Weight control is all about calories in vs. calories out. To gain weight, you'll need to take in more calories than you burn, and gaining 2 pounds per week requires eating 1,000 extra calories each day. Exactly how many calories you'll need overall, however, depends on your body size, activity level, age and gender. Consult a doctor before you start your weight-gain journey -- weight gain of 2 pounds per week is a lot faster than the recommended rate of 1/2 to 1 pound weekly, so you'll want to check with your physician to make sure it's safe for you.
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Determine Daily Calories to Gain Weight
The first step is to determine the calories required to maintain your current weight. Women can multiply their body weight by 16 -- and men should multiply their weight by 17 -- to estimate maintenance calories, says exercise and nutrition expert Sharon Griffin, PhD, in an IDEA Fitness Journal article in 2006. So for example, a 120-pound woman would multiply 120 times 16 to get 1,920 maintenance calories.
Now estimate your activity level so you can add the calories burned during weekly activities to maintenance calories. Women can use 150 calories per workout session, while men should figure on burning 200 calories per session. If that 120-pound woman exercises once every day, she'll need to add 150 calories to her 1,920 maintenance calories. That puts her at 2,070 calories daily -- but she's not done yet.
The final step is easy -- just add the 1,000 extra daily calories required to gain 2 pounds in one week. This means the 120-pound woman must consume 3,070 calories every day to reach the goal.
Gain Healthy Weight With Resistance Training
If you’re not already engaged in resistance training, or strength training, this is a good time to start. This type of exercise uses fewer calories than aerobic activities such as running and swimming, so you don't have to add too many more calories to your daily diet. Following a consistent strength-training program builds lean muscle mass, which boosts your weight and helps ensure the weight you gain doesn’t appear as unhealthy and unsightly fat.
If you’re new to strength training, consult a personal trainer to discuss a full-body strength program for you to do two or three times a week. A professional can design a program that suits your fitness level, mobility and fitness goals.
Diet Tips to Boost Daily Calories
A plan to gain weight is not an open invitation to indulge in sugar-laden foods -- you'll want to get extra calories from nourishing fare. Eat three larger meals each day, plus two or three snacks. You can boost calories at each meal by eating larger portions than normal and by including high-calorie foods such as beans, meat, whole grains and starchy vegetables.
Calories build quickly when you combine multiple high-calorie foods. You can make a 700-calorie snack or breakfast by topping a cup of granola with yogurt, nuts, blueberries and raspberries. A dinner that includes 5 ounces of salmon, 1 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, 1/2 cup of peas, and broccoli tossed with olive oil and tahini delivers 929 calories. One cup of quinoa topped with cubed avocado and sunflower seeds is about 500 calories. Some nutritious, high-calorie choices for snacks include trail mix, peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers, dried fruit and dark chocolate.
Beverages to Support Gaining 2 Pounds Weekly
One of the best ways to reach your calorie goal is to use high-calorie beverages for snacks. Weight-gainer powders are a convenient option, though they aren't necessary to gain weight healthily. Choose your favorite flavor, mix it with water, milk or juice, and you end up with a beverage that delivers 500 to 1,300 calories, depending on the brand you buy. Most weight gainers contain protein, but each one has different types of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements, so check the label to be sure you get the right blend for your needs. Consult a doctor before taking weight-gain supplements, too -- they aren't safe for everyone.
If you have a blender, try mixing your own smoothies and shakes. Begin by blending dry milk -- or weight-gainer powder -- with whole milk. Adding 1/4 cup of dry milk to 1 cup of whole milk nets 308 calories, but the calories double if you use one serving of a 500-calorie weight gainer. Then for flavor and more calories and nutrients, add any combination of yogurt, tofu, peanut butter, nuts, berries, apples, bananas, cocoa powder, oats and wheat germ.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Gaining Weight the Right Way
- HealthAliciousNess: High Calorie Weight Gain Meal Plans
- HealthAliciousNess: Top 10 Foods Highest in Calories
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Milk, Whole, 3.25 Percent Milkfat, With Added Vitamin D
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Milk, Dry, Whole, With Added Vitamin D
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult BMI and Calorie Calculator
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Calorie Burn Rate Calculator