The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Gaining Weight

gaining weight hardgainer bodybuilding diet

I was once part of an online discussion where a guy wanted advice on gaining weight. He had dramatically increased the amount of food he was eating and gained 20 pounds of lean mass as a result.

But he’d hit a wall.

He’d stopped gaining weight and he truly couldn’t force himself to eat more.  It was clear from the advice flooding in that people really weren’t really listening to this man’s plight.

“You gotta eat everything in sight, bro.”

“Eat a ton of peanut butter at every meal on top of what you’re eating.”

“Also, fit in six more eggs at breakfast.”

He had already told them that he physically could not fit in more food.  What this man needed was a new strategy, but all the advice given was just about more food.

So if you've ever been frustrated by chants of “MORE food, bro!”, then my under-muscled brother, this post is for you.

The skinny guy's challenge

If you're a skinny guy, there's a reason for your lack of mass.  Even though it probably doesn't feel like it, your appetite isn't big enough to allow you to naturally eat above your maintenance calories and gain weight.

And there isn't anything wrong with that – it can actually be a good thing.

You probably won't have to worry about getting too fat and you'll get to have a lot more fun with your diet than naturally heavy guys.

But don't fall into the trap of believing you have a supercharged metabolism that allows you to burn 5,000 calories a day.

You just have to accept that you're eating a lot less than you think.

Once you've made peace with that, the next challenge you'll face is the uncomfortable amount of food that gaining weight requires you to eat.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of guys out there dreading the next meal they have to force down.

But bodybuilding is supposed to enhance your life, not ruin it. So I'm not going to tell you to simply “man up” and eat more.

Instead, I'm going to lay out how you identify the habits that are killing your appetite and consume more calories without feeling miserable.

Ineffective weight gain methods

Underweight guys tend to employ one of two weight gain approaches that are equally ineffective for men with smaller appetites.

Eating too clean

Once they decide to start gaining weight, they proceed to the internet and are instantly engulfed by the realm of “clean eating”.

Fitness gurus (and wannabes) love to tell us that anything outside of whatever they define as the “perfect diet” will leave us obese and riddled with diabetes and heart disease.

So of course, you embark on a mission to clean up your diet to a degree that will make your planking Yoda proud.

But in the process, you end up drastically reducing your caloric intake.

Dietary practices that praise eating “clean” are great for overall health, but can be counterproductive for gaining weight, especially if you're already battling with a small appetite.

Eating huge meals

Before they start making an effort to put on weight, most skinny guys will eat a lot at one sitting and then proudly proclaim, “I can eat anything I want and not gain weight!”

And it's absolutely true, because they feast so infrequently that their overall caloric intake is very much average.

Eating one big fast food meal per day or gorging at a family cookout isn't going to lead to weight gain.

Then, when said skinny guy starts trying to gain, it isn't surprising that this common habit is never corrected because it's so strongly enforced by fellow bodybuilders.

Most guys in the gym are instructing the skinny lifters “to eat until you're stuffed” or something along those lines.

But it's not the most useful advice, considering that's what the skinny guy is already doing. He stuffs himself, feels uncomfortably full (but still proud), and then doesn't eat for the rest of the day.

Bottom Line:  Gaining weight will be easier if you divert away from these approaches and find habits that support your big eating efforts.

My experience with gaining weight

While I don't have what most would consider a small appetite, I've had plenty of periods where I've needed to eat much more than I could scarf down comfortably.

Over this past winter, for example, I'd slowly worked my food intake up to just below 4,000 calories a day, taking my body weight from 175 lbs up to 200 lbs.

For someone with a decent appetite, that's fairly easy to do if you're eating delicious junk food. But I was consuming mostly eggs, meat, rice, and oatmeal.

I quickly realized that certain habits were causing me to feel too full and making me miserable.

That's when I began using the techniques below which enabled me to get in the calories I needed without burping up chunks of undigested food from my overfull belly (yeah, that really happened. Repeatedly).

Tips for gaining weight

I want you to go into this knowing that it's 100% possible for you to gain weight (barring extreme medical cases).

Hell, you may even have fun doing it based on some of these methods.

Below is every trick I've learned (and every mistake to avoid) to keep your hunger going full throttle and how to apply them practically in everyday life.

1. Eat first thing in the morning

gaining weight hardgainer diet bodybuilding

By not taking advantage of all waking hours, you're forcing yourself to eat the same amount of food in a shorter time frame. Use your whole day to spread out your meals and feel more comfortable.

Don't lose out on precious hours that could be put to use building a muscular physique.

Make your first meal a combination of carbs and protein while keeping fat low. Not only will this ensure that you get enough meals in for the day, it's going to kickstart your appetite and make the rest of the day easier.

I can't think of any meal more delicious and less filling than cereal, which is my favorite cheat meal.

Grab yourself a mixing bowl, skim milk, and some sweet cereal and get down to business. You'll consume a ton of calories and be ready to eat again in 2 to 3 hours.

2. Eat more carbs

A lot of new bodybuilders start out by reducing carbohydrate intake. Eliminating gluten or fructose can be an effective weight-loss tool.

And with the popularity of these diets, it's no wonder that skinny guys stumble upon them.

