The off season is an ideal time to double down on fitness and weight gain. In this article, our friends at RPP share actionable insight that will help you start optimizing your sports nutrition today.
Unless you are a cross-country runner, being "skinny, lean, thin" is a red flag for college coaches looking to recruit players for their teams. One of the things that a student-athlete CAN control when it comes to the recruiting process is how much they eat. It seems simple enough, most people eat three meals a day, but this general guideline falls short for many underweight baseball players who should be eating four to five meals a day (plus snacks) to compete at the next level.
Putting on weight to gain strength and mass only happens when exercise and nutrition are combined. As Coach Josh Epstein from Monmouth University once told me, "you can't out-train a bad diet" (he credits Coach Collins of Bloomsberg for the line). Setting realistic weight targets and an appropriate timeline is essential to achieving these goals. Changes to your weight are often best done during the off-season, and a target weight gain should be about 0.5-1.0 lbs per week.
The best way to ensure you achieve your nutrition goals is to track your daily calories to make sure you're hitting the mark, eliminate the guesswork, and clearly defines if you are "winning the day" with your calorie intake. We advise our players to use a free app on their phones called My Fitness Pal, which is an excellent resource for them in this area. Just like any area of your training, you have to have a plan, execute that plan, and track it to make sure you're hitting your goal.
The following article published by RPP takes a deep dive into sports nutrition and how to get "bigger, faster, stronger."
Off-Season Nutrition Guide for High Performance Athletes
Disclaimer: Any application of the recommendations set forth in this nutrition guide is at the reader’s discretion and sole risk. The information offered is intended for those people in good health. Anyone with medical problems of any nature should see and consult a doctor before starting any nutrition, diet or exercise program. Even if you have no known health problems, it is advisable to consult your doctor before making major changes in your lifestyle. Also, if you have any food allergies, please consult with your physician about the suggestions in this guide.
The nutrition plan below provides a great program to gain lean muscle mass while training during the off-season. A great training program should go hand in hand with an excellent nutrition plan in order to unlock the athlete’s potential to get “bigger, faster and stronger”.
Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water a day. For example, a 160-pound athlete requires 80 fluid ounces of water a day. This is a minimum requirement. Ideally, you should be consuming your body weight in ounces of water a day. For example, a 160-pound athlete should consume 160 fluid ounces of water a day. Other liquids do not count towards this requirement. The more water you drink the more muscle you will gain.
Consume 1g-1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Consume 2.5g-3g of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.
The amount of fat you need to consume a day should be covered by eating protein that contains fat. You should be consuming 25% of your calories from fat.
The goal is to gain 1lb-1.5lbs a week. If you are not achieving these numbers you are not eating enough. Weigh yourself 2x a week to make sure you are on track.
An easy formula to follow for gaining weight in the offseason is to eat 17x your bodyweight in calories a day. For example, a 160-pound athlete should be eating 2,720 calories a day.
Using the Above Formula:
Total Calories a Day: (160lbs x 17) = 2,720 total calories
Total Protein a Day: (160lbs x 1g) = 160g protein
Total Carbohydrates a Day: (160lbs x 3g) = 480g carbohydrates
Total Fat a Day: (160 x .25) = 40g fat
If the athlete is still not gaining weight, you need to add 250 calories a day to the diet until weight gain is achieved. For example, week 1: the athlete is eating an extra 250 calories a day but isn’t gaining weight, you need to then add an extra 500 calories a day to the athlete’s diet. If an extra 500 calories a day isn’t working, you need to add 750 and so on. Make sure the extra calories are about 25% fat, 30% protein and 45% carbohydrates.
Easy Ways to Add More Calories
The easiest way to add more calories a day besides eating more at breakfast, lunch, and dinner is through consuming shakes, bars, and nut butters during the day.
Shakes – Best Option: Making your own. You need to figure out what the athlete likes. Make sure the shake has 500+ calories in it of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. There is nothing wrong with having 2-3 shakes a day if that is adding muscle to the athlete’s body. You could even sneak olive oil into it without the taste being detected and that will add another 120 calories to the shake. An example is:
1 cup milk (make sure its full fat, not 2%) or 1 cup almond milk or 1 cup coconut milk
1 scoop protein powder (whatever flavor the athletes likes)
2 TBSP peanut butter or cashew butter or sun butter
½ cup uncooked quick oatmeal
Meal Replacement Bars – Best Options: Met-Rx, Cliff bars, Muscle Milk bars. There is nothing wrong with having multiple bars in one sitting if that is adding muscle to the athlete.
Nut Butters – Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sun butter. This is a very easy way to add 100s of extra calories a day. One table spoon of these butters is typically around 100 calories.
An Example of a 160 lbs. athlete’s plan for weight gain
Breakfast – 1 shake with 1 cup milk, 2 scoop protein powder, 1 cup blueberries, 2 TBSP peanut butter, ½ cup uncooked quick oatmeal.
Mid-Morning – 1 Bar
Lunch – 1 cup cooked rice, 1 cup beans, 8 ounces chop meat mixed together (season as desired), banana. Sometimes, athletes can be picky so a sandwich is ok too (definitely not the best though) so add 5 TBSP of peanut, cashew, or sun butter if you are having a sandwich for lunch.
Mid-Afternoon – 1 Bar
Dinner – 2 medium baked potatoes with 12 oz. chicken, salad.
The above diet is approximately 3,000 calories with 330g carbohydrates and 210g of protein. If the athlete is following this and not gaining weight, added a shake after dinner might be necessary. After Dinner: 1 shake with 1 cup milk, 2 scoops protein powder, 1 cup blueberries, ½ cup uncooked quick oatmeal. If the athlete is gaining too much weight (more than 2 lbs. a week) than the meal plan needs to be cut down by 250 calories a day.