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15 tips for Gaining Weight”

The goal of anyone who is trying to gain weight is to increase size and strength, specifically lean muscle mass. Lean muscle is what most guys are looking for because it not only gives you a more powerful looking physique but also makes you the stronger. The more muscle you have, the more weight you can move, period. Below are 15 ways to add some muscle, both utilizing proper nutrition and with proper training.

1. Start eating about 500 calories more than your maintenance level. Why only 500? Because if you try and add 1000 or more right away your body will only take it for a couple of days, then you get on sit on the toilet for a day and watch your hard earned food weight disappear down the tubes. It takes time for your body to synthesize the change, if you shock it with too much food, your body will try to adjust to keep you the same weight. Your body doesn’t like change, so it takes time. Most people who are obese achieved that goal over many months and years of overeating and poor food choices. Weight gain for the hard gainer or natural strength athlete is no different. For a natural athlete just gaining a solid 2 lbs in a month is great…after 10 months of slowly upping your caloric intake that’s 20lbs.

2. Attempt to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. I say at least one gram because while the optimal is 1.5 grams per pound of body weight, that is rarely sustainable if your entire life isn’t built around eating and recovery…a 1 gram/lb is probably more than you’re getting now and will definitely make a difference in your recovery ability. Once you start taking in the right amount of protein your muscles will start getting noticeably harder, and you’ll start moving more weight in the gym. Remember, the key to proper powerlifting nutrition, and protein supplementation specifically is consistency. Doing it for three weeks then stopping doesn’t help you any more than training for three weeks then stopping does. Be disciplined, and don’t ever substitute a shake instead of a meal. First you eat, then you take your protein…that’s why it called a “supplement”, because it’s supplemental to what your already eating.

3. Get plenty of sleep each night. (At least 8 hours) This is pretty self explanatory, but sleep is the ultimate recovery time for your body, mentally and physically. If you are a sedentary person with a desk job and a love for fast food then you can probably get away with 5 or 6 hours a night of sleep and be OK, but athletes need 8 hrs minimum. Most powerlifters I know sleep 10 hrs a night. Why? Because your body is trashed and it takes time to heal, so make sure that you get plenty of sleep. Less sleep means less recovery, which means less gains in strength and size over time, so be smart and get your rest.

4. Try not to train more than 4 or 5 days a week, give your muscles time to recover. Over training is always a concern, and you should always try to be aware of how your body is reacting to training volume. If you 're powerlifting nutrition is solid and you're getting plenty of calories and sleep then you may be able to lift 5 days a week and make progress, but if those recovery factors begin to diminish then don’t be afraid subtract a training day from your routine. Most powerlifters only train 3 to 4 days a week, because of the intense loads and Central Nervous System stimulation that comes with that type of training. Most bodybuilders train 5 to 6 days a week because their training involves more muscular stimulation, with less impact on joints, tendons/ligaments, and CNS. Simply put, most over training is due to too much lifting and not enough recovery, so limit your work out days and watch your gains increase.

5. Limit cardio to about 2 days a week for 15 minutes. Now this is totally variable depending on the situation, but generally speaking, if you are skinny and trying to gain weight then you don’t need cardio, your body burns off calories already. If your over weight then cardio is good, but still in small amounts. Remember, the goal is lean mass, so turning yourself into a marathon runner is probably not the best idea. Your body fat levels will change more with correct training and dietary factors due to the increases in muscle mass. Take a fat burner if you want to lose fat. Endless cardio sessions will get you in great shape to run long distances, not be muscular and strong, so limit your cardio and you’ll put on some mass.

6. Drink a whey protein shake within 30 to 40 minutes of working out. The basic idea behind this is that by providing your body some BCAA’s , your body won’t cannabalize your muscles during a workout and put you in a negative nitrogen balance. After your glycogen levels have been depleted your body will begin tearing down muscle to fuel itself. Giving it some of this fuel before your workout can save your recovery later. You should notice less soreness and a quicker recovery when you drink a protein based pre-workout shake.

7. Drink milk or another casein protein enriched substance before bed so your muscles have a constant source of protein throughout the night. Casein is the slow digesting protein, the opposite of whey. Before a workout, or at other productive times of the day Casein will make you feel sluggish and run down, due to the slow digestion process. But at night or in the evening it’s perfect because that’s the time your body begins to slow its processes anyway, giving you the “time released” protein absorption while you sleep.

