This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Chad Deets.
I have maintained a gimmick-free 200-pound weight loss for 7 years. Overall, it feels pretty awesome. Like anything, it’s an adjustment, but in good ways. It teaches you so much about yourself. I was overweight from ages 10–22, so for me, I had to re-learn how to adult and move about in a thinner body. Here are some things I’ve noticed:
Measuring health using the body mass index scale is the wrong approach for evaluating everyone. Photo courtesy of Flickr, Rohit Mattoo
- It takes a while for your self-image to catch up. For example, I had body language, gestures, and movements that were compensating for my weight. For example, I’d walk with my arms “out” instead of right next to me, and when I’d sit down, I’d immediately cross my arms in front of my stomach area. I’m sure this was a subconscious effort to detract attention from it. These things took a period of a few years of being in my new body to shift, and it wasn’t until I had skin-removal surgery on my abdomen that I stopped crossing my arms.Other things were more practical. So when I’d walk into a restaurant, I used to immediately scan for the places that could accommodate someone of my size. Or when I’d ride on an airplane, I’d arrange my pillows and self so that my seatbelt was hidden and it looked fastened, but wasn’t actually… because I’d have to ask for an extender and I literally would’ve rather died in a plane crash than have to openly admit I needed an extender. Those changes happened a lot faster, because they were tangible benefits of being thinner (as opposed to being unconscious habits).
- People absolutely treat you differently. This isn’t strictly in a romantic sense, but I absolutely went through a period of increased promiscuity. When you’ve lived your entire teenage and early 20’s without any romantic attention, it’s intoxicating to suddenly have people want you.However, aside from romance, I found people to feel MUCH more entitled to be mouthy when it came to criticizing thin people (to your face) than fat people. Because I had never been an adult in a thin body, I ended up losing about 15 pounds more than I needed to. There were many of my “friends” and coworkers who felt complete freedom to tell me I needed to “eat a burrito” and that I looked like a drug addict. It’s very hurtful, because at least here in the USA, it’s not at all PC to tell someone they’re fat or they really should go hit a stairmaster or whatever. It really opened my eyes to 1. How body image really is a spectrum from one extreme to another, and it’s really nobody’s business and 2. How jealous people are when you do something that they don’t have the discipline to.
- It’s liberating. You have freedom and choices that you previously didn’t. Suddenly, you can run to your car during a rainstorm and not feel like you want to die or be worried about being embarrassed at looking stupid at trying to run. You can eat things you want to, in moderation, without feeling the guilt or shame that comes when you’re doing these things while still overweight. You can shop at normal stores/off the racks without having to wonder if they’ll have your size. You can sit wherever the hell you want to at that restaurant.
- You realize you are capable of doing hard things that many/most people can’t. Most people say they want to lose weight, but few actually do. Personally, I’ve spent a significant amount of time asking myself why I was able to do it and they couldn’t. This is NOT meant egotistically. If anything, I don’t feel I’m that special and wanted to identify “what’s so great about me”. Regardless, I’ve been able to take away a few life lessons:
- Consistent small choices over a period of time are what yield great results/changes. This is universally applicable.
- You will get out of something exactly what you put into it. The more effort you give and the more believability you have, the greater your result will be.
- It is so important to sacrifice the immediate gratifications (which are fleeting) for the long-term goals (which last a lifetime).
- It’s a continuous process and lifestyle, not a one-time journey or change. During the roughly 7 years since I finished losing the 200 pounds I lost, I’ve had one period where I gained 40 of them back, and have since re-lost most of it. The BIGGEST difference between losing the first time and losing the second time was simple: I already knew I could do it. This single fact alone allowed me to chill out and not stress about it coming off. I took a solid 6 months to lose those 40 pounds (which was really slow compared to my previous loss) but I was LESS strict with my diet and LESS crazy with my exercise, because I knew the weight would come off. It has also reminded me that life should be intentional. We need to choose the kind of life we want every single day, and make intentional choices that lead us to it. It’s not enough to make a one-time effort and then return to the rat race.
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- 1. Analyzing the “You look so thin!” comment on a picture.
- 2. Eating with people you’re not close with.
- 3. Choosing an outfit to wear out on a weekend night.
- 4. Buying jeans.
- 5. Wondering what guys refer to you as.
- 6. Taking your cover up off at the beach.
- 7. Deciding whether or not to eat free food at work.
- 8. Losing and gaining weight.
- 9. Trying to figure out what guy(s) are actually interested in you at the bar.
- 10. Explaining to people that you’re staying in because you… just wanna lose 3 pounds.
- Learn how to be the best version of whatever you are here.
- Skinny Kids, Ages 3-12
Why I Want To Be Skinny And I’m Not Sorry For It
Body image is the most wonderfully agonizing topic in American culture. From its presence in the media to self-deprecating conversations at Sunday brunch, its grip on our lives is truly unparalleled.
Depending on the message we consume, we’re either left damaged or empowered. It’s tricky like that.
I’ll be the first person to preach owning who you are, no apology necessary. But when it comes to my personal body image, my views are a bit …different.
What I’m about to tell you bears no influence upon how I feel about other women. I look at a curvier girl with neither envy nor repulsion. I find beauty in all shapes and sizes, and I genuinely mean that. But when it comes to myself, skinny is the ultimate goal.
This isn’t some oppressive mentality I’m trapped in against my will; yet, it tends to be the elephant in the room. Women, especially naturally skinny ones, love boasting a carefree attitude toward food. They bask in the rebellious glow of skipped gym sessions.
Meanwhile, you sit there in silence because no one wants to listen to you talk about your diet or your 6-mile run.
They don’t want to hear you celebrate losing those pesky three pounds you gained on vacation. They want you to eat pizza, wear sweatpants and fabricate self-love as you begin to bust out of your size 4.
Because, somehow, you preferring a particular aesthetic for yourself (with no negative opinion on the bodies of others) leaves you viewed as a body-shaming tyrant.
So many girls want to be thin, but if you talk about it, you’re held in contempt. Ah, the paradoxical nature of mankind. I digress…
I’m here to say f*ck that.
There is so much more to being thin than just being thin. I don’t count my calories or work out obsessively. I just know I’m a better version of myself when I make a conscious effort to watch what I put in my mouth. Accountability is a beautiful thing.
What is it about being thin that is so important to me? With my fluctuating weight and propensity for munching out, the periods of time I have myself under control are priceless.
I’m queen of the world and no crop top is too cropped. My hand isn’t glued to my hip in photos because my arms are skinny on their own. Speaking of photos, go ahead and snap them at all angles; I’m skinny, I don’t care. I’m not bloated; I’m not anxious.
I am disciplined and I am elated.
Have I failed to mention health? My skinny days are not attributed to ordering six wings instead of 12 the night before. It’s because I’m waking up early to sauté kale before work.
