

One way to counteract this problem is to “sneak in” higher caloric food into your day.  These higher caloric foods includes things like:

  • Olive or coconut oil

  • Nut butters 

  • Trail Mix (not the m&m kind!!) 

  • Dried Fruit 

  • Heavy Cream 

  • Flax Seeds

It’s usually much easier to add in an extra 300 calories of these foods, than adding in an extra 300 calories of something less calorie dense, like brown rice.

Tip : Try adding in a tablespoon of olive oil to your shake, oats, and fruit to your shake.  Basically a homemade weight gainer without the expensive price tag 

 

Proper Supplementation  

There is a reason that supplements are listed last here.  If you don’t have the other stuff lined up, supplements don’t mean jack.  You cannot out-supplement a bad diet.

Having said that, there are supplements that can certainly help you substantially in your weight gain process.  There are many supplements that claim to help build muscle, but these are the ones we recommend:

**note:  I did not mention Protein, as I’m sure many of you are aware of it and it’s benefits

Creatine

Let’s get this out of the way, no creatine WILL NOT wreck your kidneys,  and you WILL NOT test positive for steroids if you take it. Creatine is one of the most well researched supplements of all time, and has not shown to have any documented adverse side effects.  Despite that there is still this stigma around it.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance and is found in red meat, poultry, and fish.  Here’s what creatine actually does do:

  1. Increases your cell’s energy production 

  2. Increases lean muscle mass 

  3. Improves performance during high intensity exercise 

  4. Has been shown to increase cognitive performance 

Our preferred brand of amino acids

Our preferred brand of amino acids

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  They are an integral part of athletic and overall nutrition.  There are MANY benefits to taking aminos, but here are a few.

  1. Increase muscle mass 

  2. Prevent muscle wasting 

  3. Decrease muscle soreness 

  4. Decrease body Fat percentage 

Tip:  For amino acids, we have seen great results with the Ultrahuman brand and for Creatine, go with an extremely basic option without any additives such as this.


Despite all the information out there , there’s one thing to remember about gaining muscle…It’s simple. However, simple doesn’t mean easy.

Yes these tips that I’ve shared with you are simple to implement, but they take consistency, and diligence. There is no magic bullet, but here’s a good place to start.