There are a lot of legitimate reasons to want to put on some extra fat.
You might be:
- Seriously underweight
- Living in an extreme cold weather climate
- A sumo athlete
- Someone who just likes the “fluffier” look!
Whatever your reason for wanting to get fat on purpose, I’m not here to judge, just to give some solid advice based on real research.
Adding a lot of fat quickly basically comes down to eating in a large calorie surplus (or more calories than you burn in a day).
But there are lots of things to keep in mind, plus a few other tweaks you can make to your behavior to make putting on fat easier and faster.
Quick note: I’m not a doctor, and I’m not actually recommending you do any or all of the below. Most of these things will be harmful to your overall health in some way. But if you’re looking for a list of things that will contribute to gaining some or a lot of body fat, this is it.
1. Eat healthy, but a LOT
You want to put on some body fat, not drop a nuclear bomb on your health.
The main driver of fat gain is and always will be simply eating too many calories.
If you burn 2000 calories in a day and eat 2500, you’ll store the extra as fat (for the most part).
The general rule of thumb is that it takes about 3500 surplus calories to equal a pound of fat. That’s not exact, but you can use it as a rough estimate.
Now the easiest way to create a big calorie surplus is to eat crap.
- Fast food
- Sugary drinks
- Fried treats
But the thing to remember is that you can be a little bit fatter and still be relatively healthy. That doesn’t hold true, though, if you’re funneling a constant stream of garbage into your body.
So for our purposes, we’re going to eat primarily good, whole foods, just… a lot more of them.
- Lean proteins
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- With some higher calorie treats and indulges mixed in
- (You can also check out my full guide to eating healthy without losing weight)
Shoot for a surplus of at least 500 calories per day. Bodyweight (pounds) x 18 calories per day ought to be a good start.
As your appetite and metabolism expand, you can always go up from there.
Now it’s definitely a lot harder to overeat clean, nutritious foods. They’re lower in calories and more naturally filling than highly-processed, fast food calorie bombs.
Which is why you’ll want to…
2. Scarf your meals (Eat quickly!)
It’s actually somewhat difficult for some people to maintain a calorie surplus for a long period of time.
After all, you’re eating more (or a lot more, in some cases) than your body needs.
You’re likely to feel full, bloated, and just, well, tired of eating.
That’s especially true if you’re filling up on relatively wholesome, nutritious foods like we talked about above.
So one cool trick for eating more is to simply eat faster.
Most of us have experienced “delayed fullness” before. It just takes time for the food we eat to reach and fill our stomach, and then for our stomach to send the “full” signal to our brains so we stop eating.
If you speed up your meal consumption, you can bypass this process and jam more food in before you realize you’re full.
It’s why most weight loss diets call for you to eat slower. In our case, we want to do the opposite.
(This is a great strategy for getting in more calories on a bulk, too.)
3. Drink more alcohol
Having a few drinks is an easy (and fun!) way to sneak a lot of extra, empty calories into your diet.
It also might cause you to make worse and more fattening food decisions.
(Hello, 2am Taco Bell run.)
There’s also some evidence that having more than 1 or 2 drinks will cause you to store more of what you ate that day as fat than you normally would, as your body shifts all of its attention to metabolizing the alcohol.
Though our bodies don’t have a great mechanism for storing alcohol itself as fat, most drinks come with plenty of extras that can be (think carbs in beer, sugar in mixed drinks, etc.)
Some great weight gaining alcohol options are:
- Heavy beers (IPAs, stouts)
- Sweet wines
- Sugary mixed cocktails
Now I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention that having more than one drink per day or so, on average, over a long period of time, has some pretty serious and scary potential health risks.
- Liver damage
- Thinning bones
- Heart damage
- And more
So please exercise caution. Drink in moderation!
You can get plenty fat without drinking at all, too.
4. Get lots of carbs and fats
Protein is the key to a lean and fit body.
Eating a lot of it can have benefits like:
- Keeping us fuller, longer
- Promoting lean muscle mass
- Strengthening our bones
- Giving our hair more shine and strength
So if you want to get fat on purpose, you’d be well served to limit your protein and focus on filling up on carbohydrates and fat based foods.
You’ll still need to get enough protein to keep your body functioning at a high level. Two servings per day of around six ounces should be good according to WebMD.
But when it comes to weight gain, it’s just easier for our body to store fats and carbs as body fat.
Our body really prefers to use protein to maintain and enhance our lean muscle mass. Even in a large calorie surplus, you’ll find that a lot of your extra protein goes into your muscles and won’t contribute to extra fat gain.
The building blocks of a solid, fat-gaining diet (that still keeps you somewhat healthy) should be:
- Fruits & vegetables
- Peanut butter
Mix in a few solid servings of protein a day, either through meat or dairy, but focus on getting the majority of your surplus calories from the sources above.
5. Avoid strength training
This is key!
Strength training, especially while eating in a calorie surplus, promotes the growth of muscles and an increase in lean body mass.
That’s not what we’re going for here.
If you’re eating 500 calories extra per day and lifting weights, your body will be tempted to gain muscle instead of fat. And we don’t want that!
Avoid strength training and challenging your muscles at all costs.
I mentioned before that we still want to be kind of healthy, right? We don’t want to turn into a vegetable.
So if you must workout, do lots of long, boring, steady-state cardio (think long, medium-paced runs).
It’ll drive up your appetite, help you eat more, and if you do this without enough frequency, you can start to actually eat away at your muscle tissue.
(Less muscle mass will increase your body fat percentage. Yay!)
Just remember that you’ll have to account for all of that extra activity and eat accordingly. But, like most people, it might actually be easier to eat higher quantities when you’re moving your body frequently and not just sitting around on the couch.
6. Sleep less
I’m not going to lie, this one might suck.
But, sadly, it’s quite effective.
According to Healthline, a lack of sleep is strongly correlated to weight gain and being overweight or obese.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, failing to get enough sleep saps your energy. Without rest and energy, you’ll move less, exercise less, and have worse willpower when it comes to eating.
Second, sleep replenishes your hormonal balance. Failing to get the right amount will throw your hunger and weight gain hormones into chaos.
Shoot for less than 7 hours per night of sleep. If you can stomach it, go for 5.
(Pro tip: It’ll be easier to stay up later than wake up earlier, at least it is for me!)
7. Crush your NEAT
Have you ever heard of NEAT?
It stands for Non-Exercisve Activity Thermogenesis.
It’s a fancy word for the calories you burn naturally by just existing in the world (not by working out).
- If you burned 2.5 calories tapping your foot to a few songs, that’s NEAT.
- If you burned 7 calories going up and down the stairs at work, that’s NEAT.
- If you burned 3 calories getting up to walk to the fridge, that’s NEAT.
I know, these amounts are so small it almost seems ridiculous to think about them.
But NEAT calories can really add up when you’re really energetic and moving a lot vs when you’re very sedentary.
According to Lifehacker, NEAT activities can burn several hundred calories per day.
Moving around a lot and being more energetic are great weight loss tools! So to gain weight and fat, you’ll want to limit all of this hidden calorie burn as much as possible.
What really helps here is point number 6, getting less sleep. If you’re tired and grumpy, you’ll feel like crap and you’ll barely want to move.
That’s perfect for getting fat!
But you can also do a little mindful un-NEAT-ing in your daily life, like:
- Always take the elevator
- Park closer to the door
- Fidget less
- Take fewer trips to the bathroom
It all adds up!
How to gain weight & muscle WITHOUT fat (what to do if you’re underweight or skinny fat)
The above is a pretty good starter plan to get you on your way to becoming fat.
Basically, you’ll want to eat a lot and avoid exercise as much as possible, while sleeping terribly and drinking extra alcohol.
You might also be interested in the far healthier alternative to this plan, doing what’s called a “lean bulk” to gain muscle with minimal fat gain.
If you’re underweight, this is a much better option.
Lean bulking is a little outside the scope of this article, but I’ll give you a couple of key points to get you started.
Step 1: Strength train
This is the biggest and most important thing you can do if you want to add healthy size.
Increase your muscle size and lean mass as much as you can!
(If you’re interested, check out my favorite bulking program: It’ll tell you exactly what lifts to do, how many reps, how often, and what to eat to put on lean size)
Step 2: Eat in a small calorie surplus
For pure, uninhibited fat gain, a surplus of 500 calories per day or more is great.
For lean muscle gain without fat, 250 extra calories per day is plenty.
Muscle gain is naturally slower than fat gain, so you won’t need as many calories overall.
Step 3: Get plenty of protein
Remember how protein is the key to a lean and strong body?
That’s where this comes into play.
To get fat, eat only the minimum amount of protein you need for health.
To get strong and add muscle, you’ll want a lot more, or around .8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Here’s a quick guide on how to get more protein in your diet.
And those are the basics. If you want a little more guidance, check out my workout program reviews to see what plan might be a good fit for you to get started adding some size.
I don’t really recommend that anyone become overly chubby, fat, or obese on purpose.
But there are lots of legitimate reasons to want to gain some fat, and the truth is that a little extra fat gain doesn’t make you unhealthy all on its own according to most experts.
It all comes down to your CICO, or Calories In, Calories Out.
Limit your activity to lower your energy expenditure (calories out), and eat lots of good, nutritious foods to increase your calories in.
You might be tempted to fill up on garbage and fast food, but that’ll only have major negative impacts on your health in the long run.
Finally, I might suggest looking into a lean bulking weightlifting program (here’s my favorite) and adding more muscle instead of fat, if it’s size you’re looking for.
In any case, I hope you find what you’re looking for, and good luck on your weight gain and health journey!