Though most people worry about losing weight, being underweight can also pose health risks. But there is no good shortcut to gaining weight. Weight gain takes time and should be done in a healthy, safe way. Bingeing on junk food is not the answer.
Before deciding whether or not to gain weight, make sure it’s needed. If you are at a healthy weight for your height, you may not need to put on more pounds.
Gaining weight requires a combination of diet, exercise and, if you have underlying health conditions, medical treatment. You can increase your body weight by increasing muscle mass, fat deposits or accumulating body fluids.
It can take a few months to a year or longer to reach your ideal body weight depending on your present weight, metabolism and any underlying medical conditions.
What can cause you to become underweight?
Being underweight could be a result of poor nutrition, eating disorders, infections and other health conditions. Understanding what is causing you to be underweight is crucial to determining the best way to gain weight.
Common causes of being underweight may include:
What are the risks of being underweight?
If you are underweight, you may have an increased risk of:
How can you gain weight safely?
Before making lifestyle changes to gain weight, make sure you consult a doctor to rule out any health conditions. Your doctor may recommend that you:
- Eat more meals: You may increase the size and frequency of your meals to make sure you eat more calories than you burn. Try eating three balanced meals a day and at least two healthy snacks a day.
- Eat more protein: Protein helps build muscle mass. Rich sources of protein include soybean, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts or whey protein. Protein supplements are also available in the form of powders, which can be eaten in shakes or protein bars. However, avoid replacing full meals with protein supplements.
- Increase your intake of carbs and high-fat foods: Carbohydrate- and fat-rich foods, such as bananas, oats, quinoa, blueberries, sweet potatoes, cheese, dark chocolate, can help you gain weight.
- Consume energy-rich foods: Energy-dense foods, such as nuts (especially almonds, walnuts, peanuts), dried fruits (raisins or prunes), dark chocolate, high-fat dairy products (milk), vegetables (potatoes and yams), can fuel your body and promote weight gain.
- Get appropriate exercise: Exercises like weightlifting can help you build muscles instead of unhealthy fat. Increasing muscle mass can increase body weight, improve health and make you appear toned and fit. Limit cardio to 10-15 minutes, 3 times a week, since excessive cardio will only make you lose more weight. It’s a good idea to talk to a professional about an exercise routine that makes sense for you.
- Drink milk: Drinking at least one glass of full-fat milk a day can help you gain weight and reap the nutritional benefits of milk as well.
- Get adequate sleep: Sleep reduces stress and improves digestion, promoting an overall balanced metabolic process.
- Manage stress: Since stress can cause weight loss, try managing stress with the help of yoga, meditation or the help of a professional.
- Avoid smoking: Smoking affects your appetite as well as other essential body functions which can lead to unwanted weight loss.
If you have tried making changes to your diet and exercise regimen but are still unable to gain weight, talk to your doctor.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Hilty DM. Bulimia Nervosa Medscape, https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/286485-overview
Bernstein BE. Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2221362-overview
Ellis CR. Pica. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/914765-overview
Ellis CR. Rumination. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/916297-overview
Belak LB. Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500040-overview
Medscape. Eating Disorders. https://www.medscape.com/resource/eating-disorders
Zeratsky K. What's a Good Way to Gain Weight if You're Underweight? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/underweight/faq-20058429
National Health Service. Underweight Teen Girls. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/underweight-teen-girls/
Top How Can I Gain Weight Quickly? Related Articles
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder and is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting. With anorexia, the drive to become thinner is actually secondary to concerns about control and/or fears relating to one's body. There are psychological and behavioral symptoms as well as physical symptoms of anorexia including: depression, social withdrawal, fatigue, food obsession, heart and gastrointestinal complications, kidney function, flaky skin, brittle nails, and tooth loss (this list is not exhaustive).
Binge Eating DisorderCharacteristics of binge eating disorder include eating more quickly than usual, eating until uncomfortably full, eating a lot of food despite not being hungry, eating alone due to embarrassment, and feeling disgusted by overeating.
Binge Eating QuizDo you binge eat? Take this quick quiz to learn what binge eating is and what makes people do it.
Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause Weight Gain?Hormonal imbalance is a common issue that affects many people. Learn the signs of hormonal imbalance, how it can cause weight gain and other symptoms, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
What Is Compulsive Overeating vs. Binge Eating Disorder?Compulsive overeating is eating more than needed. Binge eating disorder involves recurrent episodes of compulsive eating, even when not hungry. Symptoms of bingeing include rapid eating, secret eating, and feeling guilty following a binge. Vyvanse is the only medication approved in the United States for the treatment of binge eating disorder.
Nutrition QuizEven if you think you're getting enough fruits and vegetables per day, how can you be sure? Take the Diet & Nutrition Quiz to learn more about eating right.
Diet and Nutrition: Signs You're Not Getting Enough NutrientsIf you're short on an essential vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient, your body will let you know. Take note of these vitamin deficiency symptoms, and find out what to do about them.
Do Rice Cakes Make You Gain Weight?It is possible that rice cakes may make you gain weight. This is especially true if you eat several at a time and top them with unhealthy things. Rice cakes digest quickly since they are devoid of a significant amount of fiber. The spike in blood sugar and insulin levels after ingestion of rice may cause weight gain.
Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge EatingDiscover the warning signs of binge eating disorder, anorexia and bulimia. Read about the symptoms and causes of eating disorders as well as treatment options.
Hyperthyroidism is an excess of thyroid hormone due to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms can include increased heart rate, weight loss, heart palpitations, frequent bowel movements, depression, fatigue, fine or brittle hair, sleep problems, thinning skin, and irregular vaginal bleeding.
Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Many other health problems or taking excess thyroid hormone medication can cause an overactive thyroid gland. Treatment for the condition is with medication, radioactive iodine, thyroid surgery (rarely), or reducing the dose of thyroid hormone. No diet has been shown to treat hyperthyroidism or its symptoms and signs.
Hyperthyroidism: Symptoms, Treatment, MedicationWhat are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism? What causes hyperthyroidism? What happens when you take thyroid medication? Hyperthyroidism occurs when an overactive thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormone. Learn hyperthyroidism causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Surprising Causes of Weight GainThere are many reasons for sudden weight gain when there are no changes in diet or exercise. Learn to identify the cause of your sudden weight gain.
What Can I Use to Gain Weight Fast?Weight gain or ‘putting on’ body weight should be done healthily and safely. Bodyweight can increase when there is an increase in muscle mass, fat deposits, or accumulation of excess body fluids. There is no fast way to gain weight. Weight gain takes time, and it should be resorted to without taking shortcuts like binging on junk food.
What Foods are Good and Bad for Hyperthyroidism?What is hyperthyroidism? Learn which foods are good and bad for hyperthyroidism.
Which Hormones Help You Lose Weight?Some major hormones in the body like thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone are associated with weight gain or loss. If you are able to correct hormonal imbalances, you may see a significant reduction in your body weight.
Why Is the Atkins Diet Bad for You?Atkins diet is a popular low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss but it may not be good for your heart.