Gaining weight sounds easy -- just eat more food, and the pounds pile on -- but gaining can be difficult for people with a high metabolism or illness. The fastest you should try to gain weight is at a pace of 1/2 to 1 pound per week; rapid weight gain will make you gain too much body fat, which carries its own health problems. Being sedentary as you gain weight also means you'll add a preponderance of fat, so it's a good idea to lift weights to add muscle, if your energy level and health allows it.
Gaining Weight Expediently
You'll need to eat more calories to gain weight, but not thousands of extra calories per day. A simple surplus of 250 to 500 calories daily over and above what you need to maintain your weight helps you add pounds gradually and healthfully. A pound equals 3,500 calories, so this daily addition means you'll put on 1/2 to 1 pound per week. If you have a high metabolism, you may need to consume 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day.
An online calculator is the easiest way to estimate your calorie intake needs for maintenance. Add the 250 to 500 calories to that number for a calorie intake to start with for the first few weeks. If weight gain is slower than 1/2 pound per week, add another 100 to 200 calories daily until you reach a number that yields results.
You want your body to build quality tissue from those added calories. Weight training -- along with the calorie surplus -- helps you pack on muscle to help you work and feel better every day. Muscle is especially valuable if you're adding pounds for sports performance. Appropriate weight training helps anyone looking to get healthy, though, by making you strong enough to climb stairs, carry groceries and walk around your neighborhood.
Make Higher Calorie Choices
The easiest way to make meals count for weight gain is to choose higher calorie foods. Opt for starchy vegetables -- such as sweet potatoes or winter squash -- over steamed, watery veggies. Order a chunky, creamy soup instead of a broth-based vegetable or chicken noodle. Pour a bowl of granola instead of flaked cereal for a higher calorie breakfast or snack. Eat thick, hearty slices of breads such as whole wheat or pumpernickel with peanut butter. Canned beans, rotisserie chicken and fish canned in olive oil are easy calorie-dense protein options that aren't too high in saturated fat.
Easy Calorie Additions to Gain Weight
You don't have to create complex recipes to gain weight. Add calories to foods you already eat using unsaturated fats, dried milk powder and cheese. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over scrambled eggs, stir dried milk powder into hot cereal, top toast and bananas with peanut butter, sprinkle sunflower seeds over salad, or toss whole-wheat pasta in olive oil before adding sauce.
Drink a glass of milk at each meal -- full fat is fine -- for an additional 450 calories per day. Mix up a high-calorie smoothie twice per day using a banana, pineapple, canned and unsweetened coconut milk, honey, almond milk and strawberries for a quick and tasty between-meal calorie boost. Pack a baggie full of cashews and graze on it all day for an extra 748 calories, or make it raisins for 493 calories.
Make Weight Workouts Easy
When you go to the gym to weight train, don't overthink your routine. Simply lift heavy things and stick to basic exercises, like squats, chest presses and rows. A set of four to eight repetitions of a move for every muscle group suffices; you have the option to add more sets as you feel stronger. Plan on at least two workouts per week -- three or four times for more dramatic results. Leave at least 48 hours between specific muscle groups worked.
If you're energy is compromised and using heavy weights is overwhelming, do exercises using your body weight or rubber tubing to strengthen your muscles.