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How to gain weight - man strength training

How to gain weight safely: exercise, healthy habits & nutrition

Are you wanting to gain weight? Gaining or losing weight as a fitness goal may help to boost your body confidence and help you to become a healthier, happier version of yourself. If you are underweight you may find that you are more tired, have fragile bones and/or a weakened immune system. Some people may have a faster metabolism than others and therefore may find it much more difficult to gain weight. For whatever reason, Auro have written an insightful blog that may help you answer any questions as to why you are not gaining weight.

First of all, before we start, it is important to think about and understand why you may be underweight. This could be from a variety of reasons such as an underlying medical issue, for example an overactive thyroid, stress or perhaps your lifestyle makes it difficult for you to feed yourself the correct nutrients for your body. This blog may provide you with some useful insight and information, however, if you are concerned that you may be underweight, we suggest you seek advice from your GP or a medical professional.

How to gain weight safely

But it’s not all about moving less and eating more junk food, as this would be a completely unhealthy way for your body to gain weight. In order to gain weight healthily it is important to fuel your body with the correct nutrients and focus on building muscle and a healthy amount of body fat.

Alike to losing weight, the aim should be to gain the weight gradually, so that your body can naturally adjust and sustain your weight long term. If you are looking to gain weight, first of all, you need to work out what your caloric needs are. You can do this by visiting a medical professional or by using an online calculator (however, this may be less accurate). Shena Jaramillo MS, RD suggests that “For women this usually ranges between 1700-2000 calories per day.  For men between 2000-2400 calories per day.  However this can vary significantly based on many factors including, height, weight and activity levels.”

She also adds “Individuals will need to consume an average of 500 calories per day in addition to their current needs to see weight gain of about 1 lb per week.  This is equal to about a turkey sandwich and a small handful of nuts.”

Adding in these extra calories may seem overwhelming and difficult for some. Particularly those with a busy lifestyle or on a food budget. Here are some tips on how to make this possible.

Top tips to increase your calorie intake:

  1. Drink your calories, replace low calorie drinks with nutrient dense drinks such as smoothies or protein shakes.
  2. Eat more often, snack throughout the day on high protein and naturally fatty foods.
  3. Sleep quality – ensure you are getting enough sleep every night. 
  4. Add extra healthy fats to your diet – whether this is through olive oil in cooking or snacking on high calorie nuts and seeds. 
  5. Try not to drink too much water right before a meal as this will fill your stomach up. Obviously it is important to stay hydrated so be mindful of when you are drinking throughout the day.

Registered dietitian Talia Hauser, weighs in on this subject and provides us with some tips herself, which include:

“Choose foods that are high calorie and nutritious: whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta; fruits and vegetables, high fat dairy, lean proteins, fatty fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds. 

Eat high calorie foods first. Don’t fill up on fruit and vegetables when you start your meal. Start with higher calorie foods like starches and proteins, then move on to the lower calorie foods. Get calories in even when you have beverages. Try smoothies or shakes made with milk or nondairy milk, fruit, and nut butters.”

How to change your nutritional habits to gain weight

Jay Cowin, ASYSTEM‘s Registered Nutritionist and Director of Formulations and he provided the following insight on how to gain weight.

“As always, you want to maintain a nutrient-dense diet and stay away from overly sugary and fatty foods. If you are looking to gain weight, try eating more often and adding healthy fats to each meal.” Healthy fats can be found in smoked salmon, avocado and most nuts and seeds.

Jay Cowin also adds “Add in a smoothie in between meals, snack on nuts and cheese. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. If large meals don’t make you feel good then try eating 6-7 smaller meals. Strength training and increasing your protein intake can also help.”

Ryan, an expert in weight gain, started weightlifting at 20 and being a ‘naturally scrawny guy’, wanted to gain weight. Ryan advises “Diet impacts weight gain/loss more than anything else. The exercise just helps body composition. To gain weight you need to spike insulin. Spiking insulin is done with carbs. You also need to be in a calorie surplus.

It’s easier to drink calories than it is to eat them. So after you’ve eaten all you can, I would use a weight gainer shake. By doing this I added about 60 lbs to my body weight over the course of a couple years.

