The phrase “high protein foods for weight gain” can have very different meanings to different people. We’re going to focus on healthy and safe weight gain for everyone though, rather than just a certain subset of the population (i.e. athletes). We all want to put on some muscle and gain weight, but with so many protein supplements and high protein foods out there it can sometimes seem like even the experts don’t know which ones are best for weight gain. After years of trial and error and trying just about everything I’m going to share what I’ve discovered.
How can eating too much protein lead to weight gain?
Here are four explanations for how your protein intake may be influencing your weight right now:
- You’re eating too much meat
That marbled ribeye will undoubtedly make you feel satisfied, but it also contains more calories than you probably anticipated: A 10-ounce steak—a small restaurant portion—can clock in at 1,000 calories. “Those excess calories don’t go to your biceps. They turn into fat,” says Taub-Dix.
- You’re setting yourself up for binges
Cutting out too many carbs can put a damper on your mood and make your body crave starch and sugar, which can lead to binges. “Your brain’s preferred fuel source is glucose, or carbs,” says Kyle. When you do eventually have carbs again, there’s a good chance you’ll overdo it and undo all of the progress you’ve made. “Usually when my patients are really being strict on protein diets, even a piece of Melba toast looks delicious,” says Taub-Dix.
- You don’t have the energy to work out
“Carbs are the best source of fuel for any activity,” says Taub-Dix. Cutting them out entirely to make way for protein can also cause you to feel tired, which means you end up working out less—and that’s counter-productive to any weight-loss plan. “It’s a revolving cycle. You feel lethargic so you don’t work out, and you don’t work out so you feel more lethargic,” adds Kyle.
- You’re not getting enough fiber
Numerous studies have shown a connection between fiber and weight loss. Fiber absorbs moisture to help you feel more satisfied and maintains the integrity of your GI tract by feeding beneficial gut bacteria. However, if you put too much emphasis on protein, you may not consume enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are important sources of nutrients and fiber and can make you feel fuller while burning fewer calories. “If you’re eating too much protein, you’re not fueling the good bacteria in your gut,” says Taub-Dix.
What other health problems can be caused by eating too much protein?
You already know that gaining weight isn’t necessarily a health problem (it’s natural!) until it affects other sections of your body or worsens existing illnesses. However, consuming too much protein might also result in health issues. If you consume a lot of meat, watch out for these signs.
- You’re feeling super thirsty
If your mouth is super dry, there’s a protein-linked reason for that. Your kidneys have to work doubly hard to flush out excess protein through your urine, and that can make you really thirsty, says nutritionist Christy Brisette, the founder and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. Because you’re peeing out more sodium, potassium, and magnesium, “people on high-protein/low-carb diets tend to need more of these electrolytes,” she says.
- You’re constipated or have diarrhea
“If you cut out all whole grains, nuts, seeds, veggies, and fruit, all of which are good sources of fiber, it can lead to issues with digestion including constipation,” says Brisette. A high-protein diet can also rid your gut of helpful bacteria. “If gut flora are out of whack, it can lead to bowel irregularities including diarrhea or alternating diarrhea and constipation, and you might experience some bloating and cramping,” she says.
- You’re super moody lately
A quick PSA: Only eating protein-dense foods can put you on edge. “If you aren’t correcting imbalances in your gut bacteria, research links your gut microbiota to mental health, depression and anxiety,” says Brisette. “Carb-rich foods increase levels of serotonin in your brain, which is a happy neurotransmitter,” says Brisette. “By not getting enough carbs, certain people will notice a change in their mood and outlook.”
- Your breath is smelly
If you’re on a super low-carb diet, bad breath is a common sign of ketosis, a process where your body has churned through all your stored carbs and is instead burning fat for energy, explains Vandana Sheth, RD. However, keep in mind that entering a state of ketosis might be risky, particularly if you already have other medical issues. Before committing to a ketogenic diet, consult your doctor.
- Your menstrual cycle changed
Cutting out carbs for too long can stop you from getting your period, too, by burning through too many fat stores, which can change your metabolism in a way that impacts your hormone levels and fertility. “Your body is going into preservation mode. It’s a sign your body is under stress, and it isn’t a good time to bring a baby into the world because food is scarce,” says Brisette. general, women require a specific amount of fat for healthy hormone levels, fertility, and overall health; therefore, if you feel that your protein intake is affecting menstruation, you should see a doctor.
