Weight-gaining diet basics
You might think that we have already talked about this many times. And you are right. But here comes the strange part: we still don\'t have an article that would sum it all up? And that\'s where this piece of writing kicks in. The basics of a weight-gaining diet summarized at once!
Weight-gain over everything else
Why do you gain when you gain?
Many people out there fail because of not knowing how to create an environment within the body that makes it possible to gain weight at all. They start to take weight-gaining supplements with no background, and then they tend to be surprised about having absolutely no results. Why?
'Cause they miss the point. In order to make any kind of growth in your body – be it muscle or fat – you need to take more calories than the amount your body uses up. This is the root of it all – if you miss this, everything else is lost too. If you start taking weight-gaining supplements while on an inappropriate diet, you can easily reach a point where the food PLUS the weight-gaining supplement together are insufficient to provide the extra calories needed for that gain. In other words: you have the same efficiency as if you had the money you spent on weight-gaining supplements flushed down the toilet. (And in some aspects you just did...) In most cases the "my weight-gaining stuff wouldn't work" problem has this kind of origin.
If you achieved the calories surplus then you took your first step towards a weight-gaining diet. One of the most important moves. But this won't work in itself. If this could work, you would be able to build muscle eating lard and sugar. It's not that easy, you need to pay heed to the source of the extra calories. And this leads us to the next chapter!
What makes a muscle grow (and what doesn’t)?
In order to achieve muscle-growth specifically you need to observe several factors. Think of it as a construction site! We have already used this analogy several times, but since it is so relevant, we can use it again.
What do you need to make a construction effective? You need building materials out of which the building is raised. You need energy that keeps the construction machines working. You need maintenance work on the machines otherwise they will break down. You also need a blueprint that always tells you what to do.
Let's see what we've got! Building materials to start with. Building muscle tissue requires proteins. So it is protein that we'll use as building material. If you don't take enough, you won't have anything to build from regardless of the surplus calories. So the first important thing: provide yourself with enough building materials. We'll get back to the details later.
Energy. Even the best machine would not work without electricity or fuel. You need enough of that to keep the construction goin without a hitch. It is the same thing with muscles. The energy is supplied by carbohydrates and fats. As we prefer high quality fuel (mainly complex carbohydrates) over cheap stuff (white flour, sugar) for our machines, keep your engines healthy.
Maintenance. With no lubrication or no maintenance, machines tend to break down or wear faster than normal. In our body, oil and maintenance are provided by appropriate micronutrients of sufficient quality and quantity. These are vitamins and minerals. The process of construction is a fine analogy: you can mess about for some time without maintenance but you will pay a high price on the long run.
Blueprint? Of course – there is no chance without one. In our case this means a diet well planned!
So we'll need proteins, carbohydrates, fats, micronutrients for muscle growth. Here we'll deal with macronutrients only.
And now let's see the most sensitive part: quantities!
Designing a weight-gaining diet
What to take (and in what quantities)?
One of the essential things about weight-gaining diets: you need to eat more than what you would normally (of some nutrients at least). (This is why we can't really handle comments like "I eat a lot" or "I eat enough". What quantities? Are you clear on the facts? Or you just think that you eat a lot?). This is especially true in case of ectomorph people who tend to have hard time gaining weight: they should literally force themselves to eat more if they want to follow an effective weight-gaining diet.
Calories or nutrients? What should be calculated or monitored?
This is an eternal question. We are advocates of the macro side on this. There are several reasons for this. First of all, if you provide yourself with the sufficient quantities of macronutrients, you will definitely get the right amount of calories too. An even more important reason is that calories themselves are not enough to build a weight-gaining diet on (see above). A diet can be poor even if the calories are just right. The same goes for other diets too: a calories-deficit is essential part of a weight-loss regimen, but it is not sufficient if you aim at good quality fat loss. However we'll not cover that here.
There's one drawback: you just can't avoid doing some math. You must know what quantites of protein, carbohydrates and fats you consume a day. You must know what amounts of these components are found in the food you eat. Calculating calories are definitely easier but be sure that it is less effective too!
Protein – the building material of muscles
Usually we suggest you to take 2 grams of protein per kilograms of bodyweight during a weight-gaining period. For instance a weight-gaining diet with 60 kg of body weight includes 120 grams of protein a day. Small alterations are OK, you don't have to stick to the exact grams. More is better than less.
We consider animal products as best sources of protein. Lean meat, fish, some light dairy products (e.g. cottage cheese), eggs. Vegetable protein sources are processed with lower efficiency, so they play a secondary role in a real body-building diet (and let's not exclude others: animal proteins tend to be more productive in any sports).
