Muscle for life

How Much Food You Need to Gain Weight (and How to Eat It)

How Much Food You Need to Gain Weight (and How to Eat It)

If you want to know how much food you have to eat to gain weight, and how to actually do it, then you want to read this article.


There’s no way around it.

If you want to gain weight (and muscle) efficiently, you’re going to need to be able to eat a lot of food.

Not as much as some “gurus” would have you believe (which we’ll talk more about soon), but a lot nonetheless.

To some people, that sounds glorious.

They finally get to indulge their outsized appetites.

To many others, though, that sounds daunting. Harrowing, even.

They’ve never been one for feasting and only have to peck at food to feel full.

If that’s you, this article is going to help.

In it, we’re going to cover how to know how much food you actually need to eat to gain weight and how to comfortably (and healthily) pack it all in.

Let’s get to it.

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How Much Food to Gain Weight?

You’ve probably heard that big muscles require a big appetite.

You’ve probably also heard that “bulking” is unnecessary and even counter-productive because of excessive fat gain.

Well, there is truth in both of these statements.

If you follow a cookie-cutter bodybuilding bulking program, you will probably gain a lot more fat than muscle.

That said, if you want to maximize muscle growth, you need to eat a rather large amount of food (which requires a robust appetite).

The reason for this is simple:

Muscle growth is strongly affected by how much food you eat.

Not just protein (which matters too, of course)…but food (calories).

The bottom line is if you don’t eat enough calories every day, you’re going to always struggle with gaining muscle.

Now, the idea that you have to “eat big to get big” has been kicking around the bodybuilding space for decades.

What isn’t generally known, though, is how this works physiologically (and how to do it without piling on body fat).

The reason caloric intake affects muscle growth has to do with something known as energy balance.

Energy balance is the relationship between how much energy you feed your body every day and how much it burns.

(These quantities are measured in calories.)

If you feed your body less energy than it burns, you’ve created a “negative energy balance” or “calorie deficit.”

This is necessary for losing fat but comes with several downsides:

That is, when in a calorie deficit, your body can’t build muscle tissue as efficiently as when you’re not in a deficit.

This further decreases protein synthesis and increases protein degradation rates.

  • It impairs workout performance.

When you’re in a calorie deficit, you can expect a reduction in strength, muscle endurance, and overall energy levels.

This, in turn, impairs progression in your workouts, which impairs muscle growth.

What do these three things tell us about diet and muscle gain, then?

It’s simple:

If you want to build muscle effectively, you need to make sure you’re not in a calorie deficit.

Instead, you want to do the opposite: feed your body slightly more energy than its needs.

This is known as placing it in a “positive energy balance” or “calorie surplus.”

This ensures your body can build muscle unhindered and results in fat gain as well (as a portion of the energy surplus is stored as body fat.)

(It’s worth noting that some people–newbies, mainly–can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but they’re a small minority. The rest of us will need to heed the advice in this article.)

Where this can go astray, however, is in the size of the calorie surplus.

Many people mistakenly assume that a large surplus helps you build muscle faster than a slight one.

Well, this isn’t true.

It only causes you to gain more fat (which in turn can slow down muscle gain).

The reason for this is a calorie surplus doesn’t have muscle-building properties per se. It’s simply a way to ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit.

Think of it like this:

A calorie surplus doesn’t press down on the gas–it lets off the brake.

Now, one of way of achieving a calorie surplus is throwing down many thousands of calories every day.

If you eat like a Clydesdale, you will gain weight.

You don’t want to just gain weight, though. You want to gain muscle.

And that’s why you want to maintain a slight calorie surplus when bulking.

This allows you to build muscle efficiently without gaining large amounts of fat.

Specifically, I recommend that you maintain a 5 to 10% calorie surplus when bulking.

That is, eat around 105 to 110% of your total daily energy expenditure (and balance your macros properly) and you’ll be in the “sweet spot” for gaining “lean muscle.”

You know you have to right when you’re gaining 0.5 to 1 pound per week (and about half that for women).

And in terms of the ratio muscle to fat gain, 1:1 seems to be pretty standard (for every 1 pound of muscle gain, 1 pound of fat is gained too).

