Being underweight is just as big a health concern as being overweight. It can also be frustrating trying to gain weight to no avail—especially when you have a very fast metabolism. To gain weight healthily, you need to eat more calories than you burn. If you do this and you work out, you will gain weight in muscle. If you eat more than you burn, and you are not physically active, you will gain weight in fat. These ten tips may help you gain weight, whether you are underweight, or you are looking to bulk-up.
Eat More Calories
To gain weight, calorie intake must exceed calorie expenditure. If you’re physically active or if you have a fast metabolism, you may burn more calories than you think you do—and you may eat fewer calories than you think. If you’re trying to up your calorie intake by eating junk food, that won’t do much good either. That stuff lacks nutrients like good fats and often contains fewer calories than you wish to consume. Eat only nutritious foods that are high in calories, including nuts, seeds, whole grains, whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and healthy fats and oils. Pad your meals with oils, nut butter, and milk powder for extra calories. Track your calorie intake to make sure that you’re eating as much as you think you are.
Eat More Carbs and Fat
It’s no secret that a diet low in carbs will help you lose weight—so it’s evident that a diet high in carbs will help you pack it on. The best way to eat is to have a healthy mix of carbs, fat, and protein—but maybe add a few more carbohydrates than the average person would have. Protein is essential for building muscle, so if you’re lifting weights, you’ll want to have plenty of that as well.
Eat More Often
Instead of having three huge meals a day, have 5-6 small meals, or 3 medium-sized meals with snacks in between. Large meals leave you feeling slow and tired and make working out much less appealing. And since you’re trying to get in a minimum number of calories per day, you’re likely to be more successful if you don’t over-stuff yourself at any of the meals, making eating later on less appealing.
Eating a lot of calories is essential for weight gain, but to ensure that those calories go to the right place, you must lift weights. Lifting weights will help to build muscle in the places you want. Ideally, you should be increasing weights and volume over time. A trainer can help you achieve your weight-lifting goals, so don’t hesitate to reach out to one at your local gym for some tips.
Make Protein Shakes
Let’s do a little math. Weight-lifting + protein = muscle/weight gain. Weight-lifting causes muscle break-down. Protein is the stuff that builds muscles. Post-workout is the window in which you help your body decide what to do during the muscle-repair—or remodeling—phase. When you eat a lot of protein right after a workout, your body will take it and use it to build stronger and more functional muscle fibers. Protein bars, protein shakes, nuts, and seeds—these are all great things to bring to the gym with you so that you can chow down immediately after a workout.
Getting adequate sleep is essential to muscle recovery. When you sleep, protein synthesis increases and protein degradation decreases. When you lack sleep, protein synthesis decreases, and protein degradation increases—meaning that you can lose muscle mass by not sleeping enough. The ideal amount of sleep for an adult is 7-8 hours—any less, and you risk not recovering properly from that weight-lifting session you worked so hard at.
Since smoking acts as an appetite suppressant, it shouldn’t be surprising that smokers weigh less than non-smokers, on average. According to a publication of the American Public Health Association, cigarette smokers weigh less and are leaner than non-smokers, and their body leanness increases with the duration of smoking. Also, people who quit smoking are likely to gain weight—about ten pounds, in fact.
Eat First, Drink After
When you drink water before and during a meal, it makes you feel fuller than you actually are. That’s why dieters looking to lose weight are often instructed to drink a glass of water before each meal. Drink water throughout the day, but come meal-time, put the cup down and focus on calorie intake. You can drink to quench your thirst toward the end of the meal.
Drink your calories
No, not soda. Quality drinks with nutrients—like milk and freshly squeezed orange juice—can quench your thirst while providing more calories and more nutrients than if you were to drink water. Milk is ideal because it contains protein and fat, which are essential for weight gain.
Eat calorie- and nutrient-dense foods
Nutritious, high-calorie foods are your best bet for healthy weight gain. Make the right choices for energy-dense foods which include nuts, whole grains, dried fruit, full-fat dairy, healthy fats and oils, meat, and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.). If gaining weight is the number one priority, it might be a good idea to stay away from low-calorie vegetables for a little while. Consistency is key—so continue to pack in those calories, and keep lifting weights!