What to eat to gain weight and muscle mass
If you want to build muscle and gain weight, shakes are the best way to do it… Is that right? Wait, someone else says that to gain weight, foods such as chicken and steak are best. No, that can’t be it...
When every lifter in the gym has their own secret recipes for weight gain, or wants to tell you about the ‘best bulking meal ever’, it’s hard to know what advice to listen to. That’s why we want to break down the essentials for any healthy meal plan to gain weight, so you can achieve your muscle-building goals.
Results will be different for different people, so it’s important to factor in your personal goal, calculate your individual calorie needs, follow a muscle-building program that uses progressive overload and compound exercises, and prioritize recovery and sleep. So before you crack on with your muscle-building meals, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about training to build muscle mass to get you on the right track.
Just like you go to the gym every day and monitor your form, you need to stay on top of your nutrition and monitor your outcomes.
Chris Hemsworth and his personal trainer Luke Zocchi have designed the definitive muscle-building program Centr Power, inspired by the training they used to prepare for the latest Thor movie. They have refined their process over the years, and this includes planning nutrition just as carefully as they plan workouts.
What does a muscle-building diet look like for these guys? It includes a lot of variety, and small meals spread out across the day. Yet Luke’s biggest tip is not to simply eat like Chris Hemsworth, but to adapt to your own needs and be consistent: “Just like you go to the gym every day and monitor your form, you need to stay on top of your nutrition and monitor your outcomes.”
Chris and his stuntman Bobby chow down on yet another meal to fill out the Thor costume.
So while you’re carving out time to go to the gym, you should also be doing some meal planning in the kitchen. Meal prepping doesn’t have to be a headache. Your meal prep could be as simple as planning and shopping for a week of meals in advance, batch cooking several meals on the day you have time, or stocking your freezer with dinners for those nights you’re late home from training.
Whether you’re starting a muscle-building program, or fine-tuning your nutrition to perform better, we’ve got the tips you need to maximize your results. We’ll also share a few of our favorite quick and easy muscle-building recipes, plus high-protein smoothie recipes to help you gain weight (without feeling like you’re constantly eating).
Muscle-building foods to add to your diet
Any meal plan for weight gain should include a range of healthy whole foods, with plenty of protein to aid muscle growth and colorful veggies for nutrients and fibre. For Chris and Luke, a regular meal will have a macro breakdown of around 30–40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat.
In your daily meal plan, aim to include foods such as:
Starchy carbs (e.g. potato, corn, grains)
Oats and whole-grain bread
Dairy in the form of milk and Greek yogurt
Tofu and tempeh
Nuts and nut butters
Foods to avoid when you want to gain weight
When you’re thinking about what to eat to gain muscle mass, sweets such as soda/soft drinks and candy, or fast food may seem like the easy route to get the calories you need – a no-effort way to stack on weight fast. But while these foods may be high in calories, they’re not the kind you want. Known as ‘dirty bulking’, this kind of ‘eat whatever you want that is high in calories’ bulking plan is more likely to expand your waist with fat than it is to build up your muscles with protein.
Bulking snacks: How to top-up when you’re trying to gain weight
Most people following a muscle-building program find that eating regular snacks throughout the day is easier than sitting down for enormous high-calorie meals three times a day. So snack often and opt for nibbles that combine two or more food groups – for instance, dipping apple slices in peanut butter.
Make a batch of the Power Plus Muesli Bars on Sunday for a whole week’s worth of bulking snacks. Future you will thank you for it!
Try adding these Centr snack recipes into your regular rotation.
- Power Plus Muesli Bars: High in protein and carbs, these DIY power bars make it easy to get the nutrition you need post-workout.
- High Protein Spicy Tuna Bites: It doesn’t have to be all bars and shakes. Savory high-protein bites are a great way to mix up your protein intake and spacing.
Just like it makes sense to prep your main meals for the week, it pays to batch cook snacks to have on hand pre and post-workout. Check out our collection of more bars you can pack in your gym bag to meet your energy and protein needs, and help you train at optimum levels.
High-calorie shakes for weight gain
When you’re training to build muscle and gain weight, protein shakes are your secret weapon. That’s because the amount of calories required to maximize muscle mass can make it feel like you’re constantly eating. So when you couldn’t possibly eat anymore, drink!
Getting some of your calories from smoothies and shakes can make gaining weight easier – especially when they taste as good as the Green Super Smoothie.
Using protein powder in high-calorie shakes for weight gain is one of the easiest ways to boost your daily intake. Smoothies are especially useful in the immediate post-workout window where you need to cool down and get your protein fix, or as a quick bulking breakfast you can grab and go.
Looking for the perfect protein shake recipe for weight gain? Try our Green Super Smoothie. You’ll find more super smoothie flavors on Centr.
4 healthy meals for weight gain
Healthy meals that are suitable for weight gain don’t have to be hard. Your aim in making good meals for bulking should be to get a mix of protein, carbs, veg and fibre in every meal. Need somewhere to begin? We’ve got the recipes you need to gain muscle.
1. Beef & Soba Noodle Salad: This noodle salad (which includes meat, starchy carbs and legumes) can be served warm or cold, which means leftovers make a great post-gym lunch.
2. Barbecued Chicken with Grilled Broccoli & Lemon Salad: High in protein, easy to make, and a whole lot more tasty than the cliched ‘steamed chicken’ muscle-building diet.
Try a fresh spin on the classic bodybuilder diet with Centr’s Barbecued Chicken with Grilled Broccoli & Lemon Salad. It’s perfect for those post-gym nights.
3. Lentil & Mushroom Soup with Tofu: Yes, you can build muscle on a vegan diet. This soup from chef Dan Churchill is sure to become a staple of any vegan bulking meal plan. For more help building muscle on a plant-based diet, check out our guides to vegan protein powder and whole food vegan protein sources.
4. Turkey Burger with Hummus: Sick of chicken? Turkey is right up there with the other bird as a quality type of high-protein lean meat. To get that good mix of muscle-building foods, just layer it all into a burger.
Remember, the best meals for bulking are those you will actually eat consistently. So it’s important that your meal plan is not so restrictive or bland that it becomes impossible to stick with. Recipes that you enjoy and can make easily (or adapt with the ingredients you have on hand) such as these dishes are a good starting point.
You can find a huge variety of high-calorie meals suitable for gaining weight (including breakfast ideas and fast and easy-to-make lunches) on Centr.
Want more muscle-building recipes?
The Centr meal plan takes the hard work out of planning your muscle-building nutrition. Our meals and snacks are quick and easy, balanced for macros, and provide the base of your daily calorie intake – you can then adjust for your personal needs and goals. Sign up for a free trial to get access to all of our recipes, and start training with the definitive muscle-building program Centr Power.
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