If you’re gaining more fat than muscle, you’re probably eating more than you should (whether you realize it or not). And if you’re gaining more muscle than fat, you probably have good genetics.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

What If You’re Still Not Gaining Weight?

Still Not Gaining Weight

Some people will follow my advice above and still fail to gain weight.

They may gain strength but the scale just won’t budge.

Well, assuming they’re following an effective workout program and recovering adequately from their training, the solution is simple:

Eat more.

Some people’s bodies just have faster metabolisms and much higher caloric needs than others’.

You learn this by trial and error.

Specifically, here’s how you do it right:

1. Keep your protein at 1 gram per pound of body weight.

There’s no need to eat more than this.

2. Increase your daily calorie intake by 100 to 150 calories by increasing carbohydrate intake.

That is, add 25 to 35 grams of carbs to your daily intake.

3. If, after 7 to 10 days, your weight is still the same, repeat #2.

Increase daily carb intake repeatedly until you’re gaining weight at the desired rate.

4. If you’re eating upward of 3 grams of carb per pound of body weight and still aren’t gaining weight, start increasing protein and/or fat intake.

There’s a point where eating more carbs becomes unfeasible (and potentially unhealthy).

Most people like to start with increasing protein intake before fat, but this too can become too burdensome once you reach an intake of about 1.5 grams per pound of body weight.

It’s really that simple.

5 Ways to Eat More Food to Gain Weight

Ways to Eat More Food to Gain Weight

You now know how to determine how much you need to eat to gain weight.

Chances are that’s not why you came to this article, though.

You’re probably here because you physically struggle to eat enough food.

Well, in this section of the article, I’m going to share with you 5 simple tips for comfortably eating more food.

That said, realize that when you keep your body in a calorie surplus, it’s natural to feel like you’re overeating.

You are.

And when you’re overeating, it’s also natural to find less desire for and delight in food.

You see, your body doesn’t want to gain or lose weight. It wants to balance energy intake and output to remain the same, and it has various physiological levers it can pull to accomplish this.

This is why people that maintain a weight by eating intuitively (eating when they’re hungry and until they’re satisfied) often have trouble gaining (and holding onto) weight.

They’re just not used to overriding their well-functioning appetite and eating according to a plan as opposed to a perception.

Well, just know that this is something you’re going to have to battle with.

Everyone does.

The following suggestions will help you win that fight.

1. Increase Meal Frequency

Increase Meal Frequency

Eating more meals every day doesn’t help you burn more fat, but it can help tremendously with eating more calories.

Many people I speak with that have trouble eating enough food eat just 2 to 3 larger meals per day.

Many also skip breakfast.

Well, an easy way to increase their food intake is to have them eat a larger number of (smaller) meals every day.

For example, some people find that eating five 500-calorie meals per day (2,500 calories) is more enjoyable than three 700-calorie meals (2,100 calories).

We also often add snacks in between larger meals and a pre-sleep meal as well.

In some cases, people have started waking up earlier to eat a “pre-breakfast” meal and thus get in more food by the end of the day.

2. Limit Your Intake of Low-Calorie Foods

foods to avoid to gain weight

One of the most common mistakes I see “hardgainers” make is eating too many low-calorie foods.

And especially low-calorie foods that are also very filling, like fruits and vegetables that contain a large amount of fiber (apples, beans, raspberries, split peas, bananas, etc.).











Well, you certainly should eat a few servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but the more you eat beyond that, the harder it’s going to be to gain weight.

One of the reasons for this is satiety (fullness) is affected more by volume than calories.

For example, in a study conducted by scientists at Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that adding air to a milkshake to make it appear double the size (without changing its calories) reduced food intake at a subsequent meal by 12% and lowered reports of hunger.

Other research shows that even the perception of food volume affects satiety.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol found that the more fruit subjects believed was in a smoothie, the fuller it made them feel.

This is why many fruits and vegetables are often touted as great “weight loss foods.”

They don’t have any special inherent fat-burning properties, but they do provide a lot of volume for very little calories, which keeps you full and makes you less likely to overeat.

