I try to gain muscle by eating a lot. Unfortunately, I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. After joining LA Fitness, my weight has gone down and I’m still skinny. How can I grow some muscle so that I won’t scare people away due to looking like a skeleton? I appreciate you very much for your help!
– Kristine K.
Given your multiple conditions, you should consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for personalized advice according to your lab values and medications. If you choose to incorporate the following nutritional recommendations, do so only if you are under routine physician’s care for your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. These suggestions focus on nutrient density for muscle growth.
Include 1-2 tablespoon of raw nuts daily. Full of heart-healthy fats and calories with a little fiber, these won’t raise blood sugar or blood pressure. One ounce of almonds provides 164 calories.
Use tortillas instead of bread. Increased density without the pockets of air from leavened bread means more energy per bite. By turning to burritos or wraps in place of toast and sandwiches, you could add 100 calories to each meal (10-12” flour tortilla = ~220-350 Cals vs. 2 slices regular bread = 150 Cals).
Focus on potassium and energy-rich produce. Bananas, sweet potatoes, peas, and avocados are notably high in potassium which is important for proper fluid balance and thus blood pressure. Winter squash and beans are also significant plant sources with notable calories.
Increase eating sessions instead of volume. More frequent servings allow your body to better process your food without overload. By giving yourself a bonus low-sodium snack before bedtime, you can add calories without spiking your blood pressure and blood sugar.
Maximize your workouts. You’re not going to grow muscle tissue by eating alone! Muscles need a greater stress than they currently experience in order to increase in size and strength. Meet with a Pro Results® personal trainer for the best instruction on specific exercises to grow muscle.
– 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.