Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
Those who struggle with carrying too much weight cannot appreciate the comparable fight to gain healthy weight.
I am often asked by clients how they can gain weight, in a healthy sense, for one of a few reasons:
- they are underweight or thin due to illness or due to not having enough body fat or muscle mass,
- they have a slender build and have difficulty keeping muscle mass – they would like to have more muscle mass within a healthy range,
- they would like to dramatically increase their muscle mass (e.g. bodybuilders), or
- they have been following the advanced plan, lost a significant amount of weight and think they may have gone too far.
In the first instance, there are a number of reasons someone might be underweight. An individual could have a faster metabolism, or genetics could be influencing their body type. Some are medical in nature: (1)
- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – the bugs get first dibs on nutrients, so they are not absorbed as food for the muscles
- intestinal permeability causing them to lose nutrients
- autoimmune disease
- chronic infection
- Type I diabetes
- Neurological issues such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy
For these concerns, the root cause should be investigated and treated.
(2) The Advanced Plan nutrition would be a key component of treating these issues. Chiropractic care to support nerve supply would be another.
In the second instance, the desire is to “look good”, that is, to put some substance onto a slender frame. In addition to a healthy diet, this individual should pay attention to the kind of exercise they use to keep fit. Long distance runners tend not to build muscle. The best exercise style to encourage the building of muscle mass in a healthy way would be activities that are quick and of high intensity (3) (surge or burst training). This type of training impacts hormones by increasing the release of HGH (human growth hormone) which builds muscle and bone density and stimulates the immune system, and of testosterone essential for memory and cognitive function (among other things!) Examples of this training would be tabata,(4) sprints, bursts – our Max T3 training program is an excellent and easily accessed surge training program. Just be careful not to force muscle gain beyond a normal rate – that’s not healthy or safe.
I would advise this person to start by adopting the Advanced Plan nutrition and surge training – this would address any hormonal issues first. If the results aren’t satisfactory, that might indicate that hormones are not the issue. Then I would advise slowly adding in starches (sweet potato, yucca, taro root, root vegetables, or turnips – one at a time) to the caloric intake while continuing the surge training. Put them into breakfast and lunch, of course. Building a healthy smoothie with healthy protein is a healthy way to add in calories. You can also add in calories by throwing a banana into the mix. But with that banana comes more sugars than what you’d be used to — so you’d better be working out!
The folks who want to pack on a ton of muscle in a hurry are taking risks – this is dangerous, and I definitely cannot endorse protein consumption that exceeds what is safe for the body. “How much is that?” you might ask. A guideline is 50% to 100% more than that of sedentary person,(5) and many doctors believe that sufficient protein can be accessed through diet rather than protein supplements. Clara Hughes, Olympic speedskater and cyclist, makes her own protein snacks using rice and dates rather than using commercially prepared protein bars.(6) My own chocolate almond protein bars, using grass-fed whey protein, are also awesome! Other mechanisms for rapid increase in muscle mass include taking in tons of dairy products, drinking smoothies to excess, and using unusual supplements. All of these methods for weight gain “work”, but at what cost? In the long run, these people are likely to experience toxicity and gastrointestinal issues, not to mention the potential to lose muscle and gain fat once the drive to exercise wears off.(7) And bodybuilding is very hard on the body – we need to take a long term view to health and preserving longevity.
In my own practice, I recommend that clients pay specific attention to what they eat, and when someone who is used to eating a lot of starchy and sugary foods in an attempt to maintain or gain weight, it’s only natural to be apprehensive of the potential weight loss that can accompany healthy eating.
The Maximized Living model of health care is not designed to force your body to lose or gain weight, but to allow your body to reach its most ideal state. By applying the five essentials, we are enabling the body to heal itself.
Applying the five essentials includes elimination of stress from the nervous system, one’s mindset and the dietary system, the elimination of poison from the environment, and optimization of oxygen and lean muscle tissue.
Understand that some people need to have a higher cholesterol level, or a lower body temperature. Each person’s physical need is unique. We don’t define the perfect body shape, size or condition. If you understand chiropractic, you’ll know that our goal is not to force a certain result in the body, but to remove interference, and allow the body to heal itself and reach a natural healthy state.
When we apply the core and advanced nutrition plans, we’re applying the same principles. My nutrition plan is designed to naturally reflect the innate wishes of the body based on everything we know.
So rather than focus on gaining weight or losing weight, focus on reaching that perfect healthy state, with the appropriate amount of muscle mass for your frame. Bulky muscle on a slight framed person will result in physical problems later in life. When my father was in school back in the 1960s, he was told that the average male weighed 150 lbs. Today, students are told that 175 is the average – yet our genes and our bone structure has not changed. How can that weight gain be healthy?
So, when some asks me how to gain weight through Maximized Living, my response is always to focus them on eating healthy food in a healthy way, exercising appropriately, reducing toxins and stress, and keeping their spine adjusted to maximize nerve supply. Then I tell them to let their body do the rest. In my experience, no one who has applied the 5 Essentials and specifically the Advanced Nutrition Plan has sunk to dangerously low weight levels. It just seems like they are “the incredible shrinking man” because of the tendency to compare oneself with other “average” weights. Your body knows what’s healthy.
There’s no prescription. Just a focus on long-term health and wellness brought on by treating your body as the miraculous healing machine that it is.
About Dr. B.J. Hardick
Dr. B.J. Hardick is a Doctor of Chiropractic and internationally-recognized natural health author and speaker. His health journey began as a child — alternative medicine is the only medicine he has ever known. In 2009, he authored his first book, Maximized Living Nutrition Plans. In 2018, he authored his second book, Align Your Health. An energizing and passionate speaker, Dr. Hardick shares his lifestyle methods to numerous professional and public audiences every year in the United States and Canada. His teachings encompass the principles of ancestral nutrition, detoxification, functional fitness, mindfulness, and green living. Learn More