The words “weight gain” usually have a negative connotation, as it seems that everyone is trying to find ways to lose weight, shed pounds and burn fat. However, for some people, whether they are struggling with emotional, hormonal, physical or nutritional problems, weight gain is something they desperately need to stay healthy. Some people are naturally predisposed to being skinny, some people lose weight following injury or surgery and others may have underlying medical conditions that keep them underweight. Fortunately, there are many easy strategies and methods to gain weight in a healthy way.
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What is Weight Gain?
Quite simply, weight gain means that your caloric intake exceeds the number of calories that you are burning off each day. Weight gain can come in the form of liquids in the body, as well as fat deposition and muscle growth. When the intake and the consumption of calories remains relatively even, so too does your overall weight. When the body has extra fuel that it isn’t expending, it stores it as fat for later use. To put things in perspective, most experts agree that 3,500 calories represents approximately 1 pound of human fat tissue. As a basic example, if you consume 2,500 calories every day, but only expend 2,000 calories, which will be an excess of 500 calories per day. In one week, under stable conditions, you would gain one pound of fat tissue.
Muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, so if you are trying to gain healthy weight, it is best to increase your caloric intake and also couple it with exercise, so you can use those excess calories to build lean muscle.
For people who are underweight and want to increase their size, regardless of reason, keeping these basic concepts in mind is important if healthy weight gain is the ultimate goal.
How to Gain Weight Fast?
Some of the best ways to gain weight fast include eating more meals, lowering liquid intake, exercise and eating before bed.
Eat More Meals: If you eat more meals per day, and only shrink their size slightly, you are far more likely to exceed your typical calorie intake. This is more effective than increasing the size of your standard meals, as this will only make you feel full before your body has a chance to digest.
Exercise: Although exercise does burn calories and can help to lose weight, when done in combination with an excess of calories, the increase in muscle mass can help you gain lean muscle and healthy weight, rather than pure fat deposition.
Bedtime Snack: If you eat right before you go to bed, your body will be able to use those calories in the best way possible, namely repairing the body and building muscle mass. Your sleeping hours are the body’s busiest times behind the scenes, so having a high-protein or whole-wheat snack right before bed can be an excellent way to pack on some healthy pounds.
Lowering Liquid Intake: If you regularly drink a lot of juice, water, coffee, tea, smoothies or shakes, consider eliminating them if you want to gain weight. Most of those beverages are rather low in calories, but they can fill you up and satiate your hunger, which won’t help you gain weight.
Diet Tips to Gain Weight
Some of the best diet tips to gain weight include adding high-calorie foods, treating yourself to dessert, trying smoothies, eating more protein, tracking your calories and increasing “good” fat levels.
High-calorie Foods: Eating calorie-dense foods is basically eating “quality” versus “quantity” in your effort to gain weight. Foods like peanut butter, raisins, chia seeds, dates, guacamole, whole-wheat bread and ground beef are all calorie-rich foods that will help you gain weight fast.
Dessert: If you want to treat yourself, there is nothing wrong with having dessert, particularly if you are trying to gain weight. Healthy weight gain requires eating good foods, but adding in some extra ice cream or dark chocolate cake will also help you bulk up.
Smoothies: Instead of drinking water or basic juice, blend up vegetables and fruit, as you will not only get the benefit of their fiber and calories, but it is also less filling than eating those fruits and vegetables in their raw form.
Protein: More protein means more fuel for your body to build muscle and gain weight in a healthy way. Add protein-dense foods like eggs, almonds, cottage cheese, broccoli, chicken breast and milk to your diet if you want to add lean muscle weight.
Calorie-tracking: Simply saying you will eat more is one thing, but holding yourself accountable to a calorie goal is much more helpful. Set reasonable goals of calorie intake (2,500-3,000, for example), and then diligently write down your calories throughout the day. If you are short at the end of the day, you can easily have a late-night snack to push you over your goal.
What does Being Underweight Mean?
Being underweight means having a BMI of under 18.5, while a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. On the other side of the spectrum, being overweight means having a BMI of over 25.
To clarify, your BMI stands for your Body Mass Index, which is a calculation based on two simple factors – namely your height and weight. There are many other complicating factors in assessing a “healthy” weight, including blood pressure, triglyceride levels, waist circumference (abdominal fat), cholesterol balance, smoking habits and other elements, but BMI is generally accepted as a good measuring stick. You should speak with your doctor about more specific aspects of your personal health that may affect whether you are technically underweight.
Causes of Being Underweight
The most common causes for being underweight are hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cancer, anemia, bulimia, depression, medication, stress, excessive exercise, Celiac disease and various enzyme deficiencies.
Health Consequences of Being Underweight
Just as being overweight can results in a number of health issues, being underweight can be just as dangerous and more difficult to assess. When someone is clearly overweight or obese, the need for a health adjustment is more obvious, particularly based on societal standards. However, when someone is underweight or skinny, it is often immediately assumed that they are healthy, sexy or “in good shape”. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Some of the major consequences of being underweight include fragile bones, fertility issues, nutrient deficiencies, a weaken immune system, poor growth and development, hormonal imbalances and increased risk during surgery.
Underweight women often have irregularities in their periods and find it difficult to become pregnant; furthermore, the lack of nutrients in their own diet or body makes it difficult to support a growing fetus. Being underweight often causes hormonal imbalances that could even stop menstruation altogether.
If you’re underweight, there is a good chance that your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to function, which will lead to general weakness, cognitive malfunction, exhaustion, irregular periods, hair loss and other dangerous conditions.
Being underweight is linked to decreased immune function but many people believe it is due to the inherent link to nutrient deficiency, which compromises immune strength.
Growth and Development
When you are underweight, your body is struggling to find resources to function normally, let alone repair damage throughout the body and proceed with normal growth patterns.
Studies have found that underweight people are more likely to experience infection or slow healing rates, following a major procedure. Without enough excess nutrients to repair and rejuvenate those areas of the body, going under the knife could be considerably more dangerous.