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  • Writer's pictureRandon Hall, MD

What Should I Eat to Put On Muscle Mass? (Basic)

"Doc I just need to Eat more Protein..."

In adolescent sports medicine I am asked all the time, "How can I put on muscle mass for the next upcoming season?" A common mistake is an athlete's lack of understanding of the need for adequate caloric intake in order to build muscle. Additionally, athletes have the misconception that all they need to do is to eat more protein, and magically they will put on the muscle mass they have been hoping for.

Firstly, the body has to be in the right stage of development. If a younger child has not entered puberty, then they will not have enough testosterone to really "bulk up". Also, in order to put on muscle mass the muscles actually have to be worked out. The muscles need a stimulus to become stronger and larger, which comes in the form of strength training. Some athletes falsely believe that simply adding more protein to their diet will build the muscles directly. If there is no actual exercise, the increased protein will simply be stored by the body as fat.

CoNSUME THE APPROPRIATE amount of protein

Once your body is in the right stage of development and you have started a strength training program, you next want to focus on food. An athlete needs to be eating a healthy and well balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins and fat. The general recommendation for protein (PRO) intake in a very active individual is about 1.2 to 1.5 g/kg/day. For example, an athlete who weighs 165 lbs (75kgs) should be eating about 100 g PRO per day.

75 kg x 1.4g/kg/day = 105g PRO per day

Increase overall caloric intake

If you have an active individual who is now on a weight training program, they are burning tons of calories. If the athlete is not taking in enough calories, the body will simply burn the additional protein as energy, and there will be no protein left to build the muscle. Therefore, even if you are participating in a strength training program and eating the appropriate amount of protein, you may not gain muscle mass because you are not eating enough calories. In general, the goal is to increase your caloric intake by about 300 to 500 calories per day, with the goal of gaining 0.5 to 1.0 pound per week. The content of this calorie intake should mirror what you would expect in an already healthy diet, with about 50 to 60 percent from carbohydrate, 20 to 30 percent fat and 20 to 30 percent protein.


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