Some methods of gaining weight can have severe short- and long-term effects on health. This poses a challenge for people needing to gain weight and for those who are at a healthy weight but wish to build muscle.
Below are some tips to gain weight safely and healthily.
Causes of underweight
There are several medical conditions that can cause unhealthy weight loss, including:
- Eating disorders: This includes anorexia nervosa, a serious mental disorder.
- Thyroid problems: Having an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can boost metabolism and cause unhealthy weight loss.
- Celiac disease: The most severe form of gluten intolerance. Most people with celiac disease don’t know that they have it (10Trusted Source).
- Diabetes: Having uncontrolled diabetes (mainly type 1) can lead to severe weight loss.
- Cancer: Cancerous tumors often burn large amounts of calories and can cause someone to lose a lot of weight.
- Infections: Certain infections can cause someone to become severely underweight. This includes parasites, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
If you’re underweight, you may want to see a doctor to rule out any serious medical conditions.
This is particularly important if you have recently started losing large amounts of weight without even trying.
Tips for gaining weight safely
Eat three to five meals a day
Eating at least three meals a day can make it easier to increase calorie intake. Snacking between meals can also help to increase the number of calories in the diet.
Weight training at least three times a week is essential to healthy weight gain. This will aid in gaining and maintaining lean muscle mass.
To continue gaining lean body mass, a person will need to vary and develop their workouts by increasing either the weight they lift or the number of reps or sets.
Compound movements are one way in which a person can build muscle effectively. These include weight lifts that involve multiple muscle groups, such as deadlifts, squats, and bench presses.
People who work out regularly must pay attention to their calorie intake to ensure that they are providing their body with sufficient fuel.
Eat enough protein
A diet with the right amount of protein will support muscle growth. In combination with regular weight training, consuming 0.8–2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight will increase a person’s muscle mass. This is essential to healthy weight gain.
Foods high in protein include eggs, meats, fish, nuts, and legumes.
Eat meals with fibrous carbohydrates and healthful fats
Including foods rich in fibrous carbohydrates and healthful fats in every meal will help to increase the number of both calories and nutrients in the diet.
These foods provide an essential energy source to maintain a regular exercise regime, and to support muscle growth. People should use whole-food sources of carbohydrates, such as brown rice and beans, rather than refined and processed sources.
Distinguishing between healthful and unhealthful fats is vital. Healthful fats are generally monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, which occur in foods such as nuts, avocado, vegetable oils, and fish.
Unhealthful fats include saturated fats and trans fats. A healthful diet should limit saturated fats and avoid added trans fats. These types of fats are found in fried and baked foods as well as in fatty meats such as beef, pork, and lamb.
Drink high-calorie smoothies or shakes
People with a small appetite may find a high-calorie shake or smoothie more appealing than a large meal. These provide nutrient-dense calories without making a person feel overly full.
Suitable smoothies can include the following ingredients:
- nut butter
- greens, such as spinach
Seek help where needed
Health and fitness professionals provide motivation and useful advice for developing diet and exercise plans to support healthy weight gain.
Similarly, a registered dietitian will be able to provide meal plans to increase calorie intake. Also, they can help to ensure that a person is gaining weight safely.