For many, gaining weight can be just as challenging as losing it. Whether you are trying to gain weight for athletic performance or simply to improve your health, it's important to do it right. In this article, I'll provide a step-by-step guide to gaining weight in a healthy and sustainable way, including meal examples and exercise recommendations.
Step 1: Calculate Your Calorie Needs
Before you can start gaining weight, it's important to know how many calories you need to consume each day.
So, how much should you be eating on a daily basis?
In order to figure this out, you need to first know your maintenance caloric intake. It’s worth noting that maintenance caloric intake simply refers to how many calories you have to eat on a daily basis to remain "weight stable" (staying roughly the same weight).
Generally speaking, multiplying your current body weight by 13-14 should provide you with a decent estimate of your maintenance calorie intake.
Step 2: Increase Your Calorie Intake
To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than your body burns. Aim to add an extra 500-1000 calories to your diet each day, depending on your calorie needs. This can be achieved by eating larger portions or adding extra snacks throughout the day. It's important to choose nutrient-dense foods that are high in calories but also provide essential vitamins and minerals (not double cheeseburgers and milk shakes, sadly).
As BW (bodyweight) x 13-14 is approximately maintenance caloric intake, multiplying your BW x 16-18 should provide you with an adequate surplus in order to promote muscle growth.
To illustrate, let’s pretend we have a 185lb male:
Maintenance Caloric Intake: 185lbs x 14 = 2590 kcal/day
Caloric Surplus: 185lbs x 17 = 3145 kcal/day
Assuming the equations were perfect, in order to remain "weight stable" this person must eat about 2590 calories per day. In order to provide his body with enough energy to promote muscle growth he would need to be in a surplus of between 500 and 1000 calories per day. So, multiplying his weight by 17, we land at 3145 calories per day. A surplus of 555 calories.
Step 3: Eat More Protein
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, which is important when trying to gain muscle mass. Aim to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
Step 4: Incorporate Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet and can help you gain weight in a healthy way. Aim to consume healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds in moderation to increase your calorie intake.
Step 5: Choose Nutrient-Dense Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide energy and are an important part of a healthy diet. However, not all carbs are created equal. Choose nutrient-dense carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables over processed and refined carbohydrates.
Step 6: Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals in advance can help you stay on track and ensure you're consuming enough calories and nutrients. Aim to eat three meals per day and two to three snacks, depending on your calorie needs. Here are some meal examples:
2 slices of whole-grain toast
1 cup of sliced fruit
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
Grilled chicken breast
1 cup of brown rice
1 small avocado
Roasted sweet potato
Steamed green beans
Mixed greens salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Greek yogurt with berries and honey
Whole-grain crackers with hummus
Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
Protein shake w/ fruit
Step 7: Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training is an important part of gaining weight and building muscle mass. Aim to incorporate strength training exercises like weightlifting or resistance band workouts two to three times per week. Here are some beginner strength training exercises to try:
Leg press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Chest press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Lat pull-down: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated row: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Shoulder press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Bicep curl: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Triceps pushdown: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Step 8: Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery are important for muscle growth and overall health. Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night and take rest days between strength training sessions. During rest days, focus on stretching and mobility exercises to help prevent injury and improve flexibility.
Step 9: Monitor Your Progress
Monitoring your progress is important to ensure you are making progress towards your weight gain goals. Keep track of your weight and body measurements, and adjust your calorie intake and exercise routine as needed. If you are gaining weight quicker than you would like to, reduce your calorie intake. If you aren't gaining weight as fast as you would like, increase your calorie intake further.
Difference Between Pain and Exercise Discomfort:
It's important to understand the difference between pain and exercise discomfort when starting a new exercise routine. Exercise discomfort is a normal part of physical activity and can be described as a mild burning or fatigue in the muscles. This is a sign that you are challenging your muscles and pushing them to adapt and grow stronger.
On the other hand, pain is a sign that something is wrong and can indicate an injury or strain. Pain during exercise should be taken seriously and you should stop the exercise immediately if you experience sharp or sudden pain.
Gaining weight in a healthy and sustainable way requires a combination of proper nutrition and consistent exercise. By following these steps, you can increase your calorie intake through nutrient-dense foods, incorporate strength training into your routine, and take your first steps towards obtaining your weight gain goals. By taking a gradual and consistent approach, you can effectively build muscle while also improving your overall health and fitness.
Until next time,