It's always better to get the extra calories you need for weight gain from real food. But if you're having a difficult time getting the calories you need from what you eat, you may consider a supplement. While there is no legal definition for the term natural on a food label, the Food and Drug Administration considers "natural" to mean that the food does not contain anything synthetic or artificial, so choosing a natural supplement helps minimize the chances you'll consume tons of preservatives and processed ingredients. If you're struggling to gain weight, consult your doctor or dietitian to help guide you toward the best food and supplement options.
Natural Weight Gain Powders
A weight-gain powder is an easy way to take in lots of extra calories -- a serving of some weight gain powders could pack in more than 1,400 calories, along with nutrients to support muscle growth. Natural weight-gain supplements contain carbs, protein and fat, but may not contain processed or synthetic ingredients -- including synthetic vitamins -- found in other types of weight-gain powders. For example, one natural weight-gain powder contains organic tapioca maltodextrin, which is the source of carbs, and whey and casein from milk, which provides the protein and fat, but does not have any other added ingredients to provide vitamins and minerals.
Natural Weight Gain Drinks
All-natural, ready-to-drink weight-gain supplements are also available, and may be even more convenient if you don't have time to mix a powdered product. These shakes tend to have fewer calories than weight gain powders, so they're a good option if you only need a slight calorie boost for weight gain.
One organic or natural weight-gain drink features organic ingredients like whey protein, cane juice and sunflower oil, along with non-organic ingredients such as tricalcium phosphate, caraagenan gum and a vitamin blend. Another all-natural, weight-gain nutritional drink contains natural ingredients such as pea protein, rice maltodextrin and sunflower oil, as well as natural flavorings, gellan gum and added vitamins and minerals.
DIY Natural Weight Gain Supplements
If you want a more natural weight-gain supplement, you may be better off creating your own using real food. For example, you can blend together 1 cup of whole milk with a large banana, 1 cup of strawberries and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for a 520-calorie shake. Or blend 1 cup of 100-percent orange juice blended with 1/2 cup of tofu, a cup of fresh pineapple and 2 tablespoons of almond butter for a drink that supplies 475 calories. Use different combinations milk or plant-milk alternative, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds for a virtually limitless set of options for shakes -- a must for avoiding diet boredom. Stir or blend nonfat dried milk powder or natural soy protein into your smoothies -- they each have around 27 calories per tablespoon -- for extra calories and protein in your drink.
Considerations for Weight Gain Supplements
While supplements can help you reach your weight gain goals, you don't necessarily need them to gain weight -- and, in some cases, they might pose a health risk. Some supplements may provide significantly more calories than you need, which might make you put on too much fat. And the high-protein content of many natural weight gain supplements might cause harmful side effects if you have an underlying health condition, like kidney disease.
Talk to your doctor to make sure supplements are safe for you. Don't worry, thought because you can get all the calories you need from eating real, natural, whole foods. Add high-calorie options such as avocados, sweet potatoes, winter squash, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, whole-grain bagels, quinoa, fatty fish such as salmon and natural oils such as sunflower or olive oil to your diet to increase your calorie and nutrient intake.