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February 2011 Issue
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Gaining weight

So often we are bombarded with articles and advertisements on weight loss but there are lots of people including trampers who want extra strength to help them go further who are trying to do the opposite – gain weight. There is a lot of misinformation around this topic so to clear this up, here are four weight-gain tips:

  1. Be realistic

Everyone has a different genetic potential to grow muscles – for some this seems too easy and for others very hard work. Generally, a body mass gain of between 2-4kg a month is what one could expect to achieve with the appropriate training and nutrition.

  1. Increase your overall intake, not just your protein

A gain of between 2-4kg a month requires an increase in energy intake of approximately 500-1000 calories per day. This is equivalent to an extra meal. Many people find maintaining this increase challenging as it, in most cases, requires quite a lot of organisation and commitment.  

In contrast to popular belief, that increase in calories does not need to come from protein sources alone. You do not need to eat massive amounts of protein when you are trying to gain weight. Whilst there is a small increase in your body’s requirements during this period, it can easily be met by consuming a varied diet that meets your increased calorie needs. Carbohydrate foods such as breads, cereals and fruit are the primary fuel for the body and exercising muscles must be fuelled in order to complete the training that stimulates muscle growth. So yes there is some truth in the fact that you need more protein when you are gaining weight but not a lot more – what you really need is a little more of everything: carbohydrates, proteins and heart-healthy fats.

  1. Have a good training programme

In order for your muscles to grow, they need stimulation so your best bet is to seek the advice of a reputable trainer. Programmes should always be adjusted as your strength develops. It is important to note that one does not need to increase mass in order to increase strength. A strength training programme is slightly different to a hypertrophy (weight gain) programme so be clear about your goals when setting a programme with your trainer.

  1. Be careful with supplements

You should be able to achieve your weight gain through food alone by increasing your portion sizes a little as well as the number of times you eat during the day. For some individuals though, especially those who find gaining weight difficult and eating even more just isn’t very appealing, a supplement may help. The best supplements to choose are those that contain both protein and carbohydrate (not just protein). Adding other foods like milk, yoghurt, banana and other fruits is a good way to increase the calorie and nutritional value even further.

Kathy Fouhy is a New Zealand registered dietician