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Q. My husband has been told he's too thin. How can he gain weight?

Reminders about body fat measurement accuracy:

- All methods of testing Body Fat, including the Hydrostatic Water Tank, are estimates!
- The ONLY accurate way to measure body fat is an autopsy.
- Any changes in your Body Fat percentage (gain or loss) between two tests are accurate for trending information if you use the same test method consistently.
- However, there is still an average inaccuracy of up to 3% (from what they'd find if they did an autopsy) associated with ALL existing methods of measuring body fat on live people.
- Body Fat is a percentage of your total Body Weight excluding height! (short to tall people can be over fat))
- A Body Fat percentage is a Body Weight ratio indicating health and conditioning, nothing more!

So, what body fat should he have?
For the average adult the healthy range of body fat is shown below. The ranges are different for men and women depending on their age.

18 - 39 21 - 32% 8 - 19%
40 - 59 23 - 33% 11 - 21%
60 - 79 24 - 35% 13 - 24%

Professional and superior amateur athletes often have a body fat percentage much lower than the average person. For example, male marathon runners have been found to have body fat as low as 3.3 percent and female Olympic swimmers have been found to have body fat as low as 14.5 percent.

NOTE: Body fat percentages and what is defined as healthy is a very controversial topic, even across the medical industry. I went with this chart because it's from Dr. C. Everett Koop's site…Listed in references.

That said, here's what low body fat can do:

If a man's body fat is less than 3 percent, his health may be compromised because normal, healthy functioning requires some fat. He may become more susceptible to illness or experience chronic fatigue. Remember that 3 percent the amount of body fat considered to be essential for men.

Based on current information, a woman must have a minimum percent body fat of 13 - 17 percent for regular menstruation. If a woman's percent body fat is too low, her periods may stop and she may experience infertility. Her menstrual irregularities may also compromise the health of her bones, normal hormonal function is necessary for bone health.

Women, and an increasing number often men, with eating disorders - anorexia and sometimes bulimia - can lose large amounts of fat. Thus having too little fat can be a sign of the presence of an eating disorder.

Ways to gain weight:
Several. The most basic way to gain weight is to consume more than you burn off. However, that said, fully grown adults gain both lean body mass and storage fat when they gain weight. The amount of fat gained usually far exceeds the amount of lean body mass gained. The exception to this is if you are involved in a training program specifically aimed at increasing your muscle mass.

More specifically, the extra weight people usually gain is about 60 - 80 percent fat and 20 - 40 percent lean body mass. Therefore, if they gained 10 pounds, about 6 - 8 pounds would be fat and 2 - 4 pounds would be lean body mass. This would mean increases not only in fat tissue but also in muscles, stomach, intestines and other organs, bone and water.

So, if he needs to gain weight, and doesn't want to start chowing down on Twinkies for lunch, increase the amount of protein and complex carbohydrates he eats per day while still continuing on an aggressive weight training program.

Dr. C. Everett Koop's site:

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