Making dietary changes may help you gain weight healthily, such as increasing your intake of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You can also try consuming nuts, dried fruit, and shakes.

There are many reasons someone may want to gain weight, such as being naturally underweight due to genetics or a fast metabolism. Being underweight may also indicate poor nutrition or underlying health conditions.

Additionally, many people who are not clinically underweight may still want to gain muscle and put on weight for other reasons.

However, gaining weight safely is important. This can include eating more nutrient-dense foods and living an overall healthy lifestyle, such as getting enough sleep and reducing stress where possible.

Whatever your reasons are for wanting to gain weight, there are a variety of strategies you can use.

Below, we’ve outlined several ways that may help.

The most important thing you can do to gain weight is to create a calorie surplus, meaning you eat more calories than your body needs.

You can determine your calorie needs using this calorie calculator.

If you want to gain weight slowly and steadily, try aiming for 300–500 calories more than you burn each day according to the calculator. If you want to gain weight fast, try aiming for around 700–1,000 calories above your maintenance level.

Keep in mind that calorie calculators only provide estimates. Your needs may vary by several hundred calories per day, give or take.

You don’t need to count calories forever, but it can help to do it for the first few days or weeks to get a feel for how many calories you’re eating. There are many great tools out there to help you.

Eating enough high quality proteins is essential for optimal growth, development, and general health.

A 2020 study of 23 individuals demonstrated that increasing protein can help increase lean muscle mass.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends adults eat 50 grams (g) of protein daily. However, this can vary for each individual and depends on factors such as age, sex, and medical history.

High protein foods include:

  • meats
  • fish
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • legumes
  • nuts

Protein supplements like whey protein can also be helpful if you find it difficult to get enough protein in your diet.

However, protein may also significantly reduce hunger and appetite, making it harder to get enough calories.

Consider speaking with a doctor to see if increasing your protein intake would help you achieve your goal of gaining weight safely.

Carbohydrates (carbs) alone will not lead to an increase in weight, but they can provide a great way to consume more calories.

Examples of foods high in healthy carbs include:

  • oats
  • quinoa
  • fruits, like oranges, bananas, and blueberries
  • sweet potato
  • buckwheat

Carbs are a vital part of a balanced diet. The amount you should aim to eat each day can depend on several factors, such as your age, sex, and overall health. However, in general, experts recommend that 45% to 65% of your daily calories should come from carbs.

It is important to ensure you include a lot of energy-dense foods in your diet. These are foods that contain many calories relative to their weight.

Using plenty of spices, sauces, and condiments can help with this. The tastier your food is, the easier it may be to eat more. Toppings may also add additional calories.

Here are some energy-dense foods that may help you gain weight:

  • nuts, like almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts
  • dried fruit, like raisins, dates, prunes, and others
  • high fat dairy, like whole milk, full-fat yogurt, cheese, and cream
  • fats and oils, like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil
  • grains, like oats and brown rice
  • meat, like chicken, beef, pork, and lamb; you can also choose fattier cuts
  • tubers, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • other energy-dense foods, like dark chocolate, avocados, peanut butter, coconut milk, granola, and trail mix

If weight gain is a priority for you, it may be a good idea to avoid over-consuming vegetables and fruit. The fiber in fruits and vegetables can help you feel full faster, leaving less room for energy-dense foods.

Here are several other strategies that may help you gain weight even faster:

  1. Avoid drinking water before meals: This can fill your stomach and make it harder to get enough calories.
  2. Try weight gainer shakes: If you are having trouble gaining weight, consider weight gainer shakes. These are very high in protein, carbs, and calories.
  3. Use bigger plates: Consider using large plates if you’re trying to get in more calories, as smaller plates can cause people to eat less.
  4. Take creatine: The muscle-building supplement creatine monohydrate can help you gain muscle weight.
  5. Get quality sleep: Good sleep hygiene is very important for muscle growth.
  6. Avoid smoking, and if you smoke, consider quitting: Smokers tend to weigh less than non-smokers, and quitting smoking often leads to weight gain.

A healthy approach

A healthy approach to gaining weight involves gaining a balanced amount of muscle mass and subcutaneous fat rather than a lot of unhealthy belly fat.

A high percentage of body fat also increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems, even if you have overweight.

Focusing on eating a balanced and healthy diet can still help you gain weight, but in a safe way.

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To gain weight, you’ll likely need to consume additional calories.

You can avoid overeating and ensure that excess calories go to your muscles instead of just your fat cells by starting a resistance training program.

Resistance training, or strength training, includes bodyweight exercises and free weights. Resistance training leads to muscle hypertrophy, which increases muscle mass.

Combining protein supplementation with resistance training can also promote additional gains in lean body mass beyond those gained by resistance exercise alone.

One study found that protein supplementation during 6 weeks of resistance training increased lean mass growth by 27% in healthy adults.

If you’re new to training, consider hiring a qualified personal trainer or taking a class to help you get started, if this is possible for you.

Consider speaking with a doctor if you have any skeletal problems or medical issues that may make exercising difficult.

By consuming 500 additional calories daily, a person might gain an average of about 15 pounds (6.8 kg) over 6 months. However, the duration can differ for everyone and depend on factors such as sex, age, and health.

There are many reasons why you can’t gain weight, such as your genetics, being naturally underweight, or having a fast metabolism.

Increasing your calorie intake is often the fastest way to gain weight. However, the most effective strategy will depend on your individual health needs. A dietitian can help you put together a tailored plan.

There are many reasons for wanting to gain weight.

It’s important to do so by eating nutritionally-dense foods and building lean muscle mass.

Changing your weight is a marathon, not a sprint. It may take a long time, but remaining consistent will help.

If you’re having trouble gaining weight despite trying the strategies discussed above, it’s important to talk with a doctor or dietitian. A dietitian can help you employ eating strategies that may help you reach your goal.

Just one thing

If you may have an undiagnosed condition that’s causing your weight loss, it may be best to talk with a doctor before trying to gain weight using the tips above.

If you need help finding a primary care doctor, then check out our FindCare tool.

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