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“Men’s Health” featured Pace University’s College of Health Professions Professor Christen Cupples Cooper in “How to Gain Weight and Build Bigger Muscles”

We’re always talking about how to lose weight, but there are plenty of guys who want to gain weight in order to increase muscle mass.

“If you want to make more muscle cells, you need to eat more food,” Dr. Jessalynn Adam, sports medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, tells

While eating more food sounds like a dream, it doesn’t mean you can just start gorging on pizza at every meal. Food quality is just as important as quantity, especially if you want to build muscle.

“You need to make sure that you’ll fueling your body so that it can recover,” Adam tells

Essentially, resistance training creates micro tears in your muscles, she explains. The muscle repairs itself, and your muscles will become bigger and stronger, but they need the right building blocks, like protein, to do so, she says. And if you decide to bulk up by eating junk, you’ll gain fat along with muscle.

Here are three tips for how to gain weight the right way:

gain weight to build muscle
Paul Conrath

Start slowly

It’s tempting to go overboard, but eating too much too quickly could cause gastrointestinal problems. “Our bodies like certainty and routine,” says Registered Dietitian Christen Cupples Cooper, EdD and Assistant Professor at the College of Health Professions at Pace University. Although side effects vary by person, adding too many calories quickly upsets your normal routine, and may cause an upset stomach, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea or constipation.

She recommends adding 250 calories per day to gain weight.

Increase portion sizes

Cooper says it’s easier to increase calories by having larger meals and a few snacks, instead of simply eating more meals. “For example, if you have two scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, have three scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast with a piece of fruit or container of yogurt with fruit.”

Healthy Fats in Nuts Can Help Build Muscle

Eat clean

Adam advises against relying on junk food and supplements for extra calories. Instead, chomp on legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and yes, protein.

Need meal ideas? Use this daily meal plan to gain weight, courtesy of Leslie Bonci, R.D., sports dietitian for the Kansas City Chiefs:


Select from one of the following menus

  • Orange juice (12-oz glass)
  • Bowl of Cheerios (large) with granola added, skim milk
  • Bagel or 2 slices of wheat toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on each piece


  • 2 pieces of fruit
  • A glass of juice (12 oz)
  • A breakfast sandwich on an English muffin
  • Scrambled eggs (2)
  • 2 pieces of ham
  • 2 slices of cheese


  • Bagel with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Smoothie, made with:
    • 1 scoop of protein powder
    • 8 oz yogurt
    • 12 oz skim milk
    • 1 cup of frozen fruit
smoothie for post workout snack
Roman Larin / EyeEm

Post-Workout Snack

Eat something within 15 minutes of finishing your workout, even if you are not hungry. If you exercise more than once a day, you need to eat something after every workout. Choose between one of the following options that are optimized to recover as well as increase weight.

  • Sports drink
  • Snack (choose one)
    • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
    • A container of yogurt with granola
    • A small bag of trail mix and sports drink
    • Energy bar


Select from one of the following menus

  • Submarine sandwich on whole wheat (12-inch), made with one of the following proteins:
    • Chicken
    • Tuna
    • Steak
    • Ham and cheese
  • Baked chips
  • Juice


  • Grilled chicken salad
  • Baked potato
  • Juice


  • Bagel sandwich with turkey, cheese, and fruit
  • Pasta with sauce and 2 pieces of chicken
  • Salad


  • Omelet with 3 eggs, cheese, vegetables,
  • Hash browns
  • Toast (2 slices)

Afternoon Snack

  • Drink (choose one)
    • Low-fat milk
    • Juice
  • Snack (choose one)
    • Banana with peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
    • Trail mix with cereal, nuts, and dried fruit (1 cup or 2 handfuls)
    • Cheese and whole wheat crackers
    • Cereal (large bowl)


Split your plate evenly between protein and carbohydrates

  • Protein (choose one)
    • Steak
    • Chicken
    • Fish
    • Pork
    • Turkey
  • Carbohydrates (choose one)
    • Pasta
    • Baked potato
    • Rice
    • Corn
  • Side (choose one)
    • Salad
    • Cooked vegetables
    • Fruit
  • Drink (choose one)
    • Low-fat milk
    • Juice

Late-Night Snack

  • Snack (choose one)
    • Smoothie or protein shake with ice added
    • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich



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