In our 60 kg example the 120 g protein can be consumed in the form of 600 g chicken breast fillet (as 100 g of chicken breast fillet contains about 20 grams of protein). There are sources mentioning higher protein content but we suggest you to round values down to make sure that you take the necessary amounts. This does not mean that you should only eat chicken breast fillet. The more diversified your protein intake the better!
Sources of carbohydrates – the energy needed
And here comes the part that there is no universal rule for everyone about the carbohydrate content of the weight-gaining diet. A moderate amount is enough for people who gain weight easily, and enormous quantities should be consumed by those who have hard time gaining weight. Some achieve gains at 3 grams per body-weight kilogram (kgbw), others can even do a weight-loss diet with that. So how could we define a universal rule?
Well, we cannot. But we can state some approximates for the three basic body types!
For those who gain weight easily (having an endomorphic figure) a starting intake of 3 g/kgbw a day is recommended. If no increase in mass is experienced, raise the dosage to 4 grams/kgbw a day, and see what happens. When your body fat starts accumulating, you'll know you reached a point where there is no point increasing the carbohydrate intake further.
Those with mesomorphic figures who build muscles easily can also accumulate fat – even though at a lower rate than endomorphic people. We suggest to start the weight-gaining period with a 5 g/kgbw carbohydrate dosage, and start increasing that gradually to a level where the muscles do grow but adipic tissues still do not.
Ectomorphic people with constant 6-packs (who can hardly gain weight) can have a starting dose of 6-7 g/kgbw carbohydrates in their weight-gaining period, and if necessary, they might increase that too. There is practically no risk of fat accumulation, but such an amount of carbohydrates is required that is surely not fun to swallow.
So you can see now that the required quantity might range from 3 to 7 (or even more) grams of carbohydrates. You need to choose the starting dose based on your body type, and your individual experiences will tell you when to stop increasing that dose!
If it is difficult for you to decide which body type group you belong to, here comes the deal: start with a 5 g/kgbw carbohydrate level, and modify that as you go along growing or getting fatty.
OK, but in what form? Try to avoid sugar if possible. Carbohydrates with high rate of absorption should only be consumed after training, otherwise try to take complex carbohydrates like rice, potato, whole meal grains, and vegetables. You can also eat fruits in modest quantities, there is no reason to leave them out during a weight-gaining period.
Avoid white-flour bakery products and pastas. If you happen to be an ectomorphic person, you won't build fat from these either, but refined carbohydrates are still harmful. On the other hand it is much easier to eat (at least a part of) the daily dose of necessary carbohydrates in this form (e.g. pasta) than in any other. If you have a body type that would not fatten then it's Your choice. We do not recommend eating refined carbohydrates to anyone.
Fats – energy and functioning
You won't have problems with the amount of fats if you follow the things mentioned above. The sources of protein contain some fats, so there is no need to add extra amounts. However it is advisable to provide your body with the essential fat intake, and that might be difficult (unless you live on red salmon or some other expensive fatty sea fish).
You can get the essential fats from sea fish, oil seeds, linseed-oil, or specific food supplements, oil capsules. On one hand they serve as energy-sources, but essential fats have a range of health-maintaining functions too – from the protection of the cardiovascular system to antiphlogistic effects and to the enhancement of fat-metabolism.
Many tend to neglect this, but fibres play an important role in supporting digestion and maintaining overall health. If you don't take enough fibres, your digestion is bound to get upset. Probably needless to add that vegetables rich in fibres are usually excellent sources of vitamins and minerals too. So do not leave vegetables out of your diet as you might find things go "hard" – if you catch my drift. All your meals should contain fibres too! High amount of fibres = better utilisation of foods.
Schedule – what and when?
Basically you should consume every type of macronutrients at every meal. You might want to alter their ratios though as you get experienced at monitoring the food values. At the beginning simply take your daily food, divide it into 5 or 6 portions, and eat it at regular intervals during the day. For example at 6 am, 9 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, and so on. You don't need to eat every 3 hours sharp, but try to keep the schedule!
As a beginner be sure to consider the following: there are several relevant theories out there – e.g. it is good the deal with protein and carbohydrate sources separately, not eating those at the same meal. Some others say that you don't need to eat every 3 hours, having 3 huge meals is enough. On the other hand there are also theories stating that you need to eat even more frequently.
