Dear eNotAlone: I am a 22 year old male who's having trouble putting on weight. All my life I've been naturally thin and rarely been able to put on muscle or bulk. While having an active lifestyle, I do eat healthy meals but just seem to be unable to put on weight. Is there anything that can help me in this situation?
Healthy weight gain is possible -- you just need to know the right way to go about it. In order to gain weight and build muscle, it is important to approach it with a comprehensive plan and make sure that it is done safely. Poorly managed weight gain can lead to health issues and potential problems down the road.
The first step to gaining weight is to identify any underlying issues causing the problem. Low metabolism, food allergies and digestive issues can play a role in difficulty gaining weight due to the reduced ability of the body to process nutrients. Making dietary and lifestyle adjustments may help improve your ability to put on weight and muscle without sacrificing your health.
When it comes to food, a key factor is choosing nutrient-dense foods over empty calories. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean sources of protein should form the bulk of your diet, as these will provide the nutrients your body needs to build muscle and tissue. Processed foods, unhealthy junk foods, and highly saturated fats should be avoided where possible, as these can lead to unwanted increases in fat rather than muscle mass.
Including healthy snacks or small meals throughout the day can also help increase calorie intake. Good choices include whole-grain toast with nut butter, smoothies, protein bars, Greek yogurt, and nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. Eating at least four times per day gives you the fuel your body needs so you can continue to be active while also reaching your goal of gaining weight.
Increasing physical activity is another great way to build muscle and gain weight. Incorporating weight training, resistance exercises, and aerobic exercise into your routine can help burn fat while developing dense muscle. Focusing on improvement rather than perfection and setting realistic goals is important -- it is far better to start slow and have steady, sustained success than to jump in with ambitious goals that could cause frustration, injury, or even discourage you from continuing.
When it comes to any kind of physical change, slow, steady progress is usually the healthiest way to go about it. With the proper eating and exercise plan, it is possible to gain weight in a safe and effective manner. Don't despair if things don't happen immediately -- keep at it and eventually you will start to see the results!