Arguably, the first step to exploring ways of adding to your existing weight is deciding on a caloric goal. The central question really has to be, “How many calories should I be eating each day to reach my weight goal?”
This is an essential mental approach to take, and the reality is that it is not always easy to know exactly how best to determine that number. Often, we may need to consult with a nutritional specialist or investigate thoroughly varying foods’ caloric values.
Look to Role Models
As is all areas of life, role models are important, whatever age we are.
If you go to a gym, you will have seen many people using a personal trainer, or PT, as they are called. There is no doubt this can be a help, as it is a truism that we work better to a goal when we know someone else is monitoring us, guiding us, and that they have put faith in us.
On that subject, it is a really good tactic to share your goals with someone else. Even sharing your plan for weight gain with a workmate can build in that extra incentive to perform and stay the course.
In terms of wider role models, research online to see if there are other people your age who have made a similar journey in their body shape to the one you wish to make. Often, they may even be reachable on Facebook or social media, and be willing to have you reach out to them for advice.
Knowing Your Timeline
Progress in the area of weight gain is either gradual, or it comes in fits and bursts. It is rare to find instant and entirely progressive change. This means you will go in and out of periods of greater or lesser success as you make the journey to change your body.
The key is to accept this and not be put off by ‘speed bumps’ on the road to your desired body shape. The body is complex and we need to respect and understand that complexity.
Do not be disheartened by the occasional move backwards, or by finding you had thought you’d gained six pounds one week, but when you weigh yourself you find it only turns out to be two.
Keep the focus on the medium term timeline, and you will find negotiating the ups and downs easier. The trend line of your progress, as in economics or sales, is what is really key.
In addition, you need to remember to keep the focus on you! It can be tricky to figure out what the right amount of calories is for you personally, since everyone’s bodies respond differently. Some have a higher metabolism than others, for example, and burn off the same calories faster.
Others might store weight more readily, and if that is you, your natural metabolism may assist you in gaining weight.
So the truth is you will almost certainly have to experiment a bit to find the right number for you. Be suspicious if someone tells you definitively what is right for you. The body is too complex for a stranger to know exactly how your body works, and even a highly specialist nutritionist may be a little out.
However, in general, for most people looking to gain weight, you should aim for about 500-1000 extra calories a day than what your body normally needs for its core functions to be carried out.
1000 extra calories may seem a lot, and it is actually a significant increase, so you may find you are best working up to that amount over time. The body does not like being shocked by a huge sudden increase in food to digest.
Ultimately, as with all elements of weight control, you want to make sure that you’re not eating too much. But you also need to continue to eat in a way that’s healthy. That means making sure the food you’re eating is nutritious, that your meals are balanced, that you maintain a focus on vitamins and minerals, and that you balance fluid intake with your intake of fuller substantive meals.
Monitor your progress
As we said, monitoring progress is essential. One of the most important things to do if you’re trying to gain weight is to evaluate regularly. Ask yourself the following key questions:
Do you feel like you’re seeing results?
Is your weight increasing?
Are you able to lift heavier weights?
Do you feel good with your new body?
These are all important questions to consider, and by keeping track of your progress you can make sure you’re taking the right steps and seeing the results you desire. Too long on the wrong routines can delay your goals from coming to fruition.
Tracking, evaluating and adapting are key ideas to have in mind at all times. Take the time to see where you are and consider how far you’ve come. It’ll make a positive difference both physically and mentally.
You have likely considered taking weight gain supplements to increase the rate of your gains. If so, it’s imperative to supplement strategically, in order to make sure you are getting the most out of the vitamins and minerals you’re consuming. You also need to be careful you are not using supplements unwisely.
It’s very important to do your research into the type of supplements you’re considering taking, and to talk to a doctor or nutritionist to determine if any of these supplements are necessary for your individual fitness needs. Don’t be afraid to monitor and adjust doses as you go. This is likely to be extremely wise.
Finally, and critically, don’t forget to combine your supplement intake with a balanced diet and regular exercise. Supplementing should never be used as a substitute for nutritious food and physical activity, as those are key components of a healthy lifestyle.
Caloric Goals and Nutrition
Determine the number of calories you need per day to reach your personal target weight
To do this, start by calculating your total daily energy expenditure (known as TDEE). This calculation takes into account factors like your age, gender, height, and activity level to determine how many calories you should aim to consume each day.
Remember, however, that we are not in the territory of exact science here. Everyone’s precise needs are different. You may require more or fewer calories depending on your body type and metabolism, and even on the time of year, or even the time of day when you are able to eat or exercise.
The best way to get an accurate idea of the number of calories you need is to track your current intake and activity levels and adjust accordingly.
Types of Dietary Adjustment
One essential approach is to focus on getting in more calories than you normally would. Eat more healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, avocados, and olive oil. And don’t forget to incorporate high-calorie carbs such as potatoes, quinoa, and oats into your meals.
