How to gain weight fast

The purpose of creating a sample meal plan is to assist a post collegiate athlete in gaining strength in order to go professional. The described athlete has strength discrepancies after finishing college on a student food budget, which was lacking in variety, quality and quantity of ingestible foods. Furthermore, this athlete is gunning for the NBA and needs to gain weight and make sure that he is not tapping his current musculature as he prepares for his career. The meal plan goals need to incorporate bioavailability, easily digestible whole grains and proteins, with essential nutrients that promote appositional bone growth, collagen repair and growth, along with hypertrophy of support and propulsion muscles. The meal plan can assist an entire population of competitive athletes that have similar goals for muscle development and growth.


This particular meal plan was created for a very active six foot, six inch (198 cm) adult male in his early 20’s weighing 220 pounds, with a body fat percentage of 9%, a body mass index of 25.5, a basal metabolic rate of 2,130 kcal. This means that the meal plan must meet or exceed the 2,130 kcal energy requirements for a male of this stature and his daily energy expenditure of 4,552 kcal.

Table 1. below shows a sample day of the meal plan energy expenditures and consumption along with the nutrient targets:

Table 1. Energy & Nutrient TargetsGeneralDoseDaily Percentage
Energy4,541.1 kcal104%
Water6,280.4 g170%
Consumed4,552 kcal
Burned4,362 kcal
Balance189 kcalSurplus
Energy4,541 kcal/4,362 kcal104%
Protein144.9 g/163.6 g89%
Carbs726.0 g/599.8 g121%
Fat151.1 g/145.4 g104%
Nutrient Targets91%
Vitamin A1,672%
Vitamin C565%
Vitamin B 12151%

*Please note that the color coded boxes imply that green fits the dietary standards, red exceeds the dietary standards, and yellow means that the it falls under the dietary standards and or the presets for the parameters I set for the ratio percentage of the macronutrients.

To meet the requirements listed above, I formulated a meal plan that has the following macronutrient percentages: Carbohydrates 55%, proteins 15%, and lipids 30% of the dietary intake. According to Lambert et al, “the composition of diets for body builders should be 55-60% carbohydrate, 25-30% protein and 15-20% of fat, for both the off-season and pre-contest phases.”(Lambert et al, 2004) I have incorporated the following supplements: Vitamin D (1,000 IU), to combat living in the Pacific NW, which has months of low UV. Great Lakes Collagen (2 tbsp.) combined with fortified Orange juice (vitamin C) for absorption as a pre workout beverage of collagen for repair and growth. I have included Orgain, Organic Protein Powder, sweet vanilla bean (0.5 cup) combined with 2 cups of lactose free milk as a post workout beverage to ensure success in meeting the hypertrophy of support and propulsion muscles.

Due to three hours of workouts per day for the athlete, I have also included Himalayan sea salt and fresh lemon juice as an additive to the half-gallon (8 cups) of water per day, so that it acts as a refreshing electrolyte to balance the water intake and water loss due to sweating during the strenuous workouts. According to Penniston et al, “ Citrate is a naturally-occurring inhibitor of urinary crystallization; achieving therapeutic urinary citrate concentration is one clinical target in the medical management of calcium urolithiasis. When provided as fluids, beverages containing citric acid add to the total volume of urine, reducing its saturation of calcium and other crystals, and may enhance urinary citrate excretion.” (Penniston et al, 2009)

I have also incorporated intermittent fasting from 6 pm to 9 am to encourage growth hormone to undulate higher during the athletes sleep session. According to Nørrelund, “The metabolic response to fasting involves a series of hormonal and metabolic adaptations leading to protein conservation. An increase in the serum level of growth hormone (GH) during fasting has been well substantiated.” (Nørrelund, 2001) Not only does intermittent fasting increase the release of growth hormone, it also prevents muscle protein breakdown. According to Moro et al, “Our results suggest that an intermittent fasting program in which all calories are consumed in an 8-h window each day, in conjunction with resistance training, could improve some health-related biomarkers, decrease fat mass, and maintain muscle mass in resistance-trained males” (Moro et al, 2016).