What is a healthy amount of protein to eat every day for weight loss?
Remember: Everyone’s different, so there’s really no one-size-fits-all prescription when it comes to a healthy amount of protein for you. “Protein intake really depends on your size and activity level, but there are some numbers we can look at,” explains Marissa Meshlaum, RD, who runs MPM Nutrition in New York.
“The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is set at .8 grams of your body weight, but that is a minimum, not necessarily optimal,” Meshlaum notes. TBH, your best bet is to try and get roughly 30 percent of your calories from protein. This rounds out to be about one gram of protein per pound of body weight, Meshlaum says. (And yep, the more active you are, the more protein you will need for optimal muscle recovery.)
How can I make sure I’m eating a healthy amount of protein and not going overboard?
Now that you are aware of the dangers and side effects of consuming too much protein, it is time to concentrate on how to include protein in your diet regularly without overdoing it. Dietitians have provided the following advice on how to consume protein in a healthy manner.
- Go for high-protein, low-cal, plant-based foods
As often as possible, opt for veggies and dairy that are high in protein but still low in calories. A cup of Greek yogurt or beans, for example, net you around 15 grams of protein for less than 200 calories. And when you do eat meat, choose lean cuts and keep your portions in check. One serving should be about the size of a deck of cards, says Taub-Dix, and you can try yummy veggie-protein combos like this steak and apple watercress salad.
- Eat your carbs, folks
To keep things in balance, Taub-Dix suggests getting about 50 to 55 percent of your daily calories from healthy carbs. “Carbs are the nutrient we love to hate, but in reality you can still lose weight eating carbs,” she says. Great, weight-friendly sources include whole grains, fruits, and veggies, all of which can be found in this baked potato skins recipe.
- Don’t forget that fiber is your friend
Make sure you’re hitting your daily recommended intake of about 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. “One way to ensure you’re eating a healthy amount is to use the plate method,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “One-quarter of your plate is protein, one-quarter of your plate is carbs, and half your plate is veggies.” For serious inspo, check out this sautéed chickpeas and spaghetti squash bowl.
Best High-Calorie Food for Weight Gain
Being a mainstay in everyone’s diet, this one is simple to find and include in a meal. Each cup of rice contains about 200 calories and is a good source of carbs. Additionally, it has a lot of protein and fiber. It is a very filling item that can be consumed for weight gain along with other high-calorie foods. Brown rice is the ideal choice for foods that promote weight gain because it also has a nutrient-rich bran and germ layer.
The following is a delicious tomato rice recipe:
- In a pan, saute the desired vegetables with the olive oil, garlic, and onions for a few minutes.
- Brown rice should be boiled for 25 to 30 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
- Add rice and tomato puree to the sauteed vegetables, then sprinkle coriander on top.
- Dried fruit
Apples, apricots, and berries are all easily dried and consumed. They offer antioxidants and vitamins for a healthier body, as well as more calories per gram. Fruit with a high energy content remains after all the water has been removed, making it the ideal food for weight growth. Prunes, dates, and figs are other nutritious dried fruits.
They are best consumed as snacks. Making your own dried fruit at home is possible because:
- Remove the seeds from the fruit before slicing it into strips.
- Put water and lemon on the fruit.
- Fruits should be baked for 4 to 12 hours at 145 F.
- Olive Oil
Certain oils, like olive oil, are crucial foods to gain weight gradually. It has a lot of beneficial monounsaturated fats. Drizzled over spaghetti, bread, or vegetables, it can enhance flavor while also adding calories. Per 100 grams of olive oil, there are 800 calories.
Making your dip is as easy as:
- In a bowl, combine half a cup of extra virgin olive oil with the garlic, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Serve the dip with bread and top with parmesan cheese.
- Canola Oil
Canola oil, which has a lot of omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, is another healthy substitute. It is the ideal all-purpose cooking oil because it is almost flavorless.
It can be used to create vinaigrette:
- Garlic, cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, liquid honey, salt, and pepper should all be combined in a bowl.Garlic, cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, liquid honey, salt, and pepper should all be combined in a bowl.
