Most exercisers out there are looking to lose some weight and inches off their waist, which typically means having to cut down on food intake. However, there are always hard-gainers out there too—guys who want to put on weight but it doesn’t seem to come easy no matter what they try. In many cases, these are guys who work out a lot but simply don’t pack in enough food to gain the weight and build the muscle for which they’re looking. If this sounds like you, have a look at the following tips.
1. Go back to basics
“It’s just simple math,” says Travis Steffen, founder of WorkoutBOX.com. “Really, you just have to look at your energy expenditure each day compared with your intake.” Hopefully, you’ve already been eating the right foods, just not enough of them to put on weight and get bigger. There aren’t any crazy strategies necessary for this, and although supplements can help, you might not need them if you eat enough elsewhere. Chances are, you don’t make strict plans to make sure you’re taking in the right number of calories each day, so now you have to always be conscious of it—eat more at meals, schedule snacks throughout the day, and focus on foods that have plenty of calories and nutrients, not just one or the other.
2. Keep everything consistent
As is the case in most aspects of fitness, consistency is key to bringing about the kind of weight gain you want. To do this in the best way, that means regular exercise with a consistent diet in terms of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat. And those are just the basics, since it’s also helpful to stay hydrated and well-rested. The more consistent you are, the more seamless and painless of a process your weight change will be. For example, if you eat chicken breast and two pieces of whole-wheat bread with veggies each day and aren’t seeing any gains, try adding a bit more chicken and an additional slice of bread. If you’re consistent with your intake you’ll know exactly when and where to add more food.
3. Do what works for you
Different guys have different preferences, and they put on weight in different ways. “The foods you eat should be based on your own preferences,” says Justin Klein of the HUMANFITPROJECT. “Some guys can [gain weight] off white meat alone, but others rely more on red meat.” There are several healthy ways to construct a diet that will get you to your goal, but know that you don’t necessarily need to eat foods or supplements you find disgusting. If it’s got the right nutrients, the right number of calories, and all food that you’re fine with eating, you’re way more likely to maintain the diet.
4. Have a moderated cheat day
Remember that you don’t just want to gain weight; you want to gain it the right way. So, even though eating fast food a couple times a day might help you gain the 5lbs you want, you probably didn’t envision that weight being all fat. So, like just about any other fitness regimen, there’s a “cheat” day that will come up every once in a while. But just because you’re looking to gain doesn’t mean you can eat whatever at any time you please. “It’s really like a weight-loss program, just the opposite,” Klein says, suggesting that whether you’re gaining or losing weight, the focus should always be on doing those things in healthy ways.
5. Reassess every few weeks or so
Steffen and Klein both agree that once you’ve worked out a sound strategy for your weight gain, it’s important to reassess your program every three weeks to a month. Each new week probably won’t bring about too much change in your body, so space out these assessments—you won’t be able to track your gradual weight gain incrementally on a daily basis. Once you get near your weight goal, you can start working out strategies to maintain the weight in the best possible way.
6. Go with dense foods
Several choices can work, but always look for foods rich in nutrients as well as calories. Klein suggests oatmeal as a good dense carbohydrate, along with brown rice, and rice cakes with peanut butter or almond butter can be high in carbs and protein, while helping you gain weight. Nuts and lean proteins like fish, poultry, and eggs are also great for bulking up while staying healthy.