In today's society, you might feel like the luckiest person in the world if you have to work to gain weight. A super charged metabolism that allows you to eat seconds of dessert without thinking twice about the size of your midsection is certainly a talent that can make those around you want to throw their fat-free yogurt in your face.
However, burning through your calories a little too efficiently can come with its own unique set of health problems that aren't that different from those caused by obesity.
Even if your concern lies not with your health but in your performance at the gym, gaining muscle can make you a better athlete by becoming stronger, faster and more resilient in your training. Who doesn't want that?
If you are sick of being the twig in your friend group and want to learn how to pack on some pounds the healthy way, this is the article for you.
We'll walk you through the science of weight gain and look at the ways that both diet and exercise can help you achieve your goals. We'll provide you with the tools that you need to become your healthiest and most physically fit.
If these are goals that you are working towards, then keep reading. The journey towards your healthiest life starts now.
Do YOU Need To Gain Weight?
Knowing if you're thin enough to have health complications is a tricky question to answer, especially in a society that glorifies waif-like models on the runway. Being underweight might be seen as an idealized body shape in popular media, but in reality it's not a condition that you want to copy.
Likewise, there's a huge difference between people who are trying to lose weight to become healthy, and those that are losing weight without trying to.
Because it can be hard to define what “underweight” really means, there can be a lot of confusion over what is a healthy weight and when weight loss becomes too much.
What Does “Underweight” Really Mean?
By common consensus, being underweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) that is below 18.5. This is the threshold that you need to stay above in order to be at your healthiest.
Alternatively, a BMI over 25 is considered overweight, so you want to keep yourself within this middle range (unless you are a muscular athlete, in which case the BMI is largely inaccurate).
Keep in mind that there are a range of appropriate body weights for different types of people. You don't have to assume you are unhealthy just because the BMI scale labels you as underweight.
Females are over three times more likely to be underweight than males, and oftentimes the only reason is genetics. Lots of people are naturally predisposed to be as skinny as tooth picks, and they are perfectly healthy that way.
If you think there is a chance that you might be too skinny, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you been sick recently?
- Do you regularly skip meals or eat on the go?
- Has worry or stress caused you to lose your appetite recently?
- Having you been working hard to lose weight with the goal of being “thin” and not “healthy”?
- Do you feel more in control of your life when you prevent yourself from eating?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a good chance that you could benefit from gaining some extra weight.
Health Problems That Can Lead To Weight Loss
There are lots of illnesses and diseases that can lead to unexpected weight loss (10% of your body weight within six months). Here are some of them.
- Cancer: It takes a lot of calories to grow a tumor, so some types of cancer cause patients to lose weight.
- Celiac disease: Gluten intolerance can come in many forms, but the worst is Celiac's disease, which can cause painful bloating and a lack of appetite.
- Diabetes: Improperly treating your type 1 diabetes (or not knowing you have it at all) can cause you to lose weight quickly.
- Eating disorders: Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders are as much a mental condition as a physical one, and when not addressed properly can lead to death.
- Infections: If you become infected with a parasite or an autoimmune disorder like HIV/AIDS, your body will lose weight quickly.
- Thyroid problems: An overactive thyroid can rev up your metabolism and cause you to lose an unhealthy amount of weight.
If you find yourself losing large amounts of weight unexpectedly, talk to your doctor right away to rule out any undiagnosed health problems.
The Difference Between Being Underweight And Malnourished
Surprisingly enough, many overweight and obese people are malnourished because they fill up on carbs and starches while avoiding nutrient-filled fruits and vegetables.
If you are underweight by BMI standards but eat a diet filled with healthy whole foods, you are probably not malnourished and might simply be at a weight level that your body is predisposed to.
Unless your diet is not well balanced or other health concerns are coming up, being at a lower weight doesn't necessary mean that you are putting yourself at risk.
Anorexia Nervosia: What You Need to Know
If you are someone that you know has lost a lot of weight quickly and is obsessively preoccupied with being thinner, no matter how skinny they really are, they might be suffering from anorexia.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, over 20 million women have been diagnosed with anorexia. Though most sufferers do eat every day, their calorie counts are about a quarter of the healthy range and they exercise excessively.
Common clues of anorexia are a low body weight and significant muscle loss. When not treated, anorexia can be deadly.
Because a key problem with anorexia is that patients deny that they have a problem, you need to be careful with how you address your concerns. If you know someone that shows the symptoms of anorexia, direct them to the doctor or a therapist that can provide help.
