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Are you trying to gain weight? Trying to gain weight may seem like an easy problem to solve, however, healthily putting on weight may not be as easy as you think. So, whether you are underweight and want to reach a healthy weight or are trying to gain muscle, you need a balanced approach to gain weight.

As a general rule, you need to consume between 300 and 500 more calories than you burn to gain weight. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the number of calories they eat, or they misestimate it. This is where a weight gain calculator comes in handy. It helps you plan your meals properly with an adequate amount of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

What are the risks of being underweight?

Almost two-thirds of the US population is overweight or obese, which can lead to health problems. Similarly, being too skinny or underweight can also be unhealthy. If you have a BMI of less than 18.5, you are considered underweight (1). Not only does being underweight lower your self-esteem, but it can also lead to malnutrition and have a severe impact on your health. A diet that is very low in calories can cause fatigue, nausea, hair, and skin issues. When you are underweight, you can also develop a weakened immune system, osteoporosis (2), infertility, eating disorders, and developmental issues.

Causes of being underweight

There can be many reasons why a person is underweight (3). Sometimes there may be multiple related causes. Often medical conditions can also make a formerly healthy person to lose weight.

1. Family history

Some people have naturally low BMI that may run in their family. If a person has a high metabolism, he may not be able to gain much weight despite eating high calories foods. 

2. High levels of physical activity

Some people like sportspeople and athletes burn much more calories, and this may result in low body weight.

3. Infections

Parasites, tuberculosis, HIV, and other infectious diseases can make the body use most of its energy in fighting off these diseases, which may lead to drastic weight loss.

4. Diabetes

When people have diabetes, insufficient insulin levels prevent the body from getting glucose from the body’s cells to use as energy. The body then starts burning fat and muscle for energy, and this leads to weight loss issues.

5. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss.

6. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that can lead to weight loss. The body has an autoimmune response to gluten, and the small intestines are damaged, which affects the absorption of nutrients and causes weight loss.

7. Mental illness

Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can affect a person’s ability to eat. If you lose bodyweight drastically without making a change to your diet or exercise pattern, you may have one of these illnesses. Seek medical advice and follow a plan to gain weight healthily.

How to gain weight healthily?

Just like a weight loss program, a weight-gain program also needs a balanced approach. Eating calorie-dense junk food may lead to weight gain, but you may still have nutritional deficiencies. Here are some general tips for gaining weight safely –

1. Eat frequent meals

Eat three to five meals every day. Eating more meals makes it easier to take in additional calories. You can also increase the number of calories consumed by snacking between meals (4).

2. Add healthy calories

Eating healthy is not difficult. You can increase your overall calorie intake by adding nuts and seeds and cheese to your dishes. Add healthy side dishes. Whole grain toast, sunflower seeds, almonds, and fruits like bananas and avocados are some great options (5).

3. Eat enough protein

Our body uses protein to build lean muscle mass. The RDA for protein is 0.4g per pound of body weight. So if you’re trying to gain muscle mass, you should exceed this amount significantly. Some of the favorite calorie-dense high-protein foods include fattier cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. You can also include salmon and eggs in your diet. Peanuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and walnuts are also rich in proteins.

4. Consume healthy carbs

Avoid refined carbohydrates and go for whole-food sources of carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, and beans. Sweet potatoes and yams are also good for your diet. 

5. Eat healthy fats

Learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, and nuts, avocado, vegetable oils, and fish are rich sources of these fats. Unhealthy fats include saturated fats and trans fats. Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats. 

6. Weight training

Weight training is essential for healthy weight gain as it helps in gaining and maintaining lean muscle mass. You may need to modify your workout over time by increasing the weight or number of sets to continue gaining muscle mass. 

People who do weight training break down their exercise routines into specific muscle groups. Some of the leg building exercises include barbell squats, leg press, leg extensions, calf raises, leg curls, and barbell squats. Some of the upper body exercises include dumbbell pullovers, incline row, incline chest press, lateral raise, supine ventral raise, and side pullovers.

7. Cardio exercises

Many people who want to gain muscle try to avoid cardio. However, you must include these exercises into your routine as well. Cardio exercises are great for a healthy heart and lungs. Running, swimming, and walking are great ways to get some cardio exercise.

You can use a weight gain calculator

This weight gain calculator helps you to determine your daily calorie intake for your weight gain goal. You first need to input your age, gender, weight, and height. You then choose the number of meals you plan to eat per day. Since you have to eat more food during the day, it is advisable to divide your intake into more meals. 

The calorie boost option is available for those people who find it very difficult to gain weight. The activity level is based on three weight training sessions per week, with little or no cardio. Click on calculate to find out the number of calories you should eat in a day. The results also give you a break-up of the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that you should eat per meal and per day. As a general rule, only one-third of your fats should be from saturated fats.

How does this calculator work?

When you input all your details in the calculator, it estimates your daily maintenance level using the Mifflin St Jeor formula and adds a percentage of calories to the total (6).  The calculator then estimates the optimum levels of essential nutrients to ensure healthy weight gain. Your protein intake is calculated at 1.1 gram per pound of body weight. Around 30% of your intake should come from fats. The rest of your daily intake should come from carbohydrates.

Final thoughts

Being underweight can be extremely bad for your health. When you are underweight, you can also develop a weakened immune system, osteoporosis, infertility, eating disorders, and developmental issues. To reach a healthy weight, you must calculate how many calories you need to eat with a weight gain calculator. Plan a healthy and balanced diet that includes lean proteins, healthy carbs, and fats. You must also incorporate weight training and cardio exercises into your daily routine. 

Manveen Sibia had an illustrious career in journalism and writing. She is the mother of a super active 7-year-old. While chasing her around the house, she also finds time to pursue her passion for writing on parenting, education, health, fitness, and entertainment.


Disclaimer: This article is for general information purpose only. Please do not consider this as a substitute for qualified healthcare provider’s advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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