THE HARDGAINERS GUIDE TO WEIGHT GAIN
There are two different goals in the world of bodybuilding - weight loss and weight gain. Most people believe weight loss to be the most difficult of the two, but for many people weight gain is a massive challenge.
Simply packing on weight is not the ultimate goal - weight gain, commonly known as bulking is a process of building muscle density and strength, with the goal of cutting the weight off later.
If you have been struggling to put on weight effectively, especially dense muscular weight we understand the struggle. Hardgainers, ectomorphs and skinny guys have the biggest challenge when putting on weight, that's why we created this definitive guide to packing on weight and muscle.
In order to pack on muscle and weight there are several steps you need to take - both in diet and exercise. First, let's try to understand how the body handles the food you eat.
HUNGER HORMONES, BODY TYPES AND CALORIES
The human body is a machine - and a highly efficient one at that. Each time you eat the body will utilize the food as energy - with excess intake stored in fat reserves, muscle and liver.
But what if you don't feel hungry? How can you put on weight when you do not have the urge to eat?
There are two primary hunger hormones - these are ghrelin and leptin. Both of which act to tell the body when to eat and when you are full. In order to pack on the weight you may need to ignore these hormones.
The general idea behind putting on weight is to eat more - but if you have a fast metabolism (like many ectomorphs) this may not be very beneficial, and in some cases can be extremely redundant.
ECTOMORPH BODY TYPE
Ectomorphs have a tall, skinny frame, with a fast metabolism that leads then to a lean and long physique. With this in mind, slowing our metabolism becomes one of the most important aspects to putting on weight (well get to that later).
CALORIES AND ENERGY
Before you start eating a bunch of food for no reason it is important to understand the basics behind calories.
On a fundamental level, calories are a source of energy that your body uses in order to function on a daily basis. Each food you eat has a different amount of calories - depending mostly upon the amount of specific macronutrients it contains.
For example: Vegetables are primarily comprised of carbohydrates and protein - which is why they are very low in calories. Both carbs and protein have 4 kcal per gram.
In contrast nuts and seeds are much higher in calories because they are mainly comprised of fats.
Eating a diet that is balanced in all forms of macronutrients is essential to your success in weight gain - especially because much of your success will come through resistance-based exercise.
WHAT TO EAT TO GAIN WEIGHT
When it comes to your diet there are a couple important points we must always keep in mind.
The basis of your weight gain will come while in a caloric surplus. A caloric surplus is when you eat more than your body requires in order to function.
We suggest increasing your caloric requirements about 20-30% higher than your recommended daily value (RDA).
It is important to remember that as you gain weight you will need to eat more. The calculation of a caloric surplus is linear - the more you weigh, the more you will need to eat in order to continue to gain. Forgetting this point will only lead to a plateau in your results.
EAT HIGH FAT
Perhaps the easiest way to pack on weight is to eat a diet that has a high concentration of fat. Fat contains the most calories per gram, meaning you can eat less of it and still exceed your RDA.
We recommend you eat foods that are high in unsaturated fats - such as avocado, nuts, seeds, beans and some lean meats.
Excess fat intake will be stored in adipose tissue - but this can always be worked off during a cut, and the higher reserves of fat will make it much easier to grow stronger during a bulking cycle in the gym.
ARE CARBOHYDRATES GOOD?
Yes and No. Eating a diet high in complex carbohydrates is good in the sense that they are a stored nutrient.
Just like fat, excess carbohydrate intake is stored in the body - making it great for putting on weight.
With that said, you can run into difficulty with higher carbohydrate intakes when the carbs you eat contain high amounts of fibre. Fibre is an indigestible source of carbohydrates, meaning it will lower your net carbs - the total amount you metabolize.
Instead eat lots of starchy complex carbs like potatoes and root veggies and whole grains.
WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN?
The interesting part about protein is that although it can help with recovery and muscle growth, an excess amount of protein will not be stored in the body - rather your body will pass it off as waste.
Yes, protein intake is essential to your success when it comes to recovery, but in terms of importance - protein comes behind carbohydrates and fats when you are trying to pack on weight quickly.
We recommend eating about 1-1.5g/pound of bodyweight.
IS THIS GENDER DEPENDANT?
Not really, both men and women will benefit from a balanced diet with an emphasis on fats and carbohydrates - especially when it comes to weight gain.
It should be noted that women have a greater ability to metabolism carbohydrates but struggle more than men to metabolise fats. If you are trying to pack on weight as a woman you may want to eat a diet even higher in fats, but try not to exceed 35% of your RDA in fat.
The last important aspect to consider when you are trying to pack on weight is meal frequency. Although many styles will be effective, consistency will lead you to the best results.
We recommend increasing the frequency of your meals to 5-7 smaller meals throughout the day. This will make sure your body never goes hungry and is always feeding on calories.
If you feel that eating this many meals is difficult you can lower the meal frequency to 3-4, just make sure you are never at a point where your body is telling you its hungry.
FIVE FOODS BEST FOR WEIGHT GAIN
Now that we understand how our macronutrients work to enable weight gain here is a list of some of the best foods you can eat to pack on weight and muscle.
High in unsaturated fats, lowers cholesterol
High in unsaturated fats, high in protein
FULL FAT YOGURT
High in fat, high in protein, high casein yield
High in Carbohydrates
High in carbohydrates, high in protein
HOW TO WORKOUT FOR WEIGHT GAIN
Diet will take you pretty far, but if your goal is to pack on muscle and see progressive results on the scale you need to have a well balanced workout program that stimulates hypertrophy.
WHAT IS HYPERTROPHY?
Hypertrophy is the increase in cell size - specifically muscle cell size. This is the process that all bodybuilders and powerlifters are constantly looking for. Stimulating hypertrophy is the best method to pack on muscle and weight.
HOW DO I STIMULATE HYPERTROPHY?
There are many different ways at which to stimulate muscle hypertrophy, but the most effective is through high weight and low reps.
There is also years of conclusive science that shows hypertrophy can also be stimulated in the 8-12 reps per set range - although it is not as effective as lower rep schemes.
Important Notes To Gain Weight In The Gym
The muscles in the legs are the biggest and strongest muscles in the body. If you don't train legs often enough you will not see the weight gain you are looking for.
Much of the training you should be doing while on a mass program will emphasize strength and hypertrophy - this places way more stress on the muscle than any other type of workout.
In order to stay clear of injury and keep on track you should lower your training volume to 3-4 training sessions each week. This will also help lower your body's total energy (calorie) expenditure.
Creatine is a blessing from the weight lifting gods. Supplement 5-7g of creatine on training days before a workout and 3-5g in the morning on off training days.
Creatine will help you to recover faster, increase strength and boost overall anabolic performance when you are lifting heavy.
GAINING WEIGHT IS EASY WHEN DONE PROPERLY
Most people run into difficulties because they do not focus on a long-term goal. Instead they believe that all of their weight gain will occur in a one month span. Weight gain can be easy, but it does take time.
Through a balanced diet with an emphasis on carbohydrates and fat, and training methods that focus on stimulating hypertrophy through high weight and low reps you will have no problem bulking up and changing your long, skinny frame into a tall and strong physique.