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Gaining Muscle Mass

"Athletes who want to bulk up need to add sufficient calories and protein along with proper strength training to make sure they gain weight in the right places," Rosenbloom says. 

She advises athletes to eat protein-rich snacks such as a high-protein energy bar, low-fat chocolate milk, or a protein shake immediately after weight training to give muscles the necessary post-workout fuel.

Rosenbloom instructs athletes to snack on high-calorie, high-protein foods and beverages, such as a protein shake with two scoops of whey protein before bedtime.

Avid exercisers who are not trying to build muscle mass also need frequent healthy snacks to fuel their physical activity and to maintain or gain weight.

Gaining Weight After an Illness

Weight loss is often associated with illness because of a lack of appetite or certain disease conditions. During illness, most diets are inadequate in calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals -- all the nutrients you need to get back to good nutritional status.

Drinking smoothies or meal replacement drinks, eating egg dishes, and choosing bland, mild foods is usually the best diet prescription while transitioning back to a healthy diet. These foods are easy to digest, loaded with good nutrition, and simple to prepare.

"In addition to all the other important nutrients, focus on getting enough protein, which is very important in recovery after illness," Bender says. 

Aim for about 5 ounces of lean meat, fish, or poultry and a few servings of dairy, whole grains, eggs, and legumes to make sure your diet has enough protein. Bender suggests avoiding raw fish if your immune system is compromised.

Tips to Whet Your Appetite

When eating just doesn't appeal to you, there are some tricks of the trade that can help stimulate your appetite. 

Taking a little walk before eating is one of the many ways to help fire up your appetite. When you are not hungry, choosing your favorite comfort foods may help. So can jazzing up foods with spices and herbs to enhance flavor.

Liquids, including water, can fill you up. So drink liquids separately to help make room for nourishing foods. 

The sweet taste of fruit can rouse your appetite, especially when blended into an easy-to-tolerate smoothie. 

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