• Five Easy Steps to Healthy Weight Gain
    Active individuals looking to gain weight in a healthy manner can benefit from these five easy steps.
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  • Healthy Weight GainSome active individuals are looking to gain weight, whether due to a desire for more strength and power, a medical condition (chronic or acute), or just to look and feel better. While this is a simple goal that is attainable, one has to remain smart in formulating an approach to nutrition – high-calorie junk food does not translate to quality muscle mass gain.

    Step 1: Set a realistic goal for weight gain. When setting this goal, look around at your family members and keep genetics in mind. If your whole family is tall and lanky, you will likely not gain the body of a NFL linebacker.

    Step 2: Track your food intake for three to seven days to get an idea of how many calories you typically eat in a day. Add 300-500 calories to your daily intake through meals rich in whole grain carbohydrates, moderate lean protein, and focus on healthy fats added to the diet. It’s not as simple as eating lots of additional protein at meals. Healthy weight gain results from eating increased calories through a balanced diet and paired with a resistance training exercise program.
    • Add peanut or almond butter to healthy muffins. 
    • Eat regular yogurt with added fruit and granola. 
    • Chop up your fruit and eat it in cottage cheese. 
    • Snack on trail mix with dried fruits and nuts throughout the day. 
    • Cheese and whole grain crackers. 
    • Try a clean meal replacement shake. 
    • Prepare oatmeal with milk instead of water. 
    • Top your favorite sandwich with avocado slices instead of mayo. 
    • Add seeds, nuts, low-fat cheese, and healthy oils to your salads. 
    Step 3: Eat small meals or snack regularly throughout the day, preferably every 3-4 hours for best nutrient absorption. If you have a small appetite, eating 4-6 small meals throughout the day may work best. For others, just adding 1-2 additional snacks throughout the day should be sufficient to meet the additional calorie needs. There are just as many nutritional supplements on the market that advertise fast weight gain with increased power and strength. As a general good rule of thumb, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so don’t waste your money on these products. Focus your money on buying and cooking real, wholesome, delicious foods to fuel your body.

    Step 4: Have your body composition assessed by a professional so they can track weight changes. The goal is to add muscle mass, not body fat. So frequent monitoring of changes by the same professional helps to ensure an optimal body composition is achieved during this time.

    Step 5: If you find your attempts are unsuccessful or your body composition changes are not ideal, contact a registered dietitian to help you achieve those weight goals. A registered dietitian can help you adjust your current eating habits and/or assist with developing an improved meal plan.
  • Katie Miller

    About the Author:

    Katie Miller, RD, LDN, CSCS

    Katie Miller is a registered dietitian with dual bachelor degrees in criminal justice and nutrition and dietetics. She has served as a police officer in her previous local community, has trained with the Marine Corps, and currently trains with the U.S. Army as a commissioned officer. At the NSCA, Katie currently works as a nutrition consultant and tactical athlete coordinator.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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