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21+ High Calorie Foods for Gaining Weight

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Finding enough high calorie foods is the most difficult part of gaining weight for a lot of people. This makes sense for a couple of different reasons:

As a skinny person you’ve likely been habitually under-eating for a long time. The idea of consuming a minimum amount of calories every day can be a little intimidating.

You also likely have a poor eating schedule thanks to the habit of under-eating. The reason many skinny people trick themselves into thinking they eat a lot is that they will skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, then out-eat their friends and family at dinner after they’ve starved themselves all day. If you’re not gaining weight, you’re not eating enough.

Eating enough food to gain weight requires a lot of planning. Which are the best high calorie foods? How much do they cost? How should you cook them? How long will it take? This gets easier with experience.

Below you will find a monster list of the best high calorie foods you can use to make gaining weight easier. These are all fairly common household foods that should be made staples for your weight gain diet.

P.S… we’ve also included a couple tasty recipes alongside each high calorie food mentioned on the list below. Enjoy!

The Best High Calorie Foods

So many high calorie foods we had to create a table of contents…

Calorie Shortcut: Optimum Nutrition Mass Gainer

Serious Mass Weight Gainer

Check the price of ON Serious Mass by clicking here.

Serving size: 2 heaping scoops

  • Calories: 1,250
  • Fat: 4g
  • Carbs: 253g
  • Protein: 50g

Serious Mass is a weight gainer protein powder that provides a shortcut to putting on pounds. Add 1,250 calories to any meal by adding 2 scoops of Serious Mass!

High calorie recipes with Serious Mass:

  • Throw it in the blender with milk, ice, and peanut butter for a high protein shake that comes close to 2,000 calories!
  • Mix it with your morning oatmeal for a high protein breakfast
  • Add milk and drink it straight – delicious flavors include Chocolate Peanut Butter, Banana, Strawberry, and more!

Order your own tub of Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass right here.

Bananas

110 calorie banana

Serving size: 1 medium sized banana.

  • Calories: 105
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Carbs: 27g
  • Protein: 1.3g

The banana has been a grade A ingredient in all the best high calorie weight gainer shakes of mine over the years, but also serves as a good stand alone high calorie snack.

These macros are what you’re going to get from a medium sized banana (~7″) as well as 3.1 of fiber and 8% of your daily magnesium.

High calorie recipes with bananas:

  • Add it to your protein shake
  • Slice it up and put it in your oatmeal or cereal
  • Sliced banana, mixed berries, yogurt, granola, oats. Boom. High calorie yogurt parfait.

Dried Fruits

Dried Fruit

Serving size: 1/4 cup of dried cherries, because they’re extra delicious.

  • Calories: 136 calories
  • Fat: 0g
  • Carbs: 32g
  • Protein: 1g

Dried fruit is great for snacking on throughout the day. My favorites are dried cherries and dried apricots. In addition to the provided macros, you can also look forward to 1g of fiber and 30% of your daily intake of Vitamin A.

High calorie recipes with dried fruits:

  • Mix in with nuts for homemade trail mix
  • Mix in with granola and add milk for a high calorie breakfast cereal
  • 28 recipes to try out dried fruit with – the apple cider loaf and hazlenut rochers look the best to me!

Sweet Potatoes

112 calorie sweet potato

Serving size: 1 potato

  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Carbs: 26g
  • Protein: 2g

Sweet potatoes seem to be pretty hit and miss among my family and friends. They either love them or hate them. I love them. #teamsweetpotato

Sweet potatoes are a high calorie food packed with micronutrients. You can look forward to 368% of your daily recommended serving of vitamin A, 15% vitamin B-6, 5% vitamin C, 8% magnesium, and 3% calcium. Plus 3.9 of fiber.

High calorie recipes with sweet potatoes:

Peanut Butter

90 calories peanut butter

Serving size: 1 tablespoon

  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 8g
  • Carbs: 3g
  • Protein: 3g

Barring any nut allergies, peanut butter is one of those high calorie foods you can lean on. It tastes good and makes you want to drink milk. What more could a gainer ask for?

Peanut butter isn’t particularly vitamin dense, but it will provide a little bit of fiber (1g). There is also organic peanut butter if you want to cut back some of the added sugars, but be warned it is more expensive.

Honorable shout out to almond butter as an alternative to peanut butter. Almond butter is slightly more calorie dense at 101 calories per tbsp.

Check out these 19 almond butter recipes if you’d prefer to stay away from peanuts.

High calorie recipes with peanut butter:

Almonds (and other various nuts)

163 calories almonds

Serving size: 1oz of almonds (23 whole almonds)

  • Calories: 163 calories
  • Fats: 14g
  • Carbs: 6g
  • Protein: 6g

Nuts are some of the most calorie dense foods you will find on your path to putting on pounds. I chose almonds here because I left them out of the butters above.

Don’t feel limited to almonds, though. 1oz of cashews, peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, and pistachios will each net you over 150 calories. If it’s a nut, it probably deserves a spot on this list of high calorie foods.

