Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bulking Up: Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

I just took a trip down to Raleigh and stayed with one of my old college friends!  When I was in school with him a couple years back he was the number one fan of some of the South’s least healthy comfort foods such as sweet tea, fried chicken and Cook Out (a southern fast food chain). Recently however, he has taken a vested interest in his health and now aims to gain weight without having to bring back Cook out, fried chicken, and sweet tea to his daily diet. Often times weight gain is assumed to only occur through empty calories and junk food detrimental to your health…but that doesn’t have to be the case.  Since my friend was nice to let me stay with him I figured I’d help him out!
I did some research and found a lot of the same sports nutrition concepts I learned as a runner:
1.     Glycogen from carbohydrates is the main source of fuel for the muscles If you live an active lifestyle you must consume an adequate amount of carbs. To gain weight you must saturate your muscle with glycogen (3-5 grams per pound of body weight)
2.     Protein is needed to restore muscle fibers and the amino acids from proteins are needed for muscle growth and repair. HOWEVER, the body does not store excess protein as BULGING muscles! You need about .7-.9 g per lbs body weight and the rest will be lost in urine.
3.     Timing is key! If you are trying to gain weight healthfully it is important to fuel properly before and after workouts. Consume small meals throughout the day instead of large ones. It is ideal to eat at least every four hours consuming a combination of carbohydrates and protein! This will ensure that your muscles have a decent supply of fuel consistently throughout the day and are not being broken down for fueling during fasting periods.
Ok… the nutrition concepts don’t change you get it! But how does that apply to gaining muscle weight and bulking up without adding fat? The most important and only way to gain muscle is an effective weight lifting or resistance training routine! Your muscle fibers get bigger when you overload them with strength training period.

Where does eating come in? If you want to gain weight you need to eat more calories!! The trick to gaining muscle and not fat is ensuring that when you increase calories you maintain BALANCE in your diet. The best way to add muscle mass is to stick to a healthy diet containing 55-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 10-15% of calories from protein and less than 30% of calories from fats.
Here are some tips and tricks for adding calories in healthy way to build muscle and avoid unwanted fat:
1.     Choose more calorie dense foods to increase calorie content without increasing volume in your stomach making you uncomfortable.–For example, choose more calorie dense fruits and vegetables. Bananas, pineapples and mangos have more calories than water loaded fruits like oranges and grapefruits. Peas, carrots and corn have more calories than dark green vegetables.
2.     Limit your intake of bad fats because they are harmful to your heart health and may hinder your workout.–Focus on healthy fats such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds, avocados, olive oil, and oily fishes such as tuna and salmonIn order to gain 1 pound per week theoretically it takes 500 added calories per day! This is a good place to start! It maybe helpful to keep a daily log for a couple days to see how you normally eat and figure out where you can add in that extra 500 or so calories in a balanced way!!
Good Luck and be patient! The best-trained athletes gain weight slowly!

Resource: Nancy Clark’s Nutrition Guide Book

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