Is it important to know how to gain weight? While most people focus on weight loss, obesity, and being overweight, being underweight can be a problem as well. In this article we explore the myths of underweight people, and share 3 ways to bulk up and gain weight (and muscles).
Introduction On How To Gain Weight
There are countless information out there teaching people how to lose weight. In fact, the weight loss industry has so much money in it that every day you see someone selling some weight loss secret.
But there is a silent group of people who don't get as much attention as they'd like. The skinny ones.
We hear things like,
"You're lucky to be so skinny."
"I wish I could eat whatever I want and look like you."
"You're so skinny, you look like a pole."
But the truth is skinny people do experience insecurities about their body image as much as fat people do. And worse, they don't get heard as often. And it can be difficult when trying to find information because everyone thinks that your body shape is ideal and you should be happy being skinny.
Well, I see you. I feel you. And that's why I wrote this article. But before we go into the strategies, let's look at some myths about being skinny.
The Myths of Being Skinny
You hear this a lot. Skinny people are skinny because they have higher metabolisms. But is this really the truth?
To get the answer, first you have to understand what metabolism is. It has multiple layers to it. Starting from:
- Resting Metabolic Rate (or Basal Metabolic Rate) or RMR/BMR
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT
- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or EAT
- Thermic Effect of Food or TEF
Simply put, BMR is how much energy your body burns just to stay alive when it's at rest.
NEAT is energy burned doing non-exercise activities like walking, standing, playing. Anything that requires energy that is not an intentional form of exercise.
EAT is the opposite. When you're intentionally doing exercise like weight lifting, running, cycling, etc.
TEF is the energy your body burns to convert food into energy sources.
Well, according to this study of 10 lean and 10 obese women, there is no different in RMR between lean and obese women (controlling for fat mass).
However, it was found that obese women were more sedentary and less likely to expend energy compared to lean women. Which mades about 300 kcal of caloric deficit difference.
So it's not true that skinny people have a higher metabolism. In fact, the more muscle a person packs, the higher their RMR to maintain their body.
Harder to gain weight
Hard gainers. Ectomorph. These are some of the terms used to describe skinny people.
But is it true that they have a harder time gaining weight compared to an obese person?
The concept of somatotypes have been long been debunked but yet still remain in the mainstream conversations.
The creator of the theory didn't have any robust proof or examples to back his claims. Most of studies done were based on subjective categorizations.
While there are rare cases where skinny people may have genetic conditions that prevent them from properly absorbing nutrients (and thus gaining weight), these cases are rare.
Most of the time, it's just that skinny people aren't eating enough.
What is "a lot" to one individual may not be a lot to another. Skinny people may eat larger individual meals, but less regularly.
Often the case we find in "hard gainers" when we ask them to track their meals is that they simply don't hit their caloric goals.
This caloric deficit causes them to flatline at a baseline weight. And when they start eating a caloric surplus, they do actually see an increase in weight.
Thin people are not at risk of getting diabetes
People often think that being skinny is better than being fat. Because of the various diseases associated with obesity.
But the truth is skinny people are also at risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
An indicator of diabetes is the ceremide levels in the body. It occurs when the body produces fatty acids. Typically it is converted into triglycerides for energy.
However some people are genetically-disposed to convert fatty acids into ceremides.
While this occurs more often in people who overeat and are obese, due to the body producing more fatty acids, it is not eating or being obese that is the cause.
This suggests that thin people are also at risk of getting diabetes.
Weight Is Just One Indicator, But Not A Goal By Itself
At the end of the day, weight is just an indicator of good health. But either extremes are not ideal.
For the average person, BMI is a good way to measure ideal weight. However, there are exceptions especially with people who are athletes, bodybuilders, etc.
That's why it's just one of many indicators. A better indicator should be body fat percentage.
Weight is just a simple way to track progress, but as a fitness goal by itself it is not ideal.
Strength, muscle mass, body fat percentage, stamina, and weight provide a more complete picture of health.
So now that you know the myths surrounding skinny people, here's how to gain weight.
How To Gain Weight: 3 Ways
Eat more, and more often
"You need to eat more" is the best advice if you're wondering how to gain weight.
Based on the laws of physics and energy balance, there's no other way.
Don't bother with mass gainers or protein shakes (unless you have trouble hitting your daily caloric targets).
If not plain ol' food is good enough.
Also, every calorie counts. Add gravy, double portions, snack away. If your goal is simply to gain mass, then you don't need to count your macros just yet.
That comes later in the program. At the start, get your weight up to your ideal weight.
Also, to make things easier, track your progress.
Use apps like MyFitnessPal to calculate your calories. If you have a personal trainer or nutritionist, ask them to measure your total daily energy expenditure (a rough number).
Then eat more calories than your body burns in a day.
At the start just eat your normal amounts and calculate how many calories you're consuming. More often than not you'll be surprised you're not eating as much as you think you are.
When you actually see the numbers you'll realize that your large portions once a day barely meet your daily caloric goals. Tracking is the key when focusing on how to gain weight.
After that it's about eating more. Most commercial apps and equipment aren't an exact science.
You won't be able to know exactly how much calories there are in a meal or how much calories you're burning.
But a rough number is enough. When in doubt, overestimate. More is better when you're trying to bulk.
Also, limit your caloric surplus to 500 kcal a day. Too much and your fat gain might go over the ideal amount. Based on your macros, your body will pack a certain ratio of muscles and fats.
That's why a bulk/cut cycle is important. Once you bulk, your body will gain fat and muscle, then you cut away the fat and build more muscle.
To do that, you need to do...
I'm sure you're not just thinking about putting on raw weight when when asking how to gain weight.
If you're looking to bulk and get some muscles, here's when counting your macros come into play.
Eat more protein to help with muscle recovery. And do resistance exercises to grow your muscles.
I wrote an article on muscle growth, if you haven't read that check it out here.
All in all, following these 3 steps, you should see a significant difference in as short as a couple of weeks.
Keep going for 3-6 months and you'll see a real change.
Once you hit your goal weight and muscle mass, it's all about maintenance and bulk/cut cycling from there.
Note that not only skinny people need to know how to gain weight. Even "normal weight" people have to go through cycles of bulking and cutting.
Depending on what your fitness goal is. You should cycle between phases every 3 months just to help your body and to prevent plateauing.
If you're ready to take your health and fitness seriously, we want to be a part of your journey!
You will sit down with our experts and establish your goals, then they will assess your body composition to determine your "starting point".
After that they will give you an exercise and nutrition roadmap to help you hit your goal based on your lifestyle, commitments, and experience.
This opportunity is open to Singaporeans only. Head to this link to join the priority list to be notified when consultations are open.