Not everyone’s goal is to lose weight—some people may want to increase their weight. Whether you are underweight or want to gain muscle, there are ways to do this in a healthy way.
So, we talked to Jenelle Croatto, accredited practicing dietitian from Feed Inc., to break down the dos and don’ts to consider as you try to gain healthy weight.
If you’re looking to gain muscle, make sure you check out Aaptiv’s strength training workouts in app now.
Don’t go right for junk food.
Unfortunately, gaining weight isn’t an excuse to indulge in all your favorite junk and processed foods. Croatto explains, “While this is an easy way to boost your energy intake, it’s important to provide your body with the right nutrition to support healthy weight gain. In doing so, you can achieve your goal feeling nourished and energized, rather than sluggish.”
This is especially important for building muscle as well. While gaining weight will mean that you’ll inevitably put on body fat, you can try to pack on as much muscle as possible as well.
By minimizing the amount of fat you put on, you can still maintain a reasonable muscle to fat ratio, which is what you want. Anyone will gain weight on a diet of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods. The key word here is healthy weight gain.
Focus on healthy, whole foods.
Now that we know what to avoid, here are some of the best foods that you should be packing on your plate.
This is the perfect time to eat your carbs! But you have to be smart about it. This means focusing on complex carbs. Croatto suggests, “sweet potato, quinoa, wholegrain bread, brown rice, and oats”. This will allow you to gain healthy weight “without wreaking havoc on blood glucose levels.”
Adding healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts help in achieving healthy weight gain. Croatto calls them, “‘energy boosters’, as they are an easy way to bump up the calories without needing to increase the volume.”
Use peanut or almond butter as spreads or snack on trail mixes with nuts and dried fruit. Even using olive oil in your cooking is a simple and easy way to sneak in some extra healthy fats.
If you love your cheese, yogurt, and milk, then you’re going to enjoy this. Adding more dairy foods to your diet is an easy (and yummy) way of increasing your weight in a healthy way. As Croatto says, they are “rich in protein and bone strengthening calcium.”
They’re versatile, too, so you can make them however you like—scramble, fry, poach, or even make a delicious omelette.
Just like with carbs, though, you need to be smart about it. Croatto suggests sourcing your protein from lean meats as opposed to processed ones like bacon and fatty sausages.
Legumes, Lentils, and Tofu
Don’t eat meat? Then supercharge your diet with these plant protein sources! Legumes, lentils, and tofu are great alternatives that can boost your carbohydrate levels, too, which aids in healthy weight gain.
Gradually increase your food intake.
If you’re used to smaller meals, then it may be hard to increase your food intake. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to gradually eat more to help you gain healthy weight.
To start, try eating more frequently. Rather than eating all your food in one go and falling into a food coma, increase your meal frequency. To fit more in, Croatto says, “Aim to eat three balanced meals and two to three healthy snacks each day.”
There’s nothing wrong with the slow and steady approach. If you are really struggling to eat more food, then slowly increase your intake over a few weeks.
She also recommends keeping your food and fluids separate. “Filling up on liquids can displace your appetite,” explains Croatto. “Nourishing fluids can be a simple way to increase your energy and protein intake, without needing to eat more food.”
This means choosing nutritional supplements, smoothies, and milkshakes over the usual choice of water, tea, or coffee. Croatto adds, “You can even try high energy milk (1 scoop milk powder into 1 cup of milk) and use this in place of regular milk.”
Fill your plate with protein-rich, calorie-dense foods as well, such as the meat, dairy, eggs, and tofu. By upping your protein intake, you encourage muscle growth – this will help too. This way, you can, as Croatto puts in, “Maximize bang for your buck.”
Don’t forget training.
While your diet plays a big role in healthy weight gain, so does training. Add in strength training, as this will really boost muscle growth. Remember, you want to put on muscle, not just fat, so make sure you don’t skip this!
“If you are really struggling to gain weight, it’s best to seek the advice of your doctor to rule out any medical concerns,” Croatto says.
They can help pinpoint any issues, and steer you on the right path. Check out our BMI calculator if you’re unsure where to start or take any of our newest workouts we’ve just added to the Aaptiv app.