It’s that time – time to get ready for the upcoming sports season – and for many that means trying to get bigger and stronger. When people think of building strength and mass, they think of lots of food and lots of heavy lifting. This is what is happening in essence, but there is more to the story if you want to do it right. Building size and strength is not just about how much food you eat and how much weight you lifted that day, it is also about what foods you eat and when they are being consumed.
In our first article, “Nutrition 101: The Basics” (Valley Sports Magazine, Fall 2012) we explained the differences between good foods and bad foods (i.e., usable calories vs. empty calories). In our second article, “Eating for Weight Loss” (Valley Sports Magazine, Winter 2013), we discussed the importance of maintaining the balance of nutrients while reducing the intake of bad foods and reducing overall caloric intake on a manageable basis. When the goal is to build mass, more calories need to be taken in than are needed for daily energy use.
According to a University of Arizona study, a woman would need a caloric equivalent of 10-12 times her body weight and a man 12-14 times to support their minimal metabolic activity for the day. For example, a 100-lb woman would need 1000-1200 calories per day to maintain her body weight and a 200-lb man would need 2400-2800 calories per day. This, of course, will increase based upon the levels of exercise and strenuous activity the individual participates in during the day and may vary up to 80 percent more for a highly-active person. Rate the strenuousness of your workout on a scale of 1-to-10; use that as a multiplier to calculate your caloric needs.
For example, a 200-lb male athlete participating in an intense workout routine (rated at 8) may need up to 5000 calories per day just to maintain their weight [200 lbs x 14 (daily metabolic need) x 1.8 (workout multiplier)] = 5040 calories.
In order to gain weight, one needs to consume more calories than is needed to support one’s daily metabolic activity. There are approximately 3500 calories per pound. So, if a 150-lb male athlete wanted to gain ten pounds of pure muscle, he would need a surplus of 35,000 extra calories over an extended period of time.
That’s a lot of food, right? Break it down: if you simply take in an extra 500 calories per day, you can gain a steady one pound of lean mass per week. These gains are attainable, and most importantly maintainable!
It is not just the number of calories that matter, but the quality of the calories as well. The 500 calories in a couple of slices of pizza are not the same as 500 calories coming from lean meats, potatoes and vegetables. Healthy calories carry more macronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and vital amino acids that help repair and build muscle tissue. The calories from pizza don’t do this and are therefore empty and wasted calories.
For that same 150-lb athlete, the macronutrient ratio should be: 200-250g of protein (1-1.5gm/pound of bodyweight); 450-600g of carbohydrates (3-4 gm/lb); 50-100g of healthy fats (vital fatty acids).
For optimal results, eat throughout the day; five to six balanced meals will feed the muscles and body continuously and help to build stronger and bigger physiques. Every meal should be balanced, nutrient–rich, and higher in calories.
Adding calorie-dense whole foods (such as nuts, avocadoes, peanut butter, etc) is very important. Skip the breakfast cereals and go for the whole eggs with oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. Have a protein shake or protein bar for snack. Peanut butter sandwiches (yes, multiple sandwiches) on wheat/whole grain breads or chicken, sweet potatoes, and sliced avocado and veggies make a good lunch. Have another high-calorie snack (like bananas and peanut butter) in the afternoon. Eat a good dinner with a lean meat (steak or chicken) with brown rice and a small salad with nuts. End your day with a protein shake before going to bed.
It can be difficult – with full schedules, busy school days, and after school activities – to consume all the necessary meals with the right amount of good calories. There will be times when it is difficult to consume whole foods (like in between classes, after school, between activities); high calorie protein shakes (like Weight Gainers) are a great alternative and highly-recommended after workouts and practice. Added supplements like Branch Chain Amino Acids and Glutamine will help repair and maintain lean muscle mass. This will allow the body to burn more fat for fuel, building stronger, leaner muscles.
Warning: The use of anabolic steroids and unproven supplements promising quick results is highly discouraged, despite all the hearsay and internet chatter you may hear about it! The unregulated, unsupervised abuse of synthetic drugs for muscle development and performance carries many short-term and long-term risks. These include: acne, testicular atrophy, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver damage/failure, male characteristics in females, cardiovascular problems, stunted growth, ligament and joint injury, neurological issues.
The safest method for weight gain for mass and strength is nutritional, using a healthy calorie surplus plan. Consistency is the key to success! Fuel your body correctly and reap the benefits.
Nadia Rexwinkel is a certified sports nutritionist and an active NPC Bikini Competitor. She and her husband John are the owner/operators of Nutrishop Redhawk, 44054 Margarita Rd, Ste 3, Temecula, CA 92592. (951) 302-2776, www.nutrishopredhawk.com. Nutrishop will provide a nutritional consultation and a customized meal plan for free to Valley News readers. Mention this article, sports magazine or weekly newspaper for your free consultation.