Of course most people envy those few who find it a struggle to gain body weight, but thin people must battle their own genetics and fast metabolisms in order to gain weight. The envy may be misplaced as it tends to be an uphill battle for many thin people to gain any appreciable weight. The best way to gain body weight is to eat more food. Simple, right? Wrong! It's much more complex than this. Here are some tips to gaining body weight the right way:
- Eat often and consistently. This means eating more meals daily including breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and an evening snack. Strive to eat at least six times per day.
- Eat larger portions. Eat one cup of oatmeal for breakfast rather than 1/2 cup. Have a cup of yogurt rather than a 1/2 cup. Add fruit to your yogurt and cereal.
- Eat more calorically-dense foods. This means choose foods which have more calories per serving than other foods. Be sure to drink more fruit juices and eat less fruit. Why? Because reducing your fiber intake will allow you to eat more and therefore take in more calories.
- Drink fruit juices rather than water. Obviously water contains zero calories so drinking fluids containing sugar (e.g., orange juice, apple juice, grape juice) can boost your caloric intake.
- Enjoy healthy fats. Think unsaturated fats here. This includes avocados, natural peanut butter, nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc. These foods are more calorically-dense since fat itself is calorically-dense at 9 kcals per gram.
- Perform strength training exercises. Weight-lifting will promote more lean body mass (i.e., muscle) and stimulate your appetite. More muscle mass and a healthy appetite means more body weight. Increased thirst will allow you to drink more calorically-dense fluids including fruit juices.
- Drink a weight-gaining drink. You can create your own drink by mixing whole milk, Carnation Instant Breakfast powder, powdered milk, banana chunks, and other fruit.
There are principles of training you should abide by in order to gain muscle mass. Here they are:
Since your body adapts to the stimuli placed upon it, you should continually increase the intensity (i.e., loading) of exercises to get stronger and therefore gain muscle mass. Incremental changes must occur (i.e., increasing the loadings, reps, or sets) to keep the body guessing and stimulate further muscular growth.
This principle essentially entails splitting your training into what are called mesocycles (e.g., endurance, mass, strength, power), each of duration from about one to three months. The purpose here is to focus on a particular resistance training goal (e.g., gain muscle mass) which falls within one mesocycle. Recommended training programs incorporating certain techniques (i.e., compound sets, supersets) and parameters (i.e., %1-RM, number of sets, number of reps, rest periods) are then employed in an effort to achieve the resistance training goal.
If you want to gain muscle mass, for example, you need to eat BIG. That is, strive to eat a lot of clean food to feed your muscles. You must maintain a positive caloric balance, meaning you're eating more calories than you are expending during each day. Your recommended caloric intake is essentially based on five parameters: bodyweight; height; age; lean body mass; and physical activity level. Once you've determined how much you should eat, you need to break the macronutrients down into percentages of caloric intake (e.g., to gain muscle mass, eat about 65% carbs, 25% protein, and 10% fat). Now split up you caloric intake into six to eight meals per day.
If you want to get big, plan on getting at least seven hours of sleep daily. Why? Because adequate sleep is necessary to allow for enough growth hormone release and muscle recovery from hard training to take place. Growth hormone enables the muscles to grow and facilitates joint repair and fat loss. Most importantly, adequate sleep is needed to replenish your energy levels to push heavy weights and train intensely.
Remember, nutritional supplements are designed to supplement
your diet, not to take the place of it. Determine all the healthy, clean foods you should be eating first before incorporating certain supplements into your nutritional regimen. Here are the must-have supplements for gaining muscle mass:
- Whey protein--take before breakfast, pre- and post-training
- Creatine monohydrate--take pre-and post-training
- Multivitamin--take with breakfast
- Fish oil--take with breakfast
- Glutamine--take with whey protein and creatine
- Branched-chain amino acids--take with whey protein and creatine
- Casein protein --take before bedtime and post-training
This principle entails applying varying training techniques (e.g., supersets, drop sets, rearranging exercise order, etc.) to keep your body guessing in order for it to continually adapt and therefore grow.
