Make Eating Achievable, Lazy (MEAL)
This is the muscle-building variant to the KISS acronym that I’ve just now invented. (Keep It Simple Silly, for those who were confused 😉 ) When you’re trying to eat more calories don’t go complicating things. Your diet doesn’t need to be simple—the more variety and fun you have with it the better—but it does need to be achievable. If you aren’t already paleo, low carb, intermittent fasting, avoiding gluten, eating “clean”, etc—don’t go starting now. Also try to avoid putting a title on how you eat because this mindset in itself is restricting. The term “diet” as gotten a negative connotation but by definition it originally from the Latin word “dieta” meaning “way of living”. So in modern terms this is your eating lifestyle habits or approach. If you have limitations for nutritional, religious or personal beliefs on foods to not eat, thats fine, but try to avoid the negative stigmas of “categorizing” yourself by what you eat.
I know these approaches to nutrition provide simple rules—eat everything except for meat, or everything except for gluten, or everything that a caveman would eat. That’s simple, and when faced with the overwhelming task of creating a muscle-building diet, simple can be so, so alluring.
But also keep in mind that most of these food group avoidance things are designed for overweight people who need to restrict their calories in order to get down to a healthy bodyweight. As someone who is trying to gain weight you need to do the opposite: keep your diet open, keep your diet indulgent, and keep your diet fun.
Yes, you should be trying to get most of your calories from whole foods, having some fruit or veggies with most meals, having protein with most meals—all of which are great for your health—but you should also be having dessert like you always do, cooking those richly flavoured meals that you love, having a drink here and there, and not ordering the garden salad at restaurants as your main meal.
You’re trying to gain weight, you’re trying to build muscle, and you’re trying to get strong. This is not a situation where you need to remove easy, delicious sources of calories. This is a situation where you need to expand what you eat. This is about adding nutritious, delicious things into a routine that’s already easy, not time to overhaul everything and start eating totally “clean.”
If you normally wake up and have coffee and a muffin at Starbucks for breakfast, switch that to having a latte, a muffin, and a fruit at Starbucks for breakfast. Your routine is the same, it won’t require a ton of willpower… but the milk in the latte adds protein and calories, the fruit adds calories, fibre, phytonutrients and vitamins. This is how you get started bulking—by keeping things realistically achievable. So realistically achievable that even when you’re lazy you can still succeed.
Now you know why both vegan and paleo diets are healthier than average: they help the average, overweight person consume fewer calories and fewer processed foods. This causes some weight loss (which is healthy for them), gives them more fibre and helps to fix up nutrient deficiencies.
While this guide provides a simple how-to for a beginner looking to build muscle, I know that it’s not actually simple to do. It’s hard to eat enough calories to gain weight, and it’s hard to eat enough protein.
We’ll be writing about how to make eating enough to gain weight easier in the future, but if you want to get started now, sign up below and we can get started sending you some custom meal plans, workouts and much more to jump start you on your path from Skinny to Strong and from Cautious to Confident.
Alright, now here are the main takeaways:
- Make sure you’re lifting before going gung-ho with calories.
- 0.3–0.5 pounds per week is a good pace to be gaining weight as a naturally skinny woman who’s trying to build muscle leanly and healthfully.
- If your diet is already made up mostly of whole whole foods, is fairly consistent, and your weight stays about the same each week, then you don’t need to start from scratch. Adding 200–300 calories to what you’re already eating is a simple way to get into a calorie surplus.
- If your diet needs a total overhaul, 13x your bodyweight (in pounds) is probably how much you need to eat to maintain your weight. To begin gaining weight at a good pace, add 20% to that.
- Weigh yourself each week and adjust up/down in 200 calories increments until you’re consistently gaining 0.3–0.5 pounds per week.
- Your weekly caloric surplus is what will determine how much weight you gain that week, but the leanest gains are from small, consistent daily surpluses. Do not under eat by 500 calories one day and then try and make up for it by overeating by 1,000 calories the next day.
- Eat 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight (2.2 grams per kilo).
- Eat the foods you already love—just add more calories & protein.
- Don’t fret about advanced nutrition techniques until this is easy!
And remember, your appetite is no fool, and your body will always be trying to keep your weight the same. This means that if you hit your calorie goal one day, you may forget to eat breakfast the next. This is your body’s attempt to restore balance—to eradicate the surplus you worked so hard to create. Don’t let this happen. Be mindful of how much you’re eating all week long, and make sure to carry around some emergency calories (like trail mix or protein bars).
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