How to Gain Healthy Weight
While weight-loss always seems to take the spotlight in the dieting world, there are those who actually aspire to gain weight. This goal is common for bodybuilders and thinner individuals who want more muscle mass.
Here are a few things you can do to meet your weight-gaining goals:
Eat more. As simple as it sounds, whether or not we will gain weight depends on the energy balance between calories consumed and calories burned. If we consume more calories than we burn throughout the day, then excess energy is likely to be deposited as fat tissue. However, eating more food doesn’t mean junk food. Unhealthy, highly processed foods are a bad choice regardless of your dieting goals. The key here is to increase your food intake of nutrient and calorie-rich foods instead of just chips and cookies.
Snack Often. Snacking throughout the day helps get those extra calories in. Snacks such as nuts and cheese are ideal, as these are usually small and packed with calories. Nut butters like peanut, cashew, and almond butter are also a great choice as they have high levels of healthy fat. Fats pack more calories than either carbs or protein, so eating high-fat snacks is ideal for putting on some extra pounds.
Exercise. If you want to gain muscle mass, then you need to exercise. This might seem counterintuitive at first since exercise means burning more calories, but exercise provides the stimulus for muscles to grow. The key is to exercise and to still consume enough calories such that you put on weight. Weight-bearing exercises such as climbing stairs and resistance exercises like weightlifting will promote muscle growth and increase bone density.
Sleep. Sleep is important for muscle recovery and growth. The majority of human growth hormone (HGH) – which plays a critical role in muscle building- is released within the first few hours of sleep. Being sleep deprived may also promote muscle mass degradation rather than synthesis, which we want to avoid. Timing your exercise earlier in the day rather than late in the afternoon should help with falling asleep at night.
Up Your Protein. Amino acids from protein will be used to build muscle mass, so consuming enough protein is important. However, protein on its own is not enough to beef up. You must exercise to promote its use. If there is no stimulus to build muscle from exercise the excess calories from protein will simply be deposited as fat.
As with weight loss, healthy weight gain takes time. Make sure that you are consistent with your efforts to gain weight and try to keep track of what you are doing and when. Consulting a personal trainer or dietitian can help with personalized tactics for your weight gain.
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- Velloso, C P. “Regulation of Muscle Mass by Growth Hormone and IGF-I.” British Journal of Pharmacology, Nature Publishing Group, June 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2439518/.
- Egerman, Marc A, and David J Glass. “Signaling Pathways Controlling Skeletal Muscle Mass.” Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Informa Healthcare USA, Inc., 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3913083/.
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