Beginner’s Weight-Gain Diet for Skinny Women

In this article, we’re going to talk about a muscle-building diet designed for naturally skinny women who are trying to gain weight. Make no mistake, this isn’t a weight-loss diet. It’s not even a diet for the average woman who wants to become lean and strong. This is a bulking diet, a diet that will help you gain weight. Lean weight, yes, but the scale will still move up.

Now, muscle-building nutrition can be overwhelming at first, especially for beginners. How much should you eat? Which foods are healthy? Why are ketogenic and vegetarian women both healthier than average despite having seemingly contradictory dietary restrictions? Will intermittent fasting help you build muscle more leanly?

Luckily, nutrition can also be pretty simple if you focus on the fundamentals. There are just two factors that make the difference between gaining nothing or gaining half a pound of muscle over the course of the next week. But there are hundreds of things that make the oh-so-small difference between gaining 0.50 or 0.55 pounds of muscle.

This article is designed to help you go from gaining nothing each week to gaining half a pound each week. Keep in mind that building muscle becomes harder and harder as you become more and more advanced, so we recommend learning everything eventually. But there’s plenty of time for that later, once you’re already building muscle.

Right now, though, you just need to worry about the two most important factors: calories and protein.

Skinny to hourglass women's bulking transformation

Calories: how to gain weight

To gain weight, you need to be in a calorie surplus. When you consume fewer calories than your body needs, your body is forced to burn stored energy (fat and muscle) to get the energy it needs. This causes weight loss. However, when you consume more calories than your body needs, your body has a surplus of energy, and that energy can be stored.

  • Calorie surplus = weight gain
  • Calorie balance = no change in weight
  • Calorie deficit = weight loss

So “being in a caloric surplus” simply means “eating enough to gain weight.” This makes weight gain simple. Not easy, but simple: if you’re not gaining weight as quickly as you’d like, you need to increase your calorie intake.

We’re interested in gaining muscle, not just gaining weight, so our goal is to store that extra energy as muscle mass. But before we can do that, we need to ensure that there’s extra energy available to be stored. Without that extra energy, you won’t be able to store anything at all.

When gaining weight under normal conditions, women generally gain around 60–70% of that weight as fat. So if you gain twenty pounds while eating a regular diet and doing regular exercise (e.g. cardio), then you’ll gain something like 7 pounds of muscle and 13 pounds of fat. That will help you become stronger and more muscular, and it explains why overweight women have such strong lower bodies, but that’s not our goal. We want to build muscle leanly. We want you to finish your bulk with a smaller waist than when you started.

The good news is that if you’re new to lifting weights, due to a phenomenon called newbie gains, you may even be able to lose fat while you build muscle. Here’s how much muscle and strength women can expect to gain during their first year of lifting.

Now, to be clear you won’t be able to lose fat while building muscle forever, and you may not even be able to do it now. Here are some examples of women’s weight-gain transformations after a few months of lifting weights. As you can see, some people gain more fat than others. However, regardless of your genetics and circumstances, the vast majority of your gains can probably be lean.

So how do we do this?

Before you eat big, you need to lift big

First, to prime your body for muscle growth you need to be lifting heavy weights. If you don’t want to sign up at a gym you can lift at home with some adjustable dumbbells. Or you could build a simple barbell home gym. You don’t need fancy equipment, but you do need to lift. No other type of exercise even comes close to weightlifting when it comes to building muscle.

We have a beginner’s lifting guide for women here.

How quickly should you gain weight?

Once you’re lifting weights, the next thing we need to consider is how quickly you should be gaining weight. By adjusting how many extra calories you eat, we can control how quickly you gain weight. After lifting weights, the rate that you gain weight is the biggest determinant of how lean your muscle gains will be. The idea is to give your body enough extra nutrients to build muscle, but not so much that the extra extra nutrients are stored as body fat.

Before and after progress photos of a woman building muscle and gaining weight by lifting weights.

The ideal rate of weight gain is going to depend on your genetics, your experience level, and how good your lifting program is. However, for the average naturally skinny woman who’s just starting to lift weights, we recommend gaining about 0.25–0.75 pounds per week. If you gain less weight than that, increase your calorie intake. If you gain more weight than that, reduce your calorie intake.

Now, it takes around 3,500 to gain a pound of body weight, so to gain 0.5 pounds per week, you’ll need to eat around 250 extra calories every day. However, you’ll also be burning calories by lifting weights, and your metabolism will likely get a bit higher as you ease into this bulking routine, so you’ll probably need to eat more extra calories than that. The trick is just to adjust your calorie intake every week depending on how much weight you gain (or don’t gain).

The first week can be a bit of a toss-up. You’re adding in exercise but you’re also adding more food into your digestive system. Sometimes your weight won’t respond in a predictable manner. Don’t read too much into it. And besides, lifting weights will be such a novel stimulus that you’ll probably lose a bit of fat and gain a bit of muscle regardless of your diet.

After the first week, we normally recommend adjusting your calories in 200-calorie increments. So if after your second week of lifting weights, you gain 0 pounds, then add an extra 200 calories. On the other hand, if you gain two pounds, consider removing 200 calories from your diet. Keep adjusting your diet like that as you go along.

This can be a finicky process, but you don’t need to be perfect at it. So long as you’re in the right ballpark, things will go just fine. Your weight gain won’t be steady, but we want to see a steady trend upwards. (You should also notice that you’re getting stronger each week.)

Okay, now, let’s talk about how to determine your calorie needs. There are two ways to calculate how many calories you need:

  1. Taking your diet as it is now and adding in the calorie surplus on top.
  2. Starting from scratch and calculating your body’s ideal calorie needs.

Let’s go over the pros and cons of both methods.

Method one: adding calories

With this method, we assume that you’re eating enough calories to maintain your bodyweight, and we add in extra calories on top. As we covered above, gaining half a pound of muscle per week requires roughly 1,750 extra calories per week. So if you’re aiming to gain half a pound per week, just add 200–300 calories per day.

