So you’re hoping to put on a few pounds this offseason, preferably muscle mass, but you are finding that the struggle is real. 

Putting on and keeping healthy weight is a challenge.  

Between practice, class, work, a social life etc., it can be extremely difficult to meet your body composition goals and put on healthy weight in a timely fashion.  

Fear not my all-star athletes! Below are 5 ways to fight the uphill battle of producing healthy weight gain when leading the exciting life of an athlete.   (And if you’d prefer to have an actual weight gain guide vs. reading another blog post, we’ve got you covered. Here is our Ultimate Weight Gain Guide.)

#1 Do NOT Skip Meals

By far and away, the #1 most common pitfall of an athlete trying to gain weight is skipping meals.

This problem is especially common when we’re helping teenage girls with healthy weight gain.

You are busy, you don’t have time to cook and sometimes you’re honestly just too tired to throw something onto a plate. It’s ok, I promise there are ways around these barriers. At the very least, you must consume breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every. Single. Day.

Ideally, breakfast, lunch and dinner should be supplemented with calorie-dense snacks and a recovery shake post workout. It is much easier to take a shortcut and skip a meal or two during the day and then stuff yourself at dinner.

#2 Choose Your Snacks Wisely

For those of you already incorporating 2-3 snacks between meals, great job! BUT most importantly, WHAT are choosing to eat? While a piece of fruit or a 100 calorie granola bar is OK, it is not the most effective strategy if your goal is healthy weight gain. Recommendations will always have significant variation depending on sport, size, and sex.

However, in general, your snack should be at least 200 calories and contain some form of protein or fat for blood sugar stabilization. For example, a medium apple is roughly 95 calories and consists almost entirely of carbohydrates. Dip that apple in 1.5 TBSP of almond butter, and that 95-calorie snack is now 240 calories with added protein and healthy fat. If a handful of crackers is your go-to, try incorporating 2 TBSP of guacamole or 2 TBSP hummus for an additional calorie boost that also adds healthy fat.

Unfortunately, this is a terrible idea for anyone, but especially for an athlete! When you follow a fueling strategy consisting of “skipping and binging”, it is incredibly difficult to consume enough calories to support your sport’s training demands. If you are hoping to gain weight, you need significantly more calories than your baseline and if you are not even reaching baseline on most days, how can you possibly gain weight efficiently!? Make sense?

#3 Recovery Fuel- Every Time!

Your recovery nutrition post workout is one of the most critical times of the day to fuel, especially when your focus is to gain or maintain lean mass. Period. Consuming a recovery shake post workout or competition is essential for the proper rebuilding/repairing of muscle as well as energy maintenance. You work so hard every day on that field, court, track, mat or pool. Why throw it all away by skipping your recovery shake post workout?

When making a protein shake there are a lot of options out there in terms of brands to use, what type of liquid to use to mix it, and so on.  We discuss many of those options in our post, 3 Powerful and Pure Weight Gain Shakes.  However,  I encourage you to check out SFH Whey Protein or Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Clean Whey Protein Isolate, they’re a couple of favorites for our athletes.

If you’re looking for a few more options for protein and want to know what some of the best flavors are such as the best coffee whey protein you’ve ever tasted, or an amazing chocolate protein made from fair trade chocolate and a vanilla protein with vanilla bean sourced from Madagascar, check out our post on the Best Grass Fed Whey Proteins.

In the world of supplements and protein, there is a lot of junk out there and you have to be careful when reviewing the ingredients to know what you’re getting.  Furthermore, as an athlete, it is important to ensure that you are taking a product that is NSF Certified for Sport, which means there are no banned substances in the product, and the product has been double-checked to ensure the ingredients in the container match the ingredients on the label.

SFH and Garden of Life have some of the best protein powders on the market that are NSF Certified for Sport.  BiPro is a family-owned company (who doesn’t love supporting small businesses?) and Garden of Life goes all the way to Ireland where climate and agricultural standards produce the cleanest dairy in the world.  Both are amazing products and should be a regular part of your diet if you’re an athlete that tolerates whey protein well.

#4 Avoid Processed Foods and Added Sugar

How do you put on healthy weight with your regular meals?  It may not be as simple as you think.

There is never a week that goes by where I don’t hear an athlete say, “Well, I’ve been eating ice cream/pizza/candy/cookies/you fill in the blank because my coach/friend/parent told me I could eat whatever I want in order to gain weight. “

Just remember, food is fuel and food is medicine. Would you put low grade gasoline in a Ferrari? Doubt it. So why throw junk into a well-oiled machine such as yourself?

Food is powerful. It has the ability to alter metabolism and change the expression of our DNA. By focusing on proper food timing throughout the day and choosing foods that are just as rich in nutrients as they are calories, you will never have to shovel bowls of ice cream before bed in order to meet your goal (believe it or not this can actually get tedious and boring when you don’t see good results!). Plus, a calorie does not equal a calorie!

Food is medicine. Skip processed foods for optimal nutrition.

A slice or two of deluxe pizza can be the same amount of calories as a piece of grilled chicken, a side of broccoli drizzled in olive oil and brown rice.

The difference is that one is premium fuel that will leave you feeling energized and enhance lean muscle mass while the other can be significantly more difficult to digest, full of junk, and make achieving goals more difficult. Sure, you can gain weight eating deluxe pizza but you may not be pleased with your body fat percentage or athletic performance when all is said and done.

#5 Stay Consistent

OK, now that you have the basic foundation. This is step one. However, if you do not stay consistent with the recommendations listed above, you will continue to struggle to put on weight. STAY CONSISTENT.

You’re not out there giving 20% effort at practice are you? No! So why would you eat well for a few days a week then fall down the slope of processed food and meal skipping for the remainder? Set a timer on your phone for each day of the week. It should remind you every 2-4 hours to enjoy a meal or snack.  Adding a timer to remind you to drink your recovery shake or eat your bedtime snack is an important consideration as well.


If you’re looking for a really helpful handout to remind you of 6 key areas to focus on to help gain healthy weight to improve your performance, check out our handout Gain Weight Like a Champion.  Its a useful handout that can be shared with teammates or hung on the wall in a locker room to help with putting on the right type of weight as you strive for success.

And even better than a handout is our Ultimate Weight Gain Guide. Here you will find our best tips and tricks, meal plan with snacks and recipes, a grocery and supplement guide as well as our favorite weight gain shake recipes that we’ve designed over the years. (Side note: we actually had an athlete come to us last week after 3 weeks of following the plan and his coach accused him of taking steroids!!!! Pretty incredible to think that whole foods and clean supplements can have that type of effect.)

What has been your greatest challenge with trying to produce healthy weight gain?  What other questions do you have about this process?  Leave your questions in the review area and we will get back to you.  We would love to hear from you!