All this is fine, let diversity prosper. But please, don't start experimenting on this while you still have problems calculating nutrition values. You might start doing variations when you've already mastered the design of a daily regiment. The example above is a fine base to start from – it has worked for thousands already,, why would it fail for you?
Later you can fine-tune the ratios of macronutrients. Let's see some options:
- Try not to include too much carbohydrates in your first daily meal as insulin sensitivity is pretty poor in the morning. The bulk of your carbohydrate-intake should be consumed at around noon or in the early afternoon, and after trainings.
- Do not eat fats before going to bed as they inhibit the release of the body's own growth hormones – the level of HGH is usually the highest during the sleep at night.
- If you tend to accumulate fat easily then your last 2 meals should be free of carbohydrates (or have minimal levels of it). This lowers the risk of gaining fat. The only exception is when you work out in the evening – you always need carbohydrates after trainings, even late at night.
- It is recommended to take 1-2 g/kgbw carbohydrates and 1 g/kgbw protein within 2 hours after finishing the workout. So when you get familiar with the diet, you should portion macronutrients between meals so that the shake and the meal after that would add up properly.
As you get to know your body better, you can make small arrangements and fine-tunings in your diet. Needless to say that this is far from the beginners' level.
This is an area that you should not even think of until you followed all things above. Otherwise you would simply waste your money. If you don't achieve calories surplus with the weight-gaining supplement, you will not grow. If you take creatine while not eating enough then the best you can do is to accumulate some water and gain some strength, and as the regimen period ends, you'll flush that water down the toilet, and you can kiss that extra strength good-bye. There's no point to taking anything (apart from vitamins) as long as your food is not okay. Vitamins are exceptions. You always need vitamins.
In case your food is fine the next important things are vitamins, followed by proteins and/or weight-gaining supplements, then joint support supplements (for preventive reasons), and only after all these comes taking creatine, extra amino acids, pre-workout NO-boosters, testosterone boosters and other "wonder supplements". If you pick stuff from the end of the list and neglect the others at the beginning, you will fail. You can't escape that on the long run.
You should match your body type and your weight-gaining supplement.
If you are an endomorphic person who grows fat fast, you should choose from the range of MRPs containing 50-50% of protein and carbohydrates, and you should not choose anything with a protein content under 30%. If your body type is mesomorph (gaining muscles easily but having a not too dry body) then you need products with at least 30% protein content, in case you gain muscles fast and still have a shredded body, you can also choose products with 15-30% protein content. Ectomorphic people who gain mass really hard should choose from the product range of 15 to 30% protein content, or (especially beginners) can even take products with protein content below 15% – they need vast amounts of carbohydrates to gain mass. (Please also note that you should not use products under the 15% protein limit unless you really need to as the amount of muscle building proteins might be too low in some products. Usually they are used at beginners' level where muscle work is not that intense, so there is no need for high protein surplus).
Another important note: the name 'supplement' is not just a coincidence, as it only supplements food! Do not consider it as a substituent of food. Take some additions if necessary, but do not replace food with them. Our digestive system is not that effective at processing liquid food. Apart from post-workout shakes, try to eat proper food for nutrients. If there is no alternative, you can take supplements, but do eat solid food whenever possible! It is only right after workout when a fast absorbing weight-gaining or protein supplement is better than solid food, but it should be followed by a complete meal in an hour.
So what have we covered so far? You need approximately 2 g/kgbw protein, 3-7 g/kgbw carbohydrate (based on your body type), plus the fat contained in the protein sources, and some essential fatty acids. So you have the main sources of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Okay. This stuff might be too technical for those who are new to this topic. So let's see some examples!
Weight-gaining diet, 60 kg (beginner)
Weight-gaining diet, 80 kg
You might notice that quantities (especially of proteins) are not the same as mentioned in the article. It is because most diet designers include vegetable protein sources too during calculations. It is important to note the 2 g/kgbw protein daily intake should originate from animal sources. For instance the 80 kg diet has 176 grams of animal protein, and that is much closer to the 2 g/kgbw value.
You can also see that these are simpler diets with no advanced tricks included. The 80 kg example assumes one workout in the morning, where the post-workout shake is Volumass 35. The 60 kg example lists a Mass post-workout shake (so it is ideal for a beginner who has difficulties with building muscle) at 6 pm, after which a complete meal should come at 7 pm.
Don't forget that these are examples only. Everyone should customize their diets based on their schedule and needs, so that it fits the individual's characteristics. However the end-result should be similar to this.
So you've got the values, you've got the examples, you can use a diet designer that calculates everything for you – now it's your turn!
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