Whether you’re genetically predisposed to being underweight or if you’re recovering from an illness, surgery, etc., there’s a wrong way and a right way to increase your calorie intake from a nutritional perspective.
Fecklessly eating whatever you want without focusing on exercise, of course, would be the wrong way.
If you focus on meal timing, macronutrient balancing, and the other tips listed below, you can actually gain weight more effectively while also avoiding the pitfalls of poor nutrition.
First things first, we have to start off with the big picture: carbs, fat, protein, and micronutrients.
Keep Your Macros Balanced
Being underweight does not justify throwing your nutrient balance off to gain weight, as your heart, pancreas, liver, brain, and other vital organs will attest.
Increasing your macronutrient intake across the board means sticking to the following ranges as recommended by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine:
- Carbohydrates (45-65%)
- Fats (20-35%)
- Protein (10%-35%)
That said, because fat is more calorically dense (9 cal/gram) than protein and carbohydrates (both 4 cal/gram), as long as you select healthy monounsaturated fats like avocado and olive oil and keep your healthy carbs and protein up, pushing the 40% mark on daily fat intake makes sense.
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Don’t Forget About Fiber
Yes, fiber can help you lose weight under the right conditions, but if you’re already consuming a high-calorie diet, fiber is less of a weight loss tool and more of a buffer against potentially problematic shifts in your heart health and/or diabetes risk brought on by increasing fat and carbohydrate intake.
As explained by this University of South Carolina study, fiber empowers your body to more slowly digest simple sugars when consumed concurrently, making the “spikes” less intense, which reduces the burden on your pancreas and, ultimately, your heart.
High-fiber and calorically rich foods you can incorporate into your diet include oats, quinoa, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, and popcorn, to name a few.
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Up Your Meal Frequency
Both for health and efficiency reasons, it’s not optimal to simply beef up the three standard meals and call it a day.
You’ll only worsen the food coma effect, hurting your productivity and spiking your blood sugar, while taking in fewer calories if you went with five meals and snacks in between.
Everybody’s target calorie intake will vary, but if you’re shooting for 3,000, for example, five 500-calorie meals with a few snacks in between is much easier to manage for most people than three larger meals.
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Replace Low-Calorie Drinks
Of course, hydrating with water will always be recommended, but soda, coffee, and other common beverages can be swapped out with protein and/or nutrition shakes or smoothies to ratchet up the calorie content without sacrificing on nutrition.
You can save money and incorporate your favorite flavors by making these shakes and smoothies on your own with ingredients like dates, peanut butter, cocoa powder, honey, and more.
Exercise: Hear Us Out
Of course you will probably lose weight if you go crazy on the elliptical for 45 minutes a day, but with a safe and sensible strength training routine, you can pack on muscle and naturally increase your appetite at the same time.
You don’t need fancy equipment or even a gym to hit these lifts, but a set of dumbbells (or two) will come in handy.
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Try these exercises, keeping in mind that you want to add resistance/difficulty when possible so that you can’t easily do more than fifteen repetitions per set (that’s more of a muscle toning and weight loss scenario):
- Tricep dips
- Lateral deltoid raises
- Bicep curls
Combine all of these methods, keep safety and consistency in mind, and you have a much better chance of gaining healthy weight.
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