(Your complete guide to the best bulking foods to eat for gaining weight)
If you’re trying to gain weight, there are certain weight gain foods and dietary choices that can be made to expedite the process. In the below segments I’ll touch on the best foods for each time of day that’ll help pack on the pounds quickly while ensuring you meet your macronutrient requirements. In general for weight gain, the majority of people will want to achieve over 3,000 calories per day, and over 100 grams of protein daily. Below will be listed an array of food choices that I’ve found to be the best at doing just that.
While easy foods like chips, cakes, hamburgers, fries and so forth are loaded with calories and carbohydrates, they’re what you’d consider empty calories and really the nutritional benefit really isn’t there. So, what should I eat to gain weight?
To start, proteins are always essential for gaining mass and more importantly – muscle. It’s always best to forego fatty meats such as bacon and sausages and instead opt for leaner choices such as chicken or lean steak. Eating foods high in protein can be a quick way to gain weight. Some great high calorie and healthy protein sources include:
- Chicken breast
One of the most instrumental sources of lean protein, chicken breast has a lot of cooking options to go along with it. While it’s a great source of protein, there’s a large amount of Vitamin B6, selenium, phosphorus and niacin in it. There’s a reason why chicken is so popular! It’s one of the best bulking food to eat to gain weight fast. And one of the best foods for building muscle. Per 200 grams of chicken breast you can expect around 320 calories and 62 grams of protein!
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts)
Completely loaded with healthy fats, proteins, fiber, and other essential nutrients, nuts are the perfect mid-day snack accessory for maintaining high energy, effective muscle growth and general good health. Per 100 grams of nuts you can expect upwards of 600 calories and 20 grams of protein!
- Lean beef
Likewise with chicken, lean beef is a great source of whole proteins. Do stay away from more fatty beef cuts however. Anyway, this is one of the best weight gain foods available. In about 200g of lean beef you can expect around of 52 grams of protein and 500 calories.
- Nut butters
The ideal topping to any bagel or sandwich, nut butters are chock full of healthy proteins, fats, calories and other nutrients. Try and avoid nut butter which have an excess of sugar in then and instead opt for healthier alternatives. Typically ‘big brand’ nut butters have a large amount of extra sugar in them. Per 2 tablespoons of most nut butters you can expect around 9 grams of protein and 210 calories.
- Protein powders
Needless to say, protein powders are a terrific source of, well, protein, and oftentimes have BCAAs, Creatine, and other helpful supplements packed right in. So, if you want to gain weight fast, don’t forget protein shakes. Choose a good lean protein powder which features a high grams-of-protein to grams-of-powder ratio.
- Seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds)
Although relatively expensive, seeds are a phenomenal source of healthy fats, proteins and calories. Perfect for an addition to any salad, bagel, trail mix or even alone, seeds are a great way to boost the number of calories you get per day. Seeds are super calorie dense with only 100 grams containing around 30 grams of protein and 550 calories.
- Dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt)
If you’re really wanting to pack on the pounds quickly, substituting water for milk in a protein shake, having a slice or two of cheese and a bowl of yogurt a day is a great and tasty way to increase your calorie intake. Though – if you’re more acne prone than usual, take care of your total dairy intake, especially milk, as it may upset your hormonal state.
The number 1 option if you’re on a meat restricted diet, beans have a large amount of calories and proteins for their weight. Added to a dish of rice is a common way to get a hefty amount of calories, proteins, fats and carbohydrates all in one dish. Fairly cheap, too! Beans are also very calorie dense with 350 calories per 100 grams and 20 grams of protein.
Carbohydrates are often misunderstood and forgotten, however healthy carbohydrate-laden foods are essential to sustaining good energy levels throughout the day! Carbohydrates are quite energy dense at 4 calories per gram, just like protein. Some great carbohydrate rich foods include:
Ideal as a caloric-dense, lunchtime or afternoon snack, the typical whole-grain bagel has easily 275+ calories and with a good topping (peanut butter, jam, cheese) can easily break the 500 calorie marker. Perfect, if you want to gain weight. Whole-grain bagels are a fantastic source of complex carbohydrates which helps retain high energy levels and a stable glycemic index all the way toward the evening. Bagels pack often around 275 calories & 54 grams of carbohydrates.
Really good choice if you’re looking to gain weight. An instrumental part to every breakfast for myself, toasted granola or whole oats pack in over 350 calories per 100 gram serving. Starting the morning off with two servings of either, topped with some nuts, berries and yogurt can help you pack in over 1000 calories of healthy complex carbohydrates in a delicious meal. Per 100 grams of granola or oats you can expect around 470 calories & 64 grams of carbohydrates!
