Can you put on weight if you have diabetes?
In this article, we consider how people with diabetes can safely gain weight without any health complications.
Gaining weight with diabetes
Eating foods that contain healthful fats is a great way to gain weight with diabetes.
In general, people who want to put on weight need to eat foods that are high in calories rather than following a restrictive diet and keeping calorie consumption low.
Typically, people who want to put on weight need to consume more calories than they use.
However, people with diabetes also need to choose what they eat carefully as some foods may cause a peak in blood sugar levels, which could lead to health complications.
Anyone with diabetes who is considering making significant changes to their diet should speak to a doctor, a certified diabetes educator, or a dietitian who can suggest dietary adjustments that result in weight gain but do not damage health.
There are several strategies that people with diabetes can use for gaining weight healthfully. However, it is essential to consider the effect that any dietary changes might have on their diabetes and continue to keep their blood sugar under control.
These strategies include:
Keeping track of calorie intake
To gain weight, people must consume more calories than they use. Although some reports state that it takes an increase of 500 calories each day to put on 1 pound of body weight per week, this is not true for everyone because people burn calories in different ways.
Several apps and online calorie calculators are available that can help people estimate how many calories they need a day, according to their:
- activity level
A dietitian can help to create a meal plan that focuses on increasing calories but takes into account the dietary requirements for a person with diabetes.
Eating full-fat dairy products
Although eating full-fat dairy can aid weight gain, a person should be mindful of their daily saturated fat and total carbohydrate intake to manage their blood sugar.
Full-fat foods include whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and cheese. People can also add full-fat milk or cream to soups and mashed potato to increase their calorie content.
Limiting caffeine and avoiding low-calorie foods and beverages
Tracking calorie intake can help a person put on weight healthfully.
It is best to exclude diet products, tea, and black coffee from the diet where possible. Caffeine may mask hunger and act as an appetite suppressant.
A high-calorie, nutrient-dense snack is a better choice for someone trying to manage their blood sugar and gain weight.
Examples of suitable snacks include:
- full-fat Greek yogurt with granola
- apple with peanut butter
- banana and walnuts
- whole-grain toast with avocado and chia seeds
Adding an oil, such as olive or avocado oil, to vegetables and greens
Adding oils to vegetables and greens allows people to eat healthful foods while still getting a calorie boost.
Eating healthful higher-calorie foods
Eating calorie-rich foods will help a person gain weight.
However, the key is to choose nutrient-rich foods rather than sugary and fatty foods to maintain the best possible health.
Higher-calorie foods that are also rich in nutrients include:
- nut butter
Eat these healthful foods alongside nutrient-dense carbohydrates, such as beans, quinoa, brown rice, and granola.
Healthful fats are calorie-rich and can help people gain weight, but they also offer health benefits as they control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Heart-healthy fats include:
- seeds (such as pumpkin or flax)
- nuts, spreads, and oils (including olive, canola, sunflower, rapeseed, and peanut)
- fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna)
- nut butter (for example almond or cashew butter)
Eating smaller portions more frequently
Eating more often during the day will help to increase the appetite and, for some people, eating smaller meals throughout the day is more manageable than eating a more substantial meal.
For example, try eating six small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals.
Increasing protein intake
A person can increase the amount of lean protein in their diet by eating chicken, turkey, boiled eggs, and fish. Plant-based sources of protein include lentils, beans, quinoa, and soy. Be mindful of total carbohydrate intake when incorporating lots of these foods into the diet.
Including resistance training as part of a workout routine
Exercise can help to add muscle to the body, which should lead to weight gain. Strength training is the best way to transform calories into muscle.
Use hand weights, resistance bands, kettlebells, and weight machines at the gym to build lean muscle. This is a more healthful way to increase weight than putting on weight by storing excess fat.
Exercise can also increase appetite.
Adding nutritional supplements to the diet
These may include food or beverage supplements, which can increase appetite and help people to gain weight.
Casein and whey protein are examples of supplements that some people take to build muscle mass and gain weight. Try adding them to milk, hot beverages, yogurt, muffins, or puddings.
All supplements are different, so it is best to ask a doctor or dietitian for specific recommendations.
Although most people associate diabetes with weight gain, the condition can also lead to weight loss.
This happens because the levels of insulin in the body are below the normal range, so the cells are not able to store glucose. This forces them to break down and consume fat and muscle in the body to get energy, which leads to weight loss.
By adding specific foods to the diet and exercising to build muscle, people with diabetes can safely gain weight. However, it is vital to discuss any significant dietary or lifestyle changes with a doctor before implementing them.