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Weight Gain Recommendations for Athletes and Military Personnel: a Critical Review of the Evidence

A Correction to this article was published on 25 April 2022

This article has been updated


Purpose of Review

Sports nutrition guidelines typically state that athletes desiring weight gain follow a regimen that includes increasing energy intake by ~ 300–500 kcal/day with an emphasis on adequate protein and carbohydrate and judicious inclusion of energy-dense foods, in combination with rigorous resistance training. This regimen is thought to promote weekly gains of ~ 0.45 kg (1 lb), mostly as lean body mass (LBM). This review summarizes the evidence supporting these intentional weight gain regimens in athletes.

Recent Findings

Although some research has been conducted in the past 5 years, research on intentional weight gain is lacking.


Currently, available data suggests that weekly weight gain of 0.45 kg (1 lb), primarily as LBM, may be difficult for some athletes to achieve. Available evidence, however, suggests that commonly recommended strategies to promote calorie surplus, including consuming larger portions, incorporating energy-dense foods, and prioritizing liquid over solid foods, may prove helpful.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Correspondence to D. Enette Larson-Meyer.

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Conflict of Interests

D. Enette Larson-Meyer received a grant from The Peanut Institute (to her lab) to study the effect of peanuts on healthy weight gain in athletes and military personnel. Reilly K. Krason declares that she has no conflict of interest. Lindsey M. Meyer declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Larson-Meyer, D.E., Krason, R.K. & Meyer, L.M. Weight Gain Recommendations for Athletes and Military Personnel: a Critical Review of the Evidence. Curr Nutr Rep 11, 225–239 (2022).

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  • Intentional weight gain
  • Calorie surplus
  • Energy surplus
  • Hypercaloric intake
  • Muscle hypertrophy, Resistance exercise
  • Carbohydrate supplementation
  • Protein supplementation
  • Liquid meal
  • Energy density
  • Meal frequency