Thu | Mar 30, 2023

How can I safely gain weight?

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dear Dr Gardner:

I would like you to help me with a few questions. When I exercise I lose weight but I am exercising to build my abs and muscles. How do I do this without losing weight? I am 5ft 8 inches and about 110 pounds. How can I safely gain weight?

Dear Reader:

The ideal prescription for weight management is a combination of diet and exercise. If there are no underlying pathological problems, by manipulating your diet and exercise your objective can be achieved.

Exercise prescriptions are guided by a variety of principles. One of the main principles that will make the difference in your weight-management exercise is the degree of intensity. Another very important principle is the duration of the activity. The effort exerted is the resistance principle. The more effort expended, the greater the returns. Not to be overlooked is the frequency, or how often you perform the exercise. Exercises to gain, lose or maintain weight should be performed frequently enough to ensure the desired results.

Aerobic vs anaerobic

Crucial to all of this is the mode of exercise, which can be described as aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercises or activities last for a fairly long time while anaerobic exercises or activities last between one and 10 seconds. Aerobic exercises are less intense than anaerobic exercises so you can perform them much longer. Examples are walking, jogging and running. Anaerobic activities include sprinting, jumping and lifting weights very quickly.

Thus, if you are trying to lose weight, a combination of aerobic and strength-training exercises works best. The continuous involvement of your large muscle groups in the aerobic activity and the relatively long duration will result in much more calories being burnt. Even greater weight loss is realised if a reduced-calorie diet is included in the programme.

Combine exercise and diet

The healthiest way to gain weight is through a combination of strength and resistance training and an increase in your caloric consumption. These exercises and consumption of more calories from carbohydrates and protein will increase your weight gain in muscle and reduce body fat. Thus, you can increase the size of your abs and even gain weight at the expense of the fat you lose. Your strength-training programme should include at least two exercises of three sets for the major body part such as arms, legs, shoulders and abdomen. Each set of exercises should consist of about 10 repetitions.

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: