How to Eat Big When You Aren’t a Big Eater

So by now you should know that if you want to build serious muscle it takes calories.

If you didn’t know this, then I’m telling you again…

Calories are king when it comes to gaining mass!

I’d say that the bulk of people who come to me for advice simply aren’t eating enough.

I’ve been there and I can relate to you. It’s a very uncomfortable adjustment period when you go from eating what YOU THOUGHT was a lot of food, to what REALLY IS a lot of food.

I can remember a time when eating 4 whole scrambled eggs made me want to puke, and now it seems like nothing.

When it comes to gaining size, if you want to go from 150 lbs to 175 lbs, then you already need to be eating like someone who is 175 lbs to get there.

This is the primary reason that this is certainly not comfortable.

Once you begin gaining more muscle your new muscle mass will help speed up your metabolic rate and the process will become a little easier, but it takes time.

The amount of food that I eat on a cutting diet is usually more than most guys are eating who are trying to pick up mass, if this gives you any idea of how much food it really takes!

Of course your body type and metabolism also plays a major role in how much food you need to eat.

You cannot tell me it cannot be done no matter what body structure you may have.

Yes genetics are the major factor here, but let me tell you something; I had a friend in high school with the worst genetics for bodybuilding ever, and he got up to 215 lbs… NATURALLY!

This guy started off at about 6’2″ and 135 lbs or so, he was literally a bean pole!

But in about 5 years time he totally transformed his body from packing in the food and hitting the gym like his life depended on it!


The easiest way to get the right caloric intake is through 3 solid meals a day and then a weight gainer shake in between those meals.

As your body becomes adapted to more food then you want to try to substitute one of the weight gain shakes with another whole food meal.

I believe whole food is best, but you’re better off getting calories in you any way you can rather than not eating.

The John Doe Homemade Weight Gaining Shake:

When I was younger I would make a shake out of:

  • 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
  • 1 cup of dry oats
  • 2 whole eggs
  • whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • chocolate syrup


If you add up the calories from this it easily tops around 1,000 calories per shake, and it’s not loaded with as much sugar as a lot of other “weight gainers” out there.

You won’t even taste the eggs in there, as the chocolate protein powder and syrup overcompensates the eggs.

You definitely want a good blender for this, and make sure the blender is large enough for all of the ingredients.

A smaller blender is nice and convenient if it was just protein powder, but it’s simply not large enough for what I’m talking about here!

If you were to consume 3 whole food meals per day and 3 of these weight gainer shakes, it would be very easy to hit 5,000 calories a day, and this is more in ball park range of what a young guy with a high metabolism needs to pack on serious muscle mass quickly.

I gained 36 lbs my first year of weight training, and hardly looked like the same guy.

By the end of year two I had put on another 24 lbs of mass, taking me from my beginning weight of 140 lbs to right around 200 lbs.

This was not a time where I ate as clean as I do now, but I will tell you that the fat gain was very minimal.

A Quality Mass Gainer (if you don’t make your own):

The one mass gainer I used that I thought was of really good quality was “Up your Mass” by MHP.

This is one of the better mass gainers out there because it’s more complete and it’s not just sugar.

A lot of mass gainers are nothing but sugar and they just won’t pack on the same quality weight gain that this one will.

I was even using this at the beginning of a diet/magazine shoot a few years back (just not as much) and I thought it was really good quality.

I ended up weighing in at 226 lbs when all was said and done, and although I wasn’t ripped to shreds…. it was ripped enough for the magazines.

So if the home-made weight gain shake doesn’t appeal to you then this would be another good option.

What type of gains can you expect from 3 meals and 3 shakes per day?

Well, I will tell you this much; I personally witnessed a natural guy pack on 19 lbs of mass in only 6 weeks, and he had been training for several years!

I finally got it through his head that he just wasn’t consuming enough food to grow any further at his current 175 lb frame.

So after evaluating his diet plan I showed him that he was just shy of 2,800 calories a day, and that simply wasn’t going to cut it.

I took him up to about 4,200 calories a day and he used MHP’s “Up your Mass” combined with 3 solid meals/day throughout the 6 weeks…

…and he ended up at 194 lbs in just 6 weeks.

His body had sucked up everything it desperately wanted in order to grow more and recover!

Now, at the end of 6 weeks he ended up backing off and taking a break because he couldn’t handle it anymore.

When we are talking about gains like this in such a short time period, it’s a lot of stress.

