While most of us might be more concerned with the idea of losing weight or keeping weight off, others have a completely different problem: they’re too skinny.
If you have this problem, you may want to start gaining more weight. You may even need to do it quickly for a health reason or a workout goal. But maybe you don’t know how to go about it in a healthy way.
And the idea of gaining weight at all may seem impossible. Some people simply can’t gain weight due to an overactive metabolism or health reason.
But don’t lose hope just yet – there are scientifically proven, healthy ways to find the extra pounds you’re looking for.
Why You May Want to Gain Weight
You’re Tired of Being Underweight
If you’re underweight, it means you have a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5. If you are, you have less than the estimated requirement to sustain optimal health. If your BMI is over 25, you’re considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese.
You can calculate your BMI here, at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.
Since so many Americans suffer from being overweight or obese, being underweight might seem like a good problem to have.
So why might you be tired of being underweight? Your clothes may not fit you the way you’d like. You may not like your appearance and want to pack on a few extra pounds.
There are honestly any number of personal reasons why someone would want to gain more weight as opposed to losing it.
You’re Worried About Your Health
As well as simply not liking being skinny, you may also be concerned about your health.
Studies have shown being underweight to sometimes be just as bad for your health as being obese. One study linked being underweight to a 140% greater risk of early death in men, and 100% in women.
Children and teens who are underweight may have inhibited growth and development. Their bones could be more fragile, leading to osteoporosis later in life or a weakened immune system. They could suffer from fertility issues, hair loss, or anemia.
You Want More Muscle
If you have that rapid metabolism, you may find that your frequent visits to the gym simply aren’t producing the results you would have hoped. What you’re looking for is hypertrophy – muscle growth.
But you want to gain weight without getting fat. If you want more muscle, your process will be more along the lines of a bulking phase, in which you focus on gaining muscle while minimizing fat gains.
Fortunately, if your metabolism is already so high that you find it difficult to get fat, you may only have to focus on gaining that muscle.
What Are the Causes of Low Body Weight?
If you’re underweight, there could be a number of contributing factors keeping you that way.
These include but are not limited to:
- Genetics – your whole family might be thin, leading to you being born with a higher than usual metabolism. Because of these genes, you may have a smaller appetite.
- Being an athlete – if your day-to-day activity involves strenuous exercise, you may be constantly burning lots of calories. That’s why Olympic athletes are so often placed on extremely high calorie diets, sometimes consuming up to 10,000 calories a day.
- Illness – you could be quite sick, suffering from thyroid problems, diabetes, long-term flu or virus, or even undergoing treatment for cancer. If you’re underweight and have little explanation for it, it might be wise to consult with your physician.
- Medicines – some prescription medications or treatments can lead to nausea or weight loss, especially chemotherapy, which can reduce your appetite and increase your weight loss.
- Psychological issues – if you are overly stressed or depressed, you could suffer from disrupted eating habits. Body image issues and eating disorders can quickly lead to unhealthy weight loss. If you believe you may suffer from these issues, talk to your doctor.
The Healthy Way to Gain Weight
If you take away only one tip from this post, let it be this one: in order to gain weight, you must eat more calories than your body needs.
This is called a caloric surplus, or a positive energy balance. While in the past I have discouraged people from using calorie counters to help them lose weight, they could be useful in helping you keep track of how many calories you consume in order to help you add more calories to your diet.
How do you achieve this caloric surplus?
The average person needs to eat a net of 3500 calories to gain a pound. If you want to do this, you should be eating an additional 500 calories a day.
However, if you “suffer” from a high metabolism, gaining weight may be even more difficult. Instead of shooting for that 500 additional calorie mark, you may need to shoot somewhere between 700 and 1000 calories.
This might be hard to manage. You may find yourself eating four meals a day, spending more money than you would like on food. Unfortunately, with a fast, high metabolism, eating lots more food is essential to gaining weight.
Another way you can maximize the caloric intake of every meal is by adding healthy extras whenever you can. Add fruits and nuts to your breakfast cereal. When you eat a salad, add a healthy dressing. Either of these small changes will help you increase how many calories you consume.
