Are you a skinny guy struggling to add bulk and muscle? If so, that means adding the right types of high-calorie foods into your diet to look bigger and stronger.
In this blog post, we’ll be discussing 7 high calorie foods for bulking – both clean and dirty – including how much they can contribute to your daily caloric intake goals.
Whether you’re looking for single-ingredient snacks or meals with tons of calories per serving, these nutrient-dense food options will surely give you serious gains!
Clean High-Calorie Foods for Bulking
These foods will be considered healthier and more nutrient dense. These can be added to a meal or eaten alone to sneak in some extra calories.
Peanut Butter can offer a great amount of calories for the small amount you would need to eat. Just 2 tablespoons can get you close to 200 calories. It’s packed with protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Eating it regularly can help muscle growth and increase overall caloric intake.
Snack Ideas with peanut butter:
- Sandwich (2 slices of bread, 2 tablespoons of PB): 300-400 calories
- Fruit and PB (Banana slices, apple slices, strawberries, etc.): 300 calories
- Smoothie (Ice, Milk, Fruit, 1-2 tablespoons of PB): 400+ calories
Homemade Mass Gainer Shakes
An easy way to increase your calories is to make a homemade smoothie or shake. You can use a mass gainer powder, but making a homemade one can allow you to see what you’re consuming and allows for more customizability.
You could easily make a smoothie or shake over 600 calories by adding in some fruit, whole milk, protein powder, and peanut butter. The possibilities are endless with this one.
Mass Gainer Shake Ideas:
- Peanut butter Chocolate (Milk, peanut butter, chocolate syrup or ice cream, whey protein): 600+ calories
- Strawberry Banana (Frozen strawberries and bananas, milk, whey protein): 500+ calories
Milk is one of my favorite ways to add some extra calories for the day. A cup of whole milk is about 150 calories. Milk is also a complete protein since it carries all 9 of the essential amino acids, which help build muscle. It also carries calcium which is good for promoting healthier bones and muscle contractions.
Ways you can use milk for calories:
- Mass Gainer Shake
- Drink it with breakfast
- Drink it with snacks
Of all the lean protein sources, salmon has one of the highest calories per ounce. Just 3oz of salmon can get you over 170 calories. Salmon is also packed with healthy fats like omega 3’s, lean protein for muscle growth, and vitamin B.
Ways you can eat salmon:
- Salmon and mashed potatoes
- Salmon and Rice
- Salmon sushi
Granola is a popular snack that is often made from rolled oats, nuts, honey, and sometimes dried fruits. It has gained popularity in recent years due to its health benefits and convenience as a grab-and-go snack.
One of the main benefits of granola is its high-calorie content. This makes it an ideal snack for those who are looking to gain weight or need to consume more calories for their daily activities. Granola is also a great source of energy, providing both simple and complex carbohydrates that can keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer periods of time.
Granola Snack Ideas:
- Granola and Yogurt (Parfait)
- Granola and Acai bowl
- Eat it like trail mix
Olive oil is a great food for bulking because it is high in healthy fats and calories. One tablespoon of olive oil contains about 120 calories, making it a quick and easy way to add extra calories to your meals. These calories are also nutrient-dense, providing essential vitamins and minerals that support muscle growth and recovery.
In addition, the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil have been shown to increase levels of testosterone, a hormone that is important for building muscle. Olive oil also contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and support overall health.
Ways to use olive oil for calories:
- Olive oil and bread
- Use olive oil while cooking
- Olive oil with hummus
Cottage Cheese Parfait
Cottage cheese is a great food for bulking because it is low in fat and high in protein. One cup of cottage cheese contains about 27 grams of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscles after a workout.
In addition to its high protein content, cottage cheese is also a good source of calcium and other essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and phosphorus. These nutrients are important for maintaining strong bones and supporting overall health.
