How Much Weight to Gain Per Week When Lifting

Lifting weights strengthens your muscles, but it doesn't necessarily lead to huge amounts of muscle gain. To actually gain muscle mass and bulk up, you'll need to eat more while you're training -- which may sound great to you. However, you can't simply eat piles of chips and fries and expect to gain muscle mass. To get the best muscles possible, aim to gain weight slowly week by week by eating healthy foods.

A man is training with a barbell in a gym. (Image: masta4650/iStock/Getty Images)

Weight Gain Goals

You can't gain an infinite amount of muscle, since your genetics govern how large your muscles can grow. But you should see good results if you aim for a gain of one pound of muscle each week during your weightlifting training. If you aim for more, you risk adding fat tissue instead of muscle tissue.

Weight Gain Basics

To gain weight, eat more calories. No matter how hard you work out, you won't gain muscle mass or weight if you don't consume more calories than you burn. In fact, you could begin to lose weight if you work out too hard, since vigorous weightlifting can burn upwards of 500 calories an hour, depending on how much you weigh, according to Harvard Medical School. Aim to consume about 500 more calories each day than you expect to burn, and you should add one pound per week while you're lifting.

Foods to Eat

While it's tempting to pile on the protein, excess protein actually won't help you build muscle tissue. Most people already get enough protein; unless you weigh more than 200 pounds, you don't need more than about seven ounces of protein each day. Or, go by the rule of thumb which is consuming 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Focus on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These can provide you with the energy and nutrients you need to keep lifting and gain one pound each week in muscle.

Timing

Although you should manage to gain three to four in your first month of lifting, your muscle gains will taper off over the following months. Consequently, you'll need to watch your calorie intake to make sure you're not building fat instead of muscle. To maximize your muscle gains while keeping your body fat as low as possible, consider adding aerobic exercise to your lifting routine. If you perform cardio exercises for at least 30 minutes, five days each week, along with your lifting, you'll likely add nothing but muscle weight as you gain, and you'll increase your cardiovascular health.

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