Consider Yourself A Hardgainer? Here’s How To Build Mass Once And For All…
If you find yourself eating everything and anything, yet still struggling to stack on weight and muscle mass don’t become discouraged.
I found myself in the exact same boat six years ago, after much research, trial and error and perseverance I discovered the 10 tips below which helped me stack on 65lbs of lean muscle mass and shred down into single digit body fat.
10 Tips To Build Mass For Hardgainers
1) Embrace Liquid Nutrition
Eating thousands of calories a day can be both mentally and physically exhausting, when bulking I found myself constantly in a lazy and demotivated state due to my body sapping all of my energy to digest the large meals I was eating daily.
This is where liquid nutrition comes into play…
I cannot recommend the ease and convenience of blending up various bulking shakes and the like, hell you can even get some carbohydrates from Coca Cola or whatever your favourite soft drink is – liquid calories are easy on your body to digest – leaving you with energy for the things that matter (like your heavy workouts!).
Here’s the blender I use and recommend:
- 900 Watts Professional Power
- #1 Most Powerful Nutrient and Vitamin Extraction
- Ninja Pro Extractor Blades crush through ice, seeds, skins and stems for a smooth, even consistency
- Frozen Blending, crush through ice and frozen fruit for cold, healthy drinks and smoothies
- 18 oz. and 24 oz. to go cups, sip and seal lids, 30 recipe and wellness guide
- Protein shakes & home-made mass gainer shakes
- Quick, efficient blending
- Blending oats, frozen berries, ice
- A reasonable volume of shakes per day
Not The Best At…
- Large quantities of frozen berries and fruits
2) Don’t Fear Fat Gains
When bulking fat gains are inevitable, regardless of your metabolism, size of your caloric surplus or supplement stack.
I don’t care whether you’re a skinny guy or Arnold Schwarzenegger…you WILL gain fat.
Eating more than your body requires in terms of calories on a daily basis will 100% result in an increase in weight, with an increase in weight comes an increase in the amount of stored fat, it’s unavoidable.
The key here is to accept that while you’re bulking you will put on a bit of fat, and that’s fine because if you’re skinny you’re not morbidly overweight – attempting to stay super lean while bulking is extremely slow and counterproductive, considering that you’re skinny you will have a big advantage when it does eventually become time to cut down and get shredded – you’ll drop fat almost instantly (this is the #1 advantage of being a ‘hardgainer’ or ectomorph).
3) Make Your Own Mass Gainer Shakes
Mass gainer shakes are a hardgainer’s best friend.
An easy 800 – 1,000 calories in a single shake that’s easy to demolish in a minute (and only takes about the same time to prepare).
500 grams of beef mince, tomatoes and basmati rice used to be my go-to bulking meal as a hardgainer, now it’s a home-made mass gainer shake.
It’s cheaper, quicker to consume and require far less preparation time.
Here’s my go-to bulking/mass gain shake:
- 2 scoops whey protein powder (flavour of your choice)
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
That’s an easy 900 calories right there, it’s cheap to make and is ready to serve after being processed through your blender for 30 seconds.
Macronutrient wise it’s loaded with protein – the building blocks of muscle, complex carbohydrates – a great source of prolonged energy and healthy fats essential for overall well-being and hormone production.
4) Forget Cardio
The formula to gain weight for the hardgainer is simple, move less and eat more.
Trying to balance lifting, cardio and bulking all at the same time as a hardgainer is impossible.
If you must perform cardio (for a sport etc.) ensure you up your calories even further on cardio days.
The key here is to ensure your body remains in a caloric surplus every single day, a caloric surplus on lifting days and a caloric deficit on the days that you’re performing cardio will leave you with mediocre results if any.
5) Record & Pivot Weekly
- Record what you’re eating
- Record how heavy you’re lifting.
- Record your body measurements
- Record your body fat percentage
- Take photos of your physique
Is your strength going up? Are your arms getting bigger?
How about your measurements and weight on the scales? Has your body fat sky rocketed or are you making majority muscle mass gains?
Here are the specific I recommend recording:
- Front, back and side photos of your physique weekly
- Take measurements with a tape measure and record them
- Gauge how your clothes are fitting
If your measurements are stagnant then it’s time to eat more! If you’re growing at a rapid rate and excessive fat gain is becoming a concern then it’s time to cut down on the calories slightly as you’re in too big of a surplus.
