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All athletes want to add lean muscle mass, but to pack on healthy pounds, you can’t just fill your mouth with any and all foods. “You want to make sure that the composition of the diet is right so the quality of the weight gain is right,” says Chicago Blackhawks team nutritionist Julie Burns.
Tip the scale in a healthy manner with these four tips.
Tip #1: Eat at intervals throughout the day.
“The best [eating] strategy is to increase your total calories throughout the entire day,” says New York Jets nutrition consultant Wendy Meyer Sterling. You’ll need to add more calories to breakfast, lunch and dinner—and snack between meals.
Tip #2: Hit up heavy snacks.
Consume snacks that deliver quality carbs and protein. “If you don't have enough calories, you're never going to gain the lean mass you want,” Burns says. Among her recommended 200-calorie snacks: two hard-boiled eggs, two ounces of jerky, one cup of sauerkraut, five pieces of sushi, two cups of fruit and a quarter cup of nuts and seeds.
Tip #3: Protein equals one-third.
“Your body needs both carbohydrate and protein to build new muscle,” says Leslie Bonci, Pittsburgh Steelers nutrition consultant. “[But] you don’t need to eat protein to the exclusion of all else, because too much protein means you’re probably not eating enough carbohydrate.” Follow her rule of portioning one-third of your plate with protein in every meal. Bonci's recommended sources: eggs, jerky, nuts, peanut butter, baked beans, bean dip, chicken, turkey, beef, pork and yogurt.
Rule #4: Drink juice.
“[Drinking juice] is a good idea for athletes who truly need more lean mass,” says Amy Bragg, director of sports nutrition at Texas A&M University. Juice is packed with calories and carbs. A cup of 100 percent orange juice contains approximately 100 calories and 25 grams of carbs. It is one ingredient in the following Bragg-recommended recipe for a quick, calorically-dense smoothie to take in with breakfast.
1 packet strawberry instant breakfast mix
1C 100% orange juice
½C frozen strawberries
½C frozen peaches
½C frozen raspberries
½C frozen pineapple
Modifications: (1) add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed; (2) replace the instant breakfast mix with two scoops of strawberry or vanilla soy protein powder.
Photo: Kalman & Pabst Photo Group