I often get emails from people who are looking for advice on how to gain weight healthily. These emails come from both men and women, teenagers and older adults, all with different reasons and goals, from illness to performance.
The idea of gaining weight is pretty daunting for most people. There’s lots of tips and advice on how to lose weight, but there really isn’t much on how to gain weight. I want to share some tips to help you gain weight in the easiest way possible, without becoming overwhelmed by food or calories.
Protein is vital for building and repairing muscle tissue. When your body doesn’t get enough protein, it might break down muscle for the fuel it needs. This will slow down your ability to build muscle and can prolong your recovery from illness. Protein is also very important for a healthy immune system. Certain proteins, known as antibodies, help keep us healthy by defending against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
People who are unwell often require more protein to keep their strength up in order to fight infection. The best sources of protein include poultry, lean cuts of beef, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and lentils.
Drink your calories
Smoothies are a great way to fit in an extra calories, but also extra vitamins and minerals, protein and healthy fats! There are no rules when it comes to a smoothie, and really anything goes – so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Start by choosing a good base such as dairy milk or almond milk.
Then add a good source of protein such as yogurt, cottage cheese, or protein powder. Next add some healthy fats such as; 1/2 an avocado, a handful of nuts or seeds, or a tablespoon of peanut butter. To finish off your smoothie add some fresh or frozen fruit for flavour and extra nutrients. Blend it all up and add ice!
Eat little and often
In order to gain weight, it is essential that you increase your calorie intake but fitting all those extra calorie in three meals can be difficult and leave you feeling uncomfortable. Eating little and often spreads the calories out so you can get in enough calories without feeling discomfort. Aim for three meals a day with two or three snacks in between.
Choose foods which are nutrient dense, but also high in calories per serving such as; avocado, nuts, peanut butter, granola, and dates. Try to avoid snacking of processed food such as sweets, cakes, crisps and chocolate bars. Although these foods are high in calories, they’re low in nutrients.
Sneak in extra calories
If you’re still having trouble meeting your calorie targets or gaining weight, sneaking in some extra calories into your meals. Boost your meals with healthy fats such as coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, nuts and nut butters, hummus and guacamole.
Nut butters have about 90 calories per tablespoon and contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which not only provide you with lots of energy, but a diet high in monounsaturated fats can overall reduce your risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries), high blood pressure, and stroke.
Try some peanut butter as a topping for apple, banana or oatcakes as a quick healthy snack in between meals.
Let’s get moving
Most of us associate exercise with weight loss but it is also really important for people who are looking to gain or maintain their weight. Strength training, also called resistance training, is really important when trying to build muscle or gain strength.
This is a form of exercise which involves using your muscles to contract against a weight or force. The resistance used can be anything from dumb bell weights or simply your own bodyweight.
If you’re not keen to try out weight training there are many other ways to build up your strength and fitness. Activities such as brisk walking, hiking, swimming, and yoga are just a few ways we can stay active. If you are underweight, or unwell, it is important to speak to your GP before taking part in any form of exercise.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended for those who are undergoing recovery from an eating disorder. It is very difficult to go through the recovery process on your own without the help of a qualified doctor. The first port of call is always your GP. It is a huge step and an incredibly brave thing to take this first step. If you need or require further advice or simply want to speak to someone, BEAT helpline is a really safe place to call.