Ask the Powells: How Do I Gain Healthy Weight?

The holidays are wrapping up, the New Year is beginning, and so many of us?myself included?are turning our attention to new health and fitness resolutions. Although we most often associate transformation goals with weight loss or trimming down, for me, gaining healthy weight has been a huge key in achieving my fitness goals. And I know many of you have similar goals, since I’m often asked the question, “How can I gain healthy weight?” The truth is that it can be just as difficult and frustrating to gain healthy pounds as it is to lose that unwanted weight, and adding healthy weight can be tricky since there?s really not a one-size-fits-all program.

Just as with weight loss, healthy weight gain takes planning, focus, and dedication. As much as I wish gaining some extra healthy pounds was as easy as reaching for those tasty french fries or an extra scoop of ice cream, it requires just as much commitment to nutrition and exercise as with weight loss.

For me, the key to my success has been tracking my caloric intake pre-weight gain and continuing with my carb cycling?adding calories from fats and proteins on low-carb days and calories from carbs on high-carb days. I?ve been so excited to see?with my own eyes!?how well this has worked for me! I?ve shared my program with a few others who have also had success, but the best program to follow is the one that will work for you and your goals. Just remember that nutrition is not the only key component to gaining healthy weight?weight lifting is also essential because it tells the body where to send those extra calories so they can do their best to help you build that toned, fit body you?re working for!


Watch the video above for more tips and tools to help you gain those healthy pounds, and if you haven?t already done so, subscribe to my YouTube channel for more healthy tips, recipes, and so much more!



Related reading:

Why I Transitioned From CrossFit to Bodybuilding
My 11-Week Booty Building Workout
The Scoop on Supplements
Carb Cycling 101

70 Responses

  1. How many carbs are you eating on your low carb days? Would love to know your complete macro breakdown for both your high and low carb days. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kathy: I’m so sorry, but I don’t have that info available. I do know that that number changes regularly depending on Heidi’s progress towards her goals.

  2. Hu guys. I just love both of you. I am just like u Heidi. I have trouble gaining weight. I would love to gain some weight in my upper body. I crossfit train now.
    I am just getting back on my routine after hernia surgery.
    I am 45 yrs old 5’9 and weigh 125 lbs.
    I grew up a runner . I dont run as much now. Just looking to build up and hopefully look like you one day ?? I am a busy mom of 4 boys. But am very dedicated ti keeping fit
    My question is Is there any websites or an easy way to calculate the calories. I have no clue how to keep track.
    Thanks so much

  3. Hello,
    I enjoyed listening to your program you’ve changed to get the gains you’ve wanted.
    My question is when you said you were eating 425 carbs is that calories or grams? I hate to assume you meant calories since 425 grams would be on the high side .

    Best regards,
    Kelly Barnett

  4. I’ve been weightlifting for a while and am at the point that my clothes fit better and my appearance is improving – YAY! My weight doesn’t seem to be dropping though. I’m on the opposite spectrum of you Heidi, where I do have some weight to lose because it’s fat. Any tips on how to gauge if I’m losing weight, while still gaining muscle? Also, if you can provide tips on leaning out arms to create more muscle definition, I’d so appreciate it!

    1. Hi Joanna: It sounds like you’re doing great! Here’s an arm workout you can add to what you’re already doing: Since you do have some fat you’d like to lose, I’d make sure you have a calorie deficit every day (you burn more calories than you consume), do up to an hour of cardio 5 days a week, and continue with your strength training routine too. As for how to gauge gaining muscle and losing fat, your clothes will continue to fit better, and you’ll notice that muscle definition coming through. And be patient – sometimes it’s hard to see those subtle changes!

  5. Thank you Heidi, it’s so nice to read an article by someone who has the same struggle to gain weight, it’s so refreshing to read that it’s ok to want to gain, not lose. You’re such a beautiful inspiration 🙂

  6. I was just wondering if you guys ever do any training sessions when you’re in Colorado I would love to work with you guys and get some tips I’m hoping to step on stage this year but has had a lot of medical problems in the last two years so just curious
    thanks for all you guys do

    1. Hi Jennifer: I’m so sorry, but while Chris and Heidi would love to personally work with everyone, they aren’t taking on clients right now. Good luck with your goals! 🙂

