If your goal is gaining weight, that should be an easy proposition, right? Enough drive-through milkshakes and eating like everyday is your last should do the trick. Except those methods, while no doubt delicious, might not net you the body composition you’re looking for, and will no doubt cause lethargy that’ll make your workouts feel sluggish — and the rest of your waking hours, too.
You’re still going to want to maintain a balance of carbs, fats, and protein that works for you — just in bigger quantities of each. Aim for a calorie surplus of around 300 to 500 calories if you’re on the larger side, and slightly less if you’re on the smaller side. Intentional weight gain, like weight loss, should be done slowly.
During this period, try to find harmony between your goal of adding mass, and being aware of and responding to your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues. Let’s say you had planned for a big dinner with your plate piled high with all your healthy favorites. But near the halfway point, you’re just not into it anymore. Should you power through? It’s up to you, but understand that your body can be really knowledgeable about what it needs. You trust it to tell you when you’re sleepy and need to go to bed, or when you’re bone-tired and need to take a rest day. So why would you ignore your body when it tells you what it needs and wants to eat? By embracing a longer process, you’ll give yourself the freedom to gain weight in a healthy way.
We have amassed a set of eating recommendations that’ll make sure to get to the body composition and weight you want in a timeframe that’ll work for you. Here are some easy ways to get on your way.
Eat several small meals
At the end of the day, sitting down to a huge salad, a big portion of chicken, and two servings of potatoes can seem…excessive. And not to mention you still want to be able to sleep soundly that night! If you’re finding that these XL plates are overwhelming, try breaking it up. Instead of three squares a day, have several smaller meals. Start the day with a helping of protein and carbs — like what you’ll find in our protein-packed oatmeal — then a couple hours later, have a high-fat, vitamin-packed snack, such as full-fat Greek yogurt with berries and granola. Same idea at lunch. A sandwich and veggies dipped in dressing is followed a few hours later by some cheese and trail mix.
Hunger can be a funny thing. At first, adding the extra calories to your diet can seem like an effort, but pretty soon your body will adjust and come to expect the additional intake. So eat when you’re hungry, which means having portable snacks on hand. Dried fruit, unsweetened banana chips, apples and nut spread, pretzels, nuts and seeds, and protein snacks are some great options. And go for quality along with quantity. For instance, one ounce of walnuts contains 183 calories, and is 83% fats, 9% carbs, and 8% protein. It also contains manganese and copper, two minerals that, along with calcium, are important for bone health.
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Drink your calories
While the occasional milkshake is always delicious, we really mean smoothies and juices. A smoothie packed with high-fat foods like avocado, coconut fat, Greek yogurt, and nut or seed butters are both delicious and calorie-dense. Throw some vegetables in there for an extra dose of green.
There are plenty of ways to add a little bulk to your normal meals. Start with crunch. Nuts and seeds on your salad, atop soup, or encrusting a piece of fish. Granola goes great in a yogurt parfait or mixed into oatmeal. Then you can look at healthy fats. An extra glug of olive oil when you’re frying eggs is both delicious and brings healthy calories. So does popcorn popped in avocado oil. And throw some melted butter on top. For good measure.
Looking for more inspiration? We’ve got plenty of recipe ideas for meals and snacks that use clean, healthy ingredients.
Use this as an opportunity to try lots of foods
Sometimes, we get in a food rut. This can especially happen when we get hung up on precisely what’s on your plate, down to the calorie. If you’ve ever been beholden to a certain diet or counting your macros in an effort to get ready for a big race or competition, you know how limiting your food choices can seem. It’s simply easier to toss a piece of meat in a pan with a perfectly level teaspoon of oil and it’s easy to figure out how much you’re consuming. But exciting? Not so much.
Think about your goal to add mass as something more holistic. This can be a time that you explore new foods and cooking techniques, without feeling so beholden to a strict diet. Order in from restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. Flip through a cookbook and find a recipe that you’ve never made before and give it a shot. Make it a family affair and invite your kids or friends to participate.
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