Gaining weight can be just as hard for some as it is to lose for others. While the weight loss crew might be jealous of your fast metabolism or slim build, you’re still all out to achieve the same goal – a healthy weight.

Whether you’re looking to add weight for a weight graded sport, wanting a broader physique, or just for general good health, it is possible to achieve – even if you’re a hard gainer who has struggled to get results in the past.

Healthy weight gain is a process. Put yours in place, be consistent and persistent, and you’ll achieve your goals. To break it down, if you want to add healthy weight to your frame, you’ll need to eat a whole food diet with enough protein, train smart and incorporate rest and recovery time into your plan.

Why? Because your diet is important as it provides the fuel to create more lean muscle. Your workout and how much you train (it might be less than you think) needs to stimulate growth, and giving yourself enough recovery time will mean your muscles will grow back stronger. All of which adds up to weight gain.

Read these articles instead if you are looking for focused muscle mass gains or to build lean muscle.

Achieving weight gain takes patience – it can be a slow but steady process. 0.5 to 1kg per month is a realistic goal to set but keep in mind every body is different and genetics do play a role in easy vs. hard weight gains.

Here’s how to plan well and make your diet, training and recovery work for you:

 

Diet.

This is the most important of the 3 key areas so it’s worth investing the time to get it right. Weight gain means you need to ensure your calorie intake is consistently higher than the energy you use.  If you are maintaining your weight with your current diet, add an additional 500 calories per day and monitor your progress for a few weeks.  If you’re gaining weight, then keep going but if not, add another 250-500 calories a day. You want slow and steady weight gain, rather than fast weight gain that won’t be healthy or sustainable.

The key to weight gain is to eat small frequent meals, choosing foods that are nutrient-dense, to supply all that your body needs to function well. Eating every 2 to 3 hours will ensure that your system is constantly drip-fed nutrients for maximum efficiency while preventing the fullness and discomfort associated with large meals. Keep junk food to a minimum, and most importantly, don’t skip meals as that will undo all your good work.

 

Make sure your meals and snacks contain all three macronutrients:

 

Protein is essential to virtually every function your body performs to stay alive. So, while it is important, don’t go overboard and increase your intake too much, as it will fill you up, preventing you from taking in more calories. Aim for no more than 2g per kilogram of body weight per day. This will be enough to provide the building blocks for body functions as well as muscle repair and recovery, and to support any type of training. Ensure your protein comes from a range of sources, including meat, poultry, fish, and eggs as well as vegetarian sources such as beans, legumes, and tofu.

 

Carbohydrates play a big role in weight gain. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the body. You might be getting enough protein but without enough carbs, protein is not able to do its job (which include building muscle tissue to create weight gain). Also, while carbs have the same calories per gram than protein, they are not as filling so you can consume more of them (thus increasing your calorie intake). Choose carbs with a low fibre content so you don't fill up as quickly. Noodles, white rice, white or wholemeal bread and fruit are all good examples.

Note: This differs to your usual whole food dietary advice, but that’s because they’re generally speaking to people who want to either maintain or lose weight – the opposite of what you’re trying to do.

 

Fat contains just over twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbs so is an important weapon for your weight gaining goal. Fat also has a lower thermic effect when compared to carbs or protein. What this means is that your body burns anywhere from 5 to 30% fewer calories when digesting fats.

An easy way to increase your diet's fat content is to cook your meat and vegetables in olive, avocado or coconut oil.  Try adding a touch of flaxseed oil or half an avocado to your protein shake. Choose meat cuts with a higher percentage of fat – no need to worry about the leanest cuts for you! Choose prime minced beef (rather than the lower fat premium version), chicken thighs over chicken breasts, and steak with plenty of marbling.  Add flavour and fat to your meals with some cheese – feta to salads, blue cheese on top of steak and extra parmesan to pasta meals. The great thing about packing on the weight is how good it tastes. Indulgent foods like ice cream are not off the list. Lucky you.