Most carbs cause a quick spike in blood sugar, trigging a big insulin release, which overcorrects and leaves you with below baseline blood sugar levels.

This starts the cycle of craving starchy, sugary foods.

For people with small appetites, these cravings can be a huge advantage. Consuming carbs throughout the day is key to stimulating hunger.

For example, I'm ravenous an hour after eating the previously mentioned bowl of cereal and skim milk despite having consumed 500 to 1,000 calories.

I could actually probably comfortably consume 10,000 calories per day from those two foods alone.

3. Limit whole grains

Consuming fiber rich, whole grains is excellent for your health.

They help you feel full, and thus aid tremendously on a weight loss diet. When gaining weight, however, they're the exact opposite of what you need.

Switch to white rice instead of brown, kids' cereal in place of bran flakes, regular pasta versus whole wheat, and white potatoes instead of sweet.

You basically want to cut down on foods that have been labeled as a “slow carb.”

This won't win the health fanatics' seal of approval, but these methods are only temporary until you get used to eating more.

Once you build up a foundation of muscle, your body will naturally be more hungry since it'll require more calories to support your new mass.

4. Take it easy on the dietary fat

Relying on calorie dense food is the default method of gaining weight.

While it's absolutely true that fat packs more calories per gram than carbs or protein, it also has a bigger impact on satiety.

That's bad news for skinny guys.

This goes completely against the common recommendations of how to gain weight. Most guys will recommend 8 egg omelets, peanut butter sandwiches, and nuts between every meal.

But if I eat a huge omelette for breakfast, I don't even want to think about food for the next 5 hours. That's a great strategy for weight loss diets, but not conducive to gaining weight.

Keep fat to around 10 grams per meal throughout the day, but eat as much as you want at night.

5. Drink water before meals, not during

When your stomach is empty, water is allowed to move more quickly to the intestines where it's absorbed. This is exactly what you want.

When you're eating a meal, however, your stomach is shut off from the rest of the digestive tract to allow the stomach to do its thing with the food you're eating.

Adding water on top of solid food is going to increase the total volume in your stomach, meaning you'll have less room for mass-building calories.

To combat this, drink most of your water first thing in the morning or the hour before your next meal. This is the closest you're going to get to an empty stomach.

6. Liquid calories are your friend

All the common health advice tells you to eliminate all calorie-containing beverages.

But skipping calorically dense beverages can wreak havoc on your weight gain efforts.

Skim milk, Gatorade, and protein shakes do very little as far as making you feel full, but they do pack some much needed calories.

Try sipping them with and/or between meals.

Fun fact:  If you're currently maintaining a constant body weight and you changed nothing else about your diet except added in 8 to 16 ounces of these liquid calories between meals, it would be enough to kickstart weight gain.

7. Skip the vegetables

One of the most common diet modifications beginners make is to step up their vegetable consumption.

While fantastic for your health, the fiber, water content, and sheer bulk coupled with extremely low calories makes them a no-no for someone with a small appetite already struggling to pack in food.

If you're working on gaining weight, you can't afford the space in your diet for these low calorie, extremely filling foods.

Best case scenario, juice your veggies. You'll still get all of the benefits without any of the fullness because you'll be separating the juice from the fiber.

You could also juice some fruit to make it taste better and get in some more carbs.

8. Eat more of your favorite foods

gaining weight hardgainer diet bodybuilding

This is where being naturally skinny really pays off!

Thinking that eating a bodybuilder's diet means that you have to give up all the foods you love is a common misconception.

There aren't any merit badges to be earned by chewing through bland, uninspired dishes. If you like ice cream, try eating a bowl before bed every night. If you love mac n' cheese, guess what's for dinner?

The point is, you don't want to create an aversion to food if you already have trouble eating enough.

You know how many bodybuilders there are who would vomit if they even catch whiff of someone microwaving tilapia and rice?

Save the clean eating until you've added enough muscle to your frame to make a cutting cycle worth your effort.

Until then, eat calorically dense convenience foods, use condiments and toppings, and don't be afraid of frequent desserts.

9. Avoid stimulants

Stimulants are everywhere in the fitness industry. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, pre-workout supplements, and fat burners all contain ingredients that can destroy your appetite.

Eliminate or significantly restrict caffeine, nicotine, and other herbal fat burners.

Save them for when you're cutting.

I'm actually having black coffee in between most of my meals right now, but I'm eating below maintenance so the effects are much appreciated.

But even at a caloric deficit, I've found that if I over do it on the pre-workout caffeine, eating my post-workout oats and whey feels like I'm being force-fed mud.

The same thing happens when I'm bulking.

If I have too much coffee between meals, my appetite shrinks away, I get heartburn, and I usually end up missing a meal that day.

10. Don't eat until you're stuffed

I understand the logic. It's reasonable to think that taking a few extra bites will lead to quickly gaining weight.

But eating until you're totally stuffed isn't going to work if it makes you miserable.

Imagine if someone forced you to eat 5 gallons of ice cream in a sitting. You'd probably never touch the stuff again.

Forcing down huge meals messes with your appetite, both physically and mentally.

