Grab your cheat sheet
The internet is teeming with diet advice for those trying to lose weight. It’s not uncommon to stumble across endless advice on how to lose weight and keep it off.
But what if you struggle to retain weight or are trying to bulk up?
Trying to gain weight can be an uphill battle for many people and can be just as difficult as losing it.
Whether your body type is predisposed to being lower weight or you struggle with the balance between high-calorie intake and healthy eating, there are several barriers you might face when trying to gain weight.
Nutrition is a huge part of health and well-being, whether you are trying to increase or decrease your weight. So, it comes as no surprise that it plays a pivotal role in helping you increase your muscle mass.
This article looks at what to consider when embarking on your mass gainer diet and ten high-calorie foods to help you with your weight gain goals.
How to calculate your calorie intake for gaining mass…
Before diving into your favourite fast foods, determine your calorie and nutrient goals. Opting for healthy, high-calorie food will keep your health and mass gainer diet on track.
The recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000-3,000 for men and 1,600-2,400 for women. However, for bulking and mass gaining, you want to increase this.
How much you increase your calorie goal depends on your body weight and how regularly you are training. We suggest starting with 20-30% extra and adjusting over time as needed.
However, it's a good idea to calculate your individual calorie needs to figure out exactly how much you should eat. This will ensure you are both over and under-eating and will ensure you can reach your goals.
Regarding nutrition, your main macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body and aid muscle contraction during exercise. Protein and fats are vital for recovery, building muscle mass and reducing inflammation.
You should aim for a high-protein diet with a good mix of carbohydrates and healthy fats, as well as sources of fibre. This will allow you to gain weight healthily, rather than bulking up with unhealthy, fatty foods.
Here are ten calorie dense foods to add to your mass gainer diet for higher calorie consumption:
Healthy high calorie foods for weight gain…
So, if you’re trying to increase your calorie intake and bulk up to gain muscle, what should you be including in your diet?
1. Brown rice
Rice is the holy grail of meal prep. Unlike white rice, it is a whole-grain carbohydrate, meaning it retains its nutrient density. As a bonus, brown rice is slightly higher in calories, too.
It is a versatile carbohydrate that can be used as a side to meat and veg, as a base for salad, or to whip up a quick all-in-one meal like egg-fried rice.
2. Sweet potatoes
Everyone loves a classic meat, veg and potato meal. By switching out white potatoes for sweet potatoes, you are upping the meal's calorie count while providing higher nutrient value.
Sweet potatoes are regarded as a powerhouse carb, providing additional nutritional qualities such as protein and anti-inflammatory effects.
Try a baked sweet potato with spicy chilli, bake some homemade sweet potato fries, or make some mashed potatoes.
Ditching carbs and pasta is advice that you often hear if you are wanting to lose weight. So, it makes sense that if you are trying to gain weight in a healthy way pasta is a great option.
Add in veggies and meats to make a delicious and nutritionally balanced meal that is high in calories and balances the macros.
4. Protein shakes
Sometimes, we struggle to pack in protein and calories when on the go, in a rush or tired from a workout. A protein shake supplement can help increase your macronutrient intake while still hitting calorie goals.
Mix your favorite protein powder with whole milk instead of water or plant-based milk for additional calories and nutrients.
5. Dairy products
On the subject of whole milk, dairy products are often underutilized when on a mass gainer diet. The unique nutrient makeup of whole milk is known to benefit muscle and bone health and provide healthy gut bacteria.
Whether you reach for a yoghurt pot, a glass of milk or heaps of cheddar cheese or sour cream with your dinner, stick to whole milk options for the highest calorie intake, avoiding low-fat alternatives.
Don’t worry about consuming low-fat dairy, stick to the whole and full-fat dairy products if you are on a mission to gain weight.
If you are taking whey protein or mass gainer supplements it’s a good idea to mix them with milk if you are trying to gain weight.
