Skinny No More – Healthy Weight Gain Guide
With many of us engaged in a constant battle of the bulge, the idea of being too thin makes us green with envy.
It’s not much fun, though, for people who are desperately trying to put on weight.
It definitely isn’t something to be jealous of.
For people who struggle to maintain a healthy weight or are trying to gain weight, it can be a real challenge.
Reasons for needing to gain weight include health issues, lack of appetite, fuelling sport, building muscle or just trying to overcome skinny genes.
There’s no real health problem with being skinny naturally. However, if you want or need to gain weight, do it the healthy way – which is not about stuffing your face at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
Calories Count, But So Do Nutrients
Focus on healthy foods to gain weight, because even though you have more leeway with calories, good nutrition is still paramount.
If you’re underweight, aim to gain weight gradually until you’re a weight that is healthy for your height and age.
It’s crucial that you gain weight the right way, not by eating chips, sweets or cakes and other high-calorie junk foods full of saturated fat and sugar, or with fizzy drinks.
These foods can increase your body fat instead of your lean body mass. Instead, aim for three meals and several snacks a day and base your diet on healthy eating principles.
Foods That Pack a Punch
Foods highest in calories and nutrients are those high in fat.
Plant fats from nuts, peanuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, avocados, hummus and oils are great sources of healthy fats loaded with nutrients and calories.
Animal fats provide nutrients and the same amount of calories as plant fats, but they also contain saturated fats, which can increase bad cholesterol.
Drink high-calorie fresh juices and choose high-calorie condiments, such as full fat mayonnaise and butter.
High protein drinks and smoothies are very convenient. Calorie dense ingredients like coconut oil/milk, avocado and bananas can be blended into a delicious drink.
High carbohydrate protein powders when combined with calorie dense foods make a convenient snack to have on the go. Click here for Emed’s Best protein powders.
Eat nuts by the handful or sprinkle them on top of soups, salads, cereal, desserts and casseroles for added protein, fibre, healthy fat and calories.
Granola, loaded with nuts and dried fruits, is a concentrated source of nutritious calories, especially when eaten with full-fat Greek-style yogurt, which can be higher in protein than milk.
Potatoes are a great vehicle for toppings. When you cook potatoes, add in flavoured oils, milk, cheese, chilli, vegetables and beans. Another easy way to add calories is to drizzle olive oil on vegetables, salads, whole grains, soups, casseroles and stews.
Eat Often to Gain Weight
Regardless of why you want to gain weight, eating meals or substantial snacks (think mini-meals) more often is the way to pack more calories into the day. Maybe have six mini meals a day.
Those with a small appetite may also benefit from eating ‘little and often’ and by increasing the number of snacks they have throughout a day.
The goal is to choose foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, nutrients and calories so each bite is loaded with good nutrition as well as calories.
A snack just before bed is also a great way to fit in some extra calories.
Keep Track of Your Diet
Filling out a food diary is a good way to keep track of what you’re eating and see pinpoint meals in which you can bump up the calorie content.
Food diary apps like Calorie King can also be downloaded to your smart phone for easy input throughout the day. The key is to learn about the calorie content of foods and which ones needs to be increased and eaten often in your diet.
To begin with, aim for 3000 calories daily for the first 4 weeks. Alter your diet based on your results:
- If you continue to lose weight, add 750 calories to your diet.
- If there is no change, add 500 calories to your diet.
- If there is a slight weight gain, add 250 calories to your diet
- If you are on track with 0.5kg per week then continue with the same diet
- If you are gaining weight too quickly, then drop your calories by 250 and then re-asses again in another 4 weeks
Gaining Muscle Mass
Athletes and sports people who want to bulk up need to take in enough calories, that with proper strength training to make sure they gain weight in the right places.
The best foods to eat for muscle mass are lean proteins like chicken and white fish.
Hugh Jackman consumed more than 6000 calories per day to gain enough muscle to play Wolverine in the X-Men movies.
His diet mainly consisted of lean meat, fish, brown rice and vegetables.
You need to combine these foods with high GI carbs like white/brown rice, legumes and quinoa in the post work out meal.
Immediately after a workout have a whey protein and carb drink. To learn more about pre and post work out nutrition, click here.
When working out, try to avoid cardio overkill as this is counter productive as too many calories will be burnt. Instead focus on resistance training which includes weight based exercises or a Cross Fit based workout.
Its important to point out that weight loss or the inability to gain weight can be caused by an over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Other symptoms of Hyperthyroidism also include fast heart rate, restlessness, agitation and increased appetite.
If these symptom sounds familiar, further thyroid testing should be done to rule out a thyroid condition.