"It's impossible for me to gain weight!" says the hard gainer.
I used to think being skinny was a genetic trait I was stuck with and that a muscular, athletic physique was a rare godsend only given to a small portion of society - looking back today I find it laughable as regardless of how skinny you are it is 110% possible for you to stack on weight.
The #1 reason most skinny guys complain that they're unable to gain weight is they're eating an insufficient amount of food, and the foods that they are consuming are relatively low in calories. In this case you simply need to eat more as you are an ectomorph.
Nevertheless the following principles if followed correctly will see you stacking on mass in no time:
How To Gain Weight For Skinny Guys!
Eat Calorie Dense Foods
Protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per gram, meanwhile 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.
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.
The secret formula to gaining weight for skinny guys is simple - eat more and move less.
You do not want to be counterproductive by getting on a solid diet and then performing gruelling frequent cardio sessions - if you play a sport or insist on doing cardio (which I don't advise until you're looking to enter a cutting phase) make sure you up your calories even further on this days (a homemade mass gain shake after your cardio session will suffice).
Long stints of cardio will induce muscle loss and as a skinny guy this is one thing you cannot afford.
Be Smart About Your Training
In order to get big you need to lift big.
The first year or so of working out you will make the largest amount of gains in the quickest amount of time - take advantage of this and don't waste your time aimlessly strolling around the gym attempting various isolation exercises.
Compound movements are king - your squat, bench, deadlift and overhead press will net you far more gains and will bulk up your frame unlike biceps curls, rope pushdowns and the majority of other exercises you see skinny guys doing in the gym by default.
StrongLifts 5x5 was my starting point and I highly recommend if you're both new to working out and underweight you get on this regime and follow my guidelines for eating big.
Supplement For Convenience
Supplements are just that - a *supplement* to an already solid diet.
As a skinny guy weight gainers are a godsend - eating 800 - 1,000 calories in one meal is exhausting (500 grams of beef mince, tomatoes and brown rice used to be one of my staple bulking meals).
With supplements such as weight gainers or bulking shakes you can easily get in anywhere from 500 - 1,500 calories with only a few sips.
The thing to note here is that supplements you buy off the shelf are overpriced and under dosed...
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.
Accept The Minimal Fat Gains
When bulking, especially when you're in a reasonably large calorie surplus you WILL gain fat - I don't care whether you're a skinny guy or Arnold Schwarnegger...
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.
Liquid Calories Are Your Friend
As mentioned above in the supplementation section - when you're looking to consume as much food as possible 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 too so you won't be left in a constantly lazy state due to your body sapping all your energy to digest the large meals you're eating daily.
Get Adequate Rest
If you want to bulk up and leave your former skinny self behind you need to allow your body time to rest, repair and grow.
A big muscle building misconception is that your body grows as a direct result of your workouts - e.g. you are growing while you're throwing around weights in the gym.
In fact it's quite the opposite.
The breakdown and tearing of muscle fibres we accrue from lifting weights in the gym creates the demand for our muscles to grow.
If you're not sleeping 8~ hours a night chances are you aren't giving your body enough time to recover correctly and you therefore won't be getting the best bang for your buck out of both your diet and your workout regime.
Track & Pivot
Don't go through your bulking endeavour blindly - record what you're eating and how heavy you're lifting.
Is your strength going up? How about your measurements and weight on the scales? Has your body fat sky rocketed or are you making majority muscle mass gains?
I do not recommend relying on the scales - instead:
- Take regular photos of your physique - front, back and side
- Take measurements with a tape measure and record them - measure once a month (chest circumference, arm circumference, upper thigh circumference, calf circumference)
- Gauge how your clothes are fitting - are the shoulders getting tighter? Is your waist getting larger?
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.
Make It A Lifestyle
That's my take on how to gain weight for skinny guys, from my first-hand experience.
At the end of the day your success in leaving your skinny self behind and forging a rock hard physique comes down to your consistency - if you're getting in all your meals during the week and then skip them and slack off each weekend you're going to be fighting a losing battle. This is a lifestyle and if you want to be successful in any fitness endeavour you need to understand that.
Lift heavy and get your meals in every single day.
I can tell you it pays off, it certainly did for me.