Not everyone wants to lose weight. For some, a few extra pounds would be mighty fine.
There’s lean and there’s painfully thin. And then there’s “For the love of God – eat something!”
Believe it or not there are plenty of us who would like nothing more than a bit more bulk.
Maybe it’s to help stave off winter flus (more on that later), or to help prevent anemia or maybe you just want to have an arse, instead of hamstrings then lower back.
But how to do it without eating cheese cakes for breakfast?
If you’re prepared to make some tweaks to your diet and eating habits, healthy weight gain is doable.
As an added bonus, if you can also squeeze in some resistance training, then even better.
If putting on some weight is the last thing you want to do, we implore you to keep reading. You may have a friend or relative in this boat who could use a few tips.
Firstly, let’s look at some signs you may need to gain weight.
Feeling lethargic and listless could be due to a lack of nutrition or even a low blood count (anemia) meaning more attention to diet is a must.
Having a delicate immune system is one of the strongest indicators that some more bulk could be of use. If you regularly catch colds or the flu and find it takes a while to shake them off, then your immune system could be stretched.
The immune system needs fuel to do battle against illnesses and infections so an under-nourished body will struggle to put up a sufficient fight.
At this point, many underweight people will stress that they eat plenty but just can’t put on weight.
This may be due to a naturally high metabolism which causes your body to quickly burn off any calories. If you’re also regularly active this obviously burns even more calories.
For those who simply don’t eat enough the answer is simple – eat more, silly.
Anyway, what to eat. And just as importantly – when to eat.
There will be some foods you either don’t care for, choose not to eat or physically can’t due to allergies or intolerances.
That should still leave plenty of options.
Naturally, these are healthy choices to put on some weight. Healthy fats and protein to put on good kilos in the right places.
Most you know already and maybe need reminding, but some may be welcome snippets of new info.
For truly spectacular gains, simply go for ample servings of potato chips, processed food and soft drink on the sofa, as you finalize your last will and testament.
Whether it’s your normal garden-variety spud or the pricier sweet version, potatoes are one of the best and healthiest foods to aid weight gain.
They’re full of glycogen which the body uses for energy, also making them an excellent pre-workout food.
Any leftover glucose is stored as fat – hence the extra kilos.
One of the benefits of potatoes is how you eat them. Don’t complain that they’re bland – most food is until you spice it up.
You can boil them, mash them, fry them or bake them. Add them to a salad, eat them with avocado and mayo, devour them with bacon and sour cream – there simply has to be a potato form you like.
People tend to form clear, black and white opinions on specific issues.
The wizardry of Apple products versus the exorbitant prices. Worth it?
Urinating in the ocean – acceptable or not?
Avocadoes also evoke super-charged emotions. People either love ‘em or they really don’t.
For a highly versatile weight gaining fruit, you could do a lot worse.
Not only are they packed with vitamins and minerals but almost 80% of avocado calories come from fat.
The good fat. Monounsaturated fat – the same as found in olive oil, so a heart-friendly source of fat.
Avocados go with almost anything. Salads, tuna, chicken, sandwiches, pasta and rice.
Don’t care for them? Maybe you should.
Meat (Beef and Chicken)
Vegetarians can scroll down and vegans probably don’t care that they’re underweight anyway.
We’re talking real meat here, not the processed stuff that may please the taste buds but not your heart.
Tasty cuts of red meat and chicken provide plenty of protein and iron and are especially beneficial if eaten with rice. If sirloin is beyond your price range there are cheaper cuts of red meat or chicken.
A simple serving of steak or chicken breast with rice will easily give you 700 calories. That’s before you amp it up with other natural weight-gaining sources such as avocado, a creamy sauce or an egg.
Cheese please, and the harder the better. Not only does cheese come packed with calcium and protein but it’s a versatile little devil.
You can munch on the harder types such as cheddar for higher calories or opt for the lighter, smoother varieties that go well with salads, veggies, pastas and sandwiches.
If nothing else, cheese is an excellent excuse to drink wine. All this stress about being underweight – you’ve earned yourself a drink.
Almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts – nuts are essential eating for the hard gainer. Not only are they rich in healthy fats (unsaturated) but also protein and fiber.
