How to Gain Weight Fast the correct way!

gain weight

It is hard to turn on the TV, open your phone, or search online without seeing posts and advertisements about losing weight. Usually these posts target women, especially if they have post-baby bodies, but not everyone can or should lose weight. Ladies, you look great. With so much attention on losing weight, it is difficult to find good information about gaining weight.

I don’t mean gaining weight for the sake of joining a secret fetish club. I mean gaining weight to bulk up or overcome health concerns that many cause you to be underweight. This method to help you gain weight fast is healthy, it is safe, and it doesn’t come with a side of flab. You need to gain good weight without killing your arteries with fat.

What is a Healthy Weight?

What is YOUR healthy weight? I will tell you right now that it is not the same as someone else’s. If you landed on this site, you are probably more active and more health-conscious than others. You also have specific goals for losing weight.

According to the CDC, knowing your BMI can help you determine your healthiest weight. BMI ranges are: 18.5 underweight, 18.5-24.9 normal weight, 25 to 29.9 overweight, and 30 or more obese [1].

Not so fast. If you go to the gym, you lift, or you are a bodybuilder, you can’t compare your BMI to these charts. BMI charts treat all weight the same, even in bodybuilders, which misclassifies them as obese in most cases. A healthy BMI for bodybuilders and athletes is a little more complicated. The best way to calculate mass is to look at a bodybuilder or athlete’s body composition.  Body composition is the ratio of lean mass: fat mass or the body fat percentage. Men are usually between 5-13 percent and women fall between 12-22 percent.

Read my post about calculating body fat percentage to learn more about this topic.

Healthy Weight Gain vs Fat

We are talking lean mass and muscle mass vs fat mass. When you look online for solutions to gain weight, remember that you are adding mass, not fat. There is a distinct difference. For bodybuilders and athletes, I told you body fat percentage must be low. The goal is to have more lean muscle mass and muscle mass than fat mass [2].

Lean mass, or lean body mass, is your body weight less your fat mass. Lean body mass is mass from bones, muscles, skin, organs, and water. Now, for the muscles in that, we want to talk about muscle mass. Muscle mass is also skeletal muscle mass. Muscle mass is not the same as lean body mass, but muscle mass is included in your lean body mass calculations.

Do You Wants Weight or Bulk?

That brings me to the next point: what type of gains are you really looking for? I hear you say, “how do I gain weight fast?” What does that really mean? I assume we are not talking about cupcakes and ding-dongs here. You want muscle mass, am I right?

I am going to tell you two phrases that you need to forget about if you are trying to gain muscle mass:

  1. “I don’t want to gain weight; I just need more lean muscle.”
  2. “I need to gain lean body mass.”

Now, from what I just told you about lean muscle vs lean muscle mass vs muscle mass, you know the problem with these statements. If you don’t know the difference between all three, you are going to have trouble putting on the type of weight or bulk you need.

Again, lean body mass is your lean muscle minus fat mass; all muscle is lean muscle; and muscle mass is not the same as lean muscle mass. If you want bulk, you are going for more muscle mass.

Things to Consider When Gaining Weight

Healthy eating concept with fresh vegetables and salad bowls on kitchen wooden worktop, copy space at right, top view

One more thing before we get started on the ways you can gain weight quickly: health and safety. Don’t grumble. I know you did it. I can hear you all the way over here. When you are gaining weight, these are a few things of which I think you should be aware.  

Nutrients You Need to Gain Weight

The nutrients and you need to gain weight, not body fat [3], are:

  • Protein
  • Omega fatty acids
  • Nutrient-dense foods
  • Complex carbs
  • Natural sugars

Health Risks for Gaining Weight Too Quickly

You need to have a dose of patience when trying to gain weight fast. Sure, there are the aesthetic issues such as stretch marks and skin problems [4], but there are also real health concerns if you eat the wrong foods, you don’t have a weight gain plan, or you have an underlying medical condition that prevents you from gaining weight. If you gain muscle or weight too fast, look out for these troubles:

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Gaining fat instead of getting muscle mass
  • Problems with pre-existing medical conditions

What to Avoid When Gaining Weight

You are going to get tired of hearing me say this: when you are trying to gain weight for better lean body mass or for more muscle mass, you need to cut the crap. I mean it.  I am not saying you can’t indulge every now and then. In fact, treating yourself every once in awhile prevents you from completely succumbing to cravings and temptations [3]. When you restrict aggressively, you risk overindulging completely.

When you are trying to gain weight, avoid these habits:

  • Eating foods high in saturated fats. Saturated fats are ones that contain high levels of fatty acids that don’t have double bonds. Saturated fats are usually found in packaged foods, fast food, and foods cooked in grease or oil.
  • Consuming a lot of alcohol and sugary alcoholic drinks
  • Drinking sugary drinks such as soda and energy drinks
  • Snacking on high calorie, low  nutrient-dense foods
  • Skipping meals
  • Filling up with three large meals only

When you look at the ways to gain weight, I think you will find that preparing, packing, cooking, and eating at home is the best way to gain weight fast.

Delicious big hamburger on wooden background

8 Ways to Gain Weight

When you are trying to gain weight, focus on muscle building instead of pounds. Here are the 7 ways I recommend you gain weight. You can easily add one or more of these methods to your daily routine. You need to remember calories, intake, and weight. Here are the 8 methods I use to gain weight.




1. Rethink your water intake

You need water to stay healthy and hydrated when you exercises, but you should curb your water intake. I am not suggesting you stop drinking water; I am suggesting you change when you drink water Avoid drinking water right before meals. If you drink water, protein shakes, or calorie-rich drinks right before or during your meals, you are going to feel full. Stop drinking water and other beverages at least an hour before you eat. If you are feeling thirsty, hold off drinking fluids until 30 minutes after you eat.

2. Maybe cut the protein

So many people recommend the 40/40/20, or 40:40:20, split or 40:20 for bodybuilders. What is 40/40/20 split, and does it even work? The 40/40/20 split is a protein-rich, macronutrient split. The 40:40:20 split is 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 20 percent fats [5]. Think about that for a moment. What is your body weight? Now, think about what 40% of that comes to. That is a A LOT of protein.

I know that your body needs protein. Protein has super powers, but achieving 40% of protein daily is extremely difficult, and as a result, you stress yourself out as you try to overeat. Benefits of protein include repairing tissues and muscle, supporting strong bones and bone growth, improving skin, and for your blood.

You need safe protein intake. When people try to gain weight by increasing protein, they often turn to steak, but this is a fatty slab of beef. Eating too much red meat is bad for your arteries. Which is more important, gaining weight or having a healthy heart. There is a way to boost protein without suffocating your heart.

3. Do more strength or HST training

Okay, so you cut the beef, now what? The only way to add muscle is to exercise. Not just any exercises. You need strength and weight training to bulk up. A pilates or aerobics class isn’t going to help you get there. You might need to figure out your food and muscle building supplements first before you change your exercises to bulk up.

Exercises for adding mass are specialized and targeted. I recommend strength and hypertrophy workouts to gain weight. With hypertrophy exercises, or hypertrophy specific training (HST), the goal is cumulative effect of exhaustion in several sets. When this occurs, according to the Georgia State University Dept. of Kinesiology and Health, stimulates the chemical reaction and protein metabolism in the body. A hypertrophy schedule can be done as a split routine, with assisted repetitions, with resistive repetitions, or with super sets. The point is to perform a temporary set of exhaustion for 2-3 reps of a 70-80% load max.

You can do leg exercises and back exercises for bulk and definition, but true size comes from compound exercises.

