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March 23, 2014

You Want to Gain Weight? Are You Crazy?

How to Gain Weight

You really want to gain weight?  Are you crazy? Most people want to lose weight but occasionally someone wants to gain weight. So how should they go about it?  First, when we talk about weight loss we are talking about fat loss. And, likewise, when we talk about weight gain we are talking about muscle gain. And, perhaps we should use those terms more – fat loss and muscle gain, rather than weight loss and weight gain.

Here’s the challenge or problem. It is far easier to gain fat and lose muscle than it is to lose fat and gain muscle.

When we lose fat we invariably loss muscle unless we lose the weight very slowly, but even then we will still lose some muscle. This slows metabolism as muscle is more metabolically active than fat making each additional pound to lose that much more difficult. That’s a main reason why we hit a plateau with weight loss.

On the other, it is very easy to gain weight. The problem weight gain is it is much easier to gain fat than it is muscle. All you really need to do to gain fat is eat more. Ah, but to gain muscle requires some discipline, work, and a well thought out plan.

Smart Way to Gain Muscle

Gaining muscle requires specific exercise training coupled with nutrition. Increasing calories and protein (the stuff muscle is made of) is not enough. Everybody is different and the amount of muscle you can gain will depend on your body type, age, sex, and training level.

There are three main body types: ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs. Ectomorphs are the naturally thin individuals. Endomorphs are more round and fat. And, mesomorphs are naturally muscular. Mesomorphs have an easier time of gaining muscle. Ectomorphs, who many times are endurance athletes, will gain muscle more slowly with endomorphs in between mesomorphs and ectomorphs.

Women will lose fat and gain muscle slower than men primarily due to hormonal differences.

The best way to gain muscle is to follow the general nutrition guidelines used by bodybuilders coupled with a resistance training program. This means deriving 15% of calories from fats, 30% calories from protein, and 55% calories from carbohydrates – or 15-30-55.

Tips for Gaining Muscle

  • Eat 5-6 meals/snacks a day.
  • Keep muscle to gain to 2-4 pound of muscle per month. This makes it less likely that you’re gaining some fat, too. Plus, the body cannot build muscle much faster than that.
  • Increase your daily caloric intake by 2 calories per body weight. So if you weigh 160 pounds take in an additional 320 calories a day spread out of over 5-6 meals/snacks. Coupled with strength training you should gain around 2 pounds of muscle per month.
  • No junk food.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • You many need more specific protein requirements than the general rule of 30% of calories. Go here to determine your protein intake.
  • Keep protein intake to 25-40 grams per meal/snack.
  • Eat high quality protein including eggs, chicken, turkey, tuna,  lean red meats, and consider protein supplements (next).
  • If unable to get enough protein through food consider protein powders/nutrition bars.
  • It’s important to have your body composition measured periodically to make sure you are gaining muscle and not fat.
  • Consume natural foods as much as possible and limit processed foods.
  • Engage in resistance training
  • Drink high energy drinks before workouts, water during workouts, and wait an hour to eat after strength training to maximize effects of growth hormone produced during resistance training.

An important principle to fat loss also applies to muscle gain and that’s zigzagging your calorie intake. Take in additional calories 5 days a week and fewer calories two days a week. This allows your body to reset its metabolism. You will invariably gain some fat. By reducing calories 2 days a week you will be able to take that lose that added fat while maintaining the muscle you have built.  When zigzagging be sure to keep your protein intake the same – fluctuate the fats and carbohydrates.

References: Sports Nutrition: International Sports Sciences Association.

 

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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