Gaining weight is as difficult as losing it. But, simply adding a few high-calorie foods can help you gain weight by building muscle mass without increasing fat mass. Including these foods for weight gain in your diet also helps boost your stamina and energy levels.
Here’s a list of the top 23 weight-gaining foods that you can include in your diet. Check it out!
23 High-Calorie Foods For Weight Gain
1. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a great choice to gain weight. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 191 calories, 7 g of protein, 16 g of fat, and 7 g of carbohydrates (1).
Peanuts are rich in protein and contain all the 20 amino acids that strengthen the immune system and build stamina (2).
Having any type of nut butter every day as a snack or with slices of fruits does not lead to significant weight gain. But, its regular consumption can offer you better weight control (3).
2. Full-Fat Milk
Full-fat milk is the best, whether you are trying to lose or gain weight. When you are trying to gain weight, you benefit from the healthy fats, minerals, and protein present in whole or full-fat milk.
One cup (244 g) of whole or full-fat milk gives 149 calories of energy, 8 g of protein, and 8 g of fat (4).
Full-fat milk with a protein supplement or whey protein powder and fruits (like banana or berries) makes for the best high-calorie smoothie to gain weight, build muscle mass, and improve muscle recovery (5), (6).
A study conducted at McMaster University (Canada) found that milk-based proteins are better for the development of muscle mass than soy-based proteins (7).
Bananas are loaded with dietary fiber, potassium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and healthy fats (8).
One medium-sized (118 g) banana provides 105 calories of energy and 27 g of carbohydrates. A study conducted on male cyclists suggests that the ingestion of banana helps improve energy levels (8).
You can have a banana with a cup of milk and a few nuts for a power-packed breakfast or make a smoothie with the same ingredients and have it before working out. Here are more breakfast ideas to gain weight.
4. Red Meat
When it comes to gaining lean muscle, red meat is the best source of animal protein. Red meat contains leucine (an amino acid) and dietary creatine that stimulate protein synthesis to build lean muscle (9), (10).
A study conducted on elderly women found that having lean cuts of red meat along with progressive resistance training helps increase muscle protein synthesis and muscle strength (11).
Choose a lean cut of red meat over a fatty steak. Lean cuts help to put on lean body mass, whereas fatty steaks increase the fat mass in your body, which is not a healthy way to gain weight.
5. Potatoes And Other Starches
Adding potatoes to any dish is a cost-effective way to add more calories to your diet. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables are rich in carbohydrates. Studies show that the intake of carbohydrate-rich foods along with protein supplements helps build muscle mass (12).
Consume boiled, baked, or roasted potatoes to get the best out of its nutrients.
Rice is a cost-effective way to add more calories to your plate.
100 g of white rice provides 130 calories of energy and 28 g of carbs with a very little amount of fat (13).
A study conducted on Japanese factory workers found that consumption of white rice over a period of 1 year helps to gain 3 kg of weight (14).
When you are in a hurry, just microwave a bowl of rice with some curry. It adds bulk to your diet and is quite satiating.
7. Salmon And Oily Fish
Salmon and other oily fishes are good sources of protein, which helps increase muscle mass and aid weight gain.
100 g of salmon gives 142 kcal of energy along with 20 g of protein and 6 g of fat (15).
A study conducted in Korea found that consuming fish with vegetables can help improve muscle mass (16).
Consume 1-2 pieces of fish per day with leafy greens and nuts to gain weight or lean muscle fast. Include a salmon or oily fish steak in your lunch or dinner along with hot rice to make it more palatable.
8. Homemade Protein Smoothies
Protein smoothies are loaded with nutrition and do not contain artificial sweeteners and taste enhancers. You can have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a pre– or post-workout meal.
Studies have found that taking protein supplements with resistance training helps build muscle mass and, thus, gain weight (17).
Here are a few quick homemade protein shake ideas:
- Peanut Butter Protein Shake – 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 cup full-fat milk, and 1 banana.
- Chocolate And Apple Protein Shake – 2 scoops chocolate protein powder, 1 cup soy milk/almond milk, and 1 apple.
- Banana And Almond Protein Shake – 1 large banana, ½ cup yogurt, ½ cup milk, and 2 tablespoons almond powder.
Cheese is a calorie-rich milk product that is a staple all over the world in different forms. Cheddar cheese is loaded with protein and calcium (18). The same is true for feta, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, and cottage cheese. Thus, having cheese can help you gain lean muscle and strengthen your bones.
