While most folks are busy watching what they eat, staying away from carbs and going on the South Beach diet, others are trying to put weight on, and there are many reasons they might want to do that. Some younger people haven’t filled out after puberty and want to kickstart that process, some may want to beef up for a sport or to lift weights and others just don’t like the way they look and want to change their image. Whatever the reason is for wanting to put on weight, this process should be done in a controlled and healthy manner and after consulting your doctor or a dietician.
Weight Gain Methods
Let’s jump right in! The two ways you will gain weight in the healthiest and most effective manors possible are through diet and exercise. We’ve broken down some helpful and safe guidelines that you can follow to eat and lift your way to a better (and bigger) you.
- Eat more calories. But first, you must figure out what your intake should be. The approximate normal daily caloric requirement for an average male who performs light activity is 2,200, and for a female, it’s 1,900. You need to eat around 1,000 extra calories per day to gain less than one pound a week, so do the math and figure out how much you will need to eat. And don’t forget, your actual caloric requirement can differ depending on your height, weight, activity level and your body’s metabolic rate.
- Eat more. This goes along with the first point. In order to get more calories, you will have to eat more food, but this sounds much easier than it actually is. Whatever you are eating now, you should probably double it: if you eat three meals a day, instead eat six. You should be eating every 2-3 hours and each meal needs to be slightly smaller in size than a normal meal. This might be difficult for a few weeks because you will often have to force yourself to eat, even when you’re not hungry. 500 extra calories a day = 1 extra pound gained per week. Whatever you’re eating now, add an additional 1,000 calories (spread it throughout the day), and you should put on about 2 lbs. a week.
- Eat a lot of healthy foods. You may need to eat a ridiculous amount of calories in order to gain weight, but make sure most of those calories are good calories. You may be tempted to cheat and get your 3500 calories from fast food and soda, but you can find calories in healthy food. If you want to build muscle, you want to eat healthy calories that are loaded with good protein, good carbs and healthy fats.
- Protein builds muscles. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs, milk, almonds and peanuts are all loaded with protein. Eat lots of this stuff as often as you can. Never let your protein intake go lower than 1g/lb of body weight when you are aiming to add long-term muscle. It’s the building block of muscle and your body will be craving it.
- Carbs will help you put on weight, but it won’t be muscle. Pasta, brown rice, wheat bread, oatmeal, etc. will help you put on weight, but a lot of that weight will be fat. Be sure to eat vegetables or fruit with every meal. If you just eat protein, your body will use it for energy rather than building muscle.
- Keep track of everything you eat. You can buy a notebook and write down what you eat, or join one of many free websites that track your food intake for you. Put in your stats and start to track every one of your meals. If you’re on one of the sites, it will tell you if you’re eating enough calories, enough protein and enough carbs.
- Compound exercises build mass. Concentrate on complex compound exercises that recruit as many muscles as possible: bench presses, dumbbell presses, squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, and dips. Do these exercises and concentrate on lifting as much weight as possible. Don’t worry about triceps extensions, shoulder shrugs, bicep curls or crunches. All of the compound exercises listed here use every muscle in your body and when you overload your body with calories and protein, those muscles will grow. Don’t worry about isolation exercises until you’re up to your goal weight and ready to tone down.
- Stay away from cardio. Running long distances isn’t going to help you put on mass. If you’re going to run, do sprints or run up a hill. Keep your distance cardio to a minimum if you want to put on some pounds.
- Appearance is a consequence of fitness. Concentrate on being really strong and lifting heavy weights and your body will follow suit. It doesn’t matter if you can only bench press 10 lb dumbbells right now. Wherever you’re starting out, concentrate on being stronger each and every time you exercise. Push yourself, get stronger and lift more.
- Let your muscles rest. Never exercise the same muscle two days in a row. Your muscles get rebuilt (larger) during your days off, so never exercise the same muscle before it’s ready. Wait at least 48 hours before you hit the same muscle again.
These healthy foods will be your best friends during your weight gain. And remember, just because these foods are good for you, don’t eat too much of one or two of these foods. Spread them out over your diet so you are eating a lot of these different foods at different times.
- Whole eggs: As we mentioned above, eggs are loaded with protein, vitamins A, D and E as well as good cholesterol.
- Butter: Butter is linked with long term weight gain. Your intake of butter should be in moderation because regular consumption of butter is bad for your heart.
- Tuna: The fatty acids found in tuna contain a host of healthy fats, which not only aid in weight gain but also help in maintaining physical well-being.
- Natural fruit juice: A healthy and nutritious way to gain weight – sip 100% fruit juice that’s full of sugar and added nutrients.
