Unable to gain weight

Regarding the guy who couldn’t gain weight http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_275c.html This could be the result of an ailment named celiac disease. This is an allergy to gluten, which is found in wheat and other grains. It destroys the villi and eventually you are unable to digest food. Your body receives very little nourishment no matter how much you eat. This happened to me and I became very enemic. Once I stopped eating gluten I was fine. I would reccomend to anytone who is unable to gain weight that they ask their doctor about celiac disease. Many doctors are not that familiar with it since only a small portion of the population has it.

I don’t have much to add here, I just wanted to say I’m glad cecil did this topic, but I wish he would have gone more in to it (all though that question really wasn’t the place to do ie). I’m like the person who asked the question 23 years old, 5’7’’ 125 lbs. My weight hasn’t changed in over 6 years. I’ve ate healthy, I’ve ate horribly (REALLY horrible, I spent a summer living on literally milkshakes and amphetamines (dr prescibed for ADD)) I’ve done everything in between, taken vitamins, whatever. I’ve done everything but take weight gain pills or any sort of workout program and my weight DOESN’T even fluctuate. I have many friends who say things like “I wish I had that problem” and all that kinda stuff, but most people don’t understand who annoying it is not to weigh a little more. I’ve had people telling me I’m skinny all my life and it’s really annoying. I think I’d like to be able to put on 10-20 lbs as much as many people would like to lose it. (But the people who want to lose it don’t understand that sometimes.) Oh well, whatever.

I wonder if Cecil realises that Arnold Schwarzenegger is actually a fairly poor role model in regards to healthy weight-gain. Arnold’s body-building career involved much steroid abuse, which Big Arn is paying for today with heart problems.

I never even thought to question the high metabolism theory.
I’m male, 35, 6’3’’, 140 lb. I have tried weights, I couldn’t really get my heart into it, it is boring as hell. But I tried bicycling a couple of years, up to about 25 - 30 hours of training a week. I think I gained 2 lbs there. I’ve tried changing my diet. Vegetarian, pure meat, and pretty much any combinations in between. No dairy products, no bread, and so on. Didn’t gain anything, and apart from when I was fasting, didn’t lose anything either. I have tried living really healthily, balanced diets and lots of excercise, and really badly, lots of beer, junk food and no excercise. No difference.
I have noticed that I lose some weight when I’m stressed, around exams, for example, but I bounce back pretty quickly. My doctor said that if I weighed about 5 lbs less, he could put me on a hormone treatment, but he wouldn’t recommend it. I have given up, and try to ignore people who tell me I’m skinny. It gets easier after 35 years of it, but I would love to gain about 20 lbs.

Another “can’t gain weight” chiming in here.

Male, 23, 5’11", 150lb. My weight has remained about the same for 6-7 years now. I don’t work out, don’t use meths or other weight-loss substances. Eat decent amounts of food, mostly Subway, Chinese and some Indian. But my regular walking speed is twice as fast as normal walkers and I walk on average, 2-3 miles along long stretches, a day.

I want to start some weight-training (hyperplasia). Can anyone suggest some cheap @home start? Discipline is not a problem. Access to a club is. My aim is 170lb stabilised.

I think Cecil gives short shrift to the metabolism theory. When I went to college I was 6’ 1", 135 lbs. When I left college, I was 6’ 2", 150-155 lbs. At the age of 34, I took up running and gained 5 pounds. At the age of 41, I took up swimming and I reached 168 pounds. One summer of intensive weight lifting during college got me near that weight. I lifted weights in grad school, I was sedentary in grad school, I lifted weights before I started running. I have always eaten more than anybody I know, except my dad. My brother can give me a run for the money, we have all always been skinny. (My dad eventually put on a pot, but we’re talking decades of really incredible overeating. He never put on weight elsewhere.) Carnivorious diets, healthy diets, you name it, none worked.

I will say I think we terminally skinny can gain muscle, we just have to work harder at it. My “theory” (“guess”?) is that while we tend to have a low percentage body fat, more of our muscle fibers are slow twitch than most peoples. Thus, we have the muscle tissue to burn up food, but do not bulk up, and thus, we struggle to gain weight. (It is the fast twitch fibers that weight building builds.) It can be done though, you just have to find the right exercise for you. Swimming apparantly does it for me, I think because it is a whole body thing.

