Following the right type of diet when gaining weight is just as important as it is when trying to lose weight. Mass gaining diets can be potentially disastrous if you don't plan ahead. To build muscle you need to eat enough calories to spark growth, but not so many that you add excess body fat. Though the perfect daily meal plan differs from person to person, you can follow a few basic rules.
Get the Calories Right
First and foremost, you need to work out how many calories you should consume each day. Nutritionist Jamie McGinn suggests adding an extra 500 calories per day to what you currently eat. NASM trainer coach Chris Embry agrees, adding that if you're currently maintaining your weight, this will result in a 4 to 5 pound gain per month. Any more than this is probably fat gain. Macronutrients matter as well as calories. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises getting 15 to 20 percent of your daily calories from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fat and at least 50 percent from carbohydrates.
Breaking It Up
Aim to consume your calories and macronutrients evenly spread throughout the day. Traditional bodybuilding dogma dictates eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, but this may not be necessary. According to nutritionists Alan Aragon and Ryan Zielonka, however, this appears to have no beneficial effect on body composition. The best option is to find a meal frequency that suits you. Four meals per day can work well, giving you breakfast, lunch, dinner and one pre- or post-workout meal.
A Day in the Life
The number of calories and amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat you need dictate serving sizes and the amounts of food you can eat. That being said, a solid mass-gaining meal plan should incorporate a lean protein, some whole-grain carbs, fruits and vegetables, and a source of healthy fat at every meal. You could start your day with scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, whole-wheat toast and a piece of fruit. At lunch, try a whole-grain wrap or bagel with tuna, sweetcorn, olives and a salad. Your pre- or post-workout meal could be a protein shake with a bowl of oats and more fruit, and salmon, mixed vegetables and quinoa for dinner.
Try out your meal plan for six to eight weeks to see how it's working. If you feel you're gaining unwanted fat, reduce your calorie intake a little. If you're not putting on weight and getting stronger, increase your calories. Weight training is vital if you wish to add muscle rather than fat. You don't need to eat the same foods every day. Change between poultry, red meat, fish and dairy for protein, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, breads and high-sugar fruits like pineapple and mango for carbs, and substitute in nuts, peanut butter, olive oil and avocado for your fats.