6) Train Low Rep, High Intensity
If you’re able to hit 50 sets per body part per workout you’re not lifting heavy enough and you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.
Each workout should consist of no more than 20 sets, with the majority of your lifts being performed in the single digit rep range.
4 – 6 reps.
3 – 4 sets.
3 – 4 exercises per body part.
The high volume ‘pump up’ style workout regime is ineffective for building mass for hardgainers.
7) Master The Compounds First
To get big you’ve got to lift big.
As I mentioned above, low repetition with heavy weight is key.
Lifting heavy on isolation exercises will result in potential injury and bad form, the majority of your gains will come from the main compound exercise for each body part:
- Chest – Barbell Bench Press
- Back – Weighted Pull-Ups
- Shoulders – Military Press
- Arms – Barbell Curls/Triceps Dips
- Legs – Barbell Squats
If you want size and strength focus on your compound movements and focus on applying progressive overload with heavy weight.
8) Don’t Fall Victim To Shiny Object Syndrome
Don’t jump from one diet to another, or constantly change your workout regime whenever you read the latest bodybuilding magazine at the news stand.
If you train hard but you’re inconsistent you won’t see the progress you’re after.
If you train inconsistently you won’t see anything.
If you constantly switch diets and training styles you won’t know where your results are coming from or what specifically isn’t working.
Set your workout schedule and diet and follow it for at least 3 months before considering any changes.
- Follow the regime
- Gauge your results over 3 months
- Make the necessary pivots based on these results
- Rinse & repeat
9) Eat Proats
A small portion of protein and carbohydrates in the form of proats will provide you with immense energy and endurance to get through your heavy lifting sessions.
I recommend proats as your first meal of the day or pre workout meal.
Here are my favourite… (you can check out my entire guide to proats here).
Apple & Walnut Proats
1 cup oats
2 cups almond milk
2 egg whites
1 tsp. cinnamon
Small handful of chopped walnuts
1 sliced apple
Cook your oats on the stove in a saucepan with your almond milk.
Whisk egg whites.
Stir your apple, cinnamon and walnuts into the cooked oats.
Fold in your egg whites.
Place mixture into a baking dish.
Add sliced apple and nuts to top if you wish.
Bake for 15 minutes @ 200 degrees Celsius.
Chocolate Fruit Proats
½ cup oats
1 scoop chocolate whey protein
5g unsweetened cocoa
200ml skim milk
Slice your apple and banana into small chunks.
Add your oats, sliced fruits, cocoa and whey protein into a bowl.
Fill up the bowl with your 200mls of skim milk.
Mix well and enjoy.
Cinnamon Peanut Butter Proats
½ cup oats
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
2 tbsp. greek yogurt
1 tbsp. peanut butter
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
Combine all ingredients into a bowl or glass and mix well.
Place in the fridge overnight to chill.
Here’s The Protein I Highly Recommend You Use…
Legion’s Whey+ protein is honestly a breath of fresh air, this is literally the clanest and purest form of whey protein you’ll find.
Whey+ is 90% protein by weight, so no carbs or fats here! There’s no artificial junk and it’s made with milk from small irish dairy farms ensuring you get the highest quality whey possible.
Pick up a tub of Whey+ in one of many delicious flavors right here.
10) Understand Caloric Intake
You can spend as many hours are you wish performing gruelling deadlifts, but if you’re eating to few calories you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Mass gain is a direct result of your body being in a caloric surplus.
Caloric intake is king. Forget the supplements, the rest periods between sets, the number of hours of sleep you’re getting each night… Instead focus on your caloric intake otherwise you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
- Protein contains 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram
- Fats contain 9 calories per gram
Consuming foods with a reasonable fat intake is a quick way to get some extra calories in your diet – I found snacking on almonds (fats) to be very convenient while bulking, others prefer to swallow olive oil by the tablespoon.
Feeling brave? Check out the GOMAD diet.
"SJ, how do I know what I'm eating and how many calories are in foods though?"
Log on to www.MyFitnessPal.com and enter in the foods you’re currently eating on a daily basis – chances are like me, you’ll be shocked when you realize just how few calories you’re consuming day to day. As a newcomer to the gym that is relatively to extremely skinny you don’t need to count your calories so much – instead eat as much as possible – 3,000+ calories per day is a good start.