How to Gain Weight without Getting Fat

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If you want to gain weight that’s more muscle than fat, do it slowly and follow these six bits of advice.

1. Avoid junk food and alcoholic beverages.

YoGain Lean Muscle Massu can gain weight on a diet filled with salty, sugary snacks. But chances are that you’ll become fat, too, and your junk food habit will adversely affect your health over time. Junk food can make you insulin resistant, which muscle muscle-building more difficult.  Nevertheless, if you can’t give up junk food, you can work probably work in a few treat meals each week, without adding too much fat. You can also have a glass of wine with dinner, every now and again too.  Just make sure you earn those treat meals, by eating clean 90-95% of the time otherwise.  Just remember, your nutrition is a primary factor in how much muscle you gain, and how much fat.

2. Count calories.

Keep track of your caloric intake on a daily basis. If you don’t count your calories, you won’t be able to tell how many calories you’re taking in. That’s why you simply must monitor what you eat. Otherwise, you’ll eat too much. Or, you won’t eat enough.

And while you’re keeping track of things, make note of your progress, too. As you grow bigger and stronger, you’ll be encouraged. So weigh yourself. Measure your body fat. Every two weeks, take full body pictures of yourself as well, and keep a training journal. If you notice that you’re gaining fat, lower your daily caloric intake by 100-200 calories.  Alternatively, you may also try lowering your carb intake.

3. Don’t overeat.

You might think going from 1900 calories per day to 3800 or more would help you bulk up. But doubling your caloric intake will make you bigger—and fatter! You won’t build more muscle through calorie spiking to such an extreme. Your body just doesn’t work that way.  You will need to add extra calories slowly and over time.

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4. Gain weight slowly.

The most effective way to get bigger without getting fat is to gain about a pound per week. By slowly increasing your caloric intake, you’ll minimize your fat gain.

The slow method takes effort, it’s true. First, you have to determine the calories you must eat per day to maintain your current weight. To do this:


BMR = 66 + (Weight in pounds X 6.23) + (Height in inches X 12.7) – (Age in years X 6.8)


BMR = 655 + (Weight in pounds X 4.35) + (Height in inches X 4.7) – (Age in years X 4.7)

Once you have been able to calculate the Basal Metabolic Rate, the next step in knowing the total energy requirement of the body is to assess the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

The total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is arrived at by multiplying the calculated basal metabolic rate with an activity multiplier that depends on the kind of physical activity that you are subjecting your body to during the course of each day.

If your activity level is very low with hardly any exercise, the TDEE is arrived at by multiplying the BMR with 1.2; for people involved in mild physical activity or light exercises the TDEE is calculated by multiplying BMR with 1.375; if the person is exercising moderately the TDEE is got by multiplying BMR with 1.55; for people involved in heavy exercises or sporting activity the TDEE is reached by multiplying BMR with 1.725; and for those with high physical stress or those involved in very strenuous exercises the TDEE is BMR multiplied with 1.9. Keep in mind that determining your activity level is before exercise. You might exercise every day, but have a desk job, your activity level would be 1.2 or 1.375.

The TDEE calculated gives you the number of calories you need to maintain your present weight while keeping your energy levels intact to perform your daily activities.

To gain weight without gaining excess fat, add 250-300 calories per day to your number above.  You could go as high as 500 extra calories per day.  It’s best to start at the lower end of added calories.  Then monitor your progress carefully.  If you are gaining less than 1 lb per week, add more calories.  If you are gaining more than 1 lb per week, lower your calories.  You must track your daily calories to be most effective, and to prevent unwanted fat gain.  If you calculate your calories, and its much more than you are eating now, remember, add them in slowly!

It’s also a good idea to eat every two to three hours. Doing so will make it easier for you to get in those extra calories. Have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks. And be sure to consume 1.5 grams of starchy food for every pound of your body weight (potatoes, legumes and beans, brown rice, whole grains, and whole grain breads). If you weigh 200 lbs., for instance, you’d eat 300g of starchy carbohydrates per day. Your body will also need 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight.  A 200 lb man would need 200 grams of protein.

At least one of your daily snacks should be a post-workout shake or light meal comprised of proteins and energy-boosting carbs. A light post workout meal might be chocolate milk, oats, and a banana. If you’re really hungry after you exercise, you could have pasta, lean ground beef, and tomato sauce. Whatever snack you choose, be sure to eat it within four hours of your workout. That’s when your body is most sensitive to insulin.

