How to Gain Weight Without Losing Speed

Olympics Day 14 - Athletics

Contrary to popular belief, gaining weight doesn't have to make you slower. Athletes are often afraid of gaining muscle, fearing that it will make them bulky and cumbersome, but this isn't the case. Gaining fat isn't wise, as fat is nonfunctional weight that can slow you down, writes nutritionist Anita Bean in "The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition." More muscle mass can make you stronger, though, and stronger muscles can make you a faster runner, adds UK Athletics coach Brian Mackenzie.

Increase your daily calorie intake by 500. To gain weight you need a surplus of calories, as this gives your body the energy and resources to build muscle; but too big a surplus can lead to unwanted fat gain, which will decrease your speed. You don't need 4000, 5,000 or 6,000 calories per day, as many bodybuilding and weight training magazines recommend, claims bodybuilder and sports nutritionist Layne Norton. A small surplus is ample for building mass while staying lean.

Start each workout with plyometric training. Plyometrics are leaping, jumping and bounding movements -- any exercise that requires a high amount of explosive power. These are the key to maintaining speed and power, according to strength coach Chad Smith, owner of Juggernaut Training Systems. Exercises such as box jumps, broad jumps, clap pushups and the Olympic lifts play a huge role in maintaining athletic speed and power.

Maintain your current speed workout schedule. Weight training becomes more important when you're trying to gain weight, but you shouldn't sacrifice your speed work for it. Perform three full-body weight sessions per week, focusing on compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, rows and presses, and work these in alongside what you've been doing to get your speed to its current level. If you notice a drop-off in speed, you may need to reduce your rate of weight gain by lowering your calorie intake, or cut one of the weight sessions in favor of extra speed work.


Check your weight regularly to make sure you're not gaining weight, and in particular fat, too quickly. Aim for a half pound increase per week.


Consult your health-care provider before changing your diet or training regime.