Most of us strive to shed a few kilos, but some people struggle to gain weight. HFG dietitian Zoe Wilson shares advice on how to bulk up the healthy way.
Jerry, 29, recently switched careers, from desk-bound IT work to energetic carpentry. Although much happier, he’s also lost 15kg without trying. Jerry now wants to gain a bit of weight back — preferably as muscle!
Jerry’s partner, Siobhan, usually does most of the cooking, and she’s trying to discourage him from turning to burgers and chips. She also doesn’t want to share in his new regimen. “Cooking is tricky, because I don’t need to gain weight!” she says.
In the morning, Jerry rushes out the door with a smoothie — or nothing at all — by 6am. At lunch, he grabs fast food, and during the day, he snacks on high-kilojoule biscuits, yoghurt-topped muesli bars and energy drinks.
At night, Jerry and Siobhan enjoy healthy homemade burgers, fish and vegies, or a simple pasta dish.
“Jerry has the right idea. He’s trying to eat more kilojoules, but he isn’t doing it in the healthiest way. Foods such as takeaway burgers, hot chips and sweets may help you gain weight, but they’re also loaded with saturated (or ‘bad’) fat and salt.
I recommend that Jerry eats six times a day, choosing high-kilojoule nutritious foods. To build muscle, he needs to consume lots of protein, vitamins and minerals, along with carbohydrates for energy.
He also needs to eat breakfast every day, even if he just grabs a peanut-butter and jam sandwich and a banana.
At lunch, Jerry can have sandwiches with meat, salad and a thick layer of table spread, avocado or hoummos.
To snack right, he should go for nuts, nut bars, cheese, yoghurt and milky drinks.
At night, Jerry can pad out his dinner plate with extras, such as pesto, olive-oil-based dressings, cheese or table spread. This way, Siobhan won’t eat extra kilojoules, too.”
Top tips for gaining weight and good health
Eat regularly. Six times a day, including snacks, is ideal.
Choose foods that are not only high in kilojoules, but also packed with protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. Include oily fish (such as tuna and salmon), nuts, seeds, heart-healthy oils, avocados and full-cream dairy foods. Adjust the balance of food on your plate: pile it with protein and carbs, and lighten the load of low-kilojoule vegies.
Add extra kilojoules to your favourite foods. Use olive-oil-based dressings, pesto, hoummos or cheese. For creamy dishes, add skim-milk powder.
Drink kilojoule-rich drinks instead of water. Milk or sports drinks are good choices.
Gradually increase portions. At meals, serve generously.
Do muscle-building exercise. Before you sweat it out, power up with carbs, such as toast with honey. Afterwards, refuel with protein and more carbs, like a glass of Milo.