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Question: How Do I Gain Weight?

Question: How Do I Gain Weight?


Are you underweight and would like to gain more weight in a healthy way?

There is an overwhelming amount of attention placed on weight loss and dieting, but if you are one of the small percentages of Americans who are underweight, packing on the pounds in a healthy manner can seem nearly impossible. The high rate of obesity and overweight problems in our culture means there is much more emphasis on losing weight rather than gaining weight. It is easy to forget about people who are too thin.

Aging also affects appetite, as we gradually lose some of our ability to smell and taste foods, and some people are naturally thin and want to be bigger. But being underweight can result from eating disorders or appetite loss due to certain medical conditions. If you are spending a great deal of your energy lifting weights, chugging weight gaining protein shakes, and stuffing yourself with full fat ice cream, cookies, or cereal at bedtime to no avail is draining and very hard on your internal body systems. But just as it is in losing weight, a little planning and attention to good nutrition can help you gain weight!

Certainly, genetics often has a lot to do with why a person might not gain weight. While some people's appetites do not fluctuate, other people just like to eat more and never seem to get full. Then there are those individuals who put on excess weight as muscle and not fat.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland recently investigated the role of human growth hormone in gaining or losing weight. The study was designed to take a closer look at why individuals gain weight at different rates, despite maintaining similar activity levels and consuming the same number of calories.

The theory is that increased levels of growth hormone may cause a person to burn more energy, thereby preventing weight gain. On the other hand, although exercise can boost the production of growth hormone in the body, weight gain reduces growth hormone levels.

Some medical causes for insufficient weight gain point to the lack of protein consumed in the diet of the individual. Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can contribute to being too thin as well. Like losing weight, gaining weight takes time and cannot be achieved within a few days. The formula seems simple, but it is a bit more involved than simple math of calories in and calories exerted. People trying to gain weight must learn to eat healthfully. Not all foods and calories are created the same, and just the same as those individuals who are trying to lose excess pounds, the nutritional content of the foods you eat makes a difference to the body system functioning and optimization.

Other medical conditions can contribute to the inability to gain weight.

Graves' disease, or hyperthyroidism, often causes people to lose weight despite having an increased appetite.

If hyperthyroidism goes untreated for a prolonged period of time, muscle tissue begins to waste away. Chronic lung disease can cause unwanted weight loss as well. Considering that it takes a lot of energy to breathe, proper nutrition is essential. Eat a high-protein diet and do not drink fluids with your meals. Drinking fluids makes you feel full, so you might not eat as much. Increase calorie consumption by 300 to 500 calories each day.

When the main goal is to increase your overall intake of calories every day; it doesn't really matter if you eat more meals or increase the size of the meals you eat right now. If you are not used to eating much at any one time, you may prefer to eat several small meals or snacks throughout the day. If you'd rather eat three meals each day, increase your portion sizes or add more foods to each meal.

Remember, meals should always be balanced with the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat and varied seasonally. Appropriate ratios are discussed at the end of this article. Select a portion of your protein source such as free range and wild meat, poultry, fish, seafood, legumes or tofu and serve with a side of green and colorful vegetables. Add a serving of starchy foods such as sweet potatoes, sweet corn, rice or pasta as energy-dense carbohydrate sources. You can add a few extra calories to your vegetables and starches by topping them with butter, cream, olive oil, sauces or cheese.

If you prefer to snack on smaller meals throughout the day, choose energy-dense foods, such as trail mix made with dried fruit, nuts and seeds. You can eat sandwiches made with peanut or other nut butters, or use meats and add calories with slices of cheese or avocado. Creamed soups are generally higher in calories than clear broths. Add more calories to creamed soups by adding a spoonful of dry milk powder.

Dietary Supplements for Gaining Weight

You might be tempted to buy dietary supplements for bodybuilding that promise weight gain and bigger muscles. Some of these products may contain hidden ingredients that can be harmful or compounds that have not been studied for efficacy or safety. Do your research and know that there is no easy way to gain results. Often, weight gainers and pills in bottles are damaging for the liver and other body organs. The processing of these artificial chemicals is taxing to your body and your wallet. Understand that there are natural and healthy approaches to a healthy and functional body.

If you feel you cannot gain weight by simply increasing your calorie intake, you should see your health care provider before taking any protein or weight gaining supplements.

Is Exercise Important?

Yes, resistance training exercises like weight lifting may help to increase muscle size, which will increase body weight. Aerobic exercises, such as running and stationary bicycling, are better for fat loss and excessive aerobic training may cause you to lose more weight, but a mixture of cardio and resistance training can be done at a health club, gym, or at home with the proper equipment and are equally important for both body system functioning and physical weight gain.

The Skinny on the Underweight

Aside from the media and marketing of what is considered “healthy, hip and cool,” what really is so wrong with being too thin when it seems to be a non-problem compared with obesity? There are hidden truths behind this unassuming question, and that is, that being underweight may have risks, too.