If you want to gain muscle mass, you need to keep your repetition range within the so-called hypertrophy range: eight to twelve reps.
It's all about K
tupid! Don't make your training more complicated than it needs to be--stick with the basics: use free weights for compound movements (e.g., bench press, squat, deadlift) and avoid balance platforms, stability balls, etc.
It's easy to gain bodyweight. It's hard to gain LEAN bodyweight (i.e., muscles) without
added fat. Here are the most common mistakes many make when trying to gain muscle mass:
- Eating too much food at each meal
Your body can handle only so many calories at once. Unless you have an extremely fast metabolism, there's no need to dramatically increase your caloric intake. If you stuff yourself in a seemingly desperate attempt to gain muscle mass, you'll be in for a rude surprise: bodyfat gain! Eat more food but do so gradually (e.g., 200-400 kcals per day) and check how your body responds by observing your physique in the mirror every week. If you begin to notice more girth around your midsection, it's time to level off your caloric intake. On the other hand, if you still look good, continue on with your caloric intake but keep an eye out for any changes.
- Not eating enough carbs and protein, especially at breakfast and after training.
The two most important meals of the day are breakfast and after you train. Failing to provide your body adequate fuel at these times can be detrimental for muscle growth. The objective of eating a large meal at breakfast is to stimulate your metabolism via a boost in anabolic hormone release. After training, your muscles act like a vacuum and suck up any nutrients provided, especially within an hour after your workout.
- Not consuming enough carbs
We know how important protein is in supporting muscle mass, but carbs are also imperative in order to drive the amino acids (from protein) into your muscle tissue. This is true, particularly after training when your muscles are essentially starving for the nutrients needed. Your carb intake needs to be adequate to stimulate enough insulin secretion and the resulting glucose, amino acids, and creatine uptake into muscle tissue to support muscle protein synthesis. Consider taking in about 40g of whey protein mixed with about 80g of high-glycemic carbs (e.g., orange juice) post-training. By the way, chocolate milk fits the bill perfectly since it contains a wonderful combination of whey protein (from milk) and sugar (from chocolate).
- Not consuming enough protein
To gain quality lean body mass (i.e., muscle), you need to eat plenty of protein from lean foods (e.g., turkey breast, chicken breast, fish, yogurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and eggs). In order to get adequate branch-chain amino acids (BCAA's) into your body, be sure to eat your protein during each and every meal. This will protect your muscles from being catabolized for energy during hard training sessions.
- Failing to allow for adequate recovery time
This is probably the most common mistake people make. People still mistakenly believe that if some weight training is good, then more is even better when it comes to gaining muscle mass. Nothing could be further from the truth! Unless you give your body the rest it needs to recover from a hard training event, the risk of overtraining can go up dramatically. Essentially, you'll be digging yourself a deeper and deeper hole if this behavior continues. No matter how good your nutrition is, it will NOT offset a lack of rest.
- Not eating prior to working out
Although your nutrition post-workout is paramount, what you eat before training is also important. Your body needs the carbs and protein in order to fuel your muscles and lessen the risk of catabolism during your workout. Consider taking in about 20g of whey protein and 40g of carbs pre-workout.
- Not adequately fueling your body with protein while you sleep
The key here is to consume casein protein to provide your body a slow-digesting protein to sustain your muscles for a longer duration as you sleep. In this way, you will keep your body in an anabolic state in which adequate amino acids fuel your muscles.
- Not being consistent in your nutrition and/or training program
Do I really need to expound on this topic?! Enough said.