High calorie recipes with various nuts:

  • Buy all the aforementioned nuts in bulk, add dried fruit, voila! Enjoy your trail mix.
  • Mix things up with this simple candied almonds recipe
  • Banana + mixed nuts + ice cream = banana split

Granola

Granola

Serving size: 1 cup

  • Calories: 471
  • Fats: 20g
  • Carbs: 64g
  • Protein: 10g

Granola is a perfect part of a high calorie breakfast or late night snack. It’s simple to make your own by combining healthy seeds and grains of your choice.

Use it as a topping, eat it dry, add milk and eat it like cereal… lots of options with granola. 1 cup of granola earns you 5g fiber, 24% of your recommended magnesium, and 16% of iron.

High calorie granola recipes:

  • Previously mentioned: add milk and eat as cereal, add yogurt and fruit for a parfait.
  • No bake brownie granola bars
  • Add to morning oatmeal for crunchy texture

Milk


Serving size: 1 cup, 2% white milk

  • Calories: 122
  • Fats: 4.8g
  • Carbs: 12.3g
  • Protein: 8.1g

Milk is my personal #1 bulking tool. I drink 2% milk (hence the macro breakdown), but 1% and whole milk are fine too. If you’re looking for maximum calorie density, go with whole milk.

Start drinking milk with all of your meals and you’ll begin to realize reaching your daily calorie goal isn’t that difficult.

High calorie milk recipes:

  • Make your protein shakes with milk instead of water
  • Grab some chocolate milk (or chocolate syrup to DIY) to keep things fresh
  • Don’t feel like milk? Eat peanut butter and/or brownies. They’ll change your mind.

 Bread

french bread

Serving size: 1 large slice, white bread

  • Calories: 79
  • Fats: 1g
  • Carbs: 15g
  • Protein: 2.8g

I used white bread as the example only because that’s the flavor of bread you most likely have in your cupboard. Next time you are at the grocery store you experiment with a new kind of bread. Chances are it will be have more calories, and you may like the taste better.

French, multi-grain, rye, pumpernickel… there are many options for you to add a new flavor to your sandwiches. Occasionally I can be found working my way through a french baguette and a stick of butter all by myself…

English muffins and bagels also fall into this category. A large sesame seed bagel with 4tbsp of peanut butter and 2 cups of 2% milk comes in at almost 800 calories for a snack that takes less than 10 minutes to make.

High calorie bread recipes:

Olive Oil (and coconut oil)

119 calorie olive oil

Serving size: 1 tablespoon

  • Calories: 119
  • Fats: 14g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Olive oil adds calories like magic. I don’t really know what else to say about this sacred weight gain elixir. Don’t knock it until you try it. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to anything and suddenly it’s a high calorie food.

Honorable mention to coconut oil, which has nearly identical macros. I have personally never tried coconut oil yet, but will certainly do so soon. Here’s a list of 76 ways to use coconut oil if you’re curious.

High calorie olive oil recipes:

Baked Beans

baked beans

Serving size: 1 cup baked beans

  • Calories: 392
  • Fats: 13g
  • Carbs: 55g
  • Protein: 14g

Baked beans are the perfect winter bulking food packed with good stuff. It should be noted that baked beans tend to be high in sodium – this isn’t something I’m personally concerned about, but I know some of our readers may be.

14g of fiber, 27% of your daily recommended iron, 10% of vitamin B-6, 27% magnesium, and 15% calcium. Baked beans are a perfect high calorie food.

High calorie baked beans recipes:

  • Add a can of baked beans to a plate of rice, serve with milk
  • Beef chili with baked beans
  • Make/buy sweet potato fries, add beans on top of cooked fries, shred cheese… chili cheese fries.

Rice

Rice

Serving size: 1 cup, long-grain white rice, cooked

  • Calories: 206
  • Fats: 0.4g
  • Carbs: 45g
  • Protein: 4.2g

Rice is one of those foods you can add to your plate and eat with most things. Rice doesn’t really discriminate.

For the most part. There does seem to be a few exceptions to the rule as Reddit user DO_U_EVN_SPAGHETTI found out during his experimentation.

Brown rice is also great; offering a boost in micronutrients and overall calories. At the end of the day you need to eat the food to get the nutritional benefit, so I recommend you buy whichever you will enjoy eating more.

High calorie rice recipes:

Quinoa

quinoa

Service size: 1 cup cooked

  • Calories: 223
  • Fats: 3.6g
  • Carbs: 39g
  • Protein: 8g

Quinoa, according to Wikipedia, is “a species of goosefoot, is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seed”. It tastes like a more ‘seedy’ rice.

The micros: 5g fiber, 15% iron, 10 vitamin B-6, 29% magnesium – quinoa makes the list as another high calorie food loaded with a nice micro-nutrient profile as well.

High calorie quinoa recipes:

Pasta

pasta

Serving size: 1 cup spaghetti, cooked

  • Calories: 221
  • Fats: 1.3g
  • Carbs: 43g
  • Protein: 8g

Pasta is one of the more gourmet high calorie food options gainers can make in a relatively short amount of time.

There is no shortage of selection either: bow tie, angel hair, the many different styles of penne… the list goes on. Pair any of these kinds of pasta with olive oil, butter, or red sauce and top with parmesan cheese. Yum.

