As much as many want to know how to lose weight and lose it fast, a lot of people have the opposite problem. If you want to know how to gain weight fast whilst building the most muscle and adding the least amount of fat, this post is for you.
A Word of Warning
When you add weight quickly there will be some clean-up needed afterwards if you are seeking a strong lean physique. You must not forget this. You don’t want to go from being stuck skinny to being stuck fat.
For most people gaining weight is the fun bit, it does require some discipline but normally less than losing the fat does afterwards. If you commit to adding weight quickly, you must also commit to the inevitable leaning out process afterwards.
How Much Could You Gain?
If you’re a newbie then you could potentially gain over a kilogram of muscle per month. If you’re an intermediate lifter already then perhaps half a kilogram per month. If you’re advanced then half a kilo every couple of months is very good going. If you’re advanced you already know this. You may add more weight than this, some of that will have to come off afterwards in the clean up.
More Food, More Muscle
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The only way to add mass is to eat more calories than you burn.
Try this calculator for a good guide to how many calories you should be eating. This is an estimation based off of the needs of most people. If you eat this many for a few weeks and don’t gain any weight then add more calories. People’s basal metabolic rates can vary wildly.
In order to add weight you’ll want to increase the size of your meals, the frequency of your meals or both. A common trend with those who have trouble gaining weight is inconsistency in the way they eat. If you don’t know what you eat then it’s hard to manage what you eat. As the old saying goes ‘What gets measured gets managed’.
Quality AND Quantity
A balanced diet including carbohydrates, protein sources and plenty of vegetables will help you gain weight and stay healthy throughout the process. Eat real food. Your protein intake should ideally be on the high side whether you’re aiming to gain muscle or lose fat but when gaining muscle your carbohydrate intake should be much higher. Those who have tried to put on muscle while following a ketogenic diet will know first hand how much harder it is to gain muscle without a decent carbohydrate intake.
You’ll want to have a protein, a starch and some vegetables at all meals; you don’t need to worry about limiting fat too much either. You’ll get used to eating larger meals over time but at the start you might find that your body just doesn’t like it. It’s normal to feel sick at times when you up your calorie intake significantly, that full belly feeling means that you’re stretching your stomach and allowing it to take more food. You have to command your body to do your mind’s bidding. This is essentially the opposite of what doctors set out to achieve by using gastric bands and it makes a big difference. After a period of calorie restriction, I require significantly fewer calories to feel full and when moving into calorie restriction I feel hungriest. Once the adaptation occurs, the rest isn’t really that bad.
Healthy High Calorie Foods
Meat is naturally quite high in protein, calories and fat which makes it a perfect weight gaining food. You don’t need to get super lean mince if you’re looking to add weight but you might not want to get the full fat version either. It’s not that the fat in beef is particularly bad for you, just that it could be a bit much if you eat it a lot.
Oily fish is good for you and packs quite a few calories too. The fats in oily fish include lots of omega-3 which can have a number of health benefits.
Peanut butter is pretty special to me. I eat a lot of the stuff. As a sufferer of the increasingly common condition of being perpetually busy, this is a way I deliver a little calorie boost a spoonful at a time. If you want to put the peanut butter on something, that’s fine too. At just short of 100 calories per tablespoon, peanut butter is a great way of adding calories.
Whilst technically two foods, tuna mayonnaise is a great way to add protein and calories to your diet. Stab a few potatoes, throw them in the microwave and throw some tuna mayonnaise with sweetcorn over them for a healthy, high calorie meal. It also works well if you’re lazy or busy, you can just empty a can of tuna into a bowl, mix it up with mayonnaise and eat it like that. I’ve done this more than a few times, it’s not fine dining but sometimes you’re hungry and tired.. and it works.
When people are looking to lose fat the first thing to get cut back on in the oils in cooking and the added fat. Well guess what? You have no such limitations. Use a mix of oils to provide omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
You can add calories from fat by using oils and fats in cooking or as dressings afterwards. This is not something to be done when maintaining or losing weight however. You need an on/off switch for your mentality and approach. Coffee with cream when adding weight, coffee black when losing it.
Starches are where a good number of your calories should come from. Pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, oats, beans and pulses. You get a lot of nutrients from these food two provided you opt for the healthier varieties.
Aim to keep the calories you take in of good quality. Just because Ben and Jerry’s has a lot of calories in it doesn’t mean you should make it a significant part of your diet.
If you want to add muscle, weight and strength then take creatine. It’s the most studied sports supplement going and it just works. It’s safe, legal and some research on it suggests that not only could it help you get a better body but also a sharper mind too.
Creatine gives your muscles energy for short-lived activities – exactly like a set in the gym – and draws water into the muscles keeping them hydrated and making them appear fuller. It’s a humble supplement too, it costs far less than most others and does far more. If you want to add weight, get some creatine and take it religiously.
Lots of people try weight gainers to add muscle. I’m not that fond of them myself but I’m not averse to high calorie eating so that may have something to do with it. I did however always find very good results from supplementing with casein. On paper I couldn’t tell you why casein seems to work so much better than whey for putting on muscle but in my experience it does.
Weight gainers as a supplement category are a mix of protein powders, carbohydrate sources and sometimes some fat too. I always found them a bit heavy for my liking and I don’t like the idea of a shake making up such a large percentage of my daily food intake but if you want to try one then try this one for a good value product with creatine and vitamins added.
The Original Weight Gainer
Milk is an excellent muscle-building aid to those also wanting to gain weight. A litre of semi-skimmed milk will add 765 calories and nearly 50 grams of protein to your diet. Added to your diet daily this is usually enough to promote weight gain and muscle growth.
There is a method known as GOMAD, or Gallon Of Milk A Day, that is designed to help skinny guys gain weight fast. It works but you’ll likely find yourself feeling bloated and running for the toilet, a litre of milk on the other hand is enough to promote weight gain and help you build muscle without extra fat gain or bathroom troubles.
For the training and more nutritional tactics, see How to Gain Muscle Fast – Pt2.