If you have a high metabolism, you have to eat more calories than most people just to maintain your weight. If you are active on your active job or practice sports frequently, putting on pounds can become a great challenge. To gain weight even with your extraordinary calorie burn, make eating high-calorie foods a daily habit and engage in strength training regularly, if you don't already.
Working With a High Metabolism
To eat more calories than the average person, focus on making every meal and snack count. To successfully gain weight, eat every few hours; a healthy rate of gain is 1/2 to 1 pound per week, which ensures you put on quality muscle mass, not just body fat, to look fitter and function more effectively in your busy, active life. A 1/2 pound gain is a reasonable goal for muscle growth per week. The most muscle you can expect to gain in a year is about 0.4 pounds per week, but you may gain slightly more than this average in the first few months of concentrated training, according to the IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
Estimate your current caloric needs to maintain your weight by using an online calculator or speaking to a dietitian. This provides you a starting place from which to add 250 to 500 extra calories per day. If your metabolism really is higher than average, standard calculations may be too conservative, and you'll need to increase calories even more after a few weeks if you're not seeing weight gain results.
Eating for a Highly Active Lifestyle
Plan on three meals per day, with at least one snack between meals and a final one before bed. These multiple opportunities to eat mean you don't have to stuff yourself uncomfortably at any one sitting.
At each of your meals and snacks, enjoy healthy, high-calorie offerings such as lean protein, whole grains, starchy vegetables, dense fruits and unsaturated fats. Full-fat dairy also provides a good boost of calories.
Added calories from protein supports your efforts to gain muscle, too. You need at least 0.55 grams per pound of body weight per day to support efforts to build mass; for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that's at least 83 grams of protein daily. For reference, a cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein, an egg contains 6 grams and a 3-ounce portion of lean steak contains 23 grams.
Meal Ideas for Weight Gain
Breakfasts that deliver a hefty number of calories include scrambled eggs topped with grated cheese alongside pumpernickel bread topped with slices of avocado; Greek yogurt mixed with a cup of granola, berries and a handful of nuts; or oatmeal mixed with dried milk powder and peanut butter, topped with milk and a sliced banana.
It's tempting to work your through lunch hour or make a quick trip to the gym instead, but resist those urges. Eating lunch is an opportunity to pack in some calories and revive your energy for the busy afternoon. An easy-to-pack lunch might consist of thick slabs of whole-grain bread sandwiched around 4 ounces of roast chicken and several slices of avocado. Or try a generous serving of quinoa mixed with black beans, cubed avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, peppers, olive oil, lime juice and sunflower seeds. Another idea is hummus with two whole-wheat pitas, feta cheese, black olives, olive oil, cucumbers and plain yogurt.
For dinner, watch out for convenience foods that have large amounts of saturated fat and refined flours. Instead, go for quick, but healthy options, such as broiled salmon with a large baked sweet potato, peas and broccoli topped with a yogurt dressing. Another dinner you might try is flank steak rolled in an extra large whole-wheat tortilla with guacamole, beans, brown rice and cheese, or whip up some whole-grain pasta tossed in olive oil, topped with marinara sauce, lean ground turkey and Parmesan cheese plus a large salad made with raw vegetables, almonds, cubed mozzarella cheese and olive oil dressing.
Snack Often on Quality Foods
Choose quality whole foods with lots of calories to eat between meals, too. Fill a baggie with nuts or trail mix and snack on it throughout the day. Stir up a high-calorie smoothie with milk, pineapple, coconut cream, flaxseeds and whey protein to drink after a workout. Make a quick peanut butter sandwich with sliced banana on whole-wheat bread to eat before you sleep. Cottage cheese, woven wheat crackers with hummus, bran muffins and dried fruit are other high-calorie, nutrient-dense snack ideas.
Strength Training Is Essential to Gain Weight
Your active lifestyle may make you feel like you do enough all day, but lifting heavy weights helps challenge your muscle fibers to grow thicker and more resilient. Just two workouts per week should suffice; include moves such as squats, rows, presses, curls and extensions. Go for a weight that makes it hard to complete the last few repetitions in a set of four to eight with good form. One set may be enough, but build up to as many as three sets as you feel stronger. Leave at least 48 hours between workouts to permit your body to repair.
Cardiovascular exercise keeps your heart healthy and your joints mobile, but your active lifestyle likely provides enough. Getting 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio keeps your body in good shape, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you add in too much extra movement outside of your existing physical activity, you'll burn even more calories and make it harder to hit a calorie surplus for gaining weight. If you had an especially active day that included more exercise or movement than usual, fit in an extra snack to make up for the lost calories.
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weigh the Healthy Way
- Healthaliciousness: High-Calorie Weight Gain Meal Plans
- CNN: How Should I Eat to Build Muscle Mass?
- Healthaliciousness: Steak, Egg, Milk
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Gaining Weight the Right Way