The last thing you want to hear when you’re struggling to gain weight is, “You’re so skinny, you need to eat more.” As if you aren’t already trying to eat everything you can.
Or maybe you are having trouble eating a lot and people fail to understand that your appetite just isn’t there.
Either way, the solution isn’t always just to eat more.
I remember when my friend and I first started trying to gain weight and go to the gym. This was attempt 1 out of 3 before I got consistent. I knew I wasn’t eating much in the beginning. Maybe 2 times a day. And so I figured, all I have to do is eat 3 times a day and maybe a snack and I’ll gain some weight.
But after two weeks I didn’t see any changes in the mirror and I didn’t see the number on the scale move at all. And I just couldn’t understand it. I mean, I was eating more after all! So what’s up?
The next day, I decided to track my meals and calorie intake using the MyFitnessPal app. I made sure to be very specific about what was in my meals and how many servings I ate.
By the end of the day I came up with around 1800 calories. Which for someone like me who is naturally skinny and has a high metabolism, is just not enough. It was only enough to maintain the 109 pounds that I was already at.
It wasn’t until I did research to understand my body type and what I needed in order to grow that I started to see results in the mirror and on the scale.
There’s more to weight gain than just eating more.
If you’re like I was and you’re having trouble gaining weight, and you listen to nothing else that I say, then at least listen to this:
In order to gain weight you HAVE TO consume more calories than you burn. Period.
I don’t care what anybody else says about syrups and pills and eating a bunch a junk food or eating a bunch of healthy food or tracking macros and exercising. All of that is irrelevant.
The thing that comes first is that you are taking in more calories than you are burning EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Now, with that being said I’m always going to recommend eating healthy and exercising as well because that’s what’s going to make the weight that you gain look good!
That’s what’s going to make sure that you don’t just gain a lot of fat that could go anywhere on your body. That’s what’s going to give you an amazing body shape. And that’s what’s going to increase your appetite if you have trouble with it and keep you energized.
But what’s most important is that you calorie intake fits your body type and your lifestyle.
Related weight gain posts:
Frequently Asked Questions
Can’t I just drink mass gainer protein shakes to gain weight?
Mass gainer shakes are great for quick weight gain but they have a crazy ton of calories in them. The problem is you don’t want to have to rely on them. As soon as you stop drinking them that takes at least 1000 calories from your daily intake immediately. If you don’t supplement that you’ll lose weight as quickly as you gained it.
It could also cause you to gain weight a little too fast and a higher percentage of that weight will turn into fat rather than muscle.
It’s better to have a much more sustainable way of gaining and maintaining your weight.
If you’re looking for a good protein that tastes good and adds some extra calories into your diet I highly recommend the Syntha 6 brand. Their vanilla ice cream protein powder tastes amazing and it mixes really well with smoothies and shakes. And since it’s vanilla it’s easy to add to other meals like pancakes, muffins, etc.
Do I always have to track my calorie intake?
Nope. I don’t anymore. Once you get to a point where you understand and know exactly how much you should be eating everyday for your goals, you can stop tracking your food and start gauging portion sizes on your own. People call this intuitive eating. It’s really just listening to your body and giving it what it needs.
If you stop tracking your calorie intake and you start losing weight you can always go back to tracking to see what changed and why. And make necessary adjustments.
This whole process is trial and error. Don’t expect to get everything right from the beginning. Especially if you’re trying to figure this all out on your own.
But if you’re consistent in your efforts you will see the results that you’re looking for.
How do I determine the calorie intake that I need?
There is a rough way to calculate the calorie intake and a more accurate way to calculate it.
The rough way of calculating is going to require a bit more trial and error and monitoring to make sure that you’re putting on weight. So make sure to keep that in mind if you decide to go this route.
It consists of taking your current weight and multiplying it by 20 to get the number of calories that you should be consuming. Let’s use myself for example.
My starting weight was 109 lbs.
109 lbs x 20 = 2180 calories a day
So based on this calculation I would need to consume at least 2180 calories a day to gain weight.
The reason this is only a rough calculation is because it doesn’t take into account a lot of factors about you and your lifestyle.
Such as your age, what type of work that you do (whether you sit at a desk all day or whether you’re running around all day), whether you work out, and if you do, how long and how often you work out, how quickly you want to gain weight, etc.
If you want to more accurately determine your calorie intake I recommend using an online macro calculator.
A macro calculator not only more accurately calculates what your calorie intake should be based on all of those factors, but it also gives you your recommended macro-nutrient percentages (that’s another topic for later).
Here are some macro calculators that I recommend:
What do I do if I’ve stopped gaining weight even though I’ve been consuming the right among of calories?
If you’ve gotten to a point where you’ve been gaining weight but it’s stopped, all that means is that your body has gotten used to the amount of food you’ve been consuming. It’s become your new normal and what you maintain your weight on.
If you want to keep gaining weight you simple have to recalculate your calorie intake and increase the number of calories.
This happened to me when I reached 120 pounds. My growth slowed and so I needed to increase my calories to continue see growth.
I added 200 more calories to the number I was already consuming and and adjusted as necessary to continue gaining weight.
I’ve calculated my calorie intake, now what?
Once you have a good grasp on calorie intake and have an idea of how much you should be consuming every day, your next move should be finding high calorie foods to help you reach your daily goal.
Finding high calorie foods saves you from eating a crazy amount of food and barely reaching your calorie intake goal.
It allows you to work smarter and not harder. And if you can find a routine with eating high calorie foods and meals then it’ll be that much easier to reach your goals.
When I was trying to gain weight I had staple foods that I would eat and meals that I enjoyed to help me gain weight. Through that experience I’ve complied a list of some of the best high calorie foods and some meals to help anyone gain healthy weight.
High Calorie Foods and Meals to Help You Gain Weight
(This post may contain affiliate links to products that I truly recommend, at no extra costs to you, if you decide you’re interested in anything mentioned. Feel free to check out the disclosure for more info.)
The calorie amount of eggs really depends on how the eggs are prepared but they range anywhere from 70 – 95 calories per egg. One scrambled egg without anything added to it is about 94 calories.
Salmon is a good source of omega–3 and healthy fats and has a lot of protein. A 6-ounce portion of baked salmon contains about 290 calories.
The avocado market has grown tremendously since the increase in veganism. They are full of healthy fat which means lots of calories. A single avocado has about 250 calories.
Both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are carb rich which is great for anyone struggling to gain weight. Although white potatoes are higher in calories, sweet potatoes are also a great food to help increase your calorie intake. A sweet potato has a little over 100 calories where as a large white potato can have up to 300 calories.
Pasta is carb rich and full of calories. Not only that but macaroni and cheese especially is a great source of protein. Just one cup of macaroni is about 390 calories.
So rice isn’t the most nutrient dense food but it’s a great source of energy and addition to your meal. One cup of rice alone contains about 200 calories.
At this time a lot of people are staying away from meat, and I completely understand. But you can’t deny the fact that it does provide a huge source of protein and calories. 6 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast contains about 280 calories and an 8 ounce steak is about 300 calories.
Nuts and Nut Butters
Just 1 ounce of nuts contains about 170 calories. It’s a great source of calories and protein. One of the best ways to add this into your diet can be by adding a scoop of nut butter to a smoothie. It’s perfect for a snack or a breakfast drink.
This was one of my keys to gaining weight through snacking. I would eat at least 2 bananas a day because one banana has up to 100 calories.
Oats are a great source of carbs and fiber. I will say that they do increase the feeling of fullness so keep that in mind if you already have a small appetite. There’s about 300 calories in just one cup of oats.
Meal: Mixed Berry Oatmeal
I like to keep my meals simple and effective. Especially when I have to work. This is the only way that I enjoy eating oatmeal so I definitely think it’s worth a try.
1 3/4 cup almond milk
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 tablespoon brown sugar
Fresh berries of your choice
cinnamon on top to taste
Makes 2 serving. About 500 calories.
- Boil oats and almond milk stirring occasionally until thick (approx. 5 minutes).
- Add in brown sugar.
- Place oats in a bowl of your choice.
- Top with fruit and cinnamon.
Other Breakfast Ideas:
3 egg omelette + 2 slices of peanut butter whole wheat toast = 620 calories
3 Kodiak cakes protein pancakes + side of fruit = 400 calories
Meal: Fruit Explosion Protein Smoothie
Smoothies are great with breakfast or as a midday snack or post workout protein drink.
1 cup fruit explosion frozen fruit (strawberries, mangos, peaches)
1 cup almond milk
1 scoop syntha 6 vanilla ice cream (my favorite protein)
Makes 1 serving. About 370 calories.
- Combine all ingredients together in blender. Blend until smooth.
Other snack ideas:
Strawberry, greek yogurt, granola parfait = 280 calories
1 medium apple + 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = 180 calories
Lunch and Dinner
Meal: Stuffed Bell Peppers
4 bell peppers ( red, yellow, or green)
15 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 pound ground beef or turkey
1/3 cup chopped onions
1 cup cooked jasmine rice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
*add any other seasonings for personal taste*
- Cut the top off the peppers and remove the core and seeds.
- In a skillet, season and brown the ground beef/turkey until no pink remains. Drain.
- Add rice and half of the tomato sauce to the beef/turkey and mix well.
- Fill the peppers with the mixture. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and parmesan (optional).
- Bake in ungreased dish at 350 for 25 – 30 minutes.
- Serve warm.
Other lunch and dinner ideas:
Cajun shrimp pasta = 550 calories per serving
8 ounce steak + sweet potato = 450 calories
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