The Crucial Health Reasons You Need To Gain Weight
Trying to gain weight in a society where almost 70 percent of the population is overweight certainly puts you in the minority, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a smart choice.
In fact, being underweight can have some scary consequences for your quality of life - and might just end it prematurely.
Being underweight can be even more dangerous for your health than being overweight because a lack of fat can put excess strain on your heart, leading to serious problems.
Below are some of the main health problems that affect people that are underweight.
- Organ Failure: In extreme cases, being underweight can put severe stress on your internal organs and even cause them to fail. If your liver or kidneys fail it becomes hard for doctors to keep you alive.
- Heart Issues: Being too thin causes you to lose muscle mass, and your heart is one of the most important muscles in your body. Being underweight can cause the walls of your heart to thin over time, putting you at risk of an irregular heart beat or pulmonary collapse.
- Compromised Immune System: Being underweight puts more stress on your immune system, making it easier for you to catch the flu or other nasty infections.
- Decreased Fertility: Women that are underweight are less likely to have a regular period, which makes it much harder for them to get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to full term.
- Lack of Vitamins and Minerals: Especially if you are still growing, vitamins and minerals are crucial for maintaining overall health and ensuring that you don't have severe problems from deficiencies in the future.
- Bone Problems: Calcium is especially important for maintaining full body bone health, and being underweight means you won't get an appropriate supply. Not consuming enough iron can increase your risk of osteoporosis.
- Anemia: Like calcium, iron is an important supplement for every diet. Not getting enough can lead to anaemia, which makes you feel like you are in an exhausted fog all day.
Being underweight for long periods of time will put your body at risk of developing these medical conditions and others.
8 Best Supplements & Additives For Weight Gain
Diet and exercise can take you a long ways towards your goals, but sometimes you need a little something extra to meet your weight gain expectations. Dietary supplements might be the special ingredient that you need to get enough calories throughout the day while ensuring you don't skimp out on essential vitamins and minerals.
Whether you need the occasionally meal replacement or want to reduce your recovery time after a hard workout, there are a wide variety of supplements that will make your weight gaining efforts a little easier. Consider taking the following:
1. Weight Gainer
Because they come loaded with protein, carbs and fat, weight gainer supplements make a lot of sense if you want to put on weight quickly. Take weight gainers when you don't have time to cook and need to get some extra calories into your body.
The process couldn't be simpler; just mix a few scoops of powder in your beverage and chug it down. They are a great way to add calories to your diet without force feeding yourself or feeling uncomfortably full.
Some of the heaviest ones allow you to consume as many as 1,000 calories in a single serving. Because calorie counts are given per scoop, it's simple for you to monitor and track your diet efficiently.
Naturally found in red meat, creatine's purpose is to supply your muscles with energy. A creatine powder streamlines the process by giving you the same energy benefits that consuming a massive amount of meat would.
Used consistently, it will help you become stronger in the gym and lift larger weights, resulting in larger muscles in the long run. 5-10 grams a day should be enough for you to start seeing long term benefits.
Note: Creatine causes extra fluid to go into your muscles, making them look bigger. When you stop taking the supplement this fluid goes away, as does the extra muscle mass. However, the muscle strength that you gained will stay.
As one of the leading supplements for overnight muscle repair and recovery, ZMA is a great choice for long term muscle growth. Made with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6, ZMA is most effective when taken right before going to bed.
Aside from promoting natural deep sleep, ZMA may also help improve stamina and promote muscle healing and growth.
Studies have also shown that this product has significant anabolic benefits which are essential to those who want to have bigger muscles.
Growing the size of your muscles requires that your body get all the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Weight training also increases the amount of magnesium and selenium your body needs.
If you're finding yourself fatigued during your workouts and experiencing lots of cramping, it might be a good idea to ramp up your vitamin intake.
Taking a daily multivitamin will ensure that you are getting all the nutrition you need to stay at your healthiest.
Men should take supplements without iron, but premenopausal women need to be careful to get enough iron every day to prevent them from being anemic.
5. Vitamin C
Everyone needs a healthy dosage of vitamin C in their diets. It is essential for preventing free radical damage and helps your muscles to recover faster after an intense workout. Taking vitamin C before working out can minimize catabolic stress response while taking it after lowers cortisol; a “stress chemical” released by the adrenal glands.
