7 Nutrition Tips to Support Weight Gain in High School Athletes
High school athletes commonly desire to gain weight and increase muscle mass. Often high school athletes are unaware of how many calories they are burning through both structured physical activity and everyday living, which can make gaining weight a challenge. If you are a high school athlete struggling with putting on weight, the 7 nutrition tips below can help support your weight gain goals.
Tip 1: Focus on Eating Frequently Throughout the Day
With busy school, sport, and training schedules, it can be easy for high school athletes to forget to eat. However, just as a high school athlete has a detailed schedule for practice, lifting weights, and cardio activity – it is important to create a scheduled routine for eating.
Plan Ahead to Support Weight Gain in High School Athletes
Plan ahead to allow for three meals and several snacks throughout the day. If you have trouble remembering to eat, consider setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder. Make sure you stick to your plan on the weekends. Sleeping in and skipping breakfast on the weekend is an easy way to miss out on important nutrition to fuel your day.
Tip 2: Start the Day with Breakfast
Make it a priority to start each day with breakfast. If you have limited time in the morning, consider packing a grab-and-go breakfast the night before.
Make sure to include a good source of protein with your meal. Some breakfast ideas include:
- Greek Yogurt, Frozen Berries, Granola
- Breakfast Wrap – Whole Wheat Tortilla, Scrambled Eggs, Turkey Sausage, Salsa
- Overnight Oats – one of my favorites!
A fruit smoothie can also be a great breakfast and an economical way to add protein, vitamins, and minerals to your performance nutrition diet.
Tip 3: Focus on Quality Snacks to Help High School Athletes Gain Weight
View snacks as an important part of your performance nutrition meal plan. Aim to include a snack between each meal and before bed. Make sure each snack contains a good source of protein and food from at least one other food group (i.e., apple + peanut butter; hummus + pita chips).
Be intentional about packing snacks to take with you. Don’t let lack of food be an excuse for not eating. Pack snacks in your gym bag, locker, the glove box of your car, and desk drawers. Having the right food available at the right time can help keep you on track with your sports nutrition meal plan.
For additional snack ideas, check-out my recent blog Healthy Snacks for Teenage Athletes.
Tip 4: Fuel Your Workouts
High school athletes who desire to gain weight should pay particular attention to what they are eating and drinking surrounding their workouts. Prior to working out, consume a food that contains a good source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide your muscles with the energy they need to perform at their best. Examples include:
- Fresh Fruit
- Dry Cereal
- Dried Fruit
- Granola Bars
- Fig Bars
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
Focus on recovery nutrition following your workout by eating a snack or meal that contains protein, carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes. The protein will help build and repair muscle mass, the carbohydrates will refill your energy stores, and the fluid and electrolytes will help you to rehydrate. Ideas for post-workout snacks and meals include:
- Chocolate milk with a peanut butter & jelly sandwich
- Turkey and cheese sandwich, pretzels, sports drink
- Burrito bowl made with chicken, brown rice, black beans, corn salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and guacamole
- Grilled salmon, broccoli, rice, tart cherry juice
A post-workout snack is especially important if it is going to be more than an hour after your workout until you eat your next meal.
As a reminder, a quality sports nutrition meal plan is only half of the equation when it comes to building muscle mass and gaining weight. Make sure to complement your sports nutrition meal plan with a well-planned strength training program. Eating right provides the fuel and the strength training program provides the stimulus for muscle growth.
Tip 5: Add Healthy Calories from Beverages
An easy way to add nutritious calories to your day is through what you drink. Drink beverages with your meals that contain calories – whole milk or 100% fruit juice are both great choices. To avoid filling up on the beverage, eat your meal first and then consume your beverage.
Drinking nutritious beverages with your meals is a simple way to add vitamins, minerals, and calories to your daily intake.
Tip 6: Support High School Athlete Weight Gain with Calorie Dense Foods
When trying to increase total daily intake, it can be helpful to choose calorie dense foods. A calorie dense food contains a high number of calories per serving. Adding calorie dense foods to your diet is an easy way to provide extra calories and nutrients to your day without filling you up.
Examples of calorie dense foods and spreads include:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Nut Butters
- Trail Mix
- Dried Fruit
- Salad Dressing
- Vegetable Oils
Tip 7: End the Day with an Evening Snack
Finally, end the day with a high protein bed-time snack. Capitalizing on a quality evening snacks is a key strategy for supporting weigh gain in high school athletes. Try to consume this snack within the hour before going to bed. The evening snack will provide your muscles with the fuel needed to promote recovery during the night.
Ideas for adding protein to your evening snack include:
Use Caution with Supplements and Weight Gainers
It may be tempting to buy dietary supplements that claim to result in immediate weight gain. Use caution with any supplement you consider buying. Dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way “conventional” foods are by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Dietary supplements may contain banned substances that could potentially make an athlete ineligible for competition. Consult with a Registered Dietitian prior to taking any dietary supplement.
Ready, Set, Go!
You now have 7 sports nutrition strategies to utilize to support weight gain in high school athletes – get started today! For a customized sports nutrition meal plan meet with a Registered Dietitian to help develop a plan to meet your specific needs.