Do not eat calorie heavy foods like chips, french fries, chocolate or crisps and biscuits. This is incredibly foolish and will only build cumbersome fat around your muscles. It is not a good look! Very importantly, continue to track your weight – and how you feel – and adjust your calories accordingly.
Incorporate whole foods into meals
If you have been consistently struggling to gain weight, one key strategy you might usefully consider is to incorporate more whole foods into your meals.
These are essential for healthy living and are foods that are unprocessed and that contain a variety of essential nutrients.
It is not difficult to find whole foods, and common examples include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish and poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It is entirely possible to put on weight by eating well, and these food types ensure you can.
Add some of these food types to each meal to get your daily intake of healthy nutrients. Not only will this help you reach your desired weight, but it can also help improve digestion and therefore ensure that you are enjoying the process of weight gain.
Indigestion is a sign that your plan is not working, as weight gain should not mean your body functions poorly or has difficulty coping with central digestive processes.
Eating nutrient-dense foods is wise in life, really whatever your weight goals. With plenty of healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in your diet, you stand a good chance of adding weight.
Healthy fats, such as are in avocados, nuts, and olive oil, provide essential fatty acids and help keep your appetite down. Correspondingly, proteins like lean meats, fish, nuts, and beans help fuel your muscles and keep you feeling full. Complex carbohydrates add further benefit, especially in the form of vegetables and whole grains, as they give you energy and help you stay fuller longer.
Adding weight healthily without eating these foods is almost impossible.
Additional Key Foods
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and many forms of shellfish, are full of omega-3 fatty acids which can help to improve your overall health. Tuna is also an excellent way to get those oils as well as providing a real burst of protein. Eggs, too, contain plenty of protein, as do healthy oils and full-fat dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk.
In truth, these foods, plus some select fruits and vegetables, really are all you need to eat well while still ensuring you gain weight healthily.
Of course other foods are also useful – wholegrain breads, for example – but be reassured that you do not need to have a hugely complex diet in order to put on weight.
Choose lean proteins – not bacon or most burgers
One of the best sources of healthy proteins is lean meat. Lean beef, chicken breast, eggs, and beans are all great options for getting in the necessary proteins for gaining weight. Other meats are not so good, such as bacon, or beef burgers, so choose meat carefully, or you may find that, though you get protein, you get too much saturated fat.
Eating lean proteins like those we’ve listed can help reduce fat gain as your weight increases, as well as keeping your cholesterol levels low, which is of real overall importance to your health.
Incorporate healthy carbohydrates
Healthy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats, quinoa, and legumes are all great sources of energy which can help you reach your desired weight in a more balanced way.
Not only do these provide energy, but they also offer vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber as well. You will sometimes see these foods associated with ‘complex carbohydrates’. These are carbohydrates that take longer to break down and so keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking on sugar rich products that are high in saturated fats too, such as biscuits and cakes. Getting out of the habit of snacking on low quality foods is essential.
Create an Exercise Plan
Engage in resistance training to build and maintain muscle mass
Resistance training is a kind of training that helps build and maintain muscle mass, which also helps to increase your overall body weight.
It increases strength, improves balance, and even helps with preventing injuries. Plus, it’s enjoyable. Make sure to build this into your overall adaptation of your body’s routines as you move through the processes of gaining weight. It will also help tone the extra weight you’re putting on.
Increase the intensity of exercises to create stress on muscles
By pushing yourself harder and performing exercises with heavier weights, you create more of a challenge for your muscles. This helps boost muscle growth, which in turn will help you gain weight.
Generally, as you might imagine, it’s best to increase the intensity slowly and steadily. Start by adding a few extra reps, or lifting heavier weights. When you start to plateau, continue to challenge yourself by experimenting with different sets, higher reps, and rest times.
There will almost always be someone in the gym who can help you, but, if in doubt, talk to a personal trainer to ensure you stay safe and work to good techniques.
In addition, don’t forget to ‘listen’ to your body as you increase the intensity of your training. If something hurts, stop immediately and take some time to recover.
Do exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once
One of the most effective approaches you can take to gaining weight is to use compound exercises. These involve moving multiple joints at the same time, thereby working several muscle groups at once. Examples of compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and the famously demanding ‘military presses’.
These exercises are more challenging than regular exercises, so it’s important to start with light weights and gradually progress. If you don’t, you could risk injury.
Also, be sure to rest your muscles between sets – even if you don’t feel like you need it. That way, you’ll be able to build your strength over time and get the most out of these exercises.
Weight gain is a medium to long term process, after all. If you go for gains too quickly, they will not last, and you may risk injury in doing so.
As with most things in life, make sure to have some balance in your gym or exercise routine. Cardio exercises such as running, biking, and swimming can help you get in shape. Because they force you to expend energy, they also mean you have to eat more and boost your calorie intake.
