Bulking Tips for Hard Gainers
“Dude, I can’t gain any weight, what do I do?” It’s gotta be the most common question I get from skinny guys by far. When I give them the simple answer – eat more – I usually get the same responses time and again, too. “I already eat so much,” “I can’t possibly eat any more,” “I don’t have time to cook and eat.” The truth is, these excuses are invalid ninety-nine times out of a hundred. A poor work ethic is sometimes to blame, but most of the time, these guys just don’t understand how to prep and eat huge the huge amounts of food they need to grow! Here are a few of my top tips for hard gainers…
Worry less about “clean” eating.
Sticking to the classic, “clean” bodybuilding foods like rice, sweet potatoes, chicken breast and egg white is all well and good if you’re dieting hard, or if you pile on body fat at the drop of a hat. If you’re hard pressed to gain weight, however, you need to expand your horizons! While clean eating should still be the focus of your meal plan, you need to pile on the extra calories through extra fats and dense sources of carbs. In fact, you should even allow yourself some treats, and not just once in a while! If you’ve had trouble gaining weight so far, chances are you’re not going to get fat just from eating some ice cream or cookies a few times per week.
Eat your fats!
Fat is your friend when you’re struggling to put on weight! While carbs and proteins have only four calories per gram, a gram of fat gives you a whopping NINE calories! Plus, most fats and fatty foods are tasty and easy to eat. Have you ever dove into a jar of peanut butter and been shocked when you later realized just how many calories you’d consumed with a few big spoonfuls? Or how about the ease of adding calories when you pour olive oil or melted butter over your meals? A little bit of volume goes a long way when it comes to fats, and you won’t have to stuff yourself to the brim like you would with a higher-carb, low-fat diet.
Don’t be afraid of carbs.
Still, you’re not going to put on weight if you’re watching your carbs like an Atkins dieter. Carbs are critical for fueling high-intensity workouts, and even outside the pre, intra and post-workout periods, you’ll want some extra carbs to fuel muscle repair and growth – especially if you’re a skinny guy!
And, like we talked abut before, you can’t just cram yourself with “clean” carbs all the time. Potatoes and sweet potatoes, oatmeal and even white rice will fill you up long before you’ve eaten enough of them to reach your carb totals for any given meal. You should still eat these foods in moderate quantities – along with plenty of added fat – but you should also include denser sources of starch and even sugar. This includes stuff like cookies, ice cream, pizzas and other “dirty” foods. This stuff might not be great for the lifter who gains fat easily, but it’s perfect for true hard gainers who couldn’t get fat if they tried.
Go for density.
If you haven’t noticed yet, a major principle for weight gain is to consume calorie-DENSE foods – the exact opposite advice most dieters receive! The big hurdle for most skinny guys is avoiding or at least tolerating a full belly and distended gut, the usual result of massive consumption of “clean” foods. If you go for calorie density, you’re still going to feel satisfied before you should stop eating, but you’re going to feel bloated and lethargic to boot.
For caloric density, aim for foods with plenty of sugar and refined starch or lots of fats. You can eat combinations of the two, but even skinny guys can eventually get fat by eating sugar-butter combos (most desserts) all day long. For fats, aim for stuff that’s so tasty you want to keep eating it – peanut butter, butter on toast or potatoes, avocados, etc. – whatever strikes your fancy and isn’t too expensive.
For dense carb sources again, go for the desserts and bread-heavy foods like pizza and burritos. Even cleaner foods like cream of rice and wheat bread can be helpful. If anything, try to avoid too much fiber, rather than over-consuming it like so many health nuts do. Of course you need the moderate amounts you’ll get from oatmeal, broccoli and other veggies and grains, but more fiber just means more fullness for longer periods of time – not good when you’re eating on the clock!
Space your meals out.
Speaking of eating on the clock, that’s what you’ll need to do if big meals fill you up and leave you unable to eat for hours on end. I actually don’t think eating six or eight small meals is necessary for a lot of guys trying to gain weight, but if you’re a hard gainer, it’s what you’ve got to do to make sure you get all of your calories in! These won’t be “small” meals, either, just portioned according to overall caloric needs. Instead of feasting whenever your stomach finally allows, you need to be eating another planned meal every two or three hours at the very least – no matter how full you feel!
Track your intake!
Finally, if gaining weight has been tough, and you think you “just can’t eat enough,” you’re going to have to TRACK everything you eat! Most skinny guys dramatically overestimate how much they’re really consuming, and hard numbers are what you’re going to need to make sure you stay on track.
You don’t necessarily need to count every macronutrient as if you were dieting, though. What you DO need to do is roughly measure portion sizes, track overall calories and account for everything you do or don’t eat. Since every lifter needs a baseline amount of protein, you should also keep a rough count of how many grams you’ve gotten for the day, and don’t worry about the incidental amounts in the carb and fat sources you’ll be eating. Just hit your daily protein and calorie requirements, adjust upwards as necessary, and you’ll be on the right track!