Gaining weight is a matter of taking in more energy that you use. Putting things in such simple terms is almost insulting to anyone who has struggled to keep weight on because it's nowhere as easy as it seems, and like many things, there's a good way and a bad way to go about it.
Eating junk food and forgoing exercise is a sure fire way to pack on the kilos, but it's not the right way to go about it. Not only will you put the weight on as fat rather than muscle and see decreases in strength and physical fitness, you're also increasing your risk of developing some pretty serious diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Gaining weight the healthy way means putting on most of those extra kilos as muscle. It might sound counterintuitive, but just like losing weight, the keys to healthy weight gain are also exercise and a good diet.
How to Gain Weight with a Fast Metabolism
Also known as hardgainers, people who have a fast metabolism often have a great deal of trouble gaining and hanging on to weight. The first thing to look at when you're trying to gain weight is diet, and a successful diet needs a plan.
You should start by working out how many calories you should be eating each day to maintain your bodyweight, which you can work out using a calorie calculator. Adding 500 calories per week to this amount will see most people gain about half a kilogram a week, which is a good, steady amount. As we can see using the calorie calculator, a 23 year old, 171cm man who weighs 65kg should be eating 2350 calories per day. This means he needs to increase this figure to 2850 calories per day to put on half a kilo a week, provided he does not change his activity levels. This figure will be even higher for someone who is training, and this needs to be taken into account when calculating calorie intake. Use of a calorie and activity tracking app can be a great help.
What to Eat to Gain Weight
This is the most important question when it comes to weight gain. This has been covered extensively in other articles, but here are some general tips:
- Choose calorie-dense food based on other health benefits. For example, cheese and cake are both calorie dense, but cheese is also high in calcium and protein. Candy and fruit are both high in sugar, but fruit will also give you vitamins and minerals.
- Liquid calories can feel less filling than food. Drink milk, smoothies and fruit juice instead of water. Mass gainer protein shakes are an ideal drink, because they're high in calories and protein. On the other hand, you should try to avoid drinking immediately before meals because it can dull appetite.
- Make eating easy and convenient. Carry healthy, high calorie foods with you, like nuts, boiled eggs, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
- Add calorie dense food to your meals. Coconut cream is delicious and rich in medium chain triglycerides, which are thought to help burn fat. Add it to smoothies or curries, along with nut butter. You can add nuts and seeds to salads and stews for more good fats, and let's face it, cheese tastes good with almost everything. Use liberally!
- Try to avoid eating too much fibre because it can fill you up. This means no bran for breakfast, and although you should still be eating them for their nutritional benefits, don't go too crazy on the fruit and veg. Try dried fruits, or mix an antioxidant and vitamin rich greens supplement in with your smoothie to ensure you're getting the nutrition your body requires to put all this extra energy to good use.
- Using a night time protein ensures your body is taking in calories and protein even when you're sleeping. Sleep is also when your body repairs itself and lays down new muscle, so you want to make sure you're well fuelled to ensure the best results.
When to Eat to Gain Weight
This is pretty obvious, but you should try to eat as often as possible. A good plan is to stick to your standard three meals a day, and add mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and after dinner snacks on top of that. There are things you can do to make this easier:
- Make sure you have healthy, high calorie food on you at all times. If you get the urge to eat, you should always take advantage of it, and you want to snack on the right stuff.
- Invest in a Smart Shaker. This clever product holds your protein powder in a separate compartment, so you can take your mass gainer anywhere without fear of a powder explosion in your bag. And when you're ready, just add water.
- Take advantage of distractions. Studies have shown that people trying to lose weight vastly underestimate the amount they have eaten when they're distracted. Having a night in front of the TV, watching a movie, or going to a game? Arm yourself with plenty of snack food and your efforts might surprise you.
How to Gain Weight Fast – Can I Gain Weight in a Week?
Quite simply, no. You're not going to go from skinny to ripped in seven days, because it is literally impossible. What you need to do is shift your mindset. Having a well developed physique is something that can give you confidence, but that confidence will not come from looking in the mirror alone – vanity and confidence are two separate things. Real confidence comes from making a decision to improve yourself, putting in the hard yards to get there, and being successful.
How to Gain Weight and Muscle
There's another side to weight gain if you want to do it properly, and that's exercise. You need to exercise to convert the extra energy and protein you're taking in into muscle. The best way to do this is through weight training – you can leave the cardio for when you're cutting.
You're going to need to set up a training schedule that suits your skill level. Beginners should start slowly and make sure they're using correct technique, while this is a good opportunity for experienced trainers to inject a bit of variation into their training plan, a known muscle-building strategy. Check out our many articles on weight training for more detailed advice on building muscle.
It is important to realise that you're going to put on a bit of fat while you're bulking up – this is normal, and keeping your body in a positive energy balance is important to maximise muscle growth. Building muscle and losing fat concurrently is not really possible, which is why people go through cycles of bulking and cutting.
How to Gain Weight – Supplements
- Mass Gainer Protein – Simple to prepare and less filling than a meal, a mass gainer protein is an essential supplement for anyone bulking up, and provides a balanced mix of the energy and protein required to put on lean muscle. Elemental Nutrition Anabolic Mass combines great nutrition with added extras like vitamins and minerals, muscle building aminos glutamine and leucine, and testosterone boosting botanicals.
- Creatine monohydrate – The most studied ergogenic supplement on the market, creatine monohydrate has been shown to work time and time again. Increase strength, power, muscular endurance and fast track your gains. Optimum Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate combines purity and great value.
- Casein – Get the advantage by building muscle while you sleep. This BCAA-rich dairy protein provides a drip feed of amino acids to your muscles when they need it most. You don't need a product with all the bells and whistles – Pure Supps 100% Casein is an excellent choice if you're looking for a top quality Aussie-made protein at a rock bottom price.