I’m snacking on roasted almonds. Pasta, you’re on the bench; spaghetti squash, suit up. I’m eating things I can feel good about, things that are improving my health and ensuring longevity.
Is this difficult as a self-proclaimed indulgence fiend? You bet.
It’s human nature to love a challenge. I personify thinness as an attractive, unattainable man I just have to have. I see him around. I know what he likes and I know he’s good for me.
He may not be on my mind at all hours, but I quietly make adjustments to my daily life to bring myself closer to him. When I actually have him to myself, although fleeting, all is right in the world.
You probably think I’m psychotic for feeling strongly enough to write this. I’m fine with that because the reality is, I just ate fettuccine alfredo and ice cream last night for dinner.
I didn’t pine over it or hang my head in regret because I know my value of thinness won’t fade, and those calories won’t hang on my body for long. I’ll eat well, exercise and bounce back like I never left.
But, I won’t dare tell anyone because feeling this way makes me lame. It brings eye rolls and catty snubs. I’ll be pinned a contributing factor to the unrealistic portrayal of women in the media — just another shallow b*tch perpetuating the prevalence of eating disorders.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I understand this mindset isn’t for everybody, but it just so happens to fit my wants.
I want to wear rompers without my thighs swallowing them whole. I want my boyfriend to throw me over his shoulder with ease. I want to feel light and quick when I’m running a race.
I want to feel accomplished for the care I treat my body with. These wants haven’t intensified over the years. This isn’t some unhealthy obsession that eats away at me. I don’t lose sleep over fitting into a size 2.
I simply am who I am. I want to be skinny, and I’m not sorry for it.
What’s Really to Blame for Our Skinny Obsession?
While obesity reaches epidemic proportions in the Western world, we simultaneously aspire to ever skinnier ideals. This mismatch leads to widespread body dissatisfaction; 50% of girls and young women are unhappy with their bodies, which itself predicts low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. What gives?
If we were a bit hungrier, things would be different. Research shows that all you have to do is remove a guy’s lunch and his liking for fuller-figured women in photos increases . And in parts of the world where food is regularly in short supply, you won’t find much desire for stick-thin women. When I lived some years back in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, for instance, it was pretty clear that Zulu men were particularly partial to the largest ladies.
But clearly the local culture and social norms play a part, too. A study of Zulu men who moved to the U.K., carried out by Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University and his colleagues, found that they soon adopted preferences for the size of women closer to those the local men liked . That is, thinner.
It seems, though, that cultural pressures are pushing us too far. Swami says that the preference that we find among most men in Western societies is for a woman who has a BMI that’s so low to be technically unhealthy. And if you think that’s worrying, women’s idea of what men want is even skinnier.
Many think the primary driver of these ideals comes down to our visual diet from the media, and it’s a view supported by the work of Lynda Boothroyd of the University of Durham and her colleagues, which shows in a sample of young women that simply seeing lots of pictures of either overweight or underweight women’s bodies in plain leotards shifted their ratings of the attractiveness of different body shapes in the direction of what they’d seen . So if they saw lots of pictures of thin women, they would see average looking women as overweight.
Boothroyd found that there was an additional effect of how aspirational the pictures of women looked, so for example, if she showed participants pictures of rich and successful looking overweight women, their liking for heavier women increased by more. Such is the power of the media.
But, of course, as we know, the media is full of very thin aspirational women–all those sexy skinny girls shaking their booty–so it’s not surprising that people have the idea that thin is good and women feel they have to starve themselves to be attractive.
But how much can we blame Western media? If people prefer skinny, how do we know it’s the fault of what we see on our screens and not other cultural factors, or even whether or not we know where the next meal is coming from?
With this in mind, Boothroyd and her team have carried out another, just published study where they quizzed 151 men and women in two remote, Nicaraguan villages, as well as in the capital, Managua, about the kinds of body sizes they thought were most attractive and about their dietary habits . The villages are situated in the Pearl Lagoon basin on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast and are very similar in most respects aside from the fact that residents in the village of Kakabila watch TV while people living in Square Point don’t. This is simply a consequence of the fact that Kakabila managed to secure a supply of electricity 6 years earlier. Neither village has much access to other western media such as magazines or the internet.
Anyway, what the researchers discovered was that in the TV-watching village, Kakabila, people tended to watch soaps, U.S. films, and music videos, and had thinner body ideals to those in Square Point. Residents of the city of Managua who have unfettered access to Western media and culture had the thinnest body preferences of all. It also turned out that where women preferred thin bodies, the more likely they were to be trying to lose weight and the more TV they watched, the more likely they were to feel this way.
Comparing the remote villages, given their similarity in all respects other than TV watching it seems pretty clear what the culprit is here. Boothroyd says the link between TV access, body shape ideals and weight loss attempts in the study population suggests that we’re pretty likely to see the same kinds of patterns in terms of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders playing out here in the long term as happens in the West.
So, what to do?
There’s no point in telling people not to watch TV, says Boothroyd. And anyway, people get lots of useful information this way.
But for the people that produce TV, it’s quite straightforward, she says:
“There’s plenty of evidence now to show that the television and film industry tends to show a disproportionate number of very slim figures, and to stigmatise overweight. Including a more representative range of healthy weight actors, in all kinds of roles (i.e. stop making the overweight character the funny sidekick/villain/anything but the lead), could potentially make a big difference.”
“But then, sadly, I’m pretty sure they know that already,” she adds.
Frederico gained 20kg, going from a skinny 51kg to muscular 71kg.
To gain weight you need to eat more calories than your body burns.
It doesn’t matter if you think you eat a lot. If your average calorie intake is smaller than your calorie expenditure, you won’t gain weight. To get bigger you must create a caloric surplus. You have to eat more food than you do now to put on weight and stop being skinny.
This is the definitive guide to gaining weight naturally for skinny guys, hardgainers and ectomorphs.
Why You Can’t Gain Weight
Skinny guys usually think they can eat anything they want without gaining weight. They believe they can eat junk food all day because they have a fast metabolism. Some think they can’t gain weight because they don’t digest the food they eat, are stressed out, or “have worms”…
Here’s the truth: you can eat everything you want without gaining weight because you don’t eat a lot. I know you think you do, but you don’t – otherwise you wouldn’t be skinny. Really.
Track your daily caloric intake for proof. Spend the next week logging everything you eat in an app like myfitnesspal. You’ll see you’re not eating that many calories. This is the main reason why you’re not gaining weight. Skinny men always overestimate how much they eat.
This doesn’t mean a high metabolism doesn’t exist. Some people have a harder time gaining weight because they’re more active (hardgainers tend to fidget more). Others are naturally skinny because they have small frames and thus aren’t born to be big and strong (ectomorphs).
But every skinny guy, hardgainer and ectomorph who eats more calories than he burns gains weight. It doesn’t matter if you have a high metabolism, skinny build, or bad genetics. The only difference is that you’ll need to eat more food than the average person to put on weight and get bigger.
