If you’ve been lifting for what feels like forever and you haven’t noticed any significant growth in your muscle mass, it could be because you’re not consuming enough calories. But that’s no excuse to eat as many bacon cheeseburgers and milkshakes as you want.
“The biggest mistake I see is turning to high calorie, low nutritional-value foods to gain weight,” says Torey Armul, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who’s board-certified in sports dietetics. “It’s so tempting to reach for convenient high-calorie foods, like cookies, chips, soda, and packaged meals. You’ll gain weight, but not in a healthy way, and these foods don’t build healthy muscles, bones, and blood. In fact, they can ultimately increase fat mass, clog arteries, impair blood, and oxygen flow around the body and lead to poor heart health—which gets you further from your goals.”
Curious how to gain weight in a healthy and sustainable way? Here, Armul and Corey Peacock, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an assistant professor of exercise and sports science at Nova Southeastern University, offer advice for how to add calories to your plate in a way that will help you see the results you’re looking for.