How To Increase Weight in Terms of Lean Muscle Mass, Not Body Fat

The Wrong Way: Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates

When I decided to adopt fitness as a lifestyle, I began as an underweight novice looking to answer the same question on how to increase weight both on the gym floor and the weighing scale—I could’ve done anything to fill a size medium T-shirt.

I took many wrong turns to increase my body weight. I stuffed myself with mass gainers, carbohydrates supplements, and sugar-filled “health” bars, and did everything bro-science tells you to do. I succeeded, but I wasn’t healthy in any sense of the word—please ignore the smug satisfaction with my unhealthy gains.

However, with goof ups comes wisdom, and this post is to keep you from making the same mistake of gaining body fat (adipose tissue) and equating it with progress in your pursuit of increasing your body weight.

Gaining adipose tissue only spells disaster no matter how good it feels to finally fill the sleeves of a size large T-shirt. It can demotivate and demoralize, especially when you’re putting in the work, and it may cause you to abandon all your efforts.

Why not chase your goals with a bit more tact and increase body weight by gaining lean muscle mass and not by jeopardizing your health?

The Right Way: Calculating, Training, and Eating Right

I realized that one can gain weight by loading up on sugar, hydrogenated foods, and refined carbohydrates and get there quickly, or one can do it the right way: training supplemented by the correct nutrition. Sure it’s a slow process, but it’s a surefire way. Here are the steps.

Calculate Your Ideal Body Weight

If you’re starting out underweight, like me, then packing on the pounds at the gym and on the weighing scale weigh heavily on the mind, which may cause you to eat beyond what’s required. Let go of that age-old practice and be methodical.

First, know your target weight. For that, calculate your ideal body weight using the Broca Index: measure your height in centimeters and subtract it by 100. What you’ll get is a range to fall between.

For example, 180 cm (5 feet 11 inches) subtracted by 100 = 80 kg (176 pounds)

Account for a deviation of 5 kgs, and your ideal range is anywhere between 75 kg to 85 kg. This gives you a ballpark estimate, and it’s much better than the buffet-line approach of eating till the scales tip over.

Plan Your Workouts

The next step is workout planning. That means, you’re going to create demand for proper nutrition by training for strength (resistance training), stamina, and flexibility, and scheduling rest and recovery.

What Does That Mean?

Damaging your muscle fibres at the gym (microtrauma) or expending calories through physical activity (sprinting or running at a steady pace) make the body perform extra work by actively repairing the damage (which you feel as soreness, or delayed onset muscle soreness, aka DOMS), and this exertion makes the body seek replenishment in exchange for the energy expended: cue the track for quality nutrition.

This extra work put in by your body therefore increases the need for correct nutrition to do a bang up patch-up and refuelling job. Therefore, create the demand, because you’re also going to plan the nutrient supply.

Put a Meal Plan in Place

Say No to Sabotage

Other than providing an inferior source of fuel for the body (glucose) and storing energy and consequently promoting a fat-generating environment (lipogenesis), carbohydrates will contribute the least to lean gains in muscle mass.

Ditch the refined carbohydrates and split your caloric intake between the two vital macronutrients: proteins and fats.

Proteins and Fats

Both these macronutrients work from the cellular level to give the human body structure, synthesize hormones and cells, aid the body’s immune system, and so much more. In addition, both have the ability to provide fuel without the lipogenic insulin spikes. Therefore, we require these in large quantities.

Yes, refined carb loading and grain feeding help provide fuel in the short term, but in the long term, they lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, carb addiction, insulin resistance…the works.

A Thought

If this seems absolutely mad, then proceed no further. The first two steps would still remain the same; you’ll only have to tweak your calculations to account for the calories coming via with the other nutrient: carbohydrates.

However, I would implore you to begin research regarding the high-fat, low-carb diet (FYI, I’m on it too), fatty-protein diet, or ketogenic diet. You may find the facts to be of interest.

For those who stayed, this would be a sample split on the correct nutrition. This is what I follow as well.

Macro Calculation

ProteinsFatsCarbohydrates
2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kg of body weightAt least 70% of total protein intakeLess than 30 grams from indirect sources

Adherence

Adherence is key for adaptation. Therefore, stay consistent. If you must gain, then gain lean muscle mass and not body fat. An excessive influx of refined carbohydrates does the bidding of the devil by rapidly spiking your insulin levels, thereby promoting lipogenesis.

Therefore, look out for your health and choose your fuel carefully while searching for how to increase weight by way of body weight or lean muscle mass. Most importantly, I wish you all the success on your way to achieving your goals.

Preaching What I Practice

As someone who struggled with regulating his body weight, an ideal body composition was a target I felt was beyond my grasp. Now, I beg to differ on the correct nutrition.

I wish you all the best for the task ahead. I hope this offers a new way of solving an age-old problem.


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Rahul Chitrakar View All →

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