Gaining weight and consequently building muscle requires the same consistent effort that challenges individuals when they are trying to lose weight. And much like weight loss, there are a number of misconceptions that can distort the facts.
First, it’s important to keep in mind that excess protein intake doesn’t equate to building muscle. Rather muscle tissue is built through a combination of balanced nutrition and an appropriate progressive training program.
Nutritionally, you’ll want to strive for eating balanced meals that include carbohydrates, lean protein, and fat to fuel your body- plus 300-500 extra calories each day above the calorie requirement to maintain your current body weight. To calculate the number of calories needed to maintain your current body weight, feel free to check out the Daily Caloric Needs Estimate Calculator.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that you eat at least every 3-4 hours to help boost nutrient availability- which is necessary for muscle growth. This is especially important around workout sessions. Before and after your strength-training routine, you’ll want to aim for a snack rich in carbohydrates along with about 10-20 grams of protein (SCAN, 2010). A few examples to try may be:
• Chocolate Milk
• Peanut Butter & Crackers
• ½ Sandwich with Lean Meat-such as deli-style turkey or ham
• Yogurt & Granola
• Sports Bars or Meal Replacement Shakes
• Cottage Cheese and Fresh Fruit
Your fitness routine should center on strength building exercises to help utilize the extra calories for muscle growth (ACE, 2013). A good strength training routine may begin with 6-8 exercises working all the major muscle groups. Start with one set of 8-12 repetitions, working muscles to fatigue. As you begin to gain muscle, you’ll find it easier to complete the 12 repetitions-an indicator that your program may need to be modified or “ramped up” to help you continue seeing benefits. Working with a certified fitness professional is a good way to ensure you’re working in good form and that your routine stays fresh, challenging and appropriate to your goals.
Weight changes can take time but with a little consistency and patience, your efforts will certainly payoff in the end.
Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN), Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition Fact Sheet, January 2010.