“My son told me he weighed yesterday and was at 230lbs. I’m a little concerned about what KIND of weight he is gaining. I’ve noticed a huge difference in muscle development in his quads which is so wild to see my “baby” with man quads but my concern is more around the middle. What are your thoughts on how he is gaining? What can I do to help him gain lean mass and lose more fat?”
First off, your son is doing a great job of logging his food consistently. He has gained 40lbs of good weight since he began my program as a high school sophomore weighing 190lbs. He is bigger, faster and stronger. He is a lineman on the high school football team, is competing for a starting position and needs to add size.
Let me back up a moment for those reading this who are unfamiliar with my strength and performance practices. My clients use free software to log their food every day. My clients are expected to log their food 90% of the time. That means that if there are 30 days in a month, I want them to log 27 of those days. That’s how they earn an “A” in my “class” each month.
90% = A.
When a client starts working with me, I set nutritional goals based upon each individual. In the questionnaire that I provide prior to starting training, most indicate that they want to get bigger, faster and stronger. Unfortunately, most of my new clients are not eating enough. Crazy, I know! It seems like teenagers can go through a dump truckload worth of food in a week but, what I typically find is that those are mainly empty calories that don’t do much of anything to provide adequate nutrition and to support their get “bigger, faster, stronger” goals.
I encourage them to eat a certain amount of quality protein at each meal, keep the sugars low, keep the sodium at a reasonable amount and, on training days, meet their daily calorie goal. I understand that these are teenagers and it takes a few weeks to get some traction with this process. BUT…if they come to me, that must mean that they want College level strength and performance while they are in high school. So, my standards are high. Discipline + accountability = Results.
So what happens, if they stop logging their food?
My current policy is to let my Seniors take care of it. My Senior high school athletes are 18 and 19 years old. They’re about to go off to college to play football. They understand. They want to leave their mark on the next wave of athletes who step into my garage gym. There will be no backing off, letting up or giving up. Every single day is about relentless achievement. Control what you can control, put your energy into YOURSELF and your TEAM.
How do my Seniors take care of it?
It may go something like this:
4:00 pm group finishes training and 5:30 pm group walks into the gym. One or two Seniors from the 4 pm group already know who didn’t log their food from yesterday. Senior may gently remind the athlete who didn’t log their food or Senior may ask the athlete to do:
- Burn machine
- Give a speech in front of the group on why nutrition is important
- Sing “Happy Birthday” to whoever’s birthday is around the corner
On good teams coaches hold players accountable, on great teams players hold players accountable.
The point is not to hurt or embarrass anyone. As a Dad and a responsible professional, I’m watching and I will have the final say as to what happens. The point is to remind the athlete in a constructive way that nutrition is a HUGE part of this program and to understand that you WILL NOT get results without taking the nutrition part seriously. Accountability and discipline. I do not want to waste anyone’s time and money and I am only interested in RESULTS – not social media likes or how well you’re doing on Fortnight.
I have a responsibility to my clients, their parents and to myself. It hurts my head a little bit every time someone tries to pass off less than their best. I know where the bar of expectation is and I want everyone around me to give their best as well. If I’m not doing full reps, tell me. If I seem a step slow, tell me. It won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll thank you and go back to work to get better. We’re all trying to get better. If you’re not, then this is not the place for you.
Sorry. But true. You have to know where the line is and then protect it. That’s how you build culture and high expectations.
OK, so back to “Mom’s” question. Once I’ve set a daily calorie goal for the client, it’s his or her job to achieve it. Do they need to be EXACTLY at 3500 calories a day if that’s the calorie goal? No. I’d rather them be over, though than under if they are trying to get bigger, faster, stronger. If they go over 200-300 calories, that’s fine. On the days that they DON’T workout, then they should be closer to 3500 calories. With a little practice and effort, logging one’s food becomes a regular habit that takes less than 3 minutes a day. I’m sure most are on their phones or video games for more than 3 minutes a day, right? If results are important, then do it and do it right.
Next is to determine what kinds of foods they are eating. If they are eating too much processed sugar, too much sodium, and too much junk food, then yes, they will probably gain “bad” weight. Most of us know what constitutes healthy food vs not healthy food. Eat more healthy food. I’m not looking to change someone’s diet (much) or disrupt their lives. I just want to help them achieve their goals faster.
- 2 egg yolks, 7 egg whites, Apple
- Oatmeal mixed with water. I used low sugar Quaker maple and brown sugar
- Baked chicken and an Asian salad kit
- Protein bar
- Peanut butter and fruit spread sandwich on whole-grain bread, a protein drink
- Salmon, baked potato, salad
It’s very hard to put on “bad” weight when you eat like this.
It doesn’t take a ton of time to prepare and it travels well if you go to school. The salmon was dinner so that can be a meal eaten at home. I don’t expect my clients to eat this way. I expect them to have cereal (low sugar), bacon (turkey), eggs, milk, fruit, hamburgers (skip the fries), lasagna, sandwiches (whole grain or pita), pasta, steak, sausage (very high in sodium) pizza ( not every day), protein bars, protein drinks, weight gain drinks, and snacks. Usually, snacks are the culprits to “bad” weight gain. Crackers, goldfish, chips, cookies, donuts, pop tarts, ice cream, etc. Most of these foods are where the high sugars and high sodium content live. Sugar causes your body to release the fat-storage hormone, insulin and to more easily store the excess as body fat. Sodium, if too much is eaten regularly, causes bloat and weight gain.
Don’t get me wrong, I eat birthday cake, cookies here and there and leftover pizza. But I certainly don’t eat it every day. Strict but don’t restrict. I’m pretty sure a medical Doctor who’s versed in nutrition would agree with what I’m writing here. Heck, I’ve trained Doctors who came to me for help with fitness and nutrition. Find out what works and then do that!
Lastly, get active. Enjoy the mild weather and go for a 20-minute walk, ride a bike, play basketball, do 4 minutes of Tabata training, do HIIT training, get into track at the high school. One of my clients throws the shot put on his track team. Since he’s on the track team, he has (gets) to run 400 meters, 200 meters and recovery walks with the rest of the track team. If your athlete is gaining too much weight, make sure he’s not eating too much of the wrong foods, eats less on the days that he doesn’t work out, and burns off excess calories with additional short bouts of exercise. I’m happy to provide a weekly snapshot of your athlete’s nutritional info so that you can see how he or she is doing with regard to logging and calorie intake. Just let me know! It takes a village.
To sum up:
- Log food consistently (90%).
- Don’t go over calorie goal by more than 200-300 calories a day if gaining “bad” weight is an issue.
- Keep processed sugar at 125 grams a day or lower. Keep sodium at 3500 mg a day or lower. Eat more healthy food than processed food.
- Eat less on non-workout days.
- Do short bouts (4 minutes – 20 minutes) of cardio regularly. Not every day but 4-5 days a week.
- Drink 1 to 1 1/2 gallons of water a day.
As always, thanks for your trust in me. I do not take this opportunity lightly.
P.P.S. Check out my book, “ Mom’s Guide To Weight Gain For High School Football Players” on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076FDC96G
This is the ultimate handbook for proper weight gain and will erase all doubts on how to help your high school athlete gain “good” weight.