Recently one of my readers emailed and said,
“This maybe sounds weird because you always teach us how to lose weight, so do others, but how can I gain weight? I’m a 178cm tall guy, but I only weigh 55kg.”
Far from being weird, this is a really great question.
I do deal quite a bit with how to lose weight on this blog. But, gaining weight can also be a major problem for some. The issue for most is knowing exactly how to gain weight safely.
Do I need to gain weight?
If you’re wondering whether you need to gain weight, check out my BMI calculator. Simply enter your height and weight, and this nifty little tool will do the rest! :-)
So, do you find yourself needing to gain a little weight, like my reader? Here are 5 tips to gain weight safely…
1. Set a realistic goal weight
Setting a realistic target weight is just as important when you’re trying to gain weight, as it is when you want to lose weight.
You also need to remember that increasing your weight gradually is the safest way to do so–around 1 kg (2 lbs) per month would be a good goal.
2. Record what you eat
It may also be helpful to keep a log of what you are eating, and also how much physical activity you take.
This will give you a better idea of any adjustments you need to make.
3. Stick to healthy foods
Despite the fact you are trying to gain weight, unfortunately it isn’t a license to eat unhealthily!
Make sure your meals are well balanced by focusing on the five main food groups…
- Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and potatoes should make up about one third of your diet.
- You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (aim for at least 5 per day).
- About one fifth of what you eat should be foods like meat, fish, eggs, beans or nuts.
- Try to eat 3 portions of dairy foods each day.
- And, fatty or sugary foods should make up the smallest part of your diet.
To find out more about what a healthy balanced diet looks like, check out my balanced nutrition series.
4. Add extra calories
To increase your weight you obviously need to add extra calories.
An extra 350 calories each day from healthy foods and drinks will be helpful.
Try to keep healthy snacks with you throughout the day, to make sure you are eating regularly. A few good examples include:
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Milk, yoghurt and soy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Rice pudding and custard
- Cheese and wholegrain crackers
Also, do remember it’s okay to have an indulgent treat now and again! Here are some dessert ideas.
5. Eat regularly
When you’re trying to gain weight, eating regularly is absolutely essential.
If you find this difficult, I suggest menu planning so that you know exactly what you will eat at each meal and snack throughout the day, and you’ll be less likely to skip meals.
Here are some suggestions for adding extra calories to your daily menu:
- Have an extra slice of toast for breakfast.
- Snack on nuts and seeds, sprinkle nuts or seeds into yogurt, cereal, oatmeal and stir fries.
- Have a bowl of vegetable soup with your sandwich at lunch.
- Drink 100% pure fruit juice at dinner rather than water.
- Serve an extra spoon of mashed potato, wholemeal rice or wholemeal pasta at dinner.
- Add peas, beans or lentils to meals such as curries, casseroles and soups.
- Finish your evening meal with some fresh fruit and natural yoghurt.
- Use fortified milk in hot drinks and soups.
- Limit low-calorie beverages, such as diet drinks, and replace with milk, smoothies or juice.
Are supplements required?
You shouldn’t need to take food supplements if you are eating healthily while increasing your calorie intake.
If you think you would like to try taking supplements, speak with your doctor or dietitian, who can explain the various options available to you.
Don’t forget to exercise
You may have been afraid to exercise in case it led to increased weight loss.
But, regular exercise plays a key part in helping you gain weight in a healthy way, and it’s really important for maintaining strong bones and muscle tone.
Just remember to maintain your increased food intake, with enough extra calories so you continue to gain weight gradually.
Walking would be an excellent choice of physical activity (aim for 30 minutes, five days a week). Resistance training, using weights, may also be a good choice to help you build muscle strength.
If you’re concerned about being underweight, do make an appointment to see your doctor, who can check for underlying conditions which may be preventing you from gaining weight.