Since starting on social media, I’ve been taken aback by the number of people asking questions on how to get bigger/stronger, but can’t because they struggle to eat enough calories.
I have good news and I have bad news.
The bad news is that you’re gonna have to eat more to grow.
The good news is that you don’t have to eat all that much.
You Gotta Eat Big to Get Big!
We’ve all heard the truism, “you’ve got to eat big to be big.”
However, you don’t want to be big in the wrong sense of the word — you don’t want to be fat, puffy, watery, and bloated.
Get big, but without the strings attached.
In order to grow without gaining fat — or to mitigate much extraneous fat gain — you need to consume a little more than your base metabolic rate.
As long as you’re getting enough protein — which shouldn’t be hard if you’re eating a regular balanced diet — you should get big at a comfortable, sustainable pace at a 100-200 calorie-a-day surplus above your base metabolic rate.
If you’re not planning on becoming an IFBB pro bodybuilder, strongman competitor, or elite powerlifter, you really shouldn’t be force-feeding well above your base metabolic rate.
There’s “get big” or get superhuman.
Of course, to get superhuman, you’d need a superhuman level of discipline vis-a-vis the conventional “get big” approach.
To find your base metabolic rate, a rough estimate would be to multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 15 calories. If you’re 200lb, your base metabolic rate is around 3000 calories a day. Then simply add another 100-200 calories on top of that.
Then you’d need a gram of protein per pound of lean tissue.
For most, this would be too difficult to calculate without the proper tools to ascertain your lean bodyweight, but you won’t be too far off by eating a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Therefore, for the 200-pounder, he would have to consume 200 grams a day of protein — which is 800 calories.
The remaining 2200 calories to hit maintenance (3000 calories) can come from any carbohydrate or fat sources you’d like.
Reminder: You CAN gain muscle in a caloric deficit
I, personally, have a moderate carbohydrate intake as it makes me feel sluggish to have either too few or too many carbohydrates in my diet.
Less than 150 grams of carbs makes my mind foggy; more than 250 grams of carbs makes me feel low energy.
However, the more “healthy” dietary fat I consume compared to carbohydrates, the more energetic and vivified I feel.
Now, Listen Up
Let’s say you’re a smaller lifter weighing 140lb (with a base metabolic rate of 2100 calories a day) and you struggle to put on any lean contractile muscle tissue (you struggle to get big).
Let’s say you struggle to eat more than 2000 calories a day, despite being able to get in 140 grams of protein — you’d be surprised at how few calories some people consume.
Remember: the base metabolic rate is what you’d need to consume to maintain your current body weight at rest!
Ideally, this individual would need somewhere between 2500-2700 calories a day for optimal growth — to get big — as extra calories would be burned through lifting, exercise, and movement.
You need to consume more CALORIE DENSE food.
This means food high in fat and low in volume.
This does NOT mean fast food, chocolate, pizza, chips, sodas or other foodstuffs that will wreck your quality of life. It doesn’t mean throwing away $100s on sickly “weight gainers.”
You will need to download a calorie-tracker such as My Fitness Pal on your phone to ensure that you’re eating enough — and not too much, either!
And it can include small changes to your diet such as switching chicken or turkey breast for dark meat. It can even include throwing in a couple of extra portions of rib-eye steak a week instead of chicken.
Cook with butter or olive oil to stealthily increase your calories — it can take on the form of reversing easy dieting principles for weight loss by adding instead of removing calorie-dense foods.
Snacking on nuts and seeds — which are both calorie-dense — between meals can help you reach your calorie goals. Peanut butter is a good unobtrusive addition to your diet if you have a sweet tooth. A lot of female lifters include peanut butter as a staple to their diet model.
It really is as simple as that if you don’t have much of an appetite — despite wanting to get big!
Still Not Growing?
There are three major reasons why you’re not growing:
- Not enough food
- Not enough training stimulus — training like a pussy
- Poor genetics (I can’t help you with that)
On number 2, the number one mistake in the gym I see on a regular basis is UNDERTRAINING. If you’re eating enough calories and failing to grow, maybe seek to alter your training program. Herculean Strength can help with that.
My (Diet) Bulking Shake:
When I used to powerlift, this shake was my breakfast of choice and its remarkably easy to make.
-1 cup of oats
-1 large banana
-1 or 2 scoops of protein powder
-handful of berries
-tablespoon of flax seeds
-1/2 liter of cold water (you can have cow’s milk or plant-based milk instead if you need more calories)
The way I made it, using Carnivor protein (30g protein, 120 calories per scoop), would roughly total 500-600 calories.
-tablespoon of peanut butter
-tablespoon of coconut oil
Of course, adding whole milk, peanut butter, coconut oil, and other ingredients could fluff the shake up by another 500-600 calories.
The point of this shake is to illustrate how easy it is to transition from a “lean bulk” to dieting to lose fat. By simply removing the shake from my diet would put me in a 500 calorie deficit, but adding it would have me at maintenance or slightly over if I was focusing on getting stronger.
The shake is easy to handle when I need extra calories as well as easy to miss when I need fewer calories.
Even if you don’t have the largest appetite in the world, squeezing in calorie-dense food high in dietary fat isn’t all that hard — but make sure you’re eating enough protein, too!
Don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!