Vitamin C can cut your recovery time in half and get you back in the gym sooner. You can get vitamin C naturally in your diet, but to be extra safe, you can take a supplement. The recommended dosage is to take one capsule (1000 mg) a day, or as directed by a physician.
Though glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid in our bodies, we can never seem to make enough of it to satisfy our bodies. Supplementing your natural supply of this powerful antioxidant is a good idea and will help your body to recover from workouts faster.
To reap extra benefits, take glutamine before you go to bed to prevent your body from breaking down the new muscles you've been gaining during the day.
There are plenty of extra supplements that can help you to keep your body healthy, including fish oil, flaxseed oil, and others. Make sure to get the bulk of your nutrition through your regular diet, and supplement with pills and protein powders when you need to make up the difference.
Gaining Weight For Physique And Fitness
For many, the benefits of putting on weight extend far beyond health and into the realm of physical appearance and performance. Putting on muscle mass can help athletes to be stronger, faster and more efficient in their workouts, and body building enthusiasts are forever looking for ways to add extra bulk to their frames.
Whether you want to enter a different weight class for wrestling or simply turn a few female heads at the beach, working to gain muscle for fitness follows many of the same principles as gaining weight for health.
Eating excessive amounts of junk food is not the solution and will only work to pile on body fat. Likewise, slow and steady progress is preferred, as the body can't build up more than a few pounds of muscle a month.
Gaining muscle mass is a gradual process that takes time and dedication. Commit to a healthy routine and you will slowly start to see results.
Why Is Gaining Weight So Hard?
Because of the obesity crisis, putting on weight doesn't SEEM like it should be hard, but for many people, it is. You might want to try bulking up in a matter of weeks by stuffing yourself with high calorie foods, but that never works.
If gaining healthy weight was that simple, there would be no reason to write this article. The truth is that gaining weight is a lot more complex.
Though it's easy to think otherwise, all calories are not equal, and every body processes calories differently. A pan of brownies might add three pounds to your friend's middle without leaving so much of a trace on you. It may seem unfair, but everyone's metabolism is different and we all have different caloric needs to stay healthy.
The Weight-Gaining Curse Of A Fast Metabolism
If you can eat everything you want and still not gain an ounce, then you likely have a fast metabolism (or an internal parasite - get that checked out!). This can make gaining weight both expensive and highly frustrating. In order to gain weight, you'll have to work against your body's natural abilities and essentially “outsmart” it.
Metabolically, bodies have a specific set point of weight where they naturally want to be. Putting on weight to be heavier than this level can be tricky. No matter the weight changes you are trying to make, your body will resist these changes in different ways, often by reducing your appetite and boosting your metabolism.
Therefore, eating more calories in order to gain weight is just as likely to cause your body to reduce your appetite and rev up its fat burning efficiency. You can thank evolution and the brain-regulating hormone likeleptin for this behavior.
If you truly want to gain weight through your diet, get ready to trick your body into eating even when you aren't hungry.
Remember, weight gain is a marathon, not a sprint, and putting on weight will take you at least as long as it takes a dieter to lose it. Eating hundreds, even thousands more calories every day is crucial, but even more important is the types of calories you consume.
How To Gain Weight Through Your Diet
If you're serious about gaining weight, the first place you need to start is with your diet. If you aren't eating enough to even replace the calories you are burning every day, you won't be able to add on extra weight.
But that doesn't mean filling your body with trash calories is going to give you the weight gains you are looking for; in all likelihood you'll just be trading in your potential for muscles for unhealthy belly fat instead.
Before we get into the details about the healthy dietary changes you need to make, let's look at some of the facts about gaining weight through your diet.
The Science Behind Eating Food To Gain Weight
As stated above, the simplest way to think about weight gain is to assume that your weight depends on how many calories you eat, how many you burn, and how many your body stores.
And this is true, but what this assumption doesn't take into account are the dozens of ways each of these processes are affected by your genetics and other factors in the environment.
Two people can be given the exact same diet and one will put on more weight than the other, due to their genetic make up, childhood eating habits, sleep habits, and even stress levels.
This means that the calories in/calories out theory for gaining weight is oversimplified to the point of inaccuracy.
Instead, think of your muscles like a house that you're trying to expand on. The amino acids that you get when you eat protein are the bricks used to build it, and carbs and fats are the ways that your body gets the energy to transform those acids into muscle through the process of protein synthesis (usually dependent on testosterone).
