Gaining weight is a process. It's a process of adding, building and recovering. Understanding this process is the key to unlocking the mystery to gaining weight.
If you can understand and implement this process, gaining weight will be fast, easy and most importantly, fun.
I'll admit gaining weight can be a difficult task. I've been there and I know how hard it is but once you understand the weight gaining process, it's pretty simple. The real trick to gaining weight is adding quality body mass (quality muscle mass).
With that in mind, I've put together an easy to read guide that will walk you through the entire weight gaining process. All you need to do is read, understand and implement.
The first thing we need to do is understand the weight gaining process so let's take a look at it.
Process #1: Diet and Nutrition (Adding) - Gives the body what it needs to grow
Process #2: Resistance Training (Building) - Gives the body a strong enough reason to grow
Process #3: Rest and Recovery (Recovering) - Provide the glue that ties process #1 and #2 together for fast and effective weight gain
This is it. It's pretty simple, right? Well, it is and if you can put these three processes together that will work for your body type, you'll be on your way to fast and effective weight gain. Let's go into more detail with each process so you can start implementing.
I like to think of nutrition as the foundation that provides the proper environment for muscular weight gain. Food provides your body with the basic building material in order for it to grow big, strong and healthy.
Poor nutrition is the number one reason why so many hardgainers can't gain weight. More often than not, most skinny guys will often overestimate the amount of calories they think they take in each and every day. The real trick to gaining weight is to make sure you eat over and above what your body needs to maintain its current weight on a consistent and steady basis (inconsistency will kill you're gains).
Will eating a big supper help me gain weight? No, eating one big meal during the day will not help you gain weight, unless it contritubes to a consistent intake of calories over and above your daily maintenance.
It doesn't really what you do in the weight room, if you don't provide your body with enough calories to support growth; you're not going to gain weight. This is priority number one when it comes to gaining weight.
To do this, we need to do some basic math. As I mentioned, to gain quality weight, you need to eat over and above what your body needs to maintain its current weight. My suggestion is to eat between 22 and 25 calories per pound of body weight. However, I'm of the mind of starting big and monitoring on a weekly basis so let's start at 25 calories per pound of body weight (no sense messing around here). I'm also of the mind of keeping it simple so no need to worry about fancy height to weight calculations.
So, let's say you weigh 125 pounds. In order to start gaining weight, you need to be consuming at least 3,100 calories each and every day (125 pounds x 25). This may seem like a lot but trust me; you'll start gaining weight pretty darned fast once you make this simple change.
Now that you know how much calories you need to add to your diet, it's time to start thinking of how you're going to add the calories.
Before we get into some basic planning, you need to understand you have to feed your body every 3 hours. This is of the utmost importance . Anything longer than 3 hours and your body may turn to its own protein stores for energy . You don't want this because it means your body will start breaking down its own muscle tissue for energy. You see, the body will use its sugar (glucose) stores as its primary source of energy. Once that's used up, it will turn to fat and then to protein (muscle tissue) for additional energy. Since skinny dudes have very little fat stores, the body may turn to its own muscle tissue sooner than later. It's critical that you understand this - You need to eat every 3 hours!
The first thing I do when planning a weight gain diet is to 1) Decide how to split up my daily calorie intake and 2) Decide when to eat. For simplicity sake, let's say I weigh 125 pounds and desperately want to gain weight. Using the above noted formula, I know that I need 3,100 calories to start gaining weight (125 pounds multiplied by 25). I need to decide how to split these calories up. Since I'm going to eat 6 meals per day, I will need to eat 515 calories for each meal (3,100 calories divided by 6 meals). We now know how many calories with need with each meal.
The next thing we need to do is decide when to eat.
Since I have a day job I need to space my meals apart to adjust for my work schedule. My work day usually start at 8:30 AM and finishes at 4:30 PM with a break for lunch at 12 PM. I will usually do my workouts after work around 5 PM. I plan for about 6 meals per day. I don't like to have anything less because it means I have to eat more in one sitting. I don't like stuffing myself because I tend to get too tired afterwards. I suggest you do the same and have at least 6 meals per day.
With that in mind, here's how I space my meals:
7:00 AM: Meal #1 Weight gain or protein shake (two scoops of protein powder, 1 ½ cup whole milk, 1 cup orange juice, half cup of vanilla yogurt, 2 tablespoons of honey and 5 ice cubes).
9:30 AM: Meal #2 Cottage Cheese with 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds, ½ can of sliced peaches in water, 1 whole wheat bagel with organic peanut butter and one glass of whole milk.
12:30 PM: Meal #3 One large roasted chicken breast, 1 cup organic short grain brown rice, two tablespoons of sultana raisins, 1 teaspoon unroasted sunflower seeds, 1 cup of steamed broccoli and one glass of whole milk.
5:00 PM: Workout
6:30 PM: Meal #5 - Post Workout Shake. Protein Shake (two scoops of protein powder, 1 ½ cup whole milk, 1 cup orange juice, half cup of vanilla yogurt, 2 tablespoons of honey and 5 ice cubes).