It takes just as much discipline (if not more) to gain like this rather than go the other way and lose weight!

He had grown tired of packing in calories and needed a break. It’s okay, sometimes you need that.

But the point is, he didn’t start gaining again until he got serious and stayed committed to calories!

What if you’re a middle-aged guy with a slow metabolism?

If this is your case then you’re going to need to experiment with what works for you.

There are 3 parts of the equation here in your case;

  1. hormones
  2. lifestyle
  3. food intake

All 3 of these factors go hand in hand.

Your diet and lifestyle could be part of the reason your hormones are off.

Your hormones being low could also be the reason you don’t have the enthusiasm to stick to a workout routine and it’s harder to feel good about yourself.

If this is your case then you will need to clean up your diet first and get in the gym before packing in calories.

The reason I’m telling you this is because if your metabolism is already slow, then we need to turn it around before we just go dumping more calories into your body.

I personally feel it’s better for you to go through an adjustment phase first, and try to balance yourself out more (while ramping up metabolism in the process) before taking calories higher so quickly.

One you turn this around, you will create a more direct NEED for additional calories, and this is when weight gain shakes can come into play.

This time period I’m speaking of is usually anywhere from 4-8 weeks long, and although food intake may still be taken higher due to increased activity level, you aren’t ready to be doing anything extreme just yet.


So there you have it on food intake and shakes, straight from the horse’s mouth.

It was extremely difficult for me to eat as much as I needed back when I was scrawny.

The weight gain shakes certainly played their part in taking me up to 200 lbs at 5’9″ back in the day.

This process takes years and years to look even remotely close to where most of you want to be!

Remember that no matter what you eat or use, time is often the biggest hurdle in bodybuilding.

I’m 20 years deep into this, and even I’m not where I want to be yet!

Train hard!



34 thoughts on “How to Eat Big When You Aren’t a Big Eater”

  1. No BS – your weight gainer shake recipe was a one of the keys that allowed me to bust through the 200# ceiling (now sitting at 225#). Thanks!

  2. Delicious! The article I mean. It’s amazing the value you put into your work. no wonder Mr. Pride so highly recommends your content. So, I see eating more induces weight gain. How does fat loss fit in to this? It doesn’t matter how much you weigh or what BFP you have if your muscles don’t show like a Greek statue, especially the abs.

    • Your muscles will never show like a Greek statue if you don’t have enough muscle mass in the first place. Fat loss fits into the picture after you’ve built enough muscle that you can lose fat and actually see muscles, not bones

  3. When I was 165 I just eated more and went up to 195 easily, but now it’s been like a year+ I’m at this weight, I’m 6 foot 197 now and I eat and eat but can’t get passed 200. Does that mean I’ve hit the ceilling or I should just eat a shitload more again. I don’t want to get too fat I hate dieting.

    • You may be closing in on the end of your genetic limit as far as size/leanness goes. But you prob need to be eating like 5,000 cals/day to grow

      • Right. That’s my problem. I’m not eating nearly as 5000 calories. Damn, I just calculated and a normal day for me is Iike… 3000-3250.

        I’ve always find it fairly easy to gain without eating that much. My pure strength does not go up easily though. I always feel burned (CNS) when I go up in weight on low reps. Maybe not enough cals.

  4. Question:

    What if someone who has a high body fat percentage, but also muscle covering it, wants to get big/muscular but lose the fat? Won’t that conflict with the calorie equation?

    • you wont lose fat and gain muscle at the same time anyways unless your brand new to working out. And if this is you, then muscle gains will ramp up metabolism anyways so it’s pretty much a wash, more muscle and same bodyfat levels, MAYBE slightly lower)

  5. Nice article. Lot of actionable stuff here.

    Newb type question:

    When it comes to calories, I see you adding stuff like chocolate syrup. What’s the balance between calories and “healthy?” Does stuff like beer, carbs, raw chocoloate, cookies, crackers, etc all count in the same way as long as calories are high, or are there specific requirements to making a calorie “ideal?”

    For example, I was eating a bunch of chocolate covered peanutbutter pretzels today after doing a ton of pull ups. No preservatives or bad fats but high calorie.

    Just wondering if there is a direction when it comes to health or if calories are just calories.

    • I used to put the chocolate syrup in there just to add flavor and mask the other stuff, but things like cookies and crackers I never really ate. I’d be going for more whole foods such as burgers, even a cheeseburger and fries has more nutritional value to it than a box of crackers because at least it’s protein. I would include some of the more “not so clean” food AFTER you eat the clean ones, or on the tail end of a meal.

  6. Hello again JD, helpful article! I’m currently 6′ (182.5cm) at 167.5 lbs (76kg) pretty lean and pretty new to training (2 months working out + about 6 months real exp from last year with pretty bad routine for natural). Believe it or not, I have gained about 24 lbs in these 2 months of training (I’m doing Victor’s BoaS routine now). Using your advice in the article, if I was to get to 190 lbs, would I have to keep eating like that for good in order to keep the weight? Eating 5000 calories a day and so much food in general for years is not worth it imho, as I’m already struggling eating 4 times a day (+1 whey serving). It’s not about discipline, it’s just that I don’t want to spend my life eating all the time you know :)

    One more thing if I may. I was doing deadlifts last Sunday at 265 lbs for my last 3 sets out of 5 (5×5). While I managed to do it and felt no pain whatsoever, after I was done I felt a strange pain (2/10 on “pain scale”), like muscle was stiff, contracted or something on the left side of my lower back and I’m still feeling it today (maybe a little less). I’m not sure what happened, maybe I wasn’t warmed up enough, maybe I did a lift or two with bad form… All body functions are fine, I can walk, run, jump, whatever with no problems, but when I twist my back on the left side in a specific way, that’s when I feel this weak pain. Due to this I have delayed deadlifts and squats for a couple of days to allow it to pass. Is it safe to go heavy once the pain is gone and do you have any tips in general?

    Thank you, thumbs up and keep it up!

    • This is a pretty common injury and it’s usually from over-extending back at top of the movement. Discontinue deadlifts for about 2-3 weeks. What I want you to do is hyperextensions as a rehab exercise. Start at the very bottom and just move yourself up a few inches in a high rep range, then see if you can go to the top and move yourself just the few inches at the top in a high rep motion. Next, try a full rep and if you can do that then hit a set of full range of motion hypers. But always start with very bottom part of movement, then top, then full reps. Think of it as 3 different parts or 3 different ranges of motion. Guarantee your back will be healed in a week

      • I’ve actually started doing hyperextensions before posting my comment yesterday and I can do full range of motion with no problems or pain whatsoever. It seems like a really minor injury, but it’s still here. I’ve done my regular routine (full weight squats included) yesterday and had no problems. I’ll follow your advice starting today.

        Just to let you know I’m recommending your book and your website to everyone I care about :) Thank you for your time friend, much appreciated.

  7. Any risk eating raw eggs? Do they specifically need to be whole eggs or another kind? Any chance to substitute in something else?

    • I was using it before being diabetic, so I cannot answer that accurately. I would say adjust medication accordingly though. It gets to a point where more carbs just equal more glucose meds or insulin. People act like food is the devil but if you just monitor yourself and do everything right then there is no reason that should hold you back.

    • Because once you’re up 20 lbs then you ‘re going to naturally be eating like someone who is 20 lbs heavier. Gain it, hold it, and once you hold it long enough it’ll be natural to want to stay larger, your body just doesn’t say fuck it and drop like that. If you did lose weight then you’d be a whole different body at 20 lbs less. This is a constant process of building and refining, building and refining

  8. I’ve been seesawing between trying to gain size and get lean for the last 2 years or so because it seems like whenever I creep up around 3000 kcal (I’m 22yo male 5’4″ 140lbs) I immediately begin to get “soft” (love handles, etc.) so I can’t stomach the terrible look for very long before trying to drop BF again. I’m confident in my exercise program, so is there any wisdom you could offer me? I do have Crohn’s Disease so I feel like that might be a factor.

    • I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not the best person to answer that question. I do not have a lot of knowledge on Crohn’s other than there are specific foods to avoid and it’s easier to get IBS. Best of luck, sorry I can’t help more

  9. 6 year old thread but still has value. Currently in the midst of like goals. Going to utilize the shake idea, but add more eggs. Aiming for 24 eggs per day, and will add half and half in lieu of whole milk. Any thoughts? Thank you.

  10. Hey John ,

    Your articles and pod casts are very inspiring. I suffer from allot of anxiety and depression and liftting weights provides happiness..

    Im currently 218 around 15% BF

    To add size could I get away with eating 5000 cal a day without gaining serious amounts of body fat?

    • Maybe. That’s probably the calorie count you need to be at to gain muscle anyways. Don’t worry abt getting fat, push the cals till you have some decent size, worry abt cutting afterwards. Thanks for following! -JD


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