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Dino Answers Your Health Questions: Healthy Weight Gain

By Dino Nowak
Certified Fitness Trainer

Question from a Reader:

Good day, Mr. Dino,

I'm Daryl, 27 years of age from Kahoka, Missouri.

I've been thin all my life until I discovered that there are supplements that can increase my weight. I started drinking supplements (flavored milk shakes). I drink three glasses a day (650 calories per glass). I've gained 20 pounds since, and I'm now at 125 pounds, but I'm still underweight. During the past three months, I have consumed around 3,000-3,500 calories a day.

I still want to gain weight. My target is 150 pounds. My friends told me that I should start lifting weights in order to gain more weight, but I told them I'll wait until I reach my target weight of 150. But I'm afraid that I might plateau at 125 pounds. Will lifting weights increase my weight, or will it increase my metabolism?

During my snacks, I eat anything from unhealthy foods like chips, chocolates, and soft drinks to healthy ones like fresh fruits just to increase my calorie intake. If I consume more calories than I'm consuming right now, is it bad for my health?

I'm very concerned with my health because I have a family history of hypertension. I always encourage my wife that we should walk, jog, bike, or play sports like badminton during weekends, because I know it's healthy to exercise and my wife also has a history of a heart problem. I'm concerned that I'll burn more calories if I do these exercises. What exercise do you recommend that we should do?

I'm very sorry for my long letter. Thank you so much.

God bless you,



Dino Answers:

Hi, Daryl,

First we need to distinguish between the kind of weight you’re looking to gain. What you want is solid, lean muscle added to your frame, not just body fat for the sake of hitting a number on the scale. I know it’s hard to believe right now, but in a few more years, you most likely won’t have that “problem” of being thin, especially with the kind of foods you’re eating. All that junk food is loaded with saturated and trans fats, plus loads of sugar and sodium. With your family history of hypertension, you need to be careful of your eating habits now.

Also, there is such a thing as being “skinny fat” where you are thin in appearance but classified as overweight or even obese by your body fat percentage. I say all that to reiterate what I said before about the type of weight you’re gaining.

Your friends were right in that you should begin weight training. Especially if you haven’t trained much in the past, your body will respond very well to it. Muscle weighs the same as fat, but it is more dense; thus, you can increase your weight by still staying lea—not to mention you’ll be stronger, healthier, and feel better.

Plus, with the heart history of your wife, you need to think about not only the example you’re setting for her, but also the environment and possible temptation you may be creating in your household by eating lots of junk food that she may end up doing the same.

As for yourself, keep up the caloric intake as you have, but shift from high-fat milkshake-like drinks to protein or meal replacement powders that are low in saturated fat. Make sure you’re eating every three hours, and if you still have a hard time gaining after a few more weeks, then add another 300 calories into your diet and give it a few more weeks.

You can engage in those physical activities with your wife. Just don’t go sign up for any marathons and you’ll be fine. Remember to enjoy life and not be consumed with that number in your head.

Finally, on your workouts, keep them to simple compound movements like squats, chest presses, dead lifts, chin-ups, etc. You want a few exercises that use lots of muscles at the same time. Don’t bother with isolating each muscle, like tricep pushdowns and such. Hit it hard and get out to conserve calories. Once you reach the size you want, you can change up your program to get a more sculpted look. Hope that helps.

I was the skinny kid growing up, too; I got up to 180 pounds with a 395 bench press, so you can pack on the pounds also.

Good luck and God bless,


Dino Nowak holds some of the highest levels of certifications with the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, and the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. He has advised and trained celebrities in the television, film, and music industries, in addition to those of all ages who have struggled with health and fitness challenges. He is the former general manager of Equinox Fitness in Los Angeles and the author of The Final Makeover: Your 40 Day Guide to Personal Fitness. He has been interviewed by major media outlets. His official Web site is

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