Stop believing you can’t change your body because of your metabolism. Stop thinking you’ll always be skinny because everyone in your family is. Start understanding this is mostly a matter of nutrition. Eat more calories than you burn – consistently – and you’ll gain weight. It’s that simple.
How to Gain Weight
AJ gained 45lb body-weight
The three ingredients to go from skinny to muscular are nutrition, training and consistency. Here are the most important tips to gain weight for skinny hardgainers and ectomorphs…
- Eat More. Eat more calories than your body burns. How much depends on your metabolism and activity levels. But if you’re not gaining weight, you’re not eating enough.
- Eat More Meals. Small meals are easier to eat than big ones. They don’t make you feel stuffed. Wake up earlier, eat breakfast, and then eat 3-4 more meals a day.
- Eat Caloric Dense Foods. Food high in carbs and/or fats has more calories per serving. It takes less eating to create a caloric surplus. Bulk on pasta, dried fruits, nuts, etc.
- Eat More Protein. Your muscles need protein to recover from your workouts and grow bigger. Eat a whole source of protein with each meal – meat, chicken, fish, eggs, etc
- Go Liquid. Blended food digests more easily than solid food. Make weight gainer shakes by mixing oats, milk, banana, peanut butter and whey protein in your blender.
- Track Calories. Skinny guys over-estimate how much they eat. They think they eat a lot but they don’t. Track your calorie intake to make sure you’re eating enough to gain weight.
- Lift Heavy. Stop wasting time with curls and flies. Do free weight, compounds like Squats and Deadlifts instead. They trigger more strength and muscle gains to gain weight.
- Be Consistent. If you eat a lot today but little the rest of the week, you won’t gain weight. You must consistently eat more than you burn to increase your body-weight.
Weight Goals for Men
How much weight do you have to gain to stop looking skinny? A simple rule is to take your height in centimeter, substract 100, and that’s your goal weight in kg. Anything less you’ll always look skinny. Here’s a table with minimum goal weights for skinny guys, and maximum muscular weights.
As an example, I’m the ectomorph type with a small frame, narrow wrists and long limbs. I weigh 77kg/170lb at 1m73/5’8″. I’m not a big guy but people I meet always notice I lift weights.
Eat More Food
You need to eat more calories than your body burns to gain weight. Don’t go by feeling since it’s easy to overestimate your calorie intake. Instead start by tracking everything you eat. Find out how many calories you need to gain weight. Then consistently eat more calories.
Good calorie calculators will suggest about 16kcal/lb of body-weight to maintain your weight. For the 135lb/60kg skinny guy that’s about 2112kcal/day. This number doesn’t need to be 100% accurate. You’re just looking for a starting point and will adapt your food intake based on your progress.
Add 500 calories per day to gain weight. For the 60kg/135lb skinny guy 2112 maintenances calories becomes 2612kcal/day. Round this down to 2600kcal to keep things simple – this isn’t surgery, and the calories on food labels aren’t 100% accurate anyway. Ballparking it is fine.
If you want to gain weight fast and don’t care about gaining some extra belly fat, add 1000kcal/day. So for the skinny 60kg/135lb guy, that’s 3100kcal/day. It’s however easier to start with 500kcal/day extra so your body has time to get used to eating more food.
Keep in mind it’s your daily average calorie intake at the end of the week and month that determines if you’ll gain weight. If you eat 3100kcal today but then only 1500kcal the next three days, you’re unlikely to gain weight. You have to consistently eat more food. Hit your numbers every day.
It’s normal to struggle to eat your calories every day in the beginning. But your stomach will stretch as you eat more food. Within two weeks you’ll have an easier time eating your calories. You’ll actually get more hungry. But the first week is usually the hardest. You may have to push yourself to eat.
Track your progress by weighing yourself every week. Do it the same time and day every time, ideally first thing on waking up, after you pee. Don’t weigh yourself every day. Your weight fluctuates daily based on your stomach/bowel content, water/salt intake, etc. This will confuse you.
Aim for 0.5kg/1lb of weight gain a week. Skinny guys who start malnourished often gain more the first weeks. But this is mostly because of increased bowel/stomach content, and extra water weight. Remember you can gain max 0.5lb of lean muscle a week on average.
If you gain weight, keep eating the same amount of calories. If you don’t gain weight for two weeks, despite eating the same amount of calories every day, then bump your calorie intake. Add another 500kcal/day and check what happens. Repeat until you gain weight.
This means the food intake that makes you gain your first 10kg/20lb won’t make you gain your next 10kg/20lb. Skinny men with less muscle need less calories than big and strong guys because they burn less calories at rest. The bigger you get, the more you have to eat to get even bigger.
Eat More Protein
Eat 0.82g of protein per pound of body-weight per day for muscle building and recovery. That’s about 100g of protein per day for the 132lb/60kg skinny guy. You can easily hit these numbers by eating a whole source of protein with every meal. Here are some of the best proteins sources for gaining weight:
- Steaks, ground round
- Chicken breast, chicken thighs
- Tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines
- Yoghurt, cottage cheese, milk
- Whole eggs
The macronutrient ratio of carbs and fats matters little for gaining weight. What matters most is that you eat more calories than your body burns. Hit your 0.82g of protein per lb of body-weight per day for muscle building. Then fill the rest up with carbs and fats so you hit your calories. Keep it simple.
Don’t make the mistake of avoiding carbs and/or fats because you’re afraid of gaining fat. Carbs and fats have more calories than proteins. If you avoid them, you’re making it harder and more expensive to gain weight. Most people can’t gain muscle and weight without gaining some fat anyway.
Eat More Meals
Let say you need 3500kcal/day to gain weight. It’s easier to eat 5 meals of 700kcal than three meals of 1150kcal. Your stomach is small from eating like a bird for years. Bigger meals force you to push yourself to finish your meal, and can make you feel like throwing up. Eat small meals instead.
Increase your eating window by waking up early and eating breakfast. Many skinny guys eat nothing for breakfast, a bagel at noon, then a pizza for dinner. Their eating window is less than 10 hours long. That’s why they can’t gain weight – it’s only two meals with zero calories before noon.
You need eight hours of sleep. That leaves you 16 hours to eat. It’s easier to gain weight if you spread your meals over 16 hours. Your meals can be smaller, your stomach has a break inbetween, and you don’t feel stuffed all the time. Here’s an example meal plan to gain weight…
- Breakfast at 7am – oats, raisins, yoghurt, milk
- Snack at 10am – mixed nuts, banana
- Lunch at 1pm – chicken, pasta, parmesan
- Snack at 4pm – dried fruits
- Dinner at 7pm – steak with potatoes
This meal plan is hard if you only eat between noon and bedtime. You have to eat five small meals every two hours, or three +1000 calories every three hours. Most skinny guys can’t do this for more than a day or two before quitting. They don’t have the appetite and their stomach is small.
