For the majority of lifters out there, it’s that time of year again. Whether you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, Strongman competitor or just a serious lifter, the winter seems to be the ideal time to jack up those calories and put on some mass. While I don’t follow the old school “bulking at all cost” mentality, I do know that if you’re looking to put on some noticeable weight, it requires a lot of calories, and consuming those calories consistently can sometimes be a pain. Sure, eating only fast food and guzzling sugary beverages all day long will supply you with a ton of calories. To confirm this, just look around at the rest of the population the next time you’re out and about. The problem sometimes lies in getting in quality calories.

Because I'm in the process of moving up in a weight class for Strongman, I've had to consume 4,590 calories today. That's right—4,590. I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it now. I’d much rather be eating for maintenance or even dieting than eating to gain weight. Eating in a consistent calorie surplus feels like a full-time job, and you’re always full. I wake up full. I’m full all day. And I go to sleep full at night. In times like these, calories that are quick and easy can be a lifesaver. Anyone can “eat big” for a few days to a week or so. Staying consistent in this endeavor though is where many fail.

I’ll highlight some of my favorite ways to bump up my calorie intake that don’t require a ton of time or effort and may make things a bit easier to hit your caloric needs for the day or round out your macros.


Photo courtesy of John Loo

1. Dark Chocolate

While this may be an acquired taste for some, I’ve really grown to love this stuff. While it’s still chocolate, there are quite a few health benefits of dark chocolate. It’s also calorie dense, supplying you with a nice amount of carbs and fats. Another plus is it’s hard to eat too much of this stuff unlike milk chocolate. It’s a great way to round out your carb and fat macros for the day while enjoying some high quality chocolate. Experiment with different cacao percentages (the higher the cacao percentage, the less added sugar) or try one of my favorite flavors such as sea salt.

Prep time: 0 minutes


  • Calories: 360 calories
  • Protein: 4g
  • Carbs: 44g
  • Fat: 24g

*Nutrition based on six pieces.


2. Cheese Curds

These taste amazing and deliver a nice amount of protein and fat. They are portable, convenient and easy to eat. These are another staple of mine to up the protein and fat without having to cook anything.

Prep time: 0 minutes


  • Calories: 300 calories
  • Protein: 18g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Fat: 24g

*Nutrition based on 3 ounces.


Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo

3. Heavy Whipping Cream

I drink coffee each morning, and when whole food isn’t available, I’ll slam a protein shake. This is an easy way to add in some calories and fat. I’ll typically have 2–3 cups of coffee in the morning with heavy whipping cream added, and I’ll add heavy whipping cream to shakes to help meet my daily macro requirements. The best part is this actually tastes good in coffee and makes shakes taste even better. If you had three cups of coffee and two shakes, you could easily add an extra 350 calories to your day.

Prep time: 0 minutes


  • Calories: 50 calories
  • Protein: 0g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Fat: 5g

*Nutrition based on 1 tablespoon.

Ground beef and onions

4. Fattier Ground Beef

Everyone seems to be hung up on “lean protein.” While lean proteins are great, especially when you're looking to cut calories, there’s a time and place to opt for fattier beef.

I’ll cook 3–4 pounds of 80/20 or 85/15 beef by browning it on the stove top a couple times a week and then I store it in the fridge. When I need a good amount of protein and fat, it’s there and ready. Need some carbs? Add some pasta and marinara sauce or some white rice and soy sauce. Fatty ground beef is very versatile.

Prep time: Initial cooking time, 10 minutes; reheating, one minute


  • Calories: 488 calories
  • Protein: 42g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Fat: 34g

*Nutrition based on 8 ounces of 85/15 beef.

Oats (with Path)

5. Oatmeal and Peanut Butter

This has been a nightly staple for me lately. It’s cold out and there’s something nice about a bowl of warm oatmeal. I’ll take two flavored oatmeal packets and 1 cup of milk, mix them together and microwave them. Then, once it’s done, I’ll throw in 2–3 tablespoons of peanut butter and stir. The hot oatmeal will melt the peanut butter and it tastes great.

Prep Time: 4 minutes


  • Calories: 725 calories
  • Protein: 26g
  • Carbs: 91g
  • Fat: 32g

*Nutrition based on two packets of flavored oatmeal made with milk and 3 tablespoons of peanut butter.

So if you’ve been struggling to get your calories in or you're just tired of eating the same mundane things, hopefully this article opened your eyes to a few new ways to get those calories in without much effort. Getting big isn’t easy. You can train hard all you want, but until you’re giving your body enough calories to support muscle growth, you’ll be spinning your wheels in the gains department.