If you need to gain weight, but don't want to stop exercising, don't expect your friends have sympathy for you. If you enjoy your workouts and like the feel of strong muscles, but possess the rare -- and much desired -- body type that doesn't tend to gain weight, you probably have to work just as hard as they do to look sexy. However, you have to take the opposite approach. Just don't complain to your friends about how hard it is -- they probably won't appreciate it.
Burn fewer calories than you take in. If you run seven days a week, you'll be hard-pressed to make up those calories through consumption alone. But just as your friends might have trouble revving themselves up for that run three mornings a week, you might have trouble gearing down from seven to three. However, you don't have to go cold turkey. Try substituting a brisk walk for your run one, then two, then three times per week to let yourself down gradually.
Continue your strength training. The number of calories your muscles burn while at rest isn't much more than if you had a flabby body, meaning the muscles do your body more good than harm. Go ahead and lift to your heart's -- or muscles' -- content. As you gain healthy weight, you may even find your strength increasing.
Think about what you eat. If you don't tend to gain weight, you might already be snacking throughout the day, but "eating anything you want" isn't the key. Try eating more fats, as there are some good ones out there. Even skinny people need to avoid trans-fats, but Omega-3 fats found in certain fish oils and monounsaturated fats from vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are actually good for you. Plus, fat packs 9 calories per gram as opposed to the 4 calories from the carbs and proteins you normally focus on when refueling.
Eat several small meals instead of two or three big ones. Cutting back on your cardio is likely to make you feel sluggish and bloated -- at least in the beginning. Don't force yourself to sit down at a big meal. You will probably consume more calories if you eat several smaller, easily digestible meals throughout the day. However, it might take some planning to get in as many calories as you need, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Healthy Weight Gain
- The Merck Manual: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats
- MyPlate.gov: What Are Empty Calories?
- IDEA: After-Burn: A Research Update
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Healthy Fats?
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour
- ACE: Calories Burned by Muscle vs Fat
- According to the Mayo Clinic, 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week will generally lead to weight loss. If that's what you're doing, you'll need to make that up in calories or cut back in order to gain weight.
- Don't go below the 150 minutes per week recommended for good health.
- Fats will fill you up more, so try to eat fats you like -- think dry-roasted peanuts or peanut butter sandwiches on whole-wheat bread.
- If you find you can't get yourself to exercise less or eat more without feeling guilty, you could be addicted and should consider getting professional advice.
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).