500 kcal nutrient cube BID
February 24, 2011 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm a vegetarian, I'm starting to work out with weights, and I'm looking for specific ways to add 1,000 calories per day to my diet. I'm very confused about how to accomplish this healthily. Halp!

I can't radically alter my daily meal habits, as I cook most of the meals for our household and it's working out great for everyone. Thus, I need some in-betweeners that pack a caloric punch. My appetite is generally weak, so the denser and smaller, the better. By "vegetarian" I guess I mean ovo-lacto-cheeso-gelatino-vegetarian. I'd really like specific recipes and calorie counts, rather than general combinations of ingredients. For this endeavor, I would value speed of prep and economy over taste, appearance, or gourmet.

(Yes, I will use a calorie tracker; yes, I have talked with my doctor; yes, I am in good health other than being chronically and significantly underweight; no, I have no food allergies or sensitivities. I'm in my late 20s if that helps somehow.)
posted by Maximian to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Avocado is your friend.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:46 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why don't you eat peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc., make shit-tons of hard-boiled eggs, and drink lots of milk with protein powder? I'm a little confused as to why you're asking for recipes at all -- just shove handfuls of almonds into your mouth. It's healthy, quick and dense.
posted by creasy boy at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Smoothies might work well for you, as I find it's easier to consume calories in liquid form. I calculated a cup of coconut milk, one banana and 2T of flax seeds at 614 calories. Freeze the banana to get the smoothie cold without watering it down with ice. Or add a cup of frozen fruit (will add ~80 calories, depending). Half an avocado would add ~144 calories, (and tastiness) as well, either in place of the frozen fruit, or in conjunction with frozen mango.
posted by radioaction at 7:52 AM on February 24, 2011

This is what whey protein powder is for. Protein is the most important nutrient for building muscle, and since you're a vegetarian I assume you're not getting enough. Put it in water for straight protein, or use whole milk and add peanut butter for added calories from fat.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:57 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Peanut butter banana smoothies. I like them so much I only wish I was trying to gain weight so I could have an excuse to drink more of them.

200 calories from 2 tbps peanut butter, 200 calories from 1-2 frozen bananas (about 1 cup), 100-200 calories from greek yogurt, depending on how much you use. 60-100 calories from 1-2 tbsp honey. So c. 600 calorories. Blend until combined for the best treat ever.

On that note, peanut butter in general is your friend in this endeavor. The real kind without sugar added (I use Trader Joe's unsalted no sugar added crunchy).
posted by CharlieSue at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The weight-lifter's great friend and standby: Whey protein powder and milk.
posted by ghharr at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2011

Milk! Lots of milk! It's an easy and healthy "snack" that you can drink whenever, and it's available everywhere - at convenience stores, in cartons at the cafeteria, etc. Drink a glass in the morning, an extra glass before bed, with meals, whatever you need to do.

Doesn't take all that much milk to add 1000 calories. Don't be afraid to drink 2% of whole milk if you're really trying to add muscle.

You need about 6.5 cups of whole milk to add in 1000 calories. This isn't as much as it might seem like at first - I've done diets drinking a gallon of whole milk per day every day to add muscle. However, you obviously don't have to take in your extra 1000 calories all in milk!
posted by Diplodocus at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2011

sorry, that should have said: "Don't be afraid to drink 2% *or* whole milk
posted by Diplodocus at 8:00 AM on February 24, 2011

2nd boiled eggs (fab for protein, highly portable - boil them the night before and just have them around), bananas (overall calories; potassium; almost as portable as boiled eggs), avocados (similar values, need a surface & knife - can mash one up, throw in a bit of lime if you like, and spread it on whole-grain toast), and pea- and other nuts and butters (high cal, high protein - stick em in a bag).
posted by nelljie at 8:03 AM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: I'm a little confused as to why you're asking for recipes at all -- just shove handfuls of almonds into your mouth.

