Weight is a total measure of your body fat, muscle, bone, connective tissue, and fluid. Fluid is the most easily manipulated, followed by skeletal muscle and body fat. A plan for healthy weight gain includes adequate fluid, calories, and exercise for building muscle.
Increasing Muscle Mass
You can gain weight by building skeletal muscle. Biceps and quads are examples of skeletal muscle. They stabilize your body and help it move. You can increase skeletal muscle and preserve bone density by exercising regularly and fueling properly pre- and post-workout. Specifics vary from individual to individual, but here are some general guidelines:
- Delay fatigue:
- Carb source prior to exercise
- Start your workout fully hydrated.
- Fuel mid-workout as needed with carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes.
- Carb and protein source (3:1 ratio).
- Allow adequate rest in between workouts.
- Continue drinking water to maintain optimal hydration.
One common misconception is that regular exercise is a “free pass” to eating empty calories. Eating fast food and dessert helps you meet your energy needs, but it doesn’t help you meet your vitamin and mineral needs. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for generating energy from food. To get the most out of your workout, choose a nutrient-dense diet that includes lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and whole fruits and vegetables.
Increasing Body Fat Percentage
Body Fat should be at least 3% in men and 10-13% in women, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. If you have low body fat, you may notice depressed mood, fatigue, inability to regulate body temperature, loss of menstruation, or other health issues. To gain body fat or muscle mass, you must have adequate calories. Here are some ways to pack in calories without feeling too full:
- Eat fruits and vegetables with dips like hummus, peanut butter, or dressing.
- Cook with milk instead of water. (ex. Oatmeal, hot chocolate)
- Add in nutrient-rich, calorie dense drinks such as smoothies and shakes.
- Spread out small meals and snacks throughout the day so you don’t feel overly full.
Importance of Fluid
Fluid fluctuations cause the most variability in weight throughout the day. Not only will being fully hydrated increase your weight; it will also enhance your ability to build muscle by delaying fatigue and improving recovery. The Adequate Intake for adults is 11-16 cups of water (91-125 ounces) per day including water from foods, beverages, and drinking water.
Personalization is Key
To sum up, healthy weight gain requires adequate fluid, calories, nutrients, and exercise. The amounts that you need are unique to your body. Team up with a registered dietitian by booking your free consultation and asking us about our personalized meal plans.
Read more about Healthy Weight Gain at eatright.com by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.