Nuts are especially good for adding weight if used as a snack throughout the day. Grab a few handfuls of mixed nuts at regular intervals, washed down with the milk of your choice. Which leads us to…
Firstly, don’t waste your time looking at the fat content of milk. You’re trying to gain weight and the fat in regular milk is full of omega – 3 which is not only great for your heart but can help prevent disease.
There’s a plethora of milk available now in supermarkets so it’s up to your preferences.
If lactose is an issue then soy milk is an excellent substitute.
Other options are higher protein milk and alternatives to cow milk such as oat milk (high in fiber).
If the choices are too overwhelming then you can turn back the clock and gulp some good old fashioned cow milk. Calcium for the bones, magnesium for brain and muscle function, and protein for building muscle.
Whole grain bread
One of the tried and true foods for weight gain. Whole grain breads such as sourdough and Ezekiel are the healthier options and can be eaten at any time with anything.
Wholesome whole grains come with plenty of fiber and protein as well as fueling your tank throughout the day.
Combined with eggs, tuna, avocado, chicken or peanut butter gives you even more healthy fats, protein and – extra kilos!
The naysayers might poo-poo white rice but don’t listen to those bores. Just ask them why most Asian countries prefer white rice and they’ll soon shut up and leave you alone.
If you’re underweight then eating white rice is going to do you a lot more harm than good.
Rice is a carb-dense food so it delivers plenty of energy and calories.
What you eat with rice can also seriously boost the calorie numbers so let your imagination run wild. Eat it with meat, fish, vegetables or eggs to not only enhance the dining experience but also the bodyweight.
By all means help yourself to brown rice if you like, just don’t worry too much about the purest form. Just eat.
Like full cream milk, eggs have suffered from being labelled as too high in cholesterol and bad for the heart.
These claims are yet to be proven which means you can now focus on adding one of the best protein sources out there to your diet.
An average egg contains around 70 calories so if you eat one or two daily, it certainly starts to add up.
Poached, scrambled, fried or…raw on top of your rice.
Don’t bag it till you’ve tried it.
Fun stuff throughout the day
A good rule of thumb to increase your weight is to be eating something every 2 – 3 hours.
This doesn’t mean actual meals every time but your little snacks and treats can make a huge difference.
Try adding these into your eating routine, between the larger meals and especially before going to bed.
- Peanut butter – on crackers, with bread, or even just a few spoonfuls.
- Chocolate, especially dark.
- Dried fruits. High in calories and still with plenty of the original nutrients.
- Shakes / Smoothies. Throw it all in there. Milk, protein powder, fruit, chocolate sauce, yoghurt.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what to put in your stomach it may be time to rethink how often you do it.
The most effective eating pattern is to aim for roughly 5-6 times per day. Don’t worry, they won’t all be main meals.
Eat your typical breakfast, lunch and dinner but keep your energy and caloric intake high by including snacks between each major meal.
If you’re already doing this and still struggle to put on weight then you’ll have to tweak something. Increase the volume and add something you haven’t been eating. Maybe more butter on your sandwiches. Eat an extra egg a day. Throw more chocolate sauce into your smoothies.
When you settle on a solid eating plan the last step is to put on some muscle.
Apart from weighing more than fat, added muscle will increase your strength which serves to build more muscle and so on it goes.
Resistance exercise is what will build your muscles and where possible using free weights and/or machines.
Bodyweight exercises are great and have their place but it’s the added intensity and workload to your muscles that make free weights the game changer.
Depending on your situation you’ll be at a gym or more commonly these days, at home.
Aim for at least 3 sessions per week of exercises targeting your largest muscle groups – the legs, the chest, the back and the shoulders.
Think squats, rows, presses and lunges.
Try to do 3 sets of each exercise with no more than 8 repetitions for the maximum hypertrophy benefits (muscle growth).
With a new-look eating and exercise regime, the hard work is done. All that’s left is ensuring you’re getting decent sleep.
Try to get to bed early, even if you’re not fully ready to sleep. Listen to a podcast, read a book and let your body prepare for slumber.
Avoid caffeine too close to sleeping, try to get some sunlight throughout the day and at least 20 minutes of exercise.
These are the major steps towards achieving your ideal body weight and moving on to a new jeans size.
Now hurry up, there’s eating to be done.