Weight gain is a sensitive subject as anyone skinny enough to be contemplating weight gain is eyed with suspicion and envy – especially amongst women in whom thinness is particularly celebrated. With only 2% of the US population underweight and a staggering two thirds (66%) overweight, it is easy (though not right) to see why there is such little support. However, while obesity is often the result of poor lifestyle choices, underweight is mostly due to genetics and little to do with poor decision making. Unfortunately, rather than getting a spot empathy, as after all it is out of your control, there is often little understanding or support for those who desire to gain weight.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GAIN WEIGHT
1. SEE YOUR DOCTOR TO RULE OUT UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Medical conditions, medications and psychological issues may all cause weight loss or difficulty gaining weight. Furthermore, weight loss is common after problems such as injury, food poisoning or seasonal illness. If you have an ectomorphic body type, weight loss tends to be more dramatic and weight gain more difficult.
2. TO GAIN WEIGHT, INCREASE YOUR CALORIE INTAKE BY 20%
In other words on top of the calories you need to maintain your weight, consume and extra 20% for weight gain. If you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight, consume 2400 calories to gain weight. You can use the weight gain calculator, which adds an extra 20% and also determines your macronutrient ratio. Read the instructions first. If you find you are not gaining weight with an extra 20% calories, increase your calorie intake in increments of about 100 calories until you experience weight gain. You should be aiming to gain no more than 1 – 2 lbs of weight a week, anymore than this is likely to be unhealthy and mostly fat.
3. GET YOUR MACRONUTRIENT RATIO RIGHT
For healthy weight gain (mostly muscle and a little fat) you need the right macronutrient ratio. Too much carbohydrates or fat can result in undesirably large increases in body fat. To gain weight you need to follow a weight gain diet.
4. GAIN WEIGHT BY EATING CALORIE DENSE FOODS
Calorie dense foods have a lot of calories in a small amount of space. In other words, you get a lot of bang for your buck. However, ensure that these foods are also nutrient dense. That is foods high in calories and in nutrients such as nuts, dried fruits and avocados. Donuts, cakes and fast foods are calorie rich, but nutrient poor. You’ll gain weight, but risk heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
5. GAIN WEIGHT BY EATING EVERY 3 HOURS
Eating often in a great way to gain weight, especially if you are the type of person who fills up quickly at mealtime. Eating snacks between meals can add a significant amount of calories to your diet. Again, make sure your snacks are reasonably healthy. Six small, high-protein meals a day, such as egg white omelets, tuna sandwiches and ground turkey are ideal.
6. DRINK YOUR CALORIES
Drinks are incredibly calorie dense and not very filling. This is an important method of gaining weight and should definitely form part of your strategy. Nutritionally sound shakes / energy milkshakes in between meals are great. If you can, try to get them prescribed from your doctor or a dietitian, otherwise buy them in health food shops. Generally, the medical liquid drinks tend to be high quality and contain a good amount of nutrients. Alternatively, you can make your own shakes, which of course is cheaper, but also fresh, full of goodness and possibly tastier. Add flavored (e.g. vanilla, chocolate) protein powders, Guinness, fruit, nuts, oil, milk and some of your favorite ingredients for a tasty weight gain shake. To get you started here are some recipe ideas that use protein powder – just adapt them so that your shake is calorie rich.
7. ADD TOPPINGS TO ALL YOUR MEALS
Toppings are a sneaky way to add hundreds of calories to your meals. You can add healthy oils, nuts, cheese and milk products to smoothies, salads and many other foods. Don’t eat undressed foods. All your meals should have some sort of topping.
8. RESTRICT CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE
If you are struggling to gain weight, especially if you have a fast metabolism, you need to restrict your cardio to a healthy minimum. That is 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio 5 days a week. You need to eat extra calories to compensate for the calories you are burning during exercise. If you are doing endurance cardio or high intensity interval training, you’ll be burning a lot of calories and probably also revving up your metabolism further.
9. RESISTANCE TRAINING
Instead of lots of cardio, spend more time resistance training to improve shape and gain weight. Adding muscle mass is not only healthy, but an important way of increasing mass and adding shape for men and curves for women. You should not simply aim to gain fat. Your goal should be to add muscle and some body fat. Gain too much fat and you’ll end up with the undesirable result of skinny fat – wobbly but still skinny and shapeless. Naturally skinny men should think of what ectomorphic Brad Pitt achieved. Skinny women should have the original supermodels in mind who were naturally slender but also worked to gain muscle mass – making them incredibly shapely and downright stunning.