- Whole wheat bread: You can eat healthy and pack on pounds at the same time by eating whole wheat bread which accounts for approximately 69 calories per slice.
- Red meat: Steak contains lots of protein and iron, but not all steak cuts are made equal. Look for the fatty cuts where the meat is marbled. These cuts of meat will contain more calories, but they also taste better. Look for rib-eye, t-bone, New York strip, and beef tenderloin. Red meat is high in cholesterol, so make sure to enjoy it with a healthy diet. Combining it with an unhealthy diet high in saturated fats could have bad health effects.
- Whole fat milk: When gaining weight, trade your skim milk for whole milk. It’s only 60 calories more a glass and when you keep the fat in milk, the vitamins and nutrients stay in the solution. Whole milk is high in vitamins D and A. Add whole milk where ever you would use skim, such as in oatmeal, cereal, sauces, or just drink a glass of milk. If you enjoy milk in your coffee, you can also use cream.
- Nuts: Nuts are full of fat and nutrients, but also contain a great deal of fiber. Eating only a few nuts can keep you full for hours. Not all nuts are equal for fiber though. Almonds are a great choice, while macadamia nuts are very high in fat. Mixed nuts are a great option because you can get the nutritional benefit of many varieties in one snack. Add nuts to your salads, on top of Asian dishes, and in your breakfast cereals and oatmeal.
The following foods are rich in (good) calories
- Peanut butter: Spread soft, salty peanut butter on bread. It gives you about 192 calories in addition to being very high in protein.
- Energy bars: These are loaded with nuts and oats which are good for you. One bar packs around 500 calories, which is healthy and makes for a good breakfast.
- Cheese: One serving of cheddar cheese packs 69 calories. Cheese is concentrated milk, so it is high in protein and calcium, fat, cholesterol and cheese calories.
- Oil: Adding extra fat to your food is an easy way to add calories. Oils are good for your health and will add those much needed calories too.
- Bananas: One banana contains approximately 100 calories. Not only are they rich in carbs and nutritious, they’re also great for workout fuel.
- Yogurt: The healthy fruit-flavored, fatless yogurt can give you as much as 118 calories. Include it in your daily diet for quick weight gain.
While purposely gaining weight might sound inherently unhealthy, there are safe methods to do this. Here are some tips to keep your weight gain odyssey a safe one rather than spiraling out of control to where you never leave the house again.
- Drink lots of fluids that supply nutrients and calories: milk, fresh fruit juice and energy drinks are good examples.
- Include 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. It is best to consume fruits in their natural form to get all the nutrients.
- Make sure you get enough rest. You should be getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night for maximum weight gains because your body is doing nothing but lying there and building muscle while you’re sleeping. If you only get 6 hours or less, you’re not going to get all the benefits of your exercising and diet. Your body is at work while it sleeps — oxygen moves to the brain, growth hormones are released, and your bones keep on developing, even while you’re resting.
- With all of this eating, you’re going to be putting on some fat along with your muscle, but that’s fine. Figure out what your goal weight is, then add another 5-10 lbs on top of it. Once you get to that weight, cut back on the carbs in your diet, do more sprints, and keep exercising: you’ll shed the fat quickly and be left with a smokin’ bod. Eat all the vegetables you want, but cut back on breads, pasta, rice, and oatmeal.
- Focus on feeling good. It can help to know that your body is likely to change in the months and years ahead. It’s important to realize that feeling good about yourself can make you more attractive to others, too.
- Stay away from pills and supplements. These products make hollow promises and at best are a waste of money and at worst potentially harmful to your health. The best way to get the fuel you need to build muscle is by eating well. Before you take any kind of supplement at all, even if it’s just a vitamin pill, talk to your doctor.
- Chew the food properly to improve digestion and to keep from choking. Chewing your food until it’s almost liquid will take the burden off your digestive organs and increase the likelihood that most of the nutrients in the foods that you eat make their way into your bloodstream.
- Avoid excessive intake of beverages such as coffee and tea immediately after meals, as this hinders the absorption of minerals like iron.
- Ensure regular exposure to friendly bacteria. Having healthy colonies of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract is critical to your ability to optimally break down the foods that you eat, extract nutrients from these foods, and ensure safe delivery of these nutrients through the wall of the top third of your small intestine to your bloodstream.
Hopefully you now have enough information to get you started on the road to a bigger and better you. Remember to start slowly: both eating and exercising in the ways mentioned above are meant to be somewhat strenuous and are supposed to be built up to. Gaining weight doesn’t have to be unhealthy, but remember to consult your doctor if doing any of these exercises or eating these foods causes discomfort or pain, and good luck!