How to Gain Weight on the Paleo Diet

The paleo diet calls for you to eat as your ancestors did before the agricultural revolution 13. Processed products, as well as dairy, grains, legumes and potatoes, are off the table, leaving you with a diet rich in meats, fish, poultry, nuts, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables. The paleo plan purportedly gives you more energy, discourages inflammation and minimizes your risk of chronic disease. Paleo eating can help you gain weight to improve your health or perform better in sports. Although many of the banned foods are traditionally recommended for weight gain, plenty of paleo options are calorie-dense choices that can help you put on healthy pounds.

Weight Gain With Paleo Eating

To gain weight, it's necessary to have a calorie surplus 4. Use an online calculator or speak with a dietitian to estimate your daily calorie needs for weight maintenance. Take into account your age, activity level, gender and size. Then, add 250 to 500 calories to this number, so you can come up with a daily intake goal that helps you put on 1/2 to 1 pound per week.

Gaining weight more quickly makes it likely you'll add a high proportion of body fat, instead of muscle tissue. Muscle tissue provides you with a healthy appearance, better daily function, and improves your power and speed, if sports performance is important. The greatest amount of muscle tissue you can add a week is 1/2 pound.

In addition to your increased-calorie paleo diet, you'll need to adopt a regular strength-training routine 13. Work every muscle group in two or three workouts a week, with one to three sets of four to eight repetitions, using a weight that makes it difficult to finish the last repetitions. Leave 48 hours between sessions of working the same muscle groups.

Foods for Paleo Weight Gain

All fibrous, watery vegetables are considered paleo, and these help fill you up with few calories when you're trying to lose weight. Since your focus is to gain weight, emphasize the starchy vegetables that have more calories, such as:

  • butternut or acorn squash
  • beets
  • yams
  • sweet potatoes

Yucca and taro root are other starchy vegetables that are less common in American diets, but found in some health food stores, as well as in Latin American markets. Note that starchy vegetables are minimized on a paleo diet, largely to encourage weight loss 134. But when your goal is to gain, have a generous serving at least once a day.

Paleo Meal Ideas for Weight Gain

Another high-calorie meal might be salmon cooked with unsweetened, canned coconut milk, curry spice and vegetables such as cauliflower, sweet potato and green beans.

Between meals, graze on a cup of nuts -- a cup of macadamia nuts provides you with 962 calories. Other choices include a cup of dates, with 415 calories or a cup of pumpkin seeds, for 721 calories.

The higher protein content of the paleo diet supports the recovery and growth of your muscle fibers after quality strength-training sessions 13. Processed whey protein and other dairy products that are quick, convenient forms of protein, are off-limits. Instead, after a workout, reach for a paleo-friendly food such as tuna in oil with an apple or a chicken breast with a sweet potato.

Gaining Weight Is Work

Gaining weight takes focus and concerted effort. When you adhere to a strict paleo plan, you can't reach for packaged foods or hit a convenience store for a quick bottle of juice. You'll need to pack snacks and carry food with you when on the go.

You might even consider breaking your adherence to a strict paleo plan on occasion, especially if you don't have a medically documented intolerance to certain foods. For example, full-fat dairy from grass-fed cows provides a quality dose of calories and protein. Your ultimate goal should be for you to be at your healthiest and fittest.