Gaining muscle is not easy for people who struggle to put on mass. The good news is there are proven guidelines that, if followed, can help you gain weight in a healthy way without feeling bloated all the time. Below are some tips and tricks to keep in mind. Keep in mind everyone is different so the right meal plan and foods for one person will be different than another person’s nutritional needs. The best way to ensure success is to find a nutrition coach who can help you figure out your recipe for success.
- Consume enough protein. Muscles need protein to grow. It’s important to make sure you are getting enough to fuel your strength training workouts. A good rule of thumb to start out with is one gram per pound of bodyweight. Now, your body cannot absorb more than 25 grams of protein at a time so you’ll want to spread out your protein intake throughout the day. For example, a 120-pound female might consume five meals a day with roughly 24 grams of protein at each meal.
- Healthy fats are important! Don’t shy away from fats. Eating the healthy unsaturated fats is a great way to add mass. One gram of fat is equal to nine calories! Protein and carbohydrates are only four calories per gram. The best way to add healthy fats is to supercharge shakes with MCT oil, hemp hearts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and nut butters. You can also enjoy nut butter or nuts as snacks throughout the day. Be careful to measure out all your portions, though, because those calories can easily add up to too much!
- Carbs are not bad. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy. If you are exercising regularly, especially if you are lifting heavy, you need to fuel with carbs. That’s why runners carb at key times in their training. The thing to remember is that you want to eat the healthy carbs and not just fill up on junk. The healthiest carbs include steel cut oats and whole grain toast for breakfast, sweet potatoes, brown rice or whole grain bread for lunches and dinner, and rice cakes or all bran cereals for snacks. Livestrong.com has a great list of healthy carbs that you can bookmark for future reference.
- Eat enough calories. You need to make sure you are eating a little over your maintenance calories to gain. This is important. So many people eat too little and then wonder why they are not gaining. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain. But, you want to be gradual about it and healthy about it, too. How many calories you need depends on your basal metabolic rate. There are calculators online that will help you figure that out or you can even have it scientifically determined at a physician’s office or gym, if they have the equipment. Once you know your maintenance, start by eating 300 calories more. If you are not gaining, move to 500 calories, and so on.
- Don’t despair if you are not hungry enough during the day. It’s challenging to consume more calories than you need, believe it or not. There are days you will just not be hungry. Keep plugging away. Add a shake before bedtime if you are short. I have a jug of Serious Mass on hand in case I fall short. If you don’t want to invest in that, a high protein snack, such as Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, steel cut oats with chocolate chips or whole grain toast with nut butter will help you add another meal without ruining your sleep.
You might be wondering how many carbs and fats to eat daily. That all depends. As a baseline, start with 50% of your calories from carbs and 25% from fat. See how you are doing. If you have trouble eating that many carbs, up your fat. Find the right mix for you. As I age I find that I do better with higher fats, which help regulate hormones. You may find that, as well. See what works for you. You need at least two weeks to really determine if it’s working or not.
Beyond the first few weeks, remember gaining muscle and mass is a long game. It takes literally years. I’m in year four and have gained about six pounds. This is OK! Don’t get discouraged and stick to the plan. You will see results with hard work and dedicated focus. Have specific questions? Hit me in the comments below.