Q&A: Gaining Weight on Paleo


Q: Saw your Q&A from a member wanting to lose weight. What about the opposite question — gaining weight on Paleo?  I have been told to eat very “clean” by a CrossFit coach and doctor and have eliminated all foods except meat/fruit/veg/eggs/nuts. The problem with this is that my weight is falling, despite eating 4 meals a day. I don’t really have the time/money/appetite to go up to a fifth meal. Some people suggested adding milk (but no other dairy) back into my diet since it hasn’t caused me any problems. I’m very active and probably need about 4-5K calories a day to gain weight. Is it impossible to get this from Paleo sources alone? I’m already a member and follow the meal plan each week and add some fruit and nuts as snacks in between, too.

A: This is a fantastic question.  Let me ask you some questions about this before I give you my answer:

  • Do you need to gain weight?  And by “weight” do you mean muscle?
  • Did you need to lose the weight that you’ve lost on this diet or are you getting too thin/scrawny?
  • Do you actually need 4-5k calories a day to gain weight?  That’s a lot of calories, and I’m sorry for questioning your knowledge on this, but I have to be sure that you need that many calories.
  • What kinds of activities are you doing to warrant that kind of calorie intake and what’s your height/weight/body fat?  To figure out how many calories you need, go to www.fitday.com to their caloric needs calculator here.

You may want to schedule a session with a Paleo nutrition practitioner to really get this thing figured out. Depending on the answers to some of those questions, my answer might differ, but here are my general suggestions for gaining weight on a Paleo diet:

First, as far as milk goes, I wouldn’t suggest drinking pasteurized milk to anyone (see my blog post on it here), but if you can:

  • Get your hands on some raw dairy or,
  • If you tolerate pasteurized cheeses and yogurt, you could maybe add those in.  Just try very hard to obtain them from pasture raised cows, since those dairy products are much higher in favorable fatty acids. Since dairy causes problems for so many people, though, that would definitely not be my first suggestion, even though you say it doesn’t bother you.

Suggestions for How to Gain Weight on Paleo

My first suggestion would be to add more calories to your diet.  If you’re already cooking your meals from your Paleo Plan menu, just pile on the oil and add more protein if you can afford it.  That way you don’t have to add another meal.

Another thing you can do is add more nuts and seeds.  They are very calorie dense, as you probably know.  For instance, one cup of cashews provides about 680 calories.

So by just adding 2 more tablespoons of oil, 4 more ounces of, say, beef, and a cup of nuts and seeds every day, that’s about an extra 1150 calories.

I have a feeling you may not be getting enough carbohydrates.  Often, people lose weight because they aren’t eating the amount of carbs that they used to.  If you are very active, you should probably be modifying the Paleo Plan menus to include more starchy vegetables like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tapioca. Bake up a few potatoes once a week, store it in the fridge and have a cup of it with some coconut oil and cinnamon as a snack.  Or make a bunch of baked sweet potato fries and eat them through the week.  Make a batch of these tapioca crepes and store the batter in a mason jar in your fridge for up to a week. You can use these crepes as wraps, as a sidekick for your egg scrambles or as a sweet treat with honey and spices on top.

Tapioca and potatoes are the foods on the Paleo diet that you use when you are extremely active; when you NEED more carbohydrates in order to maintain your weight.  When you’re an über athlete, they let you have the energy you need to get through your workouts.  Loren Cordain’s book,The Paleo Diet for Athletes, explains more on this.  These foods are acceptable because they don’t contain anti-nutrients like other big sources of carbs do (grains and legumes) and sweet potatoes, at least, offer a ton of nutrients.

I certainly hope this helps, but if it doesn’t just let me know and we’ll figure something out to help you put those pounds back on.