This story was updated in January 2019.
About 17 million children in India will be obese by 2025 according to a rather alarming study. Clearly, obesity and being overweight is a huge concern for the country. Ironically, being underweight is also a major concern. Not many people realise that being underweight can be as bad for your health as being overweight.
Although you might not be clinically underweight, you still might want to gain some muscle. Well, the principles and techniques for both are pretty much the same. So, let’s take a look at a few things before we go in-depth in helping you with your journey towards gaining weight and getting healthier.
If you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5, then you may be underweight. Meanwhile, a BMI of 25 is considered to be overweight and 30 is a sign of obesity. So, the ideal range for a healthy person is between 18.5 and 25 according to experts.
To calculate your BMI you need to divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters, then divide the answer by your height again to get your BMI.
You can calculate your BMI easily here.
While BMI might help us understand our body mass, it fails to give us the entire picture of our body weight and health. For instance, your BMI does not factor in your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. There are times when someone’s BMI may put them in the obese category but all these indicators of health are just fine. They are not experiencing the ill health effects associated with their excess weight. The opposite is also true. Your BMI may be excellent, but your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels may not be.
Although BMI is useful as a quick screening tool by a doctor, it might not be enough to look at only that number. As it does not reveal anything about the makeup of your body, such as how much muscle vs. fat you have. Which is why conclusions based only on the BMI number can be misleading. So, a full body check-up with a doctor is mandatory before you come to the conclusion that you are underweight.
There are some common signs that every underweight person will notice. If you see these, you might just be underweight and need careful evaluation and treatment.
In other words- Why aren’t you able to gain weight?
The equation for weight gain is = the food you intake + effectiveness of utilization.
Have you ever thought about improving the condition of your digestive system? Well, a recent research study shows that 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. So, there’s a good chance that something is not right with your digestive system when you’re not gaining weight. But, the digestive system can be improved if a few things are kept in mind and if your diet and food is kept in check.
Increasing the intake of certain fermented foods like Kombucha and sauerkraut help the digestive enzymes in your stomach to function even better.
Give your digestive system a rest with a monthly fast. Pick any day that works for you.
Reduce unnecessary stress. Stress has a huge impact on your digestive system. When we are stressed, our body goes into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. That means it’s treating the situation as a crisis. Your central nervous system shuts down your blood flow, this, in turn, prevents the contraction of digestive muscles and decreases the flow of digestive juices.
Being underweight is just as unhealthy as being obese- if not more. People who are underweight are at a risk of certain diseases and infection that cause fertility problems.
It can also:
What’s more, people who are underweight are also much more likely to get sarcopenia (age-related muscle wasting) and may be at greater risk of dementia.
Even though being lean can often be considered healthy for certain people, but being underweight can be a health concern. So, if you're underweight, it is important to see your doctor or dietitian for an evaluation.
But, here are some healthy ways you can try to gain weight that doesn’t involve any medication.
You may tend to feel full faster so increasing your meal size may be a quite a challenge. Instead, increase the number of meals you have. Shift to five to six smaller meals during the day rather than two or three large meals.
Choose whole-grain bread, pasta and cereals, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, lean protein sources like nuts and seeds for an overall healthy diet.
Filling up on sodas will not help, they might just be higher in calories but have very little nutritional value. Instead, drink smoothies, or healthy shakes made with milk and fresh or frozen fruit, and sprinkle in some ground flax seed. You can also try a liquid meal replacement but check with a nutritionist or doctor which one you should go for.
Some people find that drinking fluids before meals blunts their appetite. In that case, it may be better to sip higher calorie beverages along with a meal or snack. For others drinking 30 minutes after a meal and not with it, may work better.
You should munch on peanut butter, nuts, cheese, dried fruits and avocados are some of the best. Having a bedtime snack can also help like a wrap sandwich with avocado, peanut butter and jelly sandwich or some sliced vegetables, and cheese or meat.
You can also top your dishes with a little extra for more calories. Things like cheese in scrambled eggs, casseroles and fat-free milk in stews and soups.
When you're underweight, you should be careful of the excess fat and sugar. So, a slice of pie with ice cream occasionally should be okay. But, you should try your best to make most of your treats healthy and include nutrients, so that it doesn't just consist of calories. You could have bran muffins, yoghurt and granola bars.
You should exercise especially strength training that can help you gain weight by building up your muscles. Exercise may also stimulate your appetite.
Apart from doing all the above-spoken points, point number two is the most important one because the food that you intake plays a very important part in the process of your journey. And these nutrient-rich foods have proven to be some of the best when it comes to gaining weight.
Milk has been proven to be a great source of calcium, but drinking milk is also an effective way to gain weight especially for kids. Studies have shown it can also help adults gain muscles when combined with weight lifting. So, if you’re adding exercise to gain weight in your routine, then drinking milk especially at night before going to bed can help in adding on the kilos.
