It seems as though the media is always trying to advertise ways to lose weight through fad diets or supplements, but what about those of us looking to gain weight? I was a gymnast most of my childhood until about when I left for college. I was always “skinny” but had a high muscle mass which I needed for my sport. After I quit gymnastics I lost a fair amount of weight because my muscle mass decreased significantly. I know I could make a few more trips to fast food restaurants a week to gain a few pounds but I want to know the most healthy way to gain weight. The American Dietetic Association website has an entire page dedicated to the public about how to gain weight healthily.
First of all, it should be known that not everyone is trying to lose weight! There are several reasons for an individual to want to gain weight including: having a serious illness or lengthly hospitalization, being very thin and wanting to look and feel better, being an athlete who wants to build strength and muscle to perform better, being older and unintentionally losing weight. Those trying to gain weight should understand that gaining weight can be just as challenging as losing weight. This process must be done in a healthful way!
When trying to gain muscle or bone mass without adding extra fat, one should be realist about his or her body type. Remember than genetics play a significant role in your physical build and shape. Keep in mind that the human body can change only a limited amount through food intake and weight training. For example, it’s impossible to turn a runner’s body into the body of a linebacker. Those attempting to regain weight after an illness or surgery generally have a much easier time than those trying to gain weight who are naturally thin.
Many products have advertisement claims promising fast and easy weight gain (just like products for weight loss.) Keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid supplements and save your money for nutrient dense foods!
The key to healthy weight gain is to make the calories you consume as nutrient dense as possible. Soda, candy, and chips are examples of empty-calorie foods which will not help you healthfully gain weight. After surgery, you body needs to build muscle, strengthen bones, and repair tissue. For efficient weight gain, focus on attaining nutrient power from all of the food groups.
For those with a small appetite, try eating five or six times a day. Remember to drink fluids before and after meals, but NOT with them. This strategy leaves more room for food in your stomach. Add calorie rich toppings to your usual foods such as peanut butter on a whole-grain muffin or grated cheese on a bowl of chili. If you love oatmeal, prepare it with whole milk instead of skim milk or water. Try garnishing your salad with heavy oils such as olive oil, whole olives, avocados, nuts and sunflower seeds.
Lastly, make an appointment with a registered dietitian who can help you create an eating plan that is right for you and will help you gain weight healthfully while still incorporating the foods you love.