Use rolled granola in a home-made trail mix for another great mid-afternoon snack. Great additions to throw into a mix includes dried fruits, nuts, honey (or maple syrup), seeds and chocolate chips! It’s much cheaper to make your own rather than buy a premade one from the store.
One of the most commonly consumed carbohydrates; bread is both inexpensive and packed with essential calories. It’s recommended to stray away from white bread and instead opt for whole-wheat, rye or whole-grain instead as white bread causes a big spike in blood-glucose levels, altering your glycemic index for the worst an hour after fully digesting it. Per 100 grams of bread you can expect around 250 calories & 41 grams of carbohydrates!
- Dried and fresh fruits
Mango, apricots, raisins, bananas, etc are all great sources of simple carbohydrates. While in general most simple carbohydrates are best to stay away from, unrefined sources can give a healthy boost to insulin levels while tasting great! Surprisingly calorie dense for many fruits, they’re a solid way of getting in plenty of calories as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Some fruits such as avocados or mangos have healthy fats and proteins in them as well! Dried fruits are bursting with calories and carbs, sitting at around 350 calories and a solid 83g of carbohydrates per 100 grams– depending on the fruits you choose!
While being a great medium to add proteins and other calorie-laden foods onto, a healthy whole-grain pasta has a ton of complex carbohydrates and a notable amount of calories. There are an infinite number of pasta dishes available on the web – many of which taste amazing and are very healthy, so the sky is the limit with pastas. One of my favorite foods. Most pastas have roughly 131 calories and 25g carbohydrates per 100 grams.
My #1 pick when on a restricted budget, brown rice is a godsend. From its large calorie count, fantastic source of complex carbohydrates, and also its potential to be used in practically any dish you can think of, rice is one of the best calorie-rich carbs known to man. At only a 100 gram serving, you can get an easy 130 calories and healthy 28g carbohydrates!
Deserving of another mention in the carbohydrates section, beans are loaded with healthy carbohydrates and act as a fantastic slow-release energy source. The perfect accomplice to a rice dish.
Consuming healthy fats is in fact an instrumental part to gaining weight and putting on healthy muscle, and unfortunately bacon isn’t one of them. Oftentimes people forget to get enough healthy fats and wonder why they’re not seeing adequate progress. Another list of best bulking foods that help you gain weight:
- Fish (salmon, tuna)
Not only it is a great source of proteins, good fish key to a healthy muscle growth and a happy brain. Also, it is a great source to help you gain weight. Numerous studies show that fish oil helps cognitive performance, so getting a healthy intake of fish won’t only help you with gaining mass, but it’ll also help your brain work better! Fish is completely loaded with everything, and you can expect around 200g of fish to be around 400 calories with 44 grams of protein and 24g of healthy fats.
- Nuts and nut butters
As previously mentioned, nuts are one of the best sources for healthy fats known to man and make for a terrific snack. It can be another great food to help you gain weight.
- Dark chocolate
I’ve Italicized dark chocolate because it’s often forgotten and under-appreciated food. Not only does a good dark chocolate taste great and act as a healthy source of fats, but it also it proven to help with serotonin production – the chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy.
- Olives & olive oil
The Italians are onto something – adding olive oil and olives to salads, pastas and breads is a surefire way to maintaining a healthy diet. Over-consumption of olive oil is of course not that great for you, however switching from canola or standard cooking oil to olive oil will make your other meals taste better and pack more healthy fats in them. 100 grams of olives sits at around 115 calories and 11 grams of healthy fats.
Being a perfect addition to many breakfast meals, eggs are a great source of healthy fats, calories and protein. Another good source to help you gain weight. Just like chicken eggs are one of the best foods for building muscle. While I don’t condone drinking 8 blended raw eggs every morning, a couple eggs in the morning is a wise choice for a healthy breakfast. Serve on whole-wheat bread or a bagel for a great breakfast or lunch. 2 large eggs has a solid 155 calories and 11g of healthy fats and 13g protein.
- Seeds (chia, sunflower, flax)
As mentioned in the proteins section, seeds are a solid way to boosting your healthy fats intake while remaining incredibly healthy. Many seeds can be had for pretty cheap and for the amount of nutrients they pack in, it’s quite a bargain!
- Dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk)
While not so great in excess, dairy products feature a large quantity of proteins, fats and calories which make them a wise candidate as a daily food!
