Gain weight. Image source: Fustigatic.
Nobody wants to be a fato. If your goal is to gain weight, you want that weight to be muscle, not fat. You want to gain weight while minimizing fat gains.
But how do you gain weight without gaining fat? How can you gain muscle mass while keeping your body fat low? Can you even do that? After reading this post you’ll know exactly how to gain weight without gaining fat.
Top 3 Weight Gain Mistakes That Cause Fat Gains. Let’s start with 3 common mistakes you must avoid to gain weight without gaining fat.
- Eating Too Much. You won’t build more muscle by going from 4000kcal to 6000kcal/day vs. from 4000kcal to 5000kcal/day. But you’ll gain more fat spiking calories that much since your body won’t be able to follow.
- Eating Junk food. You’ll get big & strong but also fat & unhealthy. You’ll build bad, hard-to-break, nutritional habits. And you can become insulin resistant which makes building muscle harder in the long run.
- Eating by Feeling. If you don’t track your daily calorie intake, you’ll end up eating too much calories or not enough. You won’t gain weight if you don’t eat enough and you’ll get fat if you eat too much.
The Slow Method: Gain Weight without Fat. On the slow method you increase your calorie intake slightly based on your progress. This minimizes fat gains, but unfortunately also makes weight gain slower (~1lb/week).
Tracking & controlling everything to prevent fat gains is a lot of effort too. This combined with the slow weight gain can kill your motivation. Most people who try to build muscle while losing fat, end up getting nowhere.
If you’re under-weight, gain weight using a faster method like GOMAD first. Here are some minimum weights depending on you height.
- 1m70/5″²7″³ at least 70kg/154lbs
- 1m75/5″²9″³ at least 75kg/165lbs
- 1m80/5″²11″³ at least 80kg/176lbs
- 1m85/6″²1″³ at least 85kg/187lbs
- 1m90/6″²3″³ at least 90kg/200lbs
Once you weigh that, you’ll no longer be skinny. Then you can consider the slow method if you want to weigh even more. Here’s how to gain weight without gaining fat using the slow method.
1. Eat More. To gain weight, you must eat more. But you’ll gain fat if you spike your caloric intake suddenly. Avoid fat gains by adding calories moderately and tracking your daily calorie intake.
- Calculate Daily Caloric Needs. Check the cunningham equation to find out how many calories you need daily to maintain your body-weight.
- Track Calories. Going by feeling leads to eating too much food or not enough. Use FitDay to know exactly how much you’re eating.
- Add 500kcal/day. If you need 4000kcal/day to maintain body-weight, start eating 4500kcal/day to gain weight.
2. Eat Every 3 Hours. You won’t increase your metabolism by eating every 2-3 hours. But more frequent meals will make it easier to gain weight since you can spread your calorie intake into smaller meals.
- Eat Breakfast. Build the habit of eating breakfast and try these recipes. Batch cook your meals for the day while making breakfast.
- Eat Post Workout. Eat proteins & carbs post workout to replenish your energy stores. This can be a solid meal or a post workout shake.
- Eat 6 Meals/Day. Eat 6 smaller meals each day instead of 3 large ones. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, pre-bed and 2 snacks.
3. Eat Carbs Post Workout. Rule of thumb to gain weight without fat is to eat 1,5g starchy carbs per pound of body-weight per day (300g if you’re 200lbs). Best within 4h post workout, when your body is most sensitive to insulin.
- Carbs Post Workout. Proteins & carbs directly post workout. Example: oats, milk, banana. Chocolate milk works too and tastes awesome.
- Carbs Post Post Workout. Proteins & carbs within 90mins post workout. Solid meal. Example: pasta, ground round, tomato sauce.
- Optional: Carbs on Waking Up. If you struggle to get all your starchy carbs post workout, have some on waking up too.
4. Eat Whole Foods. These foods are unprocessed and unrefined and come as close as possible to their natural state. 90% of your diet must consist of whole foods to avoid fat gains. Examples:
- Proteins: ground round, tuna cans, whole eggs, chicken breast, …
- Fats: olive oil, fish oil, real butter, mixed nuts, avocado, …
- Starchy Carbs: brown rice, oats, quinoa, brown pasta, …
- Fruits & Veggies: bananas, apples, spinach, broccoli, …
5. Avoid Junk Food & Alcohol. If you eat 6 healthy meals per day, you can have 4 junk meals per week without gaining fat (it can actually help fat loss). More will harm your progress. Limit junk food & alcohol consumption.
- Packaged Snacks. Chips, cakes, cookies, crackers, sugar coated nuts, …
- Processed Meats. Hot dogs, bologna, sausages, lunch meats, …
- Calorie Beverages. Soft drink, sweet tea, fruit juices, kool aids, …
- Pre-made Meals. Frozen meals, cans of ravioli, pizzas, …
- Deep Fried Foods. French fries, fish sticks, fried seafood, …
- Junk Food. Ice cream, Mc Donalds, kebab, …
- Alcohol. Glass of wine with dinner is OK. Case of natural light isn’t.
- And More. Bagels, margarine, sugary breakfast cereals, …
6. Get Stronger. Without strength training, eating more will make you gain fat rather than muscle. Strength training will give your body the stimulus to build muscle and will also help you stick to your diet.
- Heavy Compounds. Do free weight exercises that work several muscles at the same time with heavy weights. Exercises like Squats & Deadlifts.
- Progressive Loading. Lifting the same weight over & over doesn’t give your body a reason to grow. Increase the weight systematically.
- Correct Technique. Parallel Squats stress your body more than Partial Squats. Use proper technique for maximal results.
7. Track Progress. You must eat more to gain weight. But if you eat too much, you’ll also gain fat. To minimize fat gains while ensuring you’re gaining weight, you must adapt your daily caloric intake based on your progress.
- Personal Stats. Weigh yourself and measure your body fat with a fat caliper weekly. Full body pictures front/back/side every 2 weeks.
- Strength Stats. They must go up over time to support the weight gain. Keep a training journal. You can do this for free in the forum.
- Adapt Caloric Intake. Gaining fat? Lower your daily calorie intake by 250kcal. Gaining weight, but not fat? Keep doing what works.
Example Weight Gain Meal Plan. Let’s say you’re at 4000kcal maintenance. You want to gain weight without gaining fat. So let’s go with 4500kcal/day. Here’s how your meal plan could look like:
- Breakfast: whole eggs, spinach, orange
- Snack: cottage cheese, apple
- Lunch: tuna, salad, olive oil
- Snack: mixed nuts, banana
- Post Workout: oats, milk, banana
- Dinner: pasta, ground round, tomato sauce
- Pre Bed: cottage cheese, berries, ground flax seeds
Read also this forum discussion on gaining weight without gaining fat.