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Ask the Dietitian is not a substitute for a consultation with a professional who can inform you of all the facts of your particular situation. We answer questions in general terms only, to give you information that may used as a starting point.
TOPIC - Weight Gain
Question
I'm terribly underweight. I tried out a lot of ways to eat a lot but still, my weight remains the same. I bought the Gainer's Fuel but still, my weight remains the same. Please tell me what should I do.
Answer
In order for you to gain weight, you need to consume at least 3000 calories per day. This is best achieved through a combination of food and high-calorie supplement. You can continue to use Gainer's Fuel if you like although it is very expensive, or make your own high protein, high calorie drink for a fraction of the cost (see recipe below). Have a shake with your regular breakfast, and another one after your gym workout. Continue to have a good-size lunch and dinner with lots of starches, meat, vegetables & fruits. You also need to do weight training 3-4 times per week to increase muscle mass, this will help you gain weight along with the increased calorie intake.
Question
My son is underweight and never increase his weight for 3-4 yrs. He only likes meat. Does taking more carbohydrates help?
Answer
It would help him gain weight if he eats a more balanced diet that includes carbohydrates such as rice, bread, noodles, cereals, buns and even starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams & sweet potatoes. Carbohydrates are the best source for providing energy (fuel) for the body, protein (meat) converts poorly to energy in the absence of carbohydrate. So if he only eats protein and very little carbohydrate, most of the protein will be converted to energy, leaving very little for storage which could be the reason he has trouble gaining weight.

He may find it easier to increase his intake if he ate more often or snacks in between meals on items such as sandwiches, buns or noodles. If he finds he is too busy to eat, he can take a liquid meal like Instant Breakfast or Ensure (Tm) to boost his intake. He also needs to exercise, however, so that he can build muscle and not fat from the extra food intake. Weight training would probably be best to build muscle, I suggest that he gets professional advice if he is has not done weight training before.
Question
I seem to have the same difficulty putting on weight as others try to take it off them! Should I resort to drinking those weight gaining formulas, those that cost a lots of money and boast about their high protein content? Please advise thank you.
Answer
There is a number of things you can do if you do not wish to use nutritional supplements. First of all, you should evaluate your diet against the Healthy Diet Pyramid, select the higher number of servings and see if you are getting all the food you need. If you are low in any particular food, plan on including more from that food group ie. if you are low in fruits, have a fruit snack between meals or if you are low in vegetables, have an extra serving of vegetables at lunch or dinner.

Secondly, you should have 3 meals plus 3 snacks if you would like to gain weight. You will consume more calories that way.

Thirdly, you need to exercise if you want to gain weight as diet alone could cause weight gain, but the increase would be mostly body fat without the exercise component. Exercising (about 30 minutes per day three to five times per week) on a regular basis and your muscle size should increase. Weight lifting is effective to increase muscle size.

Use the following recipe if you would like to make your own high-protein drink.

HIGH PROTEIN, HIGH CALORIE SHAKE
Ingredients:
1 cup of full fat milk
3 tablespoons full-cream milk powder
2 scoops of ice cream
1 tbsp chocolate syrup, or 1/4 cup fruit
Honey or sugar to taste (optional)
Method:
Blend all items together in a blender to make a delicious shake.
A cup of shake provides about 400 calories per serving.
You need additional 550 calories per day to gain about 0.5 kg per week, this can come from drinking one shake plus extra food each day.
Question
I'm 28, male, and have been lacto-ovo vegetarian for 10 years. I wish to increase my body mass and not look skinny. I consume considerable amounts of carbohydrates but I don't seem to put on much weight. Could this be due to my lack of exercise? What else should I consume more to increase weight?
Answer
In order for you to gain weight, you DO need to exercise along with increased food intake. If you eat more but do not exercise, you will gain fat and not muscle which is not healthy. To gain weight, you need to consume about 2400-2700 calories, depending on your activity level. Not only should you consume lots of carbohydrates, but you also need to have sufficient protein as well. Ensure that you have 3 servings of high-protein foods such as low-fat milk, yoghurt, eggs, lentils, beans & bean products. Read the section on Healthy Diet Pyramid to get a good idea of a well-balanced meal plan for you.

To put on some muscle weight, you should do some resistance (weight) training. If you are new to this, you may want to consult an exercise specialist to get you started on a program with set goals. You can find trainers at most gyms; some of the less expensive ones are at community centres (NTUC Income Fitness Centres) or ClubFitt Centres run by the Singapore Sports Council.
Question
I am a 27 year female graduate student. Lifestyle is very sedentary. I am 158cm, 42 kg, according to BMI, I am too light. However, I even have tummy. I exercise twice a week. I want to gain weight, but I have to watch on my tummy too. I eat quite a lot, no effect in gaining weight. I appreciate your advice and any suggestions.
Answer
Your BMI based on your height & weight is 17 which is underweight. Before you start on any program, you should check with your doctor to rule out that there is no medical reason for your weight such as hyperthyroidism or worms in your stomach. Check also that it is OK for you to increase your exercise as that is what you have to do if you would like to gain weight, yet remain healthy.

Your exercise regime should include aerobic exercises for cardiovascular benefits and weight training to build muscle while you increase your food intake. I suggest that you consult a dietitian (check to see if there is one on campus or at the nearest hospital) to get a full assessment of your current intake and specific advice on what foods to eat more of. If you are concerned about a bulging tummy, you can tone your abdominal muscles by doing exercises like sit-ups and leg lifts. You may also find that your tummy is not as prominent when you gain weight and build muscle in other parts of your body. Consult a personal trainer on setting up a weight training program appropriate for you.


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