On the plus side, and I know this sucks for you 23 year olds, but somewhere in the 30’s, women seem to go for the …uh, slim, …uh gangly, … alright dammit! SKINNY look. It seems most of those guys with the muscles when they are younger get fat when they are older.

With regards to the weight training, I’m not sure why Cecil said to put emphasis on the upper body. The leg muscles are large, and account for a significant percentage of total body weight. In other words, legs are heavy. Don’t overlook them when weight training.

Male, 18, 6’4" 150lb
Only reached that weight through being a couch potato for about the last 3 years, and still eating as much as I used too. And I eat more than most people I know ie. 14" pizza’s for supper.
I used to be quite active: soccer(football to the rest of you), basketball, track, (long distance, sprints, hurdles) so that proable kept my weight down.

If you can’t gain weight, it’s most likely because you’re not eating enough. If you don’t keep a food log with calorie counts, meal times, and macronutrient ratios, you don’t know whether you’re not eating enough.

If you’re male, you should be aiming for about 4000 calories daily. This is most easily accomplished by eating 5-7 smaller meals over the course of the day, which will also help keep your fat gain down if you’re training.

Doesn’t mention heredity. My son: 22, 6’2", weighs 115 lbs. His father, 55, 6’3", now weighing in at 190 or so but 140 lbs at the time we got married, and didn’t gain anything until he was in his late 40s.

Once at a restaurant the woman at the next table said to my husband, “Excuse me, this is none of my business, but where do you put it? I just watched you eat all of your meal and half of hers.”

For some people not weighing a lot is just normal.

IIRC this column is twenty years old. Since it was written a few things have changed. I was going to respond myself but the hamsters were on a break at the time.

Arnold’s history/personal life has revealed some things in the past twenty years that weren’t known. Many aspects regarding weight and metabolism are known now that weren’t then. A person can be underweight due to their metabolic rate and it doesn’t have to be a disorder with their thyroid.

Some people simply have fewer fat cells. There are numerous reasons for a person being over or under weight. It isn’t necessarily because they eat too much or are lazy.





I had some articles from JAMA in my links. Hopefully they were included in these. Gettin late~gnite. :slight_smile:

I used to be underweight as well. Then I started smoking, and subsequently quit. And, ate may way into no longer being underweight.

I have since lost the weight I gained from quitting smoking, mostly through weight training.

Although the column is old, and does neglect the importance of the lower body (many of the series weight lifters I know claim that working the lower body stimulates all over growth), Cecil does have a point.

Do an hour a day of weights, consume plenty of protein directly after, and you should see results, but you have to do it for a few months, not just a few weeks.

Although I cannot attest to this in any sort of scientific manner, I’ve heard some people say to consume 1 gram of protein for every pound of body mass a day. After training of course.

But, the real advice is 1) start smoking and 2) quit.

Actually it seems like there’s a bit of bad info here.

First paragraph OK. Healthy BMRs don’t really differ enough to make account for huge differences. Still possible I guess.

Yes on the stress increasing metabolic rate. Kinda wrong to dismiss the doctor’s suggestion. While intestine length may be fanciful, differences in absorption abilities could easily be a suspect. Reasons for this could be GI tract abnormalities/pathologies and/or nutritional deficiencies (absorbing certain substances is facilitated by other substances, eg vitamins ADE&K require fats at the same time to be taken up by the body).

The actual number of muscle cells seems an unlikely suspect. Muscle bulk comes from a build up of working proteins within each muscle cell not an increase in cells. Hyperplasia usually refers to pre-cancer BTW, an abnormal high rate of cell division. You could describe muscle bulking as hypertrophy, increase in cell size. I believe muscle cells have been encouraged to replicate under certain conditions but it is not the norm.

Yes, you can go on a weight gain regimen. It might be a good idea to talk to a nutritionist about easing into any new diet plan. The components of that diet would vary depending on your goals and your current situation.

Allow me to clarify my theory of us skinny guys. I’m going by memory of a Scientific American article of a year or two ago. I seem to recall that humans have a mixture of two types of fast twitch muscle tissue, and also a slow twitch. (There is a third, “fastest” twitch muscle tissue in some mammals.) Weight lifting builds the fast twitch muscle; there is no evidence as yet that slow twitch muscle can be built up. I.e., long distance runners have primarily slow twitch, but no one knows if they started that way, or developed that way. Nonetheless, hypertrophy occures in the fast twitch fibers. IIRC, hypertrophy is an increase in the number of fibers within a muscle cell, which itself looks like a fiber. Thus, the inner part of the cell builds mass, while the cell does not actually divide.