Getting the balance right between calorie intake and calorie expenditure is key, but that is why you should have a plan over time, as it can be tricky to get it just right initially. Monitor your progress!
And absolutely make sure to rest. Your muscles need time to recover after a workout, so take one or two days off each week to let your body heal and recharge. You will also get a better sense of your weight trendline if you are sometimes resting.
Weigh yourself regularly and record the results to track changes
If you want to see short-term changes in your weight, then weigh yourself daily, but do not be depressed or discouraged if you see almost no movement from one day to the next. You need to remember many things can affect a body’s weight at a particular time on any particular day.
For long-term changes, weigh yourself weekly or monthly to get a better understanding of your progress. By keeping track, you can make rational adjustments to your dietary habits and exercise routines.
Take regular body measurements to monitor changes in body composition
More detailed than merely weighing yourself, is to actually analyze your body fat percentage.
Taking body measurements such as your weight, waist circumference and body fat percentage, will tell you whether you’re gaining muscle or fat, which is essential information if you’re trying to make lifestyle changes that will last. Most people do not want to gain weight that is held as fat.
This approach also enables you to see how effective your diet and exercise plan are.
For many people, this kind of regular tracking over time is psychologically helpful, as these body measurements can act as motivating milestones to help you stay on track with your goals.
Don’t forget the selfie! If you are enjoying seeing your body change, the chances are you will be happy to photograph its progress. Taking a body shot selfie at regular intervals allows you to compare and contrast your current situation with a previous ‘check-in’ point.
This will allow you to determine if there have been any changes over time and if those changes are the result of your diet and exercise regime.
Tracking your progress in this way can be immensely helpful in understanding how your body is changing and make sure your efforts in gaining weight are yielding the desired results.
Consider adding whey protein powders, weight-gainers, and meal replacement shakes to your diet
There is no doubt that supplements that are high quality work. If you want to see results faster, whey protein powders, weight-gainers, and meal replacement shakes can, if they are well-produced, be very significant aids to gaining weight.
These products are specifically designed to make it easier to gain weight, by providing additional calories, nutrients, and protein.
Do be careful, however, to buy quality products. There is a huge market, especially online, for these products, and some of them can be very much second rate products that cause bloating, excessive wind, and that add weight in the wrong ways. Exercise due diligence by doing research and looking into the top brands.
In this field, if it is very cheap, it is probably a poor product.
Consult a nutritionist or dietitian for advice on the best supplements to take
It is not necessary for everyone, so do not let this hold you back if you cannot afford one, but by working with a qualified expert you increase the chances of change.
In our experience, some nutritionists specialize more in weight loss than weight gain, so do be careful to source whatever professional help you go for carefully. Good help can cost good money, so you want to be sure that you are spending it to best effect.
That said, the right nutritionist can ensure you are making the most out of your diet, exercise routines and supplements. In addition, they can provide you with personalized advice on portion sizes, meal plans, and other lifestyle adjustments that will help you reach your goals.
If you go online in your local area, there will certainly be a preponderance of guys offering their help to you. Some will also have thriving instagram communities or Facebook groups, and this can be helpful too, as you can see testimonials from others who have succeeded on the goals you have set for yourself.
Never underestimate the power of encouragement – and that’s what a great nutritionist or PT can give you. Tough love is good love on this kind of journey.
Before taking any supplement or weight gainer, it’s essential that you understand what ingredients are used and the potential risks involved. As we said earlier, not all products are of equal quality and online buying has risks. The watchword is care. Do your research and exercise caution – as well as exercising in the gym!
Steroids are, to be clear, absolutely to be avoided. They can have really grim side effects, and you can sometimes see the guys in the gym who have resorted to them. It is very often a bad look, and it’s definitely something to avoid.
Take sensible advice only – and don’t be overly impressed by someone’s size in itself. You never know how they got there. In short, do it right!
Positive Thinking, and Realism
It is important to add a final word on attitude.
Changing your body shape is a major challenge. For most of us, even adding around 5% extra weight would be difficult, no matter what approach we took to eating.
But if you are intending to increase your weight by potentially ten to twenty pounds or more, and to do so in ways that keep your overall health levels high, you really do need to be determined. If you are not determined, and if you do not consider the potential pitfalls, you will not find it easy or enjoyable.
So don’t underestimate your body! It really does deserve respect and to be treated as a friend. Show it some kindness, give it the occasional good time, and do not make it feel like it is just there for company! Make it feel like it matters to you.
After all, it is the one friend who will be with you throughout life, come good or bad, so make sure if you are setting out to change it that you have prepared yourself mentally for what lies ahead. You might even find it emotionally helpful to talk to your body as if it really were a mate!
When you finally do reach your desired goal, be sure to reward yourself. Even along the way, when you hit key milestones, allow yourself to feel really good about it. Weight gain done well is not easy, so if you manage it, you are doing something special. You – and your body – deserve a pat on the back! (And hopefully you’re now in good enough shape and fit enough to give yourself one!)