Healthy Weight Gain Tips for Basketball Players

It's a weight-loss world. People of all ages are constantly trying to shed pounds, to tighten their frames and to make the scale spit out a smaller number. It's a billion-dollar industry.

So it's a bit awkward that so many young basketball players actually need to gain weight.

If you're a teenage basketball player who's too skinny, you're hardly alone. Teenagers--both boys and girls--often feel like they're too underweight to play basketball to their highest ability. That's especially true for those who are tall and are forced to play physically in the paint.

"With adolescents, there's so much energy expended in growing taller, there's not a lot left over to grow out," said Becci Twombley. "That's a big issue."

Twombley is the nutritionist for the UCLA athletic department, and it's her job to make sure the Bruins' athletes are doing everything they can to add good weight to their often lanky frames.

From the time they enter high school until they're around 21 years old, some basketball players can eat whatever they want, as much as they want, and not gain a pound. While it's an uphill battle for a body that's still finishing its final growth spurt, there are things you can do to try to pack good weight onto your frame.

Eating Habits

First thing's first: eat a good breakfast. Before diving into a diet reconstruction, Twombley insists that without starting the day with breakfast, you don't stand a chance of putting on good weight.

"A lot of people get up and leave the house without breakfast," Twombley said. "Make sure you eat a big breakfast, not just a banana on the way out. Have oatmeal with sliced bananas, maybe some walnuts, a yogurt, a piece of fruit."

From there, set up your eating schedule so that you're consuming calories every three hours, instead of just three meals a day. Breaking up your eating into six meals gives you the opportunity to eat more calories. And calories are the key to any good weight gain.

"Don't eat so much at one sitting that you're not going to be hungry in three hours, because if you're overeating at one meal, you're going to be able to go six hours without eating," Twombley said. "The reality is, you can fit more calories in if you're eating every 3-4 hours during the day."

Twombley also insists that eating good food is as important as eating often. She stresses the need for young players to add in high-calorie food that's healthy. This includes:

  • Trail mix, which is a great grab-and-go snack with a lot of varieties available.
  • Granola
  • Cereals like Raisin Bran
  • Dried fruit
  • Avocados are a great food for those looking to gain good weight, due to its "good fat" content as well as Omega 3s. Avocadoes can be added to sandwiches, burritos, salads and other normal meals.

"A lot of my guys like to eat junk food," Twombley said. "They like to eat Doritos or chicken wings or chicken fingers with ranch dressing. Even though those are calories, they aren't functional calories so they don't actually do anything for them. If they eat them, they'll burn off really quickly because they have these great metabolisms and they're working so hard. But they're not getting the results they want to get."

So how many calories does an underweight player need? It depends on several factors, including age, maturity level and existing muscle mass. At UCLA, Twombley notices that most of the men's basketball players in need of weight gain can eat between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day.

Female basketball players looking to add weight don't need as many calories as the guys because of less muscle mass. But at UCLA, they can still average between 3,000 and 4,000 calories a day.

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