Weight Gain & Athletic Performance

Gaining Muscle Mass

Performance and muscle gain are not necessarily synonymous. In other words, gaining muscle doesn’t always translate to performing better in every sport. Certainly in most pure strength sports such as weight lifting, gaining muscle at any speed will generally improve performance. Under most conditions gaining muscle also increases body weight, which may not be beneficial for various reasons including having to move more weight while performing your activity or building muscles in areas of the body that may hinder an important functional movement necessary to the sport.

Controlled weight gain while practicing your sports-specific skill

There are many reasons for controlling weight gain. For instance, let’s say a basketball player gains 5LBS of weight, mostly muscle. The player may not be able to jump as high as when he or she was 5LBS lighter. On the other hand, if the player could afford to lose 5LBS of body fat while gaining the muscle, the weight remains unchanged and the increase in muscle may improve the player’s vertical leap. Another example may be young sprinters gaining 20LBS of muscle in a short period of time, which is not uncommon for young, naturally growing athletes while weight training. In all probability, the sprinter would decrease performance as the weight, including muscle gain, will certainly make them stronger but not enough to propel their body with the extra 20LBS as fast as when they were 20LBS lighter. That said, chances are the speed will come back and even begin to increase as the weight gain slows and the rest of the body’s maturity “catches up” (e.g. height/stride, internal muscle systems, etc.). Anyway you get the point. Weight/muscle gain should be slow and controlled for most athletes and done while they continue to play or practice their sports-specific skills.


Aside from natural growth patterns in young athletes, the stimulus for additional muscle gain should come from resistance training performed in the planes of motion dictated by the sport. This way you primarily gain muscle in areas that would also increase sports performance. We call this sports-specific strength and conditioning training (see articles by NASM – Dr. Micheal Clark).

Don’t eat right, won’t grow right

And of course you know what I am going to say next: no matter how smart or hard you train, if you don’t eat, you dramatically diminish your training results, especially when you eat too little or when meals are not properly timed around training. Growth is all about the food you consume being converted into the materials that build your muscles and other lean tissues of the body including bones. You don’t grow if you don’t eat, meaning to gain weight, you must consume MORE calories and nutrients than the body uses so the surplus of the right stuff (muscle-building materials) are deposited in all the right places to increase muscle size and performance. However, consuming more than necessary leads to increases in body fat at the same time – and that’s what you want to avoid.

How much muscle can you gain

The goal is to gain muscle while improving performance.  As mentioned, to accomplish this, the amount of calories consumed must be greater than the calories expended, and resistance training must be incorporated in order to give the body a reason to deposit the extra nutrition into muscle as opposed to fat storage. Therefore, to avoid gaining excess body fat, the extra calories should be no more than the amount needed to build and sustain the increase in lean tissue.  With these conditions met, weight/muscle gain can occur at a rate of one pound every two weeks for males and ~1/2LB for females.
 
Factors effecting muscle growth rates


Many factors influence muscle growth including genetic predisposition, body type, age (young athletes, especially during puberty, may gain weight significantly faster due to the addition of natural growth patterns), and current level of development.  In general, individuals with small frames (ectomorphs) do not support the same amount of mass as those with larger frames (endomorphs and mesomorphs).  The number and composition of muscle fibers and differences in natural hormone production dramatically affects growth potential.  As a person ages, hormone production decreases, making muscle gain slower and more difficult.  Lastly, in experienced lifters who have already added a significant amount of muscle, progress is usually slower than it is for beginners. Most people do not reach their genetic potential for gaining muscle due to incorrect eating, dietary support and/or training.  However, your genetic potential for muscle gain and performance can be maximized with the use of your personalized dotFIT Me Program.

Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat Guidelines

Carbohydrates will make up the majority of daily calories in order to provide sufficient fuel for training and recovery.  The amount will depend on your sport and will range from 2.3-4.5 grams per pound of your body weight.  To calculate this amount in grams, multiply your body weight in pounds, by 2.3-4.5 (ex. 150 lbs x 3.0 = 450 grams/day).  Adequate carbohydrate prevents protein from being used for energy, allowing optimal growth and repair of lean tissue.  Therefore, pre- and post-workout snacks and meals should be composed of mostly carbohydrates, with moderate protein and low fat.  Pre-workout snacks can “top off” energy stores, providing fuel for high quality workouts.  Consuming a high carbohydrate snack (liquid or energy bar) immediately after training creates the ideal recovery and muscle-building environment.  Protein requirements for muscle gain are 0.7-1 gram per pound of body weight per day. Higher protein intakes, which are common with many athletes, will not induce greater gains in lean body mass, and may not create the most favorable muscle-building environment.  Fat intake will make up the remaining calories once protein and carbohydrate needs have been met.  Your online program’s Athletic Menu contains the proper amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein and fat specific to you and your goals.

Dietary Support

Dietary support can be safely incorporated into an individualized program to complement proper training and food intake.  For example, athletes may need convenient ways to increase calories and meals when whole food is not possible due to the necessity for extremely high calorie intakes, time constraints or availability.  Furthermore, various safe compounds have shown to enhance nutrient intake, performance, recovery and muscle building.  Refer to the dietary supplement section of your program for your individual recommendation.

Reaching your muscle gain goal

In order to simultaneously increase weight/muscle and performance: males may gain up to one-half pound per week and females up to one-quarter pound per week. Beginning exercisers, children and growing teens may gain more.

Total daily calorie intake should be moderately above current expenditure. If weight gain does not occur as described, you may add roughly 100 to 250 calories to your daily total (based on body size) consisting of equal amounts of carbohydrates and protein and moderate fat. For example, 20 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat equaling 250 calories. If preferred, use your shakes or snacks to supply extra calories. Following the addition of extra calories, if after one week weight gain does not occur, repeat the above process.

If body fat or overall weight increases undesirably, slightly reduce daily caloric intake or add a preferred form of aerobic exercise until you achieve your desired weight trend.

So there you have it. Do sports-specific training including conditioning, practice your sport’s required skill, and follow your menu plans so that you gain weight in a controlled fashion and you WON’T be ALL you can be, you WILL BE BETTER (and bigger)!


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