Eating enough calories is important, especially if you want to gain weight or put on muscle. Some people find it difficult to eat enough to meet their calorie goals. In this guide, we will look at some common reasons, and simple strategies to help you eat enough food.
Why do some people struggle to eat enough?
If you find it hard to gain weight or put on muscle mass, it may be because you are not eating enough calories to fuel your workouts and support muscle growth. It is very difficult to build muscle tissue without adequate calories, and if you undereat for a period of time you will lack the calories (energy) and nutrients your body needs.
Some people don’t eat enough simply because they don’t have a big appetite. These people might not feel strong hunger cues, or may be able to go long periods without eating. They may even forget to eat and typically don’t get too excited by food. It can also be a problem when small amounts of food fill them up so they are unable to eat more.
If you have a very busy lifestyle, it’s easy to miss out on meals or snacks because the time flies. In this scenario, you may feel hungry and actively want to eat, but your schedule is not compatible with eating large or frequent meals.
If you naturally gravitate to high-volume meals like salads, stir-fries, and vegetables you will be filling your stomach up with a lot of food volume but not many calories. This is a good dieting strategy but is the opposite of what you should be doing if you need to eat more.
Hard-gainer is a non-scientific term that refers to people who train but struggle to put on weight and muscle mass. Hard-gainers typically look small or skinny with a low amount of muscle mass, particularly in comparison to the amount they train.
If you feel you are a hard-gainer, and you honestly know that you train with the correct frequency and intensity, you should look closely at your calorie intake.
How can hard-gainers eat more?
The key to gaining muscle is calorie intake, macronutrient intake (particularly protein), and appropriate training. If you struggle to put on weight, try these strategies to increase your calorie intake.
Have a meal strategy
If you are someone who forgets to eat or can go long periods without eating, draw up a simple meal strategy that has you eating every 2-4 hours.
Prep easy foods
Prep some easy, convenient meals and snacks that you can grab even on your busiest days. Ensure these are palatable meals that you will look forward to eating.
Track your food intake
If you are naturally prone to undereating, don’t assume that you are eating enough. Use an app or a food diary to keep track of your intake (at least for a week or so) to get an accurate picture of how much you actually eat.
Eat more frequently
If you struggle to fill your stomach with a lot of food in one go, split your daily caloric goal into more meals. Even small snacks of 150 kcals+ will contribute to your total, and may stimulate your appetite.
Use calorie-dense foods
Introduce more calorie-dense foods that will give you more calories for less volume. These include nut butter, whole eggs, nuts, energy bars and protein bars, and oils.
Drink more of your calories
Liquid calories can be a great way to get calories and macronutrients in without having to chew your way through a meal. Smoothies, protein shakes, and protein ice cream are great ideas. Think of ways to get calorie-dense foods into your smoothies by using bananas, nuts and nut butter, protein powder, and even dark chocolate.
Healthy foods options for eating more calories:
- High-fat cuts of meat
- Oily fish
- High-fat dairy options
- Whole eggs
- Homemade baking such as oat slice
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butter