So, if your are naturally mostly slow twitch, you have to work harder to build up the fast twitch - but it can be done, as pointed out above. I think the reason we don’t gain fat readily, is that we have sufficient slow twitch tissue to use the calories consumed, at least for those of us without digestive problems.

I don’t think a food log would help much. I can tell you what I ate as a high school kid. Breakfast: large bowl of cereal, one egg, glass of OJ, mug of hot chocolate (yes, every single day - my dad loved making breakfast). Lunch: fatty cafeteria food, mine and whatever my friends weren’t eating). Dinner: Two platefuls of foot - as in steak overhanging the edges of the plate, heaps of mashed potatoes, a veggie and a fruit with every dinner, glass of milk. Snacks: up to a box of cookies on getting home from school, some desert with dinner, large bowl of ice cream before going to bed. Exercise: walking to the bus stop and back, walking to classes, turning pages of books.

eerr, I do put my foot in my mouth more than occassionally, but honest, I ate two platefuls of food.

I have a friend who is underweight and cannot gain weight. He tries to overcome it by eating lots of fatty sugary foods; he keeps lots of chocolates and mars bars in his desk drawer at work and snacks on them constantly. He has about 4 or 5 spoons of sugar in his coffee and makes it about half cream. He claims he has a “fast metabolism”.

But his real problem is clear to me: he eats so much unnutritious junk between meals he is never very hungry at mealtime and does not eat enough there. The candy raises his blood sugar level and stops the hunger.

The worst thing is he does the same to his children. He constantly gives them full-sugar fruit juice throughout the day and complains they don’t eat at mealtime. Also they were hyper and fractious all the time.

Once we were staying with him and watered down the juice to 10% . Bingo, within a day the kids started eating normally. A week after we left he was back to giving them full juice and the problems returned.

Some folks just can’t learn from what’s in front of their face.

I agree with this except the 4000 calories part. That’s way too much unless you are a serious athlete. I would say that if your weight is not changing much and you are eatting healthy not to worry about it, you are probably doing what your body wants.

If you’re looking to gain weight, though I can’t really see a reason for it, try reading up on some nutrition books. I’ve started to do this in the last week so I can become a faster swimmer. There were a number of books in the fitness area and I would trust them more then any of the other fad books.

When I was bicycle training seriously, I looked into nutrition, to be able to perform. I tried following the suggestions, but it was never enough. I eat like most of the other guys who have posted here, tons. My usual breakfast is a roll, then an hour later, another roll, 2 hours later a full lunch, 2 hours later a snack, mostly bananas, then at dinner I eat about a pound of meat with a pound of vegetables plus a desert, and then a late night snack to round it off. During the day I drink about a half gallon of water. I have been asked where I put it so many times I’ve lost count. But like I said, I’ve given up gaining weight.
I tried quitting cigarettes several times, once for a year. I lost weight, probably because I was so restless.

I chose 4000 calories because that’s guaranteed to put weight on all but the biggest of the big (who probably are athletes, or seriously out of shape).

Well, if I may add my own two cents worth here:

From eighth grade (14 y. old) until the middle of my junior year in high school (17 years), I weighed 135. Flat out; the same 5"11" that I am still now. Then I went on an intense regimen of daily high-energy workouts and weight lifting, and a massive, I mean, previously unequivocatedly massive food intake. This lasted a mere one month, and by the end of it, I was 155 lbs. I wasn’t ‘fatter’ or anything (that would be a god damned phenomena); I didn’t even look more muscular or anything, but apparently, there was 20 more pounds of constituency to myself.

Since then I have gotten incredibly lazy and gone back to what seems to be my typical 138 pounds (am now almost turning 21), but I seem to know what will really do it for me. HARD WORK – lifting heavy, slow-lifting, power-lifting, whatever – as long as it is intense and anerobic, it seems to suck those calories and put them where they matter most. And I plan on getting back up there, so I can stop being such a gaurd-player in my jujistu class and get on top of people for once. Plus I will be all the more self-righteous about it because I am doing it all vegan-ly…becuase who needs shit-ass whey powder when you have quinoa (a muthafuckin’ COMPLETE protien)?