3 Healthy Bulking Foods for Hardgainers

Ian Coleman
Written By: Ian Coleman
October 12th, 2009
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
303.7K Reads
The bodybuilding bulking process doesn't have to be unhealthy. These three foods can add plenty of daily calories to your bulking diet, without costing an arm and a leg.

Let me guess…no matter what you do, you can’t seem to gain weight. You’ve tried different bodybuilding diet plans, and the scale doesn’t move. You keep receiving the same advice: eat more!

But how do you eat more? Do you turn to junk food, and start cramming nacho cheese chips and ice cream down your throat? Or do you just eat more tuna, chicken breasts and rice?

Bulking doesn’t have to be a riddle.

There are basic, healthy foods that you can find at any grocery store that will help you grow. And the best part? You don’t have to feel bloated all day!

3 Bulking Foods

Adding Healthy, Calorie Dense Foods

The key to adding healthy calories to you diet is to find calorie dense foods. And you don’t have to look in the darkest corners of a health food store to find them.

Food Choice #1 - Almonds

Have you ever taken a peak at the nutrition label on a jar of almonds? One ounce of almonds has 162 calories, and one cup of whole almonds contains a whopping 822 calories.

Think about this for a moment. You can eat slightly over a single cup of almonds, not feel full, and add nearly 1,000 calories to your diet each day. That’s an incredible amount of healthy calories for such a small portion of food.

One cup of almonds also contains 30 grams of protein, and is rich in iron and calcium. I’ll bet you weren’t aware of that.

Food Choice #2 - Whole Milk

Whole milk has been a bodybuilding staple for over 50 years. In fact, whole milk is so popular as a weight gainer that entire workout routines have been based around its consumption. These routines are referred to as squats and milk programs.

Odds are your mother never stocked the refrigerator with whole milk. The fat content in whole milk is enough to scare away any weight conscious 30-something. But fear not, whole milk is healthy and good for you. Especially if you have a problem gaining weight.

One cup of whole milk provides 150 additional calories. It also contains 8 grams of protein, and is vitamin rich.

Food Choice #3 - Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is not only calorie dense and good for you, but it’s also a tasty snack food that satisfies your sweet tooth.

One ounce of dark chocolate has 153 calories, and is rich in iron. By adding 4 small, one ounce portions of dark chocolate to your daily diet, you are getting an extra 600 calories per day. This is a much better alternative to eating candy bars or vending machine snacks.

Always keep a bar of dark chocolate around. It will help you battle sugar cravings.

HardgainerThe Meal Plan

So you’ve just returned from the store, spent a meager $10, and are ready to eat. Before you start pounding almonds and dark chocolate, and washing them down with whole milk…let’s develop a meal plan.

For this plan, I am assuming that you workout in the late afternoon, possibly after work or after class. Your first goal will be to plan 3 protein rich, balanced meals. This shouldn’t be too difficult. If you have any questions, call your mother for suggestions!

You will eat these meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure you are eating enough at these feedings, but don’t stuff yourself.

For breakfast, your staple foods should be oatmeal, bagels with cream cheese, butter or peanut butter, eggs, banana, and/or peanut butter toast. At lunch and dinner, eat normal. Make sure you are getting enough veggies in your diet.

Here is a sample meal plan:

Breakfast (7 am)
  • Oatmeal (1 cup) w/peanut butter (1 ounce)
  • Banana (1 large)
  • 3 scrambled eggs (large) w/pepper jack cheese (1 ounce)
  • 745 calories, 37 grams of protein
Morning Snack (9:30 am)
  • Whole Milk (2 cups) w/1 scoop pure whey protein isolate
  • Almonds (1 ounce)
  • 563 calories, 46 grams of protein
Lunch (noon)
  • Quinoa (1 cup) w/salsa (to taste)
  • Chunk Chicken Breast (8 ounces)
  • Broccoli (1 cup cooked)
  • 541 calories, 57 grams of protein
Afternoon Snack (2:30 pm)
  • Whole Milk (2 cups) w/1 scoop pure whey protein isolate
  • Almonds (1 ounce)
  • 563 calories, 46 grams of protein
Dinner (5:30 pm)
  • Dinner in this example is eaten post-workout. I recommend eating instinctively. Try to eat 1000 calories, which includes vegetables, some form of complex carbohydrates, and at least 30 grams of protein.
  • 1000 calories, 40 grams of protein
Evening Snack (8 pm)

Meal Plan Overview

Your largest meal of the day should be post-workout. If you need to add additional calories to your daily diet, it is wise to add them here.

By adding these 3 healthy bulking foods to your diet, and following the basic meal plan as outlined above, you can expect to take in over 4,000 daily calories (with a pre-workout NO drink) and 260 grams of muscle building protein.

Bulking doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to be limited to almonds, dark chocolate and whole milk. You have an entire grocery store of possibilities. Take some time and explore the aisles. Get to know the labels of popular, healthy foods.

Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2020 - 15:37

It's sound like a milky meal plan :D

Posted on: Sun, 05/07/2017 - 19:23

I always made my best mass gains with whole milk.

Posted on: Thu, 04/23/2015 - 05:22

Dear Steven,

Female, 56 kg, 165 cm and I am 20. I train 4 up till 5 times a weak since January. But I am not losing neither gaining weight. I know it has to to with my diet. I would really want to know how much calories I should've been taking and maybe some helpfull articles about food intake? I wanna bulk up just enough to get those juicy muscles (fast)!

Akeen Holloway
Posted on: Sat, 01/17/2015 - 17:34

I'm 5'8 I'm trying to gain some muscles mass cuase I'm trying to reach 180 all muscles even tho I'm bulking so What should I do ???

Shawn Desmond
Posted on: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 18:38

Hey, Great Article.
Im 18,weigh 55 kg's and height of 5'7
I was wondering whether Eating the following in a day would help me bulk.
2 plates of white rice, 2 small plates of pasta, 1 cup of milk ,handful of nuts,chicken(breast piece)
Porridge and 2 eggs.
And how often in days should I work out.

Posted on: Sun, 04/27/2014 - 05:05

i am 5'6'' and weight is 58 kilograms want to gain muscle body and want to lift up my weight upto 65 kg please tell me how much calories i should take and wt should b my daily diet please tell me steave


Posted on: Sat, 04/12/2014 - 10:18

Thanks for the great article, got a little sick of the marketing BS for supplements and shakes. Good to know there are good easy alternatives. Right, off to shop.

Posted on: Sat, 04/12/2014 - 07:47

Im a 15 year old kid and I am tired of being so small. I have been stuck the same weight fo almost 3 years and I eat everyrhing. I have found a few other websites with workout plans but still no results. Am I missing something vital or am I simply not doing enough?

Posted on: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 07:22

Hey I wonder if there is any help out there im stuck on 15 stone and want to put another stone on I go gym five times a week will these foods help me

Posted on: Sun, 11/24/2013 - 04:21

i'm 20 years old and my weight is 57 kgs n height is 172 cms
i want to gain weight without supplements so what should i eat in veg foods n what should be the workout schedule??

Posted on: Tue, 11/05/2013 - 20:26

Hey Steve, I'm currently 5'10 , 125 lbs, and 15 years old. I'm looking to bulk up within the next 3 years, and need some help with planning. I'm going to try the meal plan that was posted here, but what are some snacks that contain high protein that I could eat throughout the day? Thanks.

Posted on: Fri, 07/19/2013 - 21:53

im 6'3 and 98 kgs but i want to get to 105kg. it seem like im not growing any bigger and my food intake is quite large and consists of oats in the morning, piece of fruit and a can of tuna or a protein shake, lunch will be turkey bolognese or chicken and sweet potatoe, mid afternoon at 3pm is chicken and broccoli and pre workout is chicken and brocoli again. post workoout is whey isolate shake then i go home and have a chicken salad for dinner and the a whey isolate shake.

i can't seem to get to 100kg and i've been doing this diet for 3 months now.

the only thing im gaining is fat around my waste and i train hard 5 days a week but limit my cardio.

what am i doing wrong?? I just want lean muscle gains

Devin T
Posted on: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 09:53

Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to use this diet, I work a day job where cooking broccoli in the lunchroom would not be the most easiest task (office of 100+ people.) Perhaps I would have to precook and just heat it up.

Eating like this is like a 2nd mortgage lol.

Posted on: Tue, 06/25/2013 - 17:06

Hey Steve or anybody else who bothers to answer,
I'm a 15 year old sophomore and just started my football weight training program (basic core lifts with some bodybuilding moves incorporated). I'm 5'11 and about 155lbs. I have football camp comin up in about a month or so and I'm looking to pack on some pounds. It doesn't neccissarily have to be all lean considering I run a 4.5 forty so what do you think?

Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2013 - 15:26

Thanks a lot really helpful

Posted on: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 21:10

hey , i use Musashi Bulk i have 4 scoops with milk for breakfast and the same for dinner i have it with my meal should i be having it more than this since i dont use a pre workout or a after workout?

Posted on: Sun, 04/28/2013 - 12:59

Hey, i 5"6 and a an astonishing 97 pounds! Im 16 years old how much do you think i should play around with this meal plan?

Posted on: Sun, 04/07/2013 - 06:24

Should i eat this meal plan everyday or just workout days ?

Posted on: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 16:28

I am very petite 5'3 97Ibs with 14% body fat and looking to gain muscle. I would like to ideally be in the 110-115 range. I currently 4 days a week. How many calories would you suggest? I think I will recruit a trainer to help with a proper meal plan ect.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 19:36

Check out this tool to help point you in the right direction: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

You'll need to add about 400 calories to this number to add muscle mass with the activity level you select.

Posted on: Tue, 12/25/2012 - 19:59

I'm just starting out at this and the meal plan you set up sounds effective. I don't know if I should eat like this everyday since I'll only be in the gym once a week. How many days after should I continue consuming large amounts of calories? Currently I'm 100lbs at 5'2" trying to gain at least 10lbs of muscle.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 18:49

Hey Stacey! If you're looking to add 10lbs of muscle, you'll need to spend more than one day a week at the gym. There are a lot of great routines that you can take a look at here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/women

Pick a routine that your schedule will allow for, and that suits your needs. There is also a very handy tool that gives you a good idea of what your daily caloric needs are: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Just enter the information required (I recommend selecting the activity level you plan to adopt, not your current level), and it will generate a number. Keep in mind that the number given is the amount of calories you'd need to MAINTAIN your current weight. You'd need to add a few hundred calories to this in order to add muscle mass.

Posted on: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 13:55

Other good things are. Olive oil, add it to shakes drizzle over any meal, this is high calorie amd packed with good fats. Pure coconut extract. Almond milk.

Posted on: Wed, 09/19/2012 - 11:13

When you say cup, how many ml's am I looking at?? Excuse the stupid question but i want to do this thing properly! Lol

Posted on: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 22:43

Hey Steve, not sure how often you get on here, but had some questions or need advice from a guy like you. I am currently working out again on a regular basis and am on a high calorie diet in attempt to gain 12-15 lbs of weight. I calculated my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and ahve been using a formula of Calories In- my BMR- Calories burned to calculate my calorie surplus. I have been trying to average 4200 to 5,000 calories a day consumed eating 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks and also using the GOMAD into my diet to help keep my calories up. I plan on only doing the GOMAD into my diet for 1-2 months max as that is what the experts recommend I guess. MY problem is currently I am working for an Energy company and read meters for the company so I am reading meters for 5-6 hours a day and I am guessing buring anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories just at work not counting my workouts at night. I am thinking this amount of walking at work is actually going to kill my efforts and plateau my gains of mass , what do you think any suggestions into diet, workout anything? Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted on: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 14:52


When he mentions oatmeal, is this just plain dry oatmeal? Or is it cooked or mixed with something?

Thanks :)

Posted on: Sat, 03/24/2012 - 13:25

Eat them RAW of course....what kinda idiot adds water or milk to their oats then microwaves them for 2 minutes (!!)

Ben Diamond
Posted on: Wed, 02/29/2012 - 11:25

Hi Steve, im currently at 140 pounds at around six foot. Is going ahead with 4000 cals going to be okay? thanks for a great article.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/01/2012 - 12:03

It's a good place to start. You can make adjustments from there. Just make sure you are pushing safely for strength in the gym. Without getting stronger the bulk will just get you fat.

Posted on: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 02:44

Hey Steve, thanks for this valuable bulking article. Is there 'cutting' article ina similar format? Can't seem to find any.


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 12:51
Posted on: Wed, 11/16/2011 - 02:10

you didint say cream, im on the cream at the mo in my shakes, its great! But thats using a lower carb approach

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 12:48

Heavy cream and sour cream are too solid options.

Jim Goodrich
Posted on: Mon, 11/14/2011 - 18:01


"Your largest meal of the day should be post-workout. If you need to add additional calories to your daily diet, it is wise to add them here."

I quoted you above as a precursor to my question. I workout at night, before going to bed. Post-workout I have a mixed-protein shake with a simple carb, multi-vit. and fish oil. My work schedule doesn't provide the time for me to workout during the day and eat a big meal after. Once I arrive home from work, I eat a big meal for fuel (196 grams chicken breast, 136 grams complex carb, 336 grams green veggies, 32 grams almond butter) wait 1.25 hours before taking my pre-workout then head to the gym. I always eat 5-6 meals a day.

