For most athletes, putting on some extra muscle is not only desirable but a necessity to maximize their physical performance. When attempting to put on weight, the best formula is to eat like you’ve never eaten before. There are many approaches you can take to this as there are countless opinions, studies, and supposedly fool-proof ideas. The approach I take is fairly simplistic and is highly focused on gaining muscle while gaining a minimal amount of fat.
Trying to put on weight while training is different than training to gain muscular endurance. Make sure you get plenty of rest, especially when training, as scheduling rest days is just as important as scheduling workouts. I always schedule extra rest days within my training routine to make sure my body has plenty of time to recover after the more-rigorous-than-usual workouts, which consist of heavier weights, and generally fewer, slower repetitions. Getting the proper rest will also help you stay consistent on your training and eating schedules.
I like to start out the day with a protein shake consisting of some type of isolate protein. If you want to gain weight it is imperative to get at least 20-30 grams of protein upon waking and isolate protein is absorbed by the body rapidly, making it an optimum source to start off the day. Doing this wakes up your digestive system and prepares it for every meal you will eat throughout the day.
In order to gain one pound, you need 3,500 calories above the calorie amount necessary to maintain your body weight. The average person needs approximately 2,500-3,000 calories for basic maintenance, so to gain one to two pounds per week, you would need to consume an additional 500-1,000 calories per day (3,500-7,000 calories per week). This makes extra meals an absolute necessity when trying to bulk up and gain strength, and I religiously eat five meals a day, never more than three hours apart, when I am trying to put on weight. The spacing of the meals is crucial simply due to the fact that if you go very much longer than three hours without eating, it gets difficult to fit in all of the meals that you need into a day. That means five real meals, which should total at least an additional 500 calories beyond your usual daily intake.
My general diet consists of high protein foods including fish, chicken, and other types of meat and legumes as my primary source of carbohydrates, as they are high in dietary fiber and therefore easier on my digestive system along with being another high-quality source of protein. I always prioritize keeping my meals balanced with greens and vegetables to eliminate any deficiencies in my diet.
An important rule when attempting to gain weight is to avoid sugar. I mean as close to no sugar as possible without exception. I am usually training, so sugar is essentially wasted calories as far as I’m concerned. The main problem with sugar in this regard is that it is more likely for me to gain bad weight (fat) than good weight (muscle) while also taking up valuable space in my diet that I could use for better things. That, along with the other well-known health detriments that come along with sugar is reason enough for me to leave it out of my diet.
Finally, at the end of the day I take a time-released casein protein shake before I go to sleep. Casein protein is ideal before sleep because it generally takes 6-8 hours for the body to fully absorb it. Isolate protein is better than nothing before bed, but does not have the same effect as casein because it is digested too quickly. You can use other slowly absorbed protein-rich food such as cottage cheese and some yogurts if necessary, but you absolutely must not go to bed hungry, especially when trying to gain muscle. Your body needs this time to grow and repair so you cannot afford to starve yourself while sleeping. Most importantly, get a good, full night’s sleep, or around eight hours. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will impede your progress so make getting an adequate amount of sleep a priority.
If you want to put on weight, you need to have a plan you can stick to that is effective. Any deviation from your plan will prolong and undermine the process. There is no reason to overcomplicate things. If you follow a regimen like this, you will produce noticeable results and get bigger and stronger than you were before you started.