When to Eat to Gain Weight

This sections outlines the importance of nutrient timing, and I found Dr John Berardi’s research to be particularly illuminating.

He classifies nutrient timing into 4 phases: the energy phase, the anabolic phase, the growth phase and the recovery phase.

I will not delve too deep into all the scientific explanation. Rather, I would point out the most important principles of each phase to focus on.

Energy Phase

This phase occurs while you are working out and using the most energy. In this phase, there are both anabolic and catabolic effects happening in your body. In layman terms, anabolic is synthesis while catabolic is breaking down.

Obviously, in the energy phase, you will be undergoing more catabolic reactions in your body. Your glycogen stores will decrease and cortisol (catabolic hormone) levels will increase.

To get around this, Dr Berardi recommends that you drink a preworkout drink – consisting of protein/carbohydrate both before and during yourworkout. The point is to reduce the catabolic effects and to enhance the anabolic effects. This is because it will prevent potential muscle breakdown and at the same time, suppress cortisol concentrations.

He suggests starting out by sipping 0.8g of carbohydrate/kg and 0.4g of protein/kg diluted in somewhere around 1L of water.

Anabolic Phase

This phase occurs after your workout. Although this is called the anabolic phase, it is actually catabolic for a while, and will be so if you do not consume enough nutrients.

Dr Berardi again suggests taking a protein/carbohydrate supplement at this point. Why? Because your muscle cells’ insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance levels increase, and this means your muscle cells are more permeable to glucose. Consume a lot of carbohydrates and proteins at a 2:1 ratio!

Growth Phase

During the growth phase, your body will adjust itself by in moving back to its normal state. This means reduced insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance levels. In this phase, you don’t have to eat as much carbohydrates as compared to proteins. i.e ratio of 1:1 for this phase instead of 2:1 for the previous phases.

Avoid protein/carbohydrate drinks during this period. Instead, get your calories from whole foods and if possible, go for a complex carbohydrate and low fat diet.

Recovery Phase

For this phase, Dr Berardi claims that your diet plan should be individualized. What helps you recover fast?

Note: I don’t see the need to use so many supplements on a workout day, unless you are a bodybuilder. You should be fine with a protein drink right after your workout and with proper control of your diet.

Other Articles in This Series

– Clean bulking
Ectomorph diet guidelines
How much to eat to gain weight
Food to eat to gain weight healthily 
Food to avoid to gain weight healthily
homemade weightgainer recipes
Muscle Building Supplements
Anabolic Cooking by Dave Ruel

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  1. A few questions:

    1. You talk about “when” the energy and anabolic phases occur, but do not talk about when the growth and recovery phases occur (or i’m just missing it entirely). When do the growth and recovery phases occur so I can adjust my diet accordingly during those phases.

    2. What is the carb to protein ratio needed for the recovery phase? I see you mentioned that this phase is more customized to individual needs. i’m just curious as to what ratio’s we should be looking at when we don’t know (the 2:1 standard?).

    3. This is a more generic question not directly related to dieting. Quite often throughout your literature you state that we should be “stronger” coming into each workout. And that if we aren’t, then we need to reanalyze what we are doing to weed out anything that is not helping our goal of gaining weight. How would you define “stronger”? Let’s say I start off doing a 135lb bench press 10 times. If I can do it 12 times but cannot do 145 lbs 10 times, am I still stronger? I’m just trying to figure out what qualifies a person as being “stronger”. I assume it means a person can lift a “heavier” weight. I just don’t want to assume.

  2. Hello, I wanted to ask do you eat 6 times a day??? I have read that ectomorphs are thin because they burn off a lot of the calories and without a surplus u can’t gain weight. Eating 3 big meals doesn’t help because it can only take in so much nutrients at once so excess calories are discarded and pass through the body. Thanks

    • yes, you’re right there! Another reason for eating 6 times a day, at least for me, is that I get to pace myself, and eat more each time. So in the end I eat a lot more as compared to if I only limited myself to 3 meals. Imagine trying to stuff yourself full within 3 meals, that’s just crazy lol!


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