by Guy Droog, personal trainer, online coach, and entrepreneur.
For many people not living in Burundi, continuously stuffing their face with food comes as naturally as walking. Or breathing. Or both. However, there’s also a large group, myself included, that has difficulty eating consistently enough to actually gain weight.
Why for god’s sake would you want to gain weight when losing weight is the trend of the 21st century?
There are lots of different reasons, but none of them are relevant, really. If someone has the ambition to gain weight, it’s our job as coach or instructor to help that person achieve this goal without negatively affecting their physical activities, lifestyle or their overall health. I don’t like to throw around terms like “very much” or “very little” because there’s hardly anything as subjective or individual as food and nourishment. Instead, I rather use terms like ‘enough’ as in: ‘eating enough to gain’. Because that’s what it is.
We all know that one person who says that they can really stuff their faces with food but just doesn't seem to gain any weight. That is possible. Because this is their perception and therefore how they experience it personally. But obviously, they’re not eating enough, because if they were they would gain weight. Someone’s personal experience isn’t necessarily the same as the reality. Keeping this in mind, it’s not surprising we often get questions on gaining weight.
How to gain weight without having to drink liters of frying oil every day?
I’ve listed my personal top five ways, starting with my least favorite:
5. Increase the fats you eat
The easiest way to increase your intake of fats is to add butter or oil (for example coconut oil) to your daily meals.
Proteins and carbohydrates contain 4 kcal of energy per gram, while fat contains 9 kcal per gram. So by eating fats, instead of the aforementioned macronutrients, you’re getting more than double the amount of energy.
Adding a spoonful of oil to your meals will easily add an extra 100 kcal without hugely affecting the taste or the integrity of your meals. So, for example, add an extra tablespoon or two of olive oil to your salad, or basically any other meal. Adding coconut oil to meat dishes can be a very nice addition to your meal too if you enjoy this flavor of course.
Too many people still suffer from an unfounded phobia of fat, which is why chowing down on fats perhaps isn’t the best option for everybody. It is, however, important to prevent structurally eating too little fats. If you think your (hormonal) health is important at all.
4. Eat more nuts, seeds, and kernels
I almost always have a bag of pistachio nuts stashed in my car. And I can hear you think: ‘Yeah, but unlike you, I don’t need a brick of butter’s worth of fat every day’, and I hear ya. Even though that bag of pistachios actively contributes to my bulgy chesticles*, I expect moderation from you. A handful of nuts, seeds or kernels every now and then isn’t just healthy, it’s also a great energy source, and it’s a delicious addition to a wide variety of dishes.
And as a bonus, you’ll find that eating nuts, seeds, and kernels are a great and rich conversation topic, one that frequently comes up organically in the day to day chit chat. It’ll give you a chance to kill it with your knowledge on the subject, like how for example peanuts are in fact legumes and not, in fact, nuts. You’ll make lots of friends in no time, and it’ll secure you a longterm relationship with a drop dead gorgeous tall drink of water, for sure.
In short: eat nuts. Walnuts, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Not necessarily in that order.
* a synonym for man boobs.
3. Finding a balance between frequency and quantity
Most of us have a tendency towards black-and-white thinking, without wanting to take the time to explore the endless vastness of the grey area. When the world accepted the idea of not necessarily needing eight meals per day to ‘keep the fire burning’, many people switched to three meals per day instead. Both meal frequencies are fine, but a higher frequency will usually result in smaller meals. If eating large portions is not your strong suit, getting enough calories throughout the day may be difficult with a lower number of daily meals. The pitfall with a higher frequency of meals is that you might be inclined to restrain yourself too much and only allow yourself too small meals. In those cases you know that you’ve planned to have another meal in, let's say, thirteen minutes. This can very easily result in your body not getting enough calories throughout the day. Consider straying from your usual routine by adding a meal to your meal plan, or by choosing for bigger meals.
