Gaining weight to improve your football performance requires you to add muscle, not fat. A combination of strength training and consuming more calories encourages this lean mass development, but it's not easy. Filling up on extra fast food or junk food makes you gain fat, which will only slow you down out on the field. Increased portions of foods from all the major food groups helps you gain weight while you meet your nutritional needs.
Basic Plan to Gain Weight for Football
To gain weight, you must increase the number of calories you eat daily to surpass the number you burn. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about normal calorie requirements for your size and age. Also account for your activity level and include daily practice and game day in your calculations.
Add 250 to 500 calories to the calories you need to maintain your weight, and you'll gain about 1/2 to 1 pound per week. Eating more calories than this will, of course, help you gain more weight, but it will be in the form of fat, since you can only gain about a half-pound of muscle per week. Spread your entire calorie intake out over three meals and three snacks. Have your snacks after your workout or practice, between meals and before bed.
Weight lifting is the other key component in gaining muscle weight for football. Ask your coach for guidance in designing a program that targets all the major muscle groups, including your chest, back, legs, hips, arms, abs and shoulders. Compound exercises, such as deadlifts, squats and presses, work multiple muscle groups at once and are thus more functional for football than isolated biceps curls. Go for one to three sets of four to eight repetitions using a weight that causes muscle fatigue in the last couple of repetitions. Train with weights two to four times per week, but leave at least 48 hours between heavy weight training to allow your muscles to recover and grow. If you're strength training four times weekly, split your workout routine so you're alternating muscle groups between workouts; for example, you could would your upper body one day and your lower body the next.
How to Increase Calories at Meals for Weight Gain
Make your meals balanced, containing lean protein, whole grains, low-fat or whole dairy, vegetables and fruits. Consume a little extra at each meal to take in more calories; have 3 more ounces of steak at dinner for 172 calories, an extra cup of brown rice at lunch for 216 calories, or an additional egg at breakfast for 80 calories.
Add calories to your meals with a little extra unsaturated fat. Toss whole-wheat pasta with a tablespoon of olive oil before you add sauce for 120 calories; top soft tacos with guacamole for 180 calories per 1/2 cup; or add 1 ounce of mixed nuts to your cereal for 170 calories. Choose calorie-dense foods too: whole-wheat bread, chunky soups and starchy vegetables, for example. Skip excess amounts of sugar, saturated fat and refined grains. These do contain calories, but little nutrients to contribute to healthy weight gain and game-time performance.
Snacking for Weight Gain
A little extra protein daily will help you build the muscle you want to be strong out on the field. Consume between 0.6 and 0.9 grams of protein per pound of your body weight each day. If you weigh 150 pounds, that's 90 to 135 grams per day. Eat 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal and another 10 to 20 grams at snacks.
Quality sources of protein include lean ground beef, beans, chicken or turkey breast, Greek yogurt, fish, cottage cheese and milk. Nuts and seeds also provide some protein, along with calorie-dense unsaturated fats, and are an easy grab-and-go option.
Your snack between meals could be a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread, sliced deli turkey with woven wheat crackers, Greek yogurt with granola or cottage cheese with blueberries and almonds. After your workout, be sure to refuel with a combination of protein and carbohydrates. The carbs refill your glycogen, or energy stores, and the protein helps your muscles repair and recover. A convenient post-workout meal is a whey protein shake with banana, berries and milk, but flank steak with corn tortillas and salsa or a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread also work.
Patience and Expectations
You may want to be the biggest player this season, but gaining fat won't necessarily make you the most effective athlete. Keep your goals in mind; if you play defensive back or wide receiver, for example, agility is key and being too heavy may compromise your plays.
Also, recognize that some body types just aren't made to be linebackers. If you're naturally long and lean, all the calories and weight training won't turn you into a beefy football player. You may reconsider your sports dream or your playing position based on body size.