Intermittent Fasting is therefore a terrible idea for skinny men who want to gain a lot of weight. It shortens your eating window to eight hours a day. This is a great strategy if you want to limit how much you eat for fat loss or maintenance. But not to increase your body-weight.
Wake up early, eat breakfast, and then eat three to four more meals each day.
Eat Caloric Dense Foods
Vegetables are healthy but don’t have many calories. 100g salad only has 25kcal while 100g pasta has 380kcal – 15x more. It’s easier to gain weight if you eat foods that contain more calories per serving. You have to eat less food to reach your daily caloric surplus.
The best foods for gaining weight are high in carbs and/or fats. Vegetables are low in both. They’re therefore great for fat loss but not for getting bigger. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat veggies. But most of your diet should consist of caloric dense foods. Here are the best to gain weight…
Junk food is tempting for gaining weight because it’s caloric dense. McDonald’s is cheap and high in sugars and fats. Same with kebabs, chips, cookies, fries, ice cream, etc. But eating too much junk food builds bad eating habits that will get you fat in the long-term, especially around your belly.
Yes, food quantity matters most for gaining weight. But food quality matters too. You’re going to lift heavy to convert all that food into extra muscle mass. Eating quality food supplies your muscles with vitamins and minerals for muscle recovery. This maximizes strength and muscle gains.
This doesn’t mean you should turn into a health freak that never eats junk food. You can eat a cheat meal once in a while – I do. But that beer, cake or icecream should be a treat. It shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet. Pareto’s rule is a good guideline – 90% quality food, 10% junk.
Drink Mass Gainer Shakes
Blending your food in liquid form makes it digest more quickly than solid food. The blending acts like pre-digestion by breaking down the food for you. You don’t feel full as long and can eat again more quickly. It’s therefore easier to gain weight if you get some of your calories in liquid form.
The easiest way is by making your own mass gainer shakes. They only take five minutes to make which makes it easier to hit your calorie surplus every day. Here’s a simple 1000 calorie home-made mass gainer recipe for skinny guys who want to gain weight…
- 100g Oats
- 1x Banana
- 1tbsp Peanut butter
- 300ml Whole Milk
- 2 scoops Whey protein
Just mix it all in your blender. This shake will get you 1048 calories from 80g protein, 120g carbs and 28g fats. Drink one for breakfast and you’re a third of the way to your daily calorie surplus. You’ll gain weight easily if you eat two solid meals and some snacks during the rest of your day.
Avoid weight gainer supplements. They’re usually filled with cheap sugars that will make you fat and fart. Buy regular whey protein instead, and make your own weight gainer with oats and milk. This is cheaper but also healthier because instead of fake sugar you get vitamins, minerals and fiber.
And if you’re lazy, then just drink milk. One liter whole milk has 600kcal and 33g protein. Two liters has 1200kcal, four liters 2400kcal. Milk is tasty, portable and requires no preparation. Drinking a gallon of milk a day is extreme but it’s effective for gaining weight. Check the GOMAD guide.
Treat Food Like Training
Most skinny guys wanting to gain weight find that the eating is harder than the training. This is normal since you’re only training three times a week for about an hour on StrongLifts 5×5. But you have to eat four to five time a day, seven times a week, during an eating window of 16 hours.
Failing to plan is therefore planning to fail. You don’t go to the gym and then wonder what to do. You have a plan – StrongLifts 5×5. Similarly, you don’t open your fridge to find it empty and then wonder what to eat. You’ve done your weekly groceries and have a meal plan to gain weight.
On StrongLifts 5×5 you’re doing the same exercises every week. There’s no variety except the weight. One of the many advantages of this is that it’s easier to stick to the program (and the one you stick to is the best). You can apply the same strategy to your nutrition by eating the same every day.
This means you get variety by eating a different meal each time. But you eat the same four to five meals every day. If this sounds repetitive, most people eat the same most of the time anyway (80/20 rule). Plus, when you get bored of your diet, you just switch some meals and continue.
Eating the same every day will make your grocery list easier. You have less ingredients to buy, and just multiply by seven days. It’s also cheaper because you can buy more in bulk. The better you do your groceries, the less likely you are to run out of food mid-week and then skip meals.
Cook in advance. Prepare your food for the day in the morning (wake up 45 mins earlier) or when you’re back home. Or spend Sunday afternoon batch cooking your meals for the week. Don’t leave home without food and then wonder what to eat at school/work.
Put some mixed nuts or trail mix in your bag just in case. 100g has over 500kcal.
Lifting weights triggers your body to build muscle mass. Your body uses the food you eat to recover your muscles and build new ones. Lifting also increases your appetite which helps you eat more.
If you don’t lift weights or don’t do it correctly, then all the excess food you’re eating will be stored to fat. This is what happens to people who eat more calories than they burn. Their body stores the extra energy as fat, usually around their belly. You want to go from skinny to muscular, not chubby.
You must therefore lift. Here are the basic rules of lifting for skinny guys. If you’re hardgainer or ectomorph like me, this is the only way to lift that will increase your body-weight naturally…
- Free Weights. More effective than machines because you must balance the weight yourself. Safer because you control how the bar moves. More effective than dumbbells because the weight is heavier, and you can add as little as 0.5kg/1lb per workout.
- Compound Exercises. Squats, Deadlifts, Bench, Press, Rows. These exercises work several muscles at the same time, with the heaviest weights. They trigger maximum strength and muscle growth in your entire body. The big fives must be the bulk of your routine.
- Progressive Overload. Always try to lift more weight than last time. This forces your body to gain in strength and muscle mass to lift the heavier weights you’re exposing it to. You can’t build muscle if you lift the same weight all the time. You must add weight.
- Proper Form. You must work your muscles through a complete range of motion for proper muscle development. Half Squats give you half the gains. Proper form also prevents injuries and help you lift heavier so you gain more strength and muscle mass.
- Rest. Muscles need rest to recover from your workouts. They can’t grow if you train them every day with gazillion of exercises. Skinny guys don’t need more than three full body workouts a week. Doing more won’t make you gain weight. Eating more calories will.
The more you do in the gym, the more calories you burn, and thus the more you have to eat to create a caloric surplus. Cardio is therefore not a good idea. Do the strict minimum to gain muscle.
Do a training program proven to work instead of making your own. You don’t want to risk wasting time and effort without getting anywhere. Just do StrongLifts 5×5 – it only takes three times a week, and comes with a free app to guide you through each workout.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I gain weight quickly?
Start eating 10-15% more calories per day, every single day.
For most guys that means eating an extra 250-400 extra calories per day.
You can easily get that by eating an extra 15-20 dried prunes per day as a snack.
The key is to consistently eat more calories than you burn.
How do I put on weight with a fast metabolism?
By eating more calories than your body burns.
Some people have thyroid problems (like hyperthyroidism) that increases their metabolism and causes weight loss.