5 Super-Meals For Optimal Weight Gain
Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. Getting a healthy serving of complex and simple carbohydrates is crucial for getting your energy levels for the rest of the day. Examples of high calorie, healthy, energy filled breakfasts would be
This simple, tasty, and healthy breakfast packs in easily over 1,000 calories while giving you simple carbohydrates in fruits for that short term energy while granola gives you a massive bulk of complex carbohydrates for that sweet long-term energy.
- 250mL low-fat yogurt
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. flax seeds
- 1 cup granola/rolled oats
- ¼ cup blueberries
- 1 cup milk
- 1 medium banana
A staple in my personal diet, I get a bulk of carbohydrates and calories (which can help you gain weight) right in the morning to tee the day off. I add a cup of milk and a banana to quickly toss in a bit more calories while the banana is a good short-term energy source for an early workout.
Getting a solid lunch in the afternoon should set you well right up until dinnertime. If you have your workouts in the afternoon, a strong amount of complex carbohydrates is vital to making sure your body has enough energy to keep up. While not as simple as the breakfast, I like to meal-prep for the whole week by making a huge batch at once. When refrigerated, it’ll taste great all throughout the week.
- 2 cups rotini pasta
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1 chicken breast, sliced/diced
- 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
- ¼ tbsp. salt
- ½ bell pepper, diced
- 3 tbsp. fresh/dried basil
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Relatively inexpensive using mostly household flavorings you’ll likely already have, this makes for a delicious and easy pasta bowl. Seriously, anyone who tries it will love it and it tastes just as good at the end of the week as it did at the beginning. And eating this lunch can be a great way to gain weight.
While having a solid lunch is important, a midday snack is crucial if you have a gym session coming up or want to really add lean mass quickly. It’s also recommended that if you have an ectomorph body type to instead have 5 smaller meals per day rather than three big ones.
A superb high-calorie, carbohydrate dense, protein rich afternoon snack is just a single bagel, and perhaps some fruits or vegetables while you’re at it. Easily weighing in at 500 calories per serving, here’s a recipe for a solid afternoon snack.
- 1 whole-wheat bagel
- 2 tbsp. peanut (or other nut) butter
- 1 tbsp. jam
- Handful of cherry tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, etc.
Another perfect candidate for meal prepping, this amazing rice and chicken recipe tastes totally great while proving a large bulk of carbohydrates, proteins. Since it’s a bit more of a complicated recipe, there’s also an included guide on how to cook it.
- 2 cups brown rice
- 1 tea bag of green tea
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 chicken breast, diced
- 1 tbsp. soya sauce
- 1 cube/1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 tbsp. butter
- ½ chili pepper, diced
- ½ bell pepper, diced
- 3 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 4 tbsp. sesame seeds
- Begin by boiling a pot of water, adding bag of green tea, salt, and chicken stock to water. Add brown rice.
- Set large pan or wok to medium-high. Add butter, chicken and red onion to pan. When halfway cooked, add chili & bell pepper, garlic, and paprika, tossing to combine. Sprinkle lemon juice to top of chicken.
- Combine honey, soya sauce, and sesame seeds in small bowl, mixing well.
- When chicken has fully cooked, cover and reduce heat to low. Mix in honey soy mixture to the pan.
- Strain brown rice once cooked and soft, serve in bowl and mix in the ingredients from pan.
A bit more work and cleanup is more than other recipes, however this is a hugely nutritious dinner and perfect for your body! Serve with side of any green vegetables to get the whole nine yards of nutrition. Up the potion size of each ingredient sevenfold for a week-long supply of an amazing dinner recipe! And great food to help you gain weight!
While it’s best to not have too heavy of an evening snack as you’ll likely wake up super hungry, a late night snack is good for letting your body slowly digest some good vitamins, getting the most out of your food. Some sliced vegetables of choice, a handful or two of crackers or wheat-based treat and a few glasses of water will leave your body happy and healthy!
Without a complete and balanced diet, gaining weight is nigh impossible. You can’t ruin a good diet with a bad workout, but you can ruin a good workout with bad diet. Counting calories is crucial, and chances are if you’re reading this article, you should be getting at least 3,000 calories per day. I personally go for 4,000 daily, however I’m on the higher end of things.
It’s easy to get your daily intake in calories from some particularly dense foods like chips, fries, burgers, sodas, etc – however those are either very fatty or what would be considered ‘empty’ calories. Missing out on certain types of macronutrients will certainly affect your growth and make it much harder to get your weight up.