We often hear our friends say that they are cutting down on rice because they are gaining too much weight. Well, it’s true, rice does help in gaining weight as each serving is rich in carbs and high in calories. Rice also helps you eat more food, especially if you have a poor appetite or tend to get full quickly.
They’re the perfect kind of food if you're really looking to put on some weight because just a handful of almonds contain over 7 grams of protein and 18 grams of healthy fats. Since nuts and nut butters are very calorie-dense, only two handfuls per day with a meal or as a snack quickly add up to hundreds of calories.
Nut butter is also used as a variety of snacks or dishes, such as smoothies, yoghurts, etc. However, it is important to make sure you pick 100% nut butter with no added sugar or extra oils.
When it comes to muscle building, red meat is of great help. One steak contains around 3 grams of leucine per 170 grams. Leucine is the key amino acid that your body needs to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and add new muscle tissue.
A study shows 100 elderly women added 170 grams of red meat to their diets and performed resistance training six days a week for six weeks. Fatty meats provide more calories, which help in weight gain.
Yes, potatoes and all starches are a great source of good fats, plus they are cost-effective as well. Even though potatoes are the most effective way to put on that extra kilo but there are healthier starch options like Oats, Corn, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Sweet potatoes, winter root vegetables, beans and legumes.
Just like red meat, Salmon and oily fish are a great source of healthy fats and protein. Among all the nutrients that salmon and oily fish provide, omega-3 fatty acids are the most significant and well known. Salmon and other oily fish are a great source of incredibly healthy omega-3 fats. These provide you high-quality protein that helps you to build your muscle.
Drinking homemade smoothies are one of the healthiest options to quickly gain weight. Making smoothies have become super easy and convenient with amazing blenders and frozen fruits that are available to us. Homemade protein smoothies are packed with nutrients and also give you a full choice of flavour.
Here are a few smoothie recipes you can also try. You need to combine each with two cups of milk or use a vegan alternative like almond milk to make these smoothies.
In a blender, blitz 1 banana, 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein and 1 tablespoon of peanut or other nut butter.
Blend 1 cup of fresh or frozen mixed berries, ice, 1 cup of natural yoghurt and 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein.
Combine 444 ml of chocolate milk with 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein, 1 tablespoon of hazelnut butter and 1 avocado.
Blitz 1 sliced apple, 1 cup of natural yoghurt, 1 scoop of caramel or vanilla-flavored whey protein and 1 tablespoon of sugar-free caramel sauce or flavouring.
Blend 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries, 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein, 1 cup of vanilla yoghurt and sweetener if required.
Blend 1 cup of spinach, 1 avocado, 1 banana, 1 cup of pineapple and 1 scoop of unflavored or vanilla whey protein.
All of these smoothies are packed with nutrients, with each carrying 400–600 calories and are rich in protein and other important vitamins and minerals.
You might have heard about creatine if you’ve ever read any articles on fitness or maybe even ever been to a gym. Creatine is a molecule that’s produced naturally in your body and provides energy for your muscles and other tissues. Though, if you take it as a dietary supplement it can increase muscle creatine content by up to 40% beyond its normal levels. And helps immensely in gaining some muscles.
To gain muscle you need to consume more protein than your body breaks down. So, sometimes protein in your food might just not be enough while you’re on a hardcore exercise program. You might need protein supplements that help you in gaining muscles.
These supplements help you get more calories and protein and are generally used by people who struggle to gain muscle weight. Some individuals might find it hard even while they consume large amounts of calories and lift weights.
This acid reduces fatigue and increases exercise performance. Beta-Alanine helps in muscle gain only if you are following an exercise program so, exercising is extremely important.
BCAA consist of three individual amino acids: leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. They are found in most protein sources like meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish. It’s likely that this acid supplement might only work if you are not eating enough high-quality protein in your diet.
HMB stands for Beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate and it is a molecule that’s produced when your body processes the amino acid leucine. HMB is responsible to benefit some of the effects of protein and leucine in your diet. Even though it is produced naturally in your body, but taking it as a supplement can help you benefit your muscles. Studies have previously shown that untrained adults who took 3–6 grams of HMB per day improved the gains in lean body mass from weight training.
Many of us have thought for years that people who eat fast, gain weight faster than the ones who eat slow. For some of you, there might have been times you have noticed yourself or your lean friend finishing their food after everyone else. Or have heard that if you eat fast, or basically gobble your food you gain weight. Actually, eating fast is usually linked to obesity in a person. A study that was done among children found that 60% of those who ate rapidly also overate.
So, in conclusion, you might be gaining weight but not in a healthy way. Eating fast can lead to some other health problems like diabetes, poor digestion, etc, too.
Another question that might come in your mind is ‘How can I gain weight ASAP”? Or in a month or 10 days? I mean, if people can lose weight fast then gaining would be easier right, but the answer to that question is NO, you can’t gain weight in a week or in a month. Even if you try other techniques that might induce weight gain faster, it's still impossible and super duper unhealthy for you.
