Gain Weight and Build Muscle: Twelve Healthy Ways

A healthy shake with meals is an easy way to increase calories.

A healthy shake with meals is an easy way to increase calories.
Ilona Titova/Shutterstock

Being underweight can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, the use of certain medications, or simply not eating enough. Being underweight is often the result of a serious illness.

To gain weight, you have to take in more calories than you burn. If you want to gain a pound a week, then you would have to consume 500 calories more than before.

A varied diet with fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains is important so that you get the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals.

Obesity remains a major health problem today. And while being overweight is unhealthy, being underweight can be just as unhealthy. Experts say that a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less can lead to health problems, such as a weakened immune system or brittle bones.

Being underweight can be caused by several factors, such as genetics, the use of certain medications, or not eating enough. Being underweight is often the result of a serious illness. So if you need to put the weight back on, or just want to, your primary focus should be on nutrients. Because there is healthy weight and unhealthy weight. Here are twelve tips on how to gain weight in a healthy way.

1. Eat more calories

To gain weight, you must take in more calories than you burn. For example, you would need to consume a good 3,350 more calories a week to gain a pound. So if you want to gain a pound a week, you need to eat 500 calories more than before.

You can better achieve your desired weight if you get help from a doctor or a nutritionist. According to nutritionist Jaime Gnau of Missouri State University, gaining half a pound to a pound a week is healthy. To give you a better overview:

weight gain per week Additional calories per day
0.25kg 250
0.5kg 500
1.0kg 1,000

Your metabolism plays an important role in this. When you have a fast metabolism, your body burns more calories than others. That means you’ll probably have a harder time gaining weight. Therefore, people with fast metabolisms will need to consume many more calories if they want to reach their weight goals.


2. Choose high-calorie fruits and vegetables

It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight: a varied diet with fruits, vegetables, proteins and cereals is important so that you get the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals.

Here’s how you can meet your daily fruit and vegetable needs and eat plenty of calories:

  • Dates (66 calories per date)
  • Raisins (120 calories per 30 grams)
  • Black beans (220 calories per 90 grams)
  • Bananas (112 calories per banana)

3. Eat high-calorie foods

Another way to get more calories without constantly walking around on a full stomach is to eat high-calorie foods. Dietitian Gnau says that some foods have a lot of calories per gram, making them good sources of calories.

These foods include:

  • Avocados (240 calories per avocado)
  • Nuts, for example, almonds (180 calories per 35 grams)
  • Olive oil (120 calories per tablespoon)
  • Dried fruit, such as apricots (90 calories from five apricots)
  • Whole milk (150 calories per 200 grams)

Important: Even if you want to gain weight, make sure you eat a varied and nutritious diet. Pastas like cake or candy won’t get you where you want to go. You should enjoy these foods in moderation, says Gnau. Many of these foods contain higher amounts of sugar and can cause diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


4. Drink up the calories

Drinks like shakes or protein shakes are particularly good for getting calories without making a big meal. These high-calorie drinks are available to you:

  • Smoothies with peanut butter, chia seeds, fruit, yogurt and whole milk
  • Fruit juices with 100% fruit content. If you are healthy, you can drink a glass of juice a day as a substitute for fruit.
  • Sugar-free protein powder – you can simply mix it into your drinks, oatmeal or yogurt.

5. Add toppings like sauces or condiments

Garnishes like sauces or other foods can add another calorie boost to your meal, says Gnau. Plus they’re delicious! With these toppings you can boost your meals well:

  • Chili con Queso (110 calories per 63 grams)
  • Peanut butter or almond butter on toast or pancakes (190 calories each for two tablespoons)
  • Sunflower seeds in the salad (85 calories per tablespoon), you can also grate cheese (110 calories per 29 grams)

Important: The ingredients can help you consume more calories per day. However, make sure your sauces don’t contain large amounts of sugar, salt, or saturated fat.


