Hardgainers typically find it difficult getting enough calories to
gain weight and build muscle. The secret to consuming enough calories is
to choose calorie dense foods. You have to be eating lots of high
calorie foods and beverages or you will be fighting an uphill battle.
Gaining weight doesn’t have to be a struggle if you are eating the right kind of calories. This can be changed if you begin to analyze your daily diet plan to include more calorie dense foods. Let me explain more about calorie density.
What are High Density or Calorie Dense Foods
High density foods are foods which (measure by volume) contain a high
number of calories per serving. Calorie dense foods tend to be high in
fat and/or sugar due to the fact that all proteins and all carbohydrates
contain four calories per gram whilst all fats contain nine calories
per gram. Moreover, some foods are more “calorie concentrated” then
others as they contain less water content etc. Let me explain.
Visualize two kitchen measuring cups side by side (both the same
size); one filled with chopped cucumber and one filled with raisins.
Each cup now contains exactly the same VOLUME of food, right? But did
you know that the cup of raisins has 37 times more calories? That’s
right! The cup of cucumbers contains 14 calories, while the cup of
raisins contains a whopping 520 calories. If cucumbers and raisins both
have four calories per gram, then how could this be? The answer has to
do with calorie density. The cucumbers have a lower calorie density
because they have a higher fiber and water content. The calories in the
raisins are more “concentrated”.
Typical calorie dense foods include things like fatty meats, salami, candy bars, rice crackers, cookies, potato chips, anything which is fried, cola, beer (although there is low calorie beers on the market nowadays) and ice-cream. These are all examples of high calorie foods and drinks because they are high in sugar and/or fat.
When making adjustments to your weight gain diet plan to include more
calories, do so in a healthy manner. Don’t just look to be consuming
more calories, look at the nutrition value of foods. Let me give an
example. We all know fruits and vegetables and nutritionally very good
Fibrous carbohydrates and vegetables such as lettuce, asparagus,
cucumber, and broccoli are very low calorie foods. This is because these
vegetables are high in fiber and your body has a hard time absorbing
the caloric content of fiber. These types of vegetables also have a high
So now let’s look at some “calorie dense” foods which will help pack on the pounds. Leave the vegetables in the pantry if you want to gain weight, and replace them with simple carbohydrates such as fruits which have a higher calorie density. This is because simple carbs are more concentrated and they contain less fiber. Fruit juice is even more concentrated then eating the fruit itself. Instead of having the one medium size orange, which contains about 60 calories, drinking a glass of orange juice will serve you better as it contains about 160 calories. Fruit and fruit juice therefore make a great addition to a weight gain program.
Complex carbohydrates (starches) such as whole grains, pasta, cereals, beans, potatoes and rice also have higher calorie densities than fibrous carbs. A typical serving of pasta contains about 800-1000 calories. Pasta and other complex carbs are great foods for gaining weight.
Now that you know what carbs to eat, let’s talk about fat. There is a
common misconception that all fats are bad for you and they should be
removed from your diet. This is untrue, there are good and bad fats. Fats have a major impact on the calorie content of foods,
so they are an important consideration. Just keep in mind that fat
should consist of about 15-25% of your total calories. You want to be
getting most of you calories from carbohydrates and protein.
In small amounts, unsaturated, “healthy” fats are not only good for you, but they can help you gain weight more quickly. Just one tablespoon of flaxseed oil and two tablespoons of peanut butter would add nearly 500 calories to your daily diet and you’d hardly notice that any extra food was added.
In addition, you can supplement your healthy diet with protein supplements. It is often difficult to eat enough protein each day from normal foods, so supplementing with a weight gain supplement such as a soy or whey protein shake can help increase overall caloric intake. You want to make sure the weight gain supplement is a good mix of both protein and carbs and doesn’t contain too much sugar.
For example, a post workout shake containing 40 grams of protein, 80
grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fat would provide almost 500 calories. If
you wanted even more calories, you could mix the powder in juice
instead of water and also add flaxseed oil.
So, let’s summarize your plan for quickly and easily adding more calories to your diet. Continue eating the same healthy foods, just eat more of them. Healthy high calorie snacks are a great way to increase calories. Replace low density foods with high density foods. You could eat salads all day until your face hurts, but it won’t do much good for weight gain. Eat plenty of starchy carbs including whole grains, pastas, rice, and potatoes. Don’t be afraid of adding some fat to your diet, just ensure it’s no more then 15-25% of your total calories. Some of the “good” fats will actually help you to gain weight. Most importantly – just because you need to eat more calories doesn’t give you permission to stuff yourself with unhealthy foods.
Healthy Calorie Dense Foods
- All natural peanut butter, almonds, cashews & other nuts
- Fruits, especially fruit juice & dried fruit
- Whole grains, pastas, rice & high calorie breakfast cereals
- Potatoes, yams
- Dips & spreads
- Beans & other legumes
- Dairy such as whole milk, cheese, yogurt
- Oily fish such as salmon, tuna or fish oil supplements
- Red meats
- Cooked vegetables/meats/etc in olive oil