In my previous post, I wrote about ” 6 foods to avoid if you are trying to lose weight”. The next post I was going to do was on foods that encourage weight loss, but due to popular request, I’m going to first do one on healthy weight gain. After my previous post, I had a lot of people asking what they can do to gain some weight in a healthy manner, apparently, the struggle is just as real in trying to gain weight as it is in trying to lose it.
But why do some people find it difficult to gain weight….?
The fact that some people actually struggle to gain weight, or even want to, may sound implausible to those who are constantly trying to lose weight. But naturally skinny people have had this problem all their lives. Some can actually swear that they can never seem to put on any weight no matter how much they eat. There are reasons for this, sometimes skinny people overestimate what they eat, it could also be due to body type or a health condition. In this post, I’m going to talk about 4 steps you should go through to gain some healthy weight. So lets get to it!
STEP 1: Know your body type.
This is the first thing you need to establish. There are basically three body types. Ectomorphs, Mesomorphs and Endomorphs.
- Ectomorphs are the naturally skinny people who struggle to add on weight, be it in the form of fat or muscle. This is mostly due to their overly fast metabolism ( the rate at which food is broken down and used by the body ). Ectomorphs tend to have long thin limbs, little body fat, little muscle and small joints. Female ectomorphs tend to have a more linear body.
- Endomorphs are people who naturally gain weight fast and find it difficult losing it. This is mostly because of their slow metabolism. They normally have short and thick limbs, strong and heavy muscle mass, soft and round bodies.
- Mesomorphs have bodies that are in between those of endomorphs and ectomorphs. They have average metabolism and tend to look fit and muscular, with wide shoulders and narrow hips. They gain and lose weight with relative ease.
If you’ve been trying to gain weight but your efforts have proved futile, there’s a high probability you’re an ectomorph. You can also check your body type here.
STEP 2: Eat Enough and Consistently!
This seems to be the most obvious reason but it’s not so simple. It’s true that most skinny people trying to gain weight just do not eat enough, but it’s not just about the quantity of food you’re eating, but the nutrients and calories you’re consuming. A calorie is a unit of energy, and there are two ways we track calories;
- How much you consume, that is, how much energy you take in
- How much you expend, that is, how much energy you burn (during exercise, daily activities)
So basically, when you consume more calories than your body burns, the excess is stored as fat. So you need to know how much calories you have to consume in other to create a surplus. But before then, you need to know your Basal Metabolic Rate ( BMR ). This is the minimum amount of energy your body needs to keep functioning, this does not include the energy expended during exercise or your daily activities. You can calculate your BMR here. After getting your BMR, you still need to perform an extra step of calculation to get a customized BMR based on your level of activity:
- If you lead a sedentary lifestyle (little or no exercise) : BMR×1.2
- If you exercise 3-5 days a week: BMR×1.375
- If you exercise 6-7 days a week: BMR×1.725
After doing this, you now have the amount of calories your body needs daily to maintain your weight. If you want to gain weight healthily, you increase your caloric intake by 15%.
Lets take an example; if you want to gain 1lb per week, you will need to consume 500 calories in excess to your daily caloric needs. If you do this, you would have consumed 3500 excess calories in a week, which makes up 1 pound.
But where should all these calories come from?? Lets get to the next step
STEP 3: Eat the right kinds of foods!
Now that we’ve established how many calories you should be consuming in other to gain weight healthily, lets get to what you actually need to eat to give you these calories. The calories you consume should be equally rich in nutrients, or you risk ending just becoming fat. Here are some calorie rich foods you can incorporate into your diet;
- Olive oil (130 calories per tablespoon)
- Raisins (250 calories per half cup)
- Dark chocolate (500 calories for half a bar)
- Whole milk (100 calories per cup)
- Peanut butter (190 calories for two tablespoons)
- Avocados (230 calories for a full avocado)
In addition to this, you need some high quality protein, you need about 0.75g per pound of your body weight. So for example, a 140lb person will need 105g of protein. Other foods that are high in nutrition which you can incorporate into your diet include;
- Brown rice
- Oily fishes (Salmon, Tuna, Sardine)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Seeds and Nuts (Walnuts, Almonds, Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
STEP 4: Train!
You’ll notice I’ve been mentioning ”healthy” weight quite frequently throughout this post. The reason is that, it would somehow be unreasonable if you end up gaining just fat and bringing upon yourself other health complications. But what does it mean to gain weight healthily? This is what Dr. Nadolsky, an osteopathic physician had to say
One can put on weight in a healthy manner if the weight is lean mass. Body fat percentage is a much better indicator than BMI when it comes to predicting health outcomes. It’s also important to keep waist circumference low, since that’s a surrogate for visceral fat which puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.
To gain weight healthily, you should be gaining more lean muscle than fat. That’s why I didn’t say just exercise. The body is naturally lazy and always trying to be in homeostasis. So your body is not looking to gain weight and if left to itself, it will expend the least amount of energy possible. So if you’re aim is to gain weight healthily, you have to train your body to do so.
Aerobic exercises are great for burning calories and building a strong cardiovascular system. But intentional additional burning of calories is not what we’re looking for when trying to gain weight. When it comes to building muscles, you have to do resistance training with progressive overload in order to break down the muscle fibres and and build up stronger and bigger ones. What this simply means is that, you have to be increasing the weight, reps and volume of your routines as you keep training. This will induce muscle hyperthrophy, the growth and increase in skeletal muscle cells, leading to bigger and stronger muscles.
You don’t necessarily have to go the gym to do this, there are home workouts that are as effective as gym workouts once you put in the hard work and dedication.
And if you’re a female, yes, this goes for you too, you shouldn’t be scared to become muscular, especially if you’re an ectomorph. There are exercises designed for you to gain weight in the right places and transform that linear body.
So these are basically the four things you should do if you’re trying to gain some healthy weight. It looks like a lot of work, yes, it sort of is, but no good thing comes easy. You can just as easily stuff yourself full with junk food and probably be able to gain some fat, whiles running the risk of all the health complications that would follow later. But if you want to pack on some healthy mass and keep it on, you have to be ready to work for it, especially when your body type and metabolism are doing all they can to keep you skinny. And if you’re a female, don’t let the training bit scare you off, it’s a necessary part of the process. So know your body type, eat enough and consistently, eat right, train and watch your body transform! But remember that everybody is different, if this is still not working for you, there might be an underlying medical condition, you should see your doctor.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. I would love to have your feedback too, let me know what you think about the post. Also share via the buttons below to create the awareness.