Gluten Free Fitness

Weighty Matters: How to Gain Weight on a Gluten Free Diet

Weighty Matters: How to Gain Weight on a Gluten Free Diet


Whew! Part 4 is here.

As a quick recap-In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. In Part 3, we reviewed some action you can take to lose weight/fat if you choose, on a gluten free diet. Finally now in Part 4, we’ll tackle the issue of gaining weight.

For many, celiac disease or gluten intolerance can cause an unplanned and unwelcome loss of weight. The difficulties in absorbing nutrients from the small intestine can lead to malnutrition, even with the best of diets. After a gluten free diet has been initiated, the healing process can begin. However, this may take some time, and will be dependent on many factors, including the severity of the intestinal damage.

Eliminating gluten, and being very careful and aware of cross contact and hidden gluten is the first step. If gluten is not eliminated the damage will continue and no healing, and therefore absorption, can occur.

Keep in mind that other food intolerances may be found in conjunction with celiac disease. Lactose intolerance is very common. Personally I am intolerant to soy. Shelly Stuart mentioned her corn intolerance in Part 3 of our podcast series. (She also touched on other issues that may cause continued intestinal distress after eliminating gluten such as parasites-obviously we recommend you follow up with your doctor for a comprehensive review of what may be causing continued symptoms.) Definitely check in with your doctor to make sure there are no other problems that may be causing you to have continued impaired absorption.

You can also ask your doctor about supplements that may speed along the healing process. L-glutamine and probiotics are worth looking into. I think a good gluten free multivitamin is never a bad idea, and talk to your doctor about fish oil. Of course-the most important thing is making sure you are getting optimal nutrition from your food.

In gaining weight, we are looking to add calories that will give great nutritional value as well. After all, you wouldn’t run a high-end Ferrari with low test gas, would you? So don’t expect your body to be able to give you healing oomph! and performance on crappy food. We’re talking about lots of good food.

Here’s 5 steps to help bring your weight back up where you want it:

1) Start your day with a good breakfast.

No, I’m not your mother, but I sound like it don’t I? Seriously though, breakfast is the most abused meal. People forget about it all the time, or have a coffee and call it good. That won’t work. Prepare ideas ahead of time so you can get going with minimal time and effort. Here’s my egg bake that I cook up on Sunday and have for the week. And here’s a portable “pancake”. Heck, some chicken if that’s how you roll. Greek yogurt, string cheese, fruit, smoothies (Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free has an awesome Green Smoothie recipe-I’d add some protein like hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese or protein powder and you’re good.) Shelly Case just wrote an article on breakfast foods on the Be Free For Me blog. My recommendation is that you try to have a decent protein, carbohydrate and fat source in the meal, which brings me to….

2) Have a decent protein, carbohydrate and fat source in each meal.

Now don’t throw up your hands, I saw that!
This is not rocket surgery.
Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to do, and doesn’t take extra time at all. Here’s an example:

For breakfast, I have some of my egg bake casserole (protein from egg whites, veggies from spinach and tomato), some gluten free oatmeal (carbohydrate) with berries (fruit carbohydrate) and slivered almonds or flaxseed (healthy fat.) If you’d like listings of more ideas in each of those categories, here’s a list of my top 10 gluten free carbohydrate sources.

3) Eat every few hours.

There’s no magic to this, but if you are trying to get in extra calories it’s often easier to split them up over the day, rather than stuffing yourself like Thanksgiving turkey. And instead of stuffing yourself you can…

4) Sneak in extra calories.

Eat calorically dense food that doesn’t make you full. Examples of this would be olive/coconut/your favorite oil, nut butters, and nuts or seeds. Basically healthy fats-they pack more calories per gram than your carbs and protein. If you can’t do nuts, check into sunflower or pumpkin seeds. I haven’t tried it yet, but Shirley over at Gluten Free Easily has used Sunbutter in some of her recipes. It’s a sunflower seed butter.

Along with that, drink some calories. The exact OPPOSITE of what I wrote in the article about losing weight. Protein shakes with some added fats (chocolate protein and peanut/almond butter shake, anyone?), milk, almond milk, hemp milk, etc and so on. If you need to, a couple shakes or smoothies a day would be a fine way to get in extra nutrition. In no way did I look at all of these to see if they were gluten free, but has an extensive database of drinkable calories.

5) Like a good Scout, always be prepared.

Never let yourself get hungry. Never let yourself be without something gluten free and good to eat. Here’s my top 10 portable snack foods. Also consider premade or homemade protein bars/brownies. Larabars are low on protein, but tasty as heck. Zing Bars are a staple in my house for traveling.

Regardless though, my go-to-fail-safe-can-even-take-it-on-a-plane-without-getting-patted-down is a empty shaker bottle with a scoop or two of protein powder, and a bag of nuts. My friend Kim also just reviewed some gluten free jerky I’m going to have to try, although it’s more stinky than protein powder and nuts.

Keep something with you-in your car, your purse, your pocket. (Hey-is that a Zing bar in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?)

So there are some ideas to get you started! Keep in mind-as your gut heals, you will begin absorbing more nutrients. When you heal, you may find yourself gaining weight much faster than you intended, so keep reassessing where you are and where you want to be.

What are your thoughts? What have you done to put weight back on? What challenges have you faced? Share them below and let’s help each other out!

6 comments on “Weighty Matters: How to Gain Weight on a Gluten Free Diet

  1. Zing bars have offered a discount to the GF Fitness gang! Enter code “gffitness” at checkout and get $10 off each box ordered. Offer expires April 30th.

  2. I have had such a hard time gaining weight! At this point I can barely tolerate anything, no soy, lactose, most fruits, and most vegetables, I am only about 4 months gluten free. I’m 5’6″ and managed to get up to 124lbs, I still work out everyday but Ive cut down cardio to once a week, my belly still swells up and is sometimes disproportional to the rest of my body. My face is too skinny in my opinion..I’m excited to try this and I hope I can finally look a little fuller. I love your website its amazing and thank you for all the wonderful tips.

    • Hi Mireya!
      I’m so glad that you have found the site to be helpful, and that you are starting to feel better. You will get there. Please keep us posted on how you are doing!

  3. My situation….
    Tells Doctor symptoms. Doctor says.. “Well, since your african american we can eliminate chron’s and celiac disease.”

    after a little research.. everything pointed to celiac disease. I explained to the doctor.. “Im 100% positive its celiac disease.” Doctor refused to test for it.

    So, I decided to start a gluten free diet, and after one month gluten free I felt great!!! 75% of my symptoms were gone!!

    Went back to the doctor after a month gluten free.
    Doctor says.. “You look great. What are you taking?”
    After I explained how removing gluten from my diet has improved my health he says..
    “Well, I kind of figured there was some kind of connection. But I’m glad you did your homework.”

    This is the website that helped me figure out I had celiac disease..

  4. Im wondering If I will ever gain my weight back. I use to be 185lbs now Im 155. After starting the gluten free diet I ahve noticed most of symptoms are starting to fade but my weight is still a big issue. I guess time will tell…

    For All of the information you need to live gluten free comfortably visit…

  5. I have been gluten free for about 5 years now. When it was discovered I had gluten intolerance, I weighed almost 200 pounds (I’m 5’3). My first year I ate mostly salads, fresh fruits, fresh burgers. I lost down to 95 pounds. I was able to gain weight with protein shakes. However, my eating was sporadic at best due to the hours of my job. Now I work 8-10 hours per day with one 30 min break. So I get maybe two meals per day. Ive lost back down to 113. My BP is always low. My glucose is now way low. It literally hurts my tail bone to sit for more than just a few min at a time. I NEED to gain weight and muscle. I have no energy. I’m always exhausted. My doctor says I’m dehydrated yet I drink upwards of a gallon of water every day. I need help. I’m seriously concerned about my health.


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