But most skinny guys, including ectomorphs like me, simply don’t eat enough calories.
Start eating more calories than you burn, consistently, and you’ll gain weight.
This start by tracking your daily calorie intake with an app like myfitnesspal.
That will show you that you’re not eating that much in the first place.
Then you start eating more – 10-15% extra calories per day.
Do this consistently and you’ll put on weight.
How can I gain weight in 7 days?
Eat 15% more calories every single day. Take 5g of mono hydrate creatine every day.
You’ll easily weigh 5lb more within seven days.
Of course that’s not going to be five pounds of muscle.
It’s mostly going to be water retention from the creatine.
Because you can only gain about half a pound of muscle in a week using natural methods (no steroids).
If you want to gain a lot of muscle, it will take more than 7 days.
It takes most guys a year to gain 20-25lb of muscle naturally.
It’s not possible to gain muscle faster than that unless you take steroids.
How can I increase my weight in a month?
For extremely skinny, under-weight, hardgainers and ectomorphs, the best way is to drink a gallon of whole milk a day.
This is GOMAD – it adds 2400 calories a day which creates a caloric surplus so you gain weight quickly.
It’s possible to gain 25lb in 25 days with GOMAD.
Why can’t I gain weight even though I eat a lot?
Because you’re not eating a lot. Otherwise you wouldn’t be skinny.
Install myfitnesspal, and track everything you eat for a week. Most guys need at least 2500 calories a day to maintain their body weight. You’ll see that you’re barely eating that. That’s why you’re not eating weight.
It doesn’t matter if you eat junk food a lot, or a big pizza here and there. If your average daily caloric intake is not above maintenance, you will not gain weight.
Because it doesn’t matter how big or fatty that one meal is. What matters is how many calories you eat on average.
Track your calories and you’ll get proof that you are not eating as much as you think.
What are the best exercises to gain weight?
Heavy compound exercises like Squats and Deadlifts are the best exercises to gain muscle weight.
They stress your body and muscles with heavy weights. This increases your testosterone levels and makes you build muscle.
Start light so you can focus on form, and gradually increase the weight. Check StrongLifts 5×5.
What foods help you gain weight?
The best foods to gain weight are foods that are caloric dense.
Caloric dense foods make it easier to gain weight because you get more calories per serving.
You reach a caloric surplus faster (more calories in than out). It’s more efficient than eating low calories food.
Liquid foods also help you gain weight because they digest faster than solid foods.
That means you can eat again faster if you eat liquid foods than solid foods.
Here are some of the best foods to gain weight:
- Whole Milk. Milk is portable, and one liter has 600 calories and 30g of protein.
- Dried prunes. 20 prunes have about 500 calories. Prunes are also portable and tasty.
- Mixed nuts. High protein, high fat, portable, no cooking. 500kcal per 100g serving.
- Pasta. 350kcal/100g dried pasta (before cooking). Easily 500kcal if you add sauce/cheese.
- Peanut butter. 100kcal/tablespoon. Peanut butter sandwiches can easily be 400kcal each.
- Oatmeal. 200kcal/50g. Easily 500kcal if you add a banana, peanut butter and whole milk.
- Rice. 350kcal/100g dried rice (before cooking). Add chicken breast and you get 500kcal.
How many calories should I eat a day to put on weight?
10-15% more than maintenance.
Most guys need 2500 to 2800 calories to maintain their body weight.
So eating 400kcal/day extra will make you put on weight.
That means eating 2900 to 3200 calories per day total.
You can easily get there by eating 20 dried prunes a day as a snack.
Will eating 3000 calories a day make me gain weight?
Most skinny guys will gain weight if they eat 3000 calories a day. A guy weighing 55kg with moderate activity levels needs about 2400 calories to maintain his weight. So if he starts eating 3000 calories a day, consistently, he should start seeing weight gain.
Skinny guys with a bad genetics, a slow metabolism, or just a stubborn body, may need to eat even more than 3000 calories a day (GOMAD is recommend in that situation).
However, guys weighing 90kg who are looking to gain even more weight, will probalby not gain weight if they eat 3000 calories per day. As they need 3000 just to maintain.
The general rule is that the heavier you are, the more calories you need to eat every day to continue to gain weight.
3000 calories a day will make a lot of guys gain weight, as most guys weigh about 75kg. Guys weighing less than 75kg will definitely gain weight on 3000 kcal/day. But heavier guys will need to eat more than 3000 kcal/day to gain weight.
Can I gain weight without gaining fat?
No. You usually gain one pound of fat for every pound of muscle when you eat more calories than you burn.
This is not a problem however since you can easily burn the fat later while maintaining most of the muscle you’ve gained.
How much protein do you need to gain weight?
0.82g of protein per pound of body-weight (1.8g of protein per kg). That’s about 110g of protein for a skinny guy who weighs 132lb/60kg.
Eating more protein will not make you gain more weight. It will only waste your money, money you could better use to buy caloric rich foods. Remember the most important thing to gain weight is to eat more calories than you need. Spend the money on food, not protein. You don’t need that much protein to gain weight.
Sometimes you’ll find an article about how to gain weight that doesn’t quite make sense. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just that it’s clearly written by someone who isn’t skinny and who’s never struggled to gain weight. They just don’t get how tough it is for us skinny guys to gain weight.
It’s like an obese person taking weight-loss advice from someone who’s naturally skinny. The skinny guy would confidently say, “Well, yeah, just stop eating. It’s easy. I do it all the time.”
It took me years to realize how much fitness information is really weight-loss information in disguise. It took me even longer to figure out how to convert all of it into information that skinny guys can use. And longer still to break it down into five simple concepts.
This article is written by a skinny guy who has spent the past eight years helping other skinny guys bulk up. If you put this information into action, it will help you gain weight, just like it did for the thousands of members in our bulking program.
Eat More Food Than Your Body Needs—Consistently
Your body gets the energy that it needs from food. Your body then uses this energy to breathe, generate new cells, think, move around, and build muscle. If you want to gain weight, you’ll need to eat more energy than your body needs.
The average writer will gloss over this part. They might say something along the lines of “just eat more.” Worse, they may even lecture us about how we “obviously don’t eat very much food because we’re skinny.” Maybe they’ll go so far as to tell us to eat in a calorie surplus of, say, 500 calories. And that’s it. They’ll move on to the next point.
We may indeed need to eat more, but simply telling us that won’t help us actually do it. Eating more calories isn’t easy. If we simply try to force-feed ourselves, we’re extremely unlikely to succeed. I’ve tried it. You probably have, too.
We’re skinny guys, too. We know how hard it is to gain weight. The skinny struggle is real.
I remember back in the day, back when I was skinny, I would often eat an obscene amount of food. I calculated my calorie intake one day, and I had eaten well over 3200 calories.
So how come I wasn’t gaining weight?
There’s this scientific term: homeostasis. It describes the physiological process where a variable is held constant through active regulation.