8. Eat regular meals about 6 times a day at 2 to 3 hour intervals. I want to make a distinction here in terms of weight gaining methods. Since this article is focusing on lean mass gain, giving your body a very steady amount of nutrients is key to a consistent recovery process and thus gains. However, what most people don’t know is that to gain the most ”weight ”, eating less often is actually preferable. Sumo wrestlers, hands down the world leaders in functional weight gain, eat only twice per day. Once at noon and once in the evening, this puts the body in starvation mode in between meals and causes a greater absorption during and after the meal. For more info on the Sumo Diet, check out my article The Sumo Diet: The Art of Weight Gain…any way, back to “lean” mass and powerlifting nutrition. Eating more frequent meals-of say, 700 calories each is a better way to keep the fat and water weight off while trying to gain mass.

9. Don’t skip working out certain muscles. This a good one, I’ve seen so many gym rats who complain about not getting big and they don’t even do lower body movements. Guess what, curls and dumbbell flys don’t put on mass. Work your whole body as a unit and you give yourself the best odds of putting on weight everywhere. Which leads me to number 10.

10. Concentrate on performing compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, over head pressing and rows. If you want to be muscular and strong, then keep it simple and do the movements that put the greatest stress and require the greatest adaptive response from your body. Most new lifters shy away from these exercises because no.1, there not fun, and no.2 you don’t usually get all blown up in the mirror from doing them. Well, being skinny isn’t fun either, so if you want to get lean and put on mass, then suck it up and do the hardest movements, they will give you the greatest results. Nothing in life worth having is easy, the same applies to training.

11. Alter your routine every 6 to 8 weeks to keep your body guessing and adapting. Not stagnating in your training can make a big difference in your gains, especially if you’re doing everything right. Most lifters tend to stop pushing themselves in the gym once they’ve become accustomed to certain movements. If you are lifting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps that you were 6 months ago, it’s not surprising that you’re the same size is it. You’d be surprised how just changing from a rowing movement to a body weight pull up can improve your training. You’re goal is to constantly challenge your body to change to stimuli, the minute you’ve mastered a particular exercise is the minute you need to either change the volume, intensity, or the exercise itself. We all like to do what we’re good at in the gym, but that doesn’t always translate to new gains does it.

12. Try to make your life as stress free as possible. This is my favorite tip because it’s the most overlooked but one of the most powerful changes you can make. When you’re CNS is taxed from stress, the adrenal cortex inside your adrenal gland produces a stress hormone called cortisol. This hormone forces the body to store fat and burn muscle. The simple act of being relaxed and happy will keep this destructive hormone at bay. You may see many Post-workout shakes or supplements trying to reduce post training cortisol levels. This is to keep your body from freaking out and cannibalizing itself. Our bodies have many systems in place to react to stresses, but often none of them are helpful. If you sprain your ankle your body will send fluid to the joint to cushion it against further injury, so you end up with a balloon for an ankle. Then we put ice on the ankle to try and relieve the swelling and inflammation, essentially counteracting the body’s natural response. It’s the same with training recovery…limit the effectiveness of the bodies natural stress responses and you can maximize gains. Be happy and grow.

13. Avoid frequent consumption of alcoholic beverages. Yeah, this is a toughy, but the truth is that getting plowed doesn’t help you get strong. My personal experience is that if I go get dusted my eating is screwed up for at least 2 to 3 days. In other words, it takes 3 days to get back on track to where you were before you drank. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it once in a while, but you just can’t make consistent gains if you get drunk all the time. Your body just doesn’t like it, no matter how much you do.

14. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, wheat breads, and sweet potatoes around your workout to maximize your energy levels. If you can integrate these “real food” carbs into your diet you’ll see the difference almost immediately. You will have a more consistent energy expenditure and reduce the swings that come with eating high sugar carbs like white bread, white rice etc. Your body will probably revolt on you initially, and you’ll crave sugar like crazy, but just stick with it and your gains will come quicker.

15. Be consistent. I’ve saved the most important factor for last. All of these tips are great and will absolutely work for you, but without consistency and discipline you have absolutely no chance. All of the rewards in life are given for excellence. Being ”good” is simply not good enough. Anybody can give 75% effort, or be great for a short period of time, but if you really want to achieve your goals then you have to look in the mirror and commit to excellence…. everyday...and the truth is most people don’t have the heart to be great. Why do you think so many people are obese, or on anti depressants, or work a crappy job that they hate. Its because change is hard, its scary, it requires effort-above and beyond normal. Don’t be ruled by fear. Be disciplined, be consistent, and achieve success.