High calorie pasta recipes:

Eggs

Eggs

Serving size:  1 large fried egg

  • Calories: 90
  • Fats: 7g
  • Carbs: 0.4g
  • Protein: 6g

Another quick and easy source of calories with a good amount of protein. I recommend eating the entire egg – yolk included. If you have a valid reason for avoiding the yolk, like a doctors order, then do so.

Eggs are one of the easiest foods to buy organically. If you live reasonably close to a rural area look around for a local farmer’s market to get farm fresh eggs for cheap.

High calorie egg recipes:

  • Scramble/fry/poach/boil/etc 5-6 eggs. Add salt and pepper.
  • Make a homemade breakfast sandwich with an english muffin or bagel with 2 eggs and a sausage patty
  • Omelettes with meat and veggies. Load it up.

Meats

Steak

Serving size: 100g ground beef

  • Calories: 332 calories
  • Fats: 30g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Protein: 14g

Ground beef is the given example, whatever cut of beef or pork you prefer is fine. Chicken is a good source of protein, but tends to be lower on calories. John Berardi has mentioned ostrich meat is quite good.

Meat is one of the most satisfying high calorie protein sources you can consume. Peanut butter and protein powder are great, but there’s something about animal proteins that I find hit the spot.

High calorie meat recipes:

Greek Yogurt

greek yogurt

Serving size: 1 cup

  • Calories: 100
  • Fats: 0.7g
  • Carbs: 6g
  • Protein: 17g

Greek yogurt is a protein heavy food found in diets of anybody with any kind of fitness goal. Few foods are so dense in protein.

What is greek yogurt exactly? Agricultured.com answers this for us:

It turns out that both Greek and regular yogurts start out with the same ingredients – milk and bacterial cultures. In fact, both types of yogurt even use the same bacterial cultures (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, if you were wondering).

After fermentation, the liquid whey is strained off the solid yogurt. Regular yogurt is strained twice, so there is still some liquid left in the end product. Greek yogurt is strained three times, so most of the liquid is removed. This is what gives Greek yogurt its’ thicker consistency and stronger flavors compared to regular yogurt.

High calorie greek yogurt recipes:

  • Previously mentioned: Add fruit, granola, and/or mixed nuts to greek yogurt for a high calorie desert (or breakfast)
  • Add 1 cup greek yogurt to boost the protein in your weight gainer shake
  • Mix 1 scoop of protein powder into your greek yogurt

Oatmeal/Oats

oats

Serving size: 1oz dry oatmeal

  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 2.4g
  • Carbs: 21g
  • Protein: 4.2g

The secret to a satisfying breakfast – make it hot. It’s easy to make, it tastes great, and it’s good for you. What more can you ask from breakfast?

You can buy the pre-packaged flavored Quaker instant oatmeal if you want. It has more sugar than buying plain old oatmeal, but you were probably going to add some brown sugar and/or maple syrup anyway. I get whatever’s cheaper.

Side note: If you are consistently able to eat a bunch of high calorie foods at breakfast, putting a big dent in your daily calorie goal, you won’t find yourself stressing about eating a 2,000 calorie dinner anymore.

High calorie oatmeal recipe:

Cheese

Serving size: 1 slice of cheddar cheese

  • Calories: 113
  • Fat: 9g
  • Carbs: 0.4g
  • Protein: 7g

Cheese is another major low-carb high-fat protein source dense in calories. Lots of flavor selection here too. I was able to use another old Canadian commercial so I’m happy.

Cheese is also relatively cheap when you consider cost per calorie. Add a couple slices to your sandwiches. Cottage cheese is a polarizing cheese that you will either love or hate. Try it once to find out, then probably never again because it’s disgusting.

High calorie cheese recipes: 

Avocados

avocado

Serving size: 1 cup of cubed avocados

  • Calories: 240
  • Fat: 22g
  • Carbs: 13g
  • Protein: 3g

Avocados are plenty healthy and equally calorie dense. They do have a weird texture that may not appeal to everyone, but avocados are at least a must-try.

If you do end up enjoying avocados, definitely make your way to an all-you-can-eat sushi joint. Avocado sushi is delicious, and calorie dense.

I don’t have anything else to say about avocados. Let’s move on.

High calorie avocado recipes:

Honey

honey

Serving size: 1 tablespoon

  • Calories: 64
  • Fats: 0g
  • Carbs: 17g
  • Protein: 0.1g

Honey surprised me when I was researching high calorie foods for this mega-list. I had no idea there were 64 calories in a single tablespoon of honey.

I know a lot of people recommend choosing raw honey over the average grocery store brand. I’m not a honey expert, so I recommend you do some of your own research. This page seems to give a fairly comprehensive breakdown.

High calorie honey recipes:

  • Add a tablespoon to your protein shakes
  • Add a tablespoon or two to your PB&J sandwiches
  • Honey peanut granola

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate

Serving size: 1oz

  • Calories: 155
  • Fats: 9g
  • Carbs: 17g
  • Protein: 1.4g

This wouldn’t be a real high calorie foods list without dark chocolate. Treat yourself with 2oz of dark chocolate everyday to knock off 310 calories off of your daily requirements.

