Starting in my teenage years I wanted to know how to gain weight. For slim people ‘How do I gain weight?’ is a question they have asked themselves for years with little success at finding an answer.
of this morning (Saturday, April 27, 2013) I weighed 82.3kg (181lbs), the
highest weight I have ever achieved in my life.
Seven weeks ago I asked myself that very same question ‘How do I gain
weight’ when I weighed around 74kg (163lbs) at 6’1”(185cm) and decided I had to
do something radical because nothing else had ever worked.
A week ago I reached 82kg.
That is a gain of 8kg (18lbs) in 6 weeks. A chunk of that (maybe 2-3kg) is fat but
given that I have never been able to gain weight or much muscle I am very happy
right now. People are starting to make comments like 'You are looking well' or 'You seemed to have bulked up' or 'You look thicker across the chest'. It is heaven to my ears, as it is a long way from the time my Company Sergeant Major in Special Forces asked me if I was ill because I was so thin or a friend showed me a picture of a guy with aids and said I looked like him (sigh!!!).
For people who put on weight easily (i.e. much of the western world’s population), these poundage increases in my weight won’t mean much since those people will say that they seem to gain weight just from inhaling whenever they are around food. This page is not for them but for those of you who are thin and have struggled all your lives. If you are desperately seeking the answer to how to gain weight, and what I have said resonates, then this page is definitely for you.
Warning: I don’t pretend that this diet is healthy so you
should discuss with your doctor before trying.
However, it is of limited duration (6 weeks) so unless you already have
an underlying condition it should not prove to be too taxing on your body. However you will probably gain weight around your stomach as well and at some point you are going to have to put effort into removing it. This may not be so easy and you will have set up your fat cells to 'remember' how to store fat in this place. So think carefully about how important gaining weight is to you but go in with your eyes open to the consequences.
Most of my life I weighed around 60-65kg (132-143lbs) at a height of 6’1” (185cm). I only got into the army because my girlfriend at the time knew the army doctor and encouraged her to pass me as I was considered underweight. I even went through special-forces with my weight varying between 60-65kg (132lbs-143lbs). No mean feat considering I was often carrying 40kg (88lb) packs.
I always wanted to put on muscle and I would train diligently. How to gain weight was a key issue in my life. I started at the gym when I was 15 and have been trying on and off for 39 years. A few years back I tried the ‘Body for Life’ challenge and managed to put on 3kg in 3 months. Most of that was muscle and a reasonable muscle gain but I was disgusted, since I was eating 6 meals a day, training regularly and felt nauseous.
I think now, that for thin people the real issue is that we don’t eat much. Now that may seem self-obvious but if you are thin, even when you think you eat a lot you may not really be doing so. We also don’t pay attention to regular eating habits and miss meals without worrying about it. We also tend to think that we want to eat healthy and gain muscle without getting fat. All of these habits and beliefs keep us thin.
Now it could just be that my metabolism has slowed down (I am 54 years old) and suddenly I am able to put on weight. Trouble with that theory is that I should have steadily gained weight over the years as most people do.
Well I did, having gone from 65 kg to 74 kg over a ten year period due to an office job and knee damage that stopped me from running. However, my weight reached 74kg and basically stopped or hovered within a kilo or two of that weight for ten years in spite of various weight training regimens and long periods of sedentary behaviour.
Six weeks ago I started a bodyweight exercise programme and decided it was time to get serious about finding out how to gain weight. I was driven by three motivators:
1) I was
sick of being thin and had read all the anthropological/psychological research
that showed that thin people are viewed in a different way from the athletic
builds, i.e. mostly negative, and I had experienced that throughout my life.
2) I was finding in my kung fu class that I was continually getting pounded by the heavier guys. Their arms were heavier so they could hit harder, their bodies were more solid so they were harder to move and I wanted to stop getting my arms smashed and be able to give some back.
3) I do some acting in my spare time and a casting agent asked me 18 months ago whether I was interested in being a POW in a WWII movie!!! Basically because I was skinny enough to pass for a prisoner of war!!!.
Forget all you have heard or been taught about how to gain weight. Well maybe not all of it:-) but THE key to how to gain weight is FOOD and I know you have been told that before, as have I.
The trick is that we have to break the homeostasis of our bodies and I'll talk about that later. Food is the key and you have to eat radically, going beyond what you thought possible for yourself.
So I began to eat, and I mean EAT!! At least by my standards. Let me warn you right now. Gaining weight if you are thin is PAINFUL (especially if you are trying to do it quickly), so don’t expect a comfy ride.
You will need to eat 7 times a day and eat as much as you can each time. You will feel full, you will feel uncomfortable, and you will start getting pains in your back and sometimes indigestion, but let me tell you…IT IS WORTH IT!!
You will start to feel good
about yourself. Yes, you will probably
develop a paunch if you are male and put weight on your hips/thighs if female, at least initially, and it will not go away if all you do is
eat. You have to exercise with either
weights or bodyweight exercises so that your new body is in great shape and a
vast improvement on the old one. But the key to learning how to gain weight is to EAT!!