After a week, step on the scale, see how you did, and adjust your calorie intake as needed. Again, adjust in 200-calorie increments every week.

This option is simple and effective, but it only works if you already have a very consistent diet. If you wake up in the morning and have breakfast, bring a packed lunch to work, and then come home and eat dinner with your family, for example. In this case, since you know exactly what you normally do, it’s very easy to strategically add in extra calories without changing your regular routine.

The whole method relies on the fact that you eat consistent meals and serving sizes, though. If you add in a snack between breakfast and lunch, but then that causes you to serve yourself a smaller dinner, this method won’t work. You need to be able to keep your diet consistent, adding in calories on top of that.

The ways that your body maintains your weight can be quite sneaky, too. Let’s say you make a sugary Starbuck’s run twice a week to satisfy some cravings. Or maybe you order takeout once a week. Whatever. Now that you’re adding calories into your diet, those cravings may disappear. But by removing those calorie infusions, you’ll fail to get into a calorie surplus.

Since your appetite will naturally cue you to eat enough to maintain your weight, these subconsciously caloric adjustments are very common.

Now, the diet is self-correcting. If every week you’re adding in another 200 calories, then eventually you’ll start consistently gaining weight. So long as your diet has some structure to it, this method will eventually start to work.

If your diet is too sporadic, though, option number two is better.

Method two: tracking calories

This option is best if you want to build a bulking diet from scratch. The goal here is still to develop a fairly consistent routine, though, so that you can eventually switch back to option #1. Counting calories every day isn’t a sustainable practice for most of us. That’s more something that people do when fitness is their day job.

Furthermore, your digestive system has a rhythm to it. If you eat meals at the same time every day, your digestive system will prepare for them. On the other hand, if you eat sporadically, then you may be dumping food into a digestive system that isn’t ready for it. That’s not the end of the world for most people, but naturally skinny women have notoriously fussy digestive systems, and eating a bulking diet is already hard enough on it. We want to do everything we can do make this diet easy to digest.

Anyway, calorie algorithms can get complicated because so many factors need to be considered. Fortunately, we write to a particular niche of women who share the same specific goal: building muscle and gaining weight.

For the average naturally thin woman eating a balanced diet with a moderate protein intake and doing around three hours of weight training per week, this calorie intake should get you very close to your maintenance calorie needs:

  • Maintenance Calories = weight (pounds) x 13

Then adjust a little based on your lifestyle:

  1. If you wake up, drive to work and sit at a desk all day, decrease the multiplier (13) by 1, making it 12.
  2. For every extra hour of relatively intense exercise that you do during the week—in addition to your bulking workouts—add an extra 1 to the multiplier. This includes sports and other activities, but not low intensity stuff like yoga or casually biking to work. For example, if you play two soccer games every week, each lasting about an hour, your multiplier would be 15.

This should roughly reflect what you’re already eating. It won’t be perfect, but it’s a good educated guess. If the number seems way off, feel free to adjust it up or down a further 10%. Metabolisms vary from person to person, and chances are that you already know whether yours is larger or smaller than average. My metabolism is Hellish furnace, so I need to eat a little more than most people. As a naturally skinny woman, you may be in that same bony boat.

Now we just need to add in the calorie surplus. Just like with option #1, this means adding 200–300 calories per day on top of your maintenance needs.

Examples of adding calories to your diet

  • Increase three meals by 100 calories each. Perhaps you do that by adding a small glass of milk to your meals. Liquid calories are fairly easy on the appetite, so this should be fairly achievable.
  • Add in a couple 150 calorie snacks. Snacks have been shown to instinctively cause people to eat more, and they will allow you to keep your main meals reasonably sized. These snacks could be as simple as a homemade protein bar split in half, a whey protein shake, a handful of trail mix, or a couple pieces of fruit.
  • Add in a fourth (or fifth) meal. Maybe a small fruit/protein smoothie, or some muesli cereal with milk and frozen berries, a homemade protein bar, or a store bought one—like a Quest bar. All of these options are quick to prepare and consume, rich in fibre, contain a fruit or vegetable (except for the Quest bar), and contain enough protein to spike muscle protein synthesis.
  • Have (more) dessert. If you already eat a pretty healthy diet that’s rich in protein and made up mostly of whole foods, perhaps you could just have a 250-calorie dessert after dinner. Bonus points if you make the dessert yourself.

Adjusting your calorie intake each week

The most important thing about your bulking diet is to adjust it based on whether you’re gaining weight or not. Either method will give you a rough starting point, but everyone is a little different.

To absolutely guarantee that you’re consistently building muscle, you’ll need to track your results and adjust as you go. This will also correct for calorie tracking errors or incorrect calorie estimates. It makes the system self-correcting. This is what’s going to allow you to gain weight consistently, even if your body tends to naturally resistant weight gain.

Weigh yourself each week and see how much your weight has changed. We recommend waking up on Sunday morning, peeing, and then stepping on the scale. This will keep your stomach contents and hydration as consistent as possible for each weigh-in. Then, if you aren’t seeing the weight-gain results that you want, simply add 200 calories to your daily target. Or, if you’re gaining weight too fast, remove 200 calories.

As we mentioned above, the ideal rate of weight gain while bulking for a naturally skinny female beginner is around 0.25–0.75 pounds per week, so you’d adjust your calories up or down to get closer to that pace. 0.25 pounds per week is good if you’re more afraid of gaining fat. 0.75 pounds per week is good if you’re more eager to gain muscle. If you want to take a middling approach, aim for 0.5 pounds.

This is how you absolutely guarantee progress. If something isn’t working, you simply keep adjusting things it until it does. When it comes to gaining weight, your calorie intake is the variable that you want to adjust.

If you finish up a few weeks of weightlifting, you still weigh the same amount, and you’re thinking, “Damn, where’s all my muscle at?” Well you’re just looking for the problem in the wrong place. The recipe is fine, you just need more ingredients—more calories.

