Healthy Weight Gain

Myth vs. Fact

Myth: “I need to gain weight for my sport so I should eat as much fast food and dessert as I can.”
Fact: Gaining weight can be an added benefit for athletes that participate in sports where strength and size are important. However, we want to make sure that athletes are gaining lean muscle mass and not fat mass. Thus, it is important for an athlete to increase healthy calories from dense whole grain carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats such as peanut butter, nuts/seeds, avocado, olive oil, fatty fishes. Liquid calories like low-fat chocolate milk, high calorie shake powders and smoothies can also help with nutrient-rich calories.

Sports Nutrition 101

Gaining weight alone is not the only goal; the goal should be to gain lean muscle mass. In order to gain a pound a week, an athlete has to consume 3,500 extra calories that is not burned off in exercise. Increasing daily caloric intake by 500 calories/day for 7 days should result in one pound of weight gain in a week. The additional food should come from quality calories which are nutrient dense whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fat. If you add lots of unhealthy fat to your diet in order to get calories (cream sauce, dressing, fried food, etc), you will likely add unwanted fat to your body too. So, the goal is to consume healthy calories often!

Examples of Adding Healthy Calories:

  • Add peanut butter, butter, and/or jelly to toast, bagels, whole grain waffles, etc.
  • Add peanut butter, nuts, and a banana to oatmeal
  • Eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on thick wheat bread as dessert after meals
  • Add 1 cup granola and dried fruit to your morning cereal or yogurt
  • Add avocado to sandwiches, wraps, and salads
  • Snack on high calorie trail mix (high calorie/whole grain cereal, granola, nuts, & dried fruit)
  • Cook your meat and vegetables with olive oil
  • Drink low-fat (2%) milk or low-fat chocolate milk with meals
  • Drink a shake with high calorie powder (Muscle Milk Collegiate) and low-fat milk twice a day, once right before bed (can also mix peanut butter, honey, a banana, etc. for more calories)


  • Eat 6-7 meals a day; do not go longer than 2-3 hours without eating
  • Do NOT skip breakfast
  • Maximize each eating opportunity; make sure you have whole grains, lean protein, & healthy Fat; don’t settle for fried food or skipping a meal
  • Be prepared; bring snacks from home so that you can eat between classes in addition to before and after practices
  • Consume an energy bar or shake during your workout and drink a sports drink
  • Eat immediately after a workout (4:1 carbohydrate to protein snack)
  • Consistency is key! You will not be able to gain weight if you only try 4-5 days/week; you have to make it a priority and maximize eating 7 days/week

400 Calorie Snacks

Large whole wheat bagel w/2 Tbs. peanut butter Homemade Trail Mix
1 cup dry cereal, 1⁄4 cup granola, 20 nuts
1 pack Nature Valley Granola Bars, 1 fruit & 2-2% string cheese Quaker Oatmeal Square & 12 oz 2% milk Peanut butter & banana sandwich on wheat bread (2 Tbs. PB) 1 yogurt with 1⁄4 cup granola, 1⁄2 cup fruit & 15 nuts


600 Calorie Snacks

Large whole wheat bagel with 3-4 slices ham, 2 slices 2% cheese & 1 serving wheat crackers or pretzels 20 oz low-fat chocolate milk & peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread (1 Tbs. PB) 300 calorie energy bar, 1 banana & 16 oz 2% milk 20 oz Smoothie King Smoothie with protein & 250-300 calorie energy bar Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread (2 Tbs. PB & 2 Tbs. jelly), 1 bag baked lays & 1 fruit 2 cups cereal w/2% milk, sprinkle 3 Tbs. almonds in cereal & 1 yogurt or 2% string cheese


800 Calorie Snacks

2 cups high calorie cereal (~200 calories/ serving) w/2% milk &
1 banana & 2 pieces wheat toast w/1 Tbs. peanut butter on each
Homemade Shake
2 cups 2% milk, 1 Yoplait Thick & Creamy vanilla yogurt, 1 scoop ice cream, 1-2 Tbs. peanut butter
3 Eggo whole wheat waffles w/1 Tbs. peanut butter on each, 1 fruit & 16 oz low-fat chocolate milk 1 whole wheat bagel w/ 2 Tbs. cream cheese, 1 pack Nature Valley granola bars & 16 oz low-fat chocolate milk High calorie energy bar (250-350 calories), 16 oz low-fat chocolate milk w/1 scoop whey protein mixed in & 1 banana 2 Whole grain Hot Pockets, 1 individual bag reduced-fat Sun Chips & 16 oz 2% or low-fat chocolate milk


1000 Calorie Snacks

1 whole wheat bagel w/ 2 Tbs. peanut butter, 1 cup high calorie cereal & 1 cup granola w/ 2% milk High calorie energy bar (250-350 calories), 1 individual bottle (20 oz) 2% milk, 1 pack peanut butter crackers & a banana 2 Yoplait Whips or Thick & Creamy yogurts w/1 cup granola mix in, 2 pieces whole wheat toast w/1 Tbs. peanut butter on each & 16 oz 2% milk 2 Quaker Oatmeal Squares, 1 individual bottle (20 oz) low-fat chocolate milk & 1⁄2 cup nuts Subway 12” sandwich w/meat, cheese, sauce, & veggies, 1 bag Sun Chips, 1 bag apples & 1 individual bottle juice or 2% milk 2 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on wheat bread (2 Tbs. PB & 2 Tbs. jelly on each), 16 oz 2% milk & 1 banana or chewy granola bar


Healthy Bites…Recipe of the Month

Lean & Mean Weight Gain: “Fuel up with more calories in less bites!”
One easy way to add calories is to try to get more calories per bite! So if you choose foods that are nutritious, but also high in calories, you can eat less while getting more. Trail mix is full of ingredients that are nutrient dense and fulfill the requirement of more calories in less bites! Fill up a bag, keep it in your backpack and snack on it throughout the day!

Let’s breakdown this “Lean & Mean Weight Gain Snack’s” ingredientsNuts are a not only a healthy fat, also a protein. They are rich is fiber and vitamin E and increase satiety helping you stay full for a longer period of time. Dried fruit is a carbohydrate which is they body’s #1 source of energy. Fruit is also rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Starch like pretzels, granola, goldfish and pita chips are also in the carbohydrate family and thus important for energy throughout the day and for your workouts. Finally sweet treats like M&M’s, dark chocolate chunks, peanut butter chips and coconut are a great addition to spark your taste buds. These items should be the smallest part of your trail mix mixture.
–Amy Goodson

amy-goodson-quarterback-ranchAmy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian for Ben Hogan Sports Medicine and serves as the sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, FC Soccer Dallas, Jim McClean Golf School, Texas Christian University Athletics, and University of Texas at Arlington Athletics. In addition, she is an adjunct professor and dietetic intern preceptor for Texas Woman’s University, Texas Christian University and the University of Texas at Arlington and is a state media representative for the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. . She received her Bachelor of Science degree in speech communications from Texas Christian University and Masters in Exercise and Sports Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.