Whole foods and weight training help you pack on pounds in a healthy way. These nutritious foods boost your energy levels and provide you with calories and nutrients that support muscle repair and tissue growth. The weight training helps you put on muscle -- not just 5 pounds of added fat -- which helps you look more solid and feel stronger. Gaining 5 pounds may take five to 10 weeks, but treating it like a slow, gradual process ensures you'll add pounds in the healthiest way possible.
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How to Gain 5 Pounds
To gain 5 pounds, you must eat 17,500 calories more than you burn over the course of several weeks. Doing this too quickly means you'll add body fat, as you can realistically add only half a pound of muscle per week. A pound equals 3,500 calories, so go for a 250- to 500-calorie daily surplus for slow weight loss of 0.5 to one pound each week.
An online calculator or a dietitian can help you use your age, size, gender and activity level to approximate how many calories you burn daily. Add 250 to 500 calories to this number to figure your daily intake goal. Divide the calories over three meals and two to three snacks so you don't have to stuff yourself at one sitting.
Healthy Foods for Weight Gain
Protein-rich foods should take the starring role in meals and snacks when you're trying to gain weight. Flank steak, poultry, salmon, canned tuna packed in olive oil, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and eggs are good options. Full-fat dairy is OK when you're trying to gain weight; it not only provides you with protein, but supplies bone-building calcium and vitamin D.
Enjoy generous servings of starchy vegetables at meals, including sweet potato, corn and winter squash. For meals and snacks, include whole grains -- such as oats at breakfast, whole-wheat bread at lunch and brown rice with dinner. Bananas, pineapples and dried fruit make natural, high-calorie menu items loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Fat contains 9 calories per gram, compared to the 4 calories available in protein and carbohydrates -- making it an easy way to boost calorie intake. As much as possible, go for unsaturated fats, which are healthier for your heart and brain. Avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish are quality sources.
Meal Ideas to Gain 5 Pounds
Oatmeal with full-fat milk, a sliced banana, raisins and walnuts makes a high-calorie breakfast. Have a side of whole-grain toast with peanut butter to boost the calorie intake further. An omelet made with spinach, tomatoes and cheddar alongside a bowl of granola with milk is another option.
For lunch, try a grilled chicken sandwich on a whole-wheat bun with sliced avocado, a baked potato topped with melted cheese and a smoothie made with a banana, shredded coconut, milk and pineapple. Or, wrap a flank steak in a large whole-wheat tortilla with brown rice, guacamole and cheese and enjoy a container of plain yogurt mixed with pumpkin seeds and honey on the side.
Dinner ideas include whole-wheat pasta with ground turkey and marinara, broiled salmon with roasted sweet potato fries or a lean ground beef burger on whole wheat with creamy butternut squash soup. Have a large salad topped with avocado, sunflower seeds and olive oil alongside any of these meals to get ample phytonutrients and healthy fats.
For calorie-dense, healthy snacks, go for cottage cheese with almonds and raisins; a smoothie with Greek yogurt, peanut butter, milk and banana; roasted nuts and hummus with a whole-wheat pita.
Weight Training to Gain 5 Pounds
When you're sedentary, about two-thirds of every pound of weight you gain comes from fat. To make your 5 pounds of extra weight primarily come from muscle, you'll have to work hard at the gym. Do at least two workouts per week that involve all of the major muscle groups, including the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, hips and abs. Use weights that feel very heavy and challenging by the end of your 6- to 8-repetition set. One set of each exercise works fine when you're starting out, but work up to two or three sets over time to continue getting results. Don't forget cardio, either; just limit your sessions to a moderate intensity for 20 to 30 minutes most days to avoid burning too many calories.
Time one of your daily snacks around these weight-training sessions so you can recover with a healthy post-workout meal. Higher-protein snacks -- such as Greek yogurt with granola or chocolate milk and a banana -- are best at this time, because protein helps your muscles repair themselves and grow thicker fibers to add mass.