Today, we’re going to look at something that’s going to seem a bit counterintuitive. When we think about fitness, we think about weight loss primarily. Combatting obesity is such a focus in fitness (justifiably for the most part) that we often forget that it’s entirely possible to be woefully underweight as well.
Being underweight may be less of a health problem than being significantly overweight, but it also means that your muscle mass is very subpar. Remember, muscle actually weighs quite a bit more than fat, and if you’re into bodybuilding, you may see your weight do a weird, lopsided, inverse curve as you journey from out of shape and overweight, to in shape and properly ripped. You will lose a bunch of weight, and then gain a good bit of it back.
So, for those who’re underweight and want a more muscular, bulked, ripped physique what can be done for this? Surely stuffing a lot of fatty, unhealthy food down your throat is just going to make you fat, right? Well, yes, for the most part, that’s not the right way to go about it, but nutrition does play a big role in this.
Let’s take a lengthy look at what could be causing you to have such a hard time gaining weight, and what you can do about it. We’ll also talk about weight gain goals ideal for men. In the near future, we’ll probably look at similar for women. There are real metabolic differences there, and it wouldn’t be fair to either to try to cram them both in one piece.
Why Can’t I Gain Weight?
Chances are, if you have a really hard time gaining weight, a big part of it is metabolism. You probably have a higher metabolism, for which you should frankly be grateful. You won’t gain the bad kind of weight as easily, you’ll easily absorb nutrients, and get the most out of your caloric intake. You’re probably a naturally more energetic person, and very prone to an active lifestyle.
Another contributing factor could be taking dietary strictness a little too far. It’s a bad idea to get too fixated on your diet to begin with, as we’ve said many times in the past. You’re probably just not taking in enough calories to build a bulkier body. You are literally what you eat, and you can build mass out of nothing.
You may also suffer from a poor appetite, which isn’t that uncommon.
Weight Goals for Guys
Let’s take a look at ideal weight ranges for men of different average heights.
- 6’6 – 215lb-233lb.
- 6’4 – 204lb-224lb.
- 6’2 – 204lb-216lb.
- 6’0 – 191lb-199lb.
- 5’10 – 169lb-190lb.
- 5’8 – 160lb-181lb.
- 5’4 – 136lb-172lb.
You may notice that the weight ranges don’t scale predictably, and don’t scale evenly with height differences. These are also rough averages, and depending on your build, it can vary. This particular chart is just one of several, differing on opinions here, and is to be taken as a general estimate of what people of different sizes can weigh.
Only our doctor can tell you what your actual ideal weight truly is, don’t rely on average charts.
Nutrition is honestly the biggest key to all of this, though to build muscle, exercise and training will be important too. For nutrition, you’re simply not getting enough of the stuff you need, long story short.
First, you need to figure out how many calories you’re taking in just to maintain your existing weight, even if said weight is far under ideal. Most would suggest that something like 16,000 calories per pound of weight is about what it takes to maintain an existing body weight. That sounds like a lot of calories, doesn’t it? Well, it’s really not.
The short of it is that, in order to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn to maintain your existing weight. You should increase this by about 500 calories or more, depending on your metabolism and your workout routine.
This may sound like a bad idea – won’t you get fat? Well, that depends. Are you also maintaining a good workout routine? That alone reduces the risk of gaining the wrong kind of weight from this, but it also comes down to what you eat to gain this caloric intake.
Let’s get one thing straight – fat isn’t the devil. Yes, excessive fat is undesirable and unhealthy, and “fattening” foods can contribute to the buildup of body fat. However, your body needs lipids (the amino acids behind fat). Some amount of fat striation is necessary for musculature, for organ repair, for storage of short-term energy reserves, and above all else, replenishing the myelin sheath – a necessary insulator layer on nerves. Cutting fat entirely out of your diet can result in fibromyalgia and other neurological ailments temporary and long term alike.
Keeping the fatty food intake to a minimum is still a good idea – we’ll look at the right kind of caloric intake in a minute, but fearing fats across the board? Bad idea.
Calorie-dense foods are obviously desirable, provided you pursue the right kind of calorie-density. Most of this caloric density needs to come from proteins or positive lipids (which don’t build pudge). These include nuts, dried fruits, dairy, grains, potatoes, olive oil, coconut, avocado, chicken, beef and fatty fish.
Do you notice that some of these are traditionally considered “fattening” foods? Well, if you live a sedentary lifestyle or have a poor metabolism (significantly poor), then yes, a lot of these will result in a spare tire around your waist.
If you’re underweight, which is an indicator of a high metabolism, and you have a training regimen, your body will use these fatty foods for constructive purposes such as more energy for your workout, and utilizing the proper components to build more bulk during recovery days.
