How to gain weight healthily?

Avatar for Mish Khot By in diet, exercise, nutrition, nutritional health coaching on 02/10/2020
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With over 65% of Aussies classified as obese or overweight, it’s not surprising that we are surrounded by ways to lose weight. Magazines and gyms advertise quick weight loss, nutritionists promise big results and supermarkets offer pre-packed diet meals. But what do you do when you want to know how to gain weight? What is the healthiest way to put on weight?

In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to gain weight and remain healthy.

underweight model

What does it mean to be underweight?

You are classified as underweight when you fall below your recommended weight range. This is the weight that is optimal for your body to function well. There are several measures of determining your optimal weight range and one of the best ones is the body mass index (BMI).

What are the risks of being underweight?

When you are underweight, you are risk for multiple diseases and health conditions that include:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Anaemia or low iron levels
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Heart issues
  • Pregnancy problems
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair
  • Constant fatigue and tiredness

There are also a number of mental issues that may stem from being underweight, including body dysmorphia, depression or a tendency to self-harm.

For older people, being underweight is a grave concern because it dramatically increases their risk of early death.

What causes someone to be underweight?

Some people are naturally underweight either due to genetics or a high metabolism. For most others, being underweight is related to lifestyle issues such as an unhealthy diet, mental stress, overdoing the exercise routine, or maintaining a physically intensive and exhausting lifestyle.

In some cases, being underweight could be due to an underlying health condition like an autoimmune condition, an eating disorder or digestive problems. If none of the above causes apply to you but you’re underweight, you should consult a doctor. You will be able to discover the cause and embark on a suitable program to help you gain weight in a healthy manner.

How to put on weight by modifying your food intake

how to gain weight through food

Body weight is a balance between the energy you consume and the energy you use. This means that being underweight means that you’re not eating enough or that you’re not eating right.

But eating more doesn’t simply mean adding one more cupcake to your coffee break. The key to healthy and long term weight gain is to ensure your food intake is as nutrient-rich and calorie-dense as possible.

To begin with, you need to increase your calorie intake by 15% over a period of time. This means adding a few more healthy and dense foods to your daily diet.

When augmenting calorie intake, it is vital that you consume high quality, nutritious foods rather than a large amount of junk food filled with empty calories. Here are some food options that are great for those looking to gain weight:

  • Full-fat cream cheese and dairy products
  • Healthy fats like olive oil or avocado
  • Peanut butter
  • Dark chocolate
  • Whole milk and milk-based smoothies
  • Raisins and other dried fruit
  • Nuts and seeds

How to gain weight by menu planning

By planning your menu for the week, you will always have options for snacks and meals that can help you gain weight. Here are some smart hacks for your weekly meal plan:

  • Snack on items like yoghurt, nuts, cheese and biscuits, avocado or seeds, fruit slices, bran muffins, rice pudding, milk shakes or liquid meal supplements.
  • Consume protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and legumes.
  • Get your carbs from wholegrain foods such as rice, cereals, bread, quinoa, pasta and noodles.
  • Switch to protein shakes or smoothies instead of tea.
  • Have the occasional glass of wine with meals to increase your appetite.
  • Incorporate healthy oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or avocado oil into your diet. You can drizzle them over salads too.
  • Power up your foods with extra calories with add-ons like grated cheese or peanut or almond butter.
Gain weight through healthy carbs

Good dietary practices for gaining weight

No matter what you choose to eat, make sure you steer clear of highly processed ingredients and junk food. Those foods will make you gain weight fast but offer no benefits and can be very damaging to your health.

Follow these other measures to gain weight and stay healthy:

  • Track your calorie intake with an app or a tracker to ensure you hit a calorie surplus every day.
  • Eat regularly and consistently. You need to be eating at least 3 full meals a day or 6 mini meals. Carbohydrates are essential to any weight gain effort, so make place for high calorie food on your plate, but don’t forget to eat vegetables, salad and fruit too.
  • Avoid unnecessarily high-protein diets but ensure you take enough protein for muscle growth.
  • Choose foods are not only high in calories but also rich with nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals.
  • Increase your portions gradually. It takes months and not days to increase your appetite.
  • Do muscle-building exercise routines and focus on resistance training to boost appetite.
  • Have calorie-counted meals delivered by a health food service if you have difficulty preparing them yourself.

