Trying to Gain Muscle...Ladies Style
Ladies (and a few gents), take note: there are some of us out there who struggle with gaining weight, particularly muscle mass.
Now before you scoff and roll your eyes, let me tell you my story.
Growing up I was more on the side of "chunky" and when I started college my small 5'0" stature supported almost 130 lbs, despite being an avid runner. After college I started preparing all my meals at home (quality control!) in addition to lifting weights, interval training, and biking to work regularly. I love being healthy & active but with the added activity I became one of those complainers, wringing their hands while sighing woefully: "Ooh, I can't gain weight!" while they hike up their sagging belts and shiver in a warm breeze. Me ten years ago would have scowled at present me.
Now why would a girl want to gain weight?...for muscle gains, of course!
One of our go-to strength coaches Eric Cressey (see here) has a great article on this, but here's what I've found works for me:
We've taken common "junk" foods and modified them to boost the nutritional value and remove ingredients like vegetable oils and refined sugar. We formulate all our recipes and meals to be all natural, & emphasize whole foods. Goodies like flour-less beet and plantain protein pancakes (pictured @left), gluten-free and oil-free deep dish organic veggie pizza bake with grass fed cow's cheese. Real foods are more healthful and you can still manipulate ingredients to make taste better than boxed or premade foods so you eat more.
2. Make It Tasty
One of the most effective methods for me has been to add fat to my foods. Things like avocados, butter, and especially cheese. I find that even when I'm not hungry, the taste just makes me crave eating for the sake of eating.
An article in the New York Times (see here) explains this and the idea of food reward, how food can activate pleasure centers in our brain similar to certain drugs. The article features a quote from lead author, Eric Stice, on a study where subjects drank milkshakes with varying amounts of fat and sugar, finding:
"The current results indicate that the high-sugar milkshake more-effectively recruited reward regions than did the equicaloric high-fat milkshake, and in addition, increasing the sugar content compared with increasing the fat content of milkshakes caused greater activity in brain regions previously associated with the intake of rewarding foods" (referring to Stice et al 2013).
This suggests high amounts of sugar may be one explanation for food reward, and a higher sugar content may have a stronger affect on consumption than an higher fat content. For me, the combo of fat and salt in cheese works best, but I've also found myself staring at the bottom of an empty bag of almonds and raisins. Fat + sugar.
3. Protein powder
Protein powder is easy to use, super versatile, and obviously increases the protein content of foods for 'dem gains. Austin brainchilded a Triple Chocolate Oatmeal: (chocolate protein powder, dark chocolate chips, and chocolate almond milk).
Now this is a morning glucose bomb but that's exactly what I'm trying to achieve - a calorie surplus in the least processed way, and to use Rule #2 of Make It Tasty. Wouldn't recommend as an everyday breakfast.
These are just three quick tips to help gain weight in a way that is minimally processed and maximally whole-foods based.
Got any more tips? Comment below!
Stice, Eric, Kyle S. Burger, and Sonja Yokum. "Relative Ability of Fat and Sugar Tastes to Activate Reward, Gustatory, and Somatosensory Regions." Archives. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 16 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2015
Going to school to become an RD is really geared for medical settings i.e. learning how to feed sick patients in acute care. People wrongfully assume we should know all things about optimal diets.
Not all dietitians are nutrition experts, not all nutrition experts are dietitians! In this series of posts, I will discuss my thoughts on nutrition expertise, the dietitian professional governing body, and my critique of who can give advice in the current wellness industry.
Can we exercise our ways out of a sedentary lifestyle?
Is oat milk healthy? Should hipsters and new moms everywhere all simultaneously convene upon their local grocers and purchase the entire supply of oat milk? Let’s see.
Less physical activity is built into our days than ever before. Here we discuss what we can do about it!
Taxes on sodas and potato chips have been popping up around the US, leading the debate to a federal junk food tax.
Are Americans meeting physical activity recommendations, and if so, are they enough?
An introduction into how we have learned physical activity is good for us.
Physical Inactivity is a crisis in America, contributing to astronomical health care spending. Read about my trip to Capitol Hill to lobby for legislation that would help increase physical activity in our country.
Is chocolate healthy or not? A dig into some of the studies behind chocolate and health.
We've all heard nighttime eating is bad for us, but is it really? In this series of of posts, I will discuss scientific studies that have researched the topic.
An NCAA report cited 0.2-3.8% of women collegiate athletes use creatine compared to up to 28% of men. With a little background research, quality testing stamps of approval and confidence, women athletes can realize performance benefits too!
Fat and fiber? Let's talk about coconuts.
Part three on the benefits of repetitive eating. Here we highlight anecdotal evidence found from around web, showing the evidence discussed in Parts I and II can translate into the real world...
If people prioritized their healh like they did Black Friday, we would be a much healther country!
A review of experimental studies illustrating that repetitive meals may help promote appetite control.
Curious on the effects of cooking on dietary nitrate content in veggies? Read this article to find out!
In this mini-article series I’ll discuss evidence for and against using a repetitive diet to successfully lose and maintain weight. Here in part one, I’ll discuss a bit about my experience with repetitive diets, a few of the reasons these diets might work, and findings from observational studies .
Avocados, coconuts and cocoa. They're fruits, they're high in fat and their fiber content is REALLY unexpected.
When people live life in a way that is strongly divergent from the niche(s) in which we evolved, biological problems will arise such as hypertension. Here we explore some of the factors that protect the Tsimane of Bolivia from hypertension, which plagues the USA.
I want to discuss training because it doesn't matter if you eat well - if you don't train hard you still will not attain the physique you're probably looking for. There is no one size fits all so I'll provide general recommendations in place of a cookie cutter program.
Here's a short, quick how-to on incorporating spices into your next dish.
Basic training principles that we all should apply to our exercise.
Does Vitamin K2 supplementation actually improve bone health markers? Would it be recommended for children? If so, in what amount?
Maintaining your diet while traveling can be tricky. Sofia offers some of her tips on how to eat healthfully while still enjoying your travels.
Is exercise alone enough to prevent disease or an early death? While it is helpful, there are other factors that contribute.
Sofia's tips on gaining muscle. For ladies.
Become a tea connoisseur on the dime!