Most guys have little trouble eating enough food to gain muscle, even if they may need some work on the content of their diets. For some lifters, though, lack of appetite can be a real problem, and not taking in enough calories is a surefire way to stay small.
But what can you do if you just have very little or NO appetite for eating large (or even moderate) amounts of food?
Well, all is not lost, and you CAN start to gain muscle and bulk mass by taking a two-pronged approach. Here are five tips for upping your caloric and food volume even if you have a weakling’s appetite.
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Eat Calorie-Dense Foods
Most bodybuilding diets focus nutrient-dense foods that allow you to take in all of the vitamins, minerals, and protein you need with a minimum of calories. This works well because the majority of lifters love to eat, and the nutrient-dense approach allows them to chow down on large quantities of food without adding a lot of fat. If you have little appetite, though, you need to turn this concept on its head and focus on calorie-dense foods. The best way to do this is to look for healthy foods that are also relatively high in fat so that you can bulk mass and pack in a lot of calories for the volume that you’re eating. Good candidates for this type of eating are nuts and nut butters, whole-fat dairy products, dark chicken, avocados, and red meat.
You will never build up your appetite if your digestive system does not function properly. Staying hydrated is vital to ALL of your body’s processes, but especially for digestion when you’re trying to eat more food. Drinking enough water will keep your bowels moving correctly and will help flush any digestion-related toxins from your gut. Keeping your system “clean” makes it much more likely that you’ll be ready to eat again when it’s time.
Eat Small Meals — Frequently
On a similar note, you can try eating several small meals throughout the day rather than two or three larger feedings. By cutting each meal in half (or less), your serving sizes drop and become less daunting when you sit down to feed your face. Most guys with troubled appetites will find it much easier to eat two or three ounces of chicken at a time rather than five or six, and you can even under-eat occasionally because you know you will have another shot in 2-3 hours.
Eat for Health
No matter what your goals in the gym or at the dinner table, your first priority should always be maintaining and enhancing your overall health. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible and you will be well on your way to making your digestive system — and every other system in your body — function at optimal levels. Use that healthy body to train hard on a consistent basis, and it will scream at you for more nutrients.
Eat for Taste – Within Reason
Even if you are eating a strict bodybuilding diet, you always have some choices, and that leeway can be enough to get you eating as much as you should. If you don’t like grilled chicken, try fish instead. Don’t eat beef if you really don’t like the taste, but look for substitutes that can deliver the same level of protein and fats — eggs, whole milk, pork, etc. Healthy grains, fruits, and vegetables can add an astounding variety to any diet, and don’t overlook the power of spices to make your food irresistible.
Aside from these five tips, you can fine-tune your exercise program to help stoke your appetite and stimulate gains. Try switching from a volume-based weight training program to high-intensity training (HIT), which generally has you in the gym less often and burns fewer calories. Or, you could try the opposite approach to see if adding volume or aerobics to your regimen stokes your appetite.
Finally, you should always talk to your doctor when beginning a new diet or training routine, and he can also help you figure out ways to overcome your less than stellar appetite.
By dedicating yourself to eating as diligently as you do your training, there is no reason that a small appetite has to hold back your bulk mass gains forever.