BodybuildingPro.com Nutrition Database Bulking Diets Calorie Density for Muscular Immensity!
to packing on pounds of solid muscle mass is simple: For the most
part, the types of foods you eat on a muscle-gaining program are
the same ones you should eat all the time, whether you want to
lose, gain or maintain - you just need to eat more of them.
"Just eat more" is easier said than done, however. It seems like
you're constantly shopping, cooking and eating. Sometimes preparing
food and eating it can seem like a full time job! One way to make
gaining weight and forcing down all that food less of a chore is to
choose foods (or supplements) with a HIGHER CALORIE DENSITY. By
doing so, you can get more calories in the same amount of
proteins and all carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram and all
fats have 9 calories per gram, but not all foods have the
same number of calories per unit of volume. Let me
for a moment, two measuring cups (the kind you have in your
kitchen) and notice the amount of space in each container. Got it?
Now visualize the two cups side by side; one filled with chopped
cucumber and one filled with raisins. Each cup now contains exactly
the same VOLUME of food, right? But did you know that the cup of
raisins has 37 times more calories? That's right! The cup of
cucumbers contains 14 calories, while the cup of raisins contains
520 calories. If cucumbers and raisins both have four calories per
gram, then how could this be? The answer has to do with calorie
density. The cucumbers have a lower calorie density because they
have a higher fiber and water content. The calories in the raisins
are more "concentrated."
that's the secret to getting enough calories to gain weight:
choose calorie-concentrated foods.
If you learn which foods are nutrition dense
and calorie dense, you can use this information to help you
gain lean weight more easily than ever before.
Fibrous carbohydrates and vegetables such as
lettuce, asparagus, cucumber and broccoli have very low calorie
densities because your body can't absorb the caloric content of
fiber. That makes veggies an excellent choice when you want to lose
body fat. Before competitions, bodybuilders usually reduce or
remove high calorie simple sugars and starches from their diets and
replace them with fibrous carbohydrates. (Goodbye bagels and pasta,
hello broccoli and asparagus!)
On the other side of the coin, the low calorie
density of most vegetables is the very reason that they don't help
you gain weight. Think about it; you would have to eat a
wheelbarrow full of lettuce, cucumbers or spinach before you
consumed enough calories to make the scale budge at all! It's wise
to always include vegetables in your diet (because they're good for
you), but you won't get enough calories to gain weight from veggies
alone; you have to eat lots of high density foods or you'll be
fighting an uphill battle.
So now let's look at some "calorie-dense" foods
that can help you pack on the pounds:
Simple carbohydrates such as fruit have higher
calorie densities than vegetables because simple carbs are more
concentrated and have less fiber. Fruit juice is even more
concentrated than the fruit itself. A medium sized orange contains
about 60 calories. A glass of orange juice has about 160 calories.
Fruit and fruit juice, therefore, make great additions to a
Taken to the extreme, concentrating and refining
carbohydrates results in empty calorie products like white sugar
and white bread. Although these are calorie dense foods, they have
little or no nutritional value. Don't add nutritionally void foods
to your diet just for the sake of more calories - it's the
quality and nutritional value of the calories you want, not
just the quantity. You should look for foods that are high
in calories that are unrefined and as close to their natural form
as possible (the way they came out of the ground).
Complex carbohydrates (starches) such as whole
grains, pasta, cereals, beans, yams, potatoes and rice also have
higher calorie densities than fibrous carbs. A typical restaurant
sized serving of pasta contains 800-1000 calories. Obviously, pasta
and other complex carbohydrates are great foods for gaining
Ok, now that you know what carbs to eat, let's
talk about fat. Fat can also have a major impact on the calorie
content of foods. Fats have more than twice as many calories per
gram than carbohydrates or protein (9 calories per gram vs. 4
calories per gram), so foods that are 100% fat have the most
calories per volume. Olive oil, which is pure fat, contains 1920
calories per cup. Any food that has a lot of fat in it will have a
high calorie density. Peanut butter, for example, has 1600 calories
per cup; Cashews have 780 calories per cup.
I'm not suggesting that you start devouring
French fries, cheeseburgers and sausage every day for the sake of
gaining weight - if you do, you'll gain weight all right - right on
your belly or backside! Your diet should always be low in fat
(15-25% of your total calories), but not all fats are bad. It's the
saturated fats like fried foods, butter and tropical oils that you
In small amounts, unsaturated, "healthy" fats
are not only good for you, but they can help you gain weight more
quickly than if you didn't eat any fat at all. Just one tablespoon
of flaxseed oil and two tablespoons of peanut butter would add
nearly 500 calories to your daily diet and you'd hardly notice that
any extra food was added.