Sorry, I should have been a little more specific in my post. This sounds stupid, but I'm, uh, not very good at eating. Left to my own devices, I would eat a few of the almonds here and there. Even if I'm trying to eat more than usual, I usually end up falling signifcantly short of the goal. If, however, someone were to tell me "eat n almonds", it wasn't such a large number so as to become tedious, and I'm convinced it's not unhealthy to get so much energy from these nuts, then I would certainly do that. In any case I need some kind of discrete food item or combo that will unequivocally get the job done, and I don't have to wonder "were there really X calories in that?"

Milk! Lots of milk!

Will I get too much calcium doing this? Seems silly, but I read something once about how adults could get kidney stones.
posted by Maximian at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2011

A tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil a day chased with a glass of milk will add a fair number of calories. Plus the monounsaturated fats are good for your heart.
posted by Homo economicus at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2011

"Will I get too much calcium doing this? Seems silly, but I read something once about how adults could get kidney stones."

I've never heard that from any reputable source, and the body needs plenty of calcium if you're lifting weights to strengthen bones and because calcium ions are an important part of muscular contractions. However, I'm not a doctor, so if you're worried about it, I recommend doing your own research until you're satisfied one way or the other.

Also, you can mix it up with other things, you don't always have to use milk to add in your calories.
posted by Diplodocus at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2011

Cheesey omelets for breakfast. Use mashed avocado on sammiches as you would use mayonnaise. Indulge in a wild orgy of peanut butter milkshakes. As mentioned above, coconut milk is both highly caloric and utterly delicious.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on February 24, 2011

This sounds stupid, but I'm, uh, not very good at eating.

That doesn't sound stupid, it sounds incredibly common. This is why underweight lifters drink shakes.

Here are some numbers for you.

1 banana: 105 cal, 1g protein
3 large eggs: 213 cal, 18g protein
1 ounce peanuts: 168 cal, 8g protein
1 avocado: 227 cal, 3g protein

Shake with 1 cup whole milk and 1 scoop whey concentrate: 266 cal, 32g protein

That's already more calories and far more protein than any of the above options, while being easier and quicker to consume, and that's a very small shake. You can easily use 2 cups of whole milk, 2 scoops of whey, and a tablespoon of natural peanut butter for a shake with 632 cal and 69g protein. This is extremely common among lifters, and for good reason.

Again, as a vegetarian, there's about a 99% chance you're not getting enough protein to support serious lifting. If you're not getting sufficient protein, you won't build muscle and make progress. Therefore, supplementing protein should be a primary concern for you.

Will I get too much calcium doing this?

posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 8:25 AM on February 24, 2011

If you're looking for specific stuff/sizes/easy-to-remember quantities, how about buying bulk nuts/trail mix fixings at the store and then portioning them out into baggies? If you're as stupid about food as I am, that might be too much work (it's 10:30 and I still need to walk next door for a banana...), but objectively it'd be really easy to say to yourself, "Okay; I need to eat this much."

Smoothies are pretty great in that regard, too -- they're a more-or-less measurable size of SOMETHING that makes you say, "I need this much in the morning."

String cheese/any kind of cheese, really, is a total lifesaver for me. It's easy to carry and store and measure the calories. And I LOVE whole milk yogurt. Greek yogurt is the best -- Fage or Trader Joe's or whatever.

Trader Joe's might be a great place for you to look because they have a lot of prepackaged vegetarian stuff that you wouldn't find elsewhere.
posted by Madamina at 8:31 AM on February 24, 2011

I have no personal experience with this, the simplest thing might just be two quarts of whole milk, (1200 cal). See: gomad for a program that uses a gallon of milk and squats to gain muscle mass.
posted by jefftang at 8:42 AM on February 24, 2011

Dietary cholesterol, sodium and calcium recommendations are outdated and for people that do nothing. You won't be a bump on the log so don't worry about it. If you want to meet your goals just bust your ass doing stuff that isn't lame and eat a lot of "clean" calories.

Easiest way for an extra 1000? Just put olive oil over everything you are already eating. Or take shots of it. 3x1.5oz shots of olive oil = 900 calories. Doesn't get much easier and less filling than that.