Make sure your meals are large, and spaced out. If you eat small meals throughout the day, you’ll actually be encouraging your metabolism to burn through your energy faster. That’s why many weight loss programs encourage doing so.
Space out your breakfast, lunch and dinner, and make sure they’re filling.
This doesn’t mean avoid snacking. If additional calories are your goal, you should by no means exclude snacks. Instead, when you do snack between meals, make them sizable miniature meals, full of healthy proteins and complex carbs.
Another way to stay healthy while gaining weight is to use the gym more frequently. Weight training encourages muscle growth, developing more weight on your body that is far more dense and reflective of good health than excess fat.
While it may seem counter intuitive, you could also perform regular cardio to ensure you don’t put on actual fat instead of healthy mass.
Foods Guaranteed to Make You Gain Weight
When it comes to planning your diet to maximize your weight gain, some foods are better than others at encouraging extra pounds.
- Lean Red Meat – steak contains tons of protein and iron that can be excellent for your body if you’re trying to build muscle mass instead of fat in your weight gaining journey.
- Avocado – these peculiar, delicious fruits are packed with heart-healthy fats, and plenty of calories and other nutrients to help you put on healthy weight. The best thing about the avocado has to be its incredible versatility, which allows you to incorporate it in virtually any meal or snack of the day.
- Tropical Fruits – fruits in general are typically an excellent part of a balanced diet, but tropical fruit in particular can help you gain weight the healthy way. They’re chock full of natural sugars and often higher in calories than other every day fruits you might encounter.
- Potatoes – people most often cut carbs when they’re trying to lose weight. That’s exactly why you should incorporate them more into your diet when you’re trying to add more pounds. Potatoes are solid sources of protein, fiber, and vitamin C. They’re a nutrient rich, delicious way to gain weight. Just avoid all the extras that go along with potatoes like salt, sour cream and other unhealthy condiments.
- Natural Nut Butter – peanut butter is loaded with protein and fats, at 100 calories and 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. There’s also a considerable amount of folate, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B3. Mix peanut butter into your meals, or incorporate it often with fruits, whole wheat bread, and other nuts in your snacks.
- Cheese – while I may be skeptical about dairy products, I’m not afraid to admit the awesome health benefits of cheese. Full fat cheese is usually pretty high in calories, which makes it optimal for weight gain. The high protein and calcium levels encourage heavier and stronger bones and muscle mass. If you want to maximize your muscle-to-fat body composition while you gain weight, the conjugated linoleic acid found in cheese will be extremely helpful for your body.
- Whole Wheat Bread – whenever you eat bread, make sure it’s the healthiest possible variety – whole wheat and whole grain. It may be tough to transition from white bread if that’s all you’re used to, as the texture and taste may be markedly different, but you’ll soon find it to be a delicious and nutritious alternative with plenty of variety. Whole wheat bread is also a fantastic source of fiber and healthy vitamins and minerals.
- Nuts – if you’re looking for something to add to your meals to give them added texture and flavor, look no further than nuts. You can add them to all sorts of dishes, from salads to oatmeal. For gaining weight, nuts are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, fiber, and other nutrients that will promote weight gain and keep you healthy while doing so.
- High Calorie Vegetables – instead of broccoli, green beans, or squash, go for the higher calorie vegetables like corn, carrots, and peas. This way, you’ll still get lots of the benefits vegetables provide, while including more calories along the way.
- Nutrient-Rich Desserts – when trying to lose weight, desserts are rarely on the menu. When trying to gain weight, you’re opening yourself up to a load of healthful, tasty treats for dessert, like frozen yogurt, zucchini bread, pumpkin pie, or oatmeal cookies.
Remember to consult with your doctor before beginning an intensive weight-gain regimen, especially if you have health conditions that may be contributing to your current weight.
Once you’ve actually gained the weight you desire, remember that you are still not finished. You have to maintain your gains by developing healthy habits that will keep you from shrinking back down into that slimmer figure.
Keep exercising, keep eating healthy and hearty meals. And remember, don’t let yourself gain too much weight, or you might tip the scales too far and start facing another problem altogether.
If it’s your mission to gain weight fast the healthy way, you can be sure that following these tips will help you along the way.
Have you ever tried to gain more weight while staying healthy? Share your experiences in the comments below!