Making about 90 percent of your diet whole, unprocessed foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will also help you gain weight without getting fat. When possible, choose lean protein, too, such as chicken, and eat nuts, olive oil, and fish.

5. Engage in strength training.

Without strength training, you won’t increase your muscle mass as you increase your weight. Strength training stimulates your body to build muscle. It will also help you stick to your diet. Try a tough muscle-building program like P90X.  We also have a great article on using P90X to Gain Muscle Mass.

If you’re underweight, some fitness experts recommend a faster method of gaining weight, called GOMAD.   The chart below indicates minimum healthy weights for males according to their height:

5′7″ at least 154lbs
5′9″ at least 165lbs
5′11″ at least 176lbs
6′1″ at least 187lbs
6′3″ at least 200lbs

If you are under those specifications, you may try GOMAD, then once you hit your healthy weight, switch to the slow method in order to gain weight without gaining too much fat.  If gaining fat is a big concern, stick with the slow approach, and is the one I favor most.  However, if you want to take a look at GOMAD, here is a link.  And also here is a second link with more information.

6.  Be prepared to make adjustments

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for gaining weight.  If there were, we would all be in perfect condition, and at the perfect weight.  As you attempt to gain lean muscle, be prepared to made adjustments.  For example.  Undoubtedly, you will need to increase your calories.  If after the first week, you gained 2 lbs, you may need to back off the increased calories a bit, and allow your body time to adjust.  You can’t make too big of a change, and expect it to work.  So start adding calories slowly.  As you u see your weight gain begin to slow, increase you calories slightly.  If you gain too much weight, lower them slightly.

You may also need to be flexible in your macronutrients.  You may start at 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fat, but find that may not work best for you.  You may crash during workouts.  If so, increase your complex carbs, a few hours before your workout.  If you notice that you are gaining a 1 lb per week, but seems to be more fat than muscle, you may want to back off the carbs.

What works for one, may not work for the other.  We are all different, different metabolisms, physical build etc.  Fine tune the system, until you find what works for you.  Be patient, be consistent, and you will see the lean muscle mass we all want and crave.  Feel free to post your comments, suggestions, meal plan ideas etc.  What works for you?

Sample Meal Plans

My suggestion for a sample meal plan is either the Insanity Elite Nutrition Plan, or the P90X Plan.  The only difference will be that you are going to INCREASE your calories appropriately.  The Insanity plan, is approximately 40/40/20.  The P90X plan has 3 different phases.  I would recommend Phase 2 or 3.

Leave a comment and subscribe to the comments to catch sample meal plans left by our readers, and myself in the coming days/weeks/months.  Good luck!

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  1. kev

    I am trying to figure out my TDEE. I use p90x now and was wondering what multiplier i should use.

  2. Robert Harden


    P90X has its own nutrition guide, and calorie recommendations. You should look in the nutrition guide to figure this out. Otherwise, your multiplier will take some trial and error. The article gives you some basic guidelines, and you can use those to get started. Then you will want to monitor your results and adjust accordingly.

  3. Jared

    I was wondering if the GOMAD diet has been posted anywhere? I am well under the weight listed for a person of my height, so I figure that GOMAD would be the method I should use at the outset of gaining weight.

  4. Robert Harden


    I posted a link to the article in my post above. I’d take a look at the article, and make your own decision about whether GOMAD is right for you. The essential part of gaining weight is to eat MORE calories than you burn in a day. While everyone has their own preferences, I would gain weight slowly, 1-2 lbs per week, to keep fat at a minimum. But I guess the concept of GOMAD is to get weight on for the real hard gainer. Anyway, hope the information helps.

  5. Gustavo

    If I’m using the P90X to gain muscle mass and following the P90X Hypertrophy schedule, should I stick with Phase 2 of the P90X nutrition plan for the 13 weeks? I finished my first cycle of P90X and followed Phase 1-3 of the nutrition plan, but I think I lost a bit more weight than I wanted, now I want to gain it back and a bit more.

  6. Robert Harden

    The amount of calories is the most important, but I would shoot for about 50% of you calories to be complex carbs. But if you really want to get more muscle…. Beachbody released Body Beast, and this program is designed for adding mass. Complete with workouts AND nutrition.

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