I've drank a gallon of milk a day for up to 2 months so drinking almost a half a gallon a day won't kill you if you decide to go that route.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:54 AM on February 24, 2011

Milk! Lots of milk!

Will I get too much calcium doing this? Seems silly, but I read something once about how adults could get kidney stones.

I go through about 4 gallons of milk a week (by myself) and have had the same level of consumption my entire life. I dare you to find someone who is more milk-calcified than me. I'm 25 and have never had a single calcium-related problem.
posted by phunniemee at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2011

Get a decent electronic food scale if you don't already have one. Very cheap, takes all the guesswork out of it. You should have no trouble finding one at any decent department store. I've got one with calorie charts built in and it makes prepping really convenient (though I, ha, am in it for the opposite reason you are).

From what you describe I would say you should put extra thought into price and ease of use (avocados are great, but keeping a daily supply of fresh avocado on hand is a non-trivial demand, and drinking a shot of olive oil might be super effective but is not such great fun). Some simple, natural, reasonably healthy high-calorie-density choices to just eat without further ado are nuts (watch the salt on prepared nuts), dried fruits, cheese (particularly high fat, dense cheeses like cheddar), chocolate. I'd pick up a variety of the above, plus the scale, and start portioning out 100 calorie units. Focus on things you actually like above all or you just won't eat it (I strive to have exceptionally high fiber for specific, serious health reasons, and I've learned from experience that no matter how great the "numbers" look, if I don't like it, duh, I won't eat it).
posted by nanojath at 9:01 AM on February 24, 2011

I've bulked for lifting/rugby and did decently at it (175 to about 230 in a couple months), however I also ate lots of meat.

I did add a lot of non-meat things to my diet, though. Milk and ice cream were mainstays. I drank a gallon of whole milk a day and often complimented that with a pint of ice cream. If I wasn't digging the volume I'd just drink straight cream. Indian buffets are also great as they have plenty of non-meat options. The key is to consume no less than three heaping plates whenever you go to a buffet.

A half cup of almond butter, two scoops of fiber, half pint of cream, three scoops protein powder and a cup of full-fat greek yogurt makes for a great snack.

Oh, and a jar of almond butter should only last you two days, max. Don't forget to add protein powder to everything.

Also, take a fiber supplement and probiotics... you want good digestion and healthy bowels or else this will be miserable for you. Poop well and often (but not too often). Ramp up over the course of two weeks to give yourself time to adjust to the volume of food.
posted by Loto at 9:03 AM on February 24, 2011

"A tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil a day chased with a glass of milk will add a fair number of calories. Plus the monounsaturated fats are good for your heart."
posted by Homo economicus at 11:06 AM on February 24

In terms of caloric density, fat is the most dense form of food. Hence, Arctic and Antarctic explorers who need to add thousands of calories to their diets, above normal nutrition requirements, for energy needed to keep warm and sometimes to do strenuous work in extreme cold, drink olive oil by the liter, at about 9,000 calories a liter. So, you need more than an additional "tablespoon or two" of olive oil to get your additional 1,000 calories, but it is doable, if you can soak a slice or two of bread or pita in several tablespoons of olive oil, to accompany other foods 3 or 4 times a day...

Previous discussion of high calorie diet supplementation.
posted by paulsc at 9:05 AM on February 24, 2011

A former co-worker who was under doctor's orders to gain weight but who, like you, just wasn't very conscious of the need to eat (lack of appetite, distracted, etc.) made a schedule of meal and snack times, with things to eat at each of those times. I remember that she had flexibility built in to allow for the vagaries of the day, but it was quite specific.

So, it might be "Breakfast, 8 am: 2 scrambled eggs + cheese + avocado = [x calories] OR smoothie made with [whatever] = [calories]" and then "Snack, 10:30 am: .5 cup almonds + glass whole milk OR [some other snacky high-calorie thing].

She scheduled them like you'd schedule a meeting, because if she didn't, she'd just forget to eat.

