People who want to gain weight for reasons like health, muscle building, endurance or better performance, sometimes tend to think they just need to eat a lot more than they usually do. But just eating more without a specific plan will most likely make you gain fat instead of muscles. It’s very important to find a healthy way to gain weight and the best way to do that is by eating unprocessed food and make sure you get the right nutrients for your body. But what are the right nutrients and the right food to eat? Let’s take a closer look.
Protein is essential when it comes to gaining weight. But not only does it help you build muscles easier. The body needs to use a lot of energy to digest protein, which also causes the body to burn fat. The greatest source of protein is eggs. They are cheap, contain very little carbohydrates and they contain amino acids that your body needs. High protein dairy, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and milk with high percentage, is another great source.
You can also find a lot of protein in seafood, like tuna, salmon and anchovies. Meat, like steak or pork chops, is another well-known source of protein. And chicken is of course a must and should always be on your shopping list. Some other not so known sources of protein are lentils, peanut butter, mixed nuts, tofu, peas and quinoa.
Everytime you workout there is a muscle protein breakdown, and you need to help your body repair and restore the muscle proteins after workout. You do this by eating a correct amount of protein soon after a workout. This will not only repair the broken muscle protein, but also help you build new muscle tissue. The recommendation is that you eat 0,3-0,5 grams of protein per kilo body weight (or 0,14-0,23 grams of protein per pound) right after workout. But do not exaggerate your consumption. A higher amount of protein will not make you grow more muscles, since the body can only absorb and digest a certain amount of protein at a time. The only result you’ll get from eating too much protein is putting your digestive system under great strain. It can also cause dehydration, nausea, exhaustion, headache and irritability. Around 20-40 grams per meal is about what your body can handle and get a positive effect out of.
Carbohydrates, or carbs as they are called for short, is an essential part of getting the quick energy boost you need for workout. When you eat carbs your body break them down into glucose, galactose and fructose. These are needed for the immediate energy. Glucose not used for energy will transform into glycogen to be stored in your liver and muscles for future needs of energy. The glycogen stored in your body is used as fuel when you workout, and you will need carbs to refill the glycogen. Carbohydrates are found in food like fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrain products. Those are the healthy carbs you should eat; not only for energy but also to increase your mental sharpness. On the other hand there are carbs to make sure you avoid. These are for example sugar (like candy, soft drinks and white bread), corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates and sports drinks. The reason you should avoid the latter is that the fuel it supplies is rapidly spent and does not provide any long-lasting energy boost or storage of glycogen. The maximum amount of glycogen a body can store is about 15 g/kg (6,8 g/pound) which is equal to approximately 60 calories per kilo or 27 calories per pound. About 55 percent of your daily intake should come from carbohydrates.
There is a misconception that eating fat makes you fat. That is not true. What makes you fat is an excessive consumption of carbohydrates or consistently eating more calories than you burn. If possible, choose fat containing high levels of Omega-3, for example tuna, salmon and anchovies.
You should always choose full-fat products instead of low-fat products, and try not to eat too much fat before working out. The fat will slow down your digestion (though you still get the benefits from working out) and eating too much fat will cause nausea, so you should preferably eat fat after workout. Food containing good fat, besides the ones mentioned above, are peanut butter, seeds, nuts, avocados and cold-pressed plant oils.
What does all this mean?
It´s hard to figure out the exact amount of protein, carbs and fat you should eat related to your age, body weight and level of workout. But the good news is you don’t have to be an expert. The most important thing is to eat a well-balanced diet where protein, carbs and fat are included. About 35 percent of your daily intake should be protein, 55 percent should be carbs and 10 percent should be fat. Avoid sugar as best you can and make sure you eat both before and after your workout. In addition to your diet you can also use gainers as a complement. More about that in a coming post. And do not forget to drink water. You get a lot of water from food so you don’t have to drink all of it, but you need about 5 deciliters (2 cups) of water three times a day. That will do it.