If you don’t believe me about the pains in the back then do a google search for ‘overeating and back pain’. It is a common problem but I also think most of the medical profession’s explanations are wrong.
In some cases it can be connected to a number of serious problems but my belief is that expanding the stomach through increased food intake puts pressure on various nerves which express themselves in back pain in various parts of the back. In my case it tends to be middle to upper back (right side). For my wife it tends to be middle to lower back (both sides).
This is why one of your best friends while gaining weight is a TENNIS BALL!!. Yes, a tennis ball. It is more convenient than a masseuse, cheaper and easy to keep in your car or at the home or office. When you start getting back pains after a meal get the tennis ball and either place it between the area of your back that is painful and the back of your chair (or floor or car seat) and lay back against it. It acts a bit like acupressure and will definitely help.
Calories are important but don't bother with counting calories. That is tedious. Just EAT!! Every time you feel that you can eat again…DO SO!! Even if it is just a snack. Keep food going in and increase the size of your meals.
Even when you are asleep, have a protein/carb drink near your bed and get into the habit of waking up through the night and drinking it. I usually woke up at 3am, had the drink, then went back to sleep.
I have set up an example of my diet here to give
you an idea of what I was eating and how often.
It is not easy, but as you see your weight going up the enthusiasm and
excitement takes over and because you can see results you just keep at it. In spite of the pain:-)
The only supplements I use (and continue to use) for the 'How to gain weight' programme and fitness training are a good multi-vitamin plus a separate vitamin D3 capsule, creatine, a protein/carb weight gainer and most importantly pancreatic enzymes (you will probably need a prescription from your doctor for these) to help you digest the food.
The weight gainer helps you keep up with calories when you are on the move and in the middle of the night when you wake up to drink it. The pancreatic enzymes can be eliminated after the 6 weeks 'How to gain weight' programme is finished.
The 'How to gain weight' programme will help you to gain weight fast but it is highly likely on this programme that you WILL develop a gut (for males) or fatter thighs/buttocks (for females). That is just the way our biolgical development has evolved our bodies to store fat.
I developed a gut, but strangely, was happy with it because I was getting closer to my ideal weight. I had developed a gut before but got rid of it with a paleodiet and weight training over a three month period. I decided to let my weight stabilise at 82 kg for a few months to make sure it wouldn’t drop away just as quickly. If you are thin you probably realise how easy it is to lose any hard won weight gain.
So I went back to a normal diet for a few months till I was ready to go
back on a paleodiet to lose the gut or thigh/buttock fat. Have a look at before and after photos on the web. You will see that skinny guys who gain muscle often don't look as if they are in as good a shape as guys who were overweight to start. My thinking is that having some extra bulk is a good thing as you shape your body so don't be too concerned with gaining some flab.
The following is from "Using 'Plasticity' and 'Homeostasis' To Melt 0.71 Pounds Per Day" by Dr. Kareem F. Samhouri. It was aimed at people who want to lose weight and not aimed at teaching you how to gain weight, but the theory applies to those who want to gain weight as well, so I have adapted it and put my spin on it.
It is word for word except where I have changed it from 'fat loss' to 'weight gain' or something else and I have enclosed my words in brackets,e.g. [weight gain]. My hat is off to Dr. Samhouri because I think he has nailed the solution to how to gain weight with this article.
Homeostasis is a fancy term for describing when
your body is efficient, or in a state of equilibrium.
When your body reaches a new weight and stays there for a little while, it becomes incredibly good at protecting this 'zone' of weight. The reason being that every fluctuation in your body results in a multi-system approach to adapt to new demands -- your heart requires a different strength per beat to get blood to your toes and fingers, your lung capacity changes depending upon the size of your belly, and your digestive tract gets re-positioned slightly depending upon the distribution of fat on your body.
When your body finally adapts to its new position and its new demands, it gets very efficient -- the goal of your body is to use the least amount of energy for any given process -- this way, you never run out of energy and end up passing out. This state of 'body balance' is referred to as 'homeostasis' and is well understood in all scientific research to be how our bodies work.
Naturally, we need to disrupt 'homeostasis' for [weight gain] to take place; otherwise, your body will actually seek to [lose the weight again], as every time it has to adjust, it becomes inefficient all over again. The time period for 'body adaptation' to take place is 6 weeks, during which time 'plasticity' takes place.
Plasticity refers to a permanent neurological
change in your body that allows your body to recognize something new as its
Now, what happens when we apply 'plasticity' and 'homeostasis' to [weight gain]?
By using peaks and valleys in your [weight gain] approach, we are nearly eliminating any chance of rebound [weight loss]. Plus, you'll be able to [gain] a lot of weight quickly, which feels good [in the long run] -- balancing out, and then doing it again allows you to see a result in the mirror, stay motivated, and continue to progress.
[Weight gain] also becomes easy for life once you learn how to communicate with your body and sustain any results you get and you can always go back onto the 'How to gain weight' programme if you need to.
