Naturally thin people may be this way due to their genetics or low food intake, which means they feel fuller faster, leading them to eat less or a hormonal imbalance or high metabolism that metabolizes the food they eat instantly, which increases the overall requirement for calories and other nutrients. According to the BMI (Body Mass Index) range, a BMI of less than 18.5 qualifies as underweight. Although they are a growing minority, underweight people may be at risk for health problems such as nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, especially in women, weakened immune systems, and fertility problems in women, to name a few.
“Eat as much as you can” is a common piece of advice one receives when trying to gain weight, especially for someone who has always been skinny and lanky. You may gain weight, but it may not be the best indicator of your health. Body composition is a better tool to determine your health and fitness along with weight. It is a measure of how much of your weight comes from lean mass, which includes muscle, bone, connective tissue, and water, and how much comes from fat. It is commonly observed that although the weight and BMI are within the normal range, the fat composition is very high, which suggests that the levels of physical fitness are not adequate and this makes the individual susceptible to various Metabolic diseases.
It may sound strange, but it is possible to lose weight without seeing a change in your weight. This happens when you lose body fat while gaining muscle. Your weight may stay the same or even increase, even if you lose inches, a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. Similarly, while gaining weight, it is again possible that the individual is gaining weight with an increase in fat mass and not muscle mass, indicating that the weight gain is not occurring in the correct manner.
Here are some healthy ways to gain weight if you are underweight:
1. eat more often: If you feel like you can’t eat more food at once, it would be wise to eat five to six smaller meals instead of three main meals.
2. Increase Calorie Intake: Determine your daily calorie needs with your BMR and gradually increase your calorie count (watch where you’re getting them).
3. Smart snack: Calorie dense snacks like nuts, cheese, dried fruit, hummus or guacamole with whole grain bread, peanut or almond butter with bread, smoothies and shakes will help you get calories with other nutrients.
4. Pay attention to fat: Avoid saturated fats from butter, margarine, ghee, salad dressings such as mayonnaise and Thousand Island dressing, and whole milk and milk products. They are not good for your heart. Instead, use vegetable oils that contain good fats. You can drizzle extra olive oil on salads, soups, and breads (don’t overdo it).
5. Don’t go overboard with protein: Medical research shows that consuming more protein could actually harm your body. Eating more protein and increasing calorie intake will add to the fat mass in the body and cause stress on other body systems. Therefore, consume protein in moderation (15% of your total daily caloric intake). Lean chicken and fish are your best choices when it comes to animal protein.
6. Throw out the trash: Avoid sweet and processed foods. Your weight gain will be primarily fat gain, which will increase your risk of disease from eating it.
7. Remember to exercise: Exercise, especially weight training, helps build muscle and therefore weight gain. Exercise also helps stimulate your appetite.
No matter what the reason for weight gain, it’s important to focus on the nutrient profile of calorie-dense foods and not just the number of calories they contain. Eating more calories should not give one a license to binge on junk food that has only empty calories and no other nutrients. Eating more calories from the right foods along with a monitored exercise program will ensure that the weight you gain is muscle weight and not fat.
A qualified nutritionist plays an important role in formulating a good weight gain diet. She could provide the proper nutrition for body development with the appropriate percentage of macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats to maintain the desired body composition. If one does not have the means to visit a qualified sports and fitness nutritionist in and around his or her place, there are several nutrition companies that offer online nutrition services for the same.