Speaking of which, it’s common for naturally skinny women to have trouble eating enough calories to gain weight. Here’s our guide for eating more calories.

How much protein do you need?

Why is protein important for women who are lifting weights?

Weight training will get your body trying to build muscle, getting into a calorie surplus will give you enough energy to gain weight, and consuming enough protein will give your body the building blocks that it needs to construct new muscle tissue. (Muscle is made out of protein.) This is the trifecta of muscle growth: lift enough weight, eat enough calories, and eat enough protein.

How much protein should you eat per day while building muscle?

There are some experimental new studies showing a potential muscle-building benefit to consuming as much as 1.5 grams per pound bodyweight (3.3 grams per kilo), but most research shows that muscle is built optimally with around 0.8–1 gram per pound bodyweight (2.2 grams per kilo). That’s probably more than you eat right now, but it’s actually a pretty modest protein intake compared to what most fitness models eat.

Keep in mind that this is how much protein it takes to build muscle. You don’t need to eat this much protein forever. Muscle doesn’t take much protein to maintain, and in addition to that, over time we become better at digesting and using protein. This is why you’ll sometimes see very muscular people eating far less protein than this. This means that in the future you can reduce your protein intake by quite a bit as well.

However, right now you’re going to be building muscle at a rapid pace while also being rather inefficient at turning that protein into muscle mass. So I would try to stay above that gram per pound.

What are the best protein sources?

There are lots of great protein sources: chicken, fish, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, eggs, beans, peas, red meat, grains, soy, pea protein powder, and so on This makes eating enough protein pretty easy if your diet has no restrictions. If your diet does have restrictions though, or eating enough protein is still a struggle, we’d recommend getting some protein powder.

Whey protein is cheaper than chicken, fantastic for building muscle, and quite nutritious. However, there are many great types of protein powders. For example, pea + rice protein powder is great for people who have problems with dairy or prefer avoiding animal products.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, here’s our guide for building muscle on a vegan diet, and here are some good plant-based protein sources.

Are high-protein diets safe?

Yes, most research shows that diets higher in protein are just as safe as diets that are lower in protein. The only difference is that a diet higher in protein supports a more athletic physique, whereas a diet higher in fruits, grains, veggies and healthy fats supports a more sedentary physique. Even vegan athletes and lifters eat plenty of protein.

How much protein should you have per meal?

Hitting your overall daily protein goal is the most important thing, but splitting up your protein intake somewhat evenly over the course of the day can help, too.

In an ideal world, you’ve have at least 20 grams of protein in every meal, and you’ve have at least three meals per day. (Intermittent fasting is okay for building muscle, but it’s probably not ideal, especially for naturally skinny women.)

For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, then that could be:

  • 30 grams of protien with breakfast
  • 30 grams with lunch
  • 40 grams with dinner
  • And a whey protein shake as a snack

That would give you 130 grams of protein with a perfect protein distribution for building muscle. That’s a fairly classic way of structuring a bulking diet, too. However, it might mean that some meals where you don’t typically have much protein (such as breakfast) might need to have some protein added in. For example, my wife started mixing protein powder or yoghurt into her morning smoothies.

Make Eating Achievable, Lazy (MEAL)

This is the muscle-building variant to the KISS acronym that I’ve just now invented. When you’re trying to eat more calories, don’t make things complicated. Your bulking diet doesn’t need to be simple, necessarily. Feel free to eat a fun and varied diet. But your diet does need to be achievable.

If you can avoid restricting things, great. Don’t restrict carbs (or adopt the ketogenic diet) unless you absolutely need to. You don’t even need to cut out sugar (so long as your diet isn’t very high in it).

I know these approaches to nutrition provide simple rules—eat everything except for sugar, or everything except for gluten, or everything that a caveman would eat. That makes things simple, and when faced with the overwhelming task of creating a bulking diet, simple can be alluring.

Also keep in mind that most of these food group avoidance things are designed for overweight people who need to restrict their calories in order to get down to a healthy bodyweight. As someone who is trying to gain weight, you need to do the opposite: keep your diet open, keep your diet indulgent, and keep your diet fun.

We generally tend to recommend eating an “anti-diet,” where you intentionally give yourself more freedom to eat the foods that you enjoy, find easier to digest, can afford, and so on. Yes, you should be trying to get most of your calories from whole foods, have some fruit or veggies with most meals, and have protein with most meals. However, you should also be having dessert when you want to, cooking richly flavoured meals that you love, having a drink here and there, and not feeling restricted to chicken salads at restaurants.

You’re trying to gain weight, you’re trying to build muscle, and you’re trying to get strong. This is not a situation where you need to remove easy, delicious sources of calories. This is a situation where you need to expand what you eat. This is about adding nutritious, delicious things into a routine that’s already easy, not time to overhaul everything and start eating totally clean.

If you normally wake up and have coffee and a muffin at Starbucks for breakfast, consider switching that to having a latte, a muffin, and a fruit at Starbucks for breakfast. Your routine is the same and the switch won’t require a ton of willpower. But the milk in the latte adds protein and calories, the fruit adds calories, fibre, phytonutrients and vitamins. This is how you get started bulking—by keeping the changes easy.

That way you can succeed even when you’re feeling lazy, tired, and grumpy.

Key Takeaways

If you’re a naturally skinny woman who’s trying to gain weight, here’s how you should structure your bulking diet:

  • Start by lifting weights, then start eating your bulking diet. Without the lifting, around 67% of the weight you gain will be fat.
  • 0.25–0.75 pounds per week is a good pace to be gaining weight as a naturally skinny woman who’s new to lifting weights.
  • If your diet is already made up mostly of whole whole foods, is fairly consistent, and your weight stays about the same each week, then you don’t need to count calories. Just add 200–300 calories to what you’re already eating. That will bring you into a small calorie surplus.
  • If your diet needs a total overhaul, 13x your bodyweight (in pounds) is probably how much you need to eat to maintain your weight. To begin gaining weight at a good pace, add those 200–300 calories on top of that.
  • Weigh yourself each week and adjust up/down in 200 calories increments until you’re consistently gaining weight at your target pace.
  • Your weekly caloric surplus is what will determine how much weight you gain that week, but the leanest gains are from small, consistent daily surpluses. Try not to under-eat by 250 calories one day and then make up for it with 500 extra calories the next day.
  • Eat 0.8–1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight per day (2.2 grams per kilo).
  • Eat the foods you already love—just add more calories and protein.
  • Don’t fret about advanced nutrition techniques until this is easy!
Before and after photo of Cassandra González Duquette building muscle and gaining weight.