What does that even mean?
It means our bodies are actively trying to maintain their current weight.
If you eat more energy than your body needs, what do you think your body will do with that extra energy? A naturally fat guy might store that weight, but as hardgainers, we may simply burn off those extra calories as extra body heat.
Every body tries to maintain its current weight, but our bodies are especially good at it. It’s harder for us to gain weight than it is for most other people.
You may notice that you start to fidget more. You might feel energized to go for a walk or play some sports. You might even burn extra calories by thinking more deeply.
If you still have a surplus after all of that, your body will approach the problem from another angle—by limiting the amount of food coming in. The next day you might forget to eat a meal, or perhaps you choose smaller serving sizes, or maybe you skip dessert.
So one day I ate a whole 1200-calorie bag of chips, a box of cookies, and a pint of ice cream on top of my regular meals. That might be enough to cause weight gain that day. But what happened the next day?
The next day, I probably moved more or thought more, or maybe I ate less. And that balanced everything out. No weight gain for me.
If you’re struggling to gain weight, too, it’s likely because you’re running into that exact same issue. Every time you get ahead on calories, your body cancels out your efforts retroactively.
So here’s how to beat your body’s natural systems:
- Track your energy objectively through an app like MyFitnessPal. If you try to “just eat more,” you won’t remember that you’re forgetting things. If this sounds crazy, it’s just because you don’t remember all the times it happened to you!
- Track your calories weekly, too. You might eat a lot of food 6 out of 7 days, be on track to gain weight, and then under-eat on the 7th day because you’re busy or stressed. That could wipe out all that extra energy you stored up over the week.
Eating More Can Be Tough
What if you find it hard to eat more than you need? Shane’s written an article explaining why it’s so hard for ectomorphs to gain weight, and another article detailing how to eat more calories. Here are some quick tips:
- Drink your calories. Drinking calories doesn’t make us feel full in the same way as chewing our food. Smoothies, protein shakes and milk are excellent choices. In our bulking program, we have dozens of recipes, including a recipe for a homemade 1000-calorie workout drink.
- Eat foods that are less filling. Foods that have less fibre (like nuts) and less water (like dried fruits) tend to be less filling. This makes foods like trail mix great for sneaking in extra calories. Here are some examples of foods that are great for bulking.
- Eat more often. Studies show that those who snack between meals eat more calories than those who eat larger meals less often.
- Make your food taste incredible. A bit of salt, sugar, and oil goes a long way. It’s pretty hard to eat a lot of plain boiled chicken wings—even just writing that is making me less hungry—but if you make a delicious homemade sauce, you can eat wings forever. (And no, a little salt, oil and sugar will not make you gain more fat while bulking.)
- Add a variety of foods and flavours to your diet. Studies have shown that if you eat foods with different flavours during a meal, you’ll eat more. Perhaps this is one contributor to why so many people gain weight during Thanksgiving and Christmas potluck dinners, where there are twenty different flavours to taste.
How Much More Should I Eat?
A conservative (aka slow, lean gains) starting point is to take your body weight and multiply it by 18. So if you weigh 130 pounds, you’d start off eating around 2300-2400 per day. Since you’ll also be tracking your calories daily, your weekly goal will be 16,380 calories.
If you’re already tracking your calorie intake, even better—increase your daily calories by 250, which should get you gaining about half a pound per week.
What if you do this and you don’t gain weight? We’ll answer this in a second.
Don’t Just Gain Weight, Build Muscle
Okay. Now that you’re eating more food than you need, and you keep it up, where does all this extra energy go?
Well, if the closest you get to lifting weights is sitting here reading about them on this blog, that energy is going to be stored as fat.
If you’re a see-your-rib-cage kind of skinny, like we were, you might not care if you gain fat. In fact, if you’re under 10% body fat, gaining some fat could even be healthy for you.
But if your goal is to take up more space, look better, stand taller, and be stronger, you’ll still want to build mostly muscle with all that extra energy. Even if you’re starting out at 8% body fat, wouldn’t it be great if you gained twenty pounds of muscle before you hit a nice, healthy 10%?
So how do you tell your body to take that extra energy and turn it into muscle instead of fat?
The answer is by lifting weights and eating enough protein to support muscle growth.
HEADS UP: It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t increase the amount of food you’re eating until after you start working out. If you start eating big before you start lifting weights, you’ll be gaining mostly fat until you start your lifting program.
Skinny Guys Need to Lift Weights
The simplest way of putting it is, lifting weights helps you build muscle because when you stress your muscles enough, your body thinks that it must need bigger muscles to better handle that kind of stress.
The complicated answer, well, gets quite complicated. If you’re a curious fellow, Shane’s written an excellent article about which type of workouts are the best for helping skinny guys build muscle. It covers all the popular methods of working out and gives their pros and cons.
There’s a lot of science available now about how to build muscle optimally. And we integrated and considered all of it when putting together our program. You just do it and know that it works.
We would highly recommend that you do not make your own workout. There’s a lot to consider regarding movement patterns, volume, intensity, injury prevention, progression, picking exercises to match your skill level, and even behavioural tricks to make working out more addictive.
If you haven’t studied how to design workout programs, you could injure yourself, becoming skinny-fat, or just waste months of your life by failing to gain weight—again.
Lifting is not so unlike eating. Your body will usually get tired or lazy at the homeostasis point. If you wing it, you’ll probably stop your workout at the exact moment that will have you perfectly maintaining your results. Automatic plateau.
How Much Protein Do You Need While Bulking?
Muscle requires protein. To build new muscle, you’ll need more protein in your diet than someone who isn’t trying to build muscle. And the average guy under-eats protein anyway. So you probably need to eat more.
But eating enough protein is hard for a couple of reasons.
The first issue is that protein is incredibly filling. Try eating three chicken breasts and tell me you’re still hungry. Having a protein shake like whey makes this a lot easier as it uses the tricks from earlier (no chewing and no fibre). If you want to see what protein powders we recommend, see our bulking supplement guide.
The second issue is that protein is expensive. Whey protein powder tends to be cheaper per gram than eating chicken, so it’s possible that protein supplements could be helpful in keeping your costs down. Keep in mind that not all your protein needs to come from animal sources. There’s a little bit of protein in beans and nuts, which will get automatically tracked in your tracking app. If you’re eating lots of food in general, and you will be, then all those little bits of extra protein will help you reach your goals.
But what should a skinny guy’s daily protein goal be? Make sure to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound body weight (2.2 grams per kilo). Here’s Shane’s article going into depth on the ideal macros for a skinny guy who’s trying to bulk up.
When you stress your body, your body uses sleep to recover from that stress. Without proper rest, your hormones get bent all out of shape. When that happens, your body is more likely to store the extra energy you’re eating as fat (study, study). If you’re a skinny guy who’s gaining weight quickly, that can lead to quite a bit of extra fat gain.
