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Healthy Ways to Gain Weight

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.

All That You Need To Know About Nutrition For South Asians

I typed the word – nutrition – in the Google search bar. About 1,480,000,000 results (0.63 seconds) appeared with a display of the first 11 links.

Whoa! I paused, then I typed –  Nutrition for South Asians. About 97,700,000 results (0.60 seconds) was the result.  I let this number sink in. What could I tell readers about nutrition in 1000 words or less that would actually be useful?

I narrowed my research to four questions.  What are the principal do’s and don’ts for nutrition and healthy eating? What restrictions do health conditions pose? Are credible, well-researched guides available to help us develop individualized plans? Can we adapt these guidelines to cuisines we enjoy?

This article is about healthy eating using Indian, South-Asian and other preferred diets. In a nutshell, abide by these overarching rules:

  1. Follow a heart-healthy diet

  2. Reach and maintain a healthy body weight

  3. Always eat breakfast

  4. Stay hydrated

  5. Don’t follow fad diets

  6. Don’t skip meals

Next, download your free copy of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA. This authoritative guide provides an in-depth discussion on diet for proper nutrition and good health.

Its key recommendations are: daily consumption of foods and beverages should be within a caloric level appropriate for you. Adopt a healthy eating pattern that includes:

 (1) a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other

(2) fruits, especially whole fruits

3) grains, at least half of which are whole grains

(4) fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages

(5) a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products

(6) Oils (fats that are liquid at room temperature and high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats).

These recommendations for healthy eating patterns should be applied in their entirety, given the interconnected relationship that each dietary component can have with others.

The Dietary Guidelines suggest that we get about half of our calories from carbohydrates. Fruit, vegetables, all grain-based foods and dairy products all contain ‘good’ or ‘whole’ carbohydrates in the form of sugar and starch and fiber (as opposed to refined or processed carbohydrates). Most carbohydrates get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy; they can also be turned into fat (stored energy) for later use.

“Good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet; they lower risk of disease. Most of the dietary fat should be of this kind and is found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils (corn, olive, soybean, etc.). Saturated fats found primarily in meat and dairy products should be limited. The trans fats created by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils should be eliminated.

A healthy eating pattern also limits added sugars and sodium. The Guidelines suggest that less than 10 percent of daily calorie intake should be from added sugars and less than 10 percent from saturated fats. Sodium consumption should be less than 2,300 milligrams per day (slightly less than a standard teaspoon of salt). Your daily diet should include 4,700 milligrams of potassium which offsets sodium’s effect on blood pressure and has other health benefits. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, leafy green vegetables, and potatoes. For example, a medium banana has about 420 mg of potassium, 8 oz of plain non-fat yogurt contain 580 mg and a baked potato about 600 mg. The dietary guidelines provide a detailed listing of foods containing potassium.  Meat, milk, and some cereal products contain potassium but in a form that is difficult to absorb. Alcohol consumption by adults should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks daily for men.

A Harvard Health publication points out that “one of the first principles of healthy eating is to choose nutrient-dense foods that pack, calorie-for-calorie, the most amount of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. That’s why the Guidelines say that the 2,000-calorie-a-day reference diet should include nine servings of fruit and vegetables.”  (this can be made up by including 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day) It recommends including a “good” fat with every meal and urges limiting dairy intake (noting that dairy products are fairly high in calories) and choosing fat-free and low-fat dairy products to avoid cholesterol-boosting saturated fats. The Nutrition Source at the Harvard School of Public Health patterns the Healthy Eating Plate© on these Guidelines.

To help Americans of Indian origin better manage diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) commissioned Dr. Ranjita Misra, now Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at West Virginia University, to edit the second edition of the book Indian Foods: AAPI’s Guide To Nutrition, Health and Diabetes. This excellent resource on nutrition and healthy eating with Indian cuisine includes chapters on East Indian, South Indian, Maharashtrian, Gujarati, North Indian and Nepali cuisine as well as diet and lifestyle recommendations to prevent heart disease, and tips for those living with diabetes and kidney disease.

Dr. Misra recommends the Dietary Guidelines “as the Bible to go by,” and advocates following it to build a personalized eating plan, using the AAPI Guide and similar sources to tailor it to your cuisines of choice. I spoke with Dr. Misra at length, and she offered several tips that you’ll soon see in the sequel to this article.

In conjunction with a healthy-eating plan, everyone – children, adolescents, adults, and older adults – should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Consult your doctor to account for your specific health requirements, and get on the nutritious and healthy-eating bandwagon with these few simple rules.  Develop your own healthy eating plate and enjoy varied, tasty, healthy and nutritious meals every day!

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community.  Sukham provides information, and access to resources on matters related to health and well-being, aging, life’s transitions including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death in the family and bereavement. If you feel overcome by a crisis and are overwhelmed by Google searches, Sukham can provide curated resource help. To find out more, visit https://www.sukham.org, or contact the author at sukhaminfo@gmail.com.  

The Healthy Eating Plate copyright © 2011 Harvard University. For more information please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,  http://www.thenutritionsource.org and Harvard Health Publications, health.harvard.edu.”

“Copyright © 2011 Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, http://www.thenutritionsource.org and Harvard Health Publications, health.harvard.edu.”