From Skinny to Buff in One Year – Introduction
Hardgainers, we’ve all heard of them. You may be one or you may know somebody who is one. What exactly are hardgainers? These are people who struggle to gain weight and as a result – muscle. Today this is what we will be talking about.
I want to preface by saying hardgainers/skinny guys is a subjective term. It requires some self-assessment. If your friends and family would describe you as such, then you probably are though.
Personally I’ve always been the opposite of this. I’ve never struggled with gaining weight. In 2016 I was 230lbs – yeah.
Hardgainers are envied for their ability to seemingly eat whatever they want and not gain weight. This is partly true.
They would gain weight if forced. Hardgainers are not immune to the laws of thermodynamics after all.
Let’s put this into perspective. To gain weight one must be consuming more calories than one burns.
It is a simple formula , calories in – out as the IIFYM bros love saying.
If this results in a positive balance (calories in > calories out), you will gain weight. If its a negative balance (calories in < calories out), you will not gain weight.
If they are equal you will maintain your current weight. Hopefully you are starting to get a clear picture of how this all works.
Now let’s dispell a myth quickly. Have you ever heard the statement “I just can’t seem to gain weight no matter what I do. It’s impossible!”?
Now, this may have come out of your own mouth or a friends, but it is false. Everyone can gain weight, its just harder for some than others.
Look on the bright side though. When you finally do gain weight and become buff, it will be much easier for you to get lean and mean.
For now though, you need to focus on gaining weight. How is this done exactly? I was just about to get to that.
There are two major different categories of hardgainer that one may fall into:
- The low appetite – You may have a naturally small appetite. Eating is be a chore for you (I didn’t think these people existed but they actually do). As a result of this- you struggle to consume enough calories to gain weight. It is a constant uphill battle to achieve a caloric surplus every day. Don’t worry bro, I feel for you.
- The high energy – Because you are always bursting with energy – you are always moving. Be it fidgeting when you are sitting, to never taking the escalator. It is rare to find you stationary throughout the day. The activities described here make up your NEAT. This is you Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis. As yours is high, you are burning more calories during the day than most. This may even be more than someone who intentionally does exercise. While they are sitting you are always on your feet.
- The high activity – You may play sports every day of the week. As such you are burning through an enormous amount of calories daily. This may make it challenging to consume enough calories to gain weight. Your coach may have said you need to bulk up. Or maybe you to just to feel or look better.
It’s also worth mentioning these are not three distinct categories. It is possible to be a combination – in fact it’s highly likely.
I’m not going to tell you to stop exercising, that would be ridiculous. But if you want to gain weight and are running 10 miles a day, you’re going to have a bad time (to quote the South Park meme).
It’s still possible. Just know it will be more difficult.
Have no fear though. There is a fix for hardgainers everywhere. It may not be the one you are looking to hear but I’ll say it anyway:
Eat more food.
“I’m already eating lots of food!” Well not enough clearly.
This may seem like tough love but you want get buff right?
If so, you wouldn’t be in your current predicament. An undereater can eat more food to gain weight and a high energy individual can do the same.
The show isn’t over however. I’m not just going to leave you high and dry by just telling you to eat more food.
While it may be as simple as that, there are tactics to make it easier. Before we delve into those, we need a basic understanding of nutrition.
Eat Like it’s Your Job
Alright so we know you simply aren’t eating enough food, or calories to be precise. If it seems so easy why do so many fail?
One of the main reasons is they don’t have a plan. If you want to gain weight you are going to have to eat like it’s your job.
If you are currently employed then congratulations, you now have two jobs. If you are a student, you can tell your mother to leave you alone. You are now employed also, congrats.
What does a proper job entail? Well, you need to turn up on time and carry out specific tasks each and every day. You do not miss days unnecessarily (at least you shouldn’t).
The good news is this job isn’t that difficult at all. Another bonus is you are your own boss.
The challenge is there is no one to hold you accountable, except yourself. As a result you must do so rigorously.
There are tools to help with this. First up is the scales. They do not lie (or else I think they don’t?).
As a skinny guy who struggles to get jacked, we want those scales increasing over time. How much exactly?
Let’s say between 0.5kg-1kg/1.125-2.25lbs a month.
Too small of an increase and you aren’t eating enough. This means you are leaving gains on the table.
Too large of an increase and you are putting on too much fat (in addition to muscle hopefully).
As a skinny dude who struggles to gain weight, err on the side of too much. You have never been fat in your whole life I imagine.
You are one of those much envied guys who “can eat anything and not gain weight”, I also guess. As such you will not gain fat easily.
This means you can eat a large calorie surplus without the consequences others may face.
Before delving into this I want to make something clear.
This advice is for those who are skinny, not skinny-fat. These are two entirely different compositions.
Skinny is someone who has minimal fat but also minimal muscle. They are by all regards lean. Skinny fat is someone who has substantial fat but also minimal muscle.
Some clear skinny-fat physical demarcations – love handles, chest fat (moobs), you get the picture. For skinny-fats, your situation is more complicated.
Skinny-fats are in no position to bulk. I recommend listening to Alexander Cortes’ podcast on the subject:
You are What You Eat
Firstly let’s talk macro’s for a minute. Macro’s (or macronutrients) is what your diet broadly consists of.
These are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Macros are what your much sought-after calorie surplus will consist of.
Proteins and carbs both contain roughly 4g per calorie. Fats contain 9g per calorie.
Fats contain over double the amount of calories per gram than proteins and fats do. Now this doesn’t mean you should go all keto on me.
But it is something to take into account. Dietary recommendations are not as simple for the eternally skinny guy.
You are probably in this situation because you have a small appetite. Therefore if you eat foods with a high satiety (filling foods), you won’t get very far.
You will continue to become full frequently and thus stop eating. Ultimately you will fail to achieve a calorie surplus and thus never gain weight.
Let’s Talk Protein
Protein as I’m sure you all know, is a must for making gainzz. Proteins are what muscle is built from.
When working out, you break down the muscle. It is protein which helps rebuild it stronger and bigger than before.
If you aren’t eating enough it will be a struggle to get jacked. Therefore it is recommended to eat 1.6g per kg/0.72 per lb of bodyweight at a minimum.
If you are 60kg/135lbs, this means you need to eat at least 96g a day. Protein intake can go all the way up to 1g per lb/ 2.25 g per kg of bodyweight and beyond.
These are baseline figures.
What’s the problem with protein? Nothing really it’s amazing.
The only issue is in relation to those with low appetites. You see protein is highly satiating.
It’s hard to eat a lot of it without feeling full. It also has a high thermic effect.
This means more energy is used digesting protein than with other foods. These are just some caveats to be aware of when eating protein.
Eat a lot of protein but not so much you can’t eat anything else basically.
Now Onto Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are still necessary. They are your bodies primary fuel source.
Carbs are what will get you through your workouts (we’ll get to that later). There are generally two categories of carbs – simple and complex.
Simple carbs are those containing mostly sugar such as candy. Complex or starches are those carbs made of mostly non-sugar such as potatoes and rice.
These have more fibre content and as a result are more satiating. The only exception to this rule is fruit, which are simple carbs sugars but contain fibre.
Again, same situation as protein. If you’re struggling to gain weight eating brown rice and chicken, maybe you need to restrategize.
“OK, so we know protein and starchy carbohydrates are filling, now what?” As a hardgainer it may be difficult for you to gain weight while eating a stereotypical healthy diet.
The volume of food may be too high for the caloric content. At Rise and Claim we always promote eating a healthy, whole foods diet as much as possible.
You should eat as healthy as possible while still achieving a calorie surplus. This may require you to eat ice cream and peanut butter for one meal.
So be it.
“How Much Calories Should I eat?”
A great question. You should aim to be in a 500 calorie surplus to gain weight. This is if you are new to training (less than 1 year).
If you are experienced it could be lower. A good starting point is to multiply your bodyweight in lbs by 15-17.
Eat at this caloric intake and observe any changes in bodyweight. Ideally you should be gaining 1 kg/2.25lbs of bodyweight a month.
This would equate to 0.25kg/0.5lbs a week. If you’re not gaining weight – eat more. If you’re gaining 5lbs a month – eat less.
To ensure you are adding muscle mass, this caloric surplus must be combined with weight training.