There are plenty of websites to tell you how to gain weight but they are often written by people who have never had that problem. So how to gain weight?
Well, you need to do something radical to disrupt homeostasis. It is pretty simple really. Whenever you decide to start, eat everything in sight for 6 weeks. EAT and EAT and EAT some more. If it is not painful then you are not doing it right. Sorry but that is just the way it is. The secret to how to gain weight is not rocket science. You have to EAT!!
Yes, of course you can modify the programme and eat less and put weight on over a longer period but how will you know how much is enough. This kind of conservative behaviour has kept you thin for too long. By going all out the weight will go on. Don't necessarily expect much weight gain in the first week or two as you are trying to break homeostasis but after that the weight will come.
I have included a sample diet here to show what I was eating. Hopefully this will give you some guidance but eat what you like and eat lots of it. Make sure you include ice-cream, milkshakes, biscuits and as many high calorie foods as you can find. You can go back to healthy eating after 6 weeks. Even after you stop this eating programme the pains will still happen for a week or two. Don't be alarmed as they will eventually disappear.
So, after the six weeks you will have learnt how to gain weight and gained anywhere between 6-10kg (don't be worried if you have gained less than this as everyone reacts differently). However, if you have gained less than 3kg you may be fighting genetics or you are not eating enough.
How can you tell if you are not eating enough?......No Pain. This really is a case of NO PAIN...NO GAIN. Be thankful though even if it a is just a couple of kilos that you have gained on your path to learning how to gain weight.
Now, let's assume you have gained weight. What you want to do now is let the new weight settle and allow the body to create a new homeostasis. Start eating your normal diet again and weigh yourself every 2-3 days to see if you have lost weight.
You probably won't lose any, which is counter-intuitive, because you will be eating less but not losing weight. That's because your body has adjusted to a new homeostasis and will resist losing weight.
However, if you do begin to lose weight add more carbohydrates to your diet and maintain the weight that you have reached (at least within a kilo or two). Let this weight settle for 3-6 months and then if you want to gain more weight, do another 6 weeks of eating everything again.
You can of course let the new weight settle for only 6 weeks before starting the programme again. However I prefer a longer period to settle into the new weight.
If you have developed a gut or thigh/buttock flab and you are concerned about it then still allow the new weight to settle in for 3-6 months and then begin a paleodiet of fruit, vegetable, meat, chicken, fish, nuts and limit your concentrated carb intake to less than 100 grams per day, preferably from rice, oats or sweet potato. A lesser choice would be potato or bread (or other wheat products)
Your gut will start to go but you may start to lose some weight as well. If so increase your carbohydrate serving. You can find details on the paleodiet here.
Next time I will try and get the photos to match up in distance, lighting, etc. but as you can see in the photo above a weight gain from around 62kg to 82kg makes a difference but it is not that impressive. If you are tall and originally skinny with small bone structure then it is difficult to get the look that you want. Even with this 20kg weight gain (of which 8kg was gained in six weeks) it has only given me a normal looking body. It will take at least two years of weight training, probably more, to perfect it. I will also move from bodyweight exercises to bodyweight and free weights in the new year and start the 'How to gain weight' diet again to add more mass. Still, as hard as it is, you can see that it can be done. You can learn how to gain weight. Don't give up hope.
How much should you weigh as an ideal?
There are various calculations on the internet to give you your ideal body weight and you can use the calculations below to figure it out for your body. It is really only a rough guide.
Male = 106 lb for the first 5 ft + 6 lb for each additional inch.
Female = 100 lb for the first 5 ft + 5 lb for each additional inch.
Male = 48 kg for the first 152.4 cm + 1.1 kg for each additional cm.
Female = 45 kg for the first 152.4 cm + 0.9
kg for each additional cm.
However, I think a better way is to
compare your height and weight to that of celebrities that you admire. For instance, I am 6’1” (185cm) and love the
look of Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans but decided to set my goal a bit heavier
than them by a kilo or two. So I still have some way to go on my 'how to gain weight' programme.
I have made things a bit easier for you by providing a list below of many celebrities and their height and weight. Just pick the one with the body you would most like and use that weight as a goal. Remember though that you need to train to get that body and if you are 5 feet tall then don't aim for Arnold Schwarzeneggers weight when he is over 6 feet tall. For your height that will just look WRONG.
In learning how to gain weight, just eating will not be enough. You need to do weight training or body weight training to get that body that you always wanted. One tip on your quest for how to gain weight is to forget cardio for now. It will only slow your weight gaining progress down.
Scientific studies have shown that endurance training (cardio) will interfere with your ability to maximise weight and muscle gains. You can always adopt it later, once you have gained the weight and then it is best to do HIIT(high intensity interval training) or Tabata to get the best results.
The list below is aimed at men but for women go here. Once you have chosen a role model to aim for you will be on the path to learning how to gain weight.
Good luck and let me know how you went in your 'how to gain weight' journey by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org