Most Americans would love to have the “problem” of being underweight. But it is a problem for those who can’t seem to gain weight easily (or maintain it).
Note: If there is a medical reason for weight loss, to the point of being noticeable, check with your doctor about choosing a high-calorie diet that is right for you.
Some medical conditions that cause weight loss are cancer (and its treatments), irritable bowel syndrome, anorexia, HIV and AIDS, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis, among other medical disorders. (SuplimedNutrients.com)
There are dietary supplements and energy drinks that are very high in calories for those who are seriously working out and trying to gain muscle mass. But, MedcoHealth.com says commercial protein supplements will not help you gain weight, and they may add too much protein to the diet. WebMD.com says diets that are too high in protein can cause other health problems, like kidney stones, kidney failure, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.
Our bodies are made to burn carbohydrates. When you eat too much protein, the body reacts by burning fat, a state called ketosis, which can be avoided by eating at least 100 grams of carbs per day.
Plan to eat about 6 meals daily, and eat about 500 calories a day more than usual. Sugary products like milkshakes (which could be made with skim milk and low-fat ice cream), jellies, jams, cakes and cookies can accomplish that goal easily, short-term.
Eating a balanced diet and managing weight long-term should be done thoughtfully. You don’t want to only gain fat and no muscle. Any kind of SAFE dieting program suggests eating healthy foods while exercising, to keep the body at an ideal weight while building muscle.
Know your recommended weight for your height and body type. The average 165-pound man, between 19 to 24 years old, needs 3000 calories a day to maintain his weight. But, as we age, we need fewer calories, so that same man will only require 2700 calories daily from the age of 25 to 49. And even less beyond that.
An average woman, ages 19 to 24, will need 2100 calories daily to maintain a weight of 127 pounds. As she ages, up to 49, she will only need 1900 calories.
Check out MyPyramid.gov for your daily requirements of calories (how much energy a food provides) and recommended activity levels.
Also, look at a chart (MyPyramid.gov) that shows how many calories are burned for a given activity. Heavier people tend to burn more calories for doing the same amount of activity. For walking at the rate of two miles an hour, a 120-pound person burns 2.5 calories a minute; a 160-pound person uses 3.4 calories; and a 200-pound person uses 4.6 per minute.
To gain weight in a healthy way, you obviously need to eat more calories than you expend. Gain the weight by eating more food more often; then taper back to a maintenance diet. Never miss breakfast and plan to eat a snack before bedtime.
Eat high-energy foods like complex carbohydrates or starches, including whole wheat breads, pasta, cereals, potatoes (sweet potatoes and yams are healthier choices than white) and (brown or white) rice.
You can gain quick energy from sugars, fruits, and vegetables because they break down quickly, but you need some fat for extra energy to burn and build body fat. Complex starches and carbs increase energy while building and maintaining muscle tissue.
Game Plan: Eat several meals a day; keep non-refrigerated snacks near the bed or TV; take snacks when you travel; and exercise lightly before eating to increase your appetite.
Recommended foods for weight gain (from LehighValleyHospital.org): macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, rice, barley, millet, tabouli, and couscous. Whole wheat and enriched products are OK, but the better choice is brown over white, as in breads, sweet potatoes, rice, etc.
For breakfast, consider oatmeal, rice cereal, cream of wheat, corn meal, grits and cold cereals. Also good are breads, muffins, biscuits, crackers, dumplings, pancakes, waffles and tortillas.
Special phytochemicals (the non-nutrient parts of plants, like lutein and lycopene) are in foods like potatoes, yams, plaintains, yucca, corn; green or black-eyed peas or chickpeas; and limas, navy or kidney beans. Lutein is good for the heart and eyes; lycopene lowers the risk for prostate cancer.
For quick energy and weight gain, all the “bad-for-you” foods are acceptable, in the short-term. Snack on fresh and dried fruits; add honey or maple syrup to cereal, pancakes and waffles; add fruit or yogurt toppings to ice cream; eat pies, cakes, cookies and candies between meals.
Don’t get carried away with the quick-fix simple sugars offer, especially if your blood sugar is high or you’re diabetic.
You want to gain weight while keeping your muscle mass. If you do have a medical problem, you should be working with a nutritionist or dietitian along with your doctor.
These guidelines are tried-and-true foods for people who are underweight for medical reasons; they should act as the “gold standard” for safe weight gain for medically-healthy people.
Use common sense or work with someone with nutrition credentials, and you should steadily gain weight in a healthy way.
Http://www.suplimednutrients.com. “The weight gain supplement that’s your sensible weight gain solution.” Retrieved 7-24-08.
Http://women.webmd.com/guide. “What are the health risks associated with high protein, low carb diets?” Edited by Cynthia Dennison Haines, M.D., on 10-01-05, in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 9-10-09.
www.LVH.org. (Lehigh Valley Hospital in E. PA) Nutrition. “HIV Nutrition Counseling” and “Tips for a lack of appetite,” updated 1-7-09. Retrieved 9-10-09.
www.MyPyramid.gov. USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. MyPyramidTracker.gov. “Assess your physical activity” and “Assess your food intake.” Retrieved 9-10-09.
https://host1.medcohealth.com/consumer/ehealth. Written by Jackie Berning, Ph.D., R.N., for McKesson Corporation, 2008. “Strategies for weight gain,” updated January 2009 by McKesson Health Solutions, LLC. Retrieved 9-10-09.