Intermittent fasting plays a role in creating a healthy gut biome when combined with probiotics, prebiotics and enzymes that are shown in the sample meal plan by foods such as whole milk yogurt, plantains, whole grains, and pumpkin seeds. According to a study by Crawford et al “during fasting, the presence of gut microbiota improved the supply of ketone bodies to the heart where KBs were oxidized. In the absence of a microbiota, low levels of KB was associated with a related increase in glucose utilization, but heart weight was still significantly reduced” (Crawford et al, 2009)

After reading, “The way to a man’s heart is through his gut microbiota’ dietary pro—and prebiotics for the management of cardiovascular risk”, it was clear that the gut brain linkage is critical to circadian rhythm, and lipolysis, and is positively correlated to intermittent fasting and dietary intake while feeding. According to Tuohy et al, “The microbiome-gut-brain axis links human physiology (and pathology) to millions of other microorganisms that share the same host. The microbiome is affected by dietary intake” (Tuohy et al, 2014) I have selected whole foods and have an emphasis on yogurt, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to increase the population of helpful microorganisms living within the small intestine to get proper absorption of the essential vitamins and have greater chances of bioavailability from the selected foods outlined in the meal plan below in Table 7:

Table 7. Sample Meal Plan DescriptionDoseCalories
Morning Fast  
Tap water4 cups0
Salt, Himalayan1 dash4.74
Great lakes collagen hydrolysate, unflavored, joint care2 tbsp.21.5
Lemon juice, raw1 fl. oz.6.71
60 minutes of Hatha Yoga -153.6
Tap water2 cups0
Orange juice, fortified with calcium and vitamin D1 cup117.03
Trader Joes Vitamin D1 soft gel0
Eggs, cooked2 medium136.4
Ghee, clarified butter1 tsp.37.41
Oatmeal, steel cut0.5 cup101.07
Chia seeds1 tbsp.48.6
Dates, Medjool4, pitted265.92
Carrots, cooked from fresh1 medium19.6
Pumpkin seeds, raw1 tbsp.42.33
Plain whole milk yogurt0.5 cup74.73
60 minutes of basketball drills and practice -869.67
Tap water4 cups0
Maduro, fried plantains4 medium1,712.87
Avocado, raw1 medium321.6
Table 7. Continued…Description:Pineapple, rawDose:1 cup chunksCalories:82.5
Organic Collard greens, cooked2.5 cups25
Organic sweet potatoes cooked2 medium229.02
USDA choice Angus NY strip steak0.5 oz.31.64
Carrots, cooked from fresh1 medium19.6
Lentils, boiled0.5 cup114.84
Kidney beans cooked from dried0.5 cup112.4
Pumpkin canned0.5 cup41.65
60 minutes of resistance training, explosive effort -333.39
Kiwi2 medium84.18
Tap water4 cups0
Lactaid, Lactose whole milk2 cups297.67
Orgain, Organic Protein Powder, sweet vanilla bean0.5 cup150
Pacific Sockeye Salmon0.5 cup190
Mushrooms, cooked from fresh1 cup43.68
Garlic, cooked from fresh1 clove2.98
White rice, cooked1 cup205.41
Eden, sesame and sea vegetable Furikake seasoning1 tsp.10
Evening fast189 kcal surplus


To be clear, the number of one-cup servings that I recommend per day for each of the food groups is listed below:

·      Fruits: approximately 8 servings/day

·      Vegetables: approximately 8 servings/day

·      Dairy: 2.5 servings/day

·      Whole Grains: 2.5 servings/day

·      Nuts: 0.19 servings/day

·      Meat: 1.5 servings/day

·      Water: 8 servings/day

In order for the meal plan to meet the goals to incorporate bioavailability, easily digestible whole grains and proteins, with essential nutrients that promote appositional bone growth, collagen repair and growth, along with hypertrophy of support and propulsion muscles, I have included fruits and vegetables as my source of plant based foods to make sure that phytochemicals are being consumed and that the cellulose acts as roughage to ensure appropriate digestion and laxation occurs with such a dense calorie meal plan. According to Rui Hai Liu, “Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer disease, cataracts, and some of the functional declines associated with aging.” (Liu, 2003) Choosing any organic fruits and vegetables is the prime directive. However, frozen fruits and vegetables will satisfy the eight cups of each suggested intake. Note that the dark leafy greens such as collard green, mustard greens, chard, spinach, and kale offer the vitamins A, B, and K along with some Calcium, Iron, and Manganese.  Avocados offer fats including Omega-3 and Omega-6, and B vitamins. And the sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, carrots and plantains all offer copious amounts of vitamin A. 

