Ask LH: How Can I Help A Friend Gain Weight?

Ask LH: How Can I Help A Friend Gain Weight?

Hi Lifehacker, I have a friend with a fast metabolism. I know he eats a full lunch and dinner and sometimes even late-night snacks as well. However, he’s still well under the recommended weight for his height (11 kilograms in fact). Is there any way to help him gain weight? Thanks, Faster Food

Skinny picture from Shutterstock

Dear FF,

Weight is only an approximate measure of someone’s health that isn’t always accurate. For proof, just look at the blistering criticism levelled at the Body Mass Index (BMI) system, which measures human body shape based on an individual’s mass and height.

Just like how bodybuilders are often “too heavy” for their height, some people who appear underweight on paper are just naturally skinny with no ill-effects to their health. If your friend is happy with his appearance and has been given a clean bill of health from his doctor, there’s really nothing to worry about.

With that said, the key to gaining weight is by building lean muscle mass through regular weight training and a protein-heavy diet. While it might be tempting to eat your way through our Takeaway Truth menu, this isn’t a smart way to gain weight.

Instead, your friend should stick to healthy, protein-rich foods and increase his portion sizes — the total energy consumption should exceed total energy expenditure. When combined with regular resistance training, this excess energy will be converted into muscle. In short, a structured training program and a well planned diet to meet the needs of that training program are your besat bet to muscle (and weight) growth.

If your friend is serious about gaining weight healthily, he should speak to a registered training specialist who will be able to tailor a diet and exercise regime for his specific body type.

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  • Check out the new Pizza Hut Cheeseburger crust featured elsewhere on this site.
    Should turn your friend into a Fat Bastard in no time!

  • I had a friend who wanted to gain weight. He would eat a loaf of bread with peanut butter right before bed. He’d also wash every meal down with a Hi-Carb protein shake. (Slimfast, would you believe).
    He stacked on the kgs in no time.

  • I had this problem and managed to do it, but it took a lot of work. (Unfortunately I also lost half of it a year later.)

    The way I approached it was the average daily kilojoule intake is about 8000…I was advised to double that. I never managed to double it, but did get up to 12- and 14,000. I checked the KJ count on everything. I tried to eat larger portion sizes and extra meals, although this was really hard as I feel full quickly. (It’s worth noting that I went to the gym 2-3 times a week to try to put on muscle at the same time.)

    For an extra meal, go into subway (which shows the KJ count on the menu) and go for one of the highest ones. KFC is very high is KJ (and protein). Also, pack a sandwich or two for an afternoon snack – fill it with eggs, or roast chicken from a supermarket.

    Have something in the morning when you get up, something else when you arrive in at work. Have morning tea, lunch and then those sandwiches you packed in the afternoon. Have a weight gaining shake when you head home and then dinner when you actually get there..

  • Young people’s problem, when He hits 30 or 40 He will probably start to fill out.

  • I had this problem a few years ago. I’m 180cm and weighed less than 60kg. So I just started drinking protein shakes every morning and stacked on 15kg in about 9 months. I stopped the shakes ages ago and am still hovering around the 71-74kg mark.

  • A “heavy protein” diet isn’t what’s necessary. He needs “enough” protein which would be ~1g/lb of bodyweight. So his weight in kg * 2.2 is how much protein he should be consuming. Don’t stay clear of fat (fat doesn’t make you fat) and fill the rest up with carbs. Rice is always good.

    The simplest way to gain weight is GOMAD diet (Gallon of milk a day) – which involves 4L of milk (ugh) and resistance training involving compound movements.

    There are plenty of posts on lifehacker for workouts that don’t involve a gym membership.

    Basically, he needs to eat more and train. If he doesn’t train, he’ll see that he loses his “Vs” around his abs and he will get sad so just tell him to freakin train. None of those protein shakes post workout or anything (research shows they don’t matter as long as you eat something with protein within 5 hours after).

    TLDR; Eat 12500kj (3000 calories) and weight train.

  • I know this is a general advice site and the above scenario my just be hypothetical … but any answer other than “see your GP and/or a dietician” is just a waste of time.

    It would be unusual for someone in a Western country eating “a full lunch and dinner and sometimes even late-night snacks as well” to be that much underweight.

    The more likely scenario is one of a few things:
    1)He’s naturally very skinny (BMI is just a normal distribution … outliers exist)
    2) He has body dysmorphia with either bulimia and/or excessive exercising
    3) He has an endocrine problem such as hyperthyroidism

    For any of the above the advice remains – see a doctor +/- dietician *, even if it’s just to get the all-clear.

    * And that’s a DAA registered dietician … not a nutritionist or other unregulated “expert”.

  • Definitely make sure your friend has seen a doctor and had things like thyroid function checked. Other than that, a good product to try is Ensure or Hospital Grade Sustagen. These are high protein and high calorie drinks designed for people who are struggling to maintain a healthy weight (elderly, sick, etc). Better balance of nutrients than weight-loss or muscle shakes. They are drunk in addition to regular healthy meals. An APD (accredited dietitian) can help too.

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