My name is Kenton and I am 20 years old. I little bit of background: I swam for the University of the Pacific for 2 years but decided to take some time off from school to work and train. With Pacific I was training about 20 hours a week and I weighed 143 pounds at my heaviest. I have been weight training 4-5 times a week since January but currently weigh 140 lbs. My goal is to weigh around 155 pounds. Any advice would be amazing.

– Kenton Q.


I understand your weight goal is beyond your previous heaviest mark. That may take some doing! Further nutrition will only augment the weight training you are able to put towards that goal unless you want pure fat gain. (I’ll assume not.) As it’s not clear what your previous or current diet habits are, I can only offer general advice to put on lean mass.

First – increase nutrient density. Get the most out of every bite with high calorie and nutrient-packed choices. That means that dilute, air or water-filled choices take a back seat to heavier, and rich options. For example, eat oats or granola instead of puffed rice and choose ground meat patties over most fish fillets, except higher fat salmon, herring, mackerel or sardines. Tortillas can replace bread. Snack on dried fruits instead of melon. Fill half your plate with starchy vegetables like peas, corn, carrots and winter squash instead of watery vegetables such as onion, peppers, zucchini, and celery. Even higher sugar or fatty beverages like juices and whole milk help more than water for weight gain.

Second — eat a lot, eat often. Consuming more sheer volume boosts calories and usually offsets healthier (lower calorie) choices. When volume is limited, eating quickly before you feel full or splitting a meal in half to eat an hour or two later can mean getting in more bulk. When you think you’re done eating, push yourself to finish a couple more bites. Wait until after you eat to drink your beverage (and make sure it has calories, too.)

Third – time it right. Fuel your muscles properly pre- and post-workout to capitalize on the surge of hormones driving anabolism. The nutrition window to boost protein synthesis is considered about 30 minutes before and after weight training. Easy to digest lean proteins and low-fiber carbohydrates are the prime choices. Examples are egg whites, poultry breast, bagels, and pretzels. This is also when faster digesting liquid supplements have a leg up on solid food.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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