In the health and fitness world, it seems like all you ever hear about is losing weight and the health-related concerns associated with carrying around extra pounds. Just as being overweight comes with its own set of health hurdles, being underweight can be just as unhealthy. Whether you have a high metabolism, have suffered from illness, have trouble getting enough food in during the day, or want to gain muscle mass, we’ll guide you through the do’s and don’ts of how to gain weight fast, and in a wholesome way.
Before diving deep into high-calorie healthy foods and habits, let’s be clear on one thing: if you’re asking how to gain weight fast, know that “fast” isn’t always maintainable. There’s a lot to consider when approaching weight gain such as:
- Your body shape and weight range as an adult.
- Your genetics, look at your parents’ shape and height; you are directly impacted by the amazing genes they’ve passed on.
- Think of your highest and lowest weight and where you felt your personal best.
Keep in mind that making changes in your body should be slow and steady. Drastic changes to body shape and weight usually result in unhealthy side effects or a yo-yo in your weight that can result in metabolic damage.
Gaining weight naturally without supplements
“Muscle building” foods and protein supplements are notorious for being marketed as a quick-fix magic potion for fast weight gain. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Rather than spending your money on processed products, focus on fueling your body with high-calorie and nutrient-rich foods. If you are recovering from illness, have chronic digestive issues, or haven’t been able to get enough nutrients from food, you may want to consider supplements. Otherwise, always aim for whole foods.
There are many easy options out there such fast food, candy, and sodas that will deliver quick calories, so you’re weight gain will be served up with a side of health ailments. In excess, these processed foods lead to inflammation, belly fat, slowed muscle repair and growth, and poor healing. Focus on nutritious meals to get you to your weight gain goals — remember, slow and steady wins the race.
The key to your weight gain journey is understanding the correct balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein forms the building blocks of your muscles, and you’ll really need this if your goal is to gain muscle. Fat contains the most significant amount of calories per gram (9 kcal per gram, compared to 4 kcal per gram for protein and carb) so start incorporating more of those healthy fats into your diet. High-carb, high-fat foods will increase cravings and appetite, encouraging you to eat more, so here are a few healthy high-carb, high-fat options we recommend:
- Guacamole with baked tortilla chips
- Fruit smoothies blended with coconut milk, avocado, or full-fat yogurt
- Trail mix with nuts and fruit
- Hummus with pita and starchy vegetables like carrot
How many calories do I need to gain weight?
Visualize a scale when you think of the calories you take in, versus the calories-out. In general, when you take in more than your body is burning, you will gain weight. Keep in mind that this all depends on your metabolism and other associated factors such as hormones and gut bacteria.
As a rule of thumb, aim for an extra 250-500 kcal per day for slow and steady gain. For more drastic weight gain, aim for an extra 500-1,000 kcal per day. Take calorie calculators as a guide because calories in food can vary as well as the way your body uses up those calories. Your needs may vary by several hundred calories per day. To gain weight fast, focus on adding calorie dense foods to your meals and snacks.
Here are some high-calorie healthy foods to pack some healthy calorie punch to your day:
- Nuts — almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.: Sprinkle on salads, cereal, yogurt, or smoothies
- Nut butter — peanut, almond, cashew: Add to smoothies, sauces, or oatmeal
- Oils: Add as desired when cooking or seasoning
- Dried fruits: Snack on them throughout the day or sprinkle on salads, cereal, and yogurt
- Avocado: Add to smoothies, baked goods, sandwiches, or salads
- Wheat germ, flax, or seeds: Sprinkle on salads, roasted vegetables, popcorn, or oatmeal
- Milk, cream, coconut milk: Add to coffee, tea, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, or grains
- Cheese: sprinkle on salads, pasta, or vegetables. Add to sandwiches, tacos, or wraps
How quickly can you gain weight
Everybody is different and responds in different ways. The rate you gain weight can depend on your metabolism, fitness level, genetics, daily activities, among other factors. Start by checking if your weight is in a healthy range, according to the BMI calculator but keep in mind that this is one of many biometrics to consider for overall wellness.
It’s important to talk to your doctor before beginning any new fitness or nutrition plan. They can check for any health conditions that may have caused you to lose weight initially. It can be dangerous to increase weight too quickly, such as with conditions like eating disorders. The type of food and amount that you’ll need can depend on what’s been preventing you from gaining weight in the first place.
A realistic, average rate of muscle gain would be about 0.5-1 pound (0.25-0.5 kg) per week, with any extra being fat. Keep in mind that some weight gain may be due to water weight, so it’s normal to see fluctuations. This is why we don’t recommend that you weigh yourself more than once per week.