That’s obviously a boon when you’re cutting but a barricade when you’re bulking.

We should also talk about whole vs. refined grains.

You’ve probably heard that highly processed carbs like white bread, white rice, and white pasta should be avoided by all people under all circumstances because they make you fat.

This is nonsense.

First, individual foods can’t make you fat. Only overeating can.

That said, some foods increase the likelihood of overeating more than others. Highly processed grains are one of these foods, mainly due to appetite stimulation.

This is why it’s a good idea for the average overweight, sedentary person to limit their intake of refined grains. It will help prevent weight gain and decrease the risk of metabolic disease.

You’re not that person, though.

You not only could benefit from some appetite stimulation, you exercise regularly so your body has a much greater demand for energy (and carbs are primarily energetic).

You should also be lean if you’re trying to gain weight (and I explain why here), which further helps your body burn and utilize (and not store as fat) the carbs you eat.

And last but not least, a large percentage of your daily calories should be coming from wholesome foods, which means your diet as a whole will be nutritious despite the inclusion of foods that are less nourishing.

In reality, refined grains are going to be particularly useful for you because they are less filling than whole grains.

Thus, they can help you comfortably eat more food every day.

3. Eat More Calorie-Dense Foods

Calorie Dense Foods

As you now know, food choices are a very important part of making your appetite work for and not against you when you’re trying to gain weight.

Eat too many filling, low-calorie foods and you’ll never be able to hit your daily targets.

Eat a lot of calorie-dense foods, though, and you might find it relatively easy.

Here are some of my favorite calorie-dense bulking foods:

  • Whole-fat dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.)
  • Whole eggs
  • Higher-fat cuts of meat (like ground beef, chicken thighs, skirt steak, NY strip, ribeye, etc.)
  • Whole grain foods like bread, pancakes, pasta, rice, oatmeal (steel-cut oatmeal is particularly calorie dense), etc.
  • Refined grain foods like white rice, white pasta, and homemade baked goods made with all-purpose flour.
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Granola and muesli

As you can see, I like to avoid low-fat and “diet” foods and stick mainly to higher-calorie, relatively-unprocessed fare.

(I’m not a big believer in “dirty bulking,” either, where you eat large amounts of sugar-laden and highly processed foods like chips, baked goods, ice cream, etc.)

Another good tip is to add sauces and condiments to meals when possible.

For example, if you’re going to eat yogurt, add two tablespoons of honey or maple syrup and you’ve increased the meal by about 130 calories. (Throw in 1/2 of a cup of granola and there’s another ~300 calories.)

You can spice up many chicken and beef dishes in particular with sauces like barbecue sauce (~50 calories per tablespoon), mayonnaise (~90 calories per tablespoon), sour cream (~25 calories per tablespoon), ranch dressing (~75 calories per tablespoon), etc.

Adding butter and/or oil (~100 calories per tablespoon) to foods that you cook is yet another easy way to increase caloric intake (and deliciousness!).

4. Drink Calories

Drink Calories gain weight

Here’s another example of advice that’s bad for the average person but beneficial for you.

The reason for this is caloric beverages, ranging from soda to sports and energy drinks to fruit juices, don’t trigger satiety like food.

You can drink 1,000 calories and be hungry an hour later, whereas eating 1,000 calories of food, including a good portion of protein and fiber, will probably keep you full for 5 to 6 hours.

Here’s a quote from researchers at Purdue University, who investigated the influence of meal timing and food form on daily energy intake:

“Based on the appetitive findings, consumption of an energy-yielding beverage either with a meal or as a snack poses a greater risk for promoting positive energy than macronutrient-matched semisolid or solid foods consumed at these times.”

That is, people that drink calories are much more likely to overeat than those that don’t.

This is why research shows a clear association between greater intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain, in both adults and children.

Well, what’s poison to most people is meat to you.

You’re here to learn how to (comfortably and controllably) overeat and drinking calories is a tool you should have in your bag.

I don’t recommend you drink your calories indiscriminately, though.

Sugars–both those added to and naturally occurring in foods–aren’t as harmful as some people would have you believe, but eating too much of them is.

The World Health Organization recommends that we eat no more than 50 grams of free sugar per day and, ideally, 25 grams or less per day.

(“Free sugar” is defined as “sugars added to foods plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.” This excludes sugars naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and dairy, which are processed differently by the body than free sugar.)

This recommendation is based on an extensive review of existing research on the association between free sugar intake and disease.

To put this in perspective, a can of Coke contains 33 grams of (free) sugar, a cup of orange juice contains (on average) 21 grams, and a tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams.


Now, we do need to keep in mind that these recommendations are for the average overweight person that moves very little and thus has little need for sugars.

You’re not that person, which means you have more wiggle room with your sugar intake.

Nevertheless, I think that taking that as a license to eat very large amounts of sugars every day is a mistake.

When bulking, I personally try to keep my total free sugar intake below 50 grams per day (and often eat quite a bit less).

You accomplish this by eating large amounts of high-carb, low-free-sugar foods like fruit, grains and starches like rice, wheat, oats, potato, and beans and watching your intake of free-sugar-rich foods like dried fruit, fruit juice, soda, candy, and the like.

So, when it comes to drinking calories, the key takeaway is twofold:

  • Avoid beverages with added sugar.

Instead, I recommend that you stick with whole, rice, or almond milk and no-sugar-added fruit juice.

You can also use these liquids to make delicious protein smoothies.

  • Don’t try to drink a large amount of your daily calories (think of caloric beverages as dietary supplements, not staples)

Most people find that simply adding 2 to 3 cups of whole milk or fruit juice to their daily meal plan is enough to get the needle moving.

5. Make Food That Tastes Good

food to eat to gain weight and muscle

By now, you’ve come to terms with the fact that gaining weight requires eating a lot of food. More food than you’re comfortable eating, probably.

Well, if you’re a foul bachelor frog in the kitchen, you’re going to make a lot of bland or worse food that’s a chore to eat.









And when you realize that you’re going to have to slog through plates of animal fodder every day for many months, motivation (understandably) wanes.

This is why I learned to cook (well, learned to find and follow good recipes is more accurate).

It enables you to keep your calories fresh and appetizing and helps prevent the “food fatigue” that plagues so many bodybuilders and fitness folk.

What About Supplements?

supplements to gain weight


I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.








Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your back (and other) workouts.



Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.


The Bottom Line on Eating Enough Food to Gain Weight

food eat gain weight fast

Gaining muscle and weight is like most things health and fitness.

There aren’t any shortcuts or “hacks.” Just diligent application of the fundamentals with some commonsensical tweaks and calibrations.

So, if you’re having trouble gaining weight, here’s what you need to do:

  • Accept that it entails eating more food than you would naturally and comfortably eat.
  • Work out through calculation and trial and error how much food you need to eat to gain 0.5 to 1 (men)/0.25 to 0.5 (women) pounds per week.
  • Play with meal timing and frequency and food and beverage choices until you’re able to eat this amount of food every day.
  • Spice up your meal plans with new dishes as needed.
  • Keep putting in the work every day.

If you do that, I promise you’ll be able to gain weight (and muscle) with ease.


What’s your take on how to eat enough food to gain weight? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Stephen Williams

    Say for example your tdee is 3,000 and you consume a 10% surplus (3,300 kcals). Would you consume this all the way through the bulk or would it be wise to gradually increase calories (carbs) over time? So every 2 weeks or so add an extra 25g of carbs to the meal plan. Or is it dependant on whether you’re still gaining .5-1lb a week? Thanks

    • It completely depends on the results. You’d keep that intake as long as you’re getting results. Once you stop gaining 1/2-1 pound a week, you’d increase the intake.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Roston Willis

    I have the opposite problem. I am a pretty light guy, and after I get my daily calories with surplus I am still freaking starving. I have finally resorted to using intermittent fasting and eating all my food in a 4 hour window because that is the only way I get to feel satisfied for a few hours. My macros are on point, maybe low on fats. It is torture to to starve while I’m in a cut and then still be starving on a bulk. I didn’t have trouble sticking to my cut diet, but it is hard not to over eat when I am starving and I know I will be cutting in a few months.

    • I hear you man. How much weight are you gaining weekly?

      • Roston Willis

        It averages to about 1.2 pounds per week from when I started, but some of that is creatine weight. I do zero cardio atm. So, I am thinking of adding some hiit to give me a little more leeway, but even that won’t give me more than a couple hundred calories. I eat the same thing every day. I am considering switching my carb source from pasta to potatoes to see if there is a difference.

        • Hmm. Alright. Some faster weight gain at the beginning is normal due to water and glycogen, but you want to keep the weight gain within 1/2-1 pound a week other than that.

          Eh. I’m okay with doing some cardio while bulking, but you want to keep it to 1-1.5 hours a week. Check this out:


          Good call. Pasta is pretty calorie dense. LMK how it goes with potato. Vegetables in general are a great way to fill you up without using a lot of cals.

    • Miroslav Kovar

      I used to have similar problem and these are some tricks that helped me:
      * Eat slowly and mindfully, chew properly and drink while eating.

      * Eat a lot of low-cal vegetables, but ALWAYS accompany them with protein and fat, otherwise you will just get more hungry. Think of vegetables as filler, not the main meal.

      * After you finish a meal, if you still feel hungry, try to get eating out of your mind and do something else for 10 – 20 mins. If you are still hungry after that, do small amount of high intensity cardio, but not enough to get sweaty. Depending on your level of fitness, 25 burpees may be enough.

  • Bryan

    Does the amount of weight you should try to gain per week change the more advanced into weightlifting you get? For example, you said the first year, gains can be had at a rate of up to 1-2 lbs per month. In order to get there at a 1:1 fat:muscle gain rate that means roughly gaining a pound of mass a week. As time goes on and the body can optimally build less and less muscle on a weekly basis, do you “bulk” with less calories? Like instead of 1lb a week, 0.5 lbs a week for your second year or is it always optimal to stay in the 5%-10% range which obviously would build more fat than muscle in the later stages? Thanks

    • Yeah I’d say once someone has gained their first 20 to 25 pounds (guy, half that for women), a weekly gain of 0.5 pounds is a good goal.

      That said, this is something you’ll just have to experience and see how your body responds.

  • TheWriteStuff


    I didn’t know how else to reach you. Some interesting new research was just released by a former professor at McMaster University on protein intake while training in a calorie deficit. Check it out: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/103/3/738.full.pdf


  • Sam

    Question: for someone who’s skinny fat and trying to get bigger but stay kind of ripped like have abs and stuff, do you recommend this bulking diet or a more constricted one?

  • Juan Carlos Martinez

    awesome article! im thinking of starting a lean a mass phase but contemplated it because of my recent purchase of forge. Weird thing is Ive been reverse dieting, and Ive Been seeing some awesome results with it i look leaner even though the scale says I have not lost weight, I feel it.I never thought id get leaner ADDING in calories! I also cant cant believe I had the energy to do treadmill sprints HIIT on an empty stomach using only black coffee and forge! youre the man MIKE!!!

    • Thanks!

      Great job on what you’ve done so far. That rocks.

      Up to you on the bulking. If you REALLY want to stay lean, then I wouldn’t do it, but if you don’t mind gaining some fat to gain muscle quicker, bulk. 🙂

  • Hello, Mike. Right on cue with this article as usual. I took your advice and started the clean bulking. I’m gaining 0.5 kg per week and I am feeling stronger in the gym and lifting heavier weights.

    I’m surprised with how much stronger I feel with only a slight increase in calories. It’s made a big difference. How long should I keep this up before I cut? I was thinking until I hit around 85kg(I started the bulk at 79kg).

    Also, did you get my email with the photos yet? Thanks.

  • William Lim Jr

    Great article again, Mike!

    Have you looked into Oat Milk? I just tried one and it tastes great, a lot better than rice milk. Would you recommend that as well. The brand I tried (It looks like there’s only one available) has 25 g of carbs per serving. I’m not sure if the 19 g of sugar is free or added, but there’s no sugar (or other sugar namesakes) in the ingredients list. It is a bit more expensive than rice milk. Would you recommend it?


