Increasing Calories

Are you experiencing undesired weight loss? Do you want to meet body weight requirements as an athlete? Increasing calories can fix this for you! Weight loss can be attributed to low food intake, an unbalanced diet, and intense exercise. A person having a BMI below 18 is considered underweight.

To gain weight, the calorie intake should be higher than the body needs to meet current requirements to initiate the weight gain.1 The underlying reason for excessive weight loss should be clear, like depression and eating disorders, to address the issue and create a better diet plan.

Why is gaining weight important?

Being underweight can be indicative of poor nutrition and underlying health conditions. Some people may be naturally underweight because of fast metabolism and genetics. It is important to maintain a healthy weight for better health; moreover, some people prefer to build muscles.2


Nutritional Facts

The nutritional consideration applies when a healthy diet for weight gain is desired. The goal of a balanced diet is to increase the calories by making healthful choices from various food sources. Choose dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, bread, rice, and pasta for extra calories.

When one experiences severe weight loss, it is important to concentrate on fats for high calories.3 Fats contain twice the calories present in carbohydrates. The fats should be from plant origin like vegetable oils, margarine that does not contain trans fatty acids, and nuts or seeds. After the weight gain is achieved, a gradual and low fat diet should be preferred.

It is estimated that a 500–1000 calories increase per day will increase body weight by 1–2 pounds per week. It takes 3500 calories to build one pound of weight.

Special Considerations

Basic vitamin and mineral supplements can provide 100% of the recommended dietary allowance depending on nutritional requirements. It is better to consult your physician before taking any supplement.

Regular meals

Eating three meals a day and snacks as an extra energy source helps you receive the required calories.

Stimulate poor appetite  

Stimulate the appetite with regular walks, appetizers, socializing with friends, going out for dinner, and avoiding stress. Eat a large amount of food without overeating.


It is better for those who drink alcohol regularly to have a drink before taking a meal. Alcohol contains empty calories, so it is not good to consume alcohol solely for appetite purposes.

Liquid supplements

It is better to take liquid supplements like Ensure or Sustacal to ensure higher calorie intake. Such liquid supplements are effective when food intake and normal appetite are disturbed.

High calories beverages

Nutrient-rich meals should be chosen. Instead of diet sodas, water, coffee, or tea, drink fruit juices, milk, and milkshakes. Dried fruits and canned fruits packed in heavy syrup will supply more calories than fresh fruit and are more filling.

Weight Gain Tips

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Full up on high-calorie foods instead of low-calorie foods.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Keep nutritious snacks on hand.
  • Plan meal times and calories per day and follow the chart.
  • Use substitutes to increase calorie intake.4
Suggestions for Increasing Calories
500-calorie snacks
Food Calories Food Calories
1 bagel – 3 oz 240 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal 110
2 Tbsp peanut butter 172 1 cup low-fat 1% milk 100
1 cup 1% milk 100 1 cup canned pears 190
6 dried apricot halves 66 1 oz cheddar cheese 115
Total 578 Total 515
1,000-calorie snacks
Food Calories Food Calories
5 oz vanilla pudding 220 1/4 of a 14″ cheese pizza 306
4 graham crackers 120 1 cup grape juice 155
1 small banana 81 1 cup soft serve ice milk 225
1 cup pineapple juice 140 10 vanilla wafers 185
1 cup tuna salad 375 1 oz roasted peanuts 165
1 slice wheat bread 65
Total 1,001 Total 1,036


  1. Garber AK, Mauldin K, Michihata N, Buckelew SM, Shafer MA, Moscicki AB. Higher Calorie Diets Increase Rate of Weight Gain and Shorten Hospital Stay in Hospitalized Adolescents With Anorexia Nervosa. J Adolesc Health. 2013;53(5):579. doi:10.1016/J.JADOHEALTH.2013.07.014
  2. Products - Health E Stats - Prevalence of Underweight Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 Through 2017–2018. Accessed June 9, 2022. citation
  3. Beulen Y, Martínez-González MA, van de Rest O, et al. Quality of Dietary Fat Intake and Body Weight and Obesity in a Mediterranean Population: Secondary Analyses within the PREDIMED Trial. Nutrients. 2018;10(12). doi:10.3390/NU10122011
  4. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(25):2392. doi:10.1056/NEJMOA1014296

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