8:30 PM: Meal #6 Spaghetti and Meatballs
10:00 PM: Bedtime
Each meal will consist of 500 or so calories to meet my weight gaining requirements. This is an example of what my weight gaining meal plan will look like once I know how many calories I need and when to plan for my meals. This is a pretty basic weight gaining meal plan and there's room for additional meal plans. I usually plan 5 to 6 day meal plans using Saturday as my free day and repeating my meal cycle on Sunday. However, if you're new to all of this, try starting with 2 or 3 day meal plans and work your way up. I've added some calorie specific meal plans here to give you some additional examples.
When choosing your menu, please keep in mind that you want to try and consume calorie dense foods. These types of foods tend to have more calories packed into them. Here are some examples of calorie dense foods:
• Oatmeal and other whole grain cereals
• Oils such as olive oil and MCT
• Whole milk
• Protein rich animal meats
• Peanut butter
For additional ideas on muscle foods and recipes, please see these pages here:
I've also included a meal chart to track your meals. Click here to get them.
Once you've planned enough meals for a couple of days, the next thing to do is head to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients.
What about figuring out your protein, carbohydrates and fat requirements?
At this point, I don't think you need to go that far. Don't get me wrong, it's important just not at this stage.
The most important thing for you to understand is that you need to eat over and above your daily caloric maintenance levels on a consistent basis.
Remember, to really pack on the weight you have to consume a CONSISTENT amount of calories each and every day, just like we figured out above. If you want a more detailed look at breaking down your diet, look at this page here.
What about tracking calories? It is important but for simplicity sake, we are going to keep this very simple. The most important thing is to figure out how much:
• Calories you need on a daily basis
• How many meals you need on a daily basis
• How many calories you need per meal
• Plan your menu
I'm a big fan of Dave Ruel's Anabolic Cooking. I've been using this book for about a year now and love it. Here's why. The book helps you figure out how many calories you need to gain muscular weight, lays out a complete menu plan based on your caloric needs complete and then provides the recipes for each of those muscle meals. All you need to do is go to the grocery store. Here are a few examples of his recipes:
Dave's got over a hundred muscle building recipes. I've done a review of his book here.
Here are some sneaky weight gaining tips:
Get big day - Plan a get big day which you plan on eating like a pig for the entire day. I used to do this with some body building pals of mine back in high school. We'd eat a huge amount of calories on Friday nights and really power up for our squat day, which was Saturday. Find out how you can pack on additional mass using this method here.
Pack your food Remember to invest in some good Tupperware. I always prepare two or three days meals ahead of time and store them in Tupperware. I usually cook them on Sunday and store them in the fridge. This way, there ready to go for each day and I make sure not to skimp out on my meal schedule.
Weight gain powders A good weight gain powder can provide upwards of a thousand calories per serving. If you're short on time and don't want to prepare meals, substitute with weight gain drinks. Add in a banana, ½ cup of yogurt and whole milk and each drink will bust up to 1,500 calories per serving. Have two of these puppies during the day and you're going to see some serious weight gain. Have one first thing in the morning and one immediately after your workouts for some serious results. A couple of good ones are Mutant Mass, Nutrabolics Mass Fusion, and All Max Nutrition Quick Mass.
Add MCT oil to your meals MCT oils are medium chain triglycerides that are super calorie dense oils. 1 tablespoon contains about 120 calories. Add one tablespoon to each meal and Bam! You have a calorie packed weight gainer. You can get MCT oils at most health food stores, bulk foods, or your grocery store.
It's all about the weekends Don't back off during the weekends. This is where most people go wrong because the weekend provides an excuse to stop following you're meal plan and exercise routine. The weekends offer something the week days don't, extra time to prepare. Use the weekends to prepare huge meals and gorge yourself with food. For more information, click here.
Bananas, bananas and more bananas! Consume at least two bananas per day. Do this and you'll notice a huge difference immediately. Bananas are nature's power food and are packed with calories and potassium. Mix with some peanut butter and honey and you have a power packed calorie dense muscle gainer. See this page for more information.
Have food with you always! Never, ever go hungry. Take some trail mix with you and if possible, sip on some whole milk during the day (try adding whole milk into a container and carry it with you in a back pack). Trail mix is a great way to pack in some extra calories in between meals. Better yet, have a banana and some trail mix.
Weight yourself weekly The weight scale will tell you if you're gaining or not. If you're gaining, keep doing what you're doing. If you're not, increase your daily calorie intake by an additional 500 calories. Simply add one additional weight gain drink to your daily diet or another peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Take a photo of yourself I used to keep a photo of myself in my school locker, right next to Bertil Fox. Every time I opened my locker and looked at my skinny body, I knew that if I wanted to get big like Bertil, I had to stick to my eating schedule. Stick a photo of yourself where you can see it the most.
If you need help with your program, let me help. I'll explain:
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As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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