Drink your calories to gain weight and build muscle.
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If you're seeking to put more muscle on a light frame to boost your appearance, health and energy, you can do so with a high-calorie, low-carb drink. Of course, it's only part of an overall weight-gain strategy.
Make the drink contain nutritious ingredients, so you're supporting good nutrition and healthy weight gain, not just piling on fat. Add resistance training and eat other healthy snacks during the day to reach your weight-gain goals.
Calories for Weight Gain
Just like cutting calories helps you lose weight, adding calories helps you gain weight. Use an online calculator, such as the one at Active.com, to determine how many calories you need daily to maintain your weight. For optimal weight gain through lean muscle mass, add about 400 calories to this number. You can easily craft a low-carb drink with 400 calories so you get this boost in intake in one sitting. Many bottled drinks are also available, but look for ones with minimal added chemicals and preservatives. You want the drink to contain calories that come only from natural ingredients.
If your drink doesn't have quite 400 calories, add other high-calorie snacks throughout the day. Examples include walnuts and almonds, peanut butter and avocado.
Exercise for Muscle Gain
Adding calories while being sedentary is not a winning weight-gain strategy, however. As the IDEA Health and Fitness Association points out, for every one pound of weight gained when you're not working out, two-thirds of the gain is in the form of fat. Don't burn a bunch of calories doing hours of cardiovascular exercise each week; stick to a healthy 30 minutes on most days of moderate-intensity work, such as walking or swimming. This supports optimal function of your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
Your exercise focus should be on resistance training with free weights, weight machines, resistance bands and kettlebells. How you conduct a strength-training program is largely up to you, as total-body workouts and doing separate days for different body parts can both benefit you. A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science showed that both high-frequency training that involved three total-body workouts per week and low-frequency training that split the body up into three separate workouts per week successfully helped participants increase lean mass when performed for eight weeks.
Low-Carb Drink for Weight Gain
Low-carb diets are often associated with weight loss. Atkins, anyone? But, a low-carb shake can be calorie-dense and nutritionally rich so it supports weight gain. A drink is an easy way to boost your calorie intake without having to carry lots of snacks and remember to eat extra food throughout the day.
Ensure that your low-carb drink has plenty of protein. When you're doing resistance training and adding calories to gain weight, you benefit from about 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. The amino acids in protein help boost your muscles' ability to grow bigger and stronger. Whey protein powder, powdered beef protein and eggs are ways to add calories and protein to your drink.
Aim for a drink that contains healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, coconut oil and olive oil. If you're making your own low-carb, high-calorie drink, using peanut butter, flax oil or half of an avocado can boost calories in a shake and tastes good too.
Eastern medicine specialist, Paleo diet expert and author Chris Kresser gained weight on a shake containing fresh berries, pasteurized egg yolks, whole-milk yogurt and extra-virgin olive oil. Avoid adding lots of sugar or other sweeteners or high-carb fruits, such as bananas, to keep the carb count low in your shake.
To boost your lean muscle gain even more, drink your low-carb drink following a muscle-strengthening workout. Your muscles are especially receptive to the amino acids from the protein and they recover and build faster when fed right after training.