Extremely large meals take forever to digest, leading to missed meals later in the day.

If you're struggling with a moderate appetite, it won't help your cause to pack in a few hundred extra calories now only to miss an entire meal later.

11. Figure out a meal frequency that works for you

Being a slave to an unnatural, inconvenient meal frequency can kill your appetite and motivation.

Sometimes, eating six meals per day gets under my skin. Eating that often becomes a chore and there isn't much room for error.

If I'm off by an hour or two, I'll have to stay up late to get everything down that day.

The opposite is also true. I've done intermittent fasting where you eat two large meals within an 8-hour window. Not the most practical method for gaining weight if you have a small appetite.

I, for example, had to eat over 1,800 calories per meal to gain weight.

Your ideal frequency may be a little different, but I've found that four or five substantial meals is best for me to spread the load.

12. Know how much you're eating

If you ate two cheeseburgers, fries, and a large Coke for dinner last night, it doesn't automatically mean you're eating above maintenance.

While most overweight people are consuming far more than they realize, those struggling with gaining weight often aren't aware just how much they're under-eating.

The only way you're going to gain weight systematically and comfortably is to know exactly how much you're eating.

Gone are the days of notebooks and calculators to accomplish this task. I started using My Fitness Pal on my iPhone about a year ago and haven't looked back.

It's free, easy to use, and the My Fitness Pal's food database is huge and includes many grocery store brands.

13. Eat big before bed

gaining weight hardgainer meal diet

It's only natural to assume that eating everything in front of you will lead to gaining weight.

But the problem with eating a big meal is that it can screw up your appetite for your next meal.

Well-intentioned as it may be (for the purposes of gaining weight) eating a whole pizza at lunch is likely going to ruin your appetite for the rest of the day.

You'll end up consuming less calories overall for that day. And it's how much you eat overall that counts, not at a single meal.

Work around this by eating moderate amounts during the day to keep you hungry and then pigging out on your largest meal before bed when you don't have any subsequent meals to miss.


While gaining weight is a simple formula, (take in more calories than you burn) some guys just flat out don't want to eat that much.

But if gaining muscle is the goal, eating more overall is a necessity.

If you've been in the same underweight body for years, that's actually good news. It means that you're eating at maintenance.

Now, you only need to add 500 calories per day to what you already eat and the scale should start creeping upwards.

But, you need to be eating above maintenance every single day. And that means frequent, consistent meals.

Don't go overboard by implementing all of the tips at once because you may end up gaining too much fat.

Applying just a few of these tips should get you to start gaining weight, no problem.

Keep some of these strategies in your back pocket so you always have something to fall back on when you get stuck.

Just be consistent!

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  • Reply
    Vadim Fedorovsky
    July 30, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Nate, thanks for the great article.

    I am currently struggling a bit with this exact subject.

    Basically forever, before I got serious about lifting and gaining, I weighed about 155-160.

    Then I really started to eat more and got myself up to 180.

    I looked in the mirror and thought, “Holy shit! I am fat!” It was a big shock because I had been a skinny dude for so long.

    So, then I dropped some weight and now am at a very constant 170.

    I weigh myself everyday, multiple times, and the scale always says 170.

    So, I am in a bit of a bind because I definitely want to weigh more but I don’t want to get fat again.

    Any suggestions, Nate?

    By the way, you are completely right about how the meals need to be spread out, else the desire to eat after one big meal is just gone, gone, gone.

    Nate, you are really inspiring to me because you seem to have started at a very similar body as I did.

    Basically I look maybe a little bit bigger and leaner than you looked in the “before” picture at the top of the article.

    How tall are you?

    Do you know your change in body mass percentage?

    How much do you weigh now in the “after” picture?

    These specifics will really help! Thank you!!!


    • Reply
      July 30, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      It’s easy to get caught up in the “get big” mindset. Even naturally skinny guys can put on a ton of body fat if they go at bulking with a hand grenade approach. I’ve overshot quite a few bulking cycles and then lost a lot of muscle in the process of leaning out.

      If you want the best results you have to do everything systematically. Figure out exactly how much you’re eating (average for the week) and then add about 300 to 500 calories on top of that and that’s it. Keep it up until the scale stops moving and then you can add another 300.

      I’m 6′ 2” with a pretty small bone structure. The first picture was taken after I originally came down from a very soft 200 lbs to about 165 lbs. In the after picture I’m 185 lbs and leaner than before. So I have roughly 20-25 lbs more muscle on my frame.

      As far as body fat, I use the 7 site caliper method, but it always reads really low so I don’t hold much value in it. I usually come up with something in the neighborhood of 5-9% depending on time of year.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Great article. I’ve had the same weight(between 50-55 kg. Yeah, I know, I’m a small guy) for maybe six or seven years, and yes it’s really hard to eat more when you literally can’t. I notice in the article one of my mistakes, eating too much in each meal.
    I stopped training(after finally having started) because of an injury in my elbow after some kids tried to steal money from me; I can’t even lift myself up. I still have to fix it up(I hate doctors and hospitals)but when I do, this article will be a key piece to gain a bit of weight.
    Thanks, and cheers from Argentina.