6. Red meat
Animal products are often high in calories and macronutrients; red meat is a classic go-to for athletes. Red meat provides fats, protein, iron and calories in one delicious hit.
Opt for cuts with high marbling or fat content for optimal calorie count, whether for a lamb roast, a surf-and-turf dinner or a beef stew.
Peanut butter is a favourite toast topper for many, and if you are on a mass gainer diet, now is the time to indulge. Nuts are very calorie-dense and are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. You can easily use nuts to add additional calories to any meal.
Throw some cashews into your next curry, top your cereal with a handful of chopped walnuts or include almonds in your next smoothie mix.
8. Nut butter
On the subject of nuts, nut butter is a great way to get in extra calories in a delicious way and a great way to gain weight.
You’ve got options for peanut butter, which is one of the most calorie dense foods you can get to help you gain weight. It has around 191 calories, 7 g of protein, 16 g of fat, and 7 g of carbohydrates in just two spoonfuls.
But if you want to go a little healthier with your nut butter you can also opt for cashew nut butter, almond butter or hazelnut butter among others.
You can top some toast with peanut butter or other nut butters or you can blend it into smoothies.
9. Dried fruits
Fruit is an excellent source of dietary fibre and carbohydrates (in the form of sugar). When trying to increase calorie consumption, opting for dried fruits can help you towards your mass gain goals.
Dried fruits are higher in calories and fibre when compared, by weight, to their fresh versions making them very nutrient dense foods.
For example, when compared by weight, banana chips have 250% more calories than a fresh banana. Mix dried fruit with nuts and seeds for an easy trail mix.
10. Oily fish
Consuming oily fish gives your body its essential dose of omega-3s, a crucial nutrient for cardiovascular health. Oily fish is also naturally high in healthy fats, which makes it a dense source of calories.
Dive into a baked salmon fillet for dinner, with a breadcrumb coating for higher calories, and use leftovers in salad or pasta for lunch-to-go.
This green, creamy fruit may have made a hit for itself in social media trends, but did you know avocados are high in calories? They are also high in healthy fats, making them ideal for your mass gainer diet.
Avocado pairs great with eggs and toast, or spoon it on top of homemade nachos.
Oils naturally carry a high-calorie count and can be used in cooking or added to most meals. Choose an unrefined oil such as extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil to keep it nutritious.
Use oils to fry your steak, make a delicious salad dressing or drizzle over your favourite pasta dish.
Legumes include lentils, beans (such as kidney, butter), chickpeas and peas and they are excellent sources of protein, while also helping you to build lean muscle.
They are especially brilliant for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet and will help with weight gain.
14. Dark Chocolate
You might have the tendency to turn to sweet treats which can be a less healthy way to approach weight gain.
However dark chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants that can minimise the sweet cravings and help you gain healthy weight.
You can eat squares of dark chocolate or incorporate it into your protein shakes to get an extra boost of calorie dense foods.
Supplements to help you gain weight…
For some people, gaining weight can be just as challenging as losing weight for others (despite what people might have you believe).
So, while diet is incredibly important it’s also worth including supplements to help maximise your muscle gains.
One of these supplements is mass gainer, which as you might have guessed from the name, contain everything you need to gain weight and increase muscle mass, especially combined with the appropriate resistance training.
It does contain protein (usually whey but it can be another form), but it also contains plenty of carbohydrates and some fat, usually two to three parts carbohydrates to one part protein.
If you want to supplement your muscle gain then mass gainer is a great way to get in the amount of calories you need in a healthy way.
Find out the difference between mass gainer and whey protein here.
The next steps for building muscle…
Now, you know how to gain weight using calorie-dense, nutritious foods, and supplements to help you along.
While nutrition forms a huge part of how you build muscle, it’s a good idea to supplement to ensure you get the right amount of calories to gain muscle.
If you are following a mass gainer diet and need a little assistance, try our Crazy Nutrition Mass Gainer.