This has been my problem since forever. Luckily for me, I am now gaining weight. Yes, most of us worry about losing fats, but there are those who are bothered about gaining some.
This is a concern, because being underweight can be just as bad for your health as being obese. And also, even if you are not technically (I mean, clinically) underweight, you probably want to gain some muscles.
This article outlines a simple strategy to quickly gain weight, the healthy way.
How to Gain Weight The Healthy Way
If you want to gain weight, then it is very important that you do it right, otherwise, your problem would not simply be about gaining or losing weight; it’s going to be about something else that’s more serious.
If you are underweight, then most likely, you want to gain a balanced amount of muscle mass and subcutaneous fat, not a bunch of unhealthy belly fat. Right? Right.
Also, there are plenty of normal weight people who get type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems often associated with obesity. So, it is important to gain weight the healthy way.
Indeed, it is very important to eat mostly healthy foods even if you are trying to gain weight.
Consume more calories than your body burns.
In order to gain weight, an individual must have a caloric surplus (calories-in should be greater than calories-out). You can estimate (note: estimate) your caloric intake using a calorie calculator.
In order to gain weight slowly and steadily, aim for 300-500 calories more than you burn each day according to the calculator.¹
In order to gain weight fast, aim for something like 700-1000 calories above your maintenance level.
Eat lots of proteins.
Proteins² are large biomolecules, or macromolecules consisting of one or more chains of amino acid residues (the master builders) – making proteins the building blocks of the muscle. We need proteins to help our body repair cells and make new ones. It is important for human growth and development.
Muscle is made of protein, and without it most of those extra calories may end up as body fat.
Studies show that during periods of overfeeding, a high-protein diet causes many of the extra calories to be turned into muscle.
In order to gain weight through high-protein diet, aim for 0.7-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.5 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram). You can even go above that if your calorie intake is very high.
High-protein foods include meats, fish, eggs, many dairy products, legumes, nuts and others. Protein supplements like whey protein can also be useful if you struggle to get enough protein in your diet.
Eat plenty of carbs and fats, at least 3 times a day.
If weight gain is your priority, doing high carb and high-fat diet must be your priority. Make sure to eat at least 3 meals per day, and try to add in energy-dense snacks whenever possible.
Consume plenty of energy-dense foods, and use sauces, spices and condiments.
Consume whole, single-ingredient foods.
The difficulty however with whole diet is that these foods tend to be more filling, making it harder to consume enough calories. The trick? Use plenty of spices, sauces and condiments to help you with this. The tastier your food is, the easier it is to eat a lot of it.
Eat energy-dense foods. These are foods that contain many calories relative to their weight. To wit:
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
- Dried fruit: Raisins, dates, prunes and others.
- High-fat dairy: Whole milk, full-fat yogurt, cheese, cream.
- Fats and Oils: Extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.
- Grains: Whole grains like oats and brown rice.
- Meat: Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc. Choose fattier cuts.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.
- Dark chocolate, avocados, peanut butter, coconut milk, granola, trail mixes.
Lift heavy weights and improve your strength.
Go to a gym and lift, 2-4 times per week. Lift heavy, and try to increase the weights and volume over time. This is to make sure that your caloric surplus goes to your muscles instead of your fat cells.
If you are completely out of shape or you are new to training, then consider paying for a qualified personal trainer to help you get started. Also, consult with a doctor if you have any skeletal problems or any sort of medical issue that could be aggravated by working out.
Caution: While it is healthy to do cardio, it is not advisable to do much of it while you are on your weight gain program. Do cardio in moderation.
More Tips to Gain Weight
- Don’t drink water before meals. This can fill your stomach and make it harder to get in enough calories.
- Eat more often. Squeeze in an additional meal or snack whenever you can, such as before bed.
- Drink milk. Drinking whole milk to quench thirst is a simple way to get in more high-quality protein and calories.
- Try weight gainer shakes. If you are really struggling then you can try weight gainer shakes. These are very high in protein, carbs and calories.
- Use bigger plates. Definitely use large plates if you are trying to get in more calories, as smaller plates cause people to automatically eat less.
- Add cream to your coffee. This is a simple way to add in more calories.
- Take creatine. The muscle building supplement creatine monohydrate can help you gain a few pounds in muscle weight.
- Get quality sleep. Sleeping properly is very important for muscle growth.
A Word to the Wise
Gaining (or losing) weight can be difficult. The key, however, is consistency.
From a scientific perspective, this is because our body a certain setpoint of weight where it feels comfortable. If you try to go under it, or over it, your body resists changes by regulating your hunger levels and metabolic rate – the natural feedback mechanism. This is largely mediated by the brain, as well as weight regulating hormones like leptin.³
Changing your weight is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take a long time, and you need to be consistent if you want to succeed in the long run.
¹“Tool: Calorie calculator – Mayo Clinic.” 2015. 13 Mar. 2016 <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calorie-calculator/itt-20084939>
²“Protein in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2006. 13 Mar. 2016 <https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm>
³Klok, MD. “The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake …” 2007. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212793>