“Hardgainer” is a term given to people who are very lean, have super fast metabolisms and can eat lots of food yet never gain a pound! These individuals usually want to put on some serious muscle mass and size in order to bulk up and look less lanky but always seem to have problems achieving a certain amount of mass due to their specific body type which is referred to as being an “ectomorph”. However, this does not mean it is a lost cause because even ectomorphs can get some big time results if they apply a few changes to their diet and exercise program.
Eating a nutrient dense meal every 2 hours is crucial for packing on size. Eating frequently helps supply adequate calories and macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) which are needed so that lean muscle gains can be attained. Protein is essential to the ectomorph and it’s important to focus on consuming at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight over 6-8 meals during the day. So, if you currently weigh 150 pounds, then you want to eat a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day split up between multiple meals.
Carbs are also essential to the hardgainer and it’s important to keep your choices to clean carbs which means focusing on oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, Ezekiel bread, quinoa and other whole grain sources which will aid in feeding your metabolism. Try to avoid “empty” carbs like pizza, French fries, candy, potato chips, fast food and other types of junk food. Although these processed foods are loaded with calories, they do not contain the right macronutrients needed to help you reach your muscle building goals. Do you think you get the same nutrients eating a 1,000 calories of chocolate cake versus eating 1,000 calories of a grass-fed steak? The type of calories you consume are more important than the amount of calories you eat every day, so keep it clean! Along with healthy starchy carbs, make sure to include fibrous carbs such as broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, squash, zucchini and other delicious and nutritious veggies!
Fats are also very important to include in your diet because not only do they provide healthy omega-3 sources but they also contain over twice the amount of calories per gram when compared to protein and carbohydrates so it’s relatively easy to increase your daily calories by increasing your fat intake. Focus on healthy choices like walnuts, coconut oil, avocados, almonds, salmon and olive oil. Flaxseed oil is also an excellent choice for healthy fats. Make sure you know how many calories your body needs to maintain your current weight by using ShapeFit’s calorie calculator and then add 500-1,000 additional calories per day to this number. Increasing your calories is absolutely critical if your main goal is to build muscle and pack on size!
Let’s now discuss training. Keep your cardio to a minimum of 10 minutes for your warm-up before hitting the weights to get your blood pumping and your muscles warmed up. Cardio is great for heart health but since you’re already burning lots of calories with a revved up metabolism, you want to focus all of your attention on mass building workouts with heavy compound exercises and keep the cardio to a minimum. You don’t want to confuse your body with any additional activity like cardio. Keep it simple and allow your body and mind to focus on building mass only!
Your weight training workouts should mainly consist of multi-joint compound exercises such as barbell squats, bench press, deadlifts, overhead military press and bent-over rows. These are the key exercises to spike muscle building hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, to help you pack on size and strength. Limit your weight lifting workouts to under 1 hour for the best results since your testosterone levels start to decrease after this amount of time and you also want to avoid overtraining. When first starting out, your training routine should consist of the compound exercises listed above and try to implement these movements into a 3-day workout routine per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Shoot for lower repetitions in the range of around 5-7 reps per set (after warming up) with 4-6 total sets per exercise. Go heavy and super intense and then get out of the gym so you can eat your post-workout meal and allow your body to rest and fully recover before your next workout.
Optimal recovery is one of the most important factors for packing on size and strength to your physique. Your muscles recover AFTER your workout, not DURING your workout, so implement as many recovery aids you can to help your body rebuild and grow. This means taking the right supplements such as whey protein and BCAA (branched chain amino acids) along with other items like glutamine and creatine when you’re finished training. Sleep and relaxation play vital roles in how your body recovers so make sure to minimize daily strenuous activities. If your friends like to play basketball every night, this is probably not the best choice if you really want to gain weight and pack on serious muscle. Remember, it’s important to lift hard and heavy in the gym but once you step foot outside, you want to get a little lazy for the rest of the day. Any added activity will only burn more calories and rev up your metabolism even further which means it will be more difficult to prime your body to gain size and strength. Along with being lazy, it’s important to maximize your sleep at night by getting 8-10 hours of quality rest. Keep your bedroom dark and cold for the best environment for incredible sleep which equals optimal recovery and gains!
Attention to all of these crucial areas will help enhance your ability to grow by priming your body with the right nutrients, workouts and recovery which will help turn all of your hard work into muscle growth so you can finally gain weight, pack on slabs of muscle and get huge!