How can I gain weight?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Having a weight gain plan of action is key. Here are some ways to gain weight healthfully.

  • Eat frequently. Don’t go longer than three hours without eating. If you go for too long without eating, you metabolically start to slow down. When you eat every couple of hours, you’ll eat more calories and help prevent your body from losing lean body mass.
  • Go for variety. Eat at least three different foods at every meal and snack. . Be sure to include at least three different foods when you’re eating. That way you’re getting different nutrients to build muscle with. 
  • Choose higher calorie foods. When we think high-calorie foods, most people think “fat,” Fat will have more than twice as many calories for the same amount of protein or carbs. Stick to unsaturated heart-healthy fats found mainly in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Drink 100 percent fruit juice and smoothies. Make a smoothie with 1 to 2 percent milk or low-fat yogurt and strawberries or bananas and peanut butter. Add a tablespoon or two of protein powder or a plain whey powder to increase up the calories and protein content. 
  • Sleep. Whether you’re aiming for weight loss or weight gain, it’s important to get adequate sleep. You’re body has to have time to rebuild muscle and store it in a healthy way versus just turning your food into fat. 
  • Eat more protein. You should eat 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight, which is equal to about 94 grams for 125 pounds. Have some protein source at every meal. Healthy foods that will help you gain weight and contain protein include low-fat dairy, lean meats, and nuts or seeds.
Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics

To gain weight you have to eat more calories than you burn. It requires about 3500 extra calories to gain one pound. This can be a challenge if you feel you are already eating plenty. Here are some tips to pack more calories into you day:

  • Snack on nuts in between meals and add them to salads, smoothies and pasta dishes.
  • Incorporate healthy fats like avocado, olive oil and nuts regularly.
  • Add a liquid supplement several times a day.
  • Add dry milk to mashed potatoes, smoothies and other foods to boost the calories.

Some people naturally have a faster burning metabolism and may have to be more diligent at eating regular meals to gain weight. In addition, some medical conditions and medications can interfere with your ability to gain weight as desired. These must be considered on an individual basis.

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
To gain weight you need to eat more calories than you burn so that the extra calories are deposited into your body tissues, with the majority going to lean body mass (LBM) such as muscles. For adults to accomplish proper weight gain, resistance training must be incorporated in order to give the body a reason to deposit the extra nutrition/calories into muscle as opposed to fat storage. Therefore, to avoid gaining excess body fat, the extra calories should be no more than the amount needed to build and sustain the increase in lean tissue.  With these conditions met, weight/muscle gain can occur at a rate of one pound every two weeks for males and ~1/2LB for females, and maybe more if you are new to weight training. The Sharecare Fitness application under the Coach tab has a weight gain program that is used by the best athletes in the world including the exercise routines. Simply log in and select weight gain as your goal, fill in your body statistics, including your goal weight, and follow the program’s instructions all the way to your goal. You will be prompted weekly/bi-weekly to input your new weight or measurement, and then you’ll be told exactly what to do to continue to progress.

Dietary support can be safely incorporated into an individualized program to complement proper training and food intake. For example, athletes may need convenient ways to increase calories and meals when whole food is not possible due to the necessity for extremely high calorie intakes, time constraints or availability. Furthermore, various safe compounds have been shown to enhance nutrient intake, performance, recovery and muscle building.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.