I’ll continue the trend and provide you with some recipes, but really, just down a couple squares every now and then.

High calorie dark chocolate recipes:

  • Throw some into your trail mix
  • Heat it up and drizzle it over your desert
  • Just eat it, c’mon man…

This list will be continually updated with new high calorie foods as we find them. Please share your own go-to high calorie staples in the comments below. Also check out our article on calorie hacks which reveals a number of unique high calorie creations perfect for getting in those last 1,000 calories.

FeaturedGetting Calories

Teach Me How to Bulk: Clean Bulking Vs. Dirty Bulking

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[dropcap type=”1″]T[/dropcap]he formula to gaining weight is consuming more calories than you burn. It almost seems too simple… perhaps it is. The reality is that there are two popular strategies involved in intentional weight gain: the clean bulk, and the dirty bulk.

Bulking is a technique borrowed from the world of professional bodybuilding. An aspiring contestant will spend his off-season eating at a caloric surplus and focusing on gains in size and strength.

After the bulk is completed the contestant will then cut weight, a process involving eating below a caloric surplus, while still maintaining exercise, in an effort to shed fat without losing the gains made while bulking.

The result of these two cycles (bulking and cutting) is a compromise between peak strength and aesthetics.

Bulking and cutting have become common words in the vocabulary of the average fitness enthusiast. If you are overweight, you are told you should cut. Eat at a caloric deficit and exercise. If you are underweight, you are told to bulk up by following the bulking method of your choice.

The two different forms of bulking are clean bulking and dirty bulking. There is a lot of controversy and differences of opinion on this topic so we are going to take our time and lay out everything you need to know about each strategy and let you decide which method will most accurately help you reach your goals.

The Truth About Bulking: Keeping Realistic Expectations

Before we dive into this heavyweight battle between bulking methods it’s important we discuss realistic gaining expectations, and why it’s crucial you know the difference between gaining weight and gaining muscle.

Expectations

As ectomorphs we are often caught claiming that we desperately want to gain weight. While this does have some degree of truth, as we probably can afford to increase our body fat percentage a few ticks, what most of us are really looking for is to gain muscle and increase our lean body mass.

Gaining body fat is astoundingly easy to master once you’ve made a conscious effort to eat everything within 5 feet of your face. You can eat anything you want (as long as you eat a lot of it) and you will see an increase in total body weight.

On the other hand, gaining lean muscle mass is a slow process. The absolute best case scenario you can hope for is approximately 2.5lbs of muscle gain per month. This scenario would happen under only perfect conditions ripe for muscle growth – novice lifter, great diet, sufficient rest.

Lyle McDonald Muscular Potential
Lyle McDonald’s muscle gain model. Source.

As you become a more experienced lifter there is less potential muscle available to gain. A lifter in his second year of training can aim for about 1lb/month of muscle gain, while someone lifting for 4+ years is limited to 2-3lbs of muscle gain per year.

That means if you gain 8lbs in your first month of lifting at best only 2.5lbs of that increase in weight is muscle. The rest will likely be made up of a mix of water and fat.

The fact that you are limited to about 2.5lbs of muscle gain per month as a beginner may be underwhelming to anyone who had intentions of putting on 50lbs in a single year, but adding 25lbs of muscle to your frame in a single year is still an incredibly impressive feat.

These approximate numbers come from research done by fitness expert Lyle McDonald. Similar calculations can be made with the Alan Aragon model, Casey Butt model, and the Martin Berkhan’s model, all of which are available on this source page.

Clean Bulking And Dirty Bulking Defined

Let’s define what exactly we mean by “clean bulking” and “dirty bulking”:

Clean bulking will be referred to as consuming a caloric surplus of up to 500 calories above your maintenance caloric intake.

Dirty bulking will be referred to as consuming a caloric surplus of greater than 500 calories above your maintenance caloric intake.

This means that you can still “clean bulk” with the occasional pizza for dinner or ice cream for dessert as long as you are getting a healthy distribution of macro nutrients (IIFYM).

Dirty Bulking Vs. Clean Bulking

Now that we’re all clear on all the relevant terminology let’s jump right in and find out which bulking method will help you build the body you want most efficiently.

Dirty bulking is how you gain weight fast. Consuming upwards of 500 calories above your maintenance intake each day will force your body to pack on the pounds.

This may be a perfect scenario for underweight ectomorphs who can afford to increase their body fat without having an undesirable effect on their appearance. The fat gain could actually improve the appearance of their bodies.

Dirty bulking is a fast way to increase size and help you lift heavier weights at the gym. Mark Rippetoe, creator of the popular Starting Strength program, is a major advocate of the dirty bulk. Mark had this to say on his bulking ideals:

[pull_quote_center]The fact is, getting bigger and stronger naturally entails more sleep and more food than the vast majority of you people seem to understand. When you, as a novice lifter, put more emphasis on “staying lean” than on getting big and strong, you demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the process that barbell men clearly grasped 50 years ago, that growth is much more important than bodyfat loss. – Mark Rippetoe [/pull_quote_center]

In order to maximize strength, energy, and recovery times, you should still look to hit a reasonable macro nutrient distribution while dirty bulking. Following the GOMAD diet could help with this.

