How to Gain Weight in a Healthy Way: Tips and Tricks

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Gaining weight can challenge those with high metabolism, slender frames, or small appetites. Whether you want to build muscle or put on some healthy pounds, the key to gaining weight is to eat more calories than your body burns in a day. In this article, we will show how and what to eat to maximise weight gain, muscle growth, and overall well-being. It is common knowledge that health risks of being overweight, but being underweight can also lead to health problems. 

WHO report indicates that being underweight is associated with a markedly increased risk for poor health, poor physical performance and high mortality. This article explores what it means to be underweight, its health risks, and the factors affecting weight gain. So, let’s learn how to gain weight or add lean muscle in a more nutritious way.

Being Underweight, Affecting Factors and Associated Health Risks

Being underweight means adults (15 years or older) have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5 kg/m². It affects about 3-5% of the healthy adult population. It is more common in women, especially young adults and those over 65. Health risks associated with being underweight include:

Fertility Problems

Osteoporosis

Anaemia

Weakened Immune System

Hair loss

Tiredness

Delayed Growth

Poor Wound healing

So, being underweight is not just about appearance; it can impact your overall well-being.

Factors Affecting Weight Gain

A healthy weight gain is about nourishing the body while achieving desired results. However, several factors affect the weight gain process. Including:

Psychological and Emotional Factors

When trying to gain weight, it is crucial to foster positive relationships with food and body image. Several psychological aspects can affect the body weight, such as:

Stress

Emotional eating

Body image issues

Eating disorder

Medical Conditions

People who are on medications such as antidepressants or corticosteroids may face some side effects from being underweight. These medications result in health issues like:

Cancer

Eating disorders

Thyroid

Other hormonal imbalances-related issues

Other Factors

Other factors that can make gaining weight difficult include:

Genetics

Insufficient calories intake

Extremely active lifestyle

Over-exercising

Summary

Being underweight, characterised by a BMI below 18.5 kg/m², affects a portion of the adult population, primarily women, including young adults and those over 65. This condition is not solely about appearance; it carries significant health risks. Associated problems include fertility issues, osteoporosis, anaemia, weakened immune function, hair loss, fatigue, delayed growth, and impaired wound healing. Achieving a healthy weight gain involves addressing psychological and emotional factors like stress and body image concerns, managing medical conditions such as those requiring medications like antidepressants or corticosteroids, and considering factors like genetics, calorie intake, and activity levels. Prioritising a holistic approach to weight gain supports overall well-being.

How to Gain Weight in a Healthy Way?

Gaining weight can be just as challenging as losing it. Experts advise a gradual approach to ensure it is healthy and sustainable. Rapid weight gain can stress your body, causing various health issues. 

Here are some healthy ways to gain weight or build muscle mass healthily. Before starting, consulting a doctor is wise, as individual needs vary.

Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

Boost Your Calorie Intake

Add extra calories creatively. Cheese slices on sandwiches, poached eggs in soup, or drizzling olive oil on vegetables can enhance calorie intake. Carbs from whole grains, brown rice, and potatoes are great. While desserts are not a staple food, occasionally having dark chocolate or yoghurt with fruits can be satisfying.

Incorporate Homemade Food and Skip Junk Food

Prioritise homemade, nutritious meals. Incorporate vegetable curry, dal, chapati, eggs, meat and fish curry. People can also opt for homemade whole-grain bread, pasta, and crackers. Par with health spread like avocado or tahini. It is crucial to note fast food might add calories, but it is detrimental to overall health.

Eat Healthy, Calorie-rich Foods

If you already eat several meals daily, consider adding more calories to the diet. Opt for full-fat milk, smoothies, and shakes. Explore refreshing drinks like kefir and lassi for both calories and taste. People with lactose intolerance or who follow specific diets consider alternative milk and food options to add calories. Try avocados, starchy veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes), and calorie-dense fruits (bananas, mangoes).

Increase Protein Intake

Aim for 1.5 to 2.2 grams of proteins per kilogram of body weight. Enhance your diet with peanut butter or protein powder. Include protein-rich foods like red meat, salmon, fish, yoghurt, and beans. Whey protein supplements can also be a good option if someone struggles with protein intake. Avoid force-feeding, as it can lead to digestive discomfort.

Try High-Fat Snacks

Enhance the meals with condiments or extras like dried fruits, berries, nut mix, full-fat yoghurt, bacon bits, mayonnaise, and salad dressings. Incorporate healthy fat spread like guacamole and hummus for easy snacking. Use healthy oils like olive or coconut oil.

Eat Frequent Meals

People who get full quickly eat more meals throughout the day. Consume 5-6 smaller meals and snacks daily rather than just three meals. Consider a snack before bed for sustained calorie intake. Also, consider commercial supplements like meal replacement bars.

