When you log into Pinterest, or even just head over to Google, there is a wealth of (often pretty ridiculous) information on how to lose weight. Mainly aimed at us women. And there is a distinct lack of healthy, muscle weight gain tips for the females of the species. It’s taken numerous searches to find any gleams of decent advice, and YouTube has come into its own. There are some amazing female body builders and personal trainers on there: it’s a great place to find some inspiration. I would recommend checking out the channels of Josie Mai and Carly Rowena. I’ll include some links at the bottom of the page to these channels.
How you gain weight healthily is a lot like how to develop a healthy lifestyle in general: it is your healthy. It may look different to your friend’s healthy, your sister’s or brother’s healthy- and also different to my healthy. Test out different ways, do some research, and if you can seek advice from an actual dietician or doctor- not just this article. For example, I asked my doctor what BMI I should be aiming for, and that has helped me set some realistic goals weight wise. This advice from a specialist is especially important if, like me, your weight is in an unhealthy range, or your menstrual cycle has stopped. If, unlike me, you are recovering from anorexia, or any other weight related disorder, then you MUST consult a doctor. Gaining weight in this case needs to be carefully monitored to ensure your body is healing properly, and that your blood glucose and electrolytes are at healthy levels.
Avocado, oats, dates, peanut and almond butters, bananas…foods that give you more bang for your buck. This means that the volume you have to eat can be slightly less. I struggled to digest the volume of food I needed to hit 2000-2500kcal. By adding in high kcal, nutrient rich foods, it meant that volume of food became less of an issue.
Blending more foods into one can help get maximum nutrition down you
If you have 1/3 cup oats in your porridge, up it to 1/2 cup. Usually have two slices of toast? Have 3.
The solid equivalent of a smoothie. Mash up avocado and pile it onto a piece of chicken or salmon, top chicken with hummus, add a little butter to scrambled eggs, mix peanut butter into your porridge, then top with fruit, nuts, chia or other seeds, honey…
Go with 80g each vegetable you prepare at dinner, make sure you’re getting 1/2 cup of oats…basically, don’t just guess. This is all about making sure you are actually getting the amount of food you think you are.
To gain weight I had to up my calories to 2000kcal per day (working it out, I used to eat between 1700-1800) on non-workout days. On workout days I eat between 2500-2700kcal, depending how hungry my body is. This leads me to…
Never mind if you’ve already had 2500kcal today. If you feel hungry, then eat. This threw me at first: I was having to eat despite not being hungry to gain weight, something completely out of my comfort zone- but even if I hadn’t been hungry, and had hit my kcal goal, my body would sometimes suddenly begin telling me I was hungry at, say, 8:30pm. Although it seems to go against all advice you’ve probably had shoved down your throat, if your body wants food then eat. Drink water first if you feel you might be dehydrated, but if you need food: have it. If its late at night and you’re worried about indigestion then stick to toast with nut butter or regular butter, cereal, porridge, or Greek yoghurt with honey.
I love resistance equipment mixed with weights and some plyo moves right now, performed in super-sets, and just a dab of cardio to warm up and cool down (literally under 20 minutes total for the cardio, compared to around an hour of the rest of the stuff). Cardio is great for weight loss and fat burn, but weights and resistance build up muscle and help you “make gains”. (If you’re under the guidance of a doctor they may want you to ditch the intense workouts altogether, in which case LISTEN TO THEM. For some people who’ve lost their menstrual cycle -and I am one of them, and I plan on testing this out- they have to stop working out for a while to get their body back on track).
My mission is to have as much weight that I gain as possible come from muscle. To do this I need to eat more (as above), workout using weights and resistance with a touch of cardio, and take my rest. Muscles don’t actually grow in the gym, but when you rest. In working out you tear the muscle fibres, which then repair themselves when you rest, filling in the gaps created when they are torn. This new muscle tissue is what leads to muscles growing. And this repair cant happen without sleep, proper nutrition, and a few rest days. This is actually the tip I struggle with the most, as I find it very hard to sit still for too long.
Of food, and of workouts. I keep my workouts (no. of reps, what machine, what weight) in the memos section of my phone, and a log of my food and estimated kcal intake in a book. I also weigh myself maybe once or twice a week, to ensure I’m maintain/gaining, and not losing. This is especially important if you are working out consistently, but want to gain.
Yes, add in a few more treats, but make sure the majority of your meals are wholesome and healthy. You cant survive off of brownies and burgers indefinitely.
Don’t try to eliminate certain food groups. Get a balance. Eliminating food groups is a classic diet tactic. You are not dieting. You are now gaining. You need the carbs and fats for energy to work out, move around in general, and even just to have your brain function as it runs solely on glucose. You need the protein to repair muscles and general wear and tear of the body. Which means you may want to…
This is just to help the muscles repair. The body can only absorb around 20-30g protein in one sitting. Try having a meal with eggs, canned or fresh fish, chicken, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, beans…anything with a decent amount of protein. Don’t forget the carbs though, as mentioned above. Especially if you’ve been lifting weights, then you will need that glucose.
Snacks such as pitta bread, veggie sticks, and a good dollop of hummus are great. Boiled eggs stored in a tub are also a good option, as well as nuts, yoghurts, some bars, and fresh and dried fruit.
This is what has been working for me, you may want to do something different: try a variety of ways of eating.
Never be caught with no food in, or inadequate food to fuel yourself.
Buy food you like, because believe me, at first its all fun and games eating more, but then after a week or so I got sick of food. It lost its appeal. Find some new ingredients or products to use along side sure favourites, and keep life interesting to stay motivated. I’ve tried some dairy free ice creams, cacao, dried apple rings, vegan cakes, different varieties of oatcakes, made hummus, have gotten hold of new nut butters…