“How do I gain healthy weight?” is a question many fitness enthusiasts consider as a part of their workout program.  If your goal is to gain healthy weight, whether you are just starting to exercise or are ramping up your fitness regimen, you need to consider your exercise program as well as your calorie and protein intake. A consistent strength training program is essential to stress the muscle and give it the opportunity to grow, but without proper nutrition, gaining muscle mass cannot take place.

While many individuals focus their eyes on protein intake only, the reality is that to gain muscle you must be consuming more calories than it takes to maintain your weight. So, is protein important? Of course, but increasing your overall caloric intake is just as essential!

How many calories do you need?

Dialing in on your personal caloric need is the first step in gaining healthy weight. Individual calorie needs can be calculated based on height, weight, age, gender and activity level.  If you use a food or fitness tracker, it is likely the app or website has the ability to calculate it for you.  The STYR Labs app definitely can! You can also look up the Harris Benedict or Mifflin St. Jeor metabolic equations online and calculate it that way. Knowing this base calorie number will help guide you on how much you need and where to start adding calories.

While a general recommendation is to add 500 calories a day to gain healthy weight, if your goal is to gain a few pounds (less than five) of muscle, start with a small addition of calories first. For many, adding 250-300 calories a day is a great place to begin and keep consistent for a month or so. If you have not seen any muscle gains, then bump up the calories to reach the daily 500-calorie addition mark.

If you are looking to gain large amounts of muscle mass, then start with an additional 500 calories a day added to your base number. At the one-month mark, if you are not gaining at the pace you would like, then bump up to 250-500 calories each day.  The key is adding slowly so your body uses the calories to build and rebuild muscle versus storing the extra calories as adipose tissue (fat).

How much protein do you need?

Protein provides the amino acids required to build and rebuild muscle.  Your individual protein needs are calculated based on your weight and the type of activity you complete. In a strength training environment, protein needs are recommended at 1.6 – 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.  If you are not familiar with kilograms, you can achieve a similar number by calculating 0.75 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound.

Consuming high-quality protein is a key component to healthy weight gain. All animal foods are considered high-quality proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids. Soy and quinoa count as well. If you consume a plant-based diet, then including a variety of plant proteins like whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and nut butters in your diet will help you consume all the amino acids you require.

Where do you add the extra calories?

Strategically adding calories and protein throughout the day can help the body build and resynthesize muscle. The first place to start is post-workout. Consuming 20-30 grams of high-quality protein, while also increasing the calories of your post-workout shake or snack by 250-300 can jumpstart the recovery and rebuilding process. If you are adding a total of 500 calories a day, tack the other calories onto breakfast so your body is well-fueled and not starting the day at a deficit. Then as you increase calories further, try adding a protein-rich night-time snack before bed. If more calories are needed, you can then bump up the calories of other meals and snacks.

Gaining healthy weight is possible, but adding ranch dressing to everything won’t cut it! Being strategic and consistent with high-quality protein and calorie choices are key to seeing the right kind of gains!


If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on www.MyNutritioniQ.com.

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