Tips for Building Muscle Mass

Resistance Exercise

Focus on resistance training 2-3 times weekly using free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands. Choose compound exercises like squats and bench presses, keep workouts short and intense, and seek professional guidance if required.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Balance your workout routine with cardiovascular exercises like jogging, walking, biking, swimming, or hiking. Adjust the intensity, frequency, or duration of exercises if needed.

Pre and Post-Workout Nutrition

Consume carbs before and after workouts. Combine with protein for muscle recovery. Foods like peanut butter sandwiches or yoghurt with fruits work well. Small servings of protein foods before and after workout sessions help to promote muscle growth.

Be Consistent

Avoid quick weight gain, as it can be unhealthy. Set realistic weight gain goals with the help of a professional, and aim for a gradual increase of 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Consult a Professional

If weight loss persists despite efforts, consult a doctor or dietician. Underlying health issues might be at play. A professional diet coach/nutritionist offers the right diet plan and a fitness trainer individually tailors workout routine. They can also help in effective and safe exercise by suggesting the correct posture.

Summary

Healthily gaining weight requires a gradual approach to ensure sustainability without overburdening your body. Boosting calorie intake through creative food choices like adding cheese slices to sandwiches or drizzling olive oil on vegetables is vital. Prioritise homemade, nutritious meals and skip fast food, which can harm overall health. Opt for calorie-rich foods, explore high-fat snacks, and increase protein intake with options like peanut butter or protein powder. Eating frequent, smaller meals and incorporating resistance and cardiovascular exercises into your routine can help build muscle mass. Consistency and consulting professionals for guidance are essential for safe and effective weight gain.

Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Weight Gain

Apart from the above-mentioned healthy ways to gain weight, there are some lifestyle modifications that everyone should follow. Here are some lifestyle changes to gain weight, including:

Appealing Eating Sessions

Make your extra eating sessions enjoyable by stocking up on your favourite snacks. It can make the process more appealing and sustainable.

Accept Gaining Some Fat

Understand that gaining muscle often involves some increase in body fat. It is a natural part of the process.

Adequate Rest

Ensure you get enough sleep and rest to promote overall health. It is also crucial for muscle and brain functioning.

Stay Hydrated

Drink water or fruits at least 30 minutes before meals to avoid feeling overly full. Opt for calorie-rich beverages like milk, juice, shakes, and smoothies.

Track Your Progress

Keep a food diary and workout schedule, and consistency is critical. Slow gains are still progress. Be patient; this is a gradual process that might take months. Regularly consult your doctor or dietician to assess your journey.

Avoid Quick Fixes

One should use Appetite stimulants only if prescribed. Over-the-counter options might harm you. Caffeine can help stimulate appetite but stay within the recommended limit (400 mg daily). Avoid powders and pills claiming instant muscle mass; they often do not work.

Summary

To achieve healthy weight gain, make extra eating sessions enjoyable with favourite snacks, understand that some body fat increase is natural when building muscle, prioritise adequate rest, stay hydrated with calorie-rich beverages, track progress, and avoid quick fixes. Only use appetite stimulants if prescribed, stay within recommended caffeine limits (400 mg daily), and be cautious of instant muscle mass claims from powders or pills. Regular consultations with a healthcare professional or dietician are beneficial.

How Many Calories Needs to Add to Gain Weight?

Gaining weight is not about stuffing the stomach with junk food. Slowly add 300 to 500 calories above the usual intake each day. Processed foods won’t help; focus on nutritious, calorie-dense options to gain weight. Get the blood checked for nutrient deficiencies, especially B vitamins and iron. Address deficiencies with supplements if needed.

Important Things to Consider

Gaining lean body weight is a gradual process, taking months or even years, so be patient.

Consult your registered dietician before starting any weight-gain program.

To gain weight, people must consume more calories and stimulate muscle growth.

Avoid wasting time and money on products that promise quick muscle mass gains.

Eat more calories than you burn. Try eating more meals a day rather than larger portions at once.

Exercise, but not too intensely; this helps build muscle.

Summary

For healthy weight gain, gradually increase daily calorie intake by 300 to 500 calories with nutrient-rich foods. Address nutrient deficiencies with supplements if needed, and remember that gaining lean body weight takes time. Consult a healthcare professional before starting a weight-gain program, prioritise muscle growth, and opt for multiple smaller meals throughout the day. Incorporate gradual exercise and avoid excessive intensity.

HealthifyMe Suggestions

In this fast-paced world my clients normally don’t have much time to cook and find recipes. So, to make their life easier I send them smoothies which are quick and easy. 

Here is one example of high calorie smoothie you can try:

Ingredients:

1. whole milk : 1 cup

2. peanut butter or almond butter: 1-2 tablespoons 

3. banana: 1 ripe

4. oats: 50g 

5.  honey: 1-2 tablespoons

6. vanilla extract: 1 drop 

Instructions:

1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender.

2. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

3. If the shake is too thick, you can add more milk to achieve your desired consistency.

4. Pour the shake into a glass and enjoy.

Conclusion

Gaining weight healthily is a marathon, not a sprint. Consult professionals before making any drastic changes. Focus on nutrient-rich, high-calorie foods. Regular exercise helps channel extra calories into muscle growth. Be persistent, and the results will be worth the wait. Remember, every person is different; what weight gain plan works for one might not work for another. Stay consistent, stay healthy!

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What are healthy ways to gain weight?

A: There are several healthy ways to gain easily and effectively, including:

Prioritise small servings

Eat frequently to stay energised and prevent hunger. 

Stock the kitchen with portable snacks.

Get enough sleep and rest.

Regular exercise at least for 30-40 minutes.

Consume calorie-rich foods like full-fat milk, juices, shakes, etc.

Q: How can I increase my calorie intake in a balanced manner?

A: People who are trying hard to gain weight are required to add 300 to 500 more calories to their diet. To get more calories, try incorporating full-fat milk, smoothies, and shakes. They can also opt for avocados, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, mangoes, fatty fish, meat and whole grains.

Q: Are there specific foods that promote healthy weight gain?

A: Yes, several foods promote healthy weight gain. Some of them are:

Full-fat Milk

Brown Rice

Dried Fruits and berries

Protein Smoothies

Red Meat

Fatty Fish

Potatoes and Starch

Whole Grain Bread

Avocados

Whole Eggs

Healthy Fats and Oils such as avocado oil, Olive oil, and coconut oil

Q: What role does protein play in gaining muscle mass?

A: protein is crucial in gaining muscle mass and strength, helping repair and maintain muscle tissue. When one pairs protein intake with resistance exercise, it allows greater muscle mass preservation and limits age-related muscle loss.

Q: How can weight gain be achieved for individuals with a fast metabolism?

A: People with a fast metabolism can burn calories even while at rest. So, people with fast metabolism need extra calories and care while trying to gain weight. They can follow the following given steps:

Increase caloric intake

Eat more frequently

Increase protein intake

Incorporate healthy fats

Choose nutrient-dense foods

Lift weights

Get adequate sleep

Limit cardio

Use calorie-dense supplements

Be consistent and patient

Q: Are there dietary supplements or shakes that aid in weight gain?

A: There are several dietary supplements, like protein powders, mass gainers, and creatine, that help in weight gain. Along with these supplements, protein shakes help gain extra pounds and muscle. However, before incorporating any dietary supplement, please consult a health professional to get a better result.

Q: What is the importance of strength training and exercise in gaining weight?

A: Strength training and exercise can cause weight gain due to increased muscle mass. With regular strength training, people can gain weight while their body fat percentage decreases. Try to choose exercises like squats, bench presses, free weights, weight machines, etc.

Q: Can stress and lifestyle factors affect weight gain efforts?

A: Stress and lifestyle factors can irregulate hormones, lead to emotional eating, and impact sleep patterns, contributing to weight gain. By managing stress and having a balanced diet, people can achieve healthier lifestyles, promoting weight management.

Q: How should meals be structured to promote weight gain?

A: It is crucial to plan your meal while trying to gain weight. Have a small meal 4-5 times a day. Add healthy snacks like crackers and cheese, nuts, yoghurt, and fruit to your diet. It helps you to keep full for longer.

Q: What is the impact of sleep on weight gain goals?

A: Inadequate sleep has repeatedly been linked to higher body mass and weight gain. Several studies found that people who sleep less than 5-7 hours might gain weight.

Q: Are there certain medical conditions that make it difficult to gain weight?

A: Several diseases like cancer, diabetes, thyroid, and digestive conditions can make it difficult to gain weight. These diseases may decrease a person’s appetite. Sometimes, they cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, which results in weight loss.

Q: Can weight gain be achieved on a vegan or vegetarian diet?

A: Yes, vegetarian or vegan people also gain weight by following their respective diets. They can incorporate high-calorie vegan food in their diets, such as avocado, quinoa, nuts, berries, peanut butter, smoothies, etc.

Q: How long does it typically take to see noticeable results when trying to gain weight?

A: Weight gain is a gradual process, so people must be patient. Typically, a person can take at least six months to gain weight while following a balanced diet with regular exercise.

Q: What are some common mistakes to avoid when trying to gain weight?

A: Some common mistakes to avoid while trying to gain weight include:

Avoid processed food

Stay hydrated

Avoid quick fixes, keep patient

Avoid sweets daily

Avoid overeating

Avoid over-exercising

Stop constraints to some specific foods

Q: Is it possible to gain weight in a healthy manner without relying on processed foods?

A: Yes, it is possible to gain weight by incorporating healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, legumes, etc. These foods are more nutritious than processed food. With the right approach, people can achieve their desired weight gain goals healthily and sustainably.

Research Sources

WHO on being Categorising Underweight

Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss

Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomised controlled trial

Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men

Role of dietary fat in calorie intake and weight gain

Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight

Role of dietary fat in calorie intake and weight gain. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews

The association between sleep duration and weight gain in adults: a 6-year prospective study from the Quebec Family Study.

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