Isn’t it a bitch to be young and have good genetics? The most common question I hear from younger trainees is, “How do I gain weight?” When you’re young, it seems like you can eat anything anytime and just never gain weight. Enjoy it while you can, kiddos! Very few will see this situation stretch into adulthood. But I do have a fail-proof four-step process to recommend for those trainees who need to put the brakes on the scale weight. It’s pretty simple, really:
- Step 1: Get out your trusty blender.
- Step 2: Put every calorie-dense, nutrient-dense thing that will fit in the blender into the blender.
- Step 3: Blend.
- Step 4: Grow.
Now, what do you put into the blender?
- Any weight-gain or protein powder is fine
- Powdered milk
- Peanut butter
- Honey (I recommend local honey and, yes, it does help with environmental allergies)
- Blackstrap or raw molasses
- Oatmeal or any other kind of meal—grits, Cream of Wheat, etc.—is fine, as long as you can handle the texture; they thicken the shake so be careful not to add too much
- Wheat germ (an old-school favorite, loaded with choline)
- Rich Piana’s Real Food (great carb source in powder form)
- Whole milk or even half-and-half
- Any fatty oil, like fish, hemp, or flax
- Chicken breasts (I know it sounds gross, but YouTube it—it works)
- Bananas and other fruit (fine for flavor but they don’t pack much calorie punch)
- Almond milk (won’t do much for the bulking, but the fiber is good and the magnesium will help with your recovery time)
- Spinach or other dark green leafy veggies (good protein, good fiber, good magnesium)
- Always throw one or two scoops of Metamucil in there. Just trust me on that one.
Then just have fun with it! Let out your inner Iron Chef. Experiment until you find something you can stomach because you are going to be drinking A LOT of this blender goodness.
When do you drink this stuff?
- With meals
- Between meals
- ALWAYS drink a big portion immediately after a workout.
Your blended diet is going to be in addition to food, not instead of it. Never get more calories from liquid than from food. Shoot for 20 times your body weight goal in calories from food a day and at least 10 times from the blender bomb to start. Then, every 20 pounds or so, it’s a good idea to take some time off of the shakes because, as with anything, your body will adapt and progress will stall. You will find that you only need to replace about half of the calories you were getting from the shakes with solid food to maintain or even continue gaining. The old school guys, like John McCallum and Randy Strossen, swore by the blender bomb strategy. To this day, there is just no arguing with its effectiveness.
Another strategy: BIG MEALS. It’s become dogma within the strength-training world that competitors should eat at least 4 meals per day, if not more. However, my education and experience has led me to believe that eating 2 or 3 really big meals per day produces better results in terms of maintaining calorie excess. The trickle feeding approach will actually boost metabolism as the body uses the needed calories in constant digestion, rather than storing excess calories. But pigging out twice a day, in addition to the blender bomb, stimulates insulin production. Insulin is the hormone that triggers the calorie storage we like. In theory, we want this storage to be muscle mainly. But, in reality, if you’re plagued with skinny, then this storage can be a little more gross than net. The large surplus of calories will metaphorically overwhelm the metabolism as a whole and keep it occupied, ideally resulting in more time for storage and repair. Without turning every meal into a race, consume your calories as quickly as is comfortably possible—do not spend an hour eating. I’m giving you permission to chow here!! Get that food down fast so you can get to that Thanksgiving Day feeling, where you feel so full, you have to open your belt up a notch.
What do I mean exactly by “big meals”? If you weigh 200 pounds and your goal is 220, your daily calorie goal is 4400, so your goal for each meal in a 2-meal day is 2200 calories. Those calories can take many forms. The less clean the food is, the less volume you need to ingest. A solid, up-sized fast food meal will get you there with as little food volume as possible. But, obviously, greasy pizza, chili dogs, and deep fried crap are not great for your body. Sodas are poison, and sugary sports drinks are only good after workouts or before and during competitions. On the other hand, a healthy meal of skinless chicken breasts and rice will force your digestive system to chew a good portion of the day away. So, as with all of life, I recommend a balance. If you are going to use sauces or dressings to increase calories, maybe up your game a little and make them at home. Homemade Ranch dressing made with quality ingredients isn’t a wheat grass shot, but it is a whole lot better than whatever they put in the stuff at Jack in the Box. Benedikt Magnusson’s wife made a terrific cookbook with all sorts of great recipes and tips for adding calorie density to healthy whole food meals. When I was young, I would often do the calories for calorie’s sake shortcut, but I can tell you with 20/20 hindsight that it would have been better in the long run if I had been nice to myself in making food choices. You only have one body, so be as good to it as you can. It’ll thank you for it later, when your metabolism issues are quite the opposite of your current situation.
This 2-meal-a-day approach may leave you feeling low-energy throughout the day. Your best strategy will be to wake up to a shake or a very light food meal. Then go do your training workout, followed by Big Meal #1. Big Meal #2 should happen a couple of hours before bed at night—not so early that you wake up hungry, but not so close to sleep that you wake up with acid reflux choking you out.
One last suggestion: If you do not have the “My Fitness Pal” mobile app, get it. It will paint a more accurate picture of actual calorie intake/output than a glance at the grocery bill.
Leave any comment, question, or suggestion here on the blog or email me at email@example.com if you want to continue this discussion or pursue my online coaching. I would love to hear from you.
“As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”—Donald Trump