As with weight reduction, the eating plan for weight gain should be similar to the meal plan you would follow if you were trying to maintain weight but calories to support lean-tissue gain. Exactly how much extra has not been established, but the general recommendation is to increase energy intake by about 500 calories per day above daily needs, and to meet your protein and carbohydrate needs. Protein, of course, supplies the amino acids needed for growth, and carbohydrate spares the amino acids so that they can be used to build muscle rather than be converted to blood sugar.

Increasing calories above those of an already high intake, however, is easier said than done. You need to be diligent in your efforts, refrain from skipping meals,and pay attention to meal timing. I was always amazed when I asked the college athletes I counseled for weight gain about their food intake immediately before our appointment, which was typically in the late morning or early afternoon following practice. 

“Nothing for breakfast,” they would say. “Nothing after practice,” they would follow. “Really?” I always responded. “You are trying to gain weight but you have not eaten anything yet today.” These athletes were ignoring some of the basics of gaining weight, which include spreading food intake throughout the day and taking advantage of post exercise meal timing. Ingesting carbohydrate and protein following training promotes muscle protein synthesis, so you don’t want to miss this window when your goal is to maximize weight gain.

You can take in an extra 500 or so calories each day by eating larger-than normal portions of healthy foods as part of a well-balanced diet or by adding an extra snack or two (of approximately 250 calories each) to your current intake.Keep bulky low-calorie foods such as whole-grain cereal, salads, and soup toa minimum because they are too filling in relation to the calories they provide.In contrast, healthy shakes, smoothies, fruit juice, and other liquid supplements along with dried fruit and nuts provide an easy way to squeeze the calories in. Healthy sources of fat, including olive oil, avocado,flaxseed oil, low-trans-fat margarine, and nuts and seeds, can be added if you have already met your carbohydrate and protein needs.

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