We’ve got some tips and tricks how to gain weight fast:
- Eat more frequently: Eating five to six smaller meals during the day rather than two or three large meals.
- Drink liquids between meals: Liquids can create a sense of fullness so enjoy them between meals.
- Smoothies: Enjoy as a snack or meal if you aren’t hungry or they can accompany a meal for those extra calories.
- Use big plates: Small plates make will have your brain register you are fuller quicker, so use a big plate to trick yourself into eating more.
- Eat a bedtime snack: Eat an easily digestible and healthy snack before bed.
Why might someone want to know how to gain healthy weight?
It’s common to hear of people wanting to lose weight, but the stories of those who want to gain weight are less prevalent. For some people, gaining weight can be just as challenging as losing it. You may want to gain weight if:
- You’re underweight and you want to reach the optimum weight for your body
- You want to increase muscle mass
- You’re recovering from an eating disorder or an illness
- You have a fast metabolism and find yourself losing too much weight
Just because you want to put on weight doesn’t mean you should load up on potato chips, cookies and cake – sorry folks! Of course, you’re welcome to indulge from time to time, but try not to make it a habit. Instead, pack your diet full of whole grains, healthy fats, and fiber, so that you feel your best.
Healthy foods to gain weight and how to incorporate them
Snack on nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dates
These kinds of foods have a high caloric density, which means there’s a lot of nutrition and calories in even a small amount – perfect to munch on when you’re hungry. For example, take almonds – did you know that there are a whopping 164 calories in just 1 oz (≈ 28 grams or 23 whole kernels)?! Almonds are also a good source of fiber and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A nut that positively packs a punch.
Dried fruits like cherries and raisins are also brimming to the rim with calories and antioxidants. For a treat that’s portable, all-natural and delicious, pack a couple of dates to enjoy on the go – they’re super sweet, come in an array of sizes and are packed with antioxidants and fiber.
Drink your calories
Before you run off and order a giant milkshake, we specifically mean consuming your calories in the form of smoothies and protein shakes. If you want to avoid feeling stuffed from eating more food than usual, try drinking your calories instead. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck – not only will you enjoy a tasty treat, but you’ll also get a caloric nutrient boost.
Our suggestion? Make smoothies with ingredients you love. First, you’ll want to start off with a liquid base of your choice like whole milk, almond milk or soy milk. Next, add a couple of bananas. Use frozen bananas for smoothies to get it to that perfect texture. After that, add another fruit, some yogurt and protein powder for a calorie bomb you can drink as part of your meal or as a snack.
Why not give these 8fit smoothie recipes a go?
The 8fit recipe book is full of healthy smoothies that you can add nut butter, protein powder or protein-packed Greek yogurt to. Give our Apple Pie Smoothie, Banana Berry Protein Smoothie, or Beet & Berries Smoothie a try — or pin the recipe to try later.
Blend the ingredients in each recipe together until smooth. You really can’t go wrong! Just experiment to find the flavor combinations you like the most. Feel free to substitute different fruits and swap milk for water or tea to find the combination that works best for you.
If you don’t have a blender, no worries. Make shakes using your choice of milk and a scoop of protein powder inside a shaker cup and enjoy a quick and easy drink you can enjoy at any time of day.
Add avocado to (almost) everything
Avocados are seriously helpful when it comes to gaining weight. The average avocado contains around 322 calories and is full of healthy fats, dietary fiber and nutrients. Mash up the flesh of an avocado until it’s spreadable and use as a dip, spread it on top of bread for tasty avocado on toast or slice it into cubes and add it to salads, soups or rice dishes.
Eat small amounts often
If eating large quantities all at once isn’t your cup of tea, try going for a higher frequency of small meals. So, instead of eating three substantial meals, try four or five small meals. When you feel like you’re ready, start slowly increasing your meal size. Once you get accustomed to your new eating schedule, you can go back down to three larger meals a day. Who knows, maybe you’ll like the small-meal approach.
Stock up on nut butters
Who doesn’t love the creamy texture and taste of peanut butter? Good news – as you’re on the path to gain weight, you’ll be pleased to know that nut butters are A-ok in our books. Just make sure whatever nut butter you choose is non-hydrogenated and contains nuts and nuts only – watch out for sneaky additives like sugar and palm oil.
You’ll find several varieties of nut butter in your local natural foods store, so if you feel like keeping your taste buds on their toes, try cashew butter, almond butter or even pumpkin seed butter. Add them to your smoothies and oatmeal or spread a tablespoon on whole grain toast to increase both calories and flavor.
Avoid junk foods
Just because you’re looking to gain weight doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to start scarfing down junk food. It’s still important to make sure you get plenty of nutrients by eating a varied diet that’s healthful, rather than consuming empty calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats.