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Everyone talks about weight loss, but what about those who are desperate to gain a few kilos?
"I am a 50 kg weakling!" complains Kishore, who has tried all kinds of remedies including high calorie weight gain powders, liver tablets, weight gain drinks and even colon cleansing.
Before we tackle that, though, let us first understand how do you know you are underweight? Simple. Calculate your Body Mass Index. If it is less than 18.5, you are underweight.
Your BMI or body mass index is your weight in kilos divided by the square of your height in metres. (The normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9).
There are numerous supplements in the weight gain market that might help increase daily caloric intake, yet they have no benefits when compared to smart food choices.
The basic principle of weight gain is simple: You need to consume more calories than you expend. Follow these 10 tips.
i. Eat more calories
This involves some calculation. The approximate normal daily caloric requirement for an average male who performs light activity is 2,200; for a female, it is 1,900.You need to eat around 1,000 extra calories per day to gain less than half a kilo a week.
Do the math. Eat larger portions and eat at least five meals a day.
Your actual caloric requirement can differ depending on your height, weight, activity level and your body's metabolic rate.
ii. Make smart choices
For example, choose dairy products, fish and meat over bread. Choose eggs over vegetables.
Eat foods with high protein content such as beans, pulses and peas, and foods with high starch content such as potatoes, rice and tapioca.
iii. Protein is important
Increase your protein intake. Your body needs a lot of protein to build new muscle. But since most of the calories for weight gain comes from carbohydrates and fats, do not replace them with protein.
iv. Snack a lot
Consume a lot of high-calorie snacks (not junk food) such as cheese sticks, milk shakes, muffins, dried fruits, yoghurt and breakfast bars.
v. Fluids help too
Drink a lot of fluids that supply nutrients and calories; milk, fresh fruit juices and energy drinks are good examples.
vi. Intensify workouts
Aerobics are great, right? Not for weight gain!
You need to exercise really hard and intensely to gain muscle mass.
vii. Weights are the way to go
Focus on free weight exercises (which do not require machinery) that target your large muscle groups. For example, you need dumbells, not fancy gym machines.
Free weights put the most stress on muscles and stimulate the maximum number of muscle fibres.
The best weight training exercises for building muscle mass are free weight exercises like squats, dead lifts, bench presses, barbell rows, pull ups and bar dips.
These exercises are best done under supervision, but they don't need machinery.
viii. Space out your workouts
If you have a high basic metabolic rate -- which means you expend a lot of energy even at rest -- you need short intense workouts instead of long periods of low-stress activity.
Creatine supplements can help some athletes gain weight. It is not known if it is because it gives them spurts of energy or because it adds water weight.
More research is needed in this area before Creatine becomes that magic pill. Creatine supplements are available at all major health food stores, but do not take it without consulting your doctor.
x. Be consistent
It might take a long time, usually a few months, for the weight to actually show. Some people get frustrated and quit when they fail to see drastic results.
Your body will only responds to a consistent schedule. No weight gain programme will work for you if you are not regular.
Heredity does pay a major role in determining your weight. Effective weight training and a smart diet can help you exceed your genetically predetermined weight.
Dr Roopa Nishi Viswanathan has an MBBS from KEM Hospital, Mumbai, with a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin.
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