How to Gain Weight Fast Without Getting Fat

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Back in my high school days I was a skinny fat runt. Despite being athletic and enjoying sports, and despite all the bench press and curl sets I did, I couldn’t gain weight. Heading into college I was a pathetic and unappealing 152 pounds.

But this was an ugly 152 pounds. There wasn’t a lick of muscle on me. You know those naturally lean teenagers that weigh 140 or 150 and have six pack abs? Well, that wasn’t me. I was flabby, saggy, and had man boobs.

I absolutely hated my body. This was 1986.

Related: How Fast to Gain weight

Over the course of the next 24 months my physique changed dramatically. By the summer of 1988 I looked amazing. Muscular. Fit. That squat booty. Women were noticing me, and then some.

During this time I learned how to gain weight fast without getting fat. This article will detail everything I know about packing on weight. If you follow this plan, eat properly and train correctly, you will walk away with the body you are seeking.

Be patient and trust the process.

Weight Gain

The Basics of Gaining Weight

When you are looking to gain weight without packing on a lot of fat, the following variables are required:

Proper Calorie Intake – You need to eat a surplus of calories, but this amount can’t be random, filled with an excessive amount of junk food, and so aggressive that you pack on a lot of fat – and fast.

Proper Protein Intake – You need protein to build muscle, and to repair and recover. Without eating a proper amount of protein each day, you may be limiting the rate at which you build muscle. Undereating protein will hinder muscle growth, resulting in weight gain that is more fat than muscle mass.

Progressive Resistance Training – It’s not good enough to just “work out.” Each training session has to have a goal, and that goal is to add reps to each set, and to eventually add weight to a given exercise. This is called progressive overload. Without it you won’t build muscle muscle mass, and most of your weight gain will be fat. Extra calories without progressive overload is simply a fat gain program.

Supplementation – While supplements are optional, they can assist with proper calorie, protein and carb intake, and function as a nutritional backup plan. If you are struggling to eat enough calories or protein, or find it hard to eat veggies, supplementation will help.

Monitoring of Progress – This is an essential. You must make changes based on what the scale is telling you. Starting points are just that – starting points. If you’re gaining weight too quickly you need to dial down food intake. If you’re gaining weight too slowly, you need to increase food intake. Weekly scale readings, and monthly tape measure readings for arms and legs are an essential.

Proper Calorie Intake and Weight Gain

We aren’t just trying to add weight. We are trying to add quality weight. By this I mean mostly muscle mass with as little fat as possible. To do so we need to:

  • First, determine your daily calorie maintenance level. This is the amount of calories it takes you to maintain your current weight.
  • Second, eat more than this on a daily basis so your weight gain is slow, steady, and appropriate.

To calculate your daily calorie maintenance level, click on the following link.

Calculate Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Protein ShakeNow, how fast should you gain weight? Good question. To answer this, let’s first explore how much muscle mass you can build each year. This will help us establish a proper rate of gain so that you don’t add too much fat.

Without getting into the research, Dr. Casey Butt found that if you are training properly and eating right, you should be able to build the following amount of muscle mass each year:

  • Year 1 – 16 pounds (You are a beginner)
  • Year 2 – 8 pounds (You are an intermediate)
  • Year 3 – 4 pounds (You are a late intermediate)
  • Year 4 – 2 pounds (You are advanced)
  • Year 5 – 1 pound

So, based on this chart, find out where you land:

  • Rank Beginner – Haven’t built any muscle mass.
  • Beginner – Built a small amount of muscle mass, but nothing too impressive.
  • Intermediate – You’ve made quality muscle building progress, but are still too skinny.

It’s unlikely that you would be an advanced lifter and still be too skinny. An advanced lifter has packed on about 30 pounds of muscle mass, and should weigh at least 170 to 200 pounds with 12 to 18% body fat.

Now that we have established your training level, let’s determine just how skinny you are. We’ll combine this information with your training level to determine a proper rate of weight gain.

  • Very Skinny – You consider yourself to be extremely underweight
  • Skinny – You consider yourself to be very underweight
  • Somewhat skinny – You consider yourself to be somewhat underweight

Use the following chart to help you determine just how underweight you are.

