Weight gain takes time and should be done in a healthy, safe way
Though most people worry about losing weight, being underweight can also pose health risks. But there is no good shortcut to gaining weight. Weight gain takes time and should be done in a healthy, safe way. Bingeing on junk food is not the answer.
Before deciding whether or not to gain weight, make sure it’s needed. If you are at a healthy weight for your height, you may not need to put on more pounds.
Gaining weight requires a combination of diet, exercise and, if you have underlying health conditions, medical treatment. You can increase your body weight by increasing muscle mass, fat deposits or accumulating body fluids.
It can take a few months to a year or longer to reach your ideal body weight depending on your present weight, metabolism and any underlying medical conditions.
What can cause you to become underweight?
Being underweight could be a result of poor nutrition, eating disorders, infections and other health conditions. Understanding what is causing you to be underweight is crucial to determining the best way to gain weight.
Common causes of being underweight may include:
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which accelerates metabolism and unintentional weight loss
- Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa
- Infections such as tuberculosis, typhoid or parasite infestation
- Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes
What are the risks of being underweight?
If you are underweight, you may have an increased risk of:
- Age-related muscle wasting
- Early death:
- Underweight men and women are at 140% and 100% increased risk of early death, respectively.
- Obese people are usually only at 50% increased risk of early death
How can you gain weight safely?
Before making lifestyle changes to gain weight, make sure you consult a doctor to rule out any health conditions. Your doctor may recommend that you:
- Eat more meals: You may increase the size and frequency of your meals to make sure you eat more calories than you burn. Try eating three balanced meals a day and at least two healthy snacks a day.
- Eat more protein: Protein helps build muscle mass. Rich sources of protein include soybean, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts or whey protein. Protein supplements are also available in the form of powders, which can be eaten in shakes or protein bars. However, avoid replacing full meals with protein supplements.
- Increase your intake of carbs and high-fat foods: Carbohydrate- and fat-rich foods, such as bananas, oats, quinoa, blueberries, sweet potatoes, cheese, dark chocolate, can help you gain weight.
- Consume energy-rich foods: Energy-dense foods, such as nuts (especially almonds, walnuts, peanuts), dried fruits (raisins or prunes), dark chocolate, high-fat dairy products (milk), vegetables (potatoes and yams), can fuel your body and promote weight gain.
- Get appropriate exercise: Exercises like weightlifting can help you build muscles instead of unhealthy fat. Increasing muscle mass can increase body weight, improve health and make you appear toned and fit. Limit cardio to 10-15 minutes, 3 times a week, since excessive cardio will only make you lose more weight. It’s a good idea to talk to a professional about an exercise routine that makes sense for you.
- Drink milk: Drinking at least one glass of full-fat milk a day can help you gain weight and reap the nutritional benefits of milk as well.
- Get adequate sleep: Sleep reduces stress and improves digestion, promoting an overall balanced metabolic process.
- Manage stress: Since stress can cause weight loss, try managing stress with the help of yoga, meditation or the help of a professional.
- Avoid smoking: Smoking affects your appetite as well as other essential body functions which can lead to unwanted weight loss.
If you have tried making changes to your diet and exercise regimen but are still unable to gain weight, talk to your doctor.