Unfortunately you don’t get all these fast gains without any negative consequences. Let’s talk about the side effects of dirty bulking.

What Sucks About Dirty Bulking

Homer Simpson Dirty Bulking

  • You are probably going to want to get rid of that excess fat gain eventually. Dirty bulking is a guaranteed way to increase your body fat percentage. Most see this as a short term compromise (trading aesthetics for strength) but it is possible that you are unable to retain the majority of strength gains made while bulking once it’s time to get lean again. If you commit to a dirty bulk, you must to commit to the inevitable weight cut that follows it.
  • If you plan to gain a significant amount of weight by means of dirty bulking you may damage your metabolism on the ensuing cut. Trying to restrict yourself to 2,000 calories per day (while cutting) after eating at 3,500 calories per day (while dirty bulking) is a drastic change to your body. This shift can cause metabolic damage; a drastic slowing of the metabolism that is caused by excessive caloric restriction.  The body does this for the purpose of survival; once it senses a loss of body fat it tries to stop the weight loss.

Here’s a great example from the source:

[pull_quote_center]So why does the body sabotage effort like this? It’s simple: survival. If our bodybuilder ate 3,000 calories per day, cut his calories to 2,500, and his body did not have these adaptive abilities, he would lose weight continually without stopping until he eventually died. Luckily, nobody starves to death on 2,500 calories per day—even though it may feel like it sometimes. These normal adaptations are necessary for survival. – Cliff Wilson [/pull_quote_center]
  • It is unlikely that fat gain will be spread throughout your body. In a perfect world, an increase in body fat would be distributed throughout your body. A 5% total body fat increase will result in a 1% fat gain on your left leg, right leg, left arm, right arm, and chest… it doesn’t work like that. Instead, most people have “trouble areas” (usually the belly). Pair this side effect with potential metabolic damage, limiting your ability to burn fat, and you could have a long cut ahead of you.

Going Slow & Steady by Clean Bulking

Clean Bulking Vs Dirty Bulking

As defined earlier, clean bulkers aim to consume a reasonable caloric surplus of 400-500 calories above their maintenance intake in order to prevent as much fat gain as possible throughout the bulking cycle. Even still, fat gain is inevitable, but this way it is more effectively moderated.

The hardest part about clean bulking is staying patient. It is possible to go from skinny ectomorph to a lean 185lbs in 1 single bulk cycle; but it is a difficult process consisting of making changes to your diet based on weight gain. If you find yourself gaining more than 4lbs a month, and you know that the maximum muscle you can gain per month (in perfect conditions) is 2.5lbs, then you need to cut back on your calories.

I recommend eating no less than 400-500 calories above your maintenance unless you notice you are gaining too much, too quickly. Consuming less calories in an effort to avoid gaining any fat at all is an unrealistic goal.

Theoretically you could argue that you could exceed your maintenance caloric intake by 100 calories and gain as little fat as possible while reaping pure muscle gains. This is highly unlikely due to expected error in rough calculations and formulas used to calculate the calories you consume and burn.

Here’s a quote from Lyle McDonald on the topic of ultra lean gains:

[pull_quote_center]Lean gaining is usually based around insanely meticulous calorie and nutrient counting and timing, an obsession with clean eating, etc. without ever actually providing sufficient nutrients to grow at any meaningful rate. When you hear someone say that you can’t put on more than three pounds of muscle in a year, this is who you’re usually talking to: the guys who won’t allow even an ounce of fat gain. Or you’re talking to a natural bodybuilder who’s been at it for 10 years and is near his genetic limit. But it’s usually the lean-obsessed guys who aren’t gaining jack squat for muscle in a year.[/pull_quote_center]

And then he follows up with this a paragraph later:

[pull_quote_center]The simple fact is that a bodybuilder who refuses to gain any fat and doesn’t put on any muscle between shows won’t be improving year to year. Unless they have perfect symmetry, size, shape, etc. their fear of body fat is preventing them from ever getting any better.[/pull_quote_center]

It is more realistic to expect an increase of body fat by 3-5% while responsibly clean bulking. At the end of your bulk you will want to cut in order to trim your body fat percentage down a few points, but it will be conveniently easier relative to a more hardcore cut that follows a dirty bulk.

The Best Bulk for You

In summary, dirty bulking will put on mass fast allowing you to consistently lift heavier in the gym at an accelerated pace, thus increasing strength. You will pay for this by increasing your total body fat percentage, which you will have to cut after you complete your bulk. Cutting puts your strength gains at risk, and could damage your metabolism if you need to drop a considerable amount of weight.

Clean bulking is to be done around the limits of maximum muscle growth, but will still undoubtedly result in some fat gain. Because total weight gain is more controlled there is less of a cut required, freeing your from worrying about various consequences caused by dramatic weight loss. You also won’t have to deal with the insecurities of noticing yourself getting (considerably) fatter.

What are you waiting for?

Sources

FeaturedGetting Calories

GOMAD: The Truth About Drinking a Gallon of Milk a Day

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[dropcap type=”3″]G[/dropcap].O.M.A.D. or “gallon of milk a day” is a well-known weight gain diet which leverages the ease of consuming liquid calories with the desirable caloric profile of milk.

This guide to GOMAD will explain why this diet is popular among the skinniest of ectomorphs, the side effects of massive milk consumption, the XMAD compromise, and how you can start going mad today.

Go get a big glass of milk, sit down on your comfiest chair, and start reading!

True GOMAD: Everything You Need to Know

What is GOMAD? The true gallon of milk a day plan consists of drinking 1 US gallon (3.8L) of whole fat milk every day in addition to your typical breakfast/lunch/dinner meals. Here’s what your daily milk consumption looks like in calories:

[quote_box_center]146 calories per cup of milk * 16 cups (in 1 gallon) = 2,336 calories from milk alone, per day.[/quote_box_center]

Assuming each of your solid food meals hit 800 calories each, you’re reaching an intake of 4,736 daily calories with GOMAD.

Lift this.

The second half of GOMAD consists of lifting heavy weights to maximize strength gains. Check out Stronglifts, Starting Strength, or another routine that focuses on heavy weight barbell exercises for low repetitions. This is crucial to reducing fat gain and maximizing strength.

That said… it would be unrealistic to not expect a considerable fat gain when putting down close to 5,000 calories per day. You will likely want to cut weight after a successful GOMAD cycle. If this worries you, read about XMAD further down on this page.

You continue to drink copious amounts of milk, get in your solid calories, and lift heavy until you reach your desired weight. It’s often recommended that you set your sights 5-10lb above your true goal to allow for the loss of water weight once you stop drinking an entire gallon of milk everyday. After all, milk consists of 87% water.

It is generally recommended to stay on GOMAD for 1-2 months. Any longer and you risk an undesirable amount of fat gain.

[Tweet “GOMAD (2,336 calories) + 3 solid meals (800 calories each) = 4,736 daily calories #GOMAD”].

You are NOT doing true GOMAD if…

  • You’re drinking something other than whole fat milk. 1%, 2%, chocolate, soy, almond, goat… you must drink whole fat milk to GOMAD.
  • You’re not drinking a full gallon of milk everyday. That’s 16 cups. 3.8L.
  • You’re not eating whole food meals throughout the day.

Everybody who is new to gaining weight struggles to hit their daily calorie goal. Milk is a cheap high calorie protein source that can be consumed in massive quantities. This is the basic idea of the GOMAD diet: cheap, convenient calories.

GOMAD Side Effects: What 60gal of Milk Will Do to You

A little over a weeks worth of GOMAD supply

The GOMAD diet seems like something to come out of a Rocky movie or superhero comic book. Try explaining the concept of drinking a gallon of milk a day to a civilian (non-gainer) and watch their face morph into something that looks very, very confused.

Drinking a gallon of milk everyday doesn’t go down absent of any consequences. Here are the most common criticisms of the GOMAD approach to gaining weight: 

  • You will get fatter consuming close to 5,000 calories/day. There are many GOMAD success stories that boast about impressive weight gain upwards of 20lbs in a single month. Though still impressive, the majority of that weight will consist of fat and water. If you want to GOMAD, prepare to go through a weight cut afterwards. This shouldn’t be an issue to raw ectomorphs who are new to gaining; as you will likely have room for fat gain.
  • Chances are your body isn’t in love with the idea of heavy dairy consumption. Approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy [source]. Bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, and nausea are all possible side effects to drinking so much milk. Though you may experience the worst of the symptoms initially, when you first start GOMAD, it is possible that they wane over time as your body adjusts. You can read more on lactose intolerance here.
  • Acne and sleepiness: There is no definite link between dairy and acne, but there are theories about it. Skim through this article for more on the potential dairy and acne connection. The GOMAD diet can also cause increased sleepiness due to the nature of carbohydrates, which milk is high in. Carbs increase the release of serotonin; which causes sleepiness.

The XMAD Compromise – Going Less Mad

If you’re not following the exact rules of GOMAD, you’re not doing GOMAD.

This is a point that is important to emphasize in order to dispel the use of “half GOMAD” or “quarter GOMAD” vernacular that is ever present on fitness forums. Drinking half a gallon of milk every day isn’t “half GOMAD”, it’s just drinking a lot of milk.

I don’t see any problem with using the term “half GOMAD”, for sake of simplicity, as long as you understand that you aren’t really participating in true GOMAD. You’re just using milk as a calorie source.

I’ve drank 2% milk all of my life and have come to rely on it for a considerable amount of calories on a daily basis. A single cup of 2% milk has 122 calories, breaking down to 5g fat, 12g carbohydrates, 8g protein. Looking over my calorie logs, I average about 6 cups of milk everyday, for a total of 732 calories.

Even if you aren’t compelled to drink an entire gallon of milk everyday after learning the ins and outs of the GOMAD diet you can still leverage the desirable caloric profile of milk to make gaining weight easier. Adding 2 cups of 2% milk with every meal is an extra 732 calories. Upgrade from 2% to whole fat milk and that’s 876 calories you no longer have to worry about.


Here’s Takeru Kobayashi doing GOMAD in 28 seconds. Don’t try this at home, please!

Is GOMAD Right for You?

[Tweet “Drinking half a gallon of milk every day isn’t “half GOMAD”, it’s just a lot of milk. #GOMAD”]

Following the true GOMAD diet is a sure way to put on weight. You will see a strength increase (potentially a significant one) if you are lifting heavy while on this diet. You probably won’t end up with your dream body at the end of your 1-2 months, but instead see a considerable increase in body fat.

You can find out if GOMAD is the right weight gain solution for you by asking yourself: Are ready to gain 5-10% of body fat in exchange for putting on 20-30lbs, and becoming stronger?*

* = Of course, if you plan to cut weight after a successful GOMAD cycle, you will be at risk to lose some ground on your strength gains, something that shouldn’t be forgotten.

GOMAD may be perfect for ectomorphs who find themselves seriously underweight, or very low in body fat. Inversely, if the idea of your body fat shooting up 10% makes you very nervous, you should stick with XMAD.


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How to Gain Weight: The Ectomorph Guide to Gaining Weight

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muscular_man_taking_shirt_off.jpg

Are you tired of being skinny? 

[dropcap type=”1″]B[/dropcap]eing skinny is overrated. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you are overweight or underweight, the result is still the same – you don’t have the body you want.

Being underweight isn’t just bad for your confidence either. You’re also subjecting yourself to a weakened immune system, fragile bones, and a lack of energy*.

Imagine how it would feel to finally achieve the body of your dreams. Imagine waking up in the morning, walking out to the shower, and looking in the mirror as you pull your shirt over your head with a grin on your face.

This can be you sooner than you think. This guide will educate you on how to gain weight. It isn’t the most technical explanation available, but it will teach you everything you need to know to get through a successful bulk.

Let’s get started.

The Only Word You Need to Know to Successfully Gain Weight

One word: Eat.

The secret to gaining weight isn’t so secret; consume more calories than you expend, and you will put on weight.

Let’s say that again; all together, out loud: consume more calories than you expend, and I will put on weight.

Everything you do expends energy. Your body expends energy even through simple tasks such as circulating blood and breathing, in addition to any kind of physical exercise you choose to do.

The term used to measure (roughly) how much energy you expend each day is: Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

We need to calculate your TDEE in order to know (roughly) how many calories you need to consume in order for your body to gain weight. To do this we’re going to follow the Mifflin – St Jeor formula which looks like this:

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For Men: BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) + 5

For Women: BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) – 161

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Is this gibberish to you? Don’t worry. You don’t need to understand algebra to gain weight.

Don’t bother searching for your highschool math notes – use this easy calorie calculator here. The link will open in a new window, so you won’t lose your place on this page.

An example of the calories required to gain weight for somebody who is 6'1 140lbs
The required caloric intake for somebody 6’1, 140lbs

This calculation proves the following for any 6’1, 140lb male out these who fits the “moderately active” criteria:

  • To stay the same weight (140lbs), you need to eat roughly 2,626 calories each day
  • To lose weight, you need to eat roughly 2,126 calories (or less) each day
  • To gain weight, you need to eat roughly 3,126 calories (or more) each day

I’ve included “roughly” into each statement because these are, in fact, rough predictions.

You could discover you need to consume considerably more, or less, calories to gain weight. The only way to find out is to try consistently eating a set amount of calories for period of time and measure your results. This calculation gives us a good estimate to start with.

Fact: you will gain weight if you eat above your maintenance caloric intake; the amount of calories you must consume to stay at your current weight.

When bulking, the general rule of thumb is to consume 500 additional calories on-top of your maintenance amount. This is how you gain weight, period.

The Definitive Answer to Why You’re Failing to Gain Weight

The reason why you're not gaining weight

When it comes to weight gain; you are not a special snowflake.The reason you are failing to gain weight is because you’re not eating enough.

Ectomorphs, hard gainers, skinny people who eat more than all their friends (combined?), folks with abnormal metabolism… The reason you are failing to gain weight is because you’re not eating enough.

The exception to this golden rule is if you have consulted a doctor who has diagnosed you with a condition that affects weight gain. If this isn’t the case, you need to eat more.

How to Eat your Way Through a Successful Bulk

OMNOMNOMNOMNOM

Eating to gain weight can be surprisingly difficult to those unprepared. I follow a few general guidelines to make bulking up easier, and more convenient.

  1. I schedule my meals. I eat 3 big meals a day, along with 2-3 mini-meals in order to hit my calorie goal. I have these meals literally scheduled into my day because it’s important to me that I don’t miss a meal.
  2. I plan my meals. On weeks which I hit my calorie goal on a daily basis it’s because I planned what I am going to eat the night before. If making food is a hassle to you, you NEED to plan your meals the night before.
  3.  I eat during breaks in the day. Anytime you find yourself with 10 minutes of free time, eat something. Carrying snacks on you (granola, trail mix, dried meats) can help you reach your target intake easier.
  4. I have “emergency calories” in case I was forced to skip a meal for any reason. Gainer shakes, peanut butter & banana sandwiches, anything that’s loaded with calories and easy to make.
  5. I know that I’m not going to hit my calorie goal every single day. I’m not hard on myself on days that I miss my goal because life happens. I just do my best to get back into the groove ASAP.

