Some may scoff at the question of how to gain weight, since most people are trying to figure out how to lose it. I don’t shrug it off, though. It’s a topic I have a personal interest in, since I have struggled to gain weight.
A few years ago, I tried to add muscle onto my naturally thin frame, and it was one of the hardest things I’d ever attempted — really! There is a subset of folks out there who are all too familiar with this same struggle.
For me, gaining weight was more of a desire instead of a necessity. However, some folks actually need to gain some weight. Either they have dealt with an illness that caused them to lose weight, or they are underweight according to the Body Mass Index (BMI).
It was especially difficult for me to gain weight because I was trying to gain it the healthy way — by engaging in more strength training and eating clean foods. I was eventually able to pick up a little more than 20 pounds, so I will share with you how I was able to do it.
▪ Consciously eat more: Whether your goal is to gain or to lose, you have to be conscious about how you are eating. When those trying to lose weight actually pay attention to how they eat, they often discover they eat more than they realize. Similarly, those trying to gain weight often find they eat less than they think.
If you want to gain weight, you need to be eating significant portions at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and you need to be eating substantial snacks. I personally ate three meals a day, in addition to at least two snacks in between meals.
▪ Choose healthy, calorie-dense foods: It’s not hard at all to find unhealthy, calorie-heavy food. Just pay a visit to the nearest convenience store and you’ll find all manner of candy bars, pastries and sugary drinks. But don’t eat that stuff and catch yourself thinking you’ll sculpt out a healthy, more muscular body. If you put junk in your body, you should expect junk back from your body.
That said, choose real foods that are naturally high in good calories, such as potatoes, whole grain breads, dried fruits, nuts and nut butters.
▪ Making my own “weight gainer” smoothies: Drinking extra calories is usually easier than eating extra calories because they’re not as filling. If you visit your nearest supplement store, you’ll find powders called “weight gainers,” which mix with water or milk and allow you to get in an extra 1,000-2,000 calories per day.
But similar to junk food, they’re often filled with sugars, chemicals and fillers that are bad for you and will only make you fat. I concocted my own healthy smoothie, which consisted of bananas, frozen fruit, 100-percent orange juice, peanut butter and vanilla yogurt.
▪ Engage in strength training: If you’re trying to gain weight but you run 5 miles a day, it’s time to cut some of that out. Such training keeps your body from getting into an anabolic, or muscle-building, state.
Drop a few days of running and replace them with a basic strength training routine that includes major exercises like push-ups, squats, bench press, rows or pull-ups, and that allows you to do no more than about 10 repetitions. This will stimulate your muscles to grow.
If you’re intentional about eating enough, eating right and working your muscles, you will gain weight. So don’t give it up, would-be weight gainers!