I included dairy foods such as yogurts and lactose free milk to be part of the meal plan for their protein, vitamin D and Calcium content, and for the probiotics found in the yogurt. According to Adolfsson et al, “Some studies using yogurt, individual LAB species, or both showed promising health benefits for certain gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrheal diseases, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, and allergies. Patients with any of these conditions could possibly benefit from the consumption of yogurt. The benefits of yogurt consumption to gastrointestinal function are most likely due to effects mediated through the gut microflora, bowel transit, and enhancement of gastrointestinal innate and adaptive immune responses.” (Adolfsson et al, 2014) I view gut health as a high priority and this is why I included prebiotics such as whole grains, plantains, pumpkin, and legumes to be part of the meal plan. The nitrogen fixing properties of pumpkin seeds made the list along with the hydrating properties of chia seeds.

The meat section of the meal plan was included to ensure enough protein and fats were consumed to stave of catabolism from the anaerobic workouts and this is also why I went over the allotted percentage of carbohydrates, to ensure that there was enough fuel (glycogen) in the tank for the work load. According to Artioli et al, “Skeletal muscle is the major deposit of protein molecules (about 40% of body weight in young males [38]) and it is in a constant balance between anabolism and catabolism, known as “protein turnover”. Skeletal muscle protein turnover is the ratio between protein synthesis and protein breakdown rates [39]. Thus, protein balance could be: (a) neutral protein synthesis and breakdown are equal, which results in muscle mass maintenance; (b) positive protein synthesis is higher than breakdown, which results in muscle mass gain; or (c) negative protein breakdown rate is greater than the rate of protein synthesis, which results in muscle mass loss” (Artioli et al, 2013) The meats that I chose to represent a sample meal plan provided iron and B12 from the NY steak, and Omega-3 and Omega-6 from the Pacific salmon.

The whole grain section of the meal plan can be a variety of whole grains such as rice (any color), beans (any color), and all intact whole grains. Preferably dried varieties of all opposed to canned which can have elevated sodium or sugar levels. Whole grains offer vitamins and minerals such as, B & K vitamins along with Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc to name a few. Not only do whole grains offer vitamins and minerals, they also offer the macronutrients, protein and carbohydrates. According to Jonnalagadda, et al, “Current scientific evidence indicates that whole grains play an important role in lowering the risk of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also contribute to body weight management and gastrointestinal health. The essential macro- and micronutrients, along with the phytonutrients present in whole grains, synergistically contribute to their beneficial effects. Current evidence lends credence to the recommendations to incorporate whole grain foods into a healthy diet and lifestyle program.” (Jonnalagadda, et al, 2011) The primary directive of utilizing this food group is to gain bulk for laxation and gain access to a larger supply of minerals that fruits and vegetables cannot achieve on their own.

The nuts and seeds portion of the meal plan include seeds such as pumpkin, and chia for their ability to add bulk and according to Ros, “Nuts (tree nuts and peanuts) are nutrient dense foods with complex matrices rich in unsaturated fatty and other bioactive compounds: high-quality vegetable protein, fiber, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds.” (Ros, 2010).

I have labeled four half-gallon containers with the volume of each food group including the servings of each type of food to demonstrate the sheer volume of food and water that I recommend per day for a highly active athlete. I designed the meal plan similar to the Mediterranean Diet, in that I put an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. According to the Dernini and Berry, “The term “Mediterranean diet” implies the existence of some common dietary characteristics in Mediterranean countries such as: high amounts of olive oil and olives, fruits, vegetables, cereals (mostly unrefined), legumes, and nuts, moderate amounts of fish and dairy products, and low quantities of meat and meat products. Wine in moderation is acceptable when it is not contradictory to religious and social norms (35).” (Dernini & Berry, 2015) I did not add wine to the sample meal plan, just as I did not include cannabis. I view these substances as a personal choice, and would not impose them on any athlete no matter the relaxation or antioxidant properties they hold.

Tables 2 through 6 contain data from the sample meal plan to correspond to the specifics of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. This information can be referenced in the Tables of meal plan data below:

Tables of meal plan data:

