If you want to gain weight and be healthy doing it, do yourself a favor and read this article.
“You’re wearing 2 suits.” That’s what I tell my clients. On top of your skeleton, you wear a suit of muscle first, then a fat suit on top of that.
You don’t want to get fat, but you do want to gain weight. This leaves one place to go—muscle!
So to gain weight fast, but to do it in a healthy way, we need to build up our muscle mass.
While there are a gazillion “muscle gurus” on the net all contradicting each other, I have always stuck to the research and science. I’ve been blogging since 2006 and my readers have produced some remarkable results. Now I’ll share with you, in 8 steps, how they gained weight (muscle) and became healthier than they ever were before.
1. Consume the correct amount of calories.
Since you want to gain weight, you could simply eat 5000 Calories a day to get the job done. However, we said we wanted to do this in a healthy manner.
Since we are training in a way that is stimulating the body to build more muscle (see point 2 below), we need a little extra caloric intake. Some trainers recommend an extra 500 Calories above maintenance. As a trainer I have never seen this work and not make people fatter. 500 Calories above maintenance comes to an extra 3500 Calories per week; this is just too much in my opinion.
Shoot for 200–300 Calories above maintenance levels. They say the average man needs, 2500 Calories per day. Therefore shoot for 2700–2800 on a daily basis. For a more accurate assessment, I have a free calculator that will estimate how many calories you need to build muscle here.
2. Train with resistance and to a high intensity.
Obviously aerobic work doesn’t build muscle. Resistance training is needed. Simply put, this means lifting weights.
Furthermore, you need to know how many reps you need to complete per set in order to produce the result you want—maximum gains in muscle size (called muscle hypertrophy).
- 1–5 reps Per Set: 85-100% Neural Strength But Only A Little Hypertrophy
- 6–8 reps Per Set: 75-85% Neural Strength & Some Hypertrophy
- 9–12 reps Per Set: 70-75% Metabolic & Neural Hypertrophy (optimal) Plus Strength Gains
The sweet spot here is training in with 8–12 reps per set. What that means is that in each set, the weight you lift should be heavy enough so that you can’t get more than 12 reps, but light enough to allow you to get at least 8.
Now, I have a free training system I give away called ‘Targeted Hypertrophy Training‘ (THT) that optimizes all the factors that lead to muscle growth. But to get you started right away, here’s 3-day lifting plan. You’ll train your whole body on 3 non-consecutive days e.g. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but you can change the days to suit your own lifestyle.
3. Eat more protein.
Dietary Protein is ESSENTIAL for building muscle. Muscle tissue IS protein. To build more of it, you need to eat more of it.
How much more? Easy–here’s a good rule of thumb:
Consume 1g of protein per pound of body weight.
So if you weigh 160lbs, consume 160g protein per day
4. Eat your fat.
Thankfully the old “fat is bad” paradigm is dying a death. The science just never showed up. As far as those of us wishing to gain weight, we have to know that dietary fat is required for the production of testosterone. Therefore, it is most desirable for those people wishing to gain muscle weight.
Here are fantastic sources of dietary fat:
• Nuts and nut butters
• Olive Oil
• Red meat (low-carbers can have more of this than high carbers)
• Real butter (throw out your margarine)
• Coconut oil (contains an abundance of medium-chain triglycerides)
5. Supplement with Vitamin D.
Testosterone will help you gain muscle weight—no doubt about it! However, we want to be healthy and do it naturally. This is where supplementing with vitamin D can help us.
A study  of 165 participants (males aged 20–49 years) took either 3332 IU of vitamin D or a placebo.
Compared to baseline values, significant increases in total testosterone levels (from 10.7 ± 3.9 nmol/l to 13.4 ± 4.7 nmol/l; p < 0.001), bio-active testosterone (from 5.21 ± 1.87 nmol/l to 6.25 ± 2.01 nmol/l; p = 0.001), and free testosterone levels (from 0.222 ± 0.080 nmol/l to 0.267 ± 0.087 nmol/l; p = 0.001) were observed in the vitamin D supplemented group. In contrast, no significant change was measured in the placebo group.
6. Get enough sleep.
Insufficient sleep will actually hamper your attempts to gain weight (in addition to making you feel lousy and irritable).
How much do you need? 7–8 hours per night, every night.
This comes from a study  conducted by the National University of Singapore which found that those who slept 4 or less hours per night had 60% less total muscle-building hormones, and 55% less bio-available muscle building hormones than those who slept 8 hrs or more. The study was conducted on 531 healthy men aged between 29 and 72. So get your sleep!
A hormone called cortisol can mess up your efforts to gain weight healthfully. It is a “break-down” hormone, whereas we want those “anabolic” or “build-up” hormones.
The relationship between cortisol and anabolic hormones isn’t good. As cortisol levels rise, muscle-building hormone levels decrease  .
Stress causes levels of cortisol to rise. As some examples, you can start a practice of meditation (mindfulness), take regular walks in nature, spend more time with loved ones, and get more sleep. But there are many other ways to take control of your stress. Search Lifehack for more articles on this.
8. Drink less alcohol (or none at all).
Following on from my last point, alcohol also lowers levels of those anabolic hormones we’re after. Additionally, it also raises cortisol levels.
It has been shown that anabolic hormones will remain depressed for 24 hours after alcohol is consumed, while catabolic (break-down) hormones will increase for the same duration peaking at 12 hours after consumption . So drink sociably at best. No binge drinking.
I wish you all the best with your weight gain efforts. (I’ve been there!)
Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.
Sleep, sex steroid hormones, sexual activities, and aging in Asian men.
Testosterone, gonadotropin, and cortisol secretion in male patients with major depression.
The relationship between high and low trait psychological stress, serum testosterone, and serum cortisol.
Sex hormones and adrenocortical steroids in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol.