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How To Gain Weight On Keto 2022: Tips & Foods Promote Weight Gain

Cassi Donegan

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

how to gain weight on keto

Are you following a keto diet, but you need to gain weight instead of losing weight? It is possible to gain weight on keto, but it’s important to know how to do it in a healthy way. 

If you’re wondering if you can gain weight on a keto diet, the answer is yes. This low-carb, high-fat, and high-protein diet can help you work towards your weight gain goals, especially if you combine it with other habits that increase your chances of success.

You’ll want to gain muscle mass, not gain fat mass, to meet weight and health requirements. A ketogenic diet can support this goal as it emphasizes nutrient-dense foods. The diet allows you to eat plenty of healthy fats, protein, and vegetables to help build muscle.

Read on to learn how to gain weight on keto and some of the good foods to help get you there.

6 Ways To Gain Weight While In Ketosis

Here are six ways to increase your chances of weight gain on keto. 

  1. Increase your calorie intake
  2. Eat frequently and never skip breakfast
  3. Exercise
  4. Drink after meals, not before
  5. Creatine supplements
  6. Eat the right foods

Why Do People Want To Gain Weight?

Generally, the majority of people are looking to lose weight with low-carb diets. For many people, though, a healthy weight gain may be needed and sometimes wanted for different reasons such as 

  • Gaining strength
  • Improving athletic performance 
  • Increasing self-confidence 
  • Health conditions
  • Poor nutrition
  • Muscle mass and weight loss from aging
  • Pregnancy with trouble maintaining a healthy body weight

Decreased appetite can occur for many reasons making it a struggle to eat which could result from

  • Depression
  • Nutrient Deficiencies
  • Excessive morning sickness if pregnant
  • Thyroid problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Celiac disease 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Infections like HIV or parasites
  • Medication side effects

If you’re losing excess weight and do not know the reason, it is essential to find out why before starting a weight gain journey. This way, you can get to the root source of the problem and increase your chances of weight gain success. 

When you need to add a few pounds, you can choose a weight gain diet to help you gain lean muscle mass. A high-fat ketogenic diet can help you gain a few pounds if done strategically. With the proper protein, calorie intake, and resistance training, increasing weight in a healthy way is possible. 

What Is Ketosis?

Being in a state of ketosis is when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn to fuel your body, so it makes ketones and burns fat to give you energy instead, which can cause weight loss. 

People use a ketogenic diet as one way to achieve a state of ketosis. This diet encourages people to increase their protein and fat intake and lower their carb intake. 

Gaining weight and building muscle can be challenging, and it can take a month or more to see results with steady efforts. Here are a few tips on how to gain weight on a ketogenic diet.

6 Ways To Gain Weight While In Ketosis

Even though losing weight while on a low-carb diet can be challenging, it is possible. For example, you may not find yourself gaining weight on keto in the first week, or it may take several. 

Here are six ways to increase your chances of weight gain on keto. 

Increase Your Calorie Intake

how to gain weight on keto

Increasing your calorie intake can help you to gain weight. This will mean eating and drinking more and intentionally choosing foods with higher calorie counts. 

Instead of consuming a lot of junk food to try and meet your calorie count, you’ll want to gain weight safely by eating the right foods. The ketogenic diet is very high in fat and moderate in protein.

Fat and protein are known to help curb appetite in some people, so it can help to eat smaller, more frequent ketogenic meals throughout the day to meet your calorie needs for weight gain. 

Increasing your protein intake can help with increasing lean mass for weight gain. For example, many foods high in protein contain the amino acid leucine, which promotes muscle protein[1] production regardless of the carbohydrate level in your diet. Foods with leucine include

  • Salmon
  • Chickpeas
  • Beef
  • Nuts
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beans
  • Pumpkin Seeds

In fact, low-carb keto diets were shown in one study[2] to support better muscle growth than high-carb Western diets. So making sure you include adequate protein will increase your chances of gaining a healthy weight. 

Daily calorie needs for weight gain vary based on the individual, based on your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level.

If you need help counting your calories and finding out how many you need daily to gain weight, here is a link[3] to one of the many calorie counters out there. 

Eat Frequently And Never Skip Breakfast 

how to gain weight on keto

Breakfast provides essential calories, the strength to exercise, better memory, and several health benefits you can’t do without. Eating breakfast is especially important if you’re underweight and need to gain weight, as skipping it can make it harder to get in enough calories at the end of the day

Eating and drinking sooner after you wake up also helps promote a healthy blood sugar level after your body has gone without food overnight. If you can’t quite stomach food early in your day, try drinking a protein-packed smoothie to start your day off right.  

Eating smaller and more frequent meals helps to increase your calories, so don’t feel like you need to be eating three enormous meals a day. Instead, try eating every couple of hours and snacking as often as possible to maintain your calorie count. 

Placing high-calorie snacks like nuts and protein bars around the house in places you’ll visibly see can help serve as a reminder to eat frequently. You can also prep your meals and snacks the day before to help ensure you’ll get what you need, especially if you’re on the go. Packing up a cooler to access in the car or office may also benefit you. 

Exercise

how to gain weight on keto

Exercise promotes your body’s growth of muscle fibers and stimulates your appetite[4]

Cardio exercises are not the preferred type of exercise for weight gain. It will burn many calories and will not add to your muscle growth and weight gain the way resistance or strength training exercises will.

Cardio is still beneficial for health, however, but you want to go nice and slow. You don’t have to work out at a high pace to add some muscle. 

Using weight machines and lifting weights are preferred forms of exercise to gain muscle and support weight gain. 

