‘I want to get big’. A statement many a dietitian has heard. And yes, some athletes, and people do need to gain muscle mass. But how much weight gain for athletes is actually realistic? And what is required?
An increase of 0.25-0.5kg per week is to be expected in the initial phase of weight gain, but this does depend on genetics and training history.
One key point to remember is that it is very difficult to gain pure muscle without gaining some fat as well. This is not achievable for most individuals as gaining muscle and losing fat have differing nutritional goals, and may not be aligned with nutritional requirements to optimize performance.
How do I do it?
Key things to remember?
- Increase energy consumption. Your muscles cannot grow without sufficient fuel. Regular meals, and use of high energy snacks and fluids is a useful way of increasing kilojoule consumption, without increasing food volume.
- Timing of meals important. Inclusion of the correct nutrients at the correct times is essential. Have a chat to your sports dietitian to make sure you are having the right things at the right times.
- Planning is essential. When you need to get that much food in, knowing what you’re eating and when you’re eating it makes it much easier on yourself; why be stressed if you don’t need to be?
- Protein: Many people think they need more protein than they actually do. A resistance training athlete needs 1.5-1.7g/kg/day at the early stage of training, whilst in steady state it is only 1-1.2g/kg/day. Use post work out doesn’t need to exceed 20g, and contrary to popular belief, at this point in time there is no evidence to show that pre-workout protein is useful. That said, given more kilojoules are needed to gain muscles, having some extra doesn’t hurt.
What about supplements? As most of you probably know, there are some fantastic ones out there, but most are just hype. My advise would be to check with your dietitian about which ones might be right for you!
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you'd like our help in managing diet-related health issues.