Protein foods that contain some fat will also be
higher in calories. 4 oz of Chinook salmon has 262 calories and 15
grams of (good) fat; 4 oz of Haddock has 137 calories and only 1
gram of fat. Because of the higher calories and the essential fatty
acids (good fats), cold water fish like Salmon are another great
addition to a weight gain program.
The best proteins for gaining muscle are the
lean ones like chicken, lean beef, egg whites, turkey and fish.
Lean cuts of red meat like round or flank steak are excellent for
gaining weight. Avoid fatty cuts of beef, as well as pork, sausage,
bacon and whole milk products because they contain large amounts of
artery-clogging, unhealthy saturated fat.
I'm a huge believer in always choosing whole
foods over supplements whenever possible. However, it's not easy to
eat whole foods 5 or 6 times per day if you have a busy schedule.
If you have a hard time getting enough calories from food, then you
should consider using a weight gain or meal replacement product
because drinking your calories is a lot easier than eating
Meal replacements are usually powdered products
that you mix with water, milk or juice. You can also increase the
calories further by adding peanut butter, flax oil, fruit or your
other favorite ingredient and mixing up the whole concoction in a
Don't just blindly follow the instructions on
the container. One thing that most people don't realize is that you
need to customize your supplement intake to your exact calorie
needs. Just because the package says there are "1000 calories per
serving" doesn't mean that's how many you need. Adjust the serving
size to fit your own diet.
For example, if you need 3000 calories to gain
weight, that breaks down into five 600-calorie meals or six
500-calorie meals. There's no need to shovel down 1000 calories at
a time just because the label says so - that's only going to make
Some products were designed as meal replacements
for fat loss programs. These usually come in individual serving
packets, they have about 280-300 calories per serving and they
contain more protein than carbohydrates; this way, they fit into
the guidelines of a low carbohydrate, high protein, fat burning
diet. These products are not as cost-effective when you're trying
to gain weight. 300 calories is not enough for mass-building meal.
If you decide to use this type of product for weight gain, you'll
need to mix it with a calorie containing liquid like juice or skim
milk to bring the calories up to 500-700 (or whatever your diet
When you want to gain muscle, you'd be better
off choosing a product that was specifically designed for that
purpose. These "weight gainers" are much more concentrated in
calories and contain more carbohydrates.
Using mostly carbs (sugars) and skimping on the
protein is a dirty trick that supplement companies use to make a
product cheap to manufacture. Read the labels carefully and avoid
any product that is mostly sugar with very little protein. A good
product will have approximately one part protein for every two
parts of carbohydrates and small amounts of fat. For example, a
drink mix with 40 grams of protein, 80 grams of carbs, and 2 grams
of fat would provide almost 500 calories. If you wanted even more
calories, you could mix the powder in skim milk or juice instead of
So, let's summarize your strategy for quickly
and easily adding more calories to your diet:
1. Continue to eat the same healthy foods
you always eat, but simply eat more of them.
2. Choose foods with a higher calorie density.
You could eat broccoli and salad until your face hurts from chewing
so much, but you still won't get enough calories.
3. Eat plenty of starchy carbohydrates including
whole grains & cereals, pasta, potatoes, yams, beans, rice and
4. Don't be afraid of adding a little bit of
fat. Keep your diet low in fat overall, but add in some of the
healthy "good" fats (such as flax oil, olive oil, or a couple
tablespoons of peanut butter) and you'll gain weight more
5. Just because you're trying to gain weight
doesn't mean you have a license to eat anything you want. Go for
nutritional value as well as calorie density; avoid saturated fats,
sugar and processed junk foods.
6. If you can't seem to get enough calories from
food, then a meal replacement or weight gainer supplement can make
your life a lot easier. Adjust the serving size to fit your calorie
needs and make sure the product has a good protein to carb
7. Don't be afraid to drink a lot of your
calories in the form of low fat/skim milk, juice or
Well, that's it! Follow these strategies
diligently and you'll gain pounds solid muscular weight more easily
than you ever have before without having to chain yourself to the
About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder,
personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author of "Burn
the Fat, Feed The Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the
World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has written over
140 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural
Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men
and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for
Global-Fitness.com and the nutrition editor for Femalemuscle.com
and his articles are regularly featured worldwide on literally
dozens of other websites.
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eat and how to train to achieve maximum fat loss, without losing
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