    • Reply
      July 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Hey Ezequiel. It’s good to know that this article is reaching guys in your situation. Sorry to hear about your injury. As soon as the doctors get you fixed up just get back in the gym and start eating more a little bit at a time. Be patient and the weight gains will come. Good luck!

  • Reply
    July 30, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    ‘Skip the vegetables’, ‘eat big before bed’. It looks like a recipe to be fat and unhealthy, but you’re right, it really works. I already use some of your techniques and I like the one about water before meal, I’ll try that. I also avoid lots of fruits on bulking days. Howewer, I avoid too many carbs for breakfast because I train at 10 am and I feel sluggish after a high carb meal.

    I remember trying a clean bulk once, going to bed with my stomach really full, looking like an alien would emerge at any minute, and getting up in the middle of the night to vomit. A clean bulk doesn’t work and it’s a mess…

    Do you bulk even on non-training days? My approach is to follow most of your guidelines on training days and eating clean on non-training days during a bulk. It adds variety and you don’t feel like trash.

    • Reply
      July 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      I like saving my carbs for after my workouts too. Eating fat and protein meals just gives me stable energy throughout the day. Whenever I eat carbs I’m a wreck if I don’t have another fix within 3 hours. I eat pretty much the same on training and rest days, with the exception of one day of higher carbs and lower fat.

      So are you following a calorie cycling plan?

      • Reply
        August 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm

        Yes, basically trying to eat a lot on training days and maintenance on non-training days.

        • Reply
          August 2, 2015 at 10:35 pm

          That’s a really good strategy to keep body fat gains at bay. You’ll gain weight a little slower, but you won’t have to diet as hard later on.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Nate, great article! Wish I still had the hard-gainer problem like when I was younger. Now I’m struggling to get those last few pounds off. Hah!

    I lean more towards the high fat/low carb spectrum, but definitely agree that you need to change it up if you’re seriously struggling with gaining weight. Fat, as you say, is just way to satiating.

    However, I wouldn’t entirely discount certain fatty foods like nuts. Maybe it’s just me, but I can snack on a large bag of pistachios all day with little to no effect on my appetite. They are a great snack between meals. I wouldn’t overdo it just because if you DO fill up on them, it can take a while to digest them. To each their own…now to go make a huge batch of tacos!

    • Reply
      July 30, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      That’s exactly what I’m saying! Being a naturally skinny guy can be awesome. You get to eat all of your favorite foods pretty much all the time.

      You’re right, nuts are an excellent addition to your diet. But like you said, only if it doesn’t mess with your appetite. From my experience, how much I’m eating apart from snacking on nuts has the biggest effect on fullness.

      If I’m not eating very big meals, I can eat almonds and walnuts no problem. But if I’m already eating big, adding that extra fat is probably going to cause me to miss a meal.

      Have you tried higher carbs/lower fat, but just prefer high fat/low carb?

      • Reply
        July 31, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        Hey Nate, I’ll admit I’ve been sold by the low-carb/high fat arguments. Lately, though I’ve found it hard to lose those last few pounds…partially because when I eat really strict, I find myself craving starchy carbs and no amount of fatty food will satisfy it. Perhaps it is time to change things up and try a new approach.

        • Reply
          August 1, 2015 at 10:33 am

          It’s those last few pounds that always give you the most trouble. I’m not knocking low-carb/high fat, I really love that type of diet. I’ve just been having really great success lately with tracking my macros and being more flexible with what I eat.

          If you make a change, do it gradually. Make sure you keep your overall calories the same and just start replacing some fat calories with more carbs. It doesn’t hurt to try, you can always go back to your original diet in a single day. Good luck!

  • Reply
    July 30, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    At last, the article that has eluded the internet for so long!

    The first few paragraphs made me laugh but it’s true – I’d say 95% of the advice out there consists of that largely useless information.

    Interesting to hear your view on eating massive meals – for the last few years I’ve been going for 2-3 massive meals per day, but I only started going to the gym a couple of months ago so I have a feeling I’ll need to eat more. I’ll try it your way and see what happens.

    Finally, call me ignorant but what exactly is that meal pictured under point 13? It looks delicious.

    • Reply
      July 30, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks Seb! You’ll definitely increase your appetite by hitting the weights. Even for guys looking to gain weight, cardio can also be really useful. For me it seems to make me crave more calories than I burn.

      That meal is a corned beef sandwich and sweet potato tots I got from an Irish Pub here in Chicago. It was amazing!

  • Reply
    July 31, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Hey Nate,

    Awesome article! I learned lots of new things.

    As a “hardgainer,” I followed the common advice to eat more, don’t be afraid to eat “dirty,” and to space out your meals throughout the day.

    But, I never really took the “space it out” part seriously as I believed that stuffing myself in one or two meals a day is “more efficient.”

    Result: still skinny and confused why I still can’t gain serious weight with all that food gorged at the buffet.

    Now I know that eating to get big is also about appetite management–this is gold to me.

    Thank you.


  • Reply
    August 1, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Hey Nate, great article. I have one question, though.

    I currently weigh about 146 and my goal is to get to at least 160.
    Could I gain weight by simply eating stuff like eggs, bacon, toast, whole milk, and so on (pretty much traditional manly foods)?

    • Reply
      August 1, 2015 at 10:37 am

      You can absolutely gain weight on those foods alone, as long as your appetite allows you to eat enough of them.

      If you’re stuffing yourself but the scale isn’t moving, it’s time to make some changes.

      Best of luck on your journey to 160 lbs.

  • Reply
    Indomitable Audacity
    August 1, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    boom! Nice one Nate, I am like a skinny athletic build and my people are always telling me to eat more. Some of the suggestions are Gold like eat more of what you like, I am going to show my partner this because she has been ramming healthy living down my throat.

    No red meat, no salt, too many vegetables. I am going crazy with her cooking these days.

    • Reply
      August 1, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Haha! If you’re skinny and looking to gain weight, you’re going to have to eat at least some unhealthy foods. In her defense, the eating habits she’s prescribing are probably best for long term health, but they won’t support weight gains.

      Most of the things I recommend are meant to be employed long enough to attain your desired muscle mass. Then you can gradually clean up your diet to support overall health and longevity.

    • Reply
      August 4, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Nate, hope I’m not stepping on any toes with this comment (if so, feel free to delete).

      Indomitable Audacity – Firstly, I agree with Nate. To bulk, you’re going to need to eat at least some junk food.
      I would suggest getting John Doe’s ebook “Becoming the Bull.” I have a review/link for it on my website, or you can go straight to his site. His ebook has sample eating plans and workouts for all levels for gaining muscle. Very detailed.
      Another ebook that has a good following is Victor Pride’s “Body of a Spartan”. I haven’t read his ebook, however, so I cannot give any review on that.

  • Reply
    July in Badworld - Bold and Determined
    August 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    […] The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Gaining Weight […]

  • Reply
    August 4, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Sort of confused here in your About Section you were chubby but your before pic here is straight up skinny. Which pic is older? How did you get from chubby to skinny to adding muscle. I like your site but something seems off regarding your “before” pics unless you have been chubby and skinny near the same time.

    • Reply
      August 4, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Hey DKB, I understand your confusion. I started off skinny/fat at over 200 lbs (about me page). I cut down to about 160-165 lbs (photo above) and have gone through periods of bulking and cutting many times since then to get to where I am now.

      • Reply
        August 5, 2015 at 4:29 am

        Thought so thanks for clarifying! How did you get from over 2 bills down to buck sixty? Curious since I was 210 but now at 197 but weight is dropping slowly but steadily.

        • Reply
          August 5, 2015 at 10:57 am

          To drop around 40 lbs, I focused on cleaning up my diet TREMENDOUSLY. I didn’t follow any particular diet, just traditional bodybuilding foods.

          I used to have cigarettes and energy drinks for breakfast (maybe Mc Donald’s if I had time). For lunch, I would regularly slam bacon double cheeseburgers with a large fry and two large Cokes. Dinner was usually something like pizza or some convenience food I could just throw in the oven. And I snacked on whatever was in front of me throughout the day.

          I went from eating for comfort to eating with purpose. I also added in 3-5 days per week of lifting.

          • DKB
            August 5, 2015 at 1:59 pm

            Great stuff Nate, thanks! I am just trying to reduce fat/weight then when I’m leaned out increase my lifting. So eating clean and real foods to drop fat then add more muscle from lifting. Assume that’s the best way /what you did yourself? As always thanks!

          • Nate
            August 5, 2015 at 9:25 pm

            That’s the way I went about it. Everyone has a different opinion on if you should build muscle or lose fat first. Most will tell you to get big first and worry about the fat later. I was so fed up with being chubby that a bulk was completely out of the question. I made losing the fat my first priority and felt so much better after doing so.

            For yourself, figure out which goal is going to make you feel the best and give it everything you have.

          • Mike
            September 10, 2015 at 3:15 am

            Its interesting to read how you ate pre-T. However , it was obvious from reading your T- series that you eventually cleaned up your diet -YET – your T levels never bounced back. I often wonder if the low -T epidemic engulfing males here in the West , even those who have made lifestyle changes, is due in large measure to permanent endocrine disruptions that have resulted from a prolonged period of very poor diet.

          • Nate
            September 10, 2015 at 6:10 pm

            Yeah, I went through periods of bulking where I would eat more junk food to get in the calories, but I would estimate that over the last 6 years 90% of my meals have been clean. Since we’re seeing this decline across the board, it has to be something all men have in common. And for the vast majority of us, that includes a lot of processed foods.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Hey brother, question on calorie intake.

    I always see a lot about increasing calories to help put on muscle mass. However, I’m trying to find out if all calories are essentially the same in this mission.

    For example, let’s say you drank some soda, ate some potato chips. Some would say this is unhealthy, but if you’re trying to gain weight, should you do it for awhile? Or are their “healthier” ways to pack on pounds?

    I am a runner and am not willing to cut back on cardio, but I can also eat like an absolute savage. I never seem to gain much muscle mass, which means I might have to pack on even more. But I am looking for ways here and there to get calories in even if I have to drink 2 liters of soda or something.

    What say ye?