The way that your amino acids are transported to the place of protein synthesis is through insulin.
In this system, not providing enough bricks (protein) to keep building the house (your body) means that the house won't be built up and that your muscles won't continue to grow.
Your body's ability to synthesize protein depends on your natural testosterone levels as well as your sensitivity to insulin and your genetic make up.
Because there isn't any way to naturally change your protein synthesis capacities, you should only eat as much protein as your body can handle every day (about a gram per pound). Any extra that you eat will simply be turned into body fat.
Gaining Pounds Of Muscle
On average, you need about 3500 calories above your body's regular maintenance levels to gain a pound. In the same way, a 3500 calorie deficit will cause you to lose that same pound.
Once you figure out the level of your metabolism, you can find out how many extra calories you need to eat every day to start putting on weight.
How Your Metabolism Affects Your Weight
The rate of your metabolism is responsible for how many calories your body uses for maintenance tasks, and it occurs at different rates for everyone.
Your metabolism slows down as you get older, meaning that the same number of calories will soon cause you to start gaining weight.
There are other ways besides simply getting older to slow down your metabolism, but their effectiveness will vary from one person to another.
The first step is to eat as much food as your body can handle so that it doesn't have to rely on your body mass for energy instead. Eating large meals with plenty of snacks along the way can keep you full, and replacing simple carbohydrates like white bread with complex whole grains will keep your body processing food longer.
Many crash dieters find that they slow down their metabolism by going without food for long periods of time, but this strategy is unhealthy and isn't recommended for people trying to gain weight for muscle.
9 Strategies For Gaining Weight
Gaining weight properly takes a lot of intentionality to do it right. Binging on soda and donuts can only get you so far and will likely destroy your health in the process. You can follow these nine strategies to succeed in gaining weight in a healthy way.
1. Eat Constantly (At Least Every 4 Hours)
To turn your body into an engine that's always running, you need to feed it a near-constant supply of calories. Going for long periods without food stops your body from getting the fuel it needs, meaning it will turn to your stored fat and even muscle mass instead.
If you want to stop your body from feeding on itself, you will need to eat meals and snacks every three to five hours. Developing consistency is critical, so set a timer to go off every four hours and don't turn it off until you've put food into your mouth.
Eating constantly is more important than the amount you are eating, so keep your snacks small enough to ensure you'll be able to eat again in the next few hours.
2. Stock Up On Protein
Your muscles are made of protein, which is why you need to fill your diet with it. Better yet, some studies have shown that a protein-rich diet helps you turn excess starch and sugar calories into muscle as well.
For gaining weight, it’s smart to aim for 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. If your calorie intake is extra high, feel free to go above this level.
However, be careful to not overdo your protein too much. Because it is so filling, eating lots of protein makes it hard for you to meet your calorie quota every day, making it harder for you to gain weight in the long run.
High quality protein sources include animal products like meat, fish dairy and eggs, nuts and legumes.
If you have a hard time getting enough protein in your diet, supplements like whey protein can be very helpful.
3. Combine Your Foods For Maximum Benefit
With every meal and snack, always strive to combine three or more different food groups. Mix your banana with peanut butter and toast, and add a glass of milk to your crackers with hummus.
The more varied the foods you eat, the greater the nutritional pool your body can pull from. Don't restrict yourself from carbs or fats, as they are calorie dense and won't fill you up as much as protein.
4. Eat Energy-Packed, Nutrient-Dense Foods
Make your calories work for you by choosing foods that are as nutrient rich as possible. You want to get the maximum carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the smallest serving.
This gives you the calories you need without feeling too full. Dehydrated foods like dried fruit and beef jerky are excellent because they fill you with calories in tiny portions. Nut butters are also a smart choice, especially when mixed together with other ingredients like rolled oats and chocolate chips.
Don't waste your time with deficient foods like candy or crackers- their low calorie content doesn't make them worth the effort of chewing.
5. Drink Your Calories
500 calories of liquid won't make you feel as full as the equivalent in food, so filling up on calorie-dense smoothies is a smart choice for gaining weight without leaving you feeling sick or bloated.
Instead of drinking water throughout the day, make a habit of drinking thick, cream-based liquids and you'll find it easy to add hundreds of extra calories every day.
Chugging glasses of 100 percent fruit juice, organic milk or smoothies are a smart choice.
Stick with smoothies over milkshakes because you can modify them more to be filled with beneficial ingredients like nut butters, protein powders and even whey supplements.