If you want a full diet and exercise program that’s designed to help you build muscle and gain weight, you’ll love the Bony to Bombshell  Program. It’s packed full of evidence-based appetite hacks, recipes, and sample meal plans that are highly customizable. It also includes all the advanced nutrition techniques that will further accelerate your gains, five months of muscle-building workouts, and a yearlong membership of coaching from us inside the Bombshell community.

Good luck!

Website | + posts

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Website | + posts

Cassandra González Duquette is a certified nutritionist (CNP) who studied at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, Canada. She's personally gained 22 pounds, going from 97 up to 119 pounds.

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  1. Jules on April 6, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you so much! As a mom of two babies, 24 years old and always struggling to gain weight i finally have something to follow, u guys are amazing. I cant wait to see if i can finally gain some weight and build muscle and not look like my usual bony self.

  2. Mirely Ortiz on April 16, 2016 at 11:15 am

    I have always been slender/skinny all my life but since my daughter was born 6 years ago I have struggled with weight even more so than before since I’ve been diagnosed with a Hyperthyroid. My thyroid numbers have been stable for the last 4 years without medication but I’m still having difficulties gaining weight I was wondering if this program would still be able to help me because I’m very interested in the program. I’m looking gain around 15 to 20 lbs though. I’m 5’6″ with a small build currently weigh around 105-107 lbs. Thank you.

    • Shane Duquette on April 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I think you’ll find that this program was built for someone exactly, exactly like you. The entire program is built with your particular struggles in mind 🙂

  3. Gwen on April 18, 2016 at 11:59 am

    How does your program work for older women? I’m 51, naturally thin, in very good shape, and dropped even more weight recently because of personal crisis so at 5′ 5″ I’m hovering around 100 lbs. I bike, walk, do yoga, and occasionally go to the gym just to feel good – never to lose weight. I would like to put on some muscle and of course get a few curves back!

    • Shane Duquette on April 19, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Hey Gwen, I’m so sorry to hear about your personal crisis!

      The program should work similarly for women between the ages of 18 and 60, as crazy as that sounds. You aren’t really considered “old” yet by muscle-building standards. Sounds like your lifestyle isn’t that of an old woman either—it sounds awesome! However, given that none of your day-to-day fitness routine involves lifting heavy things, we’ll want to start you off a little lighter so that we can build up your tendon, ligament and bone strength for a few weeks before progressing to the heavier lifting. We can help you with that 🙂

      (Oh! And obviously make sure this is Kosher with your doctor too.)

  4. Rachael on April 29, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I am just about as “petite” as they come. For as long as I can remember I have weighed about 90 lbs. I am currently 88 lbs and stand 5’1. I am getting married July 2nd of this year and am desperate to fill out my wedding dress. The program looks great and I would kill for some of the results the women in the pictures and testimonials have had. I am nervous because I am not sure I will be able to follow it by myself. I would feel so much better meeting with someone in person but know that is not what this program is like. I have read the article and watched the videos about the 3 beginner exercises. They seem to be something that I can do. I will need to buy weights and am not sure exactly what to get. I am also concerned about knowing what to eat, how much to eat and all of that nutritional stuff. is there any advice you can give short of me purchasing the program?

    • Jared Polowick on April 29, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Hey Rachael,

      Congrats on your engagement! If you are planning on doing some muscle-building, it’s good to do your fitting ideally after you’ve added muscle!

      The program includes online coaching, and we help you learn how much to eat, what you should be eating, etc. All those details are included. And we can help you figure out what to order if there is no local gym nearby (which can help if you want to test the waters). We don’t recommend much, just two heavy adjustable dumbbells and a bench.

      Our program comes with 60 days of money back guarantee, so you can definitely try the program and have a look without fully committing. That way you can see if it’s something you’ll feel comfortable with trying.

      I hope that helps and that you decide to join Rachael!

  5. Tai on May 8, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    I am 5’2″ at 108lbs. I have been trying to gain weight but it’s a HUGE struggle because I work LONG hours and am always on my feet (I’m a teacher). I was hoping that your program will help me gain at least 10lbs. by the end of the summer. Also, does your program have a weight gain diet for people like me that always on the go? I try to eat more but I might be working out too much. REALLY need help with this!

    • Jared Polowick on May 9, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Hi Tai,

      The nutrition sections in the guide should give you everything you’ll need to know about gaining weight and building muscle. So if you’re on the go a lot, you can get clever about it. You can make some homemade protein bars to take on the go, you could make a smoothie and bring it in a sealed container (something like a Thermos), nuts and dried fruits are easy to store in your desk, which foods will help you reach your goals that are available at the cafeteria, etc.

      I think you’d really enjoy the program, especially with your upcoming summer break!


  6. Lola on August 17, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Hi Shane, I know you specialize in thin women looking to gain for a more curvaceous figure, but I can’t find many resources for women who are already curvy and looking to gain muscle to reach a SUPER curvy physique. I’m already quite curvy with a .062 WHR, so I am happy on that front, but I have very little muscle and look a little too “soft” for my liking even though my measurements themselves are, imo, very good (33-24-39). I’m 5’1 and 134 lbs which is fairly heavy for my height and on the cusp of “overweight” in terms of BMI, so I’m not sure if I should take on gaining muscle and risking gaining more weight, or if i should lose weight, then gaining muscle. I’m afraid of my breasts sagging and losing my hips by losing another 10 lbs! Any guidance here would be much appreciated. Loving your blog!