Being sleep deprived is catabolic, which is a fancy way of saying that it puts you into a state where you break down more muscle mass. Sleeping well is anabolic, meaning you’ll build more muscle and store less fat.
If gaining weight and building muscle is important to you, you should make an effort to improve your sleep.
Some extra bonuses from sleeping enough are:
- You’ll look better
- You’ll be smarter
How do you rest well? You’ll need to sleep enough and also get good sleep. So the quantity and the quality matters.
Most of the research says that if you’re one of the overwhelming majority, you’ll need at least 7.25 hours, and probably closer to 8 hours, of sleep every single night.
Okay, so how do you improve the quality of your sleep?
- Sleep in a quiet bedroom. If you live in the city, use a noise machine to cover up startling sounds (loud drunk people, sirens, dogs barking)
- Sleep in a dark bedroom. Get blackout curtains to block out streetlights or be thankful that you live in the country-side.
- Sleep in a climate-controlled room. Keep it cool enough that you can use at least one blanket. Having a blanket will prevent rapid heat changes that can disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid screens 1–2 hours before you go to bed. I know it’s the 21st century, and this is incredibly hard, so just get F.lux to reduce the effect. Or take baby steps and listen to podcasts/radio pre-bed.
- Try not to eat within 30 minutes of going to bed. If you’re trying to gain weight, this might mean cramming calories in right until you go to bed. But if you can do it a bit earlier, your sleep may be better.
Gaining Weight Requires Measuring & Pivoting
The masses often paraphrase Peter Drucker as having written, “What get’s measured, gets managed.” And he’s 100% right.
If we want to gain weight as naturally skinny guys, we can’t just do what we naturally do… because we’re naturally skinny. But the good news is that once we gain weight, that becomes the new natural. (Remember that homeostasis effect? It will help you stay big and muscular too.)
So if you want to gain weight, you’ll need to measure your weight each week. Make sense?
Buy a digital scale; they’re more accurate out of the box than a mechanical one.
Weigh yourself once a week right after you wake up and use the washroom. Alternatively, you can also weigh yourself daily and then divide the number by 7 at the end of the week. It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate a bit depending on water retention, food in your system, etc. Measuring yourself every day and then taking an average can help deal with that. So can waiting for a week’s worth of muscle gain to add up before weighing yourself.
If after your first week, the scale still hasn’t budged, don’t worry, that’s common for naturally skinny guys. It just means that we need to pivot. Here’s how to get back to gaining weight:
- Increase your daily energy intake by 200 calories (to create the surplus that was missing)
- Improve your daily and weekly calorie consistency (to actually hit your targets)
You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to make tracking a lot easier.
Make It Easy & Bet On Yourself
It’s going to take a lot of smart planning, effort, and consistency for quite a while in order to gain a significant amount of weight and muscle.
It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing is 100% optimal for gaining weight if the routine isn’t sustainable.
While your motivation is high, it’s easy to force yourself through the tougher parts of a plan. But eventually, some stressor will come into your life. If the routine isn’t easy to maintain, you’ll stop doing it. So your plan should not have parts that are too tough.
Getting a cold, worrying about losing your job, breaking up a long-term relationship—things like this can totally throw your routine out the window. Even vacations or holidays can replace a weight-gain routine with higher priorities like spending time with family.
It’s not realistic to think that you’ll never have something knock you off your plan. So your plan needs to be able to survive a good punch.
Focus on the 20% of what you’re doing that’s giving you 80% of your results.
- Eat enough food consistently
- Eat enough protein consistently
- Lift weights 3x a week consistently (and follow a good program!)
How can you do that?
The way to do that is by making all these things into habits so that you do them instinctively. If you want to know more about the science behind building a habit, check out our habit article. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Goal-setting: Pick one tangible and realistic goal, such as gaining 5 pounds in 5 weeks.
- Make it easy to stick to the plan: Pick a program that’s designed well, change things in your environment to make it easier to stick to your goal (cook food and freeze it in advance, build a home gym if the gym is too far away, make small gradual changes to your diet, etc.), eat foods that are easy to eat lots of (liquids, dried fruits, etc.).
- Improve your willpower: Get enough sleep (which will also make your gains leaner.)
- Use willpower to get started: It takes 18-66 days to build a habit so consider using accountability as a failsafe such as betting with a friend to help you last that long. We recommend 5 weeks to start.
- A reward is part of habit building: Celebrate every milestone you reach. A milestones is something that is measurable and important in your progress. Not just regular ol’ stones a few feet ahead of you along the road.
If you’ve previously struggled with gaining weight, you now have the 5-step action plan of what you need to do. Here’s how it’d look with everything together.
- Get an evidence-based workout program designed to help skinny guys gain weight (like our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program)
- Go to the gym 3x a week
- Hit your energy goals daily, weekly, monthly
- Hit your protein goals daily, weekly, monthly
- Work on improving your sleep quantity and then quality
- Measure your progress weekly and adjust what you’re doing if it’s not working
- Use accountability to help you stick to the plan long term (that’s why our bulking program includes coaching in the member community)
Have you gained weight before? And what worked well for you? Do you have any questions we can help to answer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you’re a self-described “skinny” person trying to put on weight, you probably feel like a second class citizen when you’re researching on the Internet. Most fitness information is geared towards fat loss. Let’s talk about the basics of healthy weight gain.
My friend Tynan approached me one day asking about fitness. We’ve talked about how fitness success depends heavily on habit, which is why it was surprising when Tynan, a expert and prolific author on habits, came to me looking for advice.
“No matter how much I eat, I can’t put on weight. Seriously, I went on a cruise one time… they’re all you can eat, so I just stuffed myself silly. I put on about five pounds by the end, but within a few weeks I was back to my starting weight.”
To people who are predisposed to being overweight (like myself), this sounds almost like some voodoo, foreign magic. But naturally skinny folks have experienced this throughout their entire life. You’ll find the particular fitness skill that’s most important to you depends on your starting point and your goals. While habit is one of the most important skills for people who are losing weight, naturally lean folks will rely more heavily on the “knowledge” facet. Let’s see why.
Why It’s So Difficult for Skinny People to Put On Weight
In the late 1960’s, a group of researchers went to the Vermont State Prison and asked for volunteers. The researchers sought to overfeed prisoners with a normal body mass index (i.e. not classified as overweight) until they increased their body weight by 25%, and then study the impact of weight gain.
Simple, right? It should have been, except for one astonishing fact: some prisoners could not gain weight, no matter how much they were overfed. One participant increased his caloric consumption up to 10,000 calories per day and still could not increase his body weight more than 18%. When the experiment concluded, the prisoners had no problem returning to their original weight.
This research inspired a recent BBC documentary (available on YouTube) that corroborated the prisoners’—and Tynan’s—experiences. Naturally skinny people seem to be biologically programmed to stay at a given weight. Here are some of the reasons that weight gain was so difficult:
- Subjects avoided calories once their weight was uncomfortably high. They literally could not finish all of their meals.