Since muscle tissue contains mostly protein, it stands to reason you need to eat foods that are relatively high in protein. More particularly, you should strive to eat complete protein foods that contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. Foods such as meats, poultry, eggs, fish, milk, and cheese are excellent complete protein foods and should make up the bulk of your diet for gaining muscle mass. If you want to gain quality muscle mass and/or become a bodybuilder, you need to eat these foods:
Almonds fight food cravings and contain healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, and magnesium. Walnuts have a higher concentration of antioxidants than any other nuts. Walnuts are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Soy is the only plant-based protein that contains all essential amino acids and is equal in quality to animal-based proteins. In particular, isolated soy protein and soy protein concentrate found in processed soy foods score as high as eggs, dairy and meat in terms of amino acid profile and protein digestibility. Consuming soy either before or after training helps to improve protein balance and optimizes muscle building after resistance training. Soy also contains isoflavones which are powerful antioxidants that fight oxidative stress during exercise.
This includes soybeans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lima beans, edamame, and especially black beans. All of these beans contain fiber, protein, iron, and folate--nutrients essential for building muscle mass.
Spinach (along with broccoli, brussels sprouts and peppers) contains plenty of antioxidants (from vitamin C and beta-carotene) to neutralize harmful free radicals which accelerate the aging process. Spinach also contains vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, calcium, and magnesium--essential ingredients for muscle maintenance and growth.
This includes low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. These foods contain calcium and vitamin D--essential for strong bones.
This food contains complex carbs which provide the needed fuel for high-intensity workouts. Oatmeal also contains fiber which helps to reduce blood cholesterol and maintain blood sugar levels.
This is the most perfect food because eggs contain the highest biological value of protein to enable quick absorption of amino acids into the body. This means that the protein in eggs is more effective at building muscle mass than any other protein food including milk and beef. Eggs also contain vitamins A and B12--nutrients which support muscle growth.
This includes turkey, extra-lean beef (e.g., sirloin), chicken and fish (e.g., tuna, salmon). These meats contain plenty of protein as well as iron, zinc, creatine (beef), omega-3 fatty acids (fish), and vitamins B6 (chicken and fish) and B12.
The peanut butter should be all-natural and sugar-free. Peanut butter contains protein, monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, niacin, and magnesium--all nutrients which support muscle mass.
Contains monounsaturated fat and vitamin E.
Foods in this category consist of less-processed carbs, including brown rice, whole-grain pasta, whole-wheat pretzels, whole-wheat bagels, etc. These foods contain plenty of fiber as well as protein, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Be sure to look for the words whole-
wheat or whole
-grain as the first ingredient.
Ideal before a workout, whey protein is the quickest-absorbing protein for the body. You can mix it with water, low-fat milk, or add a little to your oatmeal for a bodybuilding meal.
One of the best sources for antioxidants (such as vitamin C), blueberries also contain soluble fiber. The antioxidants enable muscle recovery by reducing inflammation and therefore muscle soreness after hard training.
Sweet potatoes contain vitamins A and C, both antioxidants which help reduce inflammation and muscle damage after a hard workout.
Having an elevated metabolic rate makes it very difficult for some people to gain weight in their lives. You can accept your fate for the rest of your life by blaming your parents for being thin (thanks to genetic inheritance) or you can make some lifestyle changes now in order to gain weight. How?
In order to gain body weight you need to eat at least 400 extra kcals daily to gain one pound of lean body weight (muscle) per week. Too easy, right? Wrong. Our bodies are designed with a thermoregulatory mechanism in order to maintain homeostasis. This means that your body "knows" how much energy (read: kcals) it needs daily (plus or minus 400 kcals) in order to feel comfortable. Thus, in order to gain weight, you will need to make a conscious effort to eat not only more food but food which is calorically dense.
The best way to gain quality body weight without gaining fat is to eat less saturated-fattening foods and instead eat higher-caloric versions of healthy foods such as dense cereals like oatmeal (rather than flake cereals), starchy vegetables like corn, peas, potatoes (rather than watery vegetables such as lettuce), tuna in oil (rather than in water), whole milk (rather than low-fat milk), nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel). Eat a larger portion size of these foods per sitting and eat these foods consistently (i.e., every 3 to 4 hours). Also, to ensure the weight gained is mostly lean body weight (muscle) and not fat, be sure to perform strength training. This last point is essential as eating more food without exercising will inevitably cause fat weight gain rather than muscle weight gain.