Just like being overweight is associated with health conditions, being underweight can also have negative health effects. According to FamilyDoctor.org, it can weaken your immune system and trigger anemia, hair loss, osteoporosis and female fertility issues. Instead of triggering fast weight gain by gorging on junk food, which is unhealthy and hard to maintain in the long run, gain weight gradually and safely at a rate of no more than 2 pounds per week.
All About the Numbers
Gaining weight is all about consuming more calories than you burn on a daily basis. It takes an extra 500 to 1,000 calories every day to gain 1 to 2 pounds in a week. Weight gain differs per person, and you’ll have to keep track of your progress to determine if the number of calories you consume is having an effect on your weight. Also, consult a doctor before starting your weight-gain journey. Sometimes other factors, such as an illness or psychological issues, might be to blame for your low weight.
Increase Muscle Tissue
Strength training should be part of your weight-gain regimen because it prevents the extra calories you’re eating from being stored as health-harming, jiggly fat. Strength training helps build lean muscle tissue and enhances your appearance at the same time. Although often associated with weight loss, the extra calories you’re eating on a daily basis will combat weight loss. You’ll gain lean muscle tissue while reducing body fat — but don’t expect it to reflect too much in the numbers on the scale.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends strength training at least two days of the week.To gain weight, exercises should always be challenging to have a muscle-building effect. Focus on doing exercises with free weights, such dead lifts, overhead squats, rows and bench presses. Go heavy on the weights and light on the repetitions. For instance, if your goal is to do five repetitions, use a weight that’s heavy enough so you can’t do a sixth repetition without help — but makes sure you can still use proper form on the first five reps. Perform no more than two exercises per body part to avoid overtraining, or work different body parts on different days of the week.
Nutrient-Rich, Calorie-Dense Foods
Rather than eating empty calories from junk food to gain weight, focus on eating foods rich in nutrients and high in calories. For instance, instead of cucumber, which is low in calories, eat an avocado, which is nutrient-rich and higher in calories. Olives make a good replacement for pickles, and eating a whole-wheat muffin instead of whole-wheat bread can also up your caloric intake. Low-calorie beverages, such as fat-free or low-fat milk, can be replaced with whole milk. Healthy additions to the foods you eat can also increase your caloric intake. For instance, add butter, olive oil, canola oil, cheese or nuts to the foods you eat. Instead of water, use whole milk to prepare soups, cereals and other dishes.
Eat More Often
To consume more calories every day, eat larger portions. If your appetite is limited, eating a large meal can be overwhelming and uncomfortable, so you might be better off frequently eating smaller meals during the day so you still consume more calories. Avoid drinking and filling up on liquids while you eat — drink between meals instead. Also, start with the main course, instead of filling up on the lower-calorie appetizer.
FamilyDoctor.org: Healthy Ways to Gain Weight If You’re Underweight
Nutrition Concepts and Controversies; Frances Sizer, et al.
American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts: Putting On the Pounds
Quick and Dirty Tips: Why Exercise Can Cause Weight Gain
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
Only My Health: Best Exercises to Gain Weight