Gaining Strength and Bulk

As an AFL player it is advantageous to be stronger and bigger than your opponent. Total body mass gains and in particular lean body tissue (muscle mass) gains will optimise strength while maintaining good agility and speed.

To achieve gains in muscle mass a player needs to follow a good resistance training program, along with a diet providing an energy intake greater than the daily energy expenditure from exercise and daily activities.

Consuming a high energy diet

Those with a high training load will consequently need to consume a lot of kilojoules, which can be achieved by following a high energy diet.

Achieving a high energy diet is not about pigging out on nutrient-poor foods at every opportunity. You should consider quality as well as quantity, as excessive energy intake without considering the right nutritional balance will promote fat storage.

Including the right mix of key nutrients

The most important nutrients to increase in the diet are carbohydrates and proteins. Carbohydrate foods, such as breads, cereals, pasta, fruit and dairy foods, provide the energy required to fuel your training. The quantity of carbohydrate will be determined by the amount of training undertaken.

Protein provides the building blocks for muscle growth, and an intake between 1.2-2.0 grams of protein for each kilogram of your body weight is needed. Consuming more protein does not lead to greater gains. Increasing the total amount of food in a well planned diet will allow most players to achieve this level of protein intake.

Tips for increasing energy intake

Eating more of the right foods can be a difficult task for some - the following tips may help:

  • Increase the number of times you eat rather than the size of your meals. Plan to eat five-to-six meals/snacks per day
  • Value adding to the food you currently eat is a useful way of increasing the energy content of foods without filling you up too much
  • Add fruit spreads, peanut butter, honey or jam to breads
  • Include yoghurt and honey in fruit smoothies
  • Use a nutrition supplement such as a meal replacement powder or skim milk powder in milk drinks
  • Enjoy high energy drinks which contain compact forms of energy and nutrients - fruit juice, milk, sports drinks and cordial are suitable choices
  • Avoid too many high fibre foods. Choose low fibre types of breads, cereals and grains, and drink juices and eat soups for your daily fruit and vegetable options
Eating around training times to optimise gains

Being organised and planning meals around training will also help to optimise weight gains. Including a snack prior to training will help to fuel that session as well as provide extra nutrients for muscle gain.

Consuming a snack within 30-60 minutes after exercise will help the body refuel and recover from the session. If food is not readily available at these times the player needs to be organised and bring along their own options. If your appetite is low, which is common after exercise, choose a sports drink or liquid meal supplement for refuelling instead.

Finally, the key rule is to be patient and persistent. Increasing body weight takes hard work and time to occur. Be realistic with your goals as gaining muscle and strength generally does not happen quickly.

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