Many people take up CrossFit to lose weight – I am the opposite! This post is for those hard gainers, who are looking to gain muscle, strength and up their fitness, while still eating clean.
1. Eat a lot (of the right food)
I’ve been cursed blessed with a fast metabolism. A lot of people would do anything to burn calories like I do – I can eat until the cows come home.
Having always eaten a truckload, I wondered why I wasn’t gaining weight. People say it’s as simple as eating more calories than you burn. That’s true, but until recently I could not move the scale. What I found worked was eating the right calories. I used to eat a lot of carbs (during school I ate 12+ weetabix a day for breakfast!). Now, in addition to eating more calories, every meal I have has some protein and good fat.
If you find it hard to get those calories and protein / fat into you, try some of my staples below (these along with my regular meals of veg, fruit, eggs, meat and fish help me consume approx 7500 – 8500 calories a day):
Weight gain bars:
These are very simple and taste great. The measures below make one weeks supply for me (21 bars – 3 per day), so you can adjust as required. One bar contains approximately 370 calories and 13g of protein.
- 500g rolled oats (porridge oats)
- 500g nut butter (I use peanut)
- 500g organic honey
- 200g ground almonds
- Anything else you fancy – I add flax seed, cashews, raisins. Sometimes I’ll melt dark chocolate on top.
- Mix the nut butter and honey in a large bowl until it is a consistent paste.
- Add the ground almonds and mix well again.
- Add the porridge oats and mix thoroughly – this is the toughest part, just keep mixing until the mixture is consistent and no dry ingredients remain.
- Line a baking tray and pour the mixture in. Squash it down, put in the fridge and enjoy whenever. No cooking required.
Special mention to this handsome guy for the inspiration!
Weight gain smoothie:
I drink two of these per day. One smoothie provides approximately 1,100 calories and 45g of protein.
- 1 banana
- 3 raw eggs (there are divided opinions on consuming raw eggs – it works for me but I do use my own free range eggs. You can always substitute for a scoop of protein powder)
- Almond milk (as much as desired)
- 1 heaped dessert spoon of nut butter (I use almond)
- 1 tea spoon of organic honey
- 2 tea spoons of olive oil
Blend all the ingredients together and drink. If you want something even easier to mix it up I’d recommend investing in a BlenderBottle – just add all the ingredients and shake it up.
2. Eat often
Short point but if you feel hungry it is too late! Try to graze throughout the day.
- Nuts and nut butter! Plenty of protein, good fat and calories. I leave a bag of cashew nuts in my car to eat on the go. You’ll always find a bag of almonds on my desk in work.
- Oils – olive oil, coconut oil all are high in calories and good fat.
- Plan for your day / week. Every Sunday I bulk cook lunch for the week. Cut up and roast a load of vegetables (sweet potatoes, tomatoes, courgette, peppers, etc) and stir-fry turkey / free-range chicken in coconut oil. Pack into containers and leave in the fridge – happy days.
3. Lift heavy as much as possible
I’m lucky to train in a great box (www.crossfit353.com), where the coaches know what they’re talking about and take everyone’s individual goals into account. Once I told them I wanted to focus on upping size and strength, they allowed me to modify the WODs. For workouts I try to pick a heavier weight and either decrease the reps or not get as much done in the same time.
Really focus on the strength element of each session. Get as heavy as you can on those compound lifts (deadlift, squat, cleans). Stay under that bar. Dedication is key. Remember that a lot of what holds people back is in the mind.
So talk to your coaches and discuss your goals – they will help you in the right direction.
4. See Results:
A combination of eating a lot of the right foods and focusing on heavy lifts has seen me gain approx 12kg / 26 pounds of (mostly) muscle in the past 4 months. My current goals are all around max lifts and building strength, which in turn should result in more gains – as long as I keep fueling. Like anything, dedication and focus pays off.
P.S. I’m not in any way a nutritionist, the above are just some tips based on my own experience and what worked for me. If you have any good recipes / weight gain tips, it would be great to hear them – just post a comment below.