One of the most effective ways to improve your health is to build lean muscle mass. However, it can be difficult to find reliable information on how to increase scale weight and build muscle safely from a nutrition standpoint. There’s plenty of easily accessible fat loss information, yet it can be hard to find info on how to healthfully and safely gain weight and build muscle. (that isn’t targeted towards young men exclusively).

The importance of muscle

While it might be true that the people most often google searching “how to put on muscle” are probably young men, there are a lot of reasons aside from sports and aesthetics to want to build muscle. The obvious one is that you might just be underweight and a doctor tells you that you need to gain weight. You might also want to gain muscle to boost your metabolism, as mentioned earlier, or to help combat age related muscle loss. You could be concerned with metabolic syndrome, strength for daily tasks, reducing pain or injury risk, or any other reasons.

Important elements of gaining weight and muscle

There are a lot of components important to losing weight that aslo apply for weight gain.

Hitting a protein goal – While losing weight, you want to eat plenty of protein as it can help you feel fuller and preserve muscle mass while losing weight. Protein is the main building block of muscle, so it’s important if you want to build muscle and gain weight, too.

Eating a balanced diet – Eating a large variety of foods rich in micronutrients is important not only for your general health, but having variety in any diet can make it easier to stick too.

Consuming adequate dietary fiber – Eating 40 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber each day maintains good gut health, prevents disease and also helps control glucose spikes which helps to prevent fat gain after carbohydrate heavy meals or snacks.

Staying hydrated – Drinking enough water is normally something you might do to help feel fuller but it can also support hydration to help your performance in the gym. Your muscles are much stronger when they’re well hydrated.

Regular strength training – As you might guess, following a consistent strength training routine with a heavy focus on slow but steady progressive overload is one of the best things you can do for your health. It also plays a major role in any wellness program.

Key tips and tactics for safe and healthy weight gain

Eating to build muscle and gain weight means consuming a calorie surplus. One of the first things that you might notice when eating at a surplus is how it can affect your energy levels. Some people can experience elevated energy levels throughout the day. This is because food is used by the body as a source of energy and now it has more of it. However, it’s worth pointing out that eating too many calories will make you feel sluggish rather than energetic. To counter this, it’s generally best to gain weight at a slower pace but we’ll elaborate more on that later.

The second thing is if you’re not used to eating at a surplus, regardless of how big or small it is, it can take some people a while to get used to eating more food than they usually do. For a lot of people, it can generally be easier to eat at maintenance levels for several weeks or even months before they worry about trying to gain weight. Imagine for a second eating to lose weight at a pace of 1 lb per week, or a 500 calorie per day deficit. If you shift to trying to gain 1 lb per week, or a 500 calorie surplus, that’s a shift of 1000 calories a day! Like many things in wellness, it’s advisable to start small and ramp up to your ideal pace.

Don’t skip your cardio

The third important difference is how cardio can play a role in weight gain. For gaining muscle, people will often try to skip doing cardio because it burns extra calories and they might not want to have to eat more food to compensate.

Cardio is always important, and skipping it because it can make gaining weight harder is not advisable. There are far too many reasons why doing some form of cardio is good for your health and maintaining prime physical function alongside building muscle tissue for metabolic health. Fitness and wellness covers multiple domains, so you need to take a multifaceted approach to make the best of it.

What should I do to increase my scale weight and build muscle?

Here are the three basic steps to do that with your diet.

  • First, you should find out your total daily energy expenditure. The most accurate way to do this is to do a VO2 Max test that includes your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, and then account for your daily activity level.
  • Second you want to establish a suitable protein goal. When it comes to protein, most people will want to eat between 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, or 0.6-0.8 grams per bodyweight. that fits within that total daily energy expenditure.
  • Finally, you start eating an additional 150-300 calories per day until you reach your goal for muscle growth. Ideally these calories come from a balanced and varied diet with foods you like to eat. Nutritious foods should be your goal, but it’s okay to get these extra calories from a fun treat every once in a while.

These ranges and recommendations will vary a bit from person to person. Figuring how to individualize a nutrition plan takes a bit of work and time. If you are looking to gain size, shoot for about 1-2 pounds a month. The main reason for this is to help ensure that the majority of weight you gain is lean muscle tissue. The second reason for the slow pace is that it’s easier to decelerate if you feel like you can still make good progress and enjoy your workouts without the extra calories.

Weight, size or muscle gain takes time

To borrow from the worlds of bodybuilding, powerlifting, and other strength sports, even in those realms it’s considered a mistake trying to bulk up too fast. Just like rapid weight loss, rapid weight gain can take a toll on the body. It can be easy to get caught up in seeing Hollywood body transformations where the actor claims to have eaten upwards of 5000-6000 calories per day to build their physique for a role. However, it’s incredibly difficult to eat 2 or 3 times the volume of food a normal person would eat in a day without drinking most of your calories or eating a lot of junk food. This can leave you feeling overly sluggish and can be counterproductive to your health goals.

Additionally, going too fast will lead to gaining extra fat along with the muscle, which may lead to going back onto a calorie deficit to lose the fat. Getting onto this cycle of bulking and cutting can be necessary for advanced athletes with competitive goals but is otherwise the opposite of fun. There are some exceptions to the the rule of thumb for trying to gain slowly, such as underweight people or teenagers. Generally speaking though, it’s easier for people to make permanent changes when they’re done at a sustainable pace.

Focus on what matters

No matter what, it’s important to remember that weight is just a number that can’t be reliably used to predict health. Don’t forget why you set your goals. You might have said to yourself that “I need to gain 5 pounds of muscle” in the past. Ask yourself why? For most of us, the goal comes back to “I want to have a healthy body” and building metabolically active muscle tissue helps to support our wellness. Gaining 5 pounds is one way to track progress for gaining muscle, but there are other ways that don’t involve looking at a scale.

On a technical level, doing some sort of body composition analysis like the InBody 570 to determine your exact lean body mass and comparing it to prior numbers is most accurate. However, you can determine gains in muscle and strength by performance metrics. Can you do more push ups than you did 3 months ago? How much has your deadlift gone up since you started training? Are you doing things that you never would have thought you’d be able to do last year?It’s important to celebrate what your body is capable of rather than just what a scale says on a given day.


Hyatt Training Portland personal trainer Travis RobeAuthor Travis Robe, CSCS, is a Personal Trainer at Hyatt Strength + Wellness with a BA in Kinesiology. In addition to his experience with strength training, he is also a lifelong martial artist. He believes in using fitness as a way to build discipline and confidence to overcome any challenge life may present you. Learn more about Travis, or get in touch with him by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com


Sources

Campbell, B. L. (Ed.). (2021). NSCA’s Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition (3rd ed.). Human Kinetics.

Haff, G. G., &; Triplett, N. T. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Human Kinetics.

Scott-Dixon, K., Berardi, J., St. Pierre, B., Kollias , H., & DePutter, C. (2022). The Essentials of Nutrition and Coaching: For health, fitness, and sport (4th ed.). Precision Nutrition Inc.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2012). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. Pearson


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