Is there such a thing as healthy weight gain? On the surface, it sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? After all, if we gain weight, we immediately feel lazier and less ambitious and we are more prone to disastrous health results…
Or are we?
Even though it may sound strange to some people, there are several reasons that a patient may want to increase their weight such as:
- Bodybuilders trying increase muscle mass
- Athletes seeking to improve sports performance
- Patients counteracting underweight symptoms. For reference, low body weight can cause complications such as:
According to expert nutritionist Lisa Richards, healthy weight gain is possible with the right diet and lifestyle practices. Richards is the creator of The Candida Diet, which is designed to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. With Richards’ help and insight, in this article we’re going to get to the bottom of this subject, covering what we think is the best way to gain weight, what to eat in order to accomplish this and vitamins to gain weight.
How to Gain Healthy Weight
We often assume that a trim and lean body equals perfect health, but there are cases in which a low body weight may be a concern, especially with factors like poor nutrition, pregnancy, etc. It may be necessary to gain weight for health reasons or it may be a personal choice to build muscle or strength.
Regardless, it’s important to gain weight in a way that doesn’t damage overall health with a balance of healthy dietary and lifestyle practices. Patients trying to gain weight may want to prioritize balancing muscle mass and subcutaneous (i.e. healthy) fat instead of visceral (unhealthy, artery-clogging) fat.
It is also important to see a doctor or dietician for an evaluation to develop a plan to meet your target weight. Now that we’ve laid out some of the factors involved in healthy weight gain, let’s take a closer look at specific approaches to diet and lifestyle.
Dietary Tips: What to Eat to Gain Weight
Tip #1: Consume More Calories Than You Burn
Richards says, “In the same way it is healthy/sustainable to lose weight between 1-2 pounds a week at a 500 calorie a day deficit, [patients can gain] weight… doing the reverse.”
The general rule to gaining healthy weight is that you must consume more calories than you burn. You can use a calorie counter to figure out how many calories your body needs, but the bottom line is simple—typically if you consume more calories than you burn it can equal weight gain (x).
Lisa continues, “By consuming around 500 more calories than [you burn] each day you should be able to gain… around 1-2 pounds a week.”
Tip #2: Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Another possible step toward healthy weight gain efforts is eating more frequently. You may want to aim to eat at least three meals per day and opt for more frequent smaller meals rather than fewer larger meals. Make sure you include some good snacks in your daily diet like yogurt with fruit, peanut butter with crackers and trail mix. Snacking throughout the day may help boost energy, too.
Richards also says that “eating every 2 to 3 hours will help you gain weight.” However, she doesn’t advise as much emphasis on timing, which “isn’t as important as calories and quality.”
Tip #3: Eat Nutrient- and Energy-Dense Foods
Perhaps the most important factor in gaining weight healthily is being selective in the types of food that you eat. We all know that there are plenty of foods that will cause weight gain.
Richards confirms, “Unfortunately, weight gain is easier than weight loss simply due to easy access to high calorie convenience foods. However, these foods do not lead to healthy weight gain.”
Instead, patients should prioritize foods rich in nutrients at the top of their weight gain meal plan roster, including the following macronutrients:
- Carbohydrates – Rice, whole-grain breads and other starches like potatoes, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, beans, squash, oats and legumes are good sources of healthy carbs.
- Healthy Fats – Turn to foods like dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, fatty fish, cheese and chia seeds for healthy fats.
- Protein – Animal-based proteins include chicken, eggs and yogurt and vegetarian protein sources include avocados, nuts and oatmeal.
Richards also advises these types of foods for “healthy weight gain without excess saturated fat or inflammatory ingredients.”
Exercise and Lifestyle Tips: How to Gain Weight & Muscle
Tip #4: Heavy Weight Lifting to Build Muscle
Typically, strength training leads to greater muscle mass over aerobic or cardio exercise like jogging, which tends to burn more calories. Of course you can still hit the treadmill, but research generally encourages cardio in moderation if your goal is to gain weight.
A Copenhagen City Heart study analyzed the ideal amount of cardio exercise that a sample size of runners needed to improve their health. The study suggests that light jogging a few times a week may be more beneficial than vigorous running (x).
Here is a simple equation we like to suggest: weight training + muscle building/cardio = calorie burning
Tip #5: Get Enough Sleep
Whether you realize it or not, inadequate sleep can interfere with your body’s ability to recover after exercise and can even affect the body’s ability to build muscle strength. There are a lot of specific scientific mechanisms involved, but this is how the process works in a nutshell.
During sleep, your body produces its own muscle-building hormones including human growth hormone (HGH). During NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, blood flow to the muscles increases and the body works to grow and repair tissue (x). In addition to muscle strength, research also suggests that good quality sleep can also improve muscle coordination.
The bottom line is that sleep is vital to cement muscle recall, a relationship that researchers call the “exercise-sleep connection.” But it also works both ways. Exercise can also help you get a better night’s rest, which naturally supports and reinforces the process (x).
Tip #6: Be Patient & Consistent
In the same way that it may be difficult to lose weight, gaining weight can also present difficult obstacles to overcome. But when you approach it correctly and stay consistent, the body can adapt. Just like any dietary or lifestyle change, it takes time and patience. So stick with it and don’t give up!
Tip #7: Try Protein and Weight Gain Supplements
Athletes and bodybuilders may often look to protein and weight gain supplements, especially to support strength training. Some supplements may boost recovery or help you bring more intensity to your workouts, while others may simply help you absorb enough calories to keep the muscles growing.
Lisa Richards also states that in addition to “whole, single-ingredient … and energy-dense foods,” people can add “protein shakes [and] smoothies with supplements” to their diets to gain weight.
According to Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., supplement powders and drinks are valuable for their convenience and that’s how you should use them. Research studies state that they may be able to help patients gain weight in combination with strength training to build lean muscle mass (x).
Examples of supplements to add to smoothies or protein shakes for weight gain include:
Where to Buy Supplements to Gain Weight Safely
Are you interested in trying these supplements to support muscle building and weight gain? You can purchase a wide variety of supplements at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor for pure dietary supplements, including these safe and healthy weight gain supplements:
BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other brands that distribute food and other supplement products. Visit BulkSupplements.com to place an order today!
Although we tend to put more focus on weight loss, there are health benefits to gaining weight, such as maintaining a healthy pregnancy, building muscle or correcting low body weight. Regardless, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t damage your overall health. Making smart and conscious dietary and lifestyle choices—eating a balanced diet, lifting weights to build muscle and staying consistent—can help you achieve healthy weight gain. There are also supplements that may help support exercise recovery and muscle-building.
However, it’s important to consult a doctor or physician before you make any dietary changes or try any new supplements. In addition to these suggestions, with a doctor or nutritionist’s supervision you can come up with a personalized plan to gain weight in the healthiest way possible.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.