While most of our nutrition related posts are about losing or maintaining weight. Some individual are looking for maximal gains in lean tissue and overall mass.

Gaining mass isn’t significantly different than losing weight. Like with weight loss it may be unrealistic to expect to only lose fat mass. With weight gain, it may be unrealistic to expect to gain only lean tissue. But if done properly, you can maximize lean tissue gains!

The key with weight gain is to consume more energy than you are expending and strength train often. Just like losing body fat, you cannot expect to gain lean mass quickly. With adequate caloric intake, it is realistic to gain 0.5-2.0 lb/week of lean tissue. For an adult to gain 1lb per week of lean tissue, the recommendation is an excess energy intake of 1000 to 3500 kcal per week, which translates into consuming an excess of 143 to 500 kcal/day. In regards to macronutrient breakdown, carbohydrate consumption should be 45-65% (depending on intensity of activity, more intense = more carbohydrate), protein intake should be 1.5-2g/kg of bodyweight for lean mass development, and fat should remain at about 20% of caloric intake.

As for nutrition timing, as always post exercise nutrition is extremely important. Consuming 20-25g of protein and 60-75g of carbohydrate within 30 minutes of exercise will help to increase muscle synthesis and decrease muscle degradation.

So where does strength training fit into all of this? Not only do we need more fuel (calories) for increased muscle growth (hypertrophy), we also have to stimulate the muscle for growth through strength training. Optimal muscle growth may result from lifting heavy loads in moderate volumes and focusing on the eccentric (lowering / elongating) muscle action, and metabolically stressing the glycolytic energy system. This energy system involves hard efforts lasting about 10 seconds to 2 minutes, and results in increased anabolic (muscle growth) hormonal response. To maximize hypertrophy, you must also reduce long sustained aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise because it will cause you to burn excessive energy needed for protein synthesis.

In short, to gain mass…

  • Consume more calories (particularly more protein and carbohydrates).
  • Consume protein and carbohydrates immediately following exercise.
  • Lift heavy loads 3-4 times per week.
  • Increase high intensity glycolytic training (intervals of 30 seconds to 2 minutes with at least 2 minutes of recovery between efforts).
  • Reduce long duration aerobic training. 一


By: Laure Higgins MS, CSCS, FMS-level 1


  • Manore, M.M., Meyer, N.L., Thompson, J. Recommendations for maintaining or gaining weight. In: Manore, M.M., Meyer, N.L., Thompson, J. Sport nutrition for health and performance, 2nd ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2009; 189-194.
  • Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W. Essentials of strength training and conditioning. 3rd Champaign: Human Kinetics: 2008; 100.