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Troubleshooting Weight Gain

Posted September 2, 2015 by

A couple of years back I wrote an article series on troubleshooting weight loss that was quite popular with my clients who were struggling with identifying the reason they’re weight loss efforts had stalled.

I have been meaning to write a companion article for some time now on the other side of the coin–weight gain, for my hardgainer athletes who find themselves in plateaus on the other end of the spectrum: where they feel like they should be gaining weight but are either maintaining weight, or even losing weight.

I unfortunately got distracted by other obligations but now I am getting this article out there once and for all.

When I talked about the issues with weight loss plateaus, they mainly centered around unwittingly eliminating the calorie deficit that weight loss requires through one or more factors.

These same factors are typically responsible for stalls in weight gain for those looking to put on size, so it behooves us to review them, but from the perspective of someone desiring to add mass rather than reduce it.

Weight Gain Obstacle #1: You’re not really in a caloric surplus.

Are you tracking your calorie intake each day?

Are you increasing that calorie intake if you don’t observe the desired weight changes you’re seeking?

If you answered “no” to those questions, then there’s your issue. Most guys just try to “eat a lot” but because they aren’t actually tracking their intake, they’re relying on subjective memory to determine their intake–and our recollection of what we’re eating is notoriously poor (as proven in studies on this exact subject).

Unless you’re objectively documenting what you’re eating, you can’t be sure you’re eating a consistent amount each day. All it takes is one day of sub-par intake to reduce the weekly average to at or below your maintenance calorie level… which means you won’t see results that week, even if you packed away food most of the days.

So: track your food intake, and if you’re not growing, eat more (measurably more). It’s really that simple, I promise.

Weight Gain Obstacle #2: Your macro breakdown sucks.

Contrary to popular belief, you need LESS protein, proportionally speaking, when trying to bulk versus when on a cut. This is because calories (and carbs in particular) are “protein-sparing” which means that energy used by the body comes from non-protein sources preferentially, saving the protein for building/repairing muscle mass.

When you’re cutting, a lot of protein intake is wasted on energy usage, so you have to make up for the leakage by upping your protein intake. Not so with a bulk.

You’re better off increasing your carbohydrate intake primarily, and keeping fats moderated. Carbohydrates are going to increase your glycogen stores, giving you better workout performance, and fuel you for maximum strength and muscle gains.

So: set your protein to around 1g/lb body weight, give yourself about 15% of your calories from fats and put the rest towards carbohydrates. If you’re not gaining weight after 2 weeks of perfect compliance with your macro intake, up your carbs by 50-100 grams.

Repeat this process till you start gaining weight each week at a rate of about 1/4 to 1/2 lb (too much weight gain will mean you’re putting on more body fat than muscle, and that ain’t gangsta).

Weight Gain Obstacle #3: You need to push yourself more at the gym.

If your workouts suck and you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not giving your body a reason to grow bigger or stronger.

In the same vein, if you’re following a random workout program from a bodybuilding website that’s designed by and for geared-up mesomorphic-type individuals, you’re not going to be putting yourself in a position to succeed.

So: get your workout program optimized for your needs and get strong as hell. If you’re pushing a ton of weight and have your calorie intake set correctly, you’re going to be growing like a beast, guaranteed.

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