Living in a world of weight loss can be quite disconcerting for those trying to add more weight to their naturally lean build. Just as people who are overweight may be genetically predisposed to being overweight, so are those with smaller frames.
To gain weight, it is a matter of eating more calories through food than you burn through activity. To gain a pound a week, you would have to consume about 500 extra calories each day than your body requires for meeting its daily needs. If you are already an active person, your calorie goals for weight gain would be even greater. For example, the calorie needs for an active adult male is about 2,600. If that same man is trying to gain weight, he would want to begin following an eating plan that consists of 3,000-3,200 calories.
There is a healthy and unhealthy way to meet your weight gain goals. If you are overeating high calorie foods like fried foods, pastries and sugary treats or increased your protein intake-stop what you are doing! Focus on gaining weight in a healthier and safer way by following a higher calorie level meal plan from MyPyramid.
Here are some general tips to help meet increased calorie needs without feeling overstuffed:
- Add strength training exercise to your activities. Strength training will help you gain muscle-which weighs more than fat.
- Plan ahead. Eating just three meals isn’t going to cut it for weight gain. Plan on eating about 5-6 times each day with meals and snacks. Use your food group goals to plan what and when you are going to eat.
- Increase your serving sizes of food at each meal. Make your portions slightly bigger, while being mindful not to overeat until you’re uncomfortable.
- Drink fluids after your meal so you have more room for food. Yes, Mom was right!
- Choose nutrient dense foods. These include avocados, nuts, salmon, milk, low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, low-fat salad dressings, and granola.
- Add in unnoticeable calories. Powdered milk, beans, cheese, meat, wheat germ, and plant oils can be added to casseroles, soups, and sauces without much thought.
- Enjoy your shake! Do you have to buy a mega dose protein powder mix? No. Mixing together your favorite low-fat ice cream with items probably already in your kitchen- like fruit and graham crackers- will help meet your calories without over taxing your kidneys, liver or wallet.
Before making any changes to the foods you choose or the activities you do, keep track of a "typical" week’s worth of meals and activities on MyPyramid Tracker. It allows you to record and analyze behaviors.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is a necessity for good health. It helps your body recover from the stressors of the day, repair and rebuild tissues, and balance hormone levels. But more than a recovery for the body, scientists are now seeing sleep as an important tool for preventing illness and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Balance Your Nutrition
Following a meal plan that is full of variety and balance is essential for long term weight management- and good health. Here are some of our favorite nutrition tips to get you started on a path to balanced nutrition. Just remember to start slow. If you see a few different practices you would like to make your own, practice these Steps to Success:
1-2-3: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. We obtain carbohydrates primarily from four food groups- Grains, Fruit, Vegetables, and Dairy. To meet daily grain goals, choose high fiber, whole grains. For fruits and vegetables, focus on vegetables, as they provide about 2/3 less carbohydrates per serving than fruits. When eating fruits, enjoy whole fruits versus juice most often. In the dairy group, watch out for added sugar in milk, yogurt, and frozen desserts. Remember, 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. So, if your yogurt contains 24 grams of sugar, you’re eating roughly 3 teaspoons of added sugar (because milk items without added sugar naturally contain about 12 grams of lactose [milk-sugar]). For cheese, choose low-fat versions, control portion sizes of high fat versions, and use grated varieties for cheesy flavor without extra fat.
To learn what your calorie goals are for weight gain, meeting with a registered dietitian for one-on-one coaching is your best bet. They will be able to take into consideration your medical history, likes, dislikes, and develop a plan of success with you. To find a dietitian to work with, contact your local hospital or visit the American Dietetic Association and click on “Find a Nutrition Professional”.
Daily Physical Activity
Your body was meant to move. Whether you like to dance, hike, walk in the park, or ski, let it do its thing! Daily physical activity does more than help manage your weight. It builds strong bones, maintains muscle mass (which burns more calories than fat!), helps burn off stress, keeps your core muscles in check (important for balance), makes you feel good about yourself, and maintains a strong heart. Plus, when weight gain is what you want, building more muscle mass is what you need.
If you do not participate in any form of physical activity, but would like to begin, it’s essential to start off small and slow. First and foremost, consult a physician before you start working on the three components of physical fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strengthening, and flexibility.
How much each day?
Being physically active each day means participating in activity above your normal daily activities. Here are the USDA 2005 Dietary Guidelines for becoming physically active each day. Which goal is best for you?
How do I choose a gym?
With so many different options out there, it is important to find a fitness center that delivers. Look for a club that offers the safest and best exercise equipment, programs, and personnel to meet your needs. Regardless of how cheap the membership fee is, you need to screen potential centers before signing the dotted line.
When you are stressed, regardless what the cause is, you react physically. Specifically your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and muscle tension increases. If left untreated, living in a constant state of stress could lead to digestion, sleeping, psychological, and immune system problems. Therefore, your long term health depends on our ability to cope with both daily stress and stressful events.