Dietitian-approved tips for healthy weight gain
- 3 Minutes Read
If the loss of weight due to illness or stress has you looking for tips for healthy weight gain, you are not alone. A surprising number of people have experienced unintentional weight loss at some point in their life. If you want to get the weight back and meet your goals without resorting to protein shakes meal after meal, read on for ways to gain through healthy choices.
To fuel your body, you need calories. To gain weight, you must eat and drink more calories or fuel than you burn. Under-eating calories from carbs and fat while loading up on protein to build muscles won't work. The best way to ensure you get enough calories each day to promote muscle is to eat consistently. Try dividing your meals and snacks equally throughout the day, and strive to eat three meals and three snacks every day.
Tip: To figure out how many calories/day you need to eat to gain weight, sign-up for MyNetDiary.
If planning to eat 3,000 calories a day, you should eat roughly 1,000 before noon. For example, strive for 700-calorie meals and 300-calorie snacks. To keep your energy up and aid digestion, break up your calories over the day instead of eating a gigantic dinner and snacking until bedtime. Many people find that if they eat something every two to three hours, they can meet their daily calorie goals. Don't be surprised if you end up feeling like you are eating all the time. Gaining weight is not easy, and it takes a lot of effort and energy!
Using even the best tips, some people find adding calories to meals a real challenge, especially when working on healthy weight gain once lost during an illness. Instead of trying to consume huge portions, add calories in sneaky, invisible ways.
To build muscle, you'll want to make sure you meet your protein needs. The acceptable range of daily protein intake falls between 10-35% of calories. If you track using MyNetDiary, the default recommendation for protein is 20% of total calories. Premium membership allows you to customize this and other macro targets.
More protein doesn't automatically translate to bigger muscles. This is a common misconception promoted by the protein supplement industry. Unfortunately, muscles don't automatically expand in response to high-protein intake. They grow in response to increased use. Working out with weights or resistance exercise will push muscles to grow. Whether you are a young athlete or a 70-year-old recovering from an illness, physical activity is an essential part of muscle weight gain. Avoid eating massive amounts of protein at one meal. A giant portion of meat at dinner might cover your entire day's protein requirement. However, that excessive protein at any one meal will be wasted for muscle building. The best strategy is to spread protein intake throughout the day, divided between meals and snacks.
Strength training is the best activity for building muscle and gaining weight. You can see gains in muscle strength with several short training sessions each week. For example, two to three 20- or 30-minute sessions/week have been shown to produce results.
You can strength-train from the comfort of your own home with a few pieces of equipment. Here's how to get started building a home gym.
Other resistance exercises that use your own bodyweight also contribute to effective strength training, including push-ups, sit-ups, and planks. Here are some at-home resources to get you started: low-impact videos for strength training, strengthen your core with Pilates.
In addition to initially entering your weight goal under "My Plan," you can also add a weekly expected Exercise Plan. By mapping out your activity in the app, you boost your daily food calories target. This step prevents "low balling" your estimated total energy expenditure at the end of the day.
To find this feature go to the "Coach" tab and select "My Plan." Next, scroll across to the section called "Exercise Plan." Now enter in the activity, duration, and frequency of your workouts.
After logging your food and exercise at the end of each day, be sure to check the Daily Analysis, which tells you if you are on target to reach your goal by the date you had planned.
Healthy weight gain comes down to these main tips: consistent higher-calorie intake; fueling up with healthy proteins, carbs, and fats throughout the day; and strength training. It can take days for your metabolism to adjust to the higher-calorie load, so don't expect to see results right away. If you've been working hard to put on the pounds and haven't made progress, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any medical issues that may affect your ability to gain weight.
Adapted from original content by Donna Feldman, MS, RDN
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