Most of us are either trying to lose those last 10 pounds or working hard to maintain our physiques. For a small subset of the population, however, gaining and keeping weight on — not losing it — is a real issue.
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This can be a surprisingly tough problem to address, especially since most people who are trying to gain weight are hoping to add muscle, not fat. And indeed, gaining weight in a healthy way is hard — you can’t just binge on junk food and quit working out.
In order to gain weight the healthy way, here are a few basic rules to follow.
1. Eat Healthy, But Dense Foods
Trying to gain weight the healthy way? Eat more caloric-dense, healthy foods like fats and complex carbs. Aside from being very good for you, healthy fats contain more calories per serving than most other foods. Options such as nut butter, olive oil, and avocados make for easy additions to any meal to increase the calorie content. In addition, you may also want to consider upping your carb intake — especially if you’re already fairly active. But don’t just reach for the pastries and white pasta (though these are fine in moderation, too, especially if you’re trying to gain weight!). Rather, incorporate complex carbs like quinoa, legumes, oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes into your diet for healthier, more nutrient-dense gains.
Also Read: Healthy Avocado Dinner Recipe Ideas
2. Eat More Frequently
There’s a reason why bodybuilders and Olympic weightlifters eat five to six meals a day. Healthy weight gain is all about increasing your calories and macros for the day, and an easy way to do this is to simply eat more often. Aim to eat at least every three to five hours. Underweight people often feel full faster, so this is a great way to get those calories in without stuffing yourself.
3. Embrace Bigger Portions
If you’re eating a clean diet full of healthy fats, complex carbs, lean protein, fruits, and veggies, feel free to eat and eat and eat until you’re full. If you’re a healthy eater who is struggling to keep the weight on, chances are you’re not getting the nutrition your body needs, so (luck you!) portion control is simply not an issue for you. When it comes to junk food, again, use your common sense and indulge every now and again. With regards to your regular meals, however, don’t be afraid to full your plate FULL — and go back for seconds and thirds.
4. Lift Weights
It’s no secret that strength training, and especially weight lifting, increases muscle growth. Muscle weighs more than fat, so gaining muscle will increase your overall mass. However, you won’t look overweight — far from it — because muscle is more dense and compact. Gaining muscle is the healthiest and most ideal form of weight gain, so increase your weight lifting workouts and be sure to get in a protein shake or protein-filled meal immediately afterwards for optimal results.
5. Cut Back On Cardio
Cardio burns off excess calories, and in the case of healthy weight gain, you are trying to have a surplus of extra calories, not a deficit. If you don’t have enough calories in, and you’re not focusing on building muscle, your body will unfortunately begin to burn your fat stores, and indeed, your existing muscle, for energy. Not good. To combat this, enjoy shorter and fewer bursts of cardio exercise and focus your fitness efforts on weight training and building strength.
6. Double Up
An easy way to get in more calories is to simply double it up. This really is at simple as it sounds. If you’re used to eating a two-egg omelette for breakfast, try eating a four-egg omelette instead. If you usually eat a chicken sandwich for lunch, pack two in your brown bag. Once the food is in front of you and you’ve already begun eating, you may be surprised at how much you can actually eat in one sitting.
7. Drink Your Calories
If you throw in a few protein shakes or smoothies into your day, you can drink up a lot of extra calories. Try mixing a protein powder with milk and nut butter. You can even throw some spinach or bananas into the mix for an added nutrition boost. Enjoy a glass of orange juice with breakfast, a full-fat dairy latte as a treat, or any other relatively healthy beverages throughout the day and with meals. Whatever you do, don’t reach for the soda — empty calories, sugar and chemicals are never a good idea.
Also Read: 10 Delicious Banana Smoothie Recipes
8. Have A Bedtime Snack
We’re often told to avoid eating at night or after a certain time in order to lose weight and to avoid midnight food delivery. This puts your body in fasting mode, which only ends once you’ve eaten breakfast. For those who are trying to gain weight the healthy way, a healthy midnight snack — like a glass of warm milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a small wrap sandwich with avocado, vegetables, and lean meat or cheese.
9. Eat Several Foods At Once
Why simply eat a banana, when you can enjoy a sliced banana on a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter, and wash it all down with a big glass of milk? By adding several different foods to a snack or meal, you’re adding density and calories, and eventually, weight. Try including three different food groups in every meal or snack you eat to ensure you’re getting a broad spectrum of nutrients in.
10. Change Up Your Fitness Routine
When trying to gain weight, it’s important to continue to exercise so as not to simply add fat. However, you might want to consider changing up your routine. If you’re running 10 miles a day and participating in tough, HIIT-style bootcamp classes every other day, you might want to scale back and try some gentler movements. Yoga is excellent for this, as it increases strength, balance and flexibility without rigorously shredding calories.