6. Increase your protein intake

With weight, your body produces both fat and muscle. Muscles are made of protein, so you need to focus on that. So if you eat more protein while strength training, your body will build muscle instead of storing calories as fat.

A little hint: In general, 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight is optimal for healthy weight gain.

Protein-rich foods include:

  • Salmon (21 grams of protein per 100 grams of salmon)
  • Eggs (six grams of protein per egg)
  • Beans (six grams of protein per 88 grams of beans)
  • Nuts (six grams of protein per 29 grams)

However, too much protein can also lead to dehydration, so be sure to drink more water as you increase your protein intake. Gnau recommends getting no more than 35 percent of your daily calories from protein. From his point of view, an individually tailored nutrition plan is the best way to achieve the correct values.


7. Start lifting weights

Strength training can help you build muscle, says Jenna Coker-Jones, a health and fitness instructor in private practice.

A little hint: Jones recommends strength training at least three to four times a week. The weights should be heavy enough that you can only do six to eight reps.

Try to avoid intense cardio exercises, so don’t do extreme running. With this, you could burn the calories that you are trying to absorb. Try going for a walk instead. “Walking is an important part of good exercise,” says Jones. “Not only are you outdoors, you can also support your strength training with moderate cardio training.”

8. Opt for whole dairy products

Eat milk with a fat content of 3.5 percent, as well as cream, yogurt and cheese, and avoid all semi-fat products. These fats give you the good calories you need, plus, this is where your calories hide. A glass of whole milk has just under 150 calories and eight grams of protein. A glass of low-fat milk also has about eight grams of protein, but only 90 calories.

Doing strength training on your side can help you build muscle during the recovery phase. In a 2013 study, scientists found that men who drank a dairy beverage after strength training had greater protein buildup in their muscles than men who drank a soy beverage. This accumulation of protein is essential for greater muscle mass.

A 2019 analysis even found that consuming dairy products led to a decrease in fat mass and an increase in lean body mass. This means that it can help you gain muscle instead of fat.

A new: Cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan have less lactose than other dairy products, making them a good alternative for people who are lactose intolerant.


9. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates and starches

Healthy carbohydrates and starches can support your calorie intake while providing you with healthy nutrients. For example, grains like buckwheat and quinoa are good sources of protein and contain minerals like potassium and magnesium. Complex carbohydrates can also give you the energy you need for your workouts. They may also support the protein turnover process, which promotes muscle growth and maintenance.

With these healthy carbohydrates and starches, you can give your meals a boost:

  • Wholemeal bread and muesli
  • oatmeal
  • Integral rice
  • potatoes
  • pasta

10. Change the portions

If you want to eat more during the day, you may want to use larger plates, no kidding. Some research has shown that people eat larger portions from larger dishes. However, other experts say that the size of your plate has no bearing on the portions you actually eat.

Although the research isn’t entirely consistent here, you can try eating from larger plates to get more calories. You can also use a very strategic order in the way you eat your meals. For example, you shouldn’t stuff yourself with low-calorie vegetables so you can’t eat the high-protein items on your plate. Always start with what has the most protein.


11. Try to eat and snack more often

By eating and snacking frequently throughout the day, you can consume more calories and keep your energy levels high. Therefore, eating many small meals a day can also help you eat more without having to eat large portions.

A 2017 study showed that eating more than three meals a day increases BMI. On the other hand, study participants who ate just one or two meals a day showed a decrease in BMI.


12. Try taking supplements that help you gain weight

If you’ve tried everything and still can’t get bigger, try supplements that can help. Certain products are designed to help you gain weight. However, caution should be exercised with such products, definitely consult an expert.

Our advice: Before making extreme changes to your diet or training, consult an expert. With professional coaches and consultants, you can design plans and achieve your goals in the best way.

This article was translated from English by Meltem Sertatas. You can find the original text here.

Leave your vote

Leave a Comment

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.