6. Eat Right Before Bed
Sleep is an incredibly important time for our bodies, and it's the time when they repair and regenerate themselves while also building up muscle and lean tissue.
Eating a healthy snack before you fall asleep gives your body all the fuel it needs to perform these essential tasks and helps to ensure that it won't be pulling from your fat and muscle stores instead.
To give yourself plenty of calories without feeling stuffed, opt for carbohydrates like whole grain pasta with a creamy sauce or lean proteins like beans and chicken coated with rich cheese. Your body will thank you!
7. Be Patient
Putting on weight is never quick or easy, so don't expect to see dramatic results overnight.
Be flexible with your expectations and adjust and update your meal plan as you go to ensure you are finding the methods that your body best responds to.
Don't be alarmed if your initial attempts to gain muscle mass seem to result only in extra body fat.
Increasing your calorie counts will almost inevitably lead to some fat gain, but with the right exercise routines you can make sure most of your gains come the way you want them to- as lean muscle.
8. Track Your Progress
The best way to stay encouraged and inspired to keep going is to track your progress in order to see how far you've come. Spend your first few months writing down every calorie that goes into your body. Not only does this help you find patterns of what works for you, it gives you a better understanding of how much food you are truly eating in a day.
If you find yourself feeling especially good one week, you can look back at your records and eat in a similar way to see if you can maintain that good feeling.
9. Eat Faster
It takes your body twenty minutes to send a signal to your brain when it's full, so trick it into accepting more food by eating as fast as you can. Never put your utensils down when eating and make sure there is constantly food in your mouth.
For an extra challenge, make sure to eat meals with people with similar weight gain goals as you, and then make it a competition to see who can eat their food the quickest.
Though this technique might not do much for your dating life, it is guaranteed to help you gain weight.
10 Best Foods For Gaining Weight
The best way to gain weight is to eat a diet filled with nutrient-dense whole foods that fill you with calories without keeping you so full that you can't snack throughout the day.
Gaining weight should always be done with the goal of increasing your overall health, and an important part of that process is eating foods that both keep you healthy and help you to gain weight.
Here Are Some Energy-Dense Foods That Are Perfect For Gaining Weight:
Garnish your meals with special, calorie rich condiments like mayonnaise, sour cream, Greek yogurt, gravy and others. Butter and salt is also absolutely not off limits. Remember, the tastier you can make your food, the more likely you are to eat lots of it.
Rich, calorie filled desserts are your new best friend. Stick with ones that have lots of nutrients as well as fat, like oatmeal cookies and zucchini bread.
3. Dried Fruit
Because the water content has been evaporated out, dried fruit fills you with more calories while leaving you less full. An ounce of banana chips provides you with 147 calories, far more than an ounce of regular banana can get you. Toss dried fruits into your salads and cereal for a tasty, calorie-filled treat.
4. Fats And Oils
Because fat has twice as many calories per gram as proteins and carbs, it is a smart way to add calories to your diet without feeling overly full. Extra virgin olive oil, butter, avocado oil and coconut butter are all smart types of fat to eat.
You can add extra fat into your diet by swirling it into your oatmeal, creamy soups, potatoes, and even smoothies for an extra boost.
Are you worried about having too much fat in your diet? Your concerns may be unfounded.
There's little evidence that dietary fat has any effect on cardiovascular disease, so long as you are eating healthy types and avoiding trans fats.
5. Fresh, Dense Fruits
You want to avoid watery options like grapes and citrus (though they can make great juices). Your best bet is to snack on mangoes and avocados, which are full of nutrients, calories, and, in the case of avocados, healthy fats.
6. High-fat Dairy Products
The fattier cuts you can get, the better, so be sure to invest in the marbled stakes and 80/20 ground beef.
Choose chicken, beef, pork, and lamb over extra lean varieties like rabbit.
Fatty fish like salmon are especially healthy because of their omega-3 fatty acid levels.
It's also best to make sure you can eat quickly by filling your diet with easy to eat meats that don't take a lot of chewing and cutting. Ground beef or pulled pork are better options than a tough steak.
8. Nuts And Seeds
High in fiber and protein, nuts and have about 200 calories per ounce. Because they can be added to just about anything, nuts and seeds are a great way to pump up the calorie content in your soups, salads and cereals.
Nut butters are another easy to bulk up your diet; simply spread some almond or peanut butter on your banana slices for a protein filled midday snack.
