If you read popular fitness or lifestyle magazines, you’d think everyone wants to lose weight. With two-thirds of Americans overweight and one-third obese, it comes as a surprise that a lot of people want to gain weight and can’t—or think they can’t.
If you’re one of the lucky few who can eat all they want and never gain an ounce, count your blessings. You’re dodging the major killers that stalk the well-fed. Heavy people are more prone to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a host of other problems. But being too thin brings health disadvantages with it as well. Skinny people are more prone to injury, less resistant to infectious disease, and often lack the energy and stamina to live a normal life.
There are ways to put on some pounds that don’t involve steroids or synthol injections. The simple fact is that you have to eat more calories than you burn. But let’s assume for a second that you want to gain healthy, lean tissue, and not just fat. You’re going to have to eat more—that’s a given—but making sure you eat nutrient-dense, high calorie foods is the healthiest way to pack on the pounds.
What to eat
To build healthy lean tissue, you need protein, protein, protein! The best sources are meat, fish, and eggs. Try to eat a palm-sized serving of some kind of protein six times a day at evenly-spaced intervals. Protein supplements in milk or smoothies are popular alternatives.
Don’t shun the high-calorie healthy foods like nuts and cheese either. What you don’t want is refined foods – anything made entirely of starch, sugar, and oil. That will make you fat at the expense of muscle while predisposing you to heart disease and diabetes. Eat your carbohydrates in the form of plant-based whole foods.
Consider weight-gain supplements as well. Creatine will not only help your strength, it will serve to draw more water into the cells, making your muscles bigger. Although it can cause some stomach upset in excess, it’s one of the safer supplements out there and widely used by serious athletes. Try five to ten grams per day.
You will also need to add some activity to your life that makes the body want to put on a little muscle. Lifting weights are the obvious option! It can be barbells or it can be your own body, but you need to do regular resistance training in order to put on muscle.
Weight training for weight gain
It may surprise you to learn that you don’t have to do much exercise to build muscle. If you thought you were going to need to be at the gym pumping iron a couple of hours a day, that will not be the case. In fact, as little as ten minutes twice a week can produce impressive gains. Here’s why: exercise doesn’t necessarily make you stronger—it’s the rebuilding of muscles between workouts that adds strength. The purpose of exercise is to challenge the muscles to grow, so you should push yourself to the point where you can’t do anymore, and then try a little harder. Give it 100% and then push yourself that extra bit.
It only takes 80 seconds under tension to signal the muscles to grow. That’s just a minute and a half of push-ups, pull ups, biceps curls, whatever you choose. Make sure to rest for a few days before doing it again. To hit all the major muscle groups, you can do something for the upper body and something else for the legs on the same day, like pull ups and lunges. It might not feel easy for a couple of minutes, but there’s no doubt that strength training will pack on the pounds! Happy training!