If you are underweight and want to gain weight, eating unhealthy, high-calorie food can be detrimental to your health. The safest way to gain weight is to increase your caloric intake while maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet. Your goal should be to gradually gain a pound or so per week. Figure out how many calories you normally consume and add a bit more each day, focusing on getting all the nutrients your body needs to create more muscle mass.
Increase Your Calories
Keep track of your meals for a week, eating the things you normally would. Look up each food item's nutritional value and figure out how many calories you take in, on average, each day. This is the number of calories you would need to maintain your current weight.
Increasing your caloric intake by 3,500 calories should cause you to gain a pound of body weight. Divide those calories by seven days: In order to gain a pound per week, you will need to boost your caloric intake by 500 calories a day. For example, if you normally consume 1,500 calories per day, increase that number to 2,000.
Add extra calories to each meal, but keep your diet balanced. If you load up on foods high in fat calories, you may increase your blood pressure or your LDL cholesterol levels, paving the way for heart and other health problems. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 45 to 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates and 10 to 35 percent come from protein. Keep your fat intake below 30 percent of your caloric intake to ensure that you add more muscle than body fat.
- To optimize the amount of muscle mass you add, exercise at least five days per week, incorporating weight training into your routine. Eat a protein-rich meal or snack after your workout.
- High-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds and bananas, can help you boost your caloric intake without adding excessive fat to your diet.
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.