Do you have any tips for me to help me gain weight?
This question keeps popping up via my contact form, so I guess it’s time to put my best tips that are spread out in various articles into one place to make it easy. Keep in mind that these are general tips for CFers that are approved for me by my doctors and nutritionist, so please check with your team if there’s anything here contrary to what you’re doing or what you’ve been advised of in the past. Shoot, check with them no matter what, okay?
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I don’t have CFRD, but I do my very best to keep my sugars as low as I can while still getting enough carbs to help boost my caloric intake some. The overall rule to gaining weight is: bring in more calories than you burn – exactly the opposite rule of losing weight. It’s really more of a second full-time job if you already have one or a first full-time job if you’re in school or on disability – make it a priority.
- The first step to to try to find out over the course of a week how many calories it takes to add some weight, any weight, without losing any. You absolutely must be consistent with your liquid intake or you will significantly throw off your calculations with water weight, especially if you’re on a high sodium diet like many of us are. We are probably NOT talking about 2,000-3,000 Calories here. For me to gain weight, I need to pack away 4,000-6,000 Calories per day. You’ll want to use a phone app or spreadsheet to track your intake for accurate numbers.
- Make absolutely certain you’re taking enzymes that work for you (for me, it’s Zenpep), in the numbers you need for increased eating, and in correctly spaced out times while you eat a prolonged meal… and don’t neglect them with snacks, either.
- Concentrate your calories around protein and liquid forms of fat, such as those found in oils (especially light olive oil – where light is about the flavor, not calories), fish, dairy, etc. On a 6,000 Calorie day I was getting 200g of fat and protein each with 150g of each being the low end for a 4,000 Calorie day.
- Start eating big calories early in the day lest you get tired of eating, distracted with work, or caught up with changes in plans for the rest of your day that potentially (and often) derail your eating schedule. Very, very rarely, dinner doesn’t happen around here when life happens, so it’s good to have had a full day’s worth of eating in by 3pm and let the rest be bonus.
- Try to eat 1,000 Calories for breakfast and make it a high-protein meal so you don’t crash by 10am. I eat a huge omelet and often bacon and fruit – here’s a sure-fire way to down a 1,000 easy.
- Double that effort with at least 1,200 Calories for lunch. It’s really not that hard, as I tested at Taco Bell this week: 1 crunchy taco, 1 chicken quesadilla, and 1 beef enchirito came out to over 1,100 with a water, which would have been 1,500 with a 32oz drink. Here are two (one / two) high-powered lunches I enjoy.
- When you’re at the grocery store, check out the labels of things you like and things you would like to try. You will be surprised at how few calories are in some things you like and how many are in some things you don’t eat. For me, I was surprised at how awesome boiled Cajun peanuts and peanut butter are. Look for calories per dollar and calories per ounce/serving, while being careful to not load up on empty sugar calories. A bag of Combos is a nice compromise.
- Meats, meats, meats. You can’t get enough in my opinion, especially steak/beef and salmon. Put meat in everything you can: omelets, Hamburger Helper, Lunchables (when on sale), personal-size frozen pizza (sales, too), and those awesome frozen stir-fry bags are often buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO). Also, who wouldn’t want to eat bacon several times per week for breakfast or snacks? Yum!
- Exercise! It seems counter-intuitive to burn calories when you need to take in more than you spend, but exercising makes it so much easier to eat big, plus, muscle weighs more and contains huge amounts of energy.
- Eliminate stress and infections as much as possible. Infections burn so much energy fighting them – higher heartrates are present with both bad situations, which is a constant source of energy burning. When I’m near-sick or sick, or stressed from business, my heartrate is a constant 90 bpm, but down around 60-70 bpm when I’m healthy and able to chill out – a considerable savings.
I hope you find these helpful in your quest to gain weight. What works for you?