How can I bulk up with a fast metabolism?
April 12, 2007 8:25 PM   Subscribe

I have a fast metabolism and I want to give myself enough fuel to put on muscle with weight training. What should I eat from a nutrition standpoint? There's too much diet fad noise out there...

I mention the fast metabolism because I don't know if it makes a difference what your metabolism is for muscle-building nutrition. What I understood was that you had to eat enough that you would get fat if you weren't doing weight training so instead you build muscle. Since I've never been successful at fattening up I can't see how I can expect to see much muscle gain (I have spent a good deal of time in the gym with not much results so I'm trying to improve my nutrition know-how).
posted by baking soda to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I also have a fast metabolism, but haven't really tried to bulk up. However, I did notice that when I was drinking something with lots of protein in (it was a soy smoothie, or something), there was definitely an appreciable difference to how quickly muscle mass built up. Of course, this isn't from any scientific standpoint etc, but I understand that that's what protein helps do, and it seemed to help.
posted by djgh at 8:48 PM on April 12, 2007

Lots of chicken breast, steak, lean meat protein.
posted by lee at 8:51 PM on April 12, 2007

Milk. Lots of it!
posted by ataraxian at 8:58 PM on April 12, 2007

Generally -- whatever you have a craving for. Depending on my work schedule, I don't have time to

When I'm weight training, I tend to buy more red meat / pork (as opposed to my usual poultry-heavy but mostly veggie diet), more eggs (I eat eggs for breakfast instead of my usual glass of milk + poptart), and I snack on nuts/hummus instead of wheat and corn based chips/snacks.

If you're spending lots of time in the gym without much in the way of results, you should probably look into a personal trainer. Just a few weeks of appointments with a trainer correcting your workout technique, amount of weight, and other habits, and you might start to see other results. Then you can go sans trainer for a while until you need to move up a notch again.

And keep in mind that not everyone will bulk up. I didn't for years -- and now that I'm in my late 20's, all of a sudden I'm packing on bulk in my arms and shoulders like there's no tomorrow. No clue where it came from... I used to only be able to put bulk on in my legs.
posted by SpecialK at 9:08 PM on April 12, 2007

First sentence should have been -- depending on work schedule, I don't have time to work out sometimes, and may go a week or two between gym visits. My diet changes drastically when I'm not hitting the gym for my usual 3 days on / 1 off pattern.
posted by SpecialK at 9:09 PM on April 12, 2007

Something that worked for me was to make sure I ate a lot immediately after working out. Load up on protein, whatever kind you like, but try to do it within 45 minutes or so of finishing your workout.
posted by number9dream at 10:32 PM on April 12, 2007

Just eat clean, basic, whole foods. Chicken breast, fish, milk, veggies, fresh fruits, whole grains, etc. Get some whey and drink a shake or two a day. Watch your calories for two weeks, and if you haven't gained any weight bump the calories up by ~300 a week. Rinse, repeat.

If you really can't gain, don't be afraid to add some 'bad' foods, but just maintain the clean foundation.
posted by rsanheim at 1:36 AM on April 13, 2007

How old are you? You're metabolism will change with age so be aware that bulk you add in your teens and twenties will be compounded as you age. I regret my minor bulk addition in my twenties because now it is harder with a slower metabolism and less chance to exercise to stay lean.

I gained through regularly weight lifting and extra bowls of cornflakes. The other important key to building mass is to get plenty of rest. You're probably a bit hyper and always running around doing stuff. You can't gain mass if you keep burning off all the fuel you take in.
posted by srboisvert at 3:06 AM on April 13, 2007

Another vote for lots and lots of protein, like more than you think you need - eat until you, a high-metabolism person, are full, and do it often enough to keep yourself non-hungry all day. Probably you'll end up resorting to a supplement of some sort just to save money. I don't think it matters much what kind you go with; I personally think spirulina is gross and prefer whey, but others feel the opposite.
posted by rkent at 6:33 AM on April 13, 2007

This guy eats a crazy mount of chicken and - I think- potatoes to bulk up. If you poke around the site and forums, you'll probably find some good ideas.
posted by birdlady at 7:51 AM on April 13, 2007

First off, there's no magic weight-gain food. You need to eat food, lots of it, and it needs to be lean and high in protein.

If you want to build muscle, you need to eat at least 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight (no more than 1.2, your body can't handle that much). So if you're 160 lbs, that's 112-144 grams of protein per day.

This is a fuckload of protein, but never fear, because you want to put on weight. So you need to calculate how many calories you eat in a day, and add about 20% to that.

This is a very rough approximation: To calculate the number of calories your body needs just to stay alive (or your basal metabolic rate), multiply your bodyweight by 160. If you're sedentary (outside of exercise), add 20-40% on top of that, moderately active, add 40-60%, very active (such as construction work), add 60-80%. Then add whatever calories you burned from working out--you can find these activity calorie calculators all over the internet. Finally, add another 20% for weight gain.

So say you're a 160 lbs office drone, but you take the stairs and there's some movement around the office. No exercise. So:
BMR: 160 x 10 = 1600
Activity level: About 30%, so 1600 x 1.3 = 2080
An extra 20% for weight gain: 2080 x 1.2 = 2496 calories per day

Now, this is a rough, very rough approximation. If I were you, I would get an account at FitDay so you can not only figure out your needed calories per day, but keep track of your protein as well. When I was weight training a year ago it was magic for me--as soon as I started really tracking my protein I saw muscle gain like you won't believe (and I'm female).
posted by schroedinger at 8:32 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

1: hit up your library or bookstore and check out 'from scrawny to brawny'. excellent book on bulking up for hard-gainers.