Check out our sample Mass Gains eating plan here for some inspiration on what your daily diet could look like. But remember, if your goal is more weight gain and less specifically on lean muscle mass, you may want to relax the regime a bit and just include extra fats and carbs as noted above.

A balanced diet from whole food sources is the best way to get your macronutrients but because of the sheer volume, it can be hard to eat all the calories you need. Eating six small meals instead of three larger ones helps. And a supplement powder is a convenient and condensed way to increase your calorie intake if you’re struggling to eat enough to grow or to find time to add more small meals to your diet throughout the day.

Protein powders like Horleys HUGE are higher in carbohydrates with absorbable levels of protein so you are not wasting your hard earned cash getting nutrients you don’t need. Huge is specifically formulated to enhance the calorie density of your diet, helping you successfully achieve your weight gain goals.

Elite MASS, ICE WPI and 100% WHEY PLUS are all good options too. Check out our guide for what supplements to choose, depending on your body type and goal.

 

Workout.

A good training programme will ensure you gain healthy weight that feels and looks good on your frame, rather than fat. When you exercise, stress creates muscle damage, causing microtears in your muscle fibres. Your muscles grow back bigger and stronger as these heal, as long as you’re feeding your body enough to fuel the recovery process.

To maximise your weight and muscle gains, any type of resistance training will help especially when supported with a nutrient rich diet. Use a moderate weight (approximately 70-80% of your 1 rep max). This type of training is called hypertrophy and stimulates growth hormones.

Aim for no more than 8 reps per set and take longer rest periods of 2-3 minutes between sets to keep your heart rate down, and to allow adequate recovery time between sets. This will help protect you from burning all those extra calories you’re eating. Be consistent – don’t skip workouts, and aim to work each muscle group 1-2 times a week. If possible, avoid endurance training.

Follow a smart training plan so that you don’t fall into the trap of overtraining. Some people will train to the point where they end up getting weaker, instead of stronger, and their weight gain stalls. Overtraining occurs when the volume and intensity exceeds your recovery capacity. You can cease making progress and even start to go backwards.

When it comes to the time of day, many people swear by late afternoon workouts. But if you can’t get to the gym then, don’t sweat it. Consistency forms good habits and just getting there when you can is the main thing.

Click through to read our more about pre-workout routines.

 

Recovery.

It’s after exercise, during recovery, when your muscle tissues heal and rebuild, growing back bigger and stronger. So getting enough rest is crucial for muscle growth and healthy weight gain.

Make sure you rest well, sleep well, eat enough to replenish your reserves after your training sessions and again, don’t overwork each muscle group (remember, large muscle groups should only be worked a maximum of twice a week). You can incorporate some active recovery into your days off, too. Stretching or low impact exercise, like yoga, is great for mobility, injury prevention and overall wellbeing.

During sleep, your body releases growth hormones. Therefore it is crucial that you get enough. We recommend a minimum of 7 hours uninterrupted sleep each night.

Your diet during your recovery time needs to be well-planned and sufficient enough to refuel your reserves for your next work out. Make sure you increase your protein during this time and replace your fluids. For additional support, try Horleys Replace for hydration, and Horleys BCAA Max to boost your recovery phase.

Click through to learn more about post-workout recovery and hydration.

 

Key points to remember.

When you’re training for weight gain, it’s important to set realistic goals. Your body has control mechanisms for fuel storage, energy consumption and protein turnover, which means a healthy rate of weight gain will happen slowly but surely. So remember:

  • Consume frequent small meals and a high carb protein powder
  • Slowly increase your weights
  • Stick to 1 hour training sessions
  • Don’t skimp on a recovery plan

 

Take the time evaluate your progress and if there’s something you’re not enjoying, change it up a bit. Training programmes should be fun. Enjoy the process and celebrate your achievements. With a good mindset, they’ll come at you thick and heavy.

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