9. Starchy Vegetables And Tubers
Potatoes, peas and sweet corn have more calories than other vegetables, and they provide you with a perfect source of natural fiber. For the best benefit, mix starchy vegetables with leaner greens, like broccoli on a baked potato. And don't forget the sour cream and cheese!
As a perfectly balanced snack, trail mix allows you to mix fruit, nuts, and fat calories in every bite. You can make your own to be extra creative with what goes inside.
10. Whole Grains
Fill your diet with oats, brown rice, and whole grain bread in order to add calories to your diet. You can also mix grains into your other foods for an extra boost. Flax meal and wheat germ have about 20 calories per tablespoon, and also provide you with fiber and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Keep your breakfast calorie dense by eating cereals that have over 200 calories per cup. Granola and muesli should be your best bet.
Bulking up through extra calories isn't always easy. Sometimes you will need to force yourself to eat even when you aren't hungry.
However, with proper planning and meal prep, you can make sure your cupboards are stocked with healthy options like trail mix, granola, and all your favorite calorie-filled condiments. You'll find that eating extra calories is easier than you ever expected.
Foods To Avoid
Even for weight gainers, there's a limit to how much food your body can handle in a day. Because of this, it's important to fill your body with the right kinds of foods and to avoid “empty” calories that fill you up without providing any weight-gaining benefit.
With this in mind, here is a list of foods that everyone who is trying to gain weight should avoid.
- Anything low fat/low cal: For the weight gainer, diet food should be avoided at all costs. Stick to full fat options and always opt for higher calorie items. You want to be filling up on bagels, not English muffins.
- Candy: Processed sugars are never a good idea, and candy will fill you up without adding any bulk. If you crave sweetness, mix some honey or chocolate into a nut butter instead.
- Crackers: Avoid simple carbohydrates at all costs because they will break down into glucose quickly, causing any weight gains to come from fat, not muscles. Stick with whole grains instead.
- Fast Food: It might be full of calories, but they aren't the kind you want in your body. Stay away from artificial ingredients and preservatives by taking the time to cook your own food instead. It's simply a healthier way to live.
- Watery fruits and vegetables: Citrus and berries may be full of nutrients, but they'll also make you full without lots of calories. Stick with starchy fruits like mangoes and bananas instead.
Gaining Weight Through Exercise
In many ways, your exercise plan is just as important for achieving your weight gain goals as your diet. Many people avoid exercise altogether when they are trying to gain weight because they think it will cause them to burn too many calories, and this is a big mistake.
Not exercising when you increase your calorie counts is a good way to ensure that all the weight you are gaining becomes unhealthy belly fat, not productive muscles.
By exercising smart and switching out some of your routines to maximize your weight gaining potential, you will start to add on weight in no time.
The Science Behind Exercise For Gaining Weight
With ideal levels of training, supplementation and the perfect diet, it's possible for the average male body to build about half a pound of muscle a week. This is the maximum level your body can handle. If you are gaining more weight than this per week, you are gaining fat, not muscle.
Resistance training through lifting weights is a metabolically demanding process that breaks down your muscles. The repairing process afterwords is what causes your muscles to get bigger over time. Therefore, lifting consistently heavier weights or doing more reps will help you to create more lean muscle mass.
However, when you work to build more muscle, you can gain more weight without having it be added on as fat. Increasing your muscle size also increases the amount of glycogen and water that can stored, meaning that more muscles equals more glycogen.
Through training, most people can store 40g of glycogen in every 100g of muscle tissue. Because of this, and the water that is stored in glycogen, gaining ten pounds of muscle means that you will actually be gaining closer to fourteen pounds by the scale.
Bulking And Cutting: Does It Really Work?
One popular method of gaining muscle is called bulking and cutting. Started by muscle enthusiasts that were more concerned with appearance than performance, bulking and cutting promises to give you a more toned figure, though without the strength and endurance that comes from traditional body building.
The theory is that you spend several months eating enormous amounts of food while training frequently with lots of weight. Your weight gains will be a mixture of muscle and fat.
After the bulking phase, you start cutting, meaning that you clean up your diet to include only healthy foods, with the goal of losing the fat you gained and ending up with lean, defined muscle instead.
If this sounds too good to be true, well, it is. Bulking and cutting rarely works as promised and most often leaves you weighing only slightly more than when you began.
