If you’re looking to put on weight quickly, your first instinct may be to reach for the pasta and donuts. But not so fast—processed foods may contribute to diseases like diabetes and heart disease, which can strike regardless of your weight.
If you’re looking to gain weight quickly, you’ll want to create a caloric surplus—that is, consuming more calories than you’re burning. If you want to avoid packing all the new weight on around your midsection, you’ll want to stick to a carefully planned diet that contains the right amounts of calories from each fuel source: protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Create a circle graph that shows the proper proportions: 20% protein, 50% carbs, 30% fat.
For steady weight gain, aim to get around 20% of your daily calories from protein, eating protein at every meal and snack, and right after a workout. Let’s look at how the numbers break down.
If you’re currently eating around 2,000 calories per day, eating an additional 500 calories per day will result in a weight gain of about 1 pound per week. This could be easily achieved by adding an extra meal a day, or two snacks in between meals. So that means your daily intake should be 2,500 calories.
To hit the ideal 20% protein window, 500 of your daily calories should come from protein.
Shoot for lean, energy-dense proteins like:
- Skinless chicken breast
- Turkey (3-5 oz. serving)
- Lean red meat, in moderation
- Eggs (2 – 3)
- Cottage cheese (1/2 cup)
- Tuna and other fish
- Greek yogurt (1/2 cup)
- Tofu (1/2 cup)
- Beans and legumes (1/2 cup)
When you’re in weight gain mode, around half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
This is where things can get tricky: so many of the foods that traditionally come to mind in the carb category are refined carbohydrates, like white bread, rice, pasta and pastries. These provide absolutely no benefits from a nutritional perspective and will lead to the unhealthy kind of weight gain.
Stick to healthy carbs like whole grains, including:
- Oatmeal (1/2 cup serving)
- Brown rice
- Whole-grain pasta
- Whole-grain bread or wraps
- Sweet potatoes
If you’ve been following along with the daily requirements for protein and carbs, you can calculate that the remaining 30% of your calories for the day should come from fat. Dietary fats are essential to give our body energy, absorb vital vitamins, and support cell growth.
The majority of fat you eat should be unsaturated (healthiest kind of fats) – they provide omega-3 fatty acids, which our bodies cannot make.
Some healthy fats to incorporate to gain weight are:
- Nuts (walnuts, etc)
- Flaxseeds/chia/hemp seeds
- Olive and canola oil
- Salmon, Herring, Sardines
- All natural peanut butter
- Almond butter
To sum things up, the ideal proportions to aim for are 20% of daily calories from protein, 50% from carbs and 30% from fat. For optimal balance and weight, make sure you include all three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) every time you eat.
By eating real foods in higher calorie counts, you’ll put on weight at a healthy speed. However don’t forget that incorporating a daily workout would help you reach this goal without gaining an excessive amount of fat. Smaller, more frequent meals could also be very helpful in the process.