Would you recommend I consume my normal post work-out before the gym and dinner after, just before bedtime? Thanks.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 12:45

It is more beneficial to eat a bigger meal after lifting. You will feel hungry and your body is demanding raw materials. I would probably limit your pre-workout meal to a shake and perhaps a banana, and head straight to the gym

Posted on: Wed, 08/03/2011 - 22:33

my mom needs to gain weight after her cancer thingamajigs.maybe raisons and almonds and some powdered nesquick cereal should help

Posted on: Tue, 06/21/2011 - 07:16

Hi Steve,

i'm sort of a beginner. i've gone to gym prior to this with no proper knowledge on bulking up etc. so anyway i stared this time again and wanted to do it properly. i was thinking of going ahead with your meal plan. however i'm not sure how many calories i should take in. i'm 24, with a height of 66". i weigh around 152 lbs. i want to bulk up real bad. please guide me as to how i should go about doing this. and how i can expect results soon. if there's anything you want to know please ask me.


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/14/2011 - 14:45

Hi Thush,

I would start around 3000 and if you aren't gaining any weight, add 300 or so per day and see if that helps.

Adam Gallagher
Posted on: Wed, 06/08/2011 - 18:35


im 5'11 at 140, im doing two weight gaining shakes a day, along with glutamine after work outs, and 2 hefty meals with a few small snacks in between. im assuming its about 3000 calories. I'm think i need more to really bulk on some weight...my goal is 160. what do you think?

Posted on: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:31

Hi, so Im'6'6 at 210 pounds and im trying to put some mass on, but I dont necesarily want a lot of fat on my diet since my body tends to accumulate fat fairly quick, is there any recomendations for calorie dense healthy foods for a clean bulk ? also, what calorie intake do you recomend ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 17:13

Hi Jorge,

A clean bulk is all about overall calorie intake. Here are some articles that can help:



Posted on: Thu, 09/30/2010 - 20:46

Hey Steve

I'm 5' 9", 18, male, and 175 pounds. I've been going to the gym for half a year now, and was cutting until august. At my lowest, I was at 172 pounds. I've gained about five pounds since then on a bulk (some fat in there), because my diet was not well planned. Now I am planning it well.

How many calories do you think I should have per day? How long should I be bulking? When should I start cutting again?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 09:41

Hi Jesse,

While cutting, how many calories were you eating per day, and how much weight were you losing per week? This will help to determine a baseline for adding weight...

Posted on: Thu, 09/30/2010 - 05:20

Seem like you know what you're talking about...I'm 5'11" 196lbs. I'm built pretty well, not fat, but not too cut either.. I've desperately been trying to break the 200lbs mark. I've been working out hardcore since this last Feb. and initially I was soaring through the weights and becomming more cut. Now I'm at a standstill.. I'm excited about the improvements I've made, but I want more.. I've tried taking some time off..and changing the diet around.. I don't know what else to try. The muscle group/s I workout are sore each and everytime the next day after the gym.. but like I said, the gains are almost nothing now.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 09:38

Hi Miles,

Are you currently eating using a bodybuilding-style frequent feeding approach - eating every 2.5 to 3 hours, and getting in protein with every meal?

Posted on: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 16:29

Absolutely, my goal each day is to consume at least 250grams of protein through 6-8 meals. I've always been going to the gym since I've been in highschool. Sometimes I try harder than other times. However, I've never been able to break the 200lbs mark.

I hesitate to think it's my style of working out. Like I said, whatever muscle group/s I'm working out they are always sore the next day. My focus in ever meal is to provide my body with the necessary building blocks to be bigger. Meanwhile I've weighed 195-197lbs, and continue to bench 245lbs for 8 reps.. (that's 8 good form, full motion, down to chest, no cheating reps) with very very little gains.

I refuse to take anything of questionable nature. I utilize waxy maize, whey protein isolate, l-glutamine, creatine, and some multivitamins. Is it possible to just reach a limit that your body is willing to grow while only using 'natural' aids?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/11/2010 - 14:11

Hi Miles,

Because you are eating properly, you are most likely reaching a natural plateau. Natural lifters very strong experience beginner gains, but the gains tend to decrease from year to year quite dramatically. Basically, the more you gain, the less you will gain in the future.

I wouldn't get too concerned. Just keep doing what you have been doing. The gains might only be 2-3 pounds per year from this point on.

Posted on: Tue, 08/24/2010 - 13:40

I want to sort my diet out and start bulking. On the nutrition section on this website I put in my height and weight details and it calculated I should have 2788 calories. I am average size would this sort of diet where you consume 4000 calories be better for me to bulk up eating healthily.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 08/25/2010 - 13:14

Hi Chris,

It depends on a number of factors. Some need fewer calories, and some more to gain. What's your current height, weight and age?

Posted on: Wed, 08/25/2010 - 14:32

68 inches, 164lbs and im 23. I have gone to the gym on and off since I was about 20 but now want to really commit to it iv been going for about 4 or 5 months im more toned and stronger but havent put a pound on. I know it takes time but Im pretty sure if I sort out my diet it will help.