I expect a vast majority of my reading audience will just automatically skip this article.
Perhaps if there was a time for a deceptive title, this was it.
I’m guessing those of you still with me are either hard-gainers, fitness nerds, or simply love my writing.
Maybe you’re all 3 like myself…
Well, regardless of that, today we are going to cover how to create a positive energy balance in order to gain weight. As with weight loss, there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.
Now, once again, before we jump in, let’s take a brief moment to refresh your memory of the concept of energy balance.
What is Energy Balance?
Energy balance is the relationship between the calories (energy) we consume through food and drink and the calories (energy) we expend through physical activity, as well as the numerous energy-dependent tasks our bodies perform.
If you consume more calories than you expend, then you have created what is referred to as a positive energy balance. A positive energy balance will result in weight gain.
If you expend more calories than you consume, then you have created a negative energy balance. As you may have guessed, a negative energy balance will lead to weight loss.
Finally, if energy consumption and expenditure are equal, it will result in weight maintenance.
Knowing this, let’s take a look at how you can properly create a positive energy balance in order to promote weight gain.
Creating a Positive Energy Balance (Weight Gain)
Understanding the concept of energy balance, on the surface level, we are left with three potential ways to create a positive energy balance.
- Eat more
- Exercise less (again, better stated as expend less energy)
- Eat more and exercise less
On a deeper and more practical level, we can accomplish this objective in many ways, including:
- Increasing lean body mass through weight training and nutrition
- Minimize other forms of exercise
- Limit non-exercise physical activity
- Eat more energy dense foods
- Eat at regular intervals throughout the day
- Improve nutrient intake around training sessions
- Sleep 7-9 hours per night
- Managing stress levels
For a number of reasons, I highly recommend you begin to work on these before beginning to make any significant increases to your caloric intake or exercise intensity. If you need help with any of the above, you may benefit from working with a quality coach.
That said, let’s take a look at where to go once nutrient deficiencies are accounted for, and sleep and stress management are on-point.
The Next Steps (Weight Gain)
- Re-evaluate your exercise intensity
The first step is to re-evaluate your perceived intensity of training.
If you’re seriously looking to add some muscle and pack on some pounds you have to push yourself. This is the time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are truly working as hard as you think you are.
Some of you may be doing fine. However, for others you may need to bump things up a notch or two.
Keep training smart. Keep training with purpose. But, start bringing a bit more grit and intensity.
- Increase caloric intake
The second step to take in pursuit of a positive energy balance is to increase your caloric intake.
Now, this can be done in several different manners, but we will touch on a couple of simple strategies.
The best place to start is by looking at your peri-workout nutrition. While we will go into much greater detail in an article I will post in the coming weeks, for those who are struggling to increase their weight, try consuming some source of carbohydrate and protein both before and after your training session. In addition, try sipping on a carbohydrate beverage throughout your workout.
Again, this will be covered in much more detail later on; however, feel free to get a head-start on this front.
Another option is simply remaining consistent with food selection while increasing quantity. You can do this by adding in an additional snack or meal during the day or simply increasing your meal portions by roughly 10%.
A third option, which really is somewhat of an extension of the last, is substituting or adding in more calorically-dense foods to your diet. This can be accomplished by doing something as simple as substituting whole milk for the skim or 2% you’re currently using. You can add chia seeds or flax seeds to your recovery shakes. Try adding some peanut or almond butter to your morning oatmeal. Throw some nuts, avocado, or seeds in with the salad or vegetables you should be eating at every meal.
Essentially, just look for areas within your diet to which you can add more caloric and nutrient-dense foods.
- Keep exercise to 4-5 hours/week
If, at this point, your progress stagnates again, limit your exercise to 4-5 hours/week.
Because you still need a stimulus for muscle growth, any cuts to training volume should first come from non-weight training exercise.
- Increase caloric intake… Again
If progress continues to stagnate, look to employ the aforementioned strategies to once again increase your daily caloric intake.
- Decrease non-weight training exercise and physical activity
If your progress stagnates yet again, then we are in some serious hard-gainer territory now.
Look for any bit of non-weight training exercise or daily physical activity that can be reduced in order to help you create a positive energy balance.
- Increase caloric intake…One more time
All adjustments from this point forward need to come from further increases in caloric intake. So, if you haven’t by now, at this point it’s time to take the reins off. Unleash your inner fat-kid and buy him a one-way ticket for the gains train to Swole City.
So, to recap, before anything else, make sure to evaluate your current eating habits, ensuring that your diet is packed with nutrient and calorically-dense foods. At the same time, make sure you getting an adequate amount of quality sleep and your stress levels are in check. All of these factors can aid in creating a positive energy balance or increasing muscle mass.
Once these factors have been accounted for, follow the 6 steps listed and watch that needle on your scale start to tick upward.
For those of you wanting to take things a step further, or those of you looking for some straight up knowledge gains, come back next time where we will talk about how to improve health and performance by eating for your body type.