Off-Season Weight Gain Tips for Athletes

Weight Gain! Is it on your mind this off-season? Is it really just eating as much as possible and hoping for the best? Not quite. While you do need to eat more than your usual fare, structuring your meals and snacks in a certain way can help you get the most out of your plate so you can see results in the gym and on the field/court/track… you get the point! The best part? Making these changes can help you easily transition your meals/snacks into the in-season in order to fuel well and- you guessed it!- continue to maximize your performance. 

Let’s dive in! 

Tip 1: Actually meet your needs. Most athletes I see arent meeting their baseline fueling needs. Let’s make sure you are getting this in!

What does that mean for you? Try starting with the “rule of 3’s”:
3 Meals- Using the high-intensity plate arrangement! 
3 Snacks
3 Food groups (let me see that color!)
3 Hours apart.

Bottom line; if you are missing meals and snacks, you are missing an opportunity to fuel to reach weight gain goals and fuel your performance goals. Think about it, does an engine doesn’t run without gas?

What do you do? Start small! Pick an area to work on and build up (My recommendation: make sure you are getting that breakfast in.)

Tip 2: Consider snacks to be second meals. When we think of snacks we likely think of granola bars, goldfish, pretzels, and similar. If we are looking to gain weight, your needs for snacks are likely a bit more. Let’s beef up our usual choices: instead of just pretzels, choose pretzels with hummus and a cheese stick (or two),  Instead of just goldfish, pair with a mix of cashews and raisins and a milk, instead of one granola bar, choose granola bars (plural) sprinkled over some greek yogurt with some PB on top.

One caveat here is adjusting around activity. This would likely NOT be a good idea right before you practice or lift!  You want to keep it simple before activity. Be sure to adjust around activity to avoid GI upset!

Tip 3:  Plan Ahead. My Favorite and easily my most valuable tip as a registered dietitian.  Often we let nutrition fall by the wayside far too often. We get caught up in what we are doing, we have last-minute plans, we fall behind in our schedule…in general, we are just busy people! 

That is OK! but how do we combat this? By planning ahead. Creating a plan for nutrition is not unlike making a plan for your training; to see results we need a roadmap of where we are going. 
Planning helps you identify not only WHEN you need to eat, but WHERE and WHAT you will be choosing to eat too- these are all keys to success, and leaving one out can be critical! Such as:
You know you need to eat, you didn’t bring a snack, and you are someWHERE that food isn’t available. -Or- You know you need to eat, your in a place that offers snacks, but you are not sure WHAT/ how much you need. 
The hottest tip a sports dietitian can provide for planning ahead? Write your schedule down first! This is where many pre-made plans fall flat. They don’t consider your schedule. At all. Then you know what kind of time you have to make things or if you need grab-and-go options. 
If you haven’t already, download my FREE Meal Planner by heading to my “about” page and signing up for my email list- which gives you a first look at new blog posts (created monthly) and my NEW quarterly sports nutrition newsletter coming this fall. 

Tip 4: Add Value. Let’s say you are hitting all the tips I’ve provided so far but you aren’t seeing the results you are looking for.

What gives? 

Depending on your needs you might need——more!  If you already maxed out the number of meals and snacks to consume, it’s time for tip 4- add value!  Take a look at what you are currently eating, where can you add more in?
  • Swapping sandwich bread for a bagel
  • Adding (or adding more) avocado or cheese to a salad or sandwich
  • Replacing a granola bar with some mixed nuts or trail mix
  • Switching to beverages that add more energy such as milk instead of water. 
As a Sports Dietitian, this is something we can work together on as part of our 1-1 sessions if this is a goal you have in mind.
This brings me to my last tip….

Tip 5: Work with a Sports Dietitian! Okay, okay, I am sure you knew this was coming. Of course, the best tip of all is to work with a Sports RD. Your energy needs and what you can choose for these meals and snacks will differ from person to person depending on energy needs and training schedules. This is where I come in! A Sports Dietitian can help you personalize timing to maximize your nutrition and help you get the most out of your training. Take the guesswork out of it. I KNOW you don’t have time for that!

By working together we can suss out all the details: 
– Personalized Nutrition Goals
– Proper Timing
– Assistance with Selection
– Guidance with Amount
– Meal Planning & Prep
-Habit Formation for long-term success!
Good luck out there this off-season and remember, a Registered Sports Dietitian can help you create a plan to maximize your performance no matter which season of sport you are in!
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