How do I Gain Weight and Muscle?

Simone Lawson

Added weight and muscle can give strength and stamina to those who may be naturally thin or frail. When attempting to gain weight and muscle, it is important to introduce exercise and diet changes gradually in order to avoid added stress on the body. Making a few small changes to diet and exercise, such as minimizing cardiovascular activity, working out different muscles in each session and adding more protein into your diet, can yield the results of a stronger, muscular body over time.

An anatomical illustration showing many muscles in the upper body.
An anatomical illustration showing many muscles in the upper body.

When trying to gain weight and muscle, keep in mind muscle is heavy, so building muscle will naturally cause the body to gain weight. The first lifestyle adjustment to make is to add more muscle-building exercises to a daily regimen. If exercise has not been a regular activity, it is generally best to begin introducing a routine to gain weight and muscle slowly, building intensity and endurance over time.

Muscles need a day of rest after a day of working out in order to grow.
Muscles need a day of rest after a day of working out in order to grow.

It may also be a good idea to minimize cardiovascular activity when attempting to gain weight and muscle. Cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging or biking, burns calories and promotes weight loss. These exercises are still important to promoting heart health but should generally not be performed more than three times per week for 30 minutes at a time when attempting to gain weight.

Jogging should be limited to a few times a week when someone wants to gain weight.
Jogging should be limited to a few times a week when someone wants to gain weight.

To gain weight, muscle-building exercises may be increased to sessions lasting 40 to 60 minutes, five times per week. To build the most muscle, it is usually a good idea to vary the workout routine to present challenges to different muscle groups every day. For example, one day may involve performing a series of weight-lifting exercises that focus on the biceps, triceps and other upper-body areas while the next day may include a series of leg weight lifts, lower back and glut strengthening exercises.

Protein is essential for those who wish to build muscle quickly.
Protein is essential for those who wish to build muscle quickly.

Weight-lifting exercises may be alternated with body resistance exercises, such as pull-ups, push-ups and abdominal crunches. Maintaining muscle and joint flexibility is also important to a strength-training routine. Flexibility helps improve the elasticity of muscle and may prevent painful strain and injury. Simple stretching before and after muscle training may greatly reduce the risk of injury, and participating in yoga or Pilates classes one a week may also be beneficial.

When trying to gain weight and muscle, keep in mind muscle is heavy, so building muscle will naturally cause the body to gain weight.
When trying to gain weight and muscle, keep in mind muscle is heavy, so building muscle will naturally cause the body to gain weight.

Diet is also an important consideration when trying to gain weight and muscle. It may be tempting to increase the intake of junk foods, such as sweets and fast food, in order to gain weight, but this is not generally advisable. It is typically best to consume large amounts of nutrient-rich foods and high amounts of protein.

Muscle mass is denser than fat tissue, thus it weighs more.
Muscle mass is denser than fat tissue, thus it weighs more.

Protein is an essential component to building healthy and strong muscles. Lean forms of protein, such as fish, chicken and liver, are generally considered to be the best method for building lean body muscle. It may also be beneficial to include a protein shake or supplement as a snack once or twice a day. Fruits and vegetables may also be added to the diet in abundance to maintain a healthy body. Try limiting fast foods and sweets to one or twice a week to ensure healthy weight gain and muscle development.

Weight-lifting exercises can be complemented or replaced by body-weight lifts, such as pull-ups.
Weight-lifting exercises can be complemented or replaced by body-weight lifts, such as pull-ups.
Push-ups, which require no equipment to perform, can strengthen and tone the chest, arms and shoulders.
Push-ups, which require no equipment to perform, can strengthen and tone the chest, arms and shoulders.

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Discussion Comments

clintflint

@pastanaga - I would recommend that anyone attempting to increase their muscle mass talk to a nutritionist rather than jury-rig a weight and muscle gain diet on their own. Even heavily exercising people don't need huge amounts of protein and the average Westerner gets much more than they actually need from an ordinary diet.

pastanaga

@KoiwiGal - I definitely agree that you should start out your exercise with the intention of ramping it up to a level that you can maintain over the long term, but as far as nutrition goes, it can be useful to modify it at the beginning stages of training.

If someone is serious about their intention to gain weight and build muscle mass, they need to increase their protein intake as well, and possibly keep it higher than maintenance levels while their body changes.

The extra muscle has to come from somewhere, after all.

KoiwiGal

If you are young and hoping to gain weight and muscle in order to impress girls (or boys) then the best advice I could give you is to keep the long term in mind. It's very easy to imagine that you're going to completely change your body-shape within a few weeks, but that rarely happens, particularly if you've got a fast metabolism.

You want to build a body that is going to serve you for decades and that can't be done overnight. Work up to it slowly, and exercise and eat in the way that you will want to continue forever, not just to reach a short term goal.

Also, if you're seeking to impress the opposite sex, then don't forget to work on your personal skills and interests as well. Looks will only get you so far and after that, you need to be able to carry out a conversation.

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