Article written by Michael White
As summer comes to an end, and the fall begins, many people find themselves going back to college and back into a bulking phase. If you’re like me, you’re far away from home, stuck to a meal plan, and stuck on campus. Most serious strength athletes are accustomed to shoveling their face full of calories all day every day, but after move in day you’ll find that’s a problem. While most people end up gaining 15 or more pounds of fat throughout their first year of college, I’ve found most serious strength athletes that I talk to rapidly lost weight because they couldn’t get in enough food between classes, and they had a limited meal plan.
First off, if you’re not using the dining halls, you’re doing it wrong. If you find yourself in the quasi-restaurants on campus that only give you one serving of food and then send you on your way, turn around and leave. Go to where you can sit down for an hour, get as much food as you’d like, and start utilizing hall style dining. This means eat as much as you can in one sitting, and do what I do, bring something to go. My desk in my dorm room always has 5-6 pieces of fruit and a few cookies that I can bring with me and snack on in class.
Don’t be afraid of drinking calories either, and this isn’t me saying to go drink mountain as your main source of liquids, it means drink whole/chocolate milk and juices with each meal, an 8oz glass of whole milk has 136 calories, if you have 3 glasses with 2 meals at the dining hall each day you’re adding in an easy 816 calories. If you find that this still isn’t enough, it’s time to go shopping. If you’re too lazy to walk into town, your school probably has a bus system that will bring you to a shopping center where there will more than likely be a store similar to Walmart or Costco. If you don’t have a refrigerator in your room, or are worried about your shifty roommates stealing your food from the fridge, stick to dried and canned food. In my room I always keep two cans of honey roasted peanuts from Costco, one serving of 28 grams is 160 calories and it’s easy to eat 5+ a day, another 800 calories. I have individually packaged trail mix from Costco which is another 160 calories per bag, beef jerky is a good high protein snack that is a staple in my diet. Canned chili such as Stagg has 480 calories in one can, and microwaveable rice from Uncle Ben’s has another 460 calories per bag.
If you’re lucky enough to have a refrigerator in your dorm, buy things like cheeses, deli meats, milk, precooked chicken/steak, and yogurt to snack on. Buy some Tupperware, buy some Ziploc bags, and quit making excuses to not eat. Your school bag should also be your food bag, if you struggle to keep your weight up your backpack should have bags of nuts, a Tupperware container of some rice and chili, or rice and a precooked meat and some fruit. Every morning before I train I have two cups of Greek yogurt, a banana, and a glass of whole milk, an easy 500 calories. Post training I go to the dining hall and get breakfast of 8 whole eggs, 2 cups of hash browns, 6 pieces of bacon, and 16oz of whole milk which is a little of 2000 calories. Before class, I’ll either have two bags of trail mix, or 2 servings of the aforementioned honey roasted peanuts to add an extra 320 calories into my diet. After class, I run back to my dorm to make the Stagg chili and rice and shove the 940 calorie snack in my face before quickly getting back to my next class.
For my dinner meal, I head back to the dining hall and have a few cups of rice, usually 4 cheeseburgers, patty only, and a big salad covered in cheese and ranch. Again, another 2000+ calorie meal. Before I go to bed, normally I have another banana, another cup of Greek yogurt, and two pieces of mozzarella string cheese adding the last 395 calories to my fat face. Daily, that’s 6155, probably a few hundred calories more because my University cooked almost everything in clarified butter. Now I know this isn’t as great as being able to make your own food and prep it, but it’ll have to do for now. If you’re like me and walk about 7.5 miles each day to and from class, average 40 flights of steps, and do weight training you’re going to need to up your calories. If you still find yourself struggling to gain weight, you either need to be honest with yourself of how much you’re eating, because it might be less than what you think. If that isn’t the issue, drink milk, drink Gatorade, drink juice. They’re easy, calorie dense, and are delicious as hell. Starting eating big if you want to continue lifting big.
Michael White is a freshman student at James Madison University from Pennsylvania, an ex-fat kid and wannabe powerlifter. Starting his journey at 220lb Mike lost 50lbs and then began his strength conquest, putting 270lb on his total and 20lb on his frame in a little over a year. He’s gotten his knowledge of training and nutrition from countless hours of research, self-experience, and training alongside elite strength athletes in his home gym.