Table 2. VitaminsVitaminsDoseDaily Percentage
B1 (Thiamine) (Essential)2.2 mg183%
B2 ( Riboflavin) (Essential)3.3 mg258%
B3 (Niacin) (Essential)28.8 mg180%
B5 (Pantothetic Acid) (Essential)16.7 mg333%
B6 (Pyridoxine) (Essential)5.1 mg389%
B12 (Cobalamin) (Essential)3.6 microgram151%
Biotin18.7 microgram62%
Choline695.4 mg126%
Folate (Essential)1,070.8 microgram268%
Vitamin A (Essential)50,145.3 IU1,672%
Alpha-carotene13,833.8 microgramNo Target
Beta-carotene22,087.8 microgramNo Target
Beta-cryptoxanthin134.0 microgramNo Target
Lutein + Zeaxanthin2,345.5 microgramNo Target
Lycopene2,345.5 microgramNo Target
Retinol418.1 microgramNo Target
Retinol Actvity Equivalent2,839.7 microgramNo Target
Vitamin C (Essential)508.8 mg565%
Vitamin D (Essential)1,440.5 IU240%
Vitamin E (Essential)16.9 mg113%
Beta Tocopherol0.7 mgNo Target
Delta Tocopherol12.4 mgNo Target
VitaminsGamma TocopherolDose42.7 mgDaily PercentageNo Target
Vitamin K (Essential)333.0 microgram277%

*Please note that the color coded boxes imply that green fits the dietary standards, red exceeds the dietary standards, and yellow means that the it falls under the dietary standards and or the presets for the parameters I set for the ratio percentage of the macronutrients.

Table 3. MineralsMineralsDoseDaily Percentage
Calcium (Essential)1,920.7 mg192%
Chromium (Essential)0.0 micrograms0
Copper4.2 mg468%
Fluoride141.1 micrograms0
Iodine0.0 micrograms0
Iron (Essential)31.9 mg399%
Magnesium904.6 mg226%
Manganese8.6 mg373%
Molybdenum0.0 micrograms0
Phosphorus2,182.1 mg312%
Potassium12230.6 mg260%
Selenium139.9 micrograms254%
Sodium1,542.2 mg103%
Zinc (Essential)14.3 mg130%

*Please note that the color coded boxes imply that green fits the dietary standards, red exceeds the dietary standards, and yellow means that the it falls under the dietary standards and or the presets for the parameters I set for the ratio percentage of the macronutrients.

As shown above in Table 2., and Table 3., ten of the eleven essential nutrients have been met. Unfortunately, chromium the “un met” essential mineral was not picked up by the Cronometer with the 0.5 cup of rice in the sample meal plan, along with the other whole grains and fresh vegetables that provide chromium. I believe that all eleven essential nutrients would have been met had the chromium been included in the total.

After running the sample day through Cronometer, it revealed that the folate levels were high. According to the National Institute of Health, (NIH), “Large amounts of folate can correct the megaloblastic anemia, but not the neurological damage, that can result from vitamin B12 deficiency. Some experts have therefore been concerned that high intakes of folate supplements might “mask” vitamin B12 deficiency until its neurological consequences become irreversible. Questions about this possibility still remain, but the focus of concern has shifted to the potential for large amounts of folate to precipitate or exacerbate the anemia and cognitive symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiency [2,86,149-154].” (NIH, 2018) The upper limits for adults are 1,000 micrograms, and the sample day had 1,070.8 micrograms of folate.

Folate is water-soluble, and the gallon of water per day will flush the folate out and be released in the urine. Furthermore, NIH also stated that, “Folate that is naturally present in food is not harmful. Folic acid in supplements and fortified foods, however, should not be consumed in amounts above the upper limit, unless recommended by a healthcare provider. Taking large amounts of folic acid might hide a vitamin B12 deficiency. Folic acid can correct the anemia but not the nerve damage caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. This can lead to permanent damage of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. High doses of folic acid might also increase the risk of colorectal cancer and possibly other cancers in some people.” (NIH, 2018) As seen in the vitamin and mineral report below, folate was the only vitamin that was in the upper limits.

Biotin, another B vitamin, was the only vitamin shown as being under represented by the sample meal plan at 18.7 micrograms. According to NIH, “Many foods contain some biotin. Foods that contain the most biotin include organ meats, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables (such as sweet potatoes) [2,12]. The biotin content of food can vary; for example, plant variety and season can affect the biotin content of cereal grains, and certain processing techniques (e.g., canning) can reduce the biotin content of foods [12]. Dietary avidin, a glycoprotein in raw egg whites, binds tightly to dietary biotin and prevents biotin’s absorption in the gastrointestinal tract [13,14]. Cooking denatures avidin, making it unable to interfere with biotin absorption [13].” (NIH, 2018) After hovering over the biotin values, the cooked eggs were the only contributing food group on the Chronometer website. I am concerned that the Chronometer did not pick up the biotin content in the sweet potatoes, fish, steak, and pumpkin seeds to reach the 30-microgram daily recommendations. Therefore, I am not concerned about a biotin deficiency.