    • lola on August 17, 2016 at 4:07 am

      I meant 0.62 WHR, not .062!

    • Shane Duquette on August 17, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Hey Lola,

      You can definitely use our content to boost an already curvaceous physique! In fact, our program is absolutely perfect for that.

      In your particular case, being new to lifting and on the cusp of being overweight, you can lose fat AND build muscle at the same time. Not many people can do it. You certainly can. To do this, you’d slowly lose weight overall (around a pound each week) by going into a small calorie deficit (around 500 fewer calories per day than normal) while doing a muscle-building workout program and eating enough protein. We call this cutting because the goal is to cut off fat while gaining or maintaining your muscle mass.

      For most, a gram of protein per pound bodyweight is good when cutting. Since your body weight has a little more fat right now, and fat doesn’t require protein to maintain, you can probably get away with a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per pound bodyweight instead.

      If you want a full program for this with coaching along the way, I highly recommend our Bony to Bombshell Program. You sound like a great fit and I really think you’d love it!

  7. Nera on August 26, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    I m skinny and at the height of 5’11 and have a pretty healthy weight but my figure isn’t so even. I’ve got really wide shoulders which totally eclipse my small waist & if I say so myself average hip size. Has there been anyone whose kinda made it less prominent? I hope weight gain would help, but you cant change bone structure & I don’t think Its possible to make the hips wide enough to counter the appearance of my shoulders. So Is It possible to change it? Will this help?

    • Shane Duquette on August 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Hey Nera,

      You can’t change your bone structure, but you can change how much muscle is overtop of it. So you’re right, you won’t be able to make your hips that much wider. A little bit, yes, since muscle can fill out the sides of your hips a little, but most of what you’d be doing by building muscle would be making your hips deeper. That would have a pretty profound impact on your physique and help balance out your broader shoulders 🙂

  8. Bobbi on September 18, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I am 49 and in fairly good condition. I am 5’6” and years ago weighed 170. After completing graduate school I was able to get back in control and lose weight. But now I’m down to 105 and people are worried. I need to gain but in a healthy way. I like your program, but I am worried that due to some previous sports injuries I won’t be able to lift “heavy” weights without consequences. (back, neck, knees) What do you suggest?

    • Shane Duquette on October 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Hey Bobbi! Glad to hear you’re interested in the program 🙂

      The program includes coaching and adjustments. We could help you work around your injuries so that you can build muscle without aggravating them. If you can’t lift heavy, that’s okay too. We’ll figure out what you can and cannot do and take it from there.

      I really hope you decide to join us!

  9. Hazel on October 6, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    I am extremely interested in this program.
    Along with the guide of weight lifting do you also provide a FULL nutrition guide? As in what i need to eat breakfast lunch dinner/ what snacks i need to be eating in between as wel as which exact protein shakes and at which times etc. etc.
    I am 23/ 5’7 / 95 pounds yuck
    Goal weight is 125

    • Shane Duquette on October 12, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      Hey Hazel, glad to hear you’re extremely interested in the program 🙂

      We do! Full nutrition guide. We’ve found that it’s easier to make your own meal plan out of your own personal preferences. But we have sample meal plans that you can use, and then to make them more enjoyable to follow, you could swap in your own recipes (or use some of our recipes—we have those too!).

  10. on October 20, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Hi, I am very interested in this programme! I’m currently 5″4, 92lb – I have some gains to make!

    I was wondering how much you can help women who aren’t naturally skinny, but just come from a background of chronic undereating? I may be small framed but I’m pretty sure my metabolism is all kinds of messed up.

    Also – I just ran my numbers through your formula and it tells me I should maintain my weight on less than 1200 a day – that is far less than any formula I’ve seen, surely that is just my bmr??

    • Shane Duquette on November 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Hey Alice,

      We can definitely help anyone who is looking to build muscle / gain weight, including you. The only difference is that the writing is speaking to someone who struggles to, for example, eat enough to gain weight. You might be reading our appetite hacks and thinking, “Psh, I can eat enough to gain weight in my sleep!” But so long as you don’t mind that, we’d love to have you 🙂

      As for the calorie estimate, that’s a good point, and we thought the same thing at first. We thought the numbers must be too low for sure. But after double-checking our research and then testing it on all of our members, it worked out quite well. However, you’re quite light, so it’s probably underestimating your calorie intake a little. You may want to raise that estimate by 10–20%. And, of course, if eating even that higher amount doesn’t lead to the right amount of weight gain, adjust further as needed. (We can help you with that.)

  11. Carissa on November 22, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    This seems like a great program. I’d love to join but unfortunately I am a poor, starving graduate student and can’t afford it. I’m trying to do some strength training on my own but I hate the gym and don’t have enough space to work out at home. Any advice for getting over gym-phobia? I always feel like I don’t know what I am doing and will look silly if I try anything new. Even if I go when the gym is mostly empty I still feel super awkward standing in a corner doing dumbell curls. I love fitness classes, but those mostly just burn calories which doesn’t help a skinny girl. How do you make weight lifting exciting?

    • Jared Polowick on November 23, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Hi Carissa,

      That’s great that you’ve started already on your own! This article on nutrition was designed to be complementary to the beginner’s guide to working out article. You can read that article here.

      What I’ve found helpful for getting over gym-phobia is like treating how some different phobias are treated, with lots of repeated exposure. I’d recommend going at a non-busy time of day like you’re already doing and having a plan written down or printed out and sticking to it. If you are there winging it, it’s going to feel a little awkward. But if you go into the gym with a gameplan, it’s a lot easier to just mind your own business and stick to it. Some people find it easier to have a trainer show them around the lifts once or twice to get the idea, or going with a friend. But the trainer might be out of your budget, and the friend might (probably) bail. As you grow in experience though, it’ll get easier and easier to continue to hit the gym.

