Eating a lot of food to add muscle mass may sound like fun. But you don’t have to be doing it long to realize that it’s actually hard work. For some, it’s harder than for others.
People with low appetites need to eat strategically to meet the calorie and macronutrient quota they need to get massive. In this article, we lay out 7 key strategies to help you eat to bulk when you don’t have a huge appetite.
People with low appetites should consume more calories each day by eating more frequent, smaller meals. This will actually train your digestive system and gastrointestinal tract to process food more efficiently and produce more hunger cues.
Plan to eat six meals per day spread about three hours apart. Three of the meals should be quite substantial with the other three being more like snack meals. So, let’s say that you are eating according to the following time schedule:
- 7 am
- 10 am
- 1 pm
- 4 pm
- 7 pm
- 10 pm
You should consider your 7 am, 1 pm, and 7 pm meals to be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each of these meals should be about 700 calories. Your 10 am, 4 pm and 10 pm meals should be about half that size. This will give you a daily caloric total of about 3100 calories.
It is easier to drink your calories than to eat them. That makes protein shakes a not-so-secret weapon in the struggle to meet your bulking calorie goal. Choose a protein shake with a high-calorie count that includes carbohydrates to infuse your muscles with glycogen. Add almond butter and coconut oil, along with a banana to the mix. For even more calories (and flavor) throw in some ice cream.
You should take a whey isolate protein shake as your post-workout meal. Before you go to bed, take a casein protein shake. Casein is a slower-release form of protein. It will release amino acids into your bloodstream steadily through the night to support protein synthesis while you are sleeping.
Jumping immediately from 1900 calories per day to 3000+ is hard work, both physically and mentally. If you try doing it, you’ll probably have to deal with bloating, gas, and general stomach upset.
Your body will struggle to adapt to your increased caloric intake. Gradually increasing your daily caloric total for a period of weeks until you meet your goal is a far better way to go. Add 200 to 300 calories to your daily total each week until you reach the target.
Taking it slowly will allow your body to adapt to the increased food intake. It is also the best way to ensure that you’re not going to add extra body fat along with your muscle mass.
To gain weight, you need to end each day in a caloric surplus. That means that you have taken in more calories than you’ve burned up.
One part of that equation is to eat more food. But the other part is to burn off fewer calories. That means cutting back on exercise.
You do not want to cut back on your weight training – that’s the catalyst for muscle growth. That leaves cardio.
To preserve calories you should cut your cardio way back – or even eliminate it if you’re comfortable doing that. Save those calories for lean muscle tissue and get back into your cardio when you enter your cutting phase.
You are not going to add muscle mass by eating alone. You need to combine your increased caloric intake with intense and regular weight training sessions.
If you’re only working out two or three times per week, you need to increase your frequency. Go to a four or five-day split routine, where you’re working each body part once every four or five days. Focus on lifting within the 6-12 rep range, with around 12 sets for large muscle groups, and 8 sets for smaller muscles.
An extra benefit of working out more frequently is that it will spur your appetite. Take advantage of that increased hunger by having a post-workout shake.
If your goal was to lose weight, you would want to eat foods that are high in fiber and fats. That’s because they help to fill you up and prevent hunger pangs. So, when you’re wanting to eat more, you need to cut back on them.
Fiber is essential to digestive and overall health, so you don’t want to cut it out completely. Eating an apple a day will provide you with the fiber you need. Meanwhile, replace a fibrous breakfast such as steel oats with higher cab, lower fiber options such as pancakes with bacon.
Cutting back on complex carbs in favor of simpler carbs is another way to reduce your fiber intake, allowing you to eat more food. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll be piling on more body fat than lean muscle mass.
The more hours you are out of bed, the longer your eating window. That allows you to eat smaller, more manageable meals to meet your caloric goal for the day. If you are not getting up in time to have your first meal at 7 am, consider setting your alarm clock a little earlier to allow for it.
If you are having your workout early in the morning, try to get some food into your body beforehand, even if it’s just a banana. Then have a decent-sized breakfast as your post-workout meal.
By eating strategically you will be able to meet the higher calorie count on a bulking diet. Here’s a recap of the 7 keys to bulking success . . .
- Eat more frequently
- Make use of protein shakes
- Increase calories gradually
- Cut back on cardio
- Increase weight training
- Cut back on fiber and fats
- Eat earlier in the day
Apply these tips consistently and your lack of appetite won’t stop you from adding lean mass during your bulking phase.
Sam is a functional movement coach, ex-collegiate rower, and writer at Start Rowing, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for health and exercise and loves being able to help others move more freely.