Not only is it unhealthy to allow your weight to fluctuate like this, it is also inefficient for weight gain. You are much better off eating a healthy diet and exercising moderately throughout your entire weight gain period. Yes, you will gain weight slower than in a “bulk” stage, but what you gain will be solid muscle, not body fat.
There are better ways to gain muscles than bulking and cutting, so leave this trend alone.
5 Tips for Gaining Weight
It takes surprisingly little exercise to start building up your muscles, so long as you work out with heavy weights and work out consistently. Here are other tips for helping you to strip down your fat and bulk up your muscles in healthy ways.
1. Get Lots Of Rest
Your body needs sleep, and getting at least eight hours of sleep a night is critical for it to have the time to perform the muscle repairs it needs. For even better benefits, take an afternoon nap or get a massage between workouts. A therapeutic massage will help to work out the knots in your muscles while improving blood flow, helping you recover faster.
2. Track Your Progress
For best results, track all your strength-training numbers so that you know how often to increase reps or add on more weight.
Looking at the numbers will keep you consistent, and also motivate you with how far you've come.
3. Never Train Hungry
One of the worst things you can do for your weight gaining potential is to start your workouts starving. This will force your body to find alternate fuel sources like your hard-earned muscles for energy.
Missing meals puts your body in starvation mode and makes it extremely difficult to put on weight. Have a heavy snack 30 minutes before you start to exercise and try to eat your biggest meal of the day right after your workout.
4. Drink A Carb & Protein Drink While You Workout
Eating beforehand is important, but even more beneficial for your body is to have a constant supply of fuel while working out. Mix up a protein shake that's a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and you'll keep yourself full and hydrated during your workout.
5. Switch From Cardio To Strength Training
Cardio activities like running are great for your health, but they rev up your metabolism and won't help you gain any weight.
A better workout strategy is to switch your routine to be centered around weights.
By lifting weights several times a week, you will be building muscle mass that can lead to overall weight gain if you make sure to eat enough calories.
It's not necessary to give up your cardio altogether - just go on shorter runs or take long walks instead.
For those that are starting weight training for the first time, a personal trainer can be a huge asset for helping you hit your goals.
When Should You Stop Trying To Gain Weight?
It's not a good idea for everyone to try to gain weight. For some people, it can actually be damaging to their overall health. Therefore, make sure to start your weight gain plan with caution and stop your attempts if any of the following conditions describe you.
You should stop trying to gain weight if:
- You can't commit to doing it in a healthy way (whole foods and exercise combined together)
- You only want to gain weight for the short term and plan to quickly lose it again
- You're doing it to impress others, not make yourself happy
- You feel sick or bloated after eating huge portions
- Your belly fat levels are going up
- Your athletic performance is getting worse
Be honest with yourself and your reasons for wanting to gain weight. If you aren't doing it become healthier and stronger, you should re-evaluate your goals.
Final Tips For Gaining Weight
The proper combination of a healthy diet, strength-building exercises and dietary supplements should take you a long ways towards your weight gaining goals, but here are some final tips to help you go the extra mile.
- Don't drink before meals: The last thing you want to do is fill your stomach up with empty calories.
- Use a bigger plate: We are programmed to eat what's in front of us, so by piling on the food you'll be far more likely to eat more.
- Pump up your food with extras: Add the blue cheese to your salad and the creamer to your coffee. It's an easy way to add extra calories without filling you up.
- Eat your protein first and vegetable last: Fill up on the calorie-dense foods on your plate first to ensure your body gets all the protein it needs.
- Don't smoke: Smokers tend to weigh less, and if you have to quit all the better; many former smokers gain weight when they first try to quit.
- Go out to eat: Restaurant portions tend to be massive, so you're bound to add some bulk if you eat out enough. Just don't take the excuse of a to-go box, and go for big meals, not something light like tofu.
Gaining weight may be tricky, but it's certainly not impossible. With the right combination of a healthy, calorie-filled diet, and a proper strength-building exercise routine, you will be on your way to bulking up before you know it.
Remember to eat clean healthy foods, consume more calories everyday than your body can burn, and to supplement your diet with weight lifting exercises several times a week. Once you get into a healthy routine, you might surprise yourself how efficiently your body can start to pile on the pounds of muscle.
Now we want to hear from you. What are your best secrets for effective weight gain? Do you have a supplement you swear by or a workout routine that leaves you feeling ripped? Please share your tips with us and we'd love to explore your ideas farther.