For calorie counts, a lot of online diet communities (sparkpeople, fitday, etc.) have big databases of foods and their calories, and they both have mobile apps so you can look stuff up on the fly.
posted by rtha at 9:42 AM on February 24, 2011

I find that juice/soda is the easiest way to add calories to my diet without feeling full. To keep it healthier, I tend to drink juice soda (like Izze or Juice Squeeze) that's mainly juice + soda water. I don't mind if it has some sugar added, but I try to avoid corn syrup. Personally, I find that smoothies are very filling, but juice is not.

Ice cream, especially premium ice cream (i.e. Haagen Daz/ Ben & Jerry's) is also not very filling for the calories - I can eat a pint (or half pint) which adds about 1000 (or 500) calories. If the rest of my diet is nutritious, I don't worry about the ice cream. Again, I try to avoid ice cream with corn syrup and weird fillers - but I'm comfortable eating ice cream with cream, sugar, etc.

Switch to whole milk & whole milk yogurt, instead of non- or low- fat. Olive oil on everything that will take it. Try to drink milk, juice, or another beverage with calories with your meals.

And most importantly, make a schedule for eating - I recommend breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack (but you can do 3 meals + two snacks if you prefer). Regularly eating is very very important.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2011

Will I get too much calcium doing this? Seems silly, but I read something once about how adults could get kidney stones.

IANAD. It's possible, but the people with otherwise normal chemistry who wind up with calcium-related problems tend to be those who are paranoid about osteoporosis or use Tums as breath mints and are getting much more daily calcium than you can comfortably (without puking) get from milk.

You should clear any special concerns (diabetes, other metabolic disorders, etc.) with your physician before undergoing a major dietary change. Many people lift weights and eat extra protein and calories to supply their needs and there don't seem to be any generalized warnings against doing so coming from any credible medical body. It's definitely possible to get into trouble in consuming extra calories, but the strength athletes who develop medical problems tend to be the kind that eat too much of everything in sight - simple carbs, trans fats, and all - and don't care about eating a relatively "clean" diet (cf. Dave Tate before his transformation of the last few years).

Good luck and enoy the first few months of beginner's gains before it gets grueling and you have to eat even more!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:01 AM on February 24, 2011

If you take an avocado, cut it in half and remove the pit, and fill the pit holes with a drizzle of ponzu sauce and a tablespoon of sesame oil, that's a) delicious and b) 400 calories right there.
posted by KathrynT at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This has all been said above, but I use the following as high-protein healthy snacks while working out:
  • Low-Fat Cottage Cheese (about 80-90 calories per 4oz. Very high protein)
  • Low-Fat String (Mozzarella) Cheese (about 90 calories per 1oz stick)
  • Peanuts (About 160 calories per 1oz, about 30 peanuts. High fat, moderate protein)
  • Greek Yogurt - I prefer Blueberry flavored (About 140 calories for a 6oz container. Very high protein
  • Progresso Minestone Soup (about 200 calories per 16 fl oz can. 12g of protein, IIRC. Is this strictly vegetarian? Not sure. If not, look for a vegetarian minestrone recipe online. It's a good choice.)
  • Protein powder mixed in water or milk

posted by Vorteks at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2011

Continue doing whatever you're currently doing, and add the following on top of it:

2 hard boiled eggs and 2 cups of whole milk (+450kcal)

Half an avocado and 2 cups of whole milk (+415kcal)

Half an avocado and 5 almonds (+145kcal)

Effective, portable, healthy, tasty, and crazy easy.
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2011

To sneak even more calories, protein, and a certain pleasant fluffiness into some of the smoothie recipes upthread, try adding some egg whites (the separated and pasteurized kind that come in a carton, not the separate them yourself and risk contracting salmonella kind).
posted by willpie at 1:28 PM on February 24, 2011

I would highly suggest you have a serving of whey protein (you can buy it online or pay more for it at GNC) immediately after your workout...
posted by Glendale at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2011

Too much almond butter/almonds is bad - they may be high in protein and calories but their Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio is less than ideal. You'd do great to make deviled eggs with avocado instead of mayonnaise. You want protein, not just calories.
posted by carlh at 6:08 PM on February 24, 2011

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