Those who are extremely lean tend to have weaker immune systems, making them prone to infections, surgical complications, and slower recovery times for illness. They tend to have low muscle mass, and less than ideal hair, teeth, and skin composition. They may have disruptions in the ability to regulate hormones and protect bone health, and women could become unable to menstruate.

All of this could be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight, a measure that obviously differs from person to person. As a rough rule of thumb, women should be at least 105 pounds for the first five feet of height, and another five pounds per inch after that; men should be at least 106 pounds for the first five feet, and an added six pounds per inch, says Dan Heinemann, MD, a board member of the American Academy of Family physicians.

Another gauge could be an individual's body mass index (BMI), which is a popular standard system to categorize size based on a person's height and weight, but neglects to take into consideration muscle versus fat body composition, says an article in the 2007 Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine Journal. But alongside those BMI loop holed guidelines, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that people with normal weight have a BMI of 18.5-24.9. Anything below that is considered by these institutes and anyone using the BMI tool, to be underweight, and anything above is overweight (25-29.9) or obese (30 or greater).

Why So Thin?

There are many reasons why people may find it hard to gain weight. Genetics can obviously play a role, but individual personalities and the environment can be strong factors.

People may point to their assumed fast metabolism as the reason, but that is not always the case. Perhaps those people are more physically active? There are people with all types of jobs and physical exertion rates, who may tend to move around less or more. People who move around more, may burn more calories than they take in. They're either always the first ones to volunteer to pick up after a spill, to do the chores, to walk everywhere, or to play a lot of sports. This level of physical activity is not a bad thing, but being aware of it is important in understanding the factors affecting one's weight.

Then there are others who lose their appetite, experience a change in metabolism, and/or lose poundage and muscle mass fast because of various reasons, including illness, chronic pain, depression, stress, and side effects from drugs.

In children, the inability to gain weight may signal a condition known as "failure to thrive," which means a kid is not growing appropriately for his/her age. This may be caused by an illness, or eating patterns dictated by a parental idiosyncrasy. Some even argue that kids who have not developed properly have their raw food, macrobiotic, vegetarian or vegan diet to blame, though studies are still strongly divided on the benefits and cautions of such practices.

Assuring Healthy Weight Gain

Whatever the suspected cause for being underweight or for unexpected weight loss, and as much as some people may be happy about being thin -- as opposed to being horizontally challenged—it is important to discuss to your medical professional any concerns regarding weight gain, loss or life condition.

Being able to eat anything without seeing the waist line thicken is also deceiving -- even the skinny need to worry about having too much sugar and fat for good health and exercising. That is a huge misconception among younger developing adolescents and adults that are petite or have trouble putting on the pounds. Poor diets can lead to ailments such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, no matter if it can be detected by the naked eye in a disproportioned body shape or not. The main difference is on what the eyes can detect on the physical outside. People who gain weight eating anything and everything tend to retain it as fat in undesirable places. For people looking for the best way to gain weight through a healthy fashion, and for the most ideal distribution of weight, it is best to stick to nutrient-rich foods, and to exercise at the same time.

Recommended Ways to Gain Weight

Tips to Help You Gain Weight

The worst approach to weight gain is to add calories to meals by choosing unhealthy processed, fast and fried foods such as burgers, French fries, chicken nuggets and fish sticks. Choose foods that are prepared with healthy cooking methods like baking, poaching, and stir-frying. Remember that it can take a while to gain the weight you need, but be patient and continue to choose healthy foods until you reach your goal weight. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Consume proper meals with the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and the healthy

fats (such as unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, olive oil, pistachios, almonds and walnuts). Follow the ratio: 60%-70% carbohydrates, 10%-15% protein, and a small amount of fat. Serve yourself larger portions of starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet corn.

2. Eat foods higher in calories, vitamins, and minerals, as opposed to higher in fat or sugar

which deliver empty nutrients.

3. Pack more nutritious calories in each serving

For example, add grated cooked eggs to mashed potatoes, ground chicken to soups and gravies, cheese in casseroles, eggs, and soups, and cream or full fat milk in soups, shakes, milk, and mashed potatoes.

4. If you get too full too fast, try having more high-calorie foods or slices of foods as opposed to consuming the whole thing

Raisins versus grapes, granola and Grape Nuts versus corn flakes, mango slices versus the whole mango. Carry these convenient snack foods in your car, purse, gym or work bag.

5. Limit drinking all types of beverages to a half-hour before and after a meal so that you are not full before eating your main meal.

6. Drink vegetable mixed juices

Celery/spinach/kale/cucumber/carrot/apple/berry, peach/orange/banana as opposed to one juice beverages for a higher calorie intake.

7. With moderation, you may add in good fat sources to meals such as nuts, avocado, olives, and fatty fish (salmon and mackerel)

Sprinkle flaxseed meal in oatmeal or in the batter of waffles and on top of cereals.

8. Snack wisely in between meals.

Nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, and yogurt are good options. Lastly, try to have a nutritious snack before bedtime, such as a peanut butter sandwich on sprouted bread with whole or reduced fat milk.

Resources: gainweight.com, emedicine.com, stronglifts.com, nutrition.com, webmd.com

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