Which professionals are best suited to help me understand how to gain weight?

The first professional you should see before starting any health-care plan is your doctor.

Your doctor will begin by conducting a thorough medical examination in order to rule out any medical conditions or illness. This includes calculating an ideal weight for your height and physique and assessing your diet and physical activity.

Your doctor may be able to suggest diet, exercise and lifestyle alterations that will help you gain weight in a healthy way. They may also refer you to a nutritionist if they believe it will help.

In addition to consulting your medical professional, you could also approach a personal trainer or a gym instructor if you want to bulk up.

Wondering how to gain weight through exercise?

how to put on weight through exercise

Most underweight people are told they don’t need to exercise. This is because the idea of exercise is usually associated with the idea of losing weight, but this is not the only reason to work out.

Exercise will boost your appetite and help you eat larger meals. It will ensure that the calorie-dense food that you’re eating is going to the right places and being used to fuel the growth of your muscles.

The kind of exercise you do also helps you add weight. Resistance training is ideal for those who want to gain weight because it builds lean muscle mass and makes you appear bigger. This form of exercise uses your own body weight as well as weight machines, free-weights and resistance bands.

If you’re wondering how to gain weight through exercise, consider the following workout suggestions:

  • Limit training to two or three times per week to allow enough recovery time. This will help your muscles grow at an optimum rate.
  • Choose compound exercises like squats and bench presses which target the major muscle groups to increase your size in the right places.  
  • Do short and intense workouts and follow with a protein shake.
  • Eat natural, healthy food and avoid processed food as far as possible.
  • Seek professional advice from personal trainers, dietitians and physiotherapists to ensure you get good gains and reduce risk from injuries.

How to put on weight through lifestyles changes

If you don’t have any underlying health conditions or a genetic predisposition to being underweight, it’s your lifestyle that is the culprit.

This means that you need to make up your calorie deficit and ensure that your lifestyle is working with you, not against you. Here are some ideas:

  • If you forget to eat meals on time, use timers or reminders to ensure that you are eating every few hours.
  • If you don’t like eating, create an appealing meal plan that includes your favourite foods and healthy ingredients.
  • Ensure you consume enough protein before and after resistance training to supplement muscle growth.
  • Keep track of your progress to boost motivation and ensure you stick with the changes. Add rewards for gains that you have worked towards.
  • Set realistic achievable goals and treat yourself every time you accomplish one.
  • Seek the help of professionals to ensure you stay on track and gain weight in a healthy way.

A stressful or busy life could make you underweight. When you are anxious, you might lose your appetite or forget to eat on time. Someone who is always worried can be underweight and suffer from related problems. You could try meditation or yoga to help unwind or create a fixed workout schedule that you stick to without fail.

how to put on weight through lifestyle changes

In the long run, stress can be the cause of many health conditions apart from being underweight. If you lead a very stressful lifestyle, it’s time to make some changes. Take a long look at your schedule and work or family commitments and consider getting help for some parts of your responsibilities.

How to put on weight as a vegetarian

If you are vegetarian, your protein and carb intake will have to come from sources that are vegetarian. Add the following foods to your daily meals:

  • Snack on nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews
  • Add in nut butters and nut milk
  • Eat more vegetables like avocado and sweet potato
  • Season your meals with olive oil, coconut oil or tahini
  • Make quinoa a staple on your plate
  • Toss dried fruit on top of breakfasts or desserts
  • Get protein from legumes like chickpeas and lentils
  • Add protein powders to your smoothies or milkshakes
add avocado to your meal to gain weight

How to gain weight while maintaining your health

There is no shortcut to healthy weight gain. When you’re trying to get bigger, you must remember that your body will try to maintain homeostasis or balance. Lean body weight is not easy to gain quickly and will take months rather than days or weeks.

If you would like to speak to a nutritionist, Avaana can help you find one.

Avatar for Mish Khot

Mishana Khot is a fiction author and co-founder of The Great Next, an adventure travel company. She has been featured in National Geographic, Forbes magazine, and other publications, and has over 15 years of experience with health, travel, and lifestyle brands.

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