    • Thanks!

      Nope never tried it but I bet it’s good. I would use it.

  • Juan Carlos Martinez

    Hey mike! Just bought Phoenix fat burner when would be the best time to use it? I also have forge and will be implementing that into my morning HIIT intervals thanks in advance! 🙂

    • Hey Juan! Thanks for picking up Phoenix!

      Try taking it with Forge in the morning if you can. If it doesn’t sit well with you, take 2 capsules with meals twice a day.

      LMK how it goes! Talk soon.

  • Travis Schultz

    Mike, thank you for all of your articles, web site, & books! I definitely do not have a problem with gaining “weight”, as I used to be ~40 pounds heavier than I am right now. I have always had a problem with gaining “muscle” though. I understand ~95% of this article. You say that a male should be able to gain weight at a rate of 0.5 to 1.0 pound per week. You also said that it’s a 50/50 split between muscle and fat. I am 5′-9″ and weigh ~170 and have been hovering around 15% body fat for the past 2 years. My calorie expense is right at 2,000 on a day I don’t exercise (fairly sedentary at my desk job). If I lift weights hard for say 45+ minutes 3 times per week, say I burn ~250 calories extra on those days. If I eat 2,200 calories on the off days, and ~2500 on my weight lifting days (so calories surplus) trying to balance protein to carbs or carbs slightly higher, I definitely still feel I’m on a diet as probably 3000 calories is probably my average. I get toned, and my strength increases for say the first 30 days of such a routine, but then virtually no muscle, size, or strength gain to speak of after, plus I lose energy and focus as time goes on… especially because I’m not seeing any gains. If I increase my calories, then I gain fat at a faster rate. Not really sure what is wrong? My workout is normally 6 sets for each muscle group, starting at 12 reps, then down to 6 at an increment of 2, then the last 2 sets are a super set of 12 reps each to get good pump (last reps can’t lift any more). Everyone I talk to seems to say this plan should work, but it’s not. Any ideas? Thank you!

    • nullibro

      Hey man, not sure if this helps but I find that heavy squats and heavy deadlifts are about the only exercises that stimulate hypertrophy. I run 3 mesocycles between max effort tests, and the magic schemes for me are 5×5 for squats, 5×3 for deadlifts. I’ve found it ideal to start at 80% of my PR then progress linearly like this: 80% 85% 90% 65% 85% 90% 95% 65% 90% 95% 100% 65% test max (usually attempt 105% sometimes 110%). I use triples for deadlifts as i found after about 200kg (440ib) 5×5 exceeded my ability to recover. Also, i have found once I am using weights around 2x bodyweight for these rep schemes I need to average around 3500 calories per day just to break even. I also benchpress using triples, but, basically ny bench only improves when my squat does these days. My bf sits between 15% and 18% these days, and i find it really easy to cut back from 18% (Pretty much just use carb cycling to achieve this).

      Also, i run 2 light days, so my split is 3xheavy days, squat bench deadlift, then light squat, light bench. I have found it extremely beneficial for recovery to run the light days, using 55% of my estimated 1rm for 8-10 speedy triples, placing a heavy focus upon rep speed and technique.

      • nullibro

        Oh i forgot to mention, my work is very active (im a civil plumber). Using a heartrate monitor, I have tracked both work days and sedentary days and found that work days burn an extra 750 calories on average.

  • Tanya Jane Williams

    I am a 29 year old woman and I only go to the gym 3 days a week and a long walk in the weekend.I dropped a gym session because I didn’t want to lose more weight,which I have slowly anyways. I was wondering if the advice in this article is suitable for me?

    • Yep, it will. In short, you need to be eating more and this article can help with that if you have trouble eating enough. 🙂

      • Tanya Jane Williams

        Thank you 🙂 I will read this article again and try to apply it to how I eat. A little scared I will gain too much fat but I might not as I work quite hard when I work out.

