You might be trying to earn a scholarship or improve your performance. Either way, you want to gain muscle as fast as possible. Fortunately, most people can pack on the pounds without much effort, but turning that weight into lean muscle mass can be a challenge.

There’s no reason to worry. By eating the right foods and including certain exercises in your regimen, you can build the body of your dreams and can crush it on the field. Here’s how.

1. Calculate Your Calorie Needs

If you want to build muscle, you’ll need to fuel your body. And you’ll need to consume more calories than most folks if you truly want to pack it on. Use the following formula to calculate your daily caloric needs.

  • Multiply your weight by 12: This calculation gives you your minimum daily caloric needs if you did nothing but lie in bed all day.
  • Multiply this figure by 1.6: This calculation represents the calories you need on a rest day.
  • Multiply the number of minutes you lift weights per week by five: Then, multiply the number of minutes of cardiovascular exercise you take weekly by eight. Add these two numbers together, then divide by seven.
  • Add your rest day calorie needs to the number of calories burned through activity: This calculation tells you the number of calories you need daily to maintain your weight. You’ll need to consume 500 additional calories daily to add one pound of muscle per week.

Does this seem like a lot of calories? Of course it does. But don’t use this as an excuse to scarf down an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting. What you eat is as important as how much, to say nothing of supplements.

Even though you’re trying to gain, you still need phytonutrients from fruits and veggies. Strive to eat a rainbow every day by filling half your plate at each meal with plants in vibrant hues to improve your cardiovascular health as well as your on-field performance.

2. Eat Protein Throughout the Day

If you want to build muscle, you need a lot of protein. But ordering a triple cheeseburger for lunch isn’t the best decision. Try to space these servings of protein out over the day. Eating more than 30 to 40 grams at once can make you feel sluggish.

Instead, start your day with a high-protein egg burrito or, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, a generous serving of yogurt with ample nuts swirled in. If you choose, you can invest in a high-quality protein powder for smoothies. If you’re committed to eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, this is a must. Many supplements are high in calories, which is good for weight gain as well.

3. Do the Heavy Lifting

Now that you’ve mastered your diet, you need to convert those healthy calories to lean muscle by hitting the gym. To maximize your gains, you want to strive to continually increase the amount you lift — safely. Injuries from going too heavy too soon can land you on the DL.

Start by calculating your eight-rep maximum, the amount of weight you can lift with good form for eight repetitions. Your one-rep max is approximately 20% more than this — for example, if you can bench 185 pounds for eight reps, you can bench press 225 once. Your goal? Work your eight-rep max up to 10 reps. Doing this will increase the max you can lift for one rep accordingly.

4. Work Larger Muscle Groups First

Your large muscle groups contain more blood vessels, meaning they’re less apt to tire out than smaller groups like your delts. Start your weight room workout with your core moves — squats and bench presses, etc.

Or, if you’re working your back, start with lat pulldowns or rows. Work your way down to your biceps and triceps, as it’s easier to maintain form when you work out smaller muscle groups, even when you’re tired.

5. Perform Compound Sets

We all get busy sometimes. If it’s one of those days when you can’t fit in your full routine, you can still benefit from exercise by incorporating compound sets that work more than one muscle group simultaneously.

For example, combine squats with military presses for a full-body exercise. As a bonus, you’ll get your heart rate up, making your weight workout double as cardio.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Celebrities make fitness look easy. It’s not. You’ll have ups and downs. Adjust your routine and keep at it. When it comes to weight training, as with most things, persistence matters more than natural talent in the end.

You Can Gain Muscle and Improve On-Field Performance

Getting in shape for football takes time and dedication. But with the right diet and exercise plan, you can improve your performance on the gridiron.