Experts suggest that journey to a successful weight gain would be to do it the right way, that means getting those exercises done, eating well and properly and taking the supplements that you need.
All this will help you to slowly weight up a bit more than before and give you a little more flesh in those arms that you wanted for so long.
These are the following measures you take to build your muscles-
Maximizing muscle weight means you need to hit the gym more often. So, ask your trainer to make you do some exercises that will help you build up the muscles in your body.
Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight, because that is how much amount your body can use in a day.
In addition to the protein intake, you need more calories. Now you can use these formulas to calculate the number you need to take in daily to gain 1 pound a week. You can give yourself two weeks till the results show up but even then if you haven’t gained then you can increase your calorie intake by 500 a day.
Start from legs, then go up in your arms and then the entire body. Do squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bent-over rows, bench presses, dips, and military presses to your workout. Do two or three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, with about 60 seconds’ rest between sets.
A study at the University of Texas tells us that the lifters who drank a shake containing amino acids and carbohydrates before working out increased their protein synthesis more than lifters who drank the same shake after exercising.
For the shake, you’ll need about 10 to 20 grams of protein- usually about one scoop of a whey protein powder. Can’t stomach protein drinks? You can get the same nutrients from a sandwich made with 4 ounces of deli turkey and a slice of American cheese on whole wheat bread. But a drink is better.
Now, moving onto the biggest lies, and myths that people have told you, in order to help you attain your goal weight. You might have heard the stupidest thing like to eat more sugary items and some of you might have even tried it out because you were desperate at that time. Let’s break down those myths one by one.
Sodas help you increase weight- Yes, it is true that sugary items that contain more calories have resulted in weight gain. But, this is an unhealthy weight gain… they cause teeth decay, indigestion, and cause unhealthy swings in blood sugar levels. This is not a good choice to go with.
Stuff in as much as you can- Hogging never helps as it leads to overeating and obesity.
Weight gain pills- They might be effective in short-term, but looking at it in long-term, they have proven to have a bad impact on various organs like the heart, kidneys and liver.
There are a lot of health benefits of honey, but the million dollar question that everyone is always eager to know. Well, for starters, yes honey is and can be used to gain weight effectively. Firstly, it is really important for you to understand the way your body uses up energy. Because, when you're trying to pack on the pounds, the trick is to eat high-calorie nutrient-dense foods. And as for Honey, it is a calorie-dense food, but it's not very nutrient-dense. You can use honey sparingly to add sweetness and calories to your foods but, you want to be sure not to go overboard with it.
A single teaspoon of honey is about 64 calories. It contains more calorie than granulated sugar, which has 49 calories per tablespoon.
Therefore, many other foods that are more nutrient dense are a better alternative than honey.
You could opt for Chunky peanut butter with no added sugar because that contains 94 calories per tablespoon. It is also packed with protein and healthy fats. While dried apricots without added sugar are a calorie-dense source of vitamins A, B-3 and E and the minerals iron and potassium.
The answer to the question is 'yes', honey does help you put on some pounds but, might not be as effective as other food items.
In a layman’s language carbs are things that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms in it. But, when it comes to nutrition ‘carbs’ refers to two macronutrients one being protein and the other being fat.
The topic about carbs is highly controversial these days and the guidelines of dieticians say that we get half of our calories from carbohydrates. And on the other hand, some might say that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes and that people should be avoiding it. But, is it really true though?
Despite, the fact that both these arguments are strong, but carbohydrates requirements really depend from one individual to the other.
However, dietary carbohydrates can be split into three different categories-
Carbohydrates that are sweet, short-chained like glucose, fructose, etc. that are found in our food item.
Glucose molecules that which eventually get broken down into glucose in our digestive system.
Even though humans cannot digest fibre, but the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of it.
Carbohydrates only purpose in our diet is to provide energy. Carbs get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy. Carbs can also turn into fat and used to use later.
Though, Fiber is an exception. Because, it does not provide energy directly into your body, but rather feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. Which can later use the fibre to produce fatty acids that some of our cells can use as energy?
These foods may be fine when eaten in moderation for some people but, it is best to avoid them as much as possible because they might not be good for your health.
Knowing what is good and not good for your body before beginning the journey to gain weight is extremely essential. Because, you just don’t want to put on weight for the sake of it, but actually gain muscle. Although sometimes it’s easy to get carried away by methods that are quick and easy to do. But, we must realise that they don’t benefit us in the long-term and might even affect our health as we start on that journey.
So, before we wish you good luck on your journey we also recommend you consult a doctor, or a dietician you can help you through these processes. The healthier way might take a little bit more time and patience to actually work but it is the best way to go about if you’re looking to be more fit and healthy in life.
“To ensure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.” – William Londen.
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