With those tips in mind, lets talk about what we should be eating on a bulk.

What are macronutrients?

I’m only going to briefly touch on macronutrients for the purpose of providing only what you NEED to know. I suggest you check out this link for a more in-depth explanation.

Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories (or energy). You know them as:

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  • Proteins (provide 4 calories per gram)
  • Fats (provide 9 calories per gram)
  • Carbohydrates (provide 4 calories per gram)
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When on a bulk, we want to aim for a 30/30/40 spread of macronutrients. That means our total caloric intake at the end of the day should be made up of  30% protein, 30% fats, and 40% carbohydrates.

Do You Need Supplements to Gain Weight?

A stack of various supplements

Nope. You could start at a scrawny 120lbs and finish at a muscular 180lbs, all without spending a single dime on protein powder, vitamins, or post-workout aids.

Now that we’ve settled that, let’s talk about why supplements are so popular, and why they may make your life easier.

Supplements are popular because they are convenient. People get busy, not always having the time to come up with that last 50g of protein they need to hit their goals for the day. When you can easily hit that goal by throwing some milk, fruit, ice, and protein powder into a blender; it becomes very easy to appreciate that convenience.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to use supplements. There is almost nothing wrong with using supplements. However, there are a few things you do need to be careful about:

  • Supplements are lacking in vitamins and nutrients that whole foods nourish you with.
  • Supplements do come at a (literal) price. I don’t mind the cost of protein powder every few months, but I can see it being an issue for some people.
  • Supplements can be too easy. Make sure supplements are making you lazy. When you have the option of a complete meal, or a shake, go with the meal every time. Or eat both.

The overall consensus on supplements is this: use them to supplement deficiencies in your diet. Don’t make them a regular stand-alone meal.

Popular supplements you should consider checking out: protein powder, weight gainers (essentially protein powders with extra calories), and creatine.

How to Convert All Those Calories to Muscle Mass

Now that you’re eating at a caloric surplus, you’ll find that you are gaining weight. Awesome.

If your goals are strictly to put on weight the healthy way, then simply rinse and repeat the steps listed on this page above.

This part to the skinny person’s guide to gaining weight will cover the final step: getting muscular.

The secret to getting strong is through intense exercise. In this article I’m going to talk about weight lifting, specifically 2 very popular full-body routines that have been proven by hundreds of former skinny people.

Turn those calories into muscle

Choose 1:

  1. Starting Strength
  2. Strong Lifts

Each respective routine links to a page where you can read more about it from the creator himself.

Both of these routines consist of free weight, compound exercises, using heavy loads to focus on strength gain, rather than say a repetition based bodybuilding style routine with a focus on toning. This is important for the following reasons:

  • Using free weights (barbell exercises) engage your stabilizing muscles to keep your body in balance. These muscles don’t receive much work when you’re using machines that keep the weight aligned for you.
  • Performing compound exercise will allow you to gain “real world strength”. Example: how often do you pick things up in a traditional arm curl motion?
  • Low repetitions of heavy weight builds mass, while high repetitions of lighter weight tones muscle – generally speaking.

You will need access to a gym to complete these routines. You’re looking for a squat rack and a bench press. If you have that kind of a home gym already, more power to you.

As a last resort, if you live in the North Pole with no humans within 100 miles, you can try bodyweight fitness. However, I strongly recommend you prioritize finding a proper gym.

Tracking Your Progress

Person on scale

Measuring your progress should always be a priority when you are trying to achieve any kind of goal. It’s crucial for proving to yourself that your hard work is paying off, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

Here are 3 things you MUST track while bulking up:

  1. Track your calories. This can be annoying for the first week or so, but after that it will become effortless. For homemade foods that don’t have nutritional labels on them just estimate as accurately as possible by combining the calories of each ingredient. My favorite calorie trackers are Dailyburn and My Fitness Pal.
  2. Track your weight. Probably the most obvious, but make sure you are getting on a scale on any set interval of time. Once a week, once every 2 weeks, once a month… doesn’t matter. Choose one and stick with it.
  3. Track your body. Go somewhere private right now, strip down to your underwear, and take a picture. Once a month do the same thing again. These pictures will are evidence of your hard work to keep you motivated when it feels like the scales are moving slowly.

 

The 3 Steps You Need to Follow to Get Gaining Today

Excercise Comic

There you have it – all the information you need to start gaining weight today.

Here are the quick notes (tl;dr) on what you need to do now:

  1. Use a calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis in order to gain weight. Write down your number, and make sure you exceed your maintenance amount by ~400 calories every day.
  2. Eat good food. Just because you want to gain weight doesn’t mean you should eat junk. It’s ok to “cheat” occasionally, nobody’s perfect, but don’t sacrifice your energy levels (among other things) for a couple minutes of satisfaction.
  3. Follow a tried and tested exercise routine. I recommend choosing either Stronglifts, or Starting Strength. Whichever you like better.

If you follow these steps beginning today, you will gain weight. What are you waiting for? Go get something to eat!

Questions, thoughts, advice for other gainers – post them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.