Cottage cheese snack ideas:
- Parfait (With fruit and granola)
- Cottage cheese toast (bread, cottage cheese, toppings)
- Cottage cheese salad (mix in your favorite veggies)
Greek yogurt is another great food for bulking because it is high in protein and low in fat. One cup of plain Greek yogurt contains about 23 grams of protein, making it an excellent option for fueling muscle growth and recovery.
It also contains probiotics, which can support a healthy digestive system and overall immune function.
- Parfait (With fruit and granola)
- Greek Yogurt Popsicles (mix in fruit and honey then freeze)
Dirty High Calorie Foods for Bulking
As mentioned before, dirty bulking carries some health risks, but moderation can help your weight gain efforts.
Cheesecake is a tasty dessert that is one of many calorie-dense foods. Calories will vary, but I’ve seen slices of cheesecake go over 800 calories for a single slice. Which makes it an easy way to gain weight.
Many milkshakes carry tons of calories from ice cream, milk, and toppings. Milkshakes can be well over 600 calories depending on toppings and size.
Pizza tends to be higher in calories due to the amount of carbs and cheese. Depending on the style and toppings, pizza slices can be 300+ per slice.
Burgers are an American staple with bread, meat, and toppings. Just like all the other foods on the list, the calories will drastically vary depending on the toppings, weight of the burger, and type of buns used. Burgers can easily reach over 600 calories making it a high-calorie food for bulking.
Bulking 101- How to Gain Weight
When it comes to gaining weight and putting on muscle, there are a few key principles that you should follow.
Pick a Goal Weight
Clean Vs Dirty Bulking
Pick a Goal Weight
Everyone is different and has a unique body type, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.
Once you have a target weight in mind, you can start tailoring your diet and exercise plan toward that goal.
In order to gain weight, your body needs to be on what’s called a “caloric surplus.” This basically means eating more than your body burns or eating above your maintenance calories.
Depending on how much weight you want to gain and how fast, this number will vary. A slower/leaner weight gain can be 200-300 calories over maintenance while a more aggressive and faster weight gain could be 500+ calories.
Also, keep in mind, your body burns calories while exercising so if you’re burning tons of calories through cardio for example, this must also be factored in.
Clean Bulking vs Dirty Bulking
Now that you have a goal and how many calories you need, let’s talk about clean bulking vs dirty bulking.
Clean bulking means eating healthier foods that are higher in nutrients and minimally processed. The benefit of clean bulking is that you’ll put on leaner weight, feel better, and minimize fat gain.
Dirty bulking means just putting in calories, regardless if it’s healthy or not. This allows you to eat junk food or whatever your heart desires. The benefit of dirty bulking is that you’ll put on weight much faster and you won’t have to be strict about what you choose to eat.
So which one is better?
Although a dirty bulk can seem nice, chances are you’ll gain much more fat, feel like shit, and your health can take a turn for the worse. The more recommended option is to clean bulk. It may take a bit longer and you’ll have to be a bit stricter on your diet, but you’ll feel much better in the process while putting on leaner mass.
Just like exercising, you need to stay consistent with your diet in order to see the gains you want. Eating the right foods regularly and doing exercise that is specific to your goals are essential for success. You also need to be consistent with how often you eat, as well as how much.
Skipping meals or not eating enough can hamper your progress.
Tips for Bulking
Here are a few tips for your weight gain journey to make it a bit easier.
Eating healthy snacks can help you intake more calories throughout the day without having to eat a full meal.
Eat More Often Rather than Bigger Meals
During my bulking phase, I used to focus on eating massive meals with over 1200 calories. This made it difficult to eat the next meal since I was still full from the last.
Instead of eating 2-3 1200+ calorie meals a day, it can be easier to eat 4-5 meals that are lower in calories but still reach your daily calorie goal.
From experience, only hitting your daily calorie intake and not your protein intake, will lead to higher body fat gain and less lean muscle.
To summarize, bulking is a great strategy for athletes aiming to gain muscle. Clean bulking is preferable over dirty bulking as it will help you maintain overall health.
To successfully bulk, it’s important to aim to eat often and consistently. Though there are many options out there, the 9 foods mentioned here should give you a good start.