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Strange Plateau - Not Gaining Weight

Hello T Nation, I’ve been stuck for several months now and I’m hoping someone can help me break the plateau. I’m 5’10 and 170lbs, and the scale won’t budge. I pushed my calories up to 3200 calories a day, I track those calories every day, so I know I hit that number consistently. 3200 is well over my maintenance, and I am getting 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, and I track that daily as well. I am getting stronger on every lift in the gym and achieving progressive overload on each workout when possible. So on paper, I should be gaining some muscle, but in reality, I’m not. Does anyone know what I could be doing wrong or what I could fix?

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it is very simply that if you are not gaining weight then you are not eating enough calories.

There really is nothing else to it.


Your body obviously needs more calories (than you are expending). You can go about this in various ways:

  1. Eat more of what you’re eating.
  2. If you cannot physically or financially eat more than you are currently eating, train less. Train 45 minutes rather than an hour, for example, or take an extra rest-day each week.
  3. Eat some ‘dirty’ food. Not everything you eat NEEDS to be ‘clean’, especially if you have an awesome metabolism. Eat some ice cream or pizza or a burger. Drink more milk. My personal favorite is cereal before bed.

I find it hard to beleive you ‘cant’ gain weight. What does your current diet look like? Have you considered adding an extra protien shake or two to your diet?
Dave Tate has a simple plan for putting on weight but it’s primarily directed at powerlifters and I don’t think you need to take the nuclear option just yet. I’ll post a link to his youtube video because it can shed a little light on what dedication it takes to suceed in these types of sports.

Starts around the 4 minute mark

What program you doing for training? Bodypart split?

What everyone else said. Just eat more. What you think is well above your maintenance may very well be not well above your maintenance anymore.

Also, just out of curiosity, how important is the weight gain? You’re getting stronger, that’s awesome, and that’s the goal. I know when I started powerlifting 6-7 months ago, I really wanted to get bigger. I’d been ~200lbs for like 2 years and I had always wanted to be 220. So I get it if it’s just an arbitrary goal that you have, like I did

You might have been gaining a bit of muscle and losing a bit of fat. But also everybody’s metabolism is different. I know a friend who is lighter than me but he has to consume 5000 cal to gain weight. Me I’m 6,1 and 190 atm really lean, but I can tell you that with 3200 I would be gaining lots of weight (I used 3000 - 3500 to go from 185 to 215 the winter before). But don’t despair, eat more calory dense food like nuts, almonds, whole milk, put oil or butter in your pan etc… Have some more shitty food if you must… (peanut butter jelly sandwich)


It is a normal part of the process for some reason. The body eventually will adjust to any new stimulus, “The General Adaptation Syndrome”.

It is somewhat like those climbing Mount Everest. Climbers slowly acclimate themselves to altitude by climbing part of the way up the mountain, then resting.

Once acclimated they climb up the the next altitude and do the same.

The body tend follow the same path. It likes to pause and get acclimated before moving up.

At Maintenance

You are NOT “Well Over Maintenance”, as Yogi1 and IronAndMetal stated.

The reason is that you, as most, are reliant on some type of “Metabolic Calculator” that determined you basic metabolic rate and provided you with an estimation of you caloric expenditure based on your fitness activities.

Metabolic Calculators are incredibly inaccurate. The key to determining you caloric maintenance level is to determine you Average Daily Caloric Intake, which you have.

Since your body weight is NOT going up that means 3200 kcals is your Maintenance. Your body has adjusted (The General Adaptation Syndrome") to your your 3200 kcal intake.

Eat More

As most have posted, you need to Eat More. Eat More is a vague meaningless term unless it is defined. With that said, let’s define it.

The 20% Rule

Drs John Ivy and Layne Norton’s independent research has demonstrated the for weight gain or weight loss, The 20% Rule is the most effective.

The 20% Rule is for gaining weight or losing weight, you need to either…

  1. Increase your Average Daily Caloric Intake 20% above maintenance, 3200 kcals for you. Here is the math…

3200 kcals X 120% = 3840 kcals

  1. Decrease you Average Daily Intake 20% below maintenance, should you want to lose weight.


The 20% Rule is the Sweet Spot for gaining weight because it allows you maximize muscle gain while minimizing fat gain.

The reverse occurs with losing weight. The 20% Rule is effective for maximizing fat loss while maintaining muscle mass in the process.

The General Adaptation Syndrome

As previously mentioned, the body will eventually learn to adapt to any new stimulus. Thus, the key to making progress is reliant on making changes to your diet or training.

This article demonstrates that…


While the research is based on weight loss, the same holds true for gaining weight.

Research has demonstrated that the body will adapt to a lower calorie intake in about two weeks. Thus, the finding are that by varying your caloric intake every two weeks from Maintenance To Deficit Caloric Intake, individuals were more successful at maintaining muscle and losing body fat and body weight.

The reverse hold true for gaining weight. Alternating Maintenance to Surplus Caloric Intake every two weeks will be more effective at increasing muscle mass and body weight and minimizing fat gain.

Reverse Dieting

Dr Layne Norton has some excellent podcast that break down how alternating caloric intake works.

Bodybuilder has used this method for decades.

Junk Food

As IronandMetal stated, eating some junk food will increase you caloric intake. However, I am not a fan of that philosophy for a variety of reasons.

One of the easiest and most effective methods of increasing calories is to consume higher fatty foods like nuts and high fat meats and dairy and to saute your vegetables with Butter, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, etc.

The Issue with Junk Foods

Junk foods spike insulin levels.

Insulin is a “Global Anabolic Hormone”; it promotes muscle growth and fat storage, equally.

As Jay Robb (Nutritionist) said, “Insulin is a Fat Maker…”

With that said, some junk food is okay.

Kenny Croxdale


No, I’ve never been a fan of body part splits. I’m doing an upper/lower split with a strength focus on Monday and Tuesday and hypertrophy focus on Thursday and Friday. It’s Jonnie Candito’s linear strength/hypertrophy program.

Thank you for your response, I’m definitely going to give the 20% rule a try. I’ve noticed that my body tends to adapt very quickly, at least compared to several other people that I’ve trained with in the past. I’m also walking a fairly large college campus everyday, so I have to compensate for those burned calories as well. But I’m going to make 3840 my new number and see how that goes.

Add a glass of milk to a meal until you start gaining weight. This is the simplest, cost effective approach IMO (until your body shits itself - literally)

Assumes a decent diet to begin with

Switch to a Thib or Wendler program off this site. Something like ‘Complete power look’ or 5/3/1 for Hardgainers

Bingo. Glass of whole milk and I also add a slice or two of bread after a meal.

I need close to 4000 to get the scale moving upwards, I’m a pretty lean 78kg. I trained with a guy who was an absolute monster who got fat eating anything over 1900 cals. He was a former fat guy, while I have always been lean.

If the weight isn’t going up, eat more.

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it’s interesting how metabolic rate changes over time, and maintenance calories for a given bodyweight.

The amount I had to eat to maintain about 150-160 lbs of bodyweight is pretty much the same as what I eat now. I don’t think I’m eating more now than I was then. I snack the same, drink the same amount of milk, even order the same food from the same restaurants, lol. What I’ve done, over time, is basically this:

I eat a given amount to maintain a bodyweight.
I eat a bunch more and just stuff my face for several months to gain weight.
I go back to eating the way I did before.
I maintain that weight.
And I’ve repeated this over and over again through the years, and gradually increased my bodyweight ‘set point’ higher and higher.