Reasons You Might Not Be Able to Gain Weight (or Muscle)

While most people are focused on losing weight there’s a not so insignificant number of people who are looking to gain weight.


My father for example struggled his entire life with his low bodyweight. He was one of those few who just could never eat enough food to keep his weight up let alone gain it.

If you want to get bigger, stronger, and add lean muscle tissue it can be just as hard maybe even harder for some, than it is to lose weight.


If that’s you then like those who struggle to lose weight, you’ve probably had to deal with the frustrating experience of not putting on any weight for weeks, even months.


The good news is that there are three big reasons why that usually happens, and all of them are within your control.


Let’s see what they are and, more importantly, what you can do about them.


You’re Not Eating Enough

As we’ve talked about often weight is a function of calories in verses calories out.


Thus, weight gain comes down to one simple thing: Eating more calories than you burn.

So, if you find that the scale hasn’t budged in the last weeks, then you need to start eating more food.


And when we say food we really don’t mean cookies, candy or chips. The quality of the food does matter and protein is your friend.

But if you always feel stuffed eating more can be very difficult. One trick…Try including more calorie-dense foods in your diet:


● Nuts and seeds;

● Nut butter;

● Salad dressings;

● Whole eggs;

● Dried fruits;

● Fatty fish and red meat;

● Full-fat dairy products.


You’re Not Training Optimally

Training for muscle and strength is a nuanced topic, and there are many variables to consider. But, so long as you cover the below criteria, you should be okay:


● Train all of your muscles;

● Train in a variety of repetition ranges (5 to 12; 12 to 15; 15 to 25);

● Focus on getting stronger over time;

● Give your muscles enough time to recover (at least 48-72 hours before training them again).


You’re Doing Too Much Cardio

Many people do everything right, yet can’t seem to put on much weight precisely because they either do too much cardio, move around a lot throughout the day or have an incredibly high Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).


So, it’s essential to be objective and look at your daily life.


If you’re doing too much cardio, cut back to no more than 30-60 minutes per week.


If you tend to move around a lot during the day, try limiting that a bit. If that’s not possible, increase your caloric intake further to make up for it.


As we said gaining weight for those that need to can be every bit as difficult as losing it is.


Quick Side Note: Much of the above advice would also apply to the subset of people who are looking to add muscle and lose fat in order to look better. Yes that includes bodybuilders but it also would include the average Jane or Joe who doesn’t really care what the scale number is but wants to look leaner.