2: eat eat eat. 6 meals a day. this will keep your metabolism running properly and keep you fueled throughout the day. my schedule worked out like this:

8:00: 1st breakfast: protein shake and fruit
10:00: 2nd breakfast: eggs/toast or kashi golean cereal/waffles/oatmeal
12:30: 1st lunch - 1/4-1/3 pound of lean meat, and tons of veggies, with some carbs
4:00: protein shake and a protein bar (clif builder bars are awesome)
5:30: gym
7:00: 1st dinner: 1/4 to 1/3 pound of lean meat and lots of veggies. and some carbs
9:30: 2nd dinner: protein shake or yogurt and fruit.

thats just my schedule. i only ate the protein shakes because they were convenient and easy to digest. if i had more time and constant access to a kitchen i would replace the protein shakes and bars with 'real' food.

carbs are your friend right now. particularly potatoes. your muscles need carbs to store glycogen, which will also make them bigger. dont stuff yourself at meals, but eat till youre full, so you will be able to handle the next meal a couple hours later. never go more than 4 hours without eating. drink tons of water. stay away from sugary/fatty stuff. you want good calories, not bad ones, and you dont want to waste precious space in your stomach on cake and candy when you should be drinking another whey shake or eating a burger. if your body fat goes up too much, cut down on the calories a bit, eat a little less carbs/meat.

3: work out no more than 4 times per week. dont work on a set of muscles until they arent sore anymore. its just about as important to let your muscles rest, grow, and heal as it is to work them. lift as big as you can without hurting yourself. dont do too much cardio, or you are going to burn the calories youre taking in for bulking. make sure youre working out your legs and core as well as arms and chest. so many people just try to bulk up their upper body but ignore the lower part. squats are your friend. so are lunges. try to incorporate more 'compound' exercises instead of isolated ones. for upper-body dont ignore the classic pushups and pullups.

if you can afford it, think about getting a personal trainer to make sure youre doing your exercises properly and dieting correctly. i didnt end up with one but i think i could have bulked up a little faster if i had.

keep an eye on your body fat and blood pressure.

dont bother with the supplements, other than whey protein, omega-3 (flaxseed oil or fish oils are great and help rebuild muscle tissue) and maybe creatine.

well, thats what worked for me anyway. a year ago (i was 27 y/o if that helps) i was about 135 pounds, 5'11", 16-7% body fat. by the end last summer i was 160 pounds, 14% body fat. i dropped off my diet and workout schedule for the fall/winter months (thanks a lot seasonal affective disorder!) and gained some fat/lost some muscle, down to 155 pounds, 16% body fat. got back on the diet and exercise plan and 2 and a half months later i'm up to 170 pounds with 14.5% body fat. i'm still thin, but now athletic and muscular, instead of scrawny with a bit of a beer-belly. i feel more healthy, my posture is better, and i think i am more equipped to stay healthy. i still continue to eat 6 meals a day, to keep my energy levels and metabolism correct, although i dont eat as many carbs or as much protein, since i am pretty happy with my size now.

have fun and dont give up!
posted by kneelconqueso at 9:12 AM on April 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

Look, I'm a woman, and I have no problem putting on weight. But I do lift a lot, and read a lot of weightlifting-related forums, and they all say the same thing: if you are having trouble putting on weight, you need to EAT CALORIES. Trying to put on weight eating clean (ie, lean protein, bulky foods like veggies and whole grains, etc) is probably counterproductive. If you are having a hard time getting enough calories to gain weight you should try eating more calorie-dense foods.
Maybe your problem is that you just haven't been paying attention and so paying attention will force you to eat more. But if you find yourself unable to eat enough calories on a diet of lean protein and veggies, well, duh, that is what most people eat to cut weight, not gain it. If you drink a protein shake, drink one with plenty of fat and carbs in it. Eat peanut butter and avocados. Whole milk. Don't be afraid to gain some fat, you have a high metabolism which will make it easier to cut later, once you've gained the muscle. Expecting to bulk but only gain muscle is at best something you will only do as a beginner and at worst something you will never experience. Unless, of course, you hit the roids. Don't do that.
As is usually the case, Stumptuous has a good article on bulking that applies equally well to women and men.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:12 PM on April 13, 2007

Most of what needs to be said has already been said, but I'll say some more anyway. =]

Gaining muscle requires two things and two things only.
1) Consistently increasing the weights you can lift.
2) Consistently increasing the weight of your own body.

You need to do everything that is needed in order to make those two things happen (and happen at the same time).

For #1, you need a good routine. The main qualities of a good routine are first, that it consists of mostly compound exercises such as the bench press, squats, deadlifts, pullups, barbell rows, overhead presses, dips, and other similar big exercises. Stuff like tricep press downs, leg curls, lateral raises, dumbbell curls all have there place in the routine, but not as the focus of the routine. The best exercises are the ones that require the most effort and that allow you to lift the most weight.

The other most important factor of a good routine is a focus on progression. If you aren't working your ass off to make some type of increase from one workout to the next, you are wasting your time. Whether it's 1 more rep than you were able to do last time, or 5 more pounds... your whole goal is progress.

As for #2, it's all about calories. Figure out how many calories you need to eat per day in order to maintain the weight you are currently at... and then add 500 to that number and start eating this new amount every day. You'll gain about 1lb per week, which is perfect.

Eat 1 gram of protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, whey, turkey, etc.) per pound of bodyweight. Make sure 30% of your total calorie intake comes from good sources of fat (nuts, olive oil, fish, fish oil, etc.) and the rest of your calories should come from carbs (brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, whole wheat bread, beans, fruits/vegetables).

And that's it.

Whenever all weight gain stops for more than 2 weeks, add 250 additional calories to your daily diet.
posted by creative at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2007

« Older Women's Health Question: What is this?   |   Early morning NY Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.