If you are a female, cut all these numbers in half. Aim to gain 0.5kg at the most and eat a 250kcal surplus.
Tactics to get Maximum Calories With Minimal Effort
Drink your calories – Consuming calories in liquid form is a great way to hit caloric needs. GOMAD stands for Gallon Of Milk A Day. It is a popular bulking diet for hardgainers everywhere.
While I’m not recommending you follow this, it is an example of what’s out there. Protein shakes are another great way to hit your protein requirements while keeping fullness at bay.
Higher Fat – Remember we highlighted the high calorie content of fat earlier? We can use it to our advantage. Foods with a high fat content such as peanut butter, whole milk (liquid calories bonus points) and Greek Yoghurt are great bulking tools.
Condiments – This is an area where a lot of calories can be gained without much effort. If you’re feeling edgy, combine high fat and condiments in the form of mayonnaise (oooh). Butter is also effective on bread.
Cooking Oils – Adding olive oil before or after cooking is another great fix.
Timing/structure – If you have been around the fitness circles for a while, you would have heard of bodybuilders famed “6 small meals a day”.
This is a great tactic for skinny guys. It’s not because of some “stoking the metabolism” myth. This is an ideal way to consume as much calories as possible throughout the day.
The trick is to stop eating before you get full. I know for some of you guys, once fullness hits – it’s game over. If this sounds like you – avoid it at all costs.
Snacks – If snacking sounds like a good idea, go for it. Chocolate, biscuits etc are fair game. Again, this is not ideal but these are not ideal circumstances after all.
OK so we have the diet part wrapped up. Now onto the gym.
Again I am going to assume you have little to no experience inside the gym. Due to the high calories and weight gain, you are going to be in the perfect environment to making gainz.
In order to do so you need to put all those extra calories to good use. This means you should try and train your butt off.
Every workout you should aim to make improvements in strength.
To do so requires the application of progressive overload. This is the principle upon which all gainz are made.
To follow it, one must apply a continual increase in tension to a muscle over time. This means you should seek to add a rep, increase the weight or improve technique with each workout.
As a straight beginner, you will be able to add weight each workout on the main lifts. If you have been in the gym for a while but still consider yourself skinny, progress should still follow.
Although it may be somewhat slower. It depends how much time you were wasting before.
As a beginner, focus your energy towards those exercises which will give you the biggest returns on your investment.
These are the compound movements. The list includes the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin-up/pull-up, bent over row.
Yes I know, there are other great exercises. There are others, sure.
But there is a reason these have proved to be the most popular overtime. They work.
It is a fantastic starting point. Extract all the gainz you can from it.
Once it stops working – move on.
For now though, use it for all it’s worth.
This is a part many often neglect. As a consequence gainz are often left on the table (the horror).
Sleep is your bodies time to recover and rejuvenate. It is vital for all humans and even more so when training intensely.
When you are putting the body under constant stress, you need to spend more time under the covers (sleeping).
It’s recommended everyone sleep 7-9 hours every night. As a newly fledged lifter you should try to sleep as much as possible.
The difference in performance is noticeable when comparing a well slept night versus a poor one. Just like eating, treat sleeping like it’s your job.
You Have no Excuse to not Become Buff
I feel slightly dirty writing this due to the somewhat encouragement of “eating whatever you want”. A reminder – use this information sensibly.
This is not a licence to get fat. Remember we are trying to become buff here.
If you find yourself losing sight of the goal, take a step back.
This is a bulletproof plan for bulking. If you’re a true skinny guy it will be hard for you to take this too far.
Some fat gain is normal along with muscle growth. Do not be alarmed if you notice some in the mirror.
However, you must also be objective. If you truly are becoming noticeably overweight, this is a sign you need to slow things down.
Pull in the reigns and reduce calories slightly. As long as you are continuing to get stronger in the gym – everything is good.
This advice is aimed towards those who find it near impossible to eat enough to gain weight. If this is not you, sorry.
Remember – eat as much whole foods as possible while still capable of gaining weight.
Good luck on your bulking journey. If you need anything drop me a message. I would be happy to help.
Thanks for reading,
P.S Leave a comment down below to let me know what you think.