The very notion of wanting to gain weight may seem counterintuitive to most. But for some, weight gain can present a serious problem, especially as we continue to move toward the philosophy that appearing strong may indeed be sexier than appearing skinny. (See popular blogger Fit Chick in the City's "Phrases that Irk Me: Long and Lean.")
While 20 pounds is considered a tremendous amount to gain for someone naturally with less meat on their bones, when it comes to increasing weight-and doing so in a proper, healthy manner-you won't exactly be chowing down on Big Macs and lard. Zeel experts in fitness and nutrition weigh in.
Find the right trainer. To learn appropriate exercises for building mass, trainer Ryan Jankowitz suggests seeking out a certified strength and conditioning coach-"someone who has had success working with athletes," as he puts it. Not only can a good strength coach offer the proper fitness regimen, but they'll also be able to offer advice on how to fuel the body with the right nutrients and calories after working out.
Choose your menu. Registered dietitian Melanie Silverman recommends a balanced source of calories for the day, from breakfast to lunch to dinner and everything in between. Each meal or sneak should be high in calories and contain healthy ingredients, like nuts, nut butters, beans, avocado and healthy oils (those derived from flax, coconut and olives). Eggs, lower fat dairy, lean meat, chicken, pork and fish should also be incorporated, as should smoothies.
Small changes, big results. Even the slightest modifications can make a significant difference in your body's ability to built lean muscle. Certified personal trainer Frank DeJesus recommends supplementing a progressive weight training program with a careful increase of 500 calories more than the number you'd otherwise consume. Another trick? "Add whey to your diet!" says tai chi pro Jennifer Stauffer.
Lift, eat, rest, repeat. Champion bodybuilder Al Chu recommends concentrating on short strength training routines, with squats, rows and presses, no more than two to three times per week. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) should be consumed frequently, followed by rest. "Conserve energy when you can," says Al. "20 pounds is a lot to gain, especially in muscle. It will take a while, depending on your recovery and your genetic limitations."