Besides using weight machines and lifting weights, workouts specifically geared towards multiple muscle groups can optimize your weight gain potential. Here are a few

  • Rowing
  • Overhead press
  • Planking
  • Pull-ups 
  • Bench pressing
  • Lunges
  • Squats 
  • Deadlifts

If you get injured, it could slow your weight gain journey down, so make sure to take the time to stretch and warm up adequately before exercise and after.

Set yourself up to enjoy exercising in your environment, whether at a gym with others around improving their muscle mass or at home with a YouTube music video. The more you visualize your end goal, the more you’ll enjoy your time exercising. 

Create a consistent weekly routine, and regularly increase the weight size as you increase strength. This study[5] in adults shows that just six weeks of strength training plus protein supplementation increased lean mass growth by 27%, demonstrating the potential of strength training to support weight gain. 

Drink After Meals, Not Before 

Drink After Meals, Not Before 

Drinks will be a great way to get in extra calories to boost your weight gain, but drinking before snacks and meals can give you the feeling of being full[6] and decrease your appetite. 

Consuming high-calorie drinks after meals, like protein smoothies and shakes, can hydrate and give you an extra calorie boost. Dehydration is one thing that can cause a loss of appetite[7], so make sure you’re getting at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. 

Creatine Supplements

creatine

Creatine is an amino acid your body naturally makes that helps to fuel the muscle-building process. It is available in supplement form, and many are keto-friendly. 

Eat The Right Foods

Eat The Right Foods

Instead of consuming a lot of junk food to try and meet your calorie count, you’ll want to gain weight safely by eating the right foods. 

Making sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need is essential, especially if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite. In addition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can affect your ability to have a healthy desire or strength and energy to exercise. 

Your muscle-building potential is dependent on getting in adequate nutrient-dense foods. For example, non-starchy low-carb vegetables have the necessary vitamins and minerals to grow and restore muscle tissue. 

Eating keto foods containing the amino acid leucine interacts with a ketone body called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which helps to preserve muscle[1]. The healthy fats you need to promote ketosis will also help increase your calorie count and give you the energy you need to build muscle. 

Healthy Foods To Help You Put On Weight On Keto

Ketogenic diets consist of 70-80% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. Eating low-carb, high-fat healthy foods will fuel your workout and promote muscle growth. 

Healthy Fats

Keto foods to gain weight

Healthy fats are one of the best ways to add to the nutrients and calories you need for weight gain. Fats are higher in calories per serving than protein and carbs, so eating more of them on a keto diet can help you gain weight. 

You can cook, bake, and drizzle these over your food or blend them into a protein smoothie. A few examples of these are

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil and MCT oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Nuts and nut butter

Red Meats

Keto foods to gain weight

Steak, bacon, and pepperoni are excellent natural sources of creatine and leucine[8] for building muscle. They are also high in protein and calories to help you gain weight healthily.

Avocados 

Keto foods to gain weight

Avocados[9] are high in calories at 368 per avocado. They pack in 34 grams of fat and close to 5 grams of protein. They are a good source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals needed to support muscle growth and weight gain on a keto diet. 

Fish

Keto foods to gain weight

Fish like tuna, salmon, and cod are encouraged on a keto diet. They are excellent for healthy weight gain as they are high in protein and healthy fats. This encourages muscle growth rather than fat growth or weight gain.

Final Thoughts

Avoiding junk foods and following a keto diet rich in whole foods high in protein and fat can help you reach your healthy weight gain goals. Strength training exercises can also support muscle gain. There are keto apps available to help guide you through this journey.

A variety of factors can affect your ability to gain weight. Sometimes our bodies resist change, and if you’re trying everything you can and still unable to gain weight on keto, reach out to a registered dietician or physician specializing in nutrition to help you find the right balance that works for you. 


+ 9 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Manninen, A.H. (2006). Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass. Nutrition & Metabolism, [online] 3(1). doi:10.1186/1743-7075-3-9.
  2. Harber, M.P., Schenk, S., Barkan, A.L. and Horowitz, J.F. (2005). Effects of Dietary Carbohydrate Restriction with High Protein Intake on Protein Metabolism and the Somatotropic Axis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, [online] 90(9), pp.5175–5181. doi:10.1210/jc.2005-0559.
  3. Calculators.org. (2014). Weight Gain Calculator: Learn How to Gain Weight. [online] Available at: https://www.calculators.org/health/weight-gain.php
  4. Blundell, J.E., Caudwell, P., Gibbons, C., Hopkins, M., Naslund, E., King, N. and Finlayson, G. (2012). Role of resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure in hunger and appetite control: a new formulation. Disease Models & Mechanisms, [online] 5(5), pp.608–613. doi:10.1242/dmm.009837.
  5. Stokes, T., Hector, A., Morton, R., McGlory, C. and Phillips, S. (2018). Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients, [online] 10(2), p.180. doi:10.3390/nu10020180.
  6. Jeong, J.N. (2018). Effect of Pre-meal Water Consumption on Energy Intake and Satiety in Non-obese Young Adults. Clinical Nutrition Research, [online] 7(4), p.291. doi:10.7762/cnr.2018.7.4.291.
  7. Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Dehydration: Causes & Symptoms. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration
  8. PubChem (2022). Leucine. [online] @pubchem. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Leucine
  9. Nutritionvalue.org. (2022). Avocado, raw nutrition facts and analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Avocado%2C_raw_63105010_nutritional_value.html
Cassi Donegan

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Cassi Donegan, Licensed Practical Nurse, is a freelance health writer and editor. She has over 17 years of nursing experience in various specialties including Neurology, Orthopedics, Spine, and Pediatrics. Patient care has convinced her to be passionate about educating others on nutrition, natural childbirth, home birthing, and natural remedies for the holistic and alternative healthcare field.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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