Table 4. CarbohydratesDoseDaily Percentage
Carbs726.0 g121%
Fiber94.2 g248%
Starch300.8 gNo Target
Sugars307.6 gNo Target
Fructose72.9 gNo Target
Galactose14.3 gNo Target
Glucose84.8 gNo Target
Lactose4.1 gNo Target
Maltose0.6 gNo Target
Sucrose125.2 gNo Target
Added Sugars0.0 gNo Target
Sugar Alchohol7.7 gNo Target
Net Carbs 486%

*Please note that the color coded boxes imply that green fits the dietary standards, red exceeds the dietary standards, and yellow means that the it falls under the dietary standards and or the presets for the parameters I set for the ratio percentage of the macronutrients.

As seen above in Table 4. Carbohydrates, it appears that the daily percentage of 55% was exceeded in the sample meal plan. This is mostly due to the sixteen cups of fruits and vegetables along with the combination of the 2.5 cups of whole grains. To get a precise 55%, one could simply eat fewer sweet potatoes, or fewer plantains.

Table 5. ProteinsDoseDaily Percentage
Proteins144.9 g88%
Alanine4.4 gNo Target
Arginine5.6 gNo Target
Aspartic Acid8.7 gNo Target
Cystine1.2 g132%
Glutamic Acid14.4 gNo Target
Glycine4.6 gNo Target
Histidine2.3 g168%
Hydroxyproline0.1 gNo Target
Isoleucine3.7 g197%
Leucine6.4 g154%
Lysine5.6 g147%
Methionine1.7 g178%
Phenylalanine4.1 g251%
Proline5.8 gNo Target
Serine4.7 gNo Target
Threonine3.3 g168%
Tryptophan1.0 g193%
Tyrosine2.9 g173%
Valine4.8 g202%

*Please note that the color coded boxes imply that green fits the dietary standards, red exceeds the dietary standards, and yellow means that the it falls under the dietary standards and or the presets for the parameters I set for the ratio percentage of the macronutrients.

            Table 5. Proteins above, shows that the percentage for protein consumption of 15% was not met. To correct this, a serving of nuts, dairy or the combination of beans and rice could be used to increase the protein content. For example, instead of having rice at dinner, I could have added it to the breakfast or lunch listed in the sample meal plan on Table 7.

Table 6. LipidsDoseDaily Percentage
Fat151.1 g104%
Monounsaturated49.7 gNo Target
Polyunsaturated47.7 gNo Target
Omega-38.4 g526%
Omega-638.7 g228%
Saturated35.5 g35.544 g
Trans-fats1.1 g1.071 g
Cholesterol482.8 mgNo Target
Phytosterol0.0 mgNo Target

*Please note that the color coded boxes imply that green fits the dietary standards, red exceeds the dietary standards, and yellow means that the it falls under the dietary standards and or the presets for the parameters I set for the ratio percentage of the macronutrients.

            Saturated and Trans-fats appeared red in Table 6. Lipids above. This is due to the low limit of trans fat (0g), and the low limit of saturated fats. The contributors of saturated fats are the Maduros (9.7 g), Lactaid milk (9.1 g), Avocados (4.3 g), Eggs (2.9 g), Ghee (2.6 g), Yogurt (2.6 g), Salmon (1.5 g), Steak (0.9 g), Pumpkin seeds (0.6 g) and Chia Seeds (0.4 g). And not surprising, the trans-fat contributors are: Lactaid milk (0.5 g), Maduro (0.3 g), Ghee (0.2 g) and Yogurt (0.1 g) If I were to divide the meals up separately, I would fit well within the margins for trans-fat, and saturated fat guidelines. However, since this is a snap shot of the entire day, it has a summing effect.


The meal plan is indeed sustainable, and can be eaten every day as long as the energy expenditure is met to offset the large volume of whole foods. The energy demands have been met and slightly exceed the amount needed to break even. Consuming eight cups of fruits and eight cups of vegetables can become quite boring for the palate and gut if they are the same fruits and vegetables day in and day out. Thus, “keeping it weird” and mixing it up with a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can ensure a good time for both the palate and the gut. Following a meal plan with the macronutrient percentages: Carbohydrates 55%, proteins 15%, and lipids 30% of the dietary intake can result in an easily digestible diet with whole grains, proteins, and essential nutrients that promote appositional bone growth, collagen repair and growth, along with hypertrophy of support and propulsion muscles.


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