        • Welcome! You can always adjust your intake if you’re gaining too quickly. 🙂

  • NB1986

    Hi again Mike,

    Yet another query for you…

    So I’ve been working towards a gradual caloric surplus since November. I got down to 1600 calories and have been gradually increasing cals by 100 depending on whether I adds around 0.5ibs of weight. My workouts have been exactly as in your book for 5 days a week workout, which I’ve been sticking to most weeks, though some days I’ll only manage 4 days a week due to work commitments. So my bulk started at about 137ibs and I’m now around 143. My macros are pretty much 45% carbs, 30% protein and 25% fat, and my calories are currently 2600. So I’ve not been putting much weight on over the past few weeks, trying to go steady as advised, working hard at the gym. However, I’m confident my body fat is going up, and I have no idea why… I can’t be losing muscle and gaining fat, I’m not eating too much that I’m gaining fat, I just don’t get it. The calipers are gradually going up as well as me noticing it myself. What gives!?!?


    • No worries!

      Hmm. How much weight are you gaining weekly on average? Are your lifts going up? Are you getting stronger?


      • NB1986

        I’d probably guess an average figure after 0.8 gains then random drops of 0.6, then gains back of 1.5 pounds, average out at maybe 0.6 pounds a week? Past 4 weeks have been minimal with an average gain of 0 pounds, though once I get my weekly average this week I expect to go up slightly. Yep I’m ensuring I improve every week on most exercises. Bench press is probably the only main compound lift I struggle to add real weight to regularly.

        Confusing huh? I’m visiting New York from England next week as well… No gym and lots of food… Haha!

        Thanks as always Mike.

        • Hmm. Alright well first, let’s get your diet consistent so that you’re consistently gaining 1/2-1 pound a week. I recommend setting up a meal plan so you know you’re hitting your target cals/macros:


          Glad to hear your lifts are going up. Let’s keep that up too. 🙂

          Uh oh, haha. There’s a lot of great food in New York.

          Enjoy it!


          • NB1986

            Yeah, well I already track as much as I can, apart from if I eat out once at the weekend or something like that. I’m wondering whether I jumped up calories too quickly. I mean, there are weeks in the past where I’ve jumped 2.5 ibs one week, then 0.5 the next, so I’d go up 100 cals. I’ve recalculated my TDEE and multiplied for 4-6 hours exercise a week, and it seems I’m 150 over that at the moment. However, as I’m
            Getting stronger I’ll probably keep it at that as I haven’t gained much over the past few weeks! I’ll keep you posted. Progress from cut to now below anyway…


          • Hmm. Sounds like you may have an issue with water retention. Take a look at this:


            Happy to hear you’re getting stronger! LMK what you think about the water retention and for now, let’s maintain the 150 cal surplus.

            Sounds good! Talk soon.

  • Hao


    Thank you for everything that you do. I think it’s freaking awesome how you’re so active on this site. You seem like a big proponent of sharing knowledge, so again, here’s a huge thank you for that. People like you make the world a better place and keep it moving forward! I own two of your books, “The Shredded Chef”, and a kindle edition of “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger”. Both are such fantastic resources and I’m very glad I discovered them. I’ve been reading articles on this site all day and it’s honestly like being a kid in a candy store. This site is literally a one stop shop for honest, quality information. I’m currently doing a 5×5 strength routine, working out in the morning three days a week. It’s called StrongLifts 5×5 and each session starts with the squat, ive solely been doing high bar. With the exception of the squat, each workout alternates and the only exercises are rows, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press, all with barbells. The program calls for adding 5 lbs each session, provided you didnt miss any reps the previous session. I’ve spent years in the gym making no gains and really just mindlessly moving relatively light weights up and down and two months ago i told myself it’s time to really dedicate myself to changing my life. My biggest fear is failing again, but my mindset has changed and i know i have to enjoy the process and look at failures as learning experiences, as a note to change things and keep moving. For most of the lifts, i started with the empty bar, to really focus on form, but looking back it may have just been two light because the first month and half of the program i wasnt really challenging myself at all. Now the weights are heavy, and im failing on bench and OHP almost every other week and i cant reach depth on the squat if i keep adding 5lbs each week. I’m looking to change my routine because i feel like my meal prep is pretty solid, i track everything and am consistently hitting macros as outlined in your book. At 144lbs, using myfitnesspal, my daily goes are :
    To be honest getting enough carbs has been hard and ive been slowly adding things like oatmeal and a double portion of brown rice, but it feels like weight gain is slow, in the past 3 months i look a little better but honestly with how dedicated i am to eating out of a tupperware all the time and waking up at 5am to gym MWF, i feel like my results could have been much better..i’m sorry for rambling. My main goal was to thank you and ask you how i can better tweak my current program to make more efficient progress.


