I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
You’ve hit your target weight. You’re lean and athletic, but you feel you could now do with gaining a few pounds of good stuff (muscle, not fat).
I’m not going to lie to you – when you get to this stage you’ve got to be willing to be more “aware” about what you eat. Ad lib eating generally doesn’t work well.
Work Out What You’re Currently Eating
This is a good place to start. When you’re lean, you generally have an idea of what you eat on a day-to-day basis – it’s how you got lean in the first place.
While I don’t think measuring is necessary, you should at least be able to eyeball (guesstimate) your portions and know how many meals and snacks you’re eating.
This is important to create a “baseline” from which you can then base future food decisions.
[You can weigh and measure your food to do this as well. I’m fine with doing that, but I know it’s also more work and not everyone is that keen…]
A Small Calorie Surplus
Adding muscle to your frame takes time, so you must be patient. There is always a lag time between making a dietary change and seeing the results (10-14 days in my experience).
From your “baseline” eating, you will generally have to increase your food 5-10%.
The first step is to make sure your protein is adequate. I actually like protein to be a little higher when aiming to gain muscle. A great rule of thumb is a palm + first knuckle sized portion of protein for females, or two palm-sized portions for males at every main meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Eggs, chicken, red meat and fish all work nicely for protein.
[That’s 1.6g (female) or 2g (male)/kg/day for the measurers out there.]
Secondly, you’ve earned the right to increase your carbohydrates. Add between a cupped hand to a fist-sized portion EXTRA to each of your main meals. Choose healthy carbohydrates including sweet potato, potato, rice, quinoa or even banana.
[This should work out to be 10-15% more carbohydrate in your diet.]
Keep fats about the same as your baseline diet.
How Long Should You Stick To It?
I would generally recommend staying with your increased food for 4 weeks, and simply see what happens. In best-case scenarios, you can only really expect to put on 2kg /month of muscle, and it’s slower the more advanced you get. It’s not a fast process for most people.
Once you see the results, you can decide to continue eating the same amount of food, or you can increase the carbohydrates again if you want to continue increasing weight.
It’s not rocket surgery, but it does require long-term consistency to see good changes. Stick to a sensible plan using the information I’ve given you, and see how you go with it