Weight Gain Tips
I've talked a lot over the years about weight loss, but not everyone has a problem with obesity. Weighing too little can be just as serious as weighing too much. A sudden drop in weight may be the result of cancer treatments, wasting syndrome or auto-immune disorders. For some, it's simply a case of carrying dieting too far. Dropping too much, too quickly can compromise your immune system, destroy muscle and weaken vital organs.
To figure out if you weigh less than what's healthy, check your BMI or body mass index. If you fall below 19, you're underweight and may need to start gaining. A normal BMI is between 19 and 25.
Putting on healthy weight can be just as tough as taking fat off. You could simply eat more junk food, but where you get those extra calories matters. Eating mostly fat can put a strain on your heart, excess sweets can wreak havoc with blood sugar and too much salty fare can spike blood pressure. To gain weight you need to eat more, but your choices should remain healthy ones. Here's how to do it.
Do the math. To put on a pound a week, you need to eat 500 more calories a day than you burn off. Track your calories for seven days and see how much your eating. If you're weight is stable and you're only eating 1,200 calories a day, you'll have to increase that to 1,700 a day to start gaining.
Keep your meals balanced, but eat more of them. Most of the calories for weight gain tend to come from carbohydrates and fats. But if you don't eat enough protein, your body won't have the nutrients it needs to build muscle. That means eat plenty of lean meats, beans, egg whites, low-fat dairy, tofu and nuts along with everything else on your menu.
Drink your calories. Our bodies don't register fluid and "full" the same way they react to solids. People experiencing problems like nausea may also find it hard to keep things down. Fluids, especially cold ones, are generally easier to take. Protein shakes you make and pre-mixed options can both work, but choose ones lower in sugar. Try not to buy ones with more than two grams of sugar per 40 calories.
Add a couple of times a day when you eat snacks. I prefer protein bars for weight gain because they're compact, convenient and can be healthier if you make your own. For dozens of shake and protein bar recipes click here.
Track your food in a journal. Write down everything you eat and drink or enter it in a calorie tracking program like MyFitnessPal. Documenting your food helps keep you on track and acts as a constant reminder of what you need to do.
Experiment with new foods and put a wider variety of foods on your plate. Researchers have found that the wider variety of foods that are put on a plate, the more a person will eat.
Schedule at least three, 30-minute sessions of resistance training a week. If you don't exercise, the excess calories simply turn to fat. You've got to make sure the calories are being used for muscle creation. Lifting weights can also help improve your mood and boost a weakened immune system.
Avoid weight or muscle gain supplements unless prescribed by a doctor. Most are simply empty calories that cost a great deal of money. A simple whey protein powder is more than adequate if you need something to add to recipes.
A special note for bodybuilders trying to put on muscle weight. Creatine has been repeatedly proven to help in several clinical trials. Muscle gains can be directly attributed to creatine intake in doses as low as 2 to 5 grams a day, particularly when combined with whey protein.
Don't waste your money on "buffered" creatine. Researchers at Texas A&M University found that buffered and traditional creatine formulations are absorbed in exactly the same way and provide the same end result. Buffered is no better, just more expensive.
Do not use creatine until your doctor has cleared you of any risk factors for kidney or liver disease, AND you have not been diagnosed or are at risk for sickle cell anemia.
Weigh yourself regularly to be sure you're making progress. If you're adding one or two pounds a week, consider yourself a success. If you aren't, talk to your doctor or a dietitian for a detailed plan.
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