Height Normal Weight Somewhat Skinny Skinny Very Skinny
5’4″  145 lbs  133 lbs  121 lbs  109 lbs
5’5″  148 lbs  136 lbs  124 lbs  112 lbs
5’6″  151 lbs  139 lbs  127 lbs  115 lbs
5’7″  154 lbs  142 lbs  130 lbs  118 lbs
5’8″  157 lbs  145 lbs  133 lbs  121 lbs
5’9″  160 lbs  148 lbs  136 lbs  124 lbs
5’10”  163 lbs  151 lbs  139 lbs  127 lbs
5’11”  166 lbs  154 lbs  142 lbs  130 lbs
6’0″  169 lbs  157 lbs  145 lbs  133 lbs
6’1″  172 lbs  160 lbs  148 lbs  136 lbs
6’2″  175 lbs  163 lbs  151 lbs  139 lbs
6’3″  178 lbs  166 lbs  154 lbs  142 lbs
6’4″  181 lbs  169 lbs  157 lbs  145 lbs

Now that we know just how skinny you are, and exactly how much muscle mass you have left to build, let’s look at how fast you should gain weight so that it’s mainly muscle and very little fat.

  • Very Skinny and a Rank Beginner – 2.5 to 3 pounds per month
  • Very Skinny and a Beginner – 2.0 to 2.5 pounds per month
  • Very Skinny and an Intermediate – 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per month
  • Skinny and a Rank Beginner – 2.0 to 2.5 pounds per month
  • Skinny and a Beginner – 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per month
  • Skinny and an Intermediate – 1.0 to 1.5 pounds per month
  • Somewhat Skinny and a Rank Beginner – 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per month
  • Somewhat Skinny and a Beginner – 1.0 to 1.5 pounds per month
  • Somewhat Skinny and an Intermediate – 0.5 to 1.0 pounds per month

How Many Calories Do You Need Per Day?

Based on how many pounds you need to gain per month, use the following numbers as a starting point for your daily calorie intake level.

  • 2.5 to 3 pounds per month = 600 above maintenance level
  • 2.0 to 2.5 pounds per month = 500 above maintenance level
  • 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per month = 400 above maintenance level
  • 1.0 to 1.5 pounds per month = 300 above maintenance level
  • 0.5 to 1.0 pounds per month = 200 above maintenance level

Understand several things here. First, this is merely a starting point. Adjustments will have to be made for most of us. Run this for a couple weeks before changing intake.

Second, don’t panic if you gain more than the expected weight during your first week of eating more food. An increase in intake also comes with an increase in carbohydrate and sodium intake, which can lead to greater water retention. This is not a fat gain.

Be patient and monitor weight gain during weeks two, three, and four. These weeks will truly reveal just now on point your calorie intake is, and if adjustments are needed.

Calculating Your Macronutrients – Protein, Carbs, and Fat

Weight gain and muscle building require more than just calories. You also need proper protein intake, and a reasonably balanced eating plan filled with quality carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Protein – You’ll need about 200 to 220 grams per day. If you are very skinny and trying to gain two or more pounds per month, I suggest 220 to 240 grams per day.

Is this more than required to build muscle? Yes. Why? You’re eating so many calories per day that a few extra grams of protein will help balance your diet a bit more. After all, eating only 160 grams of protein while consuming 600 grams of carbs isn’t always fun. I prefer eating more meat and protein foods just for the sake of sanity and balance.

Healthy Fats – Healthy fats should make up about 30 to 35% of your daily calories. Anything lower than this will force you to rely more on carb and protein intake, which generally means more food volume.

Food volume can be a challenge for skinny guys. Fat has 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbs have only 4 calories per gram. This makes a higher fat consumption a solid option when trying to gain weight.

You can get your healthy fats from nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, dairy, and similar foods.

Carbohydrates – Now that you have determined your daily calories from protein and fats, you can fill in the rest of your food intake with carbohydrates. Just remember that carbs have 4 calories per gram.

Quality carbohydrate foods include choices like fruits, veggies, oatmeal, rice, and quinoa.

Let’s look at an example of a man that requires 3,500 calories per day.