Carbs that cause the fastest weight gain are high-glycemic carbs, grains. I wouldn’t recommend this for a long term solution. However, if someone needs to gain weight and fast, this is the fastest way to do it. Keep exercise to a minimum so you don’t burn through calories. It’s good to lift heavy as well.”

Think about your lifestyle

You may be finding it difficult to gain weight due to your lifestyle. Perhaps you have a particularly active job or are so busy you do not have time to prepare meals and eat. 

If you wish to make a change you must prioritise your health. Make the time to eat if you have a busy lifestyle. Plan your meals, or even do a meal prep on a Sunday evening before the busy week ahead. Make time for foods you enjoy, and try to incorporate them into your routine, even this means enjoying a protein bar whilst walking the dog. 

You could even try cooking or exploring different cuisines to see if there are any new ones that you fall in love with. If you struggle with cooking there are many easy recipe box companies you can subscribe to like Feast box, Mindful chef and Hello Fresh, which can provide you with quick, easy recipes to follow and all the ingredients you need.

Exercises to gain weight

This may seem strange as for many people exercising is associated with weight loss. However, exercising for weight gain is possible, but tough! The key goal to gaining healthy weight is to be in a high calorie surplus combined with heavy weights and or bodyweight strength training to tone your body as you eat more. So strength exercises are vital. 

The good news is, you do not have to have a gym membership or spend a fortune on a home gym to gain muscle. Muscle can be gained through performing simple bodyweight workouts in the comfort of your own home

Upper body exercises:

1. Push ups 


Get into a high plank position on your mat, with your legs straight and arms slightly bent at the elbows. Allow your arms to lower your bodyweight down until your nose is nearly touching your mat, then use your arm muscles to push yourself back up again to the starting position. If you find this too difficult then you can perform this exercise whilst kneeling.

2. Arm circles


Put your arms out to the side and move them in circular motions. After 3 rounds of 45 seconds you will really feel a burn in your shoulders and arms. 

3. Tricep dips


Sit on your mat and get into a crab position, with your arms behind you and lifting your body up off the floor so that you are facing the ceiling. Lower yourself down until your arms are at a 90 degree angle, then using your tricep muscles push yourself back up again to starting position.

4. Press up burpee


Similar to the press ups, however, you perform the press up when you are half way through the burpee. Not the most loved exercise, but this is really effective and works your full body as well as your arms. 

5. Walkouts


Start in a standing position at the top of your mat. Lower yourself down and walk out across your mat until you are in a high plank position. Then walk back and push yourself up until you are stood up straight again. Repeat. 

Lower body exercises:



Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes slightly turned out. Sit back with the hips and lower body as far as possible while making sure your back isn’t rounded. Push your knees out when descending, but keep your chest up.

2. Lunges


Start in a standing position and keep your core engaged as you move one leg forward in front of the other and bend your knee with your front foot flat on the ground. Your body should lower to the floor.

3. Glute bridges


Lie face up on your mat with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips off the floor and towards the ceiling until they form a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Make sure to squeeze your glutes and engage your core whilst doing this.

4. Donkey kicks


Kneel on your mat with your arms straight as if you were about to go into a high plank. Then kick your leg out up behind you and return it back to the mat. Repeat this and alternate each leg.

5. Single leg glute bridge


Lie in the same position as the glute bridge, but use just one leg. Using just one leg isolates the muscle group and makes this exercise much more intense.

Auro provides hundreds of bodyweight exercise classes that can help you build up muscle using no equipment or even household objects such as books and water bottles! You don’t need a gym membership to gain muscle, just motivation and a professional trainer from Auro!

A healthy, balanced diet and an active lifestyle is so important to stay healthy and improve your wellbeing. If you are underweight and are concerned, it is important to visit your GP for professional advice. A world-class personal trainer from Auro can customise your workouts and give you healthy eating tips, whatever your goal. Unlike conventional workout apps, Auro gives you access to actual trainers anytime, anywhere, making it convenient to use. Auro – the app made for real people, delivered by real trainers. Start your free trial today.