- Canola oil is added in a thin, continuous stream; whisk until combined.
- For up to two weeks, drizzle over salad or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- Nut Oils
Walnut and grape seed oils have a milder flavor and are ideal for salad dressing. It contains a lot of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid, as well as other unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants called ellagitannins, and polyphenols. Consuming walnut oil may therefore enhance heart health and lower blood sugar levels.
You can make a delicious lentil salad with walnut oil:
- In a big saucepan, put the lentils, water, onion, carrot, and garlic.
- Add salt to taste and bring to a boil before turning down the heat.
- When the lentils are tender, simmer them for 35 to 45 minutes with the lid on.
- Drain into a strainer that is placed over a bowl.
- Salt, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and shallot or garlic are all combined in a whisk.
- Stir the lentils with the oil and 2 to 4 tablespoons of the liquid from the lentils.
This delicious Mexican dish is a must-have if you want to gain weight quickly. In addition to being high in monounsaturated fatty acids, they also include potassium, fiber, and vitamin K. A smart approach to increase calories without losing nutrition is to add avocados, which provide more than 200 calories per serving. It is a delectable and healthful breakfast alternative.
You can find a delicious dish below:
- Slice one avocado and spread it on toast with oregano, black pepper, and bread.
- Boiling eggs will be a welcome addition to the avocado topping.
One of the best food combinations for weight gain is this one.
The answer to the question of what to eat to gain weight is right in front of you. All of the following nuts are healthy for you: cashews, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. They supply your diet with beneficial calories by way of their polyunsaturated fat content.
A good way to ensure daily consumption is to consume them raw, roasted, or by adding them as powder and chopped pieces to other foods. For instance, a tablespoon of peanut butter provides roughly 100 calories. Almonds have 21.15 g of protein and 579 calories per 100 g.
This recipe yields a trail mix of nuts that are both sweet and spicy:
- Oven should be preheated to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Toss the cashews, almonds, and walnut halves together in a large bowl with the salt, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
- Slowly pour the butter mixture over the bowl of nuts after heating the sugar, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted.
- Stir nuts until each one is coated in the warm syrup before baking for 10 minutes on a baking sheet.
The ideal granola is made by combining honey with dried fruits, nuts, whole grains, and seeds. Serve your granola for breakfast after storing it in an airtight container. Granola is on our list of foods to consume to gain weight since each of its components has health benefits.
It has dried fruit, honey, and oats, which act as an instant energy enhancer. Granola is regarded as an iron-rich diet that supports your body’s ability to combat anemia symptoms and guard against exhaustion, irregular breathing, and chronic headaches.
With this recipe, making granola at home is really simple:
- Put coconut flakes, honey, cinnamon, chia seeds, melted coconut oil, crushed oats, and crushed chia seeds in a pan.
- For 20 minutes, bake the ingredients at 350°F.
- For a nutritious granola breakfast, sprinkle it over milk.
- Granola is a very healthy food to gain weight because it also contains 20% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E.
- Dark Chocolate
The body benefits greatly from this treat. Antioxidants found in abundance in it help the heart to operate more effectively. 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for iron, 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 89% of the RDI for copper, and 98% of the RDI for manganese are all found in a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa.
Along with 600 calories and a small amount of sugar, all these nutrients are also included. Dark chocolate is therefore on our list of the finest foods to eat in order to gain weight and is best enjoyed as a snack in moderation.
Dark hot chocolate recipe:
- Take one cup of finely chopped dark chocolate and bring it to a boil in a small amount of water.
- Add a cup or two of milk.
- Add sugar to taste and bring to a boil until all the chocolate has dissolved.
They contain carbs, which serve as high-calorie foods for weight gain, and are a strong source of vitamin K. The release of energy in the form of glucose is made possible by the starch in potatoes.
The king of sinful foods is a potato, whether it’s baked french fries, wedges, or just a plain old jacket potato.
You can simply make jacket potatoes by doing the following:
- Set 4 large baking potatoes on the top shelf of an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees.
- After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 300 F and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
- Cut a cross on top of each potato, squeeze the sides, add your favourite topping.