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What is a High Calorie Diet?

By D. Messmer
Updated Jan 27, 2024
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A high calorie diet is a diet that is designed to help the dieter gain weight. The most common reason that someone would go on a high calorie diet is to build muscle for athletic purposes. Doctors also will recommend high calorie diets to patients who have lost significant amounts of weight because of surgery, illness or chemotherapy. The key to a successful high calorie diet is gaining weight healthily rather than by eating large amounts of junk food.

When an athlete starts a high calorie diet, it usually is with the aim of building muscle. In order to avoid simply increasing his or her body fat percentage, the athlete must create a specific meal plan that will give the body the types of calories that it needs to develop muscle tissue. This usually means consuming large amounts of protein, although carbohydrates and fats are important, too.

There is a limit to how much food a dieter can consume in a day, so the first important consideration for someone on a high calorie diet is to maximize the calorie density of the foods that he or she consumes. High calorie dieters usually should not eat a lot of vegetables, because their high fiber and water content cause them to have a very low calorie density. In order to still gain the proper nutrients, then, the dieter should instead consume more fruits. Fruits consist of simple carbohydrates and have less fiber, so there are far more calories in a cup of chopped apples, for example, than there are in a cup of chopped broccoli.

The second consideration for a high calorie dieter is the type of calories that he or she is consuming. Gaining muscle mass requires the consumption of large amounts of protein. This requires the dieter primarily to consume meats, soy products and/or dairy products. Carbohydrates still are important because they provide the body with the necessary energy to work out, but protein is what the body uses to add muscle mass, so protein is crucial. If a dieter finds it difficult to gain enough protein from food, then protein supplements can help to achieve the proper levels of protein intake.

Protein should be the primary focus of a high calorie diet, but it is important to consume a certain amount of fat as well. Fats have a very high level of calorie density, so they can aid the dieter in taking in the desired number of calories in a day. Fats should make up no more than 15 to 25 percent of the dieter's total caloric intake, and the fats should be "healthy" fats, or unsaturated fats.

In addition to being aware of the types of food that he or she eats, the high calorie dieter also should consider a few other factors. It usually is much easier to consume large amounts of calories by eating several smaller meals in a day rather than having three very large meals. Also, it is crucial that the dieter maintain a consistent workout plan so that the extra calories help build muscle rather than generate fat.

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Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Sep 23, 2014

This makes me think about an article I read a while ago about top swimmers in the Olympics and how they would consume thousands of calories more per day than the average person needed. The article was based around the theory that it wasn't just to refuel their energy, but that they actually ended up losing weight from being in the water all day, regardless of exercise.

The author speculated that the high calorie diets were needed to make up for the body heat that was constantly being lost through contact with the water, which I thought might be interesting to prove.

By Ana1234 — On Sep 22, 2014

@browncoat - I'm of the opinion that everyone deserves to eat whatever they want to eat and no one should be able to dictate or judge what another person chooses to eat.

With that said, it's still good to be informed about types of foods as well as calories so that you aren't just eating empty nutrition, especially if you're doing a lot of exercise.

Your sister experienced that when she was eating sugar rather than healthy foods and I think that's a good example of how she can't just "eat whatever she wants" if she wants to be in her best shape.

By browncoat — On Sep 21, 2014

My sister has been put on a high calorie diet and I'm pretty jealous. She's been needing to go on one for a while though because she does a lot of fitness stuff and just didn't have time to eat all the calories she needed. She always felt hungry so she ended up eating a lot of sugary snacks which made her feel tired.

But now, she basically has the blessing of her nutritionist to eat large amounts of pasta and steak and it's almost enough to make me want to get that much into fitness as well.

Almost, but not quite. She's training for an Iron Man challenge, which is a marathon on top of swimming miles and cycling even longer, so she is a little bit more motivated than I will ever be and she does definitely earn the right to eat whatever she wants.

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