In the health and fitness world, it seems like all you ever hear about is losing weight and the health-related concerns associated with carrying around extra pounds. Just as being overweight comes with its own set of health hurdles, being underweight can be just as unhealthy. Whether you have a high metabolism, have suffered from illness, have trouble getting enough food in during the day, or want to gain muscle mass, we’ll guide you through the do’s and don’ts of how to gain weight fast, and in a wholesome way.
Before diving deep into high-calorie healthy foods and habits, let’s be clear on one thing: if you’re asking how to gain weight fast, know that “fast” isn’t always maintainable. There’s a lot to consider when approaching weight gain such as:
- Your body shape and weight range as an adult.
- Your genetics, look at your parents’ shape and height; you are directly impacted by the amazing genes they’ve passed on.
- Think of your highest and lowest weight and where you felt your personal best.
Keep in mind that making changes in your body should be slow and steady. Drastic changes to body shape and weight usually result in unhealthy side effects or a yo-yo in your weight that can result in metabolic damage.
Gaining weight naturally without supplements
“Muscle building” foods and protein supplements are notorious for being marketed as a quick-fix magic potion for fast weight gain. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Rather than spending your money on processed products, focus on fueling your body with high-calorie and nutrient-rich foods. If you are recovering from illness, have chronic digestive issues, or haven’t been able to get enough nutrients from food, you may want to consider supplements. Otherwise, always aim for whole foods.
There are many easy options out there such fast food, candy, and sodas that will deliver quick calories, so you’re weight gain will be served up with a side of health ailments. In excess, these processed foods lead to inflammation, belly fat, slowed muscle repair and growth, and poor healing. Focus on nutritious meals to get you to your weight gain goals — remember, slow and steady wins the race.
The key to your weight gain journey is understanding the correct balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein forms the building blocks of your muscles, and you’ll really need this if your goal is to gain muscle. Fat contains the most significant amount of calories per gram (9 kcal per gram, compared to 4 kcal per gram for protein and carb) so start incorporating more of those healthy fats into your diet. High-carb, high-fat foods will increase cravings and appetite, encouraging you to eat more, so here are a few healthy high-carb, high-fat options we recommend:
- Guacamole with baked tortilla chips
- Fruit smoothies blended with coconut milk, avocado, or full-fat yogurt
- Trail mix with nuts and fruit
- Hummus with pita and starchy vegetables like carrot
How many calories do I need to gain weight?
Visualize a scale when you think of the calories you take in, versus the calories-out. In general, when you take in more than your body is burning, you will gain weight. Keep in mind that this all depends on your metabolism and other associated factors such as hormones and gut bacteria.
As a rule of thumb, aim for an extra 250-500 kcal per day for slow and steady gain. For more drastic weight gain, aim for an extra 500-1,000 kcal per day. Take calorie calculators as a guide because calories in food can vary as well as the way your body uses up those calories. Your needs may vary by several hundred calories per day. To gain weight fast, focus on adding calorie dense foods to your meals and snacks.
Here are some high-calorie healthy foods to pack some healthy calorie punch to your day:
- Nuts — almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.: Sprinkle on salads, cereal, yogurt, or smoothies
- Nut butter — peanut, almond, cashew: Add to smoothies, sauces, or oatmeal
- Oils: Add as desired when cooking or seasoning
- Dried fruits: Snack on them throughout the day or sprinkle on salads, cereal, and yogurt
- Avocado: Add to smoothies, baked goods, sandwiches, or salads
- Wheat germ, flax, or seeds: Sprinkle on salads, roasted vegetables, popcorn, or oatmeal
- Milk, cream, coconut milk: Add to coffee, tea, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, or grains
- Cheese: sprinkle on salads, pasta, or vegetables. Add to sandwiches, tacos, or wraps
How quickly can you gain weight
Everybody is different and responds in different ways. The rate you gain weight can depend on your metabolism, fitness level, genetics, daily activities, among other factors. Start by checking if your weight is in a healthy range, according to the BMI calculator but keep in mind that this is one of many biometrics to consider for overall wellness.
