According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 1.7% of US adults are underweight. You're not alone in your struggle to gain weight, and there are working techniques that will help you achieve your goal!
We understand that it is very hard to gain weight for some people. Your weight might result from your genetics. It can be explained by fast metabolism or can be due to the small amount of food you eat. Whatever the reasons are, you can challenge them. It’s not going to be an overnight change. Achieving your goal weight might take you some time. However, by eating in a surplus and working out, you will get there. Just stay consistent in your endeavors.
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Metabolism is a sum of chemical reactions in your body. It determines how food transforms into energy and how your body uses it for living. It includes your physical activity, non-exercise thermogenesis, energy spent to digest food, and basal metabolic rate (the energy your body uses to fuel the brain, muscle tissue, and other organs).
If you have a fast metabolism, your body needs a lot of energy to live. In other words, you need more food to maintain your weight. If the quantity of calories you should be eating is more extensive than you actually eat, you can discover trouble gaining weight.
Being underweight is not always a choice. There are health conditions that can lead to extreme weight or appetite loss. If you start to lose weight without any effort on your behalf, you should immediately see your doctor. It might be caused by diabetes, infections, cancer, or thyroid misfunction.
Health providers determine whether someone's underweight or not by the body mass index. If a person's BMI is below 18.5, they will be considered underweight. If you feel good, have no health issues, and love the way you look with a BMI lower than 18.5, there is no need to worry. Body mass index is just a number. It doesn't consider your genetics, age, and other important factors.
However, underweight people might have greater risks of bone fractures due to the lower bone mineral density1Coin A., Sergi G., Beninca P., et al. (2000). Bone Mineral Density and Body Composition in Underweight and Normal Elderly Subjects. Osteoporosis International. DOI:10.1007/s001980070026. They might have lower fertility2Jokela M., Elovainio M., Kivimaki M. (2008, October). Lower Fertility Associated with Obesity and Underweight: The US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI:10.1093/ajcn/88.4.886 and even greater chances of developing dementia3Qizilbash N., Gregson J., Johnson M. E., et al. (2015, June). BMI and Risk of Dementia in Two Million People over Two Decades: A Retrospective Cohort Study. The Lancet. Diabetes and Endocrinology. DOI:10.1016/s2213-8587(15)00033-9.
The main reason behind being underweight is eating fewer calories than you burn. There are two parts to this equation.
On the one side, your metabolism might be too fast. It happens when you lead an active lifestyle or work physically. Your body can also spend a lot of energy on functioning. If you live in a cold climate and don't dress very warm, your body needs more energy.
On the other side, you might be in a calorie deficit. This means you don't get enough energy from food and cannot get to the anabolic state when your body builds new muscles or fat tissue.
Men usually have more insecurities about being too skinny because of beauty standards.
As men have more muscle mass than women, their metabolism is faster too. It can be more challenging for men to gain muscle because they need to consume a lot more calories. The thing is, you need more energy to maintain your muscles than fat. You need to increase your calorie intake when you become bigger.
New lifters can gain one to four pounds of muscle a month4Schoenfeld, Brad J. (2010, October). The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Volume 24 - Issue 10. DOI:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. So, the process of transformation is neither easy nor fast. And because of the changes between men and women, it is even harder to build muscle as a female.
As women on average have a bit slower metabolism than men, gaining weight might be easier for them. On the other hand, getting new pounds from muscle and not fat tissue will be more challenging for women.
Both males and females can grow muscles with regular exercise. However, men tend to have more upper body gains and women easies obtain muscle tissue in the lower body5Abe, T., DeHoyos, D., Pollock, M. et al. (2000). Time course for strength and muscle thickness changes following upper and lower body resistance training in men and women. Eur J Appl Physiol 81, 174–180. DOI:10.1007/s004210050027.
See also: Do You Gain Weight on Your Period? Causes and Treatment
Eating more calories than you burn is the only way to gain weight. See what you can do to make the first part of the equation easier.
Many busy people have this habit. Have at least three square meals a day or add more calorie-dense snacks.
You will know for sure how many calories you need to gain weight. After a couple of weeks, you will know how much food to eat even without counting.
If your days are too busy, prepare several servings at a time. Bring leftover meals to your office instead of buying snacks and coffee.
Add creamer to your coffee, have the whole and not skim milk, and drink juices and smoothies. They all contain calories but don't make you feel stuffed or bloated.
You will get decent results if you exercise from 20 to 90 minutes 2-3 times a week. Anything above that volume won’t bring significant changes to your progress6Kraemer, W J et al. (1993, August). Changes in hormonal concentrations after different heavy-resistance exercise protocols in women. Journal of applied physiology. DOI:10.1152/jappl.19220.127.116.114.
Pilates, running, or yoga are great for your health. However, you should choose strength-oriented types of sports to gain muscles.
These are weight gainers that contain proteins and carbs. You can prepare protein shakes yourself or buy mass gainers at sports nutrition stores.
See also: Protein Powder for Muscle Building: Does it Actually Work?
If you were buying fat-free products just out of habit, stop it right now. Eat whole eggs and not egg whites from a bottle, buy 50% fat cheese instead of low-fat versions, cook an entire chicken and not chicken breasts, etc.
When increasing your fat consumption, remember that there are fat sources that are beneficial for your health (like olive oil, fish, and nuts) and not that healthy trans fat and saturated fats.
There are a few supplements for muscle growth that are safe for your health and show science-based efficiency7Kreider R. B. (2003, February). Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Performance and Training Adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. PMID:12701815. Creatine is one of them. It can help you improve your strength and power and assist with muscle growth and recovery.
If you're a healthy person with no critical health conditions, you will quickly gain weight using these tips. However, if you want the biggest part of your weight gain to come from muscles and not fat tissue, you will have to add workouts with progressive overload to your routine.
Muscle gaining process depends on various factors that include your age, exercise experience, nutrition, the type of sports you do, sleeping hours, and stress levels. You cannot affect your age and sports background but make sure you eat and rest well as muscles grow during the resting phase.
You will start seeing a difference in your scales in a couple of weeks of regular exercise. Wait for the first noticeable gains that will make you change your clothing size in 3 months. You will be able to obtain more muscle mass in the first year of strength training8F. M. Ivey, B. L. Tracy, J. T. Lemmer, M. NessAiver, E. J. Metter, J. L. Fozard, B. F. Hurley. (2000, March 1). Effects of Strength Training and Detraining on Muscle Quality: Age and Gender Comparisons. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 55, Issue 3. DOI:10.1093/gerona/55.3.B152.
You can gain weight only if you are in a calorie surplus. To create a calorie surplus you need to move less or eat more.
Gaining muscles is the healthiest way to put on weight. Make sure you eat enough qualitative food and exercise regularly to see progress. Don’t forget that resting after a workout is as important.
High-calorie-dense foods and sports supplements can help you obtain muscle faster and easier.
Unimeal does not diagnose or suggest treatments. Any description of the diet, training plan or supplement should be discussed with your current physician or nutritionist. This article does not address specific conditions and is simply meant to provide general information on healthcare topics. Following any advice is at your own initiative and does not impose any responsibility on the blog authors for your health and safety.
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