Protein is the most important component to gaining weight, and to growing muscle in general. Protein is what we’re made of, especially our muscles. In order for muscles to grow, they need the stuff they’re made of, just like a house needs bricks and wood from which to be built.
Exercise, which we’ll come to in a moment, results in muscles being strained to failure. It hurts a little, it burns a lot. But, if we intake lots of protein, we can stimulate the body to use this protein to build more muscle during its healing, which will in turn result in a bulkier, heavier, more desired physique all around.
A lot of people have a bad habit of eating too few meals. Yes, this includes people trying to lose weight too. Many of us skip breakfast in favor of just coffee and the morning getting itself over with. Some of us skip lunch too, eating one meal a day with the occasional snack.
It’s hard to find the time to sit and eat three proper meals. This means we’re not getting enough caloric intake if we’re underweight, and if we’re trying to lose weight, well, it causes our body to hold onto weight we don’t want.
Eating three properly-spaced, reasonably-proportioned, balanced meals is advantageous as you will have more energy, and your body will have a steady supply of resources to build itself up. If you have a regular exercise regimen, then your body’s always undergoing some degree of recovery, and thus it should always be properly fueled to do this, even when we’re not that active.
Taking that a little further, some are suggesting that the traditional three decent-sized meals a day may not work for everyone, with something more like five small meals daily being more ideal, depending on metabolism. If you choose this approach, these should be small meals, fairly evenly spaced out, and you should avoid any of them being within a couple of hours of going to bed. This is a new idea, and studies are still underway, but if you still can’t gain the proper weight from three meals, or just can’t handle meals that large, it may be worth trying.
Mentality to Food
Some people love to eat more than others, and more than a few people who’re underweight just don’t have the appetite of others. Treating your food like training – setting goals for different caloric intakes from specific sources at specific times, can ensure that you get what you need despite your personal proclivities not motivating you to.
This is where a dietitian or nutrition expert comes in handy, as they can help you work out this caloric intake plan on a very precise and scientific level.
Another option are supplements like weight-gain shakes, protein powders, and improving the performance of protein via creatine or other similar compounds. These are designed to be processed directly into musculature and bulk, and many have been more than proven to be incredibly effective over years of clinical and practical trials.
If you can’t eat enough to gain the weight for various reasons, these healthy supplements and shakes are a safe and very viable option. In fact, one of your meals could easily be replaced by a healthy weight gain shake.
They mostly taste pretty darn good, with a variety of flavors to meet all tastes, and there’s little to no hassle. I for one love these as a breakfast substitute, having never been a fan of food before noon admittedly.
Caloric intake is a big key to this, but it’s not all. You need to make your body use what you’ve given it, and this is done by exercise. Specific exercises will stimulate muscle growth and the correct use of calories and protein. We’re going to look at the most ideal ones for this now.
- Free Weights – Free weights are far better than most machines, because you have to work your entire body in balance, with no assistance. It’s safer too, because you’re entirely in control, and it’s far more effective due to again, that lack of assistance provided by machines.
- Progressive Overload – In all of your routines, gradually and consistently pushing your limits to muscle failure, while somewhat exhausting and unpleasant, will stimulate the body to undergo recovery and healing. This includes rebuilding muscles, which requires raw calories for metabolic processes, and protein to grow more muscle, which is the type of weight gain you actually want.
- Compound Exercise – You need to do varied and compound exercises to target multiple muscle groups across the entire body. Deadlifts, presses, rows, squats, pull ups, push ups and the like all strain various muscles that you otherwise might not work much in your daily life, even if you’re an active person. This will again induce the body to grow more muscle, and evenly bulk you out.
- Proper Rest – Be sure to manage your work out by volume, recovery, intensity and periods of rest. Exercise does damage to your body, it’s the rest periods and recovery maintenance that are where muscle growth and physique are gained. The body goes “wow, I’m damaged, I need to grow back”. With proper protein and caloric intake, after powerful workouts, your body will have the proper resources and proper motivation to grow, to bulk out, to gain the right kind of weight.
If you’re underweight, aerobics and cardio are actually something to be avoided in large amounts. Yes, a little cardio for a warm-up won’t hurt, but pursuing this to the degree that is used to lose weight, is going to burn out all of your calories and even your protein intake, and you’ll continue to be underweight, and may even lose more, which can become downright unhealthy in the long run.
So, what have we learned? If you’re underweight, you need to eat a lot more, and you need to eat the right stuff. It may be hard – not everyone is a foodie, but if you can withstand the strain of your training, you can make yourself eat breakfast too.
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