For many people, losing weight is a primary fitness goal. According to the National Institute of Health, over two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and most diets, intense workouts, and supplements aim toward helping you shed pounds and lose inches off your waist.
But for some people, gaining weight is more important and more difficult than losing weight whether it’s to build muscle, competitions, or sports. Putting on pounds the right way involves more than just pigging out and sitting on your couch all day. Read on to learn how you can gain weight in a safe, healthy way.
Energy Balance and Weight Gain
Most people who think of gaining weight or adding muscle probably assume that protein is the solution. While it’s true that maximizing your protein intake is necessary for your muscles, it will not help you gain weight. In fact, studies show that high protein diets actually increase your metabolism. Proteins have a much higher thermic effect than fats or carbs, meaning they burn more calories through the mere process of digestion. “Thermic” refers to the generation of heat during this process. Furthermore, protein just contributes to lean muscle mass. Lean muscle needs more calories to thrive when you are at rest, which inevitably means a natural increase in base metabolic rate.
Your weight depends entirely on the laws of energy balance. Energy balance describes the natural balance between the calories you take in by eating or drinking and the calories you burn through physical activity. However, you are constantly burning calories as your body needs energy to breathe, walk to the store, pump blood and perform all the other subtle cellular processes that you do not even notice.
Thanks to energy balance, if you take in the same amount of calories that you use up, you maintain the same weight. If you eat fewer calories or burn more calories than you take in, you create a calorie deficit and encourage fat loss. That means that gaining weight involves tipping the balance in the other direction: eating more calories or burning fewer calories than you consume. This creates a calorie surplus.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
Many trainers and bodybuilding programs will tell you that packing on thousands upon thousands of calories every single day is the only way to gain weight. However, the amount of calories you need to eat to put on weight varies and depends on everything from activity level to gender to age.
Start by calculating how many calories you actually need just to maintain your current weight. You can simply keep a food journal, logging the amount of calories in each food item you consume. Keep track of your food for a week and average out the calories to get your daily recommended caloric intake. Alternately, you can use an online calorie calculator. Keep in mind that results from both methods may require adjustments but are great starting points.
Now that you know your daily caloric intake, it’s time to create a caloric surplus. For slow and steady weight gain, increase your daily caloric intake by 300 to 500 calories. If you want to pack on the pounds quickly, you should consume about 700 to 1,000 more calories each day.
Keep in mind that you can still get great results without packing on all the calories. You may find that a slight 10 percent increase in calories will be just as effective as a 30 percent increase in calories. That’s because too much of a calorie surplus inevitably leads to you gaining more fat than muscle mass. Increasing your calories by 10 percent allows for a steady increase of about 1 pound per week of lean mass. Aim to increase your weight by about 1-2 pound per week. Anything more, you are probably gaining too much fat. Anything less, means you should revisit your macros and/or workout plan. With this goal in mind, at the end of a year you would be putting on at least 26 pounds of lean muscle mass which is amazing progress!
You should also try to limit cheat days and cheat meals, which can cause huge jumps in body fat, which can cause various fluctuations in your health. Calculate your macros and stick to them to gain more lean muscle mass.
What Should You Eat?
“Dirty bulking” involves eating as much as you can without considering the actual nutrition of what you are putting into your body except for calories. Junk food, health food, it’s all calories when it comes to dirty bulking. As great as that sounds, it is not the healthiest way to put on pounds. The quality of food you eat is as important as the amount of food. Junk foods tend to be devoid of all the vitamins, nutrients and minerals your body needs to create an environment that supports and encourages the creation of muscle. So what should you eat?
While protein should not be the main focus of bulking up, it is still important to the muscle-building process. Aim to eat about 1 gram of protein for every pound you weigh. This includes chicken, eggs, fish and legumes. Just remember that protein can be highly filling, which can reduce your appetite and make it harder to meet your calorie requirements. Hit your protein targets and then fill the rest of your diet with carbs and fats. Carbs and fats are cheaper and fats contain more calories per gram than protein on its own.
Foods That are Dense in Calories
You should also aim for calorically dense foods. Vegetables are great for all their vitamins and nutrients, but they are not particularly dense in calories. For a comparison, 100 grams of a salad contain about 25 calories, while 100 grams of pasta contains 380 calories. Good foods for gaining weight tend to be high in carbs and/or high in fats. Veggies are amazing for weight loss because they are low in both carbs and fats. While that doesn’t mean you can ignore vegetables altogether, they should remain part of your bulking diet but at normal levels.
Some calorically dense foods include:
- Dried fruits
- Nuts and legumes
- Pasta, rice and other grains
- Potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes
- Fats (avocados, coconut oil, olive oil)
Of course, junk food is dense in calories, high in both carbs and fats. While it’s fine to eat the occasional sweet or have some ice cream, junk food should not make up the actual crux of your diet. Eating too much of it only builds bad eating habits and increases the potential to gain more fat in the long-term, particularly around your stomach.
Eat More Meals
It’s easier to spread your calories throughout the day, instead of limiting it to just 3 meals a day. Let’s say that you need to eat 3,000 calories a day. Instead of eating three meals that pack in 1,000 calories each, it’s much easier to five meals of 600 calories each.
That’s because your stomach is surprisingly small and physically not used to eating large amounts. Trying to force down larger meals can be just plain unpleasant and impossible. Eat small meals. Your meals are easier to eat, you won’t feel stuffed all the time and you get a bit of a break between each meal.
Create a larger window by waking up early and actually eating breakfast. Most people, skinny and big, skip breakfast or eat nothing more than a piece of toast. That essentially means they are eating two meals in a span of 10 hours with no calories before noon. Aim for 4 to 5 meals a day.
Training While Bulking Up
Just because you want to gain weight does not mean you can sit at home all day, but if you’re not lifting weights properly, all of the extra calories you have been eating will turn into fat.
If you are eating the right amount of calories, you should see some significant results in your training. During your workouts, focus on heavy, compound lifting. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at once. These include squats, deadlifts and bench press. These should be the main part of your training regimen.
Along with compound exercises, make sure that you progressively add weights. You should aim to be lifting more weight than you did last time. This will force your body to constantly build muscle mass and strength. If you stick with the same weight amount every workout, you will eventually plateau. Focus on heavy weight and 4 to 6 reps per set.
As always, make sure you use proper form when lifting weights. Aside from preventing injuries, proper form ensures good muscle development and can help you lift heavier weights, allowing for greater gains in the long run.
Most importantly, give your body time to rest and recover. You can’t build muscle if you are constantly tearing your muscles down with workouts. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 full rest and recovery days per week. Over training will only hurt your muscle growth and cause you to burn more calories, which keeps you from putting on the pounds.
Weight Gain and Diet Supplements
Supplements that say they pack on weight, particularly high calorie shakes and protein powders, tend to contain more junk and sugars than you should need. Magnitropin™ from MYOKEM™ offers a unique formula for boosting your testosterone to increase strength and mass. As a test booster, Magnitropin™ can help you add bulk by increasing your endurance, improving you physical performance, and increasing your appetite, ensuring that you get gains with every trip to the gym.
Bulking up isn’t easy, but with the right meal plan, training program and supplements, you should have no problem going from scrawny to brawny.