2. Lose the term ‘cheating’
In the literal sense of the word, cheating means to deceive; to act dishonestly and unfairly. With this, you insinuate that there are written or unwritten laws that tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat. If you deviate from these rules, you are in fact ‘cheating’. You’re deviating from your ‘healthy and clean nutrition plan’, so you’re a cheater. But what are cheat meals really? These are always the meals that you really enjoy. Getting enough calories can be pretty challenging if all you’re eating is green asparagus-tips, pan-fried in a drizzle of PAM-spray, accompanied by three grains of brown rice and a tiny cube of white fish. It’s not impossible, but definitely challenging. Especially if you’re somewhat attached to your mental health.
The following advice might seem a bit obvious but is too often ignored due to popular modern day reasoning that seems to criminalize enjoying delicious foods: eat more stuff you love to eat. Don’t just eat for practical reasons, because you tolerate the necessity of it. If your goal is to gain weight, treating yourself to delicious meals - which generally contain more calories - is a great thing to do.
1. Try liquid meals
I can honestly say that liquid meals have improved my life considerably. I have always had trouble eating regularly and sufficiently, which is why I often found myself to be annoyed or stressed because I just hadn’t eaten enough. Like when, at 2 pm, you realize you haven’t had anything to eat except for a cracker and an unlucky fruit fly. Your afternoon schedule is so full you have to chow down 4200 calories, of which 180 grams of protein, right before you go to bed that night. It’s the worst. That’s why three years ago, I started eating meal shakes by Jimmy Joy. It’s so easy: every morning I simply prepare a shake with whole milk, and it gives me plenty of calories to start my day. A downside to most ‘weight gainers’ is that they’re usually chock-full of maltodextrin, dextrose, or some other type of sugar. Sugars themselves aren’t necessarily the problem. Most of this blog’s readers will know that it’s important to look at the bigger picture and that there’s really no use looking at - or making a judgment - based on individual ingredients (or macronutrients). Unless you’re eating like thirty cubes of sugar for lunch.
Besides, both ‘good’ sugars, as well as 'bad' sugars all end up as glucose. The body doesn’t think in terms of products like the brain does. The advantage to eating a banana instead of a Snickers is that a banana contains more vitamins and minerals. A banana is not ‘better’ because it contains a different type of sugar, but because of its inherent micronutrients.
In short, a shake containing added sugars is not necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re looking for a good meal replacement, a shake that is balanced is favorable. A good liquid meal-replacer should, therefore - just like any other meal - consist of a nice balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If there’s fiber in there as well, consider it an added bonus. And that’s exactly what Jimmy Joy is, and why I feel it has a few very clear benefits:
Only €0.94 for 400 calories. You won’t find a cheaper alternative for those kinds of macros.
Vitamins, minerals, omega 3, the whole shebang. So you can also cut down on (or completely stop taking) supplements.
Fibers. Lots of fibers. I’m the worst at eating fibers. But one bag of Jimmy Joy contains 30 grams of fibers. In other words: sensational bowel movement and a higher monthly water bill.
Per serving Plenny Shake contains 45 (!) grams of protein, 17 grams of fat, 88 gram of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fibers. Me likey.
The wide variety of flavors has kept the product interesting over these last couple of years. My favorites are chocolate and mango.
If you’d like to try Plenny Shake yourself, you can order it here.
Do you have any tips that might be helpful to someone else? Or is there something that’s really helped you that you’d like to share?
Then please leave a comment below. I’m sure a lot of readers will find it helpful.
Guy Droog (yes, that’s a real name) is an entrepreneur, personal trainer, online coach and was one of the first Dutch fitness bloggers to hit the scene. We’ve been a long-time supporter of Guy and love him not just for his pretty brown eyes, but for his refreshing take on current trends.
His trademark is his direct no-nonsense approach, cutting through trends, myths, and bullshit by providing pragmatic, down-to-earth information on subjects relating to health, fitness, food, and lifestyle. He’s written for popular magazines like Men’s Health and Playboy but spends most of his precious time spreading his wisdom through guydroog.com and fitzonderfabels.nl (literally translated as ‘fit without the myths’), a fitness platform he co-founded. Besides being a tall, dark and handsome online presence, he is a personal trainer in the Rotterdam area (The Netherlands), helping a wide variety of fitness enthusiasts reach their personal goals.