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How to Eat to Gain Weight

Not Everyone's Trying to Lose Weight: Here's How to Eat to Gain Some Muscle

Every body is different, and while many of you are on a weight-loss journey, we know that some of you are trying to put on a little weight and create some healthy muscle tone. We're here to help!

Putting on weight can be challenging, especially if you're trying to do it the right way. You don't want to gain fat, but rather, healthy muscle. That way, you'll still have a lean, toned body, but build strength and build your physique a little bit. To get some insight on this, POPSUGAR consulted trainer and nutrition coach Carrie McMahon. She introduced us to the concept called "reverse dieting," and we think you're going to like it.

"Reverse dieting is a way to slowly gain weight — focusing on muscle weight gain — as well as repair metabolic damage due to strict, low-calorie, detox, and fad diets." In Carrie's words, it's essentially to undo damage from too much dieting or from being undernourished, and help you regain healthy weight. "These harsh diets cause horrible damage to the metabolism, as they force your body to go into a starvation mode in which the metabolism will lower, because it's trying to hold onto every calorie to keep you functioning properly." That said, you can also reverse diet if you've just always been particularly thin, and are looking to add a few pounds of muscle to your frame.

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Here's the concept: "With reverse dieting, you slowly and steadily increase your intake each week, so that your body can adapt to the increases, and your metabolism can catch up without being shocked again by bingeing or adding in large amounts of food very quickly."

This starts with counting your macros, or monitoring your macronutrient percentages. A quick refresher: macronutrients are the types of calories that make up your caloric intake: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The way you distribute your macros in your diet (heavy proteins, light carbs and fat for instance) has an effect on your metabolism and weight loss or weight gain.

When you're starting your reverse diet, Carrie recommends keeping your proportions the same before you make gradual adjustments. If you've never counted macros before, you'll want to reflect back on your past week's diet, and enter the information into an app like MyFitnessPal or My Macros+ to get an idea.

"Try to calculate a base rate, or find out your daily intake, and calculate how much you've been eating," she said. "The key is to start where you've been at, even if that means a super low amount of calories due to a low calorie diet. You don't want to shock your body or metabolism." She also mentioned that this doesn't count if your low-calorie diet has only been a one-week "detox" or "cleanse." Look back at your general dieting habits for the past six months to get the most accurate read.

Carrie notes that an average healthy diet has "around 30 to 35 percent protein, 25 percent fat, and 40 to 45 percent carbohydrates." Once you start adding in more food to gain weight, she notes that "instead of adding in a large amount of calories daily to put on weight, you add in small amounts each week." (She continued to emphasize the slow and steady pace.) "Add in an extra 5-10 grams of carbs and about 1-5 grams of fat every week; that's about 50-100 calories added on to each day, every week, so the increases are small."

She also mentioned that this healthy weight gain can't come just from food — you've got to also add in some form of strength training. "Coupled with a weight training regime, this new addition of calories will allow your body to slowly gain weight, and to focus more on muscle gains." It's much healthier than "bingeing or gorging on food in order to gain weight very rapidly," and it also gives your metabolism the time to catch up to the gradual increase. If you were to just add in a ton of food, she told us that "the metabolism tries to hold on to every calorie, and your weight gain ends up being more fat gains rather than muscle gains."

Another important factor? During this process, she notes that you want to "always make sure your protein intake is one gram per one pound of weight, so if you weigh 120 pounds, you'll want to slowly increase your protein to 120 grams per day."

The last thing Carrie wants you to keep in mind is that gaining weight won't make you look "fat," especially because with this method, you'll be gaining muscle, creating a lean and toned look. So get your eyes off the scale, don't worry too much about pounds, and focus on how you feel.

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