    • Reply
      August 5, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      All calories aren’t equal. There’s a big difference between a chicken breast and a bag of chips. But that’s not to say that you can’t get away with eating some junk.

      If you have enough quality protein in your diet you can eat whatever else you want (for the purposes of getting big) as long as you don’t have a tendency to put on body fat. This isn’t an ideal long-term approach, though.

      Eating clean comes in handy when trying to optimize overall health and gain muscle with minimal body fat. When gaining weight, the biggest thing is to keep track of how much you’re eating so you can make systematic adjustments.

      But for a runner like yourself, feel free to eat whatever foods you like!

  • Reply
    August 7, 2015 at 4:19 am

    Nate, champion article sir. I was about 145 in high school, 155 the last couple of years, and this year made a concerted effort to get up to 180. All it took was eating like a barbarian. In doing so, I pretty much came across the same tactics that you have, but you certainly gave me some good insights.

    One of the great things about eating before bed is that you really don’t feel the discomfort at all because you’re asleep. Another good thing is that you wake up hungry as shit. I like to eat peanut butter sandwiches before bed. Works pretty well.

    As for eating whatever you want, obviously it’s best to eat a lot of clean food for general health, but don’t be afraid of eating some slop every now and then. I went to 5 guys recently and got two double cheeseburgers and it made me shoot up a few lbs after a heavy workout.


    • Reply
      August 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      5 Guys has some great burgers. And when you ask for a large order of fries, you get a LARGE ORDER OF FRIES.

      • Reply
        August 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        You aren’t exaggerating! The bad thing is I have a Five Guys half a block from my house. I can also see one from the treadmill at my gym, lol.

        • Reply
          August 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm

          Haha. I have one about 4 miles from my house, but I have to fight some really shitty traffic to get there so it’s usually not tempting enough to go. Probably for the best.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks for the great info Nate. You’re right I always feel I’ve eaten enough but my wife tells me she thinks I don’t eat that much. I think I need to break the meals up more and have a protein shake or two during the day while tracking my calories. Starting the day off with some lucky charms sounds good to me also.

    I’m going to start a lifting program this week, and I would ultimately like to get from my current 185 lbs to 200 lbs (I’m 6’2) Would you recommend I put on some pounds before starting to lift or just start lifting and eating as much as I can right away? Thanks.

    • Reply
      August 12, 2015 at 12:30 am

      Yeah, it’s easy to overestimate how much you eat if the meals are infrequent. Tracking is a must, at least in the beginning.

      Hold your diet constant until you start the new program. You’ll likely notice an increase in appetite due to the new demands on your body. Good luck!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Not eating enough is the number one problem for guys trying to gain weight. People think they are eating enough, but in fact they are not. However I would also add a good workout routine centered around compound exercises and enough rest as also very important. :)

  • Reply
    How to Find The Road To Success With These 4 Proven Habits
    August 18, 2015 at 8:31 am

    […] Check out my friend Nate from Iron and Tweed. He has built an impressive physique while he also has a family and a baby daughter. He didn’t say that: “Oh I don’t have time to workout, I have a baby now“. […]

  • Reply
    Dalton Finney - Naked Charisma
    September 8, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Hey Nate,

    This is kind of related:

    I’m 6’0, about 190-195 lbs. Combined with diet (eggs, vegetables, pretty high protein, some butter, carbs come from pinto beans and veggies mostly) and lifting, my body is getting to where I want it. That said, I’m having a hell of a time burning that last bit of from my lower belly and back/waist. I’ve hit a plateau, I think.

    Do you recommend staying on the same diet and just keep pushing? Or, is there something else I need to do to get that “last mile”, lean-and-cut look?


    • Reply
      September 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

      It sounds like you have the quality aspect of your diet taken care of and that’s great for making major changes. Now you have to focus on quantity. Loosing weight is going to come as a result of consistently eating a little below maintenance. To make things easy, I use an app called My Fitness Pal to track everything.

      • Reply
        November 17, 2015 at 7:38 am


        You might want to try a ketogenic diet for a very short time (a week or so) because it forces your body to run off of purely fat, not sugar, not carbs or anything else.

        For instance for one week eat steak, chicken, salmon, eggs, and other healthy fats and drink water but don’t put vegetables in your mouth. No fruit, no bread.

        See if that doesn’t trim you up a bit.

        I’ve tried this multiple times when I want to cut back or get a little more trim around the abs, and such. Fat is so great for our body because it makes up a huge portion of your brain, repairs your digestive track, and so much more.

  • Reply
    Dalton Finney - Naked Charisma
    September 9, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Solid, thanks man.

    I take it you mean “eating a little below maintenance” by caloric intake? If so, do you recommend a certain tool? I’ve always used Calorie King:

    • Reply
      September 10, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Yep, you have to eat a little below your maintenance caloric intake. You can use a calculator, but it’s more accurate to just track what you eat for a week and get an average. The My Fitness Pal app has a huge database of food and you just search for what you ate and enter it. Then you can see totals, graphs, and charts to help you. If you’re maintaining weight this will give you the most accurate number for YOU. I used one of those generic calculators and it wanted me to eat around 2,500 calories to lose weight even though I was already losing at 3,400. Making a cut that large would’ve left me starving and lead to a lot of lost muscle.

  • Reply
    Jacob Schulz
    September 13, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Nate, this is one hell of an article! Thanks for sharing this with us! I’m actually on the skinnier side and could definitely use some methods in working towards bulking up, although it will take some time. I’ll definitely have to modify this, but this is packed with info. Definitely would be good to bookmark this and come back to it.

    Back when I was lifting frequently, I gained about 17 lbs overall. Not bad, but could have been better. I know more now, so I can use this when I get to that point. Thanks again!

    • Reply
      September 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Jacob! Just in case you weren’t aware, I have good news for you. That 17 lbs you gained previously will come back in less than half the time it took in the first place. Just keep in mind that lifting is only the stimulus. Only excess calories will put weight on you. Good luck!

  • Reply
    September 29, 2015 at 10:17 am

    good article Nate, very impressed with your site. what is your opinion on cereal’s poor reputation as breakfast ‘meals’?

    • Reply
      September 29, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Cereal is one of my all time favorite foods, but it’s pretty horrible for people concerned with loosing weight. Whenever I have cereal for breakfast I’m more hungry 2 hours later than I would have been if I ate nothing at all. If you’re trying to pack on weight though, cereal would be an excellent choice to help get in calories without begin too filling.

      • Reply
        September 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        i belong in the second category for sure. for that purpose, would a healthy cereal be a wiser alternative than a ‘junk’ brand like fruit loops? it’s just i see too many complaints about the childrens’ cereal brands being nutrition-empty and having way too much sugar, which is something i’m trying to lower my intake of.

        • Reply
          September 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

          It’s best to think of cereal as a short-term solution for a skinny guy looking to gain weight. Once you increase your muscle mass, your appetite will increase as well, and you can then transition to something like eggs oatmeal. But for the time being, it doesn’t matter a whole lot. Something like shredded wheat or bran flakes will be a little better for you, but eat what you like if you need the calories.

          • wtc
            October 1, 2015 at 5:00 am

            yeah i see what you’re getting at now. think i read an article that refers to meals like these as ‘dirty calories’ haha.

            personally i’d love to see more culinary -themed posts from you in the future, even if they’re simple dishes in the vein of your stovetop chili or scrambled eggs. looking forward to continue chatting to you in future posts!

  • Reply
    Rohan Arora
    December 16, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Great way of explaining , and great transformation.
    The easiest possible way to gain weight is to eat a calorie surplus, workout with heavy compound movements ad adequate sleep.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Hey Nate, what if you drink water AFTER you’re done eating? I’m always had this habit in place because i’m always thirsty after eating and usually only drink water after i’m done eating.

    • Reply
      March 29, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      If it doesn’t make you feel sloshy then you should be just fine. The whole idea is just to help you not feel overly full. Since I’ve gotten into the habit of chugging water in-between meals, I don’t even feel thirsty enough to take a sip during my entire meal.

      • Reply
        May 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm

        Hey Nate. I’m going on a bulking phase but as i type this and grudgingly eat my dry chicken breast with my dry white rice (i tried my best to make sure it wouldn’t become dry) i’m thinking gaining weight is impossible. Are there any specific food recipes you have in mind that are easy to bulk on? Something that’s easy to eat and goes through easily?

        P.S. Ty for putting together Casual Style 101, i loved it.

        • Reply
          May 16, 2016 at 9:25 am

          You need to put a bunch of BBQ sauce on that dry chicken! Just 4 tablespoons will give you an extra 34g of carbs and make you actually look forward to eating your meals! You might want to replace the chicken with a higher calorie meat like beef. Just because you’re bodybuilding doesn’t mean you have to live on diet foods. Eat more foods you like and your life will be much easier and enjoyable.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Great article there Nate!
    I’m a Carpenter by trade and I’m always on the go so I feel going to the gym just tires me out even more! Being 5′ 10″, 30 and just 133 lbs. I’m quite skinny but I feel I should be bigger or should I say I want to be bigger. What I can’t understand though is when I’m busy and don’t have time to eat I don’t lose any weight. But when I eat quite frequently I don’t gain! Meal plan pretty much most days (except weekends as I eat more) is toast and peanut butter then banana and yogurt at 10 followed by rice and chicken and scandishake around 1pm followed by dinner at 7 and snacks there after. Is it just a case of eating more or should I start lifting heavy weights?? Again great post hope you could get back to me. Cheers

    • Reply
      July 26, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      I know where you’re coming from, Sean. Sometimes you’re too busy and forget to eat or it’s so hot outside that you don’t even want to think about it. But if you’re serious about gaining weight you need to CONSISTENTLY eat over your maintenance calories. I know you may pig out on the weekends and expect the scale to move but that single day of over eating can easily be reversed by a really busy low calorie day.
      What you need is a caloric surplus of around 7,000 calories or more over the course of the month. That means no low calorie days and consistently eating 300 or more calories than you need.
      You can gain “weight” by simply eating more overall. If you’re currently under your “normal” weight, some of the weight gained will be muscle, but not a lot. If you truly want to gain muscle, the only way is to stimulate it with weight training and support it with excess calories. I hope that wasn’t too much rambling and cleared a few things up for you. Feel free to ask more questions and I’ll try to clarify.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for the reply Nate. 7000 calories is alot, but I suppose its eating the right foods. I would probably need a couple high calorie supplements to keep me going as its quick and easy. What do you think I should do? I know alot of supplements contain high in sugar and I wouldnt want that in my diet at all. I find myself in a right limbo at times, there really isn’t enough time in the day to consume the food i need and to finish the work that I need to do. I really is hard work!

