Best Bulking Foods For Women

Are you confused about what to eat during bulking? If you’re a woman who’s trying to gain muscle by bulking, the obvious answer is to eat high-calorie foods, making it easier to get into a calorie surplus, so you can gain weight.

But there’s a catch, especially if you’re a woman who’s trying to build muscle fast, but you’re trying to bulk in a healthy way and without gaining too much fat.

If you’re smart with your food choices, bulking becomes much easier. You’ll find it more comfortable to eat in a calorie surplus, you’ll build muscle faster, you won’t layer on tons of belly fat while you’re doing it, and you’ll end up with curvier, more three-dimension muscles.

How do we know all this? We’ve been helping skinny women gain weight for nine years now. As a man, I’ve personally gained over 60 pounds. My business partner Marco has studied under the top experts and trained female Olympic athletes. Plus, there’s a rich bulking tradition we can draw wisdom from. Let’s take a look.

What Makes A Food Good for Women Who Are Bulking?

You can bulk up with a wide variety of foods. You don’t need to eat a specific diet. You just need to eat enough good food. Even so, some foods make it much easier to bulk than others. The best bulking foods share a few common characteristics.

Bulking foods should have a high energy density

Energy Density Of Food And Your Stomach Size

Foods with higher energy density have more calories per unit of volume. That means these foods take up less room in your mouth, allowing you to devour calories faster. They also occupy less room in your stomach, allowing you to eat more food before you run out of room. For skinny-stomached people like us, that’s a huge boon.

Bulking foods should be good for building muscle

Foods higher in protein, starchy carbs (or unprocessed sugars), and healthy fats are fantastic for building muscle. Protein is the building block of muscle tissue, starchy carbs are the fuel our muscles use, and healthy fats keep female hormones running smoothly, telling their bodies what to do with these nutrients. Then, there are fibrous and fermented foods, which improve our digestion by modulating gut health. And there are even foods that improve our blood flow, enhancing our workout performance and leading to better muscle growth.

Bulking foods should be healthy foods

A good bulking diet is built out of nutritious foods. Think of whole or minimally processed foods, including lean meat, seafood, fruits, honey, dairy, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, herbs, spices, and much more. While highly processed foods such as maltodextrin (found in weight gainers), table sugar, and deep-fried vegetable oils are technically calorie dense, they can cause long-term issues that are opposite to a woman’s goals of not just becoming strong, curvy, and healthy—but staying that way too.

Not every good bulking food satisfies all three criteria

For example, carrots and spinach aren’t rich in calories, but they’re packed full of micronutrients, including nitrates, giving us bigger muscle pumps and increasing our rate of muscle growth (study). You could make a similar argument for adding garlic to your food. While garlic is low in calories, it improves digestion and helps with blood flow. That makes it an ally when it comes to bulking.

On the flip side, white rice is stripped of its fibre, making it theoretically less healthy than other whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, and corn. However, it has a few key bulking advantages: it’s high in starchy carbs, easy to prepare, easy to eat, and easy to digest. As a result, it makes for a great side during bulking, especially if you have it along with some other healthy foods such as salmon and roasted vegetables. Or perhaps used as a bed of rice during a healthy stir fry, picadillo, or vindaloo.

Before and after photo of a woman gaining weight (and squatting)

The Categories of Bulking Foods For Women

good bulking diet for females is wide, varied, and made up of balanced meals. A balanced meal combines different categories of foods, mixing protein, carbs, fat, fibre, and micronutrients into a delicious dish. Even better if that dish is easy to down and easy to digest.

  • Lean meat is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. Leaner cuts are lower in saturated fat. Think of extra-lean ground red meat, white fish, shrimp, and chicken breast.
  • Fatty fish is high in protein and rich in omega-3s (such as EPA and DHA). These omega-3s reduce inflammation and support our overall health. Think of salmon.
  • Eggs are high in protein and rich in healthy fats and micronutrients.
  • Raw honey is high in easy-to-digest carbs, has probiotic properties in the gut, and contains many vitamins and minerals compared to other types of processed sugars.
  • Fermented dairy is rich in protein, calcium, and probiotics. Probiotics are great for our digestion, which is key when bulking. Think of Kefir, cheese, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt. (Raw dairy also has probiotics but isn’t available in every province/state.)
  • Other fermented foods are rich in probiotics, too. Think of sauerkraut, miso, natto, tempeh, kombucha, and kimchi.
  • Whole grains and legumes are nutritious starchy carbs. They’ll pump your muscles full of glycogen, improving your workout performance and supporting muscle growth (full explanation). They’re also rich in soluble fibre, which regulates blood sugar, blood lipids, and digestion. Think of corn, quinoa, oats, beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, and brown rice.
  • Fruits and berries are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. They’re also a nutritious source of unprocessed sugar, giving us the energy to lift weights to gain muscle. Think of bananas, mangoes, papayas, apples, pears, oranges, limes, and mixed berries.
  • Fibrous vegetables are pitifully low in calories but make up for it by being rich in fibre, along with wide range of micronutrients. Many are rich in nitrates, improving blood flow, giving you bigger muscle pumps, and increasing muscle growth. Think of carrots, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, beets, and peas.
  • Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fibre and packed full of micronutrients. Think of walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds.
  • Herbs, spices, and garnish add flavour and nutrients to your meals. Many of them have interesting health benefits by helping digestion. Think of garlic, onions, diced tomatoes, pepper, turmeric, oregano, cilantro, mint, hot peppers, and soy sauce.
  • Sauces and dips are another way to add joy to your meals. Many of them are quite nutritious. Think of honey, mustard, nut butter, soy sauce, hot sauce, tahini, homemade mayonnaise, olive oil, vinegar, hummus, salsa, Tzatziki, and guacamole.
  • Oils have the highest energy density of any food. Extra virgin olive oil is great for drizzling on salads and veggies. Avocado oil is great for cooking with.
  • Coffee and tea are natural sources of caffeine and rich sources of phytonutrients. They’re quite healthy, provided you keep them away from bedtime because of the caffeine.

List Of The Best Bulking Foods For Females

If you have a large stomach and a fearsome appetite, pile your plate high with all kinds of nutritious foods. You don’t need to discriminate. However, skinny females often have faster metabolisms and smaller stomachs, making it incredibly hard to eat enough food to gain weight. So, to help your bulk go more smoothly, let’s go over some of the most popular and powerful bulking foods for women, many of which make it easier to eat more calories.

Bulking Weight Gain Smoothies

Smoothies are arguably the best bulking food of all time, especially if your diet isn’t very good and especially you’re struggling to eat enough calories. Nutritionally, smoothies are perfect, blending together a mix of healthy foods. Blending those foods makes them calorically denser and easier to digest. Smoothies are like a mass gainer but more nutritious.

Here’s a simple recipe for a bulking smoothie:

  • 225ml of milk (ideally tested grass-fed & raw) or plant-based milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 4 frozen strawberries
  • 1 scoop of unflavoured protein powder
  • handful of fresh spinach (if uncooked greens agree with your gut)

Once it’s blended fully and smooth, add one scoop of whey isolate powder or plant-based protein powder. Like a weight gainer from supplements, it’ll be easy on your appetite. But it’ll be made out of mostly whole foods that will help you feel and look better.

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Ground Meat

Meat is high in protein and nutrient-rich but also chewy and sinuous, making your meals take longer to eat. That’s where ground meat comes in. It has all the same nutrients, with most of the hassle of chewing already complete. It also comes in the extra-lean variety. Most women don’t need more fat when bulking, so this frees up more room for protein or easy-to-digest carbs. Ground meat is one of the main ingredients in chilli con carne, one of the most powerful bulking meals.

Salmon (and Other Fatty Fish)

Salmon is high in protein and rich in healthy fats, including EPA and DHA. Moreover, it’s quite easy to chew and digest, making it one of the healthiest and least filling protein sources. Many health experts recommend eating two servings of fatty fish per week. Salmon is great for that.

White Rice

Rice is the cheapest bulking food. A cup of cooked rice contains around 200 calories. Brown rice is higher in protein and fibre, whereas white rice is cheaper and easier to digest. Both have their advantages. I eat both. Marco did most of his bulking using white rice.

Bulking tip: rice makes a great bed for curries, stir-fries, picadillo, and even chilli, which are incredible bulking meals.


Oats are similar to rice. They’re another type of whole grain. However, compared to white rice, oats are more filling and nutritious, making them less popular with skinny bulkers and more popular with beefy cutters. Still, if you have room for them in your stomach, they’re rich in a fibre called beta-glucan, which is fantastic for our heart health.


Bananas are one of the most calorically dense fruits, and they’re also a great source of prebiotics, which is important for keeping your digestive system running smoothly. Here’s how to add them to your bulking diet:

  • Have them as a side with breakfast.
  • Blend them into your smoothies.
  • Have them as a pre-workout snack.
  • Add banana slices to your muesli or Greek yogurt.

Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are a fraction of the size of regular fruits, yet they have just as many vitamins, minerals and fibre. If you compare dried fruit against fresh fruit by weight, dried fruit contains about 3.5 times the amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals as fresh fruit.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a great source of healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a wonderfully healthy bulking food for women. It’s also calorically dense and easy to digest, which will help us gain weight. Chocolate is also rich in a compound called epicatechin, which helps to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow, producing a similar effect to pre-workout supplements like L-citrulline. (Prunes do this as well.)

Bulking tip: add dark chocolate chips to your trail mix, muesli, or Greek yogurt with berries.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is a great source of calories and, more specifically, healthy carbs. Some types of carbs can cause digestive upset when eaten in large amounts, but raw honey is not only easy to digest, it can ease a lot of stomach woes. A 2022 study found that honey is a prebiotic in the gut, likely due to its antibacterial properties, improving digestion. Here’s a quote from the study:

“prebiotic potential of honey to promote healthy gut function, regulate the microbial communities in the gut, and reduce infection and inflammation”

Consider table sugar—while it’s easy to eat and easy to digest, it isn’t good to consume in excess. Raw honey, on the other hand, comes with a whole spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and bee-generated enzymes, making it a much healthier bulking choice.


Kefir can be made by fermenting a grain in milk. The fermentation process eats up some of the sugars in the milk, leaving probiotics in its place. This makes Kefir higher in protein than milk and better for your digestion than yogurt.


Milk is one of the most famous bulking foods of all time. It’s a convenient source of calories and protein and rich in calcium, zinc, selenium, magnesium and many other nutrients. Milk is also mysteriously anabolic, with some studies showing it accelerates muscle growth (studystudy). It’s unclear why.

Milk is also easy on the appetite and passes through our digestive systems fairly quickly, freeing up more room for more food. Skim milk has about 375 calories and 36 grams of protein per litre. Whole milk has 630 calories and 32 grams of protein per litre. That means if you added a litre of milk into your diet, you could expect to gain 0.5–1 pound per week.

If milk or dairy doesn’t agree with you, you could try fermented dairy like Kefir, look into raw dairy which contains probiotics (2020), or just avoid it. There are lots of other good types of bulking foods.

Greek Yoghurt (and Cottage Cheese)

Greek yogurt is high in protein and a great source of probiotics. It works well in smoothies, can be added to cereal, and makes for a great snack. You can get the full-fat or low-fat varieties. I get the low-fat varieties because I already get plenty of fat from fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and cheese.


Cheese is high in calories, contains a decent amount of protein, and makes food far more flavourful. Some cheeses, such as parmesan, are also rich in probiotics, making them great for your digestive health. Parmesan can be added to almost any savoury meal to intensify flavour, boost calories, and strengthen your digestive system.

Trail Mix

Trail mix is my favourite bulking food. It combines the many benefits of mixed nuts with the benefits of dried fruits, creating an absolute muscle-building masterpiece. Now, I know this will sound crazy, but I find trail mix much more enjoyable to “drink” than to eat. I put my trail mix in a cup and sip on it. (I still chew it, of course.)

Muesli cereal (trail mix + milk)

Muesli, like trail mix, is a blend of several bulking foods. It’s usually made by mixing together oats, grains, nuts, and dried fruits. You can add some milk or a milk alternative and eat it like cereal.

Nuts, Peanuts & Nut Butter

Nuts have an incredibly high energy density, making them a great source of calories while bulking. They often contain some fibre, and the minerals found in nuts (such as magnesium) are great for hormone production and muscle growth. As a bonus, you’ll usually get a few grams of protein.

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts

Mixed nuts make for a great default. That way, you get a wider variety of nutrients. An easy snack is to slice up an apple and dip it into peanut or almond butter. You get nutritious carbs and fibre from the apple, and you get healthy fats and protein from the nut butter. It’s a surprisingly balanced bulking meal.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A single tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories. It has a number of health benefits, too, largely stemming from its high antioxidant content (study). I drizzle olive oil on my veggies before putting them in the oven to roast them.

Leafy Green (and Carrots)

Leafy greens and carrots barely contain calories, yet they still rank as a top-tier bulking food. They’re great for our general health, our immune systems, and our digestive systems. So if we think about a longer-term approach to bulking, they can certainly help.

Perhaps more interestingly, foods high in nitrates—such as spinach, beets, and carrots—improve the “pump” we get from lifting weights, slightly increasing our rate of muscle growth (study). This effect is as powerful as what you’d get from pre-workout pump supplements, but it lasts all day and has numerous health benefits.


Garlic is low in calories but profoundly healthy. It releases sulphur compounds when we chop, crush, or chew it. That’s why it’s notorious for causing bad breath. However, those same sulphur compounds are also incredibly good for us (study).

  • Garlic improves blood flow, which is great for our heart health. It also adds to the pump benefits from leafy greens (studystudy).
  • Garlic is a potent prebiotic, fostering better digestive health.
  • One study found that daily consumption of garlic reduced the incidence of getting a cold by 63% compared to the placebo group (study).
  • Another study found that garlic helps us recover from colds almost twice as fast (study).

The Final Word

The best female bulking diet is wide and varied, with many different nutritious, healthy bulking foods. Even better if those foods are quick to prepare, easy on the appetite, and smooth to digest. We’ve tried to give you some ideas that have worked best for our Bombshell members but feel free to expand upon them.

Alright, that’s it for now. If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free bulking newsletter for skinny women. If you want our foundational bulking program, including a 5-month full-body workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Bombshell Female Bulking Program.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has over ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people build muscle, get stronger, and gain weight.

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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