Transforming yourself from skinny to strong requires more than a few visits to the gym. Gaining healthy weight requires as much focus and dedication as losing it. You want a change now, but the fastest rate of gain that is still healthy is just 1 to 2 pounds per week -- especially if you want most of that gain in the form of sculpted, lean muscle. Don't resort to garbage foods in an attempt to pile on the pounds faster. Plenty of calorie-dense, healthy foods are the best support for your efforts to gain weight.
Eat five to six times per day. Aim for at least three full meals and two smaller, but still calorie-dense snacks. Skipping meals means skipping an opportunity to put calories in your body; calories are what lead to weight gain. Start with breakfast and schedule another snack or meal every two to three hours throughout the day.
Increase the calorie density of every meal with healthy foods. Supplement foods by adding dense items like nuts to cereal and cook oats in milk at breakfast. Slather avocado on sandwiches and toss pasta with olive oil for lunch. Include a serving or two of dense, whole-grain bread and starchy vegetables at dinner. Indulge in trail mix, granola and smoothies made with fresh fruit, yogurt and peanut butter for snacks. These additions add between 500 and 1,500 extra calories per day -- enough to gain 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Have an extra serving of protein at meals to support muscle growth. Dr. Steve Fleck, chair of the Sport Science Department at Colorado College, told CNN that you should consume at least .55 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily when trying to put on muscle. If you weigh 145 pounds, you'll need at least 80 grams. Skip proteins high in saturated fat and instead seek out lean sources such as low-fat cottage cheese, chicken breast and flank steak.You can also include salmon and other fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which will boost your calorie intake.
Pack snacks whenever you leave home so you never find yourself without healthy, high-calorie options. Whole-food energy bars, packets of dried fruit or nuts, or a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread make portable, convenient options for men who don't like to deal with food prep.
Weight train to build lean muscle. Follow a protocol to build size which calls for two or three sets of four to eight repetitions of exercises for every major muscle group. Use weights for these exercises that fatigue your muscles by the last one or two repetitions; these should be at about 80 to 85 percent of your one-repetition maximum. Aim for three sessions a week on nonconsecutive days.
Increase the amount of weight your use for a specific exercise when eight repetitions does not lead to fatigue. Muscles need to be subjected to stress to break down so they can then repair stronger and thicker as you rest between weight-training workouts -- leading to weight gain through more muscle mass.
Do some cardio, but keep your sessions short to avoid burning too many calories. Try 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio that keeps your heart rate in a range of 50 to 70 percent of maximum no more than three times per week. Alternatively, do a 20-minute session of alactic intervals which stimulate your fast-twitch muscle fibers and complement strength-training efforts to build muscle. Do a bout of 10 to 15 seconds of hard and fast repetitive exercises, such as box jumps, medicine ball throws or short all-out sprints, and then rest 50 to 75 seconds and repeat for the duration of your workout. Cardio stimulates your appetite so you eat more and helps keep your heart healthy by improving its efficiency at pumping blood throughout your body.
Don't drink during your meals -- it can squelch your appetite. Save water, juice and milk for after or between meals. Enlist a workout partner to keep you honest about your workouts and to serve as a spotter.
Avoid taking supplements that promise quick weight gain. Many of these are full of additives and ingredients that are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. You can better your results and nutrition with whole foods.