Gaining weight isn’t always easy — especially if have a fast metabolism.
A fast metabolism increases the number of calories you burn requiring you to consume more calories than someone without a fast metabolism to gain weight.
Consuming these extra calories can be challenging due to poor appetite, constant fullness, or a busy schedule.
Fortunately, there are strategies that make it easier to get the calories you need to gain weight with a fast metabolism.
This article breaks down 10 proven strategies to gain weight with a fast metabolism.
What is a fast metabolism?
A fast metabolism means that you burn a large number of calories — both at rest and during physical activity.
- Body size and composition: The larger you are and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
- Gender: Due to differences in body composition, men burn several hundred calories more than women.
- Age: Muscle mass declines with age so younger people have a faster metabolism.
- Physical activity: Your body needs more calories to support the demands of exercise.
- Certain diseases: Hyperthyroidism, COPD, and some types of cancer and their treatments increase metabolism.
- Pregnancy and lactation: Pregnancy moderately increases calorie needs to support fetal development, and lactation increases calorie needs to a greater degree.
Having a fast metabolism isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing — unless it’s a sign of an underlying condition like hyperthyroidism — but it makes gaining weight more difficult.
This is because you need to consistently consume a higher number of calories in excess of what you burn to reach and maintain a calorie surplus.
This excess should be 200 to 500 calories more than the number of calories you need to maintain your weight.
This calorie surplus range should allow you to gain 0.25%–0.5% of your body weight each week, or 0.4–0.8 pounds (0.2–0.4 kg) per week for a 150-pound person.
You can determine the number of calories you need to maintain your weight (maintenance calories) by using an online calculator.
Or for a rough estimate, multiply your body weight in pounds by 14 if you’re a female, or 17 if you’re a male.
This estimate assumes light activity so you may need more or fewer calories depending on factors that influence calorie needs like activity level, age, and gender.
You can reach your weight gain goals without tracking your calories, but it can be helpful if you haven’t been seeing progress.
10 proven strategies to gain weight with a fast metabolism
Because a fast metabolism means that you burn more calories, consuming a number in excess of what you need to gain weight can be challenging.
However, these strategies are proven to help you gain weight with a fast metabolism.
1. Drink your calories
Trying to consume all your calories from whole foods to gain weight can quickly fill you up.
In contrast, liquid calories don’t fill you up as quickly as calories from solid food, making it easier to get the calories you need.
Shakes and smoothies are great for weight gain since you can load them with calories.
Here’s a recipe for a peanut butter chocolate banana shake to try:
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup (40 grams) of quick oats
- 2 tbsp (33 grams) of peanut butter
- 1 package of chocolate Carnation Breakfast Essentials
- 1 cup (240 mL) of whole milk
Directions: Blend the quick oats into a fine powder. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
This shake provides over 700 calories and 26 grams of protein.
2. Fill up on fats
Filling up on healthy fats is one of the most efficient ways to increase your calories to gain weight.
This is because fat provides 9 calories per gram, whereas carbs and protein provide 4 calories per gram.
To this point, it can be significantly easier to reach and maintain a calorie surplus if you include plenty of healthy fat sources in your diet.
Healthy sources of fat to fill up on include:
- nuts and seeds
- peanut butter or other nut butter
- whole milk
- full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese
- whole eggs
- oily fish like salmon or mackerel
- olive or canola oil
3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
It’s much easier to consume the calories you need to gain weight if you distribute them across several meals and snacks versus three square meals.
Consuming a high volume of food can quickly increase fullness and potentially cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms as well as fatigue.
But spreading your calories out keeps your appetite stronger while preventing or reducing the problems that can arise from consuming too much at once.
Aim to consume three high-calorie meals separated by 3–4 smaller high-calorie snacks.
Your meals should provide at least double the calories as your snacks.
Here are some high-calorie snacks that contain at least 300 calories and around 10 grams of protein:
- peanut butter and honey sandwich
- whole-fat Greek yogurt and granola
- high-calorie protein bar
- full-fat cottage cheese and almonds
- avocado-egg toast
Increasing the hours in which you are awake can also make it easier to consume enough calories since you have a longer window.
4. Fortify your diet
Fortifying the foods you already consume with high-calorie ingredients is a great way to increase your calories and gain weight.
