How to Gain Weight Healthily

Trying to put on a few pounds? Doing so strategically will pay off in the long run.

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For underweight people or those who yearn to make gains in the gym but find it hard to do, figuring out how to gain weight healthily can be challenging. Sure, you can add on the pounds by living off fried food, salty snacks and sugary treats while never exercising, but doing so will likely result in some unsavory side effects when it comes to your overall health. 

On your quest to gain a few pounds, there are some simple steps you can take to add some bulk to your body without increasing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or other adverse health outcomes that may occur when eating unhealthy foods. Read on to learn how to support your health if you are underweight and want to know how to gain weight healthily. 

Risks Associated With Being Underweight

Society is fixated on achieving the goal of losing weight. But that’s not for everyone! For some people, their weight is lower than what is ideal for their frame, possibly putting them at an increased risk for fertility challenges, osteoporosis or weaker bones, and reduced immune function, as well as constantly feeling cold.

Because of this, it is important for people who are considered to be underweight to find ways to gain the essential weight their body needs — in a healthy way. 

5 Tips for Gaining Weight Healthily

Knowing how to gain weight healthily is critical to maintaining a healthy weight if the numbers on the scale are not precisely what you want to see. Sticking to healthy foods that pack a punch in the nutrition department — like the ones below — will be your best bet when healthy weight gain is your ultimate goal. 

1. Focus on a leucine-rich evening snack.

Leucine, an amino acid, is found in foods like cottage cheese, lentils, eggs and sesame seeds. Including leucine-rich foods in the evening can be one way to gain weight naturally because this amino acid “encourages muscle growth overnight,” explains registered dietitian and sports nutritionist Sarah Koszyk, RDN, author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016)

“Gaining healthy weight by building muscle can help protect the bones and optimize one’s metabolism,” she adds. 

2. Incorporate more sources of healthy fats. 

Avocados, nuts, olive oil and seeds contain healthy fats, which are important parts of our overall diet. Fat provides more calories per ounce than protein and carbs, thus supporting weight gain. Instead of choosing saturated fats, sticking to unsaturated varieties “provide heart-health benefits, as well, so it’s a great way to increase your caloric intake while keeping your heart in tiptop shape,” explains registered dietitian Elysia Cartlidge, RD. 

3. Incorporate strength training. 

When trying to gain weight healthily, the importance of proper exercise can’t be downplayed. Registered dietitian Anya Rosen, MS, RD, LD, IFNCP, CPT, advises that for people who want to gain weight healthily, “incorporating strength training can help increase lean body mass, which has been associated with better bone density and metabolic health.” 

Including strength training in your life doesn’t have to mean pumping iron at the gym or doing any complicated exercises. Doing some simple curls with light weights in the comfort of your own home or squeezing in some lunges while on a daily walk can make a difference in your weight-gain journey. 

4. Eat more whole grains.

Eating carbohydrates can be a surefire way to help support weight gain. But to put on weight in a healthy way, adding more whole grains — like quinoa and brown rice — is the way to go, according to registered dietitian Moushumi Mukherjee, MS, RDN. 

Whole grains provide calories along with a good amount of protein and fiber, plus vitamins and minerals to fuel your body with important nutrients.

5. Sip on nutritious smoothies.

Smoothies can be a convenient way to add good-for-you nutrients in an easily sippable way for busy people. And as registered dietitian Ashley Harpst, RDN, shares, people who want to gain weight healthfully should “drink smoothies and shakes with peanut butter, Greek yogurt, oats and 2 percent milk” for a nutrient-dense and healthy-calories concoction.