    • Reply
      July 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm

      Just getting an extra 200 -300 calories per day, every day, will get you there no problem and you don’t even need supplements. You can get those calories from a Gatorade, a couple pieces of fruit, or a handful of trail mix. The key is that it has to be IN ADDITION TO what you normally eat. You could also just make one or all of your meals a little larger. Try using double peanut butter on your toast and two bananas instead of 1 at 10. You’ll get used to it and once you see it working you won’t want to stop!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Hello, I’m in a similar situation to the last guy that posted. I am 33 years old and weigh a maximum of 149 pounds. I am 5’10. I currently have some sort of autonomic disorder that is making it difficult to work out. I also have a mild gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying, but I take no meds for it and have never thrown up from it) which means that it takes longer for food to travel from my stomach to wherever it needs to go. Any specific suggestions for me? Either way, I love it the article and I will try to implement some of these things that you wrote. Thank you for your time.

    • Reply
      January 23, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      Dan, I don’t have any experience with your conditions so I don’t have anything to add. Does food that’s easier to digest empty faster?

  • Reply
    January 23, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    supposedly eating LESS fibrous and fatty meat is better for me. And, if I do eat it, then it’s best if I eat it early in the day.
    I will try to eat healthy for 1-2 months (although it’s not the best for me per your protocol), and then I will add in elements from what I read on your page, because I did see alot of good stuff here. Thanks for your reply.

  • Reply
    January 24, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Nate,
    Pleasantly surprised to see you’re still replying to comments nearly two years later! Searching for advice about healthy weight gain sometimes feels like looking for a waterfall in the desert, so I’m happy to have found this article.
    That being said, I’m actually a woman trying to gain weight– any weight. I was born tiny and have stayed ridiculously small my whole life; currently I’m 24 yrs old and weigh 87 lbs. Been mistaken for anorexic, a teenager, or both more times than I care to count. Right now my goal is 100lbs, though ideally I’d like to break that. Additionally, I’ve never been athletic, though I try to get outside, walk instead of commute, and take stairs as often as I can. As you can imagine, my overall health is not fantastic (low endurance, low muscle mass, mildly hypoglycemic, occasional heart palpitations + low blood pressure)…
    So my question is, where would be the best place for a weenie like me to start improving? Eating more, weight training, or cardio? Can you point me to a book, website, or any other useful resources for (extremely) beginner weight trainers and moving away from a sedentary lifestyle? I really want to take charge of my health and my body, so any advice to help me start on the right foot would be much appreciated!
    Thank you,

    • Reply
      February 7, 2017 at 10:15 am

      What has your doctor said about the medical problems? Any diagnosis? I can’t give medical advice so this is purely from a healthy weight gain perspective. To gain weight you need to take in more calories than you burn. It sounds like you have a small appetite so you need to eat things that you love. That might mean fruit smoothies, milkshakes, or pancakes. Whatever it is, you have to get the food in. For exercise I would start on a basic strength training routine. You can find them online or set up a session with a trainer at your gym. From there just learn and experiment. Hope that helps!

    • Reply
      July 28, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      Hey, Nate! I am a 5’10 18-year-old male who weighs 110 pounds. I am extremely skinny(It’s part of my genes) And I know that I am severely underweight for someone of my age and height. I want to change that and gain a lot of weight this upcoming year. Recently I have been trying to eat more but due to my stomach being really small and due to it being so used to eat so little food for many years, I get full really fast and stay full for a long time which doesn’t allow me to have so many meals throughout the day. I was wondering if you had any specific tips for me personally about how I could fix this and be able to eat more. I am getting a gym membership really soon. Also because I am extremely skinny and I have no experience at all about working before, is there any tips you could give me about what to start off with when first going to the gym. Just some basic exercises for beginners. I am really weak and all my muscles are really small and I am unable to use some of the equipment and machines at the gym that others would use when the first starting to workout. Thanks!

      • Reply
        August 3, 2017 at 3:53 pm

        Omar, I would start with trying to consume a lot of liquid calories. Get some Gatorade powder and add it to all the water you drink. It’s just sugar and electrolytes so it won’t fill you up but you’ll get in a bunch more calories. I would also blend fruit with protein powders to help even further. For the gym, you just have to start out with whatever you can do. That may be 5 lb dumbbells and the first plate on the weight machines but start somewhere and you’ll make progress. Good luck!

  • Reply
    July 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for writing this article. I have been very underweight for many years even though it is always a goal of mine to try to gain weight. I realized I was not eating as much as I thought I was, but yet still get full very easily. I do try to eat healthy, which may be one of the factors that has been holding me back. You have some good tips in this articles I will try out. Hope to see some results!

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