  7. I have been plagued with an eating disorder my entire life. I have worked out since as long as I could walk (just kidding, but that is what it feels like). I have done many marathons, half marathons, century bike rides, you get the picture, lots, and lots of cardio. I have always thought that being thin was the only way I could look good at 5 foot tall. I have dabbled in weight training but never really anything heavy again because thinner has always “felt” better. I have been controlled by my eating every single day of my life with counting calories, and fat, and being mindful of not putting more than 1400 calories or so in my body no matter how many hours I would run or cycle. This year in September I was training for a marathon and decided that after I completed that marathon in November (which I did successfully) I was going to enter a world that is very scary for me and look to compete in a bikini or figure competiion. This world has always intrigued me, but scared the daylights out of me because I know at 5 foot tall and 93 lbs, I would most certainly have to gain weight. Scared the pants off me. I prayed and prayed about it and asked God to give me the strength and the will to finally overcome my insecurities with food and weight and to try something new and challenge my body in a way that I didnt’ think I could mentally or physically. I started with a coach/trainer that I selected after much research and interviewing many that I felt needed to understand my eating disorder, and body dysmorpich disorder and work with me to make gains slowly and reasonably for my small frame. I also wanted someone that was willing to accept and understand that mentally my state of mind was very fragile and gaining weight is one of my biggest fears in life. I started in September with my coach and started a nutrition plan where she actually had me stop counting calories and just eating food to fuel my new workout and weight lifting plan. I started at 93 lbs, and have gained about 5 lbs since then. most of which I know is muscle coupled with a little fat. I am writing because of 2 reasons. Heidi and her story and pictures of just a few short years ago to now is what started the ball rolling for me. our body types in the height of our eating disorders could be mirrors of one another. as I have watched you gain muscle and size I have longed to be able to do the same. you have given me strength and courage and let me know that gaining weight in the correct way is ok, and just a new fitness and personal goal that I can strive for just like running those marathons, or doing those triathlons. The other reason I write is because I would like to learn more about carb cycling the way you use it to gain weight. my coach has me on a pretty strict eating plan that I feel is sustainable for contest prep, however, I want to continue this journey and see where it takes, but fear this way of eating will get old, and I want to do it the right way. my day looks like this: breakfast-2 hardboiled egg whites with 1/3 cup of oatmeal with water and cinnamon, meal 2: 3 scrambled egg whites with 1/4 avocado and 2 slices ezekial toast with black coffee splash almond milk, meal 3: protein shake with small piece of fruit (I use level 1 protein powder), meal 4: 5 oz. protein, 3 oz. sweet potato or whole grain rice, and raw veggies as many as I desire, meal 5: 3 oz. protein, 15 nuts, and apple or pear, meal 6: 5 oz. protein, salad with 1 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, and veggies, meal 7: protein shake and 15 nuts. as many ways as I can think to get creative with my protein, this way of eating, as mentioned seems like it might get a little monotonous. I want to understand carb cycling for my needs better and was hoping you could help. please email me with some ideas, and help with the thought in mind of my competing in figure in april 2016….thanks so much, you guys are amazing. your faith, your family and your dedication to fitness are all part of the reason I follow you. you keep it real and are truly incredible and Heidi, I cannot express enough how much alike we are and again even so much as at one point could have shared the same body, but now I too, am no longer afraid of the booty, and the weight gain of muscle mass. I feel stronger, more bad a**, and like I am finally coming into my own. I am excited about my first competition, and hope I am successful on that stage, but more than anything, that I have been able to transform my mind and soul into a peaceful place!

    1. Hi Christine: What an awesome goal! Heidi works with an amazing group of coaches who help her with her eating plan since it’s constantly changing. Her coaches are at Here’s a basic post about carb cycling, and coupled with the info Heidi shares in this post and video about gaining healthy weight, hopefully it can help you figure out what will work best for you: Good luck – you got this!

  8. i just recently started my weight loss journey, it been a difficult 3 years for me. We lost our house in Hurricane Sandy, and we are finally back home 3 years and about 40 lbs later and i feel i am really motivated to do this! I stopped all processed foods and sugar but i need a bit of help with meal plan suggestions, how many times a day i should be eating, and some snacks i can eat for a quick fill me up.

    1. Hi Kim: You can get 21 days’ worth of meal plans (5 meals a day) in Chris and Heidi’s new book, “Extreme Transformation” ( And I’m so happy to hear that you’re back home!

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