  • Calories – 3,500
  • Protein – 240 grams, equal to 960 calories
  • Fats – 1,050 calories from fats (30%), which equates to about 117 grams
  • Carbs – 1,490 calories from carbs, or 372.5 grams

Progressive Resistance Training

As I stated early, a bulking diet without progressive overload is merely a fat loss plan. What’s progressive overload? It’s the process of pushing yourself in the gym to get stronger. Without progressive overload you aren’t properly challenging your muscles, and leave them with little reason to grow.

How do you “progressively overload”? Good question. There are may ways to do so. I strongly believe my method is superior for most lifters. It’s simple, effective, and makes every set count. Here’s how it works.

Push each set for as many reps as possible, Stop that set either when you feel like you might fail on the next rep, or when your form starts to break down. Add weight when you reach the target number of reps for a given set.

You must add weight. Repeat. You must add weight when you reach your rep target for each set. Failure to do so will impair progress. You’re body won’t be challenged with the proper amount of intensity, and your rate of muscle gain will diminish.

If you gain fewer pounds of muscle while eating the same amount of calories, guess what happens? You gain unwanted fat. Don’t do this, make every set count.

When you make every set count, you make every workout count. When you make every workout count, you maximize the muscle building and weight gain process.

The following weight gain workout is performed three days per week. It is a full body program. Here is a sample schedule:

  • Day 1 – Workout A
  • Day 2 – Rest
  • Day 3 – Workout B
  • Day 4 – Rest
  • Day 5 – Workout C
  • Day 6 – Rest
  • Day 7 – Rest

Use the same weight for each for each set of a given exercise. Push sets for as many reps as possible. When you can perform the listed number of reps for a listed exercise, add weight to that movement.

For example, bench press. The listed minimum number of reps per set is 8. You want to be able to perform at least 8 reps per set. Let’s pretend your first bench press workout went like this:

Workout a
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  3  8
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press  3  8
Seated Cable Rows  3  10
Leg curls  3  10
Military Press  3  8
Cable Triceps Extensions  3  10
Dumbbell Curls  3  10
Workout B
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts  2  6
Machine Chest Press  3  8
Lat Pull Downs  3  10
Leg Extensions  3  10
Side Lateral Raise  3  10
Planks  3  60-120 sec
Seated Calf Raise  3  12
Workout C
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press  3  8
Leg Press  3  10
Dumbbell Rows  2  12
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts  3  10
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press  3  8
Dumbbell Triceps Extensions  3  10
EZ Bar Curls  3  10

If this workout isn’t quite your style, check out these other effective programs here at Tiger Fitness:

Supplementation For Weight Gain

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Nutritional supplements are a great back-up plan. Consider the following products based on your specific needs. They can assist you with calorie intake, protein intake, recovery, health, energy, and more.

  • Huge Gainer – Huge Gainer is not only a lean mass weight gain shake, but it’s also the perfect post-workout drink. One serving contains 470 calories, an optimal 3:1 carb to protein ratio, 25 grams of high quality whey, and an amazing chocolate taste.
  • Whey Protein Powder – Need more protein? Whey shakes typically contain over 24 grams of protein per serving and they won’t fill you up. This leaves you room to eat more food without feeling bloated.
  • BCAAs – Improve your recovery with this popular intra-workout choice.
  • Pre-Workout – More energy. More focus. Greater pumps. Nothing beats the potency of a good pre-workout formula. Take your workouts to the next level.
  • Multivitamin – Consider this your nutritional back-up plan.

Monitoring Your Weight Gain Progress

This is an important step. Make sure to religiously do the following:

  • Weigh yourself every week to 10 days.
  • Take tape measure measurements (flexing) at the thickest part of your arms, legs, chest, and forearms.

If your rate of weight gain is too slow, add in 300 calories per day. If your rate of weight gain is too fast, reduce your daily calories by 300. Wait two to three weeks before making another adjustment. It might take a month or two to completely dial in your eating plan. That’s OK. Let’s do this right.

By monitoring your arm, leg, and chest growth you will know for certain that you are building muscle. Remember that muscle gains come fast and furious the first six months and start to slow after that point.

Once you reach a normal weight and have packed on plenty of muscle mass, slow down your diet a bit, but keep pushing hard in the gym.

Have you tried this program? Let us know your results int he comments section below.

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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.