4. Eat more calories, expend less when you work out

For weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume. The opposite necessary to gain weight fast. You need to consume more calories that you expend. The best way to do that is to lift more and do less aerobic activity, but don’t give it up completely. This does not mean you should opt for high fat, high sodium and sugary foods to gain weight. Be smart about your food choices. Eat high-calorie foods that are rich in nutrients.

It is important not to consume calories mindlessly for the sake of intake. Be thoughtful and make every bite count. Make sure you are always ready to eat, so arm yourself up with bagels, whole wheat waffles, peanut butter in travel containers, peanut butter sandwiches, bran muffins, granola, protein shakes, and nuts. When you eat your big meals, add a few more calories to your plate with seeds, dressings, shredded cheese.

5. Change your eating schedule

Now that you have all your snacks, you need to start eating more frequently. I am talking like every 2-3 hours. Eat your normal breakfast, have a shake a couple hours later, eat lunch, snack, snack, dinner, and then one more snack before bed. When you go to bed at night, eat a sticky meal.  Make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, make an egg scramble, or load a tortilla with lean meats and veggies as a bedtime snack. Don’t reach for ice cream just yet. Reach for muscle builders instead.

You might even consider giving up the large meals altogether. Eat 5 to 7 smaller meals throughout the day instead of your typical larger 3 meals. But, I know you like big meals, so make sure you use the large plates in your pantry instead of the smaller ones, and when you serve yourself, make it a generous serving.

6. Increase nutrient density by enjoying fats

Don’t crack open bag of chips or order a plate of fries just yet. I am not talking that kind of fat. You need healthy fats that are found in nuts, fish, beans, and avocado. These fats are called fatty acids. Some of the best fatty acids for your body and your brain are:

  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Grains
  • Fish
  • Soy

7. Enjoy a shake

If you want to gain weight fast, mix up a shake. There are supplements and shakes made specifically to help you gain weight. They are also loaded with nutrients that help with muscle building and muscle recovery. Weight-gaining shakes and meal replacements are a great way to bulk up without unnecessary calories. They also help you avoid unnecessary sugars and fats. Protein shakes are high in protein, calories, and carbs.

When you are choosing a protein shake, you can find ones for your pre-workout regimen and recovery. When choosing the best protein powder for you, the Cleveland Clinic recommends you consider a few things:

  • Know the difference between whey protein and soy protein, and their uses.
  • Find a powder that matches your goals: build muscles, lose weight, muscle recovery
  • Adhere to your diet demands as restrictions: diabetes, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free
  • Food allergies
  • Affordability

8. Get dairy in your body

There are several ways to add more milk to your bones. Start drinking more milk, add creamer to your coffee, go out for fro-yo and load up on the toppings, snack on yogurt during the day, scoop some sour cream onto your burrito, and add cheese to your sandwiches. Dairy is all around you, you just need to start eating more of it. When you add dairy to your diet, make sure you add full-fat or whole milk products. Don’t head to the cashier with 1%, 2%, or skim milk items. And yes, you can even chase the ice cream man if you want, but stick to ice cream with simple ingredients in them and not candies or sauces.

If that isn’t enough, there are a few more things you can do. When you are trying to gain weight, make sure you get plenty of sleep for muscle recovery, avoid cigarettes, and visit your doc. Yes, visit your doctor. If you need to gain weight and you can’t, give your doctor a call. You will need to have a conversation with your physician about your symptoms, your goals, and your food intake needs. Make sure you track your progress and stay patient. The weight will come, but not if you stress about it.

What are your favorite weight-gaining meals or shakes? For me, I do a weight gain stack that has both mass agents and lean muscle agents, and I combine it with a protein shake. The nice thing about the birthday cake whey protein blend is that I get my protein needs and I get the sweet-tooth satisfaction too. I want to gain weight in a healthy way, so I skip regular cake and ice cream, but you don’t miss it much when you can still drink it when you get it in powder form.


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    Frank Q. Nuttall, MD, PhD Nutr Today. 2015 May; 50(3): 117–128.
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