It’s important to talk to your doctor before beginning any new fitness or nutrition plan. They can check for any health conditions that may have caused you to lose weight initially. It can be dangerous to increase weight too quickly, such as with conditions like eating disorders. The type of food and amount that you’ll need can depend on what’s been preventing you from gaining weight in the first place.
A realistic, average rate of muscle gain would be about 0.5-1 pound (0.25-0.5 kg) per week, with any extra being fat. Keep in mind that some weight gain may be due to water weight, so it’s normal to see fluctuations. This is why we don’t recommend that you weigh yourself more than once per week.
We’ve got some tips and tricks how to gain weight fast:
- Eat more frequently: Eating five to six smaller meals during the day rather than two or three large meals.
- Drink liquids between meals: Liquids can create a sense of fullness so enjoy them between meals.
- Smoothies: Enjoy as a snack or meal if you aren’t hungry or they can accompany a meal for those extra calories.
- Use big plates: Small plates make will have your brain register you are fuller quicker, so use a big plate to trick yourself into eating more.
- Eat a bedtime snack: Eat an easily digestible and healthy snack before bed.
How to gain weight fast: For “skinny” guys out there
A common question that comes up is how men can gain weight and if there are differences between how men and women gain weight. Let’s get one thing straight, every body and every physique deserves love and appreciation. Be proud of your body and focus on what can help you feel your personal best.
That said, a lot of 8fitters message us asking, “I’m a skinny guy. How do I gain weight?” Well, men tend to have a higher metabolism than women due to more muscle mass and testosterone. A higher metabolism makes it harder to gain weight, meaning that you need to eat more to see results. Having higher testosterone allows muscle gain to be had more readily than fat tissue.
How to gain weight fast: Female edition
Women have more estrogen than men, making it easier to gain fat versus muscle. This is not a bad thing, as women require a higher body fat percentage for normal function and regular menstrual cycles. Use your never-ending hunger pangs when premenstrual to your advantage to eat more to gain weight. Your body needs the extra calories.
Don’t be scared to use workout weights. They’ll help you gain lean muscle, maintain strength, and improve bone density. In addition to your physical improvements, it will also help you improve your emotional health and self-esteem. Strength and resistance training activates your metabolism, increasing your appetite and helping with weight gain.
Is fitness important?
You may think that being sedentary will help you reach your goals but fitness is crucial if you’re trying to gain muscle weight. It also stimulates your appetite, which in turn makes it easier to eat more. Exercise helps decrease the risk of heart issues and is a natural way to regulate your moods. The best way to gain weight is to focus on gaining muscle. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate intensity daily for overall health.
Weight gain FAQs
We’ve covered some of the main points about weight gain above, so let’s now take a closer look at some common 8fitter questions that you may also have in mind:
“Should I skip on sleep in order to hit the gym?”
The answer is no. Getting good quality sleep and rest is essential for muscle growth and repair. Rather than sacrificing sleep for a workout, consider plugging in a quick 8fit workout another time of the day.
“Does it matter what I eat first?”
When having a balanced meal, eat your protein, carb and fat first, then vegetables last. This way if you get full halfway through, you’ll still reap the rewards of the calorie dense foods.
“What about weight gain shakes and bars?”
Most bars and shakes you find at the grocery store are very processed and not especially good for you — not to mention pricey. If you aren’t able to make your own smoothie or snack, aim to have these in moderation, just make sure to read the label and aim for options with the least number of ingredients.
“I feel like I’m eating a lot of fat. Is that bad for me?”
Not all dietary fat is created equal. Focus on fats that come from nuts, seeds, oils, avocados, olives, and fish. These can improve the health of your heart, skin, and even brain.
Sign up for 8fit to get a personalized fitness and nutrition plan that will help you gain weight and feel great.