Lately I get asked more and more for tips on how to gain weight. Specifically how and what to do to increase weight and build muscle. I wanted to write a post about this for a while so here it is.
Gaining weight is as hard as losing it. I know because I talk from experience. When I was away at uni I lost a lot of weight and muscle mass. Eventually, when I was able to do something about it, I did. I did my research on the Internet and read a couple of books. I’ve changed the way I exercised and turned all the info I gathered into actions.
So how do you gain weight? Well, the easy answer is lift weights and eat more calories than you burn. However, if you’re naturally skinny and you stay skinny no matter what you eat you might get frustrated simply by reading that. This is why I would like to get more in depth on this topic so here is the advice I can give you.
How To Gain Weight And Build Muscle?
Tips For Working Out
Quality over quantity.
Let me give you an example for this one. Let’s say you can do 15 bicep curls with heavy dumbbells. But the way you do them is by swinging your body, not keeping your elbows next to your sides, other muscles get involved to help you do a rep, etc. And you think this will help you grow more muscle because you’re lifting super heavy. It won’t.
Bicep curl is an isolation exercise, which means it works and should work one muscle only. I gave bicep curl as an example but the rule of quality over quantity applies to any exercise you do. Whether that’s an isolation exercise or a compound movement. Focus on what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and the muscles you’re working.
Leave your ego behind.
Don’t lift what you cannot lift. Trying to lift heavier than what you actually can often leads to improper form and injuries. Your muscles don’t understand the difference between 5 pounds and 50 pounds.
However, they are aware of how the pounds you use make them feel. There’s nothing wrong, bad or shameful in lowering the weight. In addition, I guarantee you’ll feel a greater burn and get better results when you lift with proper form and intention.
Gradually increase the weight.
The key to getting bigger and building muscle is to lift heavy. Now, don’t say “but you just said I shouldn’t lift heavy!”. No, I said you shouldn’t lift heavy to the point you can’t perform a rep properly. Every time you work out you should focus on being stronger and pushing yourself.
A good tip is to increase the weight by 2.5kg every two weeks. However, this is completely up to you. See how quickly your body adapts to the weight you’re lifting and go from there. Just make sure you’re increasing the weight and intensity gradually. You wouldn’t wanna injure yourself and stop exercising, would you?
Don’t be afraid to do compound movements* in the gym if you think people will mock you if you don’t lift as heavy as them. That’s their problem and it says a lot about them as individuals. You’re already going to the gym, you took that first massive step.
You know what you want to achieve so don’t let anybody or anything stop you from doing so! Just remember, we all gotta start somewhere. On the other hand, if you work out at home, make sure to include compound movements in your training as well.
*Compound movements are exercises that work more than one muscle. Such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench press, dumbbell press, bent over row, etc.
Rest and recover.
It’s important you take rest and recovery seriously. Try get between 7–8 hours of sleep each night. This is the time when your muscles repair and grow.
Also, make sure you warm up and stretch before/after your workout. (Check out why warm up and cool down are so important.) Furthermore, if you have a foam roller or a lacrosse ball make sure you use them at least 2–3 times a week for SMR (self-myofascial release).
Be in a caloric surplus.
I’m sure you heard the term somewhere before and if you still don’t know what it means, it means you need to eat more calories than you burn. So let’s say you burn 2000 calories in a day but you also eat 2000 calories per day. This would leave you at a zero. So you wouldn’t gain weight and you wouldn’t lose weight. In order to gain weight you need to eat more calories. For example purposes, you would have to eat more than 2000 calories.
Be smart with nutrition.
A lot of time people get excited when they hear they need to eat a lot to gain weight. Then they start eating pizza, sandwiches, baked goods, etc. Anything as long as it’s quick and full of calories. The bad news is that these types of food are also called empty calories. Meaning they contain certain amount of calories but no nutritional value.
So no vitamins, minerals and fibre, just sugar and a lot of fats. Sure, you will gain weight as long as you stay in a caloric surplus but if you eat ‘just anything’ it’s more likely you’ll gain more fat as well. Furthermore, let’s not forget how bad that type of food is for your overall health.
Instead, eat whole foods; healthy, nutritional meals. Such as whole grain pasta and rice, beans, legumes, lean meats, fruits, veggies, oatmeal, nuts and seeds. There are so many delicious foods you can eat in order to gain weight the healthy way.
And by doing so you will achieve your goal much faster and with better results. By eating whole, healthy foods you can prevent certain diseases, feel more energised throughout the day and get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Gradually increase calories.
You have been eating a certain amount of food your whole life. Meaning your body has adapted to that amount and knows what to expect each day. So if one day you decided to eat double than you did the previous day, your body wouldn’t like that and it would let you know.
This is why you need to gradually increase the amount you’re eating. You can start by eating 100-200 calories more. Then in 3-4 weeks increase it to 200-300 calories more, etc. It’s all about small changes so take it step by step!
Drink enough water.
Everyone needs different amounts of water throughout the day. Figure out what works best for you and just make sure you’re hydrated. However, if you sweat a lot it’s important you drink a lot of water too.
Stick with it.
It might not be as simple as it sounds but that’s all there is to it. You need to put in a lot of effort, keep track of your workouts and your meals and you simply need to make a habit out of it. Make sure you do everything you can to stick with it. Plus, you can always ask your friend, a family member, girlfriend/boyfriend for extra support and motivation!
As you can tell, gaining weight is pretty challenging. Both physically and mentally and sometimes it can feel like an actual job. It can become exhausting making meals every 2-3 hours and making sure you’re eating enough. However, we all know nothing in life comes easy. I won’t lie, it will be tough but it will also be worth it. So worth it.
Tips that I mentioned helped me go from 48 kg to 54 kg. I’m still working hard every day to maintain my weight and build more muscle. Gaining weight requires dedication, discipline, patience and persistence. But if you want it bad enough nothing can stop you from achieving your goal!
Let me know what helped you gain weight in the comments below. I’m always eager to hear your stories and learn more about this topic,