Weight Gain For Girls (and Guys)

    You may be aware by now (if you follow my IG) that I am currently on a mission to gain some weight- preferably muscle. And also do this as healthily as possible. Which is proving rather hard.

    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.
     

    Most of the information I found had an assumed audience of men, but it eventually dawned on me that this would probably work for me as well. However, I guess that there are a few more ladies who need a bit of a helping hand when it comes to weight gain- be it for health reasons, or for aesthetics. These are my tips, that I have found to work through trial and error in the past two months or so. I am definitely stronger than I was: I can now do full push ups, and have increased the amount of weight I use in my workouts. Sustainable progress comes slowly: it’s taken me about 2 months to gain 5lb (with a blip of being unwell in the middle, and so losing some weight as I wasn’t keeping food down). I look healthier, but other than that virtually no different, and still fit into my clothes. I can only assume that this is because I have gained muscle with a little fat- I have no body fat calculators on tap, but can go by how my body feels.
    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.
     
    My experience so far with gaining weight has been up and down. At first it is incredibly hard to eat enough to manage weight gain- especially if you’re working out as well. You need to create a deficit of 3500kcal to lose 1lb of fat. This means you need to eat 500kcal less than usual each day to lose 1lb in a week. So think about how much extra you have to eat to do the reverse, and gain weight. But your body does adjust. I now naturally tend to hit anywhere from 2000kcal-2700kcal, depending on if its been a gym day or not. Its a matter of perseverance to be honest. I also changed up my workouts in order to encourage muscle gain. I can go into this in more detail in another post. Although there are a couple of nods to working out in this post, for now let’s focus on the foodie side…

     
     
Pack in nutrient dense foods

 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.

Smoothies

Blending more foods into one can help get maximum nutrition down you

Make small adjustments

If you have 1/3 cup oats in your porridge, up it to 1/2 cup. Usually have two slices of toast? Have 3.

Combine foods

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…

Weigh out portions

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.

Eat more on gym days/if you have been more active

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…

If you get hungry, eat

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.

Shake up your work out

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). 

Take rest days

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.

Keep track

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.

Don’t try and gain it using junk food

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.

Eat your carbs and fats, as well as your protein

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…

Get protein in after a gym session

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.

Keep snacks on hand, and have them prepared to pick up quickly

 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.

You may want to consider eating three meals and three snacks a day

This is what has been working for me, you may want to do something different: try a variety of ways of eating.

Plan meals

Never be caught with no food in, or inadequate food to fuel yourself.

 
Have with food

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…

#treatyoself
(I will never forgive myself for using a hashtag here)
Enjoy your food. Have meals out and choose what you want. Treat yourself, and don’t feel bad for it. Obviously don’t eat a pint of ice-cream every day, but order that dessert on special occasions, have that burger or that bowl of pasta. So much advice surrounding us regarding weight is about weight loss e.g. don’t eat pasta, or carbs, or fats, or protein, or go out for food, or have dessert. You are not trying to lose weight, so drop the diet mentality. Start developing a way of eating and treating that is sustainable.  

And here are the links I promised…
Carly Rowena’s channel…. https://www.youtube.com/user/Carlyrowena
Josie Mai’s channel…. https://www.youtube.com/user/josievmai

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2 thoughts on “Weight Gain For Girls (and Guys)

  1. I just wanted to say how much I love your blog, I wish there were more posts to read but I've read them all. It may sound creepy but I seem to relate to every single one of your posts – when you give advice I always follow it and it always works out successful. I hope one day you are able to write a book or something to help out other people like me. Thank you xx

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  2. Hey! It's not creepy at all; thank you so much for leaving me such a lovely comment! I'm so glad to hear that you enjoy reading the posts, and that they help; if you have any posts you'd like to see, or that you think would be useful do let me know- I love hearing back from people who read the blog! Haha a book would be a dream come true…it'll probably be a while off yet though 😉 I've been considering creating a YouTube channel for months now though, so who knows? Maybe that could be next on the cards… Xx

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