Clean Weight Gain Tips

“I am looking to gain weight.  Should I eat whatever I want?”

If you are looking to gain some fat, then yes–by all means drink regular soda and eat Yodels.  Gaining “clean muscular weight” is a challenging task and requires a strategy.  Here are some tips to follow:

1. Take in enough calories. Before discussing types of calories, it is imperative that the body has enough to put on a clean gain.  You will lose muscle and fat without eating enough calories.  If you are not a fan of counting and food logging, one way to know if you are eating enough is by gauging hunger levels post meal.  Stay in the range of 80-90% full but not over 100% (stuffed).

2. Spread meals out, as in six-seven little meals versus three big ones.  Doing so will allow your body to firstly, speed up your metabolism and, secondly, digest the calories it needs versus having to store a ton of excess.  Eating breakfast is important to take the body out of the “catabolic state” (breaking down muscle and fat).

3. Eat enough fat. It may seem counterintuitive, but eating enough fat (with the exception of trans-fat) will help you avoid a fat gain.  Confused?  Fat preserves muscle and acts as an energy bank when we are hungry.  When we eat fat, we secrete lots of enzymes.  One in particular, Gastric inhibitory peptide (GIP) slows gastric emptying (meaning food sits in the stomach longer) and signals insulin (another hormone) to be secreted.  Insulin will make sure our food gets digested, but in addition, signals the body’s hunger hormones to shut off by saying, “hey guys, we have food in the belly now! No need to be hungry anymore.”  Getting enough fat also ensures that we have healthy lubrication for our joints and aren’t taking in too many calories through protein or carbohydrate.

Types of fat to consume: instead of french fries and cookies, try avocado, nuts, olive oil and olives.

4. Eat lean sources of protein. Consuming protein before and after resistance exercise optimizes gains in muscle mass and power. Anabolic (muscle building) is highest at night, and so consuming a small protein snack before bedtime (e.g., turkey, egg or cottage cheese) can enhance the availability of amino acids (building blocks of protein) and protect the lean body mass throughout the night.  This is only necessary if you did not consume an enormous dinner.  While the need for protein during exercise is still up in the air, it is not harmful if you are lifting heavy for 45- 1 hour or more.  Adding some protein powder to a sports drink can lower markers of muscle damange and reduce post exercise soreness, according to some recent studies.

Types of protein to consume: instead of a burger, try turkey, fish, eggs, legumes, beans, grilled chicken and veal.

5. Be smart with carbohydrate choices. Immediately post-exercise and during, sugar has less of an inflammatory effect since you will quickly oxidize it (use it).  Surrounding the workout is the best time to have “processed carbs” if you choose to eat them, such as white bread, jams, white rice, noodles and juices.  When eating outside of the exercise time frame (which includes the hour before and hour after the exercise session), choose whole grain or starchy vegetables as the carb source.

Types of carbs to consume outside of the workout time period: instead of white pasta, try brown rice or whole grain bread.  Try sweet potatoes and corn.

6. Don’t overeat inflammatory foods. Yodels, regular soda, french fries and cookies are all going to contribute to an unfavorable weight gain.  These types of foods are loaded with sugar, which when consumed in excess are not only contributing to fat weight gain but also altering the way your body’s hormones are used.  Over the long-term, corrupting the way our hormones function can lead to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.


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