Now, whilst most of my work revolves around helping people drop body fat, there is still a good amount of time spent helping people gain weight too. I know that for some people it will sound silly as they joke about finding it all too easy to see the number on the scale go up. However, there's always a population that feel anxious about the number not growing when they think it should.
Knowing a few strategies for weight gain can be useful information from an athletic standpoint too. As a general rule, durable athletes are strong and have a solid amount of muscle mass. To a certain point it can even be said for some athletes that MASS=GAS meaning the more mass you have the more power you've got to use too.
For most sports, it is common for players to drop weight in season due to the high demands from frequent training and games not allowing players much time spent in the gym or truly recovering. Given this, it is important that proper attention be paid to nutrition in season to maintain a good level of performance and recovery, with the off-season being a great time to build a bigger stronger frame to work with.
So let's kick off the simple but effective strategies for those who struggle putting on weight that can be implemented any time of year.
1. Get around big eaters and make eating a social challenge.
Often, the guys who complain about how they "eat all the time and still can't gain weight" will be in for a big shock when dining around true ‘big eaters’. Eat with them, keep up with them and if they go for seconds, you go too.
2. Cook with more oil.
Adding in some healthy oils (olive and coconut are my two "go-to" choices) can make it easier to get an extra 200+ calories at each meal. The healthy fats the you’re putting in are nice perks of this approach, too.
3. Eat faster. It takes time for the body to perceive fullness, so if you can get your calories in a bit faster, you can essentially trick yourself in to eating more.
4. Have convenient calories wherever you can’t miss them.
One other common strategy is making some homemade protein bars. There are tonnes of recipes online that are super easy, made with healthier ingredients, and without preservatives compared to store bought. This does mean they will have to be refrigerated, but it also means that they're going to go bad if you don't get in 2-3 per day, so there is incentive to consume them faster. Win Win. This method provides convenience plus a heap of extra calories outside of your normal meals. Most importantly, though, you’ll have to see them every time you open the fridge so there's no excuse to waste them.
5. Use liquid nutrition.
With 99.9% of our members, we heavily emphasise eating real food and not getting calories from drinks. In those who struggle to gain weight, however, big shakes can really help.
With that said, stay away from those rubbish high-calorie weight gainers. They're usually loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats - not to mention low-quality protein. I would always much rather have guys make their own shakes with a decent low-carb protein powder, and then add almond or whole milk, coconut oil, fruits, natural nut butters, Greek yogurt, oats, ground flax, and even veggies. If you're going to take in 1,000 calories in a shake, you might as well get some nutritional value from it.
6. Write it down.
The "I eat all the time" argument comes up a lot and I've found the easiest way to combat that is to truly evaluate how much you're actually eating by writing it down (this goes for weight loss too). Sometimes, just knowing that you aren't trying as hard as you think you are is the biggest key to subsequent progress.
7. The Secret Formula: PB + J
As you aim to up the calories, you’re going to want to choose foods you aren’t easily sick of especially as you're likely to be repeating meals or serves. One good option here is peanut butter and jam sandwiches. You’ll get a good calorie hit, they’re not overly sickening and they’re super convenient. I’ve seen a lot of people try the tinned tuna and rice option in place of this and every time it ends up with you getting sick of tuna and those around you getting sick of you.
8. Making time instead of finding time.
Having an insanely busy schedule usually leads people to eat unhealthy, convenient foods - and they gain body fat. Quite often people who are underweight actually go in the opposite direction; they simply forget to eat when things get busy. To that end, if you want to gain weight, you need to make eating a priority - and that starts with picking a specific time you'll eat into your schedule- and sticking to it.
I’d already made the title by this point but I'm on a role and thought of two more so here you go:
Bonus tip 1: Review any medications
Many medications can have a profound impact on appetite. It's completely outside of my scope of practice to make recommendations on this front, but if this is applicable to you and appetite suppression is a concern, it'd be good to talk with your doctor about other options that might be available.
Bonus Tip 2: Move Less
This isn’t necessarily a nutritional strategy but important if you are trying to gain weight, and that is the need to slow down.
In order to stay in the caloric surplus required to gain weight, you will need to make sure you’re not burning off all that fuel you’ve put in the tank. This doesn’t mean be lazy, on training days when it's time to work, you’ll need to work hard, but you can use this as an opportunity to figure out what recovery techniques work best for you outside of these times.
1: Make Eating a Social Challenge
2: Cook With More Oil
3: Eat Faster
4: Convenient Calories
5: Liquid Nutrition
6: Write It Down
7: PB + J
8: Make Time
Bonus Tips: - Review Medications
- Move Less
I have been working on a guide which includes all of the points above with slightly more detail and an idea of how to be realistic and accomplish goals around gaining weight. If you're interested, let me know and I'll know to kick it in to overdrive to have this done and ready as a downloadable on this website. Thanks team!
As always, please feel free to share this around and if you have any questions reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org