      PS I am going to send you more information about our student payment plan to see if that’s helpful in any way 🙂

  12. Tina on January 21, 2017 at 9:08 am


    I’m new to this website, and I wanted to ask about bony spine, I have been following a somewhat “eat what you like” diet because I’m not good nor want to follow a certain diet program, however, my looks changed a little (I haven’t gained much weight and I don’t really care about that), I have become more toned, however by bony spine refuses to be covered with any muscles even though I’m doing pilates core exercises with focus on the back and I tend to have back pain every morning when I wake up and occasionally during the day too. I’m also trying to eat a bit more with focus on protein specially eggs and dairy products as I really like them. I don’t know what to do about this annoying bony back of mine. Is there anything I can do for it?

    Thank you so much in advance 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on January 31, 2017 at 12:06 am

      There are a lot of things you can do to fix this. Lifting weights should help. Especially rows, squats and deadlifts. That trio will thicken the muscles the surround your spine (spinal erectors) as well as the muscles in your upper back.

      You’re also right to focus on nutrition, although I’m not sure a “eat what you like” diet is necessarily the right approach. The diet that’s famous for skinny people who don’t want to follow a specific diet program is called the “seefood diet,” where you eat everything that you see. The idea is to not be too choosey about what you eat, but rather to focus on how much you eat. Because, frankly, if you only eat what you like, you’ll never eat enough to gain weight.

      To gain weight I recommend:
      a) Eating specific foods that allow you to eat more food more easily (a very loose diet program)
      b) Eat whatever you like, but eat meals even when you aren’t hungry, and keep eating even after you’re full.

      I recommend the former, but the latter will work as well.

      The third thing you can do is work on your posture. I’d be willing to bet that part of the reason your back looks bony is because your posture is a little wonky. You don’t have to focus on this, but you can do it at the same time as gaining weight 🙂

      • Tina on February 1, 2017 at 6:53 pm

        Oh My Gosh, you’re so right about my posture. I try to watch my posture but it hurts to keep my back straight all the time. I try to mediate everyday but I’m never able to keep my back straight for more than a minute, however i will skates keep training myself to Kerri it straight. Unfortunately I’m not always able to eat more, I just can’t fit more food in my stomach but I keep trying to increase my food intake a little even if it was just an extra cup of milk. I will try to incorporate these exercises in my workout program.

        Thank you so much for your reply 🙂

        • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2017 at 4:13 pm

          Eating more is such a simple suggestion, but yeah, when it comes to actually doing it… brutal. If your stomach can’t handle more food in your stomach, it might help to eat more often—snacks between meals and whatnot. Liquid calories can be a good technique as well. Also, focusing on really dense sources of calories, like dried fruits and nuts (aka trail mix).

  13. Kyla Eve on March 30, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Hi! I love, love the sound of this, but am a bit weary.
    I’m 21 years old.
    5’0-5’1 and fluctuate between 90-96 pounds and DAMNIT I EAT!
    I am 98 % sure I will be purchasing the program, but I have a question.
    How will I know I am doing the exercises/lifting properly?
    I’m scared of doing them improperly and either gaining in a weird/bulky way or not gaining at all.
    I want people to stop calling me twelve or telling me I’m going to blow away, lol.
    I want people to stop telling me I need to eat more McDonald’s
    I want to feel like a woman.

    • Shane Duquette on April 1, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Hey Kyla, glad you love the sound of this!

      Ahaha, I know. The eating, it’s so frustrating. And I really hope we can help you figure that out. We should be able to. That’s our specialty 🙂

      How will you know if you’re doing the exercises properly? We teach them using instructional videos, and Marco’s pretty good at being clear and keeping things simple. We also start with the simpler variations and work our way up to the more complex ones. So a lot of the challenges of, say, back squatting, you’ll already have figured out because you will have mastered the goblet squat and then the front squat first, both of which are far easier to learn. You can also take videos of yourself doing the lifts, though. That way we can give you feedback. We rarely run into someone doing something dangerous (like a round-backed deadlift), but we can usually give you some tips to get your form improving more quickly than if you just kept practicing on your own using the videos + progressions.

      I really hope you decide to join us!

  14. Kyla Eve on March 30, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Also, my posture is total shit, haha.

    • Shane Duquette on April 1, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Ahaha we can help you work on your posture too 🙂

  15. Emily on April 2, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Awesome thank you! How do I know how much to eat if I am breastfeeding?

    • Jared Polowick on April 3, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Hi Emily,

      Many women love breastfeeding since it helps you get back down to your pre-pregnancy weight. But some people are struggling to keep their weight on, if they don’t have a lot on them, when breastfeeding, since so many calories are going out.

      This study says:
      “energy needs for an exclusively breastfeeding woman are approximately 670 kcal/day. If one allows for gradual weight loss, the net increment needed is about 500 kcal/day.

      The recommended increment in protein intake during lactation has been estimated to be about 15 g/day, based on a milk protein concentration of 11 g/liter. However, if one takes into account the protein cost of non-protein nitrogen in human milk, the recommended increment in protein is about 20 g/day.”

      So basically what it’s saying is to neutralize weight loss, you’d need to eat an additional 670 calories per day, compared to if you weren’t breastfeeding. You’d also need to eat an additional 20g of protein per day, since so much of that is going out through your milk.

      So if you’re trying to gain weight and build muscle, first you’d have to at least 670 calories / 20g of protein, and then go above and beyond that. In our article above we show that the research is showing to eat around 1g of protein per bodyweight pound if you want to gain muscle, then theoretically, you’d add 20g on top of that for breastfeeding needs. So if you weigh 120 pounds, you might want to eat around 140g of protein daily, if you’re trying to build muscle while breastfeeding.

      Keep in mind that we aren’t doctors, and that you should also consult a doctor or a professional in person to talk about any diet or nutritional changes. This becomes even more important when it involves prenatal, pregnancy, or post-pregnancy questions.

      I hope that helps a bit Emily!

  16. Shae on April 11, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I’m extremelyyy tiny at 98 pounds and 5’6 so I’m sure you can see the obvious problem. I’m long and too skinny. I have some dietary restrictions (pork..etc) and just need some reassurance that this program will definitely work. Was also wondering if each workout plan starts at a beginners level or does it depend on weight….

