If you are struggling to eat enough calories, you are not alone. Tens of millions of people across the world struggle daily with the reality that they need to eat more calories than the average person.
I know this struggle all too well. I was once what most would consider ridiculously skinny. Now, I am not ashamed to say that classmates in high school would make fun of how skinny I was.
The problem is that the fitness industry is designed around helping people lose weight. Why? Because there are more people that are trying to lose weight compared to gaining weight.
According to the CDC, 73.6% of Americans are overweight. On the other side of that stat, only 1.6% of the United States population is underweight.
Now you see why so many workout plans, nutrition plans, and supplements are marketed to people wanting to lose weight. The pool is just so much bigger in developed nations like the United States.
With that being said, it is difficult to find information as a skinny person trying to put on weight and/or muscle. That is one of the main reasons I created this company. To help people who are where I once was.
It is not easy being underweight. In a society full of overweight people, it is difficult to find your confidence and place in life.
Don’t worry! You will absolutely get where you want to go after reading this post.
Calculating your maintenance calorie number
If you are serious about putting on weight or muscle, you are going to need to learn how to calculate your maintenance calories. I wrote an in depth article titled How to Calculate My Maintenance Calories: An Easy Guide. But I will give you the quick version here.
Your maintenance calories are how many calories you need to eat per day to neither gain weight or lose weight. Just enough calories to maintain your current body weight.
Here is how you do it:
- Calculate everything calorie you eat in a single day.
- Do this for 2 weeks.
- At the end of 2 weeks, add up all calories that you ate and divide by 14. This is how many calories you ate per day on average.
- Make sure you are weighing yourself at the same time at the beginning and end of this 14 day period. Did you gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same?
- If you stayed the same, congrats! You now have your daily maintenance calorie number.
- If you lost weight, add 500 calories per day to your diet and go for another week. Weigh yourself again. If you still lost weight, add another 500 calories per day.
- Repeat this process until you haven’t gained or lost weight. This is your maintenance calorie number.
Why am I so intense about calculating your maintenance calorie number? Because I would still be skinny if I never figured mine out.
Maintenance calorie tips
To make it easier on yourself, you are going to need an app like MyFitnessPal to monitor your daily calorie intake. If you are struggling to eat enough calories, this app is great! And it is FREE.
The next thing that you will need is a digital kitchen scale like this one from Amazon.
Those are the only 2 things you will need. Add on an attitude of wanting to figure out your body and gain weight, and you will be well on your way to success.
One thing that I like to tell people is that every person has a different maintenance calorie number. While someone might only need to eat 1,500 calories per day to gain weight, others might need 4,000 calories per day.
Personally, I need to consume 3,600 calories per day if I want to put on weight. Why so specific? Because after a lot of trial and error, I found that my maintenance calorie number is 3,100 calories per day.
Therefore I added 500 calories per day, and that ended up being my formula for success.
The last thing I will say about maintenance calories is that it will be somewhat challenging at first. But once you get the hang of it, you are going to love finding ways to fill in your calories and gain weight. It becomes a fun game.
Supplementing with protein shakes
Remember how I mentioned that my daily maintenance calorie number is 3,100 calories? Well, that is a ton of calories. When I first discovered that I would need to eat 3,600 calories per day in order to gain weight, I was a little bit overwhelmed.
At first, I tried to eat everything I could to get up to 3,600 calories per day. I would eat burgers, chicken and rice, pasta, etc… It turns out, it is not easy eating that many calories per day.
That is when I turned to trying protein shakes. At first, I wasn’t sold. I was just drinking the regular protein powder with water, which was good for a few hundred extra calories per day.
I knew that I needed to step up my protein shake calories if I was going to find success here. After much trial and error, I formulated the 1000 calorie protein shake recipe.
My goal was to drink a 1000 calorie protein shake for breakfast, and then eat normally the rest of the day. It turns out, even that wasn’t good enough.
My final solution was to drink a 1000 calorie protein shake in the morning, eat a normal lunch and dinner, and then drink another protein shake at night.
Ultimately this was one of the best decisions of my life. It helped me put on the weight I so desperately was trying to put on for the last 7 years. It was like a light switch turned on in my body and it started putting on muscle.
A typical day of eating enough calories
After I discovered my perfect schedule of a 1000 calorie shake in the morning and in the night, I was at a great pace of gaining weight and muscle. I wanted to share with you what a typical day would look like of eating:
Breakfast – 1000 Calorie Protein Shake
Lunch – Chicken and Rice Bowl (600 calories)
Snack – Beef Jerky (200 calories)
Dinner – Cheeseburger with Baked Fries (800 Calories)
Dessert – 1000 Calorie Protein Shake
As you can see, everything adds up to 3,600 calories. That is what a typical day would look like for me. Now that I am just doing maintenance, I only drink my protein shake in the morning and skip the night one.
Using protein shakes to increase your caloric intake is a great idea, and if you are not already doing it, I highly recommend starting. Struggling to eat enough calories is something that we no longer need to worry about.
Are you exercising?
A lot of people who struggle to eat enough food aren’t already exercising. What you might not know is that exercise stimulates your appetite.
The science behind it is simple. Exercising burns calories. Your body ultimately needs to make up for the calories burned, so it will crave calories. This would be a great time to eat or drink a protein shake.
For those of you that don’t know, this company was built around the idea of helping people. We have many self help apps, but you might want to download our workout app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play).
You will find many FREE workout plans that will help you put on muscle in tandem with your caloric surplus. One thing that I stress a lot is that you cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit.
If you are eating at a caloric surplus and not exercising, those extra calories will have to go somewhere, and that is usually to fat. The best thing you can do to gain muscle is workout regularly and eat at a caloric surplus.
A caloric surplus just means that you are eating more calories than your maintenance calories. Usually we aim for about 500 calories per day over maintenance.
If you are doing this and still not gaining weight, add another 500 calories per day. Repeat until you are gaining at least a half pound per week.
In my opinion, if you are going to eat at a caloric surplus to gain weight, you should absolutely be working out. You will not be struggling to eat enough calories if you are exercising regularly. I recommend 3-4 days per week.
Main Point: Struggling to eat enough calories
If you have come this far, you know what you need to do. Gaining weight and building muscle is a process. If you are struggling to eat enough calories, your first order of business should be to find your maintenance calorie number.
Once you find your maintenance calorie number, then you can have a solid goal to push towards. For me, finding this number was the single most important thing that I ever did in my muscle building journey.
Be sure to try supplementing with protein shakes. A lot of people complain that protein shakes are too expensive. I once calculated the cost of my 1000 calorie protein shake per serving. It was between $2-$4 per shake.
That is super cheap if you consider that a meal is going to cost a lot more than that.
Lastly, I must say that working out is one of the best appetite stimulants on the planet. It is natural, and you are doing your body a service by working out.
If you combine these tactics, you are almost guaranteed to put on weight. If you do it right, that extra weight that you put on will be muscle.