As mentioned in part 2 of "What I wish I knew in high school", one of the most important things I wish I knew in high school was that gaining weight is directly related to throwing harder, and being able to sustain that velocity. Tread Athletics, ran by Ben Brewster, wrote a book called “Building the 95mph Body.” (This is a must read!) In it is the following page:
When you read the conclusion, it is obvious that adding muscle mass is incredibly important to add velocity, and ultimately compete at the next level.
I have been coaching a 15-18 year old team, and it amazes me how skinny all these players are! They have no muscle mass on them, and yet they ask me how to throw 90. I have told many of them to just eat more! I also look back on my own high school baseball playing years, and realize I was much like them. Entering my freshman year of University, I was 6’3”, and 170lbs, which is much the same size as many of these players I am coaching. Over my University career, my velocity directly increased as my weight increased. The hardest I ever threw was when I was 225lbs, but I also had my highest average velocity when I was 235lbs. So this leads to the next topic.
How to add muscle mass
In high school, I was always told to get on a “See Food” diet, meaning if you see food, you eat that food. Although I tried, I could never seem to gain weight. But the main problem was that I didn’t make gaining weight a priority. I didn’t take lifting seriously, and I didn’t take eating seriously. I wouldn’t pack enough food for my lunches at school, and I would be done eating all of it before lunch even began. In University, I had my eyes opened by a cafeteria that I could eat at for 2 hours, 3 times a day. The school I went to was also in Kentucky, so much of the food was fried. I gained 20 pounds quickly, just having food available to me for much of the day. I would spend up to 4 hours a day sitting in the caf just grabbing plate after plate of food.
As I started gaining more weight, adding an extra 5-10 pounds got even tougher. I was stuck at 195 for about 6 months before I made a conscious decision to eat more meals a day, and especially focusing on eating a large meal right before I went to sleep. I was also taking lifting very seriously, and started making serious gains in the gym.
Adding muscle mass is a two-step process. First, you need to have a good lifting program, filled with the basic lifts of squats, deadlifts, some variation of benching, and a few accessory exercises. The second step is to eat food to make gains. A common misconception is that you get bigger in the gym. But ultimately, and very simply, working out breaks down your muscles, and the food you eat builds them back up stronger.
A simple lifting program would be three times a week, focusing on one of the big three lifts on each, (squat, deadlift, dumbbell bench) and then adding in accessory exercises. If you are a beginner, a good starting point would be Stronglifts. (Switch bench with dumbbell bench, and eliminate shoulder press) Make sure that you have a strength coach watching your form, especially at the beginning. Good form is much more important that the weight you are using, since good form will use the correct muscles, instead of putting stress on joints, such as your knees, and lower back.
I would highly recommend downloading MyFitnessPal app on your phone, and start tracking how much you are eating. You will be quickly surprised at how low the calorie count is. You should be aiming for 3500-4000 calories per day. At first, it is most important to just get as many calories as you can, and then as you start adding weight, it will be more important to follow the macronutrient guidelines given to you by the app. This is typically 50% carbs, 30% fats, and 20% protein.
The best meal plan I ever followed for gaining weight was this:
Meal 1: A full bag of Mini-Wheats with 1% milk. This was extremely tough to do, as it is about 5 bowls of cereal, but it adds up to over 1000 calories.
Meal 2: A pound of pasta with half a pound of ground beef and pasta sauce.
Meal 3: Same as meal 2
Meal 4: Two peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches.
Using this meal plan, I would put on about 1-2 pounds a week, with 4 heavy lifts and 7 baseball practices/games mixed in.
Gaining muscle mass needs to become a priority in your life if you are serious about playing at the next level. Lifting is a must, and eating more is also a must. Prepping food for your day, or even the next week, is essential. The food listed in the above suggested meal plan is not expensive. It may cost about 10-15 dollars a day. Find a way to make it happen.