    • Sandra J Mcclain on March 14, 2021 at 1:44 pm

      I’m 5’6 at 120, I look sickly. I have had gastric bypass so the amount I can eat at a time is limited to the size of an egg. I also have I’ll fitting dentures that make it hard to eat a lot of foods.

  17. Leila on May 20, 2017 at 9:01 am

    I really want to purchase this program but I have a question. I am 5′ and 100 pounds. Reading this and calculating my maintenance calorie intake it would be 1300 which is very low. I currently eat 1800 calories a day, working 5 days full time standing on my feet (I’m a barista) and strength training 3-4 times a week. Even if I added the 300 extra calories a day on top of the 1300 maintenance calories, that would only be 1600. I’m a bit confused because even consuming 1800 calories doesn’t make me gain weight, so eating less than that I assume it would make me lose weight..?

    • Jared Polowick on June 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Hey Leila,

      These are only estimates to start from. It sounds like your NEAT is really high (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) from work. Then strength training, etc.

      If you are tracking daily and you know for a fact that you’re eating 1800 calories, then that’s currently your maintenance. So you can add 200-300 calories per day to that and get up to 2000–2100 daily.

      I hope that helps!

  18. Lilit. on June 3, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I had a question ! How do macro percent breakdown come into play, while accounting for 1g of protein for each lb of body weight. What’s percent of calories should be dedicated to carbs, fat etc ?

    Thanks !

    • Jared Polowick on June 28, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      We discuss these sorts of advanced questions in the program. It’s not necessary for a beginner to focus on these to get great results 🙂 We’d love to have you sign up!

  19. Whitney on June 4, 2017 at 1:43 am

    I’ve been hearing a lot about BCAAs recently, but I don’t know a lot about what they do. Could you touch on that and why they’ve become so popular?


    • Jared Polowick on June 28, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      I’m not sure why they’re super popular. Possibly about the hopes of being more efficient and helping with energy in the gym. It’s still contentious but most evidence seems to be saying there’s no benefit to them.

      You will get all the BCAA’s you need from whey if you supplement with it. So you can ignore the fads and stick with the fundamentals that have tons of research behind it.

      If you love supplements and just want to experiment, Xtend seems to have the most research behind it. Personally I’d take that money and keep it for whey isolate.

  20. Jessica V on September 28, 2017 at 12:56 am

    I’m 16 years old, with 104 lbs and am 5’4. Im not super skinny or anything, I just want to gain wight and have a more toned body. I’m a vegetarian so its hard for me to eat foods high in calories since i don’t eat meat. It’s also very hard for me to regularly workout and have big meals because of school. Do you have any advise?

  21. […] you’re especially skinny and really struggling to eat enough to gain weight even after trying the tips in our nutrition article, feel free to make your own weight gainer: 40 grams of protein powder + 50 grams of carbohydrate […]

  22. Rachel on November 29, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Hi, how are you? Since I will be building up muscle for a long time, will I have to keep increasing my calorie intake?

    • Shane Duquette on December 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      That will often happen, yes. Every new pound of muscle will burn an extra 6 calories per day. So if you were to gain 10 pounds of muscle, you’d be looking at an extra 60 calories per day to fuel your new, stronger body.

      Now, that’s not the whole picture. As you’re gaining weight, your metabolism will also adapt. This can mean that you start burning extra calories simply because you’re eating a lot of calories. This depends on your genetics, but it’s really common for us naturally skinny people to have very adaptive metabolisms, which means that our calorie demands just keep climbing higher as we continue to bulk up.

      You can take a break from bulking though, and you can bring your metabolism back down. So, for example, let’s say that you gain 10 pounds of muscle and you’re eating 300 extra calories per day, but you’d rather only be eating 60 extra calories per day. At that point, you can gradually reduce your calorie intake while continuing to lift weights. Your body will adapt to the new, lower intake and you’ll be good to go 🙂

  23. Kim Keller on November 30, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Any tips if you have absolutely no appetite and no hunger feelings . I’ve tried various herbal products and home remedies but I’m just never hungry.

    • Shane Duquette on December 19, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      I would get that checked out with your doctor just to rule out any medical conditions, but it’s fairly common for us naturally skinny people to struggle with a lower-than-average appetite.

      One thing that can help is lifting weights. I’m not sure if you’re doing that already. When you stimulate your muscles properly, they will want to grow, and so your body will often raise your appetite accordingly. It works in most people.

      Another thing you could try is improving your sleep quantity and/or quality if either one is lacking.

      Another option is to just eat what you need to eat whether you’re hungry or not. When doing that, you could try eating foods that are easier on your appetite, or even foods that will stimulate a larger appetite later on. For example, starting the day with a fruit/protein smoothie will give you a good chance of having a healthy appetite when lunch time rolls around.

      I hope this helps!

  24. Anon on December 25, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    What do you recommend for someone 5’8″ and around 144 pounds? Thanks

    • Anon on December 25, 2017 at 11:59 pm

      Also, body fat % is around 26% if that helps.

  25. Rita on January 24, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    I’ve enjoyed reading all the articles. Do you guys have a book with all this information and tips?

  26. aysu on April 24, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Hell , lovely bombshell writers and members!
    I’ve noticed there “3 hours training per week”, but i do at least 4 hours per weak, considering that i’m performing exercises adviced by you and my own chosen ones. Is it that bad training too much/incrementing sets and weights by 2.5 kg per week?

  27. amber cheyenne on April 27, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    hello there, if i am on a budget and have to grab some healthy food let’s say from the gas station that is filling and healthy what would you recommend? i am 26 years old and i weigh 100 lbs and have never been over 102lbs my entire life.

