There are probably more than a million pieces out there on what foods to eat to help you lose weight (am I right?!) … but what if you actually want to gain?
It might seem like an unpopular desire, but you’re definitely not alone if you’re looking to put on weight or muscle. After all, to get stronger, you sometimes need to add rather than subtract!
Like weight loss, there are a few different ways to go about putting on weight. To simply “gain weight,” you can of course go wild and start indulging in tons of carb-based foods and fats … but if you want to put on lean mass (which is usually the case) you’ll want to take a different approach.
The following outline of foods to eat for weight gain is geared to helping you put on mass while minimizing fat gain.
Weight Gain: The Basics
You may have heard the theory tossed around that “calories don’t matter,” when it comes to eating whole foods, but trust me: they do. This is especially true when we talk weight gain, since a lack of calories will not only prevent further gain, but probably result in a loss, no matter what type of food you’re eating.
In essence, if you’re not eating enough, you won’t be putting anything on.
A good way to calculate how many extra calories you’ll need per day to gain weight is to the simple BMR equation. You BMR, or basal metabolic rate, estimates roughly 70% of the calories you burn per day based on your weight and height. The rest of your calorie burn comes from your activity level. A simple BMR equation looks like this:
Bodyweight (lbs) x 10 = BMR
– Example: A 200lb Male of 24 years old would calculate out to: 200 x 10 = 2000 calories per day
Once you find this number, you’ll want to add an additional 500-1,000 calories to that total per day to gain lean muscle mass.
Foods to Eat for Weight Gain
Now that you have your base calorie count, we’ll focus on how to get those calories. Quality of food matters when you’re trying to gain muscle mass versus fat; specifically, we’ll want to focus on upping your protein amount and adding in a dash more of clean carbs, then rounding that out with healthy fats.
For muscle gain, we want to focus on growing more muscle, which requires additional amino acids and glucose (hence the extra protein and carbs).
We’ll also focus on higher-calorie foods so you can add calories without having to gorg on volume and feeling overstuffed.
First things first: protein. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting a protein at every meal (aim for 4 ounces, or the size of your palm). If you’re eating less meals throughout the day, try a 5 or 6-ounce portion instead.
- Organic turkey and chicken
- Wild fish (salmon, sardines, cod, mackerel)
- Grass-fed beef
- Lamb and bison
- Organic beef jerky
- Clean whey protein (no added flavors or sugars)
- Organic tofu and plant protein (if vegan)
A simple way to up the protein in your meals is to, for instance, add an additional egg to your breakfast, add a protein shake to your lunch or post-workout snack, and/or add a scoop of protein powder to your non-dairy yogurts or smoothies. Be sure to have a serving of protein at lunch and dinner, as well.
When we’re focused on weight loss, we tend to advise limiting carbs in favor of protein and healthy fats, but now we want to increase your clean carbs a bit to fuel muscle growth and add calories.
Try to get in 1-1 1/2 cups of clean carbs like sweet potato, quinoa, chickpeas, pumpkin, squash, and even regular potatoes at each of your meals.
For instance, add a side of sauteed or baked sweet potato to your eggs in the morning, some chickpeas or quinoa to your salad at lunch, and some roasted pumpkin or potatoes to your dinner.
Here’s where your higher-calorie options come in: fats.
To pump up your daily calories, focus on adding solid portions of avocado (one half to one whole) to your meals, and/or nut butters to your smoothies and protein shakes.
You can also drizzle your salads with olive oil, and bake your proteins and sweet potatoes with 1-2 Tablespoons coconut oil.
Aim to consume 3-4 servings of these per day.
Fats to focus on:
- Nut butters (almond, cashew, hazelnut, etc…)
- Olive and coconut oil
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- Fresh coconut
- Coconut milk
- Nuts (almond, pistachio, pecans, walnuts)
Greens and Veggies
Yep, they’re low-calorie, but they’re essential to muscle growth. Kale, spinach, and all the veggies are rich in minerals and antioxidants that fuel cell growth and reduce inflammation. Plus, they’re crucial for maintaining health in general, so aim to pack your meals with as many as you want.
As you can see, gaining weight is actually similar in terms of food choices to losing weight … you simply get to eat more! Cheers to that, right?
Remember: the key is to up your calorie intake with these foods, so measuring out portions can be helpful.
If you’re looking for a way to supplement your weight gain venture with working out at home (especially if your gym is still locked down!), check out these exercises!
And, don’t forget to subscribe to my Daily Workouts, where you’ll receive the next level of daily workouts straight from me, along with access to video demonstrations of exercises and the MVMT community, which discuss nutrition, accountability, and more! (P.S.: Grab the 14-Day FREE Trial while it lasts!)