10. Dry Fruits
Dry fruits are packed with, making them a quick source of stamina and strength.
Dried fruits like nuts, dried coconut, and raisins are loaded with calories, fruit sugar, proteins, and healthy fats (19). Consume a handful of dried fruits as a pre- or post-workout snack or add them to smoothies and breakfast bowls.
Flour or whole wheat pasta can also help you gain weight. Make a delicious protein-rich pasta using chicken/mushroom/soy chunks. Add some red or white sauce, toss in some veggies and Italian herbs, and you are good to go.
Avocado is a rich source of energy. Thus, it helps you gain weight when combined with proper foods. 100 g of avocado offers 160 calories of energy and 15 g of fat (20).
Have an avocado smoothie or sliced avocado on whole wheat bread for breakfast. You can also make guacamole and have it with your meals.
Mangoes are not only delicious and sweet but also high in calories and packed with dietary fiber, fruit sugar, vitamins, and minerals. They have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties and can be added to smoothies, breakfast bowls, and protein shakes to gain weight (21).
Tahini is a sesame seed paste that is popularly used in Mediterranean foods like hummus and baba ganoush.
Scientists have found that sesame seeds are loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats that have antihypertensive properties. The lignans in sesame seeds also have anti-inflammatory and immunity-strengthening abilities (22).
Add 2-3 tablespoons of tahini to your salad/mashed potatoes/barbeque and have a delicious meal that will also help you gain weight healthily.
15. Full-Fat Yogurt
Like full-fat milk, full-fat yogurt is helpful when it comes to weight gain (23).
It is loaded with good gut bacteria, calcium, and milk protein that help improve your immunity, strengthen your bones, and offer the benefits of consuming good-quality dairy fat (24).
Consume 1-2 small bowls of yogurt per day. You can increase the amount if your body can tolerate it. Add it to salad dressings, smoothies, and shakes.
Legumes like lentils, beans, and peas are moderate in calories but excellent sources of plant-based protein. This is especially beneficial if you are a vegan or vegetarian. Apart from helping you build lean muscle mass, legumes also help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels (25).
Have mung bean sprouts for breakfast or consume Bengal gram salad or lentil soup.
17. Whole Grain Cereal Bars
Whole grain cereals bars are calorie-dense (high in calorie content) snacks that can be enjoyed both before and after a workout.
The nuts and cereals found in these bars provide instant energy, and the calories in them help increase weight.
You can also make homemade cereal bars by mixing dry fruits with honey or maple syrup. Have them as a snack or post-workout nutrition.
18. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a high-calorie bittersweet delight. It is a rich source of antioxidants (26).
You can add dark chocolate to your smoothies, homemade protein shakes, peanut butter sandwiches, a glass of milk, or biscuit sandwiches. Get creative and use this ultimate soul-comforting food to gain a few extra pounds.
Hummus is made with boiled chickpeas, which are protein-dense and high in fat content. 100 g of hummus contains 237 kcal of energy along with 8 g of protein and 18 g of fat (27).
Hummus can be taken as a high-calorie snack for weight gain when combined with baked chips, nachos, or sautéed veggies sticks.
20. Chicken Thigh
If you are looking for a high-calorie food for weight gain, try chicken thighs instead of the breast. Chicken thighs are loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals (28).
Consume leafy greens and whole grains (quinoa or rice) along with your chicken thigh meal. Do not go overboard as chicken thighs contain a high amount of saturated fats.
Dates are a great satiating and instant energy-giving food. One pitted date (24 g) provides 67 kcal of energy and 18 g of carbs with vitamins and minerals (29).
Fresh dates are loaded with simple sugar, which replenishes energy and revitalizes the body (30).
Eat 3-4 dates when you are hungry or as a pre-workout fruit to boost your energy levels during a workout.
22. Trail Mix
Trail mix is a mixture of nuts with seeds with some dehydrated fruits. It is loaded with sugar and makes for a calorie-rich snack for gaining weight.
You can satisfy your sweet craving by having some trail mix. It can also be an excellent pre-workout snack to maintain energy levels.
Bacon is a high-calorie, high-fat meat that helps in weight gain. 100 g of bacon provides 393 kcal of energy, 14 g of protein, and 37 g of fat (31).
You can add slices of bacon and eggs to your breakfast along with whole-grain cereals to make it more flavourful.
Gaining weight may be difficult, but it is not impossible. Consume the foods mentioned in this list, add resistance training or strength training to your workout routine, and remain stress-free. You will soon start gaining lean muscle and the right amount of fat. Take care!