  28. amber cheyenne on April 27, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    hello there, if i am on a budget and have to grab some healthy food let’s say from the gas station that is filling and healthy what would you recommend? i am 26 years old and i weigh 100 lbs and have never been over 102lbs my entire life any tips would be appreciated thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on May 6, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Trail mix, nuts, maybe some milk. Those options are all healthy, nutritious, and high in calories 🙂

      But if you mean “filling” in the sense that it leaves you feeling full with FEWER calories, I’d look more for beef jerky, fruits and maybe a protein bar.

  29. Lowell on May 7, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I’ve been looking over you site and can’t determine if this is the right program for me. I am naturally thin and tall (Ectomorph) but the thought of putting on weight sounds bizarre to me. I think I’m skinny fat…thin but with an extra layer of fat on the body. I’m 5’10” and weigh about 150 pounds.

    • Shane Duquette on May 8, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      Hey Lowell, that’s a good question. What are your goals?

  30. leah on May 2, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Hello, for the part were you talked about the maintenance calories and the calculations is the calculation how many calories we eat per day or per week. This may sound confusing but do we add (weight)x13 to our regular diet though out the week or (weight)x13 per day. For example I weight 96 pounds so would I eat 1248 calories a day or add 1248 calories to my normal diet per week. Also for the second part of my question you said we can tailor the calculation according to our fitness level so if one day of the week I play a soccer game would I add calories for just that day? What if I don’t play a soccer game the next day, should I still be eating the same amount as the day before?

  31. Amy on September 2, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Hi! I am 5’2 and weigh 95-96 pounds. I workout (strength train) almost every day & I am eating about 1900-2000 calories a day. I have not been able to gain any weight. I am someone who fidgets a lot & has a high stress job, which I would think plays a huge role in burning more calories.

    I would like to gain about 10 pounds. Will this program work for me? And does it sound like I need to increase my calories?

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2020 at 4:34 pm

      Hey Amy, yeah, absolutely the program will work for you! Helping so-called “hardgainers” is our specialty. Struggling to gain weight is something almost all of us struggle with. You’ll be right at home 🙂

      But, yeah, you’ve already stumbled upon the solution: you’ve got to bump your calorie intake up a little bit. I’d try increasing your intake by around 200 calories per day. Keep weighing yourself every week, keep adjusting as needed.

      Now, the solution is simple—more calories—but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. I realize adding another 200 calories into your diet can be really rough 🙁

  32. Jonas on September 3, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Hello admin um Jonas, I have girlfriend. I truly really love her for who she is and um ready to make her my wife, she’s just Short and skinny I wanted to know if she can get help besides gym?

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2020 at 4:32 pm

      Hey Jonas, as a general rule—and this is true for both our mens’ and womens’ program—is that we try to deal with the interested person directly. I remember being skinny and I hated it when people would try and give me advice, pressure me to lift weights, and try to help me to gain weight. They had great intentions and never meant any harm for it, but it really made me feel like shit.

      On the other hand, when I was ready to gain weight, I loved getting help from people when I asked them for it.

      So, yeah, absolutely we can help your girlfriend gain weight. But if you can, I’d wait until she asks for help.

      Or maybe that’s the wrong approach. I don’t know. It’s a tricky, sensitive thing.

  33. Peaches on September 23, 2020 at 10:01 am

    Hello, I was bedridden for four years because of an autoimmune disease. My pain is now controlled but I have lost 15 pounds and am now at 85 lbs. I am scared to exercise in fear of losing more weight and have always had a very high metabolism which is making it extremely difficult to gain any more weight. I would love to join the program as I have read wonderful results from other individuals but would appreciate your opinion as to if you think it would benefit me. Thank you for your time.

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      Hey Peaches, helping underweight people gain weight is our specialty. You’re a perfect fit. We’d absolutely love to help you 🙂

      It’s true that exercise burns calories, but it also stimulates muscles growth. Weight training, especially, has the power to help you gain a ton of healthy weight. It will mean eating more calories, yes, but that’s the best way to gain weight in a healthy way 🙂

  34. Holly on January 28, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Hi! I’m 20, currently 5’2, and I weigh 102-105 lbs. (It fluctuates.) It’s actually a healthy weight, but I’ve really made it my mission to look and feel stronger this year. I’m tired of looking like a 12-year old girl!

    I’ve recently started lifting with a pair of 6lb dumbbells. I just wanted to know if those 6lb dumbbells are enough to be considered “lifting heavy,” as you guys said here that we have to start lifting heavy first before we start eating big.

    If this info helps, I eat a lot (and I’m not super conscious about what I eat) and I have no problem eating more food if necessary! In 2020, I never really cut back on my caloric intake and mostly sat behind my computer all day, but I still maintained my weight.

    Thanks! And just wanted you guys to know this blog of yours has been God-sent. Every time I come across an article, I always worry that it’s not applicable to bony, skinny me. Really thinking of joining your program!

    • Shane Duquette on June 21, 2021 at 4:36 pm

      Hey Holly, thank you so much! And congrats on getting started lifting weights. That’s awesome 😀

      You can do a lot with 6 pounds, but I’d strongly recommend getting heavier dumbbells. We have an article on building a dumbbell home gym here. I’ll be writing one for this site, soon, too. If you can get some adjustable dumbbells that go up to around 50 pounds, you’ll have a much, much easier time building muscle.

      If you don’t get heavier dumbbells, though, you can do a bodyweight routine instead. Check this article out. It’s easier to build muscle with weights, but a bodyweight routine will do the trick, too, if you know how to push yourself.

  35. Cleo on July 1, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    Is it possible to do the bulk while doing bodyweight workouts (such as pushup and squat variations) instead of lifting weights? Or is it 100% mandatory to lift weights like dumbbells/barbells to gain muscle and body mass?

    • Shane Duquette on July 5, 2021 at 5:05 pm

      Hey Cleo, that’s a good question.

      Lifting weights is the easiest and most efficient way to build muscle. With that said, there are plenty of ways to do resistance training. Bodyweight training is one of the better ones. We have an article on bodyweight hypertrophy training here. It goes over how to design a bodyweight workout routine for bulking 🙂

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