    • My pleasure for everything. Thanks for all the kind words and support. 🙂

      Glad you liked both books!

      Cool you’re doing the SL 5×5. I’m a fan of the program. Sorry to hear you’re failing on some of the weights. To help, check this out:


      Cool on your cals and macros. You can make sure they’re right here:


      Hmm. How much weight are you gaining weekly? When bulking properly, you should be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week. If that’s not happening, simply put, you gotta eat more. Check this out:


      No worries. Let’s start with this. LMK what you think.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

      • Hao


        Thank for the reply! Honestly when i look in the mirror sometimes im ok…i see my chest and shoulders slowly becoming more full but most of the times i just see skinny fat and think about all the mornings ive woken up to gym and its been such a huge problem. All these ups and downs thinking i should cut one day and bulk another. Being ok with my progress one day and feeling like ive gotten nowhere the next. I read a comment on reddit and id like to know your thoughts on it, the premise was “just focus on getting stronger, the rest will work itself out. Why increase your calories if your getting stronger each week?” I am not close to 10% as you suggest before considering a clean bulk, probably 13-15%. I feel like motivation is slipping because of all this time and energy spent spinning wheels again..

        • Welcome! I get where you’re at, man.

          You want to be getting stronger for sure, but you also want to be gaining weight slowly (1/2-1 pound a week). To gain any significant amount of muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus and gaining weight. Unless, you’re new to this style of training in which case you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Check these out:



          So, I still recommend cutting to 10% BF and then starting your bulk. You’ll look better, and it’ll give you more time to bulk since you’re starting from a leaner point. Take a look at this:


          To help with the motivation, hopefully this helps:


          LMK what you think!

          • Hao

            It feels like my skinny fat physique is slow to respond to both muscle gain and fat loss but i can probably chalk that up to lack of consistency either direction..i carry almost all my fat in my abdominal region and i worry ill look like a stick if i try to shred. Im 145 right now. I think i will continue to cut and concentrate on strength in the gym. Do you know anything about insulin resistance or the term “metabolically obese”? Do you think that applies to all skinny fat people?Anyways, hopefully having a lean physique will give me a motivation boost that i could really use right now. Thanks for your insight Mike!

          • Hey Hao,

            Consistency is so important both with your diet and training. On the diet side, I think you know what that means. On the training side, there’s this:


            If you’re under 20% body fat and you’re exercising 4 to 6 hours per week and eating even halfway sensibly, I HIGHLY doubt you have any major metabolic issues…

  • Amin Abaee

    I’ve heard of many body builders and elite athletes who are on high protein diets year round and are able to maintain bodyweight with less calories. So instead 3000+ calories with high carbs, they eat a moderate carb diet with high protein at about 2400 to 2500 calories. How could this not violate the first law of thermodynamics?

    • I hear a lot of things, haha. Remember that maintaining weight is much different than gaining and losing.

  • MethodiosXI

    This is just what I was looking for. However, I am confused about one thing, Mr. Matthews. First you say to limit fruit intake, but then you say, and I quote, “When bulking, I personally try to keep my total free sugar intake below 50 grams per day (and often eat quite a bit less). You accomplish this by eating large amounts of high-carb, low-free-sugar foods like fruit…”. So, which is it? Limit fruit intake or increase fruit intake?

    • “Free sugar” is defined as “sugars added to foods plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.” This excludes sugars naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and dairy, which are processed differently by the body than free sugar. Natural carb sources are totally fine to help you meet your carb target.

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