Naturally thin people may be the way they are on account of their genetics or their low food intake which means they feel fuller faster thus prompting them to eat less or a hormonal imbalance or a high metabolism which metabolizes the food that they eat instantaneously thus increasing the overall requirement of the calories and other nutrients. According to the BMI (Body Mass Index) range, a BMI of less than 18.5 is qualified as being under weight. Though a growing minority, the underweight people may be at risk for health concerns like nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis especially in women, lowered immune system and fertility issues in women to name a few.
‘Eat as much as you can’ is a common advice one gets when one is trying to gain weight, especially for someone who has always been lean and lanky. You may gain weight but it may not be the best indicator of how healthy you are. The body composition is a better tool to ascertain your health and fitness along with the 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 noticed that in spite of the weight and BMI being well within the normal range, the fat composition is very high suggesting that the fitness levels are not appropriate and this makes the individual susceptible to various metabolic diseases.
It may sound odd, but it’s possible to get thinner without actually 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 as 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 the fat mass and not the muscle mass indicating that the weight gain is not happening in the right manner.
Here are some healthy ways to gain weight if you are underweight:
1. Eat more frequently: If you feel that you cannot eat more food at a time then it would be wise to eat five to six smaller meals rather than three main meals.
2. Increase the calorie intake: Determine your daily calorie needs with your BMR and gradually increase the number of calories (watch where you get them from).
3. Snack smart: Calorie dense snacks like nuts, cheese, dried fruits, hummus or guacamole with whole wheat breads, peanut or almond butter with bread, smoothies and milkshakes will help you get calories with other nutrients.
4. Pay attention to the fat: Avoid the saturated fats from butter, margarine, ghee, salad dressings like mayonnaise and thousand island dressing and full fat dairy and dairy products. They are not good for your heart. Instead use vegetable oils which contain the good fats. You could drizzle extra olive oil on salads, soups and breads (do not overdo it).
5. Don’t overdo the protein: Medical research shows that consuming more of protein could actually harm your body. Eating more protein and increasing the calorie intake will add up to the fat mass in the body and cause stress on the other body systems. So, consume proteins in moderation (15% of your total daily caloric intake). Lean chicken and fish are your best choices when it comes to animal proteins.
6. Chuck the junk: Avoid the sweet and processed foods. Your weight gain will be mainly fat gain which will increase your risk to the diseases that result from their consumption.
7. Remember to exercise: Exercise, especially weight training helps in building muscle and thus gain weight. Exercise also helps stimulate the appetite.
No matter what the reason is to put on weight, it is important to focus on the nutrient profile of the calorie dense foods and not just the quantity of calories in them. Eating more calories should not give one a license to binge on the junk foods that have only empty calories and no other nutrients in them. Eating more calories from the right foods along with a monitored exercise program will ensure that the weight you gain is the muscle weight and not from fat.
A qualified nutritionist plays an important role in formulating a good weight gain diet. She would be able to provide the right body building nutrition with appropriate percent of the macronutrients carbohydrates, proteins and fats in order to maintain the desired body composition. If one does not have means to visit a qualified fitness and sports nutritionist in and around their place there are various nutrition companies offering online nutrition services for the same.