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
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