Intro to Fitness Nutrition | Food as Fuel | Calories and Food Labels | Protein | Carbohydrates | Fats | How to Eat to Lose Weight | How to Eat to Gain Weight | Exercise and Nutrition | Supplements

Gaining quality weight—i.e., mostly lean muscle mass and relatively little fat—is harder than it gets credit for. How you train is just one part of the formula—how you eat will make the most difference.

To gain weight, you need to eat a lot—but smart weight gain is about far more than just overeating. Anyone can overeat, but how you allocate all those extra calories will make the difference in how your body responds.

In this lesson, you'll get a systematic way to eat for muscular gains. Get ready to use your fork.

Essential Ideas from the Video

  • Many people chase muscular gains by dialing back fuel quality and simply trying to pump as much as possible into their tank. That's the recipe to end up wheezing while you walk up the stairs and seeing waist gain—which is not to be confused with quality weight gain.

  • Counting calories may be more important for someone trying to gain weight than trying to lose weight! Why? Plenty of so-called hardgainers just think they're eating a lot, but a more objective measurement shows them where they're seriously lacking.

  • Here's where to begin: Create a food diary. Record every bite you eat, and every drop of a calorie-containing beverage, for an entire week. Don't change how you eat during this week; try to keep it as normal as possible, because you're creating a baseline to work from.

  • You'll also need to know your basal metabolic rate—which is how many calories you burn each day at rest if you do nothing at all. This is something you can have precisely measured in a lab, or not-quite-as-precisely measured using online BMR calculators.

  • Your basal metabolic rate, plus your activity level, will give you a "maintenance" level of calories.

  • Add 500 calories to your maintenance level to start. If you're not gaining weight after a few weeks of eating 500 extra calories a day, add another 500 calories a day, and try again. Be patient!

  • If you're serious about gaining weight, never go longer than 4-5 hours—and ideally, more like 3-4—without taking in some quality nutrition. For most people, this means at least four meals a day, along with one or two snacks or small meals. Eat something relatively small, but nutritionally substantial, every few hours.

  • When gaining, shoot for getting 25-35 percent of your overall calories from healthy fats. If you're aiming to eat 3,500 calories in a day, this would be at least 1,150 calories from fat. Nuts, whole eggs, and avocados are your friends here.

  • Despite what some bodybuilding-style diets advocate, you don't have to go far above 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to gain muscle weight. But make sure you're at or close to this benchmark! Measure your protein, even if you don't measure other macros in your diet, just to make sure you're not far below where you should be.

  • Keeping carbs at around 50 percent of total calories, or a 50/25/25 macro split, is a great choice for muscle gain, while keeping added sugars as low as possible. When you're looking to add weight, it is definitely not the time to go low carb!

  • You may see a slight decrease in muscle definition when you're adding weight. That's OK. Every pound of muscle you add now will make it easier to become more defined later.

  • Eat the same good stuff, only more of it. If you're not gaining half a pound a week, eat even more. If you're gaining 1 pound a week, keep doing what you're doing. If you're gaining much more than that, dial it back just a bit.

  • Strength train at least 3-4 times a week, and sleep big—like, six hours minimum, eight hours ideally. And if your schedule allows, try to learn that old-school bodybuilder's secret weapon of a "muscle nap" during the day.

  • Bulk for 6-8 weeks at a time, but not too much more. Doing it for months and months at a time will probably just wear you out and increase the possibility that you're adding fat, not muscle.

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