How to Gain Weight While on ADHD Medication

Two Parts:Adjusting Your Diet and Exercise RoutineUsing Supplements and Other Medication

Though there is no known cure for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a combination of ADHD medication and therapy is the best way to treat this disorder. There are four medications used to treat ADHD: Methylphenidate, Dexamfetamine, Lisdexamfetamine, and Atomoxetine. A common side effect of all of these medications is a loss of appetite, leading to weight loss.[1] Putting on weight while on ADHD medication requires adjustments to your diet and possibly the use of supplements or other medications to help stimulate your appetite.

Part 1
Adjusting Your Diet and Exercise Routine

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    Create a balanced diet with a nutritionist. Before you make any changes to your diet, you should speak to a licensed dietician. Your doctor can refer you to a dietician, who can help you create a healthy, balanced diet that is customized to your dietary needs. Men need around 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, and women need to consume around 2,000 calories a day.[2] However, your daily calorie intake depends on your age, your metabolism, and your level of physical activity. Your ADHD medication will also be a factor, and your nutritionist may suggest a higher daily calorie intake to help you gain weight while on your medication, possibly starting with an additional 500 calories a day.[3]
    • To gain weight, you will need to eat more calories than your body burns every day through daily activity and daily exercise. It’s important that you gain weight safely by committing to a balanced diet with higher calorie meals every day. Your nutritionist can help you develop a meal plan so you are eating healthy, nutrient rich meals that will allow you to gain weight and maintain a healthy weight.[4]
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    Remember that trying gaining weight doesn't mean you can eat unhealthy. It may be tempting to reach for those donuts and ice cream — after all, you're trying to gain weight! But it's just as important to pay attention to where your calories come from when you are trying to gain weight as it is when you are trying to lose weight. Foods with empty calories (like sweets) will not give you the nutrition your brain and body need to function well. Instead, try adding calories in healthy ways, like with high-calorie, nutrient-rich smoothies with protein powders.[5]
    • Foods that are associated with quick weight gain, including sugary foods and drinks like soda, candy, cookies, pastries, etc., may also exacerbate symptoms of ADHD, especially hyperactivity.[6]
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    Try eating before you take your medication. If you know you lose your appetite soon after taking your ADHD medication, make a habit of eating a healthy, hearty meal beforehand. So, if you usually wake up and immediately take your meds, hold off until you can have a healthy, filling breakfast (include whole grains, lots of protein, and try full-fat dairy). If you can, be flexible with your meal schedule and eat snacks, like protein bars, throughout the day.[7]
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    Eat foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Your body needs fatty acids to fuel basic cell functioning, improve your body's overall immunity and enhance your heart functions. Studies have shown that a deficiency of omega-3 and omega-6 fats may contribute to the symptoms of ADHD, as these fatty acids also perform several functions in the brain, from transmitting dopamine and serotonin to helping your brain cells to communicate. Individuals with ADHD may then suffer from low levels of essential fatty acids.[8]
    • Your body cannot produce essential fatty acids on its own, so you need to add foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. This includes having foods like salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish. Omega-6 fatty acids can be consumed via vegetable oils.
    • Children with ADHD should have 12 ounces (per two meals) a week of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury, for example, shrimp, canned light tuna, pollack, salmon, cooked in unsaturated vegetable based fats.
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    Consume foods high in zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. If you have ADHD, you may have deficiencies of vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Megadoses of vitamin supplements can be toxic, so try to get these nutrients by maintaining a diet that is high in these essential vitamins.[9][10]
    • Work with your dietician or nutritionist to ensure you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables like spinach, as well as dairy and grains like brown rice and wholegrain bread.[11]
    • The average woman needs about 4.0–7.0 mg of zinc a day, and the average man needs 5.5–9.5mg of zinc a day. As well, men need 300mg of magnesium a day and women need 270mg of magnesium a day.[12]
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    Maintain a daily workout routine. Your nutritionist may also recommend that you maintain a daily workout routine along with your new meal plan so your body is able to burn off just enough calories to sustain a healthy weight. This means you may need to skip intense interval training or doing lots of cardio. Instead, focus on exercise that will help build muscle, such as strength training.[13]
    • Up keeping a mild to moderate workout routine, coupled with a high daily calorie intake, will allow you to gain weight in a healthy way.

Part 2
Using Supplements and Other Medication

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    Ask your doctor about omega-3 and omega-6 supplements. Recent studies have suggested that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids supplements can help you get the nutrients you may be lacking due to a lack of appetite while on your ADHD medication. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements as they can react negatively with your medication.[14]
    • Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, meaning there is no standard for the purity of the ingredients or their safety. Your pharmacist or dietician can recommend a reputable brand and give you advice on what is an appropriate dose for you to take.[15]
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    Speak to your doctor about an appetite enhancing medication like Cyproheptadine. Cyproheptadine is an antihistamine that can be taken to help enhance your appetite while on your ADHD medication.[16]
    • Cyproheptadine has been shown in studies to increase appetite and improve sleep patterns while on ADHD medication.[17] However, always talk to your doctor before taking any other medications in conjunction with your ADHD medication.
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    Talk to your doctor about using an antidepressant, like Remeron. Some individuals have found that taking a mild antidepressant, like Remeron, can help to stimulate appetite when combines with ADHD medication. However, be aware of the side effects of antidepressants, which range from mild effects like shaking and dizziness to mood changes and a loss of coordination.[18]
    • For children who are taking ADHD medication, there is a concern that using antidepressants at such a young age can lead to severe mood swings and suicidal thoughts. Your doctor can outline all the possible risks of taking an antidepressant along with your ADHD medication.
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    Talk about adjusting your ADHD medication. If you are struggling to gain weight, talk to your doctor. It may be necessary to adjust your medication (perhaps to a long-lasting dose or breaking up your medication throughout the day), or you may need to try a different medication altogether.
    • Never stop taking medication without speaking with your doctor first.


  • If you notice that your ADHD symptoms get worse after you consume sugar, wheat, or dairy, talk to your doctor about safely cutting out those foods.

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