Healthy Ways to Gain Weight if You Are Underweight

Being overweight is a far more common issue than being underweight. This is the reason why the “battle of the bulge” is a huge concern for so many people. There are constant discussions on how we can lose weight. While maintaining a healthy weight and shedding those extra pounds is a good thing, being underweight can cause health problems as well. In fact, being underweight can lead to serious health complications like a weakened immune system or fragile bones.
Typically, anyone who has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5 or lower is considered underweight. You can determine whether you are underweight by using an online Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator. Your doctor will also be able to tell you if you have the right weight based on your height, weight, daily diet, and activity level.
Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, BMI

The reasons why people look to gain weight

According to a study, underweight people are at an increased risk of early death. Another study suggests that being underweight also gives rise to the risk of infertility and causes osteoporosis, fractures, and infections. Thus, gaining weight in healthy ways is just as important as losing excess weight. 
Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, skinny woman
While some people are naturally skinny, many different factors can contribute to being underweight as well, such as:
* Genetics
* Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes
* Not eating enough 
* Recovering from a serious illness
* Sudden weight loss due to an underlying health issue 
* Eating disorders like anorexia may lead to extreme weight loss
* Malarial or parasitic infections, diarrhea, tuberculosis, etc. can cause unhealthy loss of weight
* Medicines that cause nausea and vomiting, including chemotherapy
* Stress can lead to lack of sleep, loss of appetite, and it may disrupt the metabolism.

Weight Gain Tips

If you need to gain weight, you have to be mindful of a few things. If you feel you’ve suddenly lost a considerable amount of weight without even trying, then it’s best to first consult a doctor to figure out if there’s an underlying health issue you must address. However, if you are looking to put on some pounds after recovering from an illness or just because you have been too lanky for a long time, you need to follow a balanced approach.
The first and the most obvious strategy to improve weight is to eat more calories than your body can burn. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can begin eating junk food. Yes, doing so will increase your weight, but the excess fat, sugar, and salt in junk foods can harm your body and result in the accumulation of unhealthy fat. 
Taking a slower approach is significantly more beneficial. This means gradually increasing your calorie intake while also focusing on a few other things.
For a healthy weight gain, the following tips can help:

1. Weight training

Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, Weight training
While too much aerobic exercise will burn calories and work against your weight goal, strength or weight training can help you build muscle mass, thereby increasing your weight. Weight training at least three times a week is beneficial in gaining and maintaining lean muscle mass. Studies suggest that including resistance training in your routine would be a great start, as it can guide the additional calories and nutrients you consume toward muscle gains.
Try and follow a well-balanced training program that includes at least 30 minutes of resistance training three days a week, as well as strength training workouts for your back, chest, shoulders, arms, hips, legs, and calves. Make sure you are dedicating sufficient time to lifts, squats, and bench presses.
For more tips, read our article on Strength Building Exercises.

2. Add healthy calories

Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, healthy calories

As we discussed above, you will need to eat more calories than your body can burn if you want to gain weight. But you don’t need to drastically change your diet. In general, a weight gain of about half to one pound (0.2 to 0.4 kg) a week is considered safe.

You should look to add energy-dense foods to your diet, as they cram in a lot of calories in proportion to their volume and will help you increase your calorie intake without making you feel too full.

Some examples of energy-dense foods include:

- Dried fruit

- Nutrient-dense bars

- Nuts and nut butters

- Dark chocolate

- Canned salmon, avocado, and crackers

- Bean-based snacks

- Whole eggs

- Seeds, such as pumpkin and flax seeds.

3. Choose high-calorie fruits and vegetables

Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, high-calorie fruits and vegetables
Eating a well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetable is important to everyone’s health. When you’re trying to increase your weight, including fruits and veggies will help.
Some examples include:
* Bananas (calories: 105)
* Avocados (calories per half a medium-sized fruit: 161)
* Dates (calories per one fruit: 66.5)
* Raisins (calories in 1/4 cup: 120)
* Black beans (calories in 1/2 cup: 220)
* Dried apricots (calories per 28-grams: 67)
* Grapes (calories in 1 cup: 104).

4. Eat enough protein

Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, protein FOODS
This is the most important step in your weight-gain program. A diet with a sufficient amount of protein will support muscle growth and will aid in building weight.
Research has shown that consuming 0.7–1.0 grams of protein per pound (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) of body weight will promote healthy muscle gain when coupled with resistance training. Doing this will ensure that those extra calories go toward building muscle and not fat. 
For a high-protein diet, you can include foods such as:
- Whole eggs (one large egg has 6 g of protein)
- Almonds (7 grams of protein per 1/4-cup serving)
- Chicken breast (one roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 g of protein) 
- Oats (one cup has 11 g of protein) 
- Cottage cheese (a 100 g serving of low fat cottage cheese contains 10 g of protein)
- Greek yogurt (a 100 g serving contains 10 g of protein)
- Milk (1 cup contains 8 g of protein)
- Lean beef (a 100 g serving contains 26 g of protein)
- Tuna (1 can contains 27 g of protein).
For more information, you can check our article on 14 Sources of Protein Clean from Chemicals.

5. Drink high-calorie smoothies and shakes

Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully,  smoothies and shakes
Drinking beverages like high-calorie smoothies or shakes can help add calories to your daily diet. More importantly, they provide nutrient-dense calories to effectively boost your calorie intake without making you feel full.
Some examples of high-calorie beverages include:
* Smoothies with peanut butter, chia seeds, fruit, yogurt, and whole milk
* Fruit smoothies made with yogurt or protein powder
* Weight gain powders and drinks
* 100% fruit juices
* Unsweetened protein powder added to drinks, oatmeal, or yogurt
* Whole milk.
Try and avoid beverages with excessive added sugars, as they can increase the risk of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Important things to keep in mind on your road to weight gain: 

Tips to Gain Weight Healthfully, weighing scale
The key thing to remember here is that your weight gain should happen healthily and safely. So while you can follow the strategies we have mentioned above, keep these precautions in mind when trying to build your weight.
* Don’t stop cardiovascular exercises, as they are vital for maintaining a healthy heart, lungs, and brain.
* Do not exclude vegetables from your diet for the sake of weight gain because they are an essential source of vitamins and minerals for your body.
* Make sure you consume a good amount of fiber. Many high-calorie foods are great for gaining weight, but they are low in fiber. So keep having fruits, vegetables, and whole grains daily to keep your fiber intake in check.
* Don’t go overboard on protein, as you might end up feeling too full and may not have room left to eat other important foods that boost weight gain, like carbs and fats.
* Safe weight gain requires patience and determination. So don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results.
Remember that everyone’s body and metabolism are different. If your metabolism is "high" (or fast), you will burn more calories at rest, which can make gaining weight difficult. Ideally, your target should be to gain weight gradually over a period of at least 6 months.
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