Here are some ways to fortify foods with extra calories:
- spread jelly, honey, and peanut butter on bread and crackers
- add whipping cream to desserts, pancakes, fruit, and hot chocolate
- sautee or stir-fry vegetables, meats, and fish in olive oil
- add melted butter or margarine to soups and casseroles
- melt butter over potatoes, rice, pasta, and cooked vegetables
- add mayonnaise and salad dressings on sandwiches and in dips
- add cream sauces to vegetables and pasta
- use milk instead of water when making cereal and cream soups
5. Lift heavy weights
Many people who are underweight or who have experienced unintended weight loss or malnutrition need to gain weight — whether from muscle or fat mass.
For others, however, the goal should be to prioritize weight gain in the form of muscle mass.
This is because gaining more weight in the form of fat rather than muscle increases insulin resistance — a hallmark of diabetes — and other markers of poor health like cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides.
Gradually increase the weight, the number of repetitions, or training frequency over time for continued progress.
6. Increase your appetite with supplements
Trying to consume the calories you need to gain weight is difficult if you have a poor appetite.
A poor appetite can result from certain medical conditions or treatments, certain emotions, or as part of the natural aging process.
Other times, having a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals can decrease appetite, and restoring their levels can enhance appetite and make it easier to gain weight without battling a poor appetite.
Groups most at risk of developing a deficiency in these nutrients include:
- Zinc: vegetarians, pregnant and lactating women, and people with celiac disease and inflammatory disease (IBD)
- Iron: infants, young children, teenage girls, pregnant women, and people with celiac disease, IBD, and heart failure
- Thiamin: older adults and people with alcohol dependence, HIV or AIDS, or diabetes
Unless you have suboptimal levels or a deficiency in one of these nutrients, supplementing these nutrients individually or with a multivitamin supplement likely won’t enhance your appetite.
7. Meal plan and prep
It’s much more difficult to ensure you’re getting the calories you need to gain weight if you don’t plan out your day or week.
Without planning, you’re likely to skip meals or snacks or choose something that is quick and easy, which might not be the best choice for weight gain.
Therefore, make it easier for you to reach your weight gain goals by meal planning and prepping.
Plan out your daily meals and snacks and make a list of the ingredients you need before you go shopping.
Batch cook things that reheat well such as meats, rice, stews, chili, and other hearty dishes.
Maintain a good balance between raw food ingredients and convenience items that require little to no preparation to save money.
8. Eat more highly processed foods
You probably wouldn’t think that a registered dietitian would advise you to eat more highly processed food.
To my defense, I don’t advise doing so, unless you struggle to gain weight.
Highly processed foods are rich in sugar, fat, and sodium, making them irresistible (11).
It’s their irresistibility that makes it easier to increase your calorie intake without much thought.
Nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins should still comprise most of your diet, but don’t fear if some of your calories come from foods like cheeseburgers, ice cream, pizza, and chips, especially if you have a poor appetite or really struggle to gain weight.
9. Identify trends in your appetite
The more self-aware you are about your appetite, the more effectively you can plan your meals and snacks.
Appetite tends to wane and wax throughout the day and is influenced by several factors such as blood sugar levels, hormones, sleep, mood, and emotions.
You may find that you’re more hungry in the morning and less hungry in the evenings.
In this case, it would be wise to frontload your calories by eating the bulk of your calories in the morning so that by the time dinner rolls around, you have already met or are close to your calorie goal.
You should also pay attention to the types of foods you eat and the amounts in which you eat them.
You might find that you can eat more of a certain food before feeling full, in which case, you would want to find ways to incorporate more of that food within appropriate limits.
10. Talk with your doctor
If after you try some of my strategies to gain weight but still aren’t seeing progress, it might be good to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Your doctor can make sure there is no underlying disease or condition that may make it difficult for you to gain weight.
If your poor appetite continues to be a concern, you could also discuss whether a prescription appetite stimulant — sometimes referred to as weight gain pills — would be helpful.
The most commonly prescribed appetite stimulants include:
- megestrol acetate (Megace)
- oxandrolone (Oxandrin)
- dronabinol (Marinol)
- mirtazapine (Remeron)
- cyproheptadine (Periactin)
Your doctor can also refer you to a registered dietitian who can work with you to identify reasons for poor appetite and recommend appropriate evidence-based nutrition interventions.
The bottom line
People who want to lose weight would love to have a fast metabolism, but it can make it challenging for people who need to gain weight.
Drinking more of your calories, filling up on healthy fats, eating smaller, more frequent meals, and fortifying your diet with high-calorie ingredients are a few ways you can overcome a fast metabolism.
Other proven methods include lifting heavy weights, taking certain supplements, eating more highly processed foods, and looking for trends in your appetite that would allow you to consume more calories.
A visit to your doctor may be in order if these strategies don’t work for you.