Your friends might express envy of your effortlessly thin figure, but you know that being too thin can be as dangerous to your health as being too heavy. If you need to gain weight, read on for some tips.
First, you can’t just turn all the dieting wisdom you’ve heard on its head. Just because your heavier friends have sworn off junk food, fast food, and extra dessert doesn’t mean you should strive to eat all those things in turn. Getting too many calories from sugars and fats (instead of proteins or complex carbohydrates) can cause a host of health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. So proceed with caution.
So what should you eat more of? While having a little more sugar and fat in your diet might be right for your specific meal plan—talk to your doctor to see if this is wise—it’s generally safe to eat more across the board, as long as you keep the foods in the proportions of a healthy diet. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends 3 ounces of whole grains a day, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends about 45 to 55 grams of protein a day. So if you up your daily grain intake to 4 ounces, or 25% more, you should be eating 25% more protein too, or 56 to 68 ounces.
Try snacking between meals if eating more at sit-down meals is difficult. A recent study from Dr. Maira Bes-Rastrollo at the University of Navarra in Spain showed that snacking between meals is significantly associated with weight gain. Healthy–but calorie-dense–foods like nuts and avocado are great to snack on in between meals. If you’re trying to put on muscle specifically, small doses of protein throughout the day are ideal, and should be coupled with strength training exercise to help convert that dietary protein into new muscle mass.
Try drinking your extra calories, if it’s hard to make yourself eat more at all. Home-made smoothies are a great source of the vitamins and nutrients in the yogurt, milk, juices, and fresh fruits they contain in a form that’s easy to eat. All you need is a blender or food processor and a willingness to experiment with the ingredients. Try adding a few tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to your smoothies for a few extra calories–as well as your daily dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Protein powder, which is often used by athletes and weight lifters who want to build muscle, can be added to your smoothies or other drinks. (It’s best to add to smoothies, though, because some brands don’t taste so great, and you’ll want something to cover the flavor.) Check drugstores or other places that sell nutritional supplements for a supply of weight gain powder, but be warned–it can be expensive, and some powders have more sugar and fat than others. Check bodybuilding websites, such as BodyBuilding.com, for detailed comparisons of brands.
A weight gain diet can be compatible with being healthy, as long as you’re careful about what habits you change. Eat more, but keep eating right. And though it does burn calories, don’t stop exercising. If putting on muscle is part of your goal, you’ll have to cultivate it to keep it!