My name is Patrick. I am a new member to the gym since in January. Since joining, I go 4 times a week (Monday – Thursday) and want to optimize my results. I work out for about an hour and fifteen minutes each time, mostly focusing on the upper body and abdomen. I drink a protein shake every day and try to also eat an avocado. I have trouble it seems gaining weight even though I’m consuming 2,500+ calories a day usually. I also drink a Gatorade every time I go to the gym and try to eat a lot of nuts with my turkey at every meal. I don’t have a lot of time to prep food so like buying pre-packaged cold turkey. I can eat straight out of the package or pre-packed snack mixes of dried fruit and nuts. I have gained about 10 pounds in the last 5 months, but results are slow to come. I do the same workout every time hitting nearly every muscle group in my body sometime during my workout. What are the best workouts/machines to use for upper bodybuilding and what should I be eating?

– Patrick


Ten pounds gained is a testament to your efforts thus far! Based on the loose description of your intake it sounds like you’re getting dense foods like nuts, dried fruit, and avocado in. You say you drink 500 calories worth and I’ll assume that is from the two beverages you’ve mentioned – a protein shake and Gatorade. Not bad. Hopefully, you are drinking other fluids! Make sure they also have calories like milk (alternatives) and juice.

For solid foods – even quick/packaged items – maximize every bite by making sure it’s topped, soaked or loaded with condiments. For instance, make instant oatmeal with milk instead of water and use extra mayo packets on a turkey sandwich or wrap. High-calorie ready to eat food includes cheese cubes, full-fat sweetened yogurt, potato salad, bars suitable for hiking, and shelf-stable meal pouches (though they may taste better heated).

Not fixing your own food is a disadvantage to healthier eating, as most other energy-rich items are loaded with sugar, salt and fat or contain few fruits and vegetables: canned chili, fried chips, fruit strips/leather, jerky, burritos, egg rolls, etc. Try to take time the night before to pack a small cooler of a few healthier staples. For example, hard-cooked eggs or a single-serve peanut butter tub with a bagel, raw apples or celery sticks as snacks.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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