- There was an increase in resting metabolic rate due to the increase in lean muscle
- While not discussed in the documentary, it’s well documented that Non Exercise Adaptive Thermogenesis (or NEAT for short) creates a “protective” effect against weight gain during times of overfeeding.
Train, Don’t Exercise
What does it mean to gain weight in a “healthy” manner? We asked Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, an osteopathic physician that specializes in helping obese patients. Dr. Nadolsky says:
One can put on weight in a healthy manner if the weight is lean mass. Body fat percentage is a much better indicator than BMI when it comes to predicting health outcomes. It’s also important to keep waist circumference low, since that’s a surrogate for visceral fat which puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.
Dr. Nadolsky, by the way, is also a competitive amateur bodybuilder who would likely be classified as “obese” on the BMI scale.
Okay, so to put on “healthy” weight, one must gain muscle. The best way to do that is to train rather than exercise.
It’s typical to think of the word “exercise” when it comes to being active. Exercising, however, implies activity in order to intentionally burn calories. But additional caloric burn is the last thing that people need in order to put on weight. The word exercise also doesn’t imply progression, which is needed to build muscle.
Building muscle requires something called “progressive overloading.” This is just a fancy way of saying that you’ll need to strength train with increasingly high weight, reps, or volume during subsequent sessions. This allows muscular hypertrophy, the increase in skeletal muscles, to occur. Hypertrophy also increases your capacity to store muscular glycogen, or glucose stored within your muscles. This glucose is stored within water, further leading to an increase in healthy weight.
Luckily, there are some pretty good workouts available that focus on progressive overloading. Some examples are:
- Starting Strength
- Reverse Pyramid Training
- Stronglifts 5×5
- JC Deen and Jordan Syatt’s Muscle Guide for Beginners (which also includes diet instructions)
Back to Tynan’s story. I put him on a custom workout focusing on progressive overload and he immediately found that for the first time, he actually retained the weight he gained. Training was only one part of the equation, however. Changing his diet around was the bigger challenge.
Eat More Calories
If you have the training part of the equation down pat, and your weight isn’t going up, then you’ll simply have to consume more calories. This is the biggest problem that I’ve seen with hardgainers—some people have great difficulty eating enough calories to increase lean mass. From Lyle McDonald’s Body Recomposition blog:
Outside of poor training (which can be either too much or too little), not eating enough is the number one mistake I see most trainees making who can’t gain muscle. This is true even of individuals who swear up, down and sideways that they eat a ton but no matter what they can’t gain weight.
Almost invariably, when you track these big eaters, they really aren’t eating that much. Research has routinely shown that overweight individuals tend to under-estimate food intake (e.g. they think they are eating much less than they actually are) but in my experience ‘hardgainers’ are doing the opposite: vastly overestimating how much they are actually eating in a given day, or over the span of a week.
Similarly, although such trainees may get in a lot of food acutely, invariably they often compensate for those high-caloric intakes by lowering calories on the following day (or even in the same day). So while they might remember that one big-assed lunch meal, they won’t remember how they ate almost nothing later in the day because they got full.
Remember, your body is constantly trying to maintain homeostasis. Even if you focus on eating more calories around breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you may unintentionally reduce your caloric intake during other times without realizing.
Find out how many calories you need in order to stay the same weight every day, and then increase your calories by 15%. You can do this easily by adding calorically dense foods into your diet, such as adding a few glasses of whole milk into your diet every day or a tablespoon or two of olive oil into your meals.
Here’s a list of calorically dense foods that are easy to incorporate into your diet.
- Olive oil (130 calories per tablespoon)
- Peanut butter (190 calories for two tablespoons)
- Dark chocolate (250 calories for ¼ of a bar)
- Avocadoes (230 calories for one whole avocado)
- Whole milk (200 calories for two cups)
- Raisins (250 calories in half a cup)
You’ll also need to make sure that you get 0.75g of protein per pound that you weigh. A 120 lb male, for example, would need to get at least 90g of protein.
I had Tynan eat the same meals repeatedly for the first few weeks in order to ensure that he was in a caloric surplus (i.e. consuming more calories than he burned every day). This was difficult at first, and many times he had to force himself to eat. If this sounds unnecessarily difficult, remember that folks who want to lose weight have are just as uncomfortable eating less than they desire; you’re just approaching this from the opposite end of the spectrum.
The result? Within a year, Tynan had put on 20 pounds while maintaining the same waist measurements.
Where to Go From Here
So, with that in mind, let’s summarize what you need to do in order to put on weight:
- Pick a strength regimen that emphasizes progressive overload. The exact program doesn’t matter too much. Just stick to something.
- Figure out your “maintenance calories,” the amount of calories that you need in order to maintain the same weight, then increase this amount by 15%. You can calculate your maintenance calories by logging your daily food intake (assuming you have been the same weight for a while) or using an online calculator like this (use the body fat percentage option for more accurate results).
- Remember that you might need to force yourself to eat even when you’re not hungry. You can do this through calorically dense foods, such as olive oil. Adding just two tablespoons of olive oil to your meals will net you 250 calories more.
- Make sure to consume at least 0.75 grams of protein for every pound that you weigh. You can consume more, but it might not do anything if you are on a caloric surplus. (Note: We have previously recommended 1g per pound of target body weight. While this is true on a caloric deficit where additional protein may prevent a loss in lean mass, protein is less important on a caloric surplus.)
- Track your weight and waist measurements weekly. If you find that your waist measurements are increasing too quickly, lower your caloric intake.
Anecdotally, the best thing about being a “skinny” person who can’t put on weight is that they tend to stay lean. This means that with a changes to your diet and training, you can sport a lean, muscular physique. Just don’t show it off to your friends like me who are naturally on the chubby side or you’ll be “that guy” (or girl).
Images by ra2studio (), x1klima, Tom Pumphret, and isafmedia.
Vitals is a new blog from Lifehacker all about heath and fitness. Follow us on Twitter here.
25 Reasons Why it’s Great to be Skinny
I’ve spent most of my life as a skinny bastard. It took more than two decades of lifting to get my body mass index up to a mirror-friendly 26. (If I’d known anything about nutrition I might’ve been able to do it in two years. But at least that left plenty of protein for you guys.)
However, I’d be the last to suggest that being skinny doesn’t have its benefits.
1. No one tries to steal your watch when it’s up near your elbow.
2. Want abs? Skip lunch.
3. Win every duel, as long as you stand sideways.
4. Clothes always fit–even your girlfriend’s.
5. You never have to prove your manhood, since no one assumes you have any.
6. Some people spend thousands of dollars for cheekbone implants. All you need to do is chew once or twice a day.
7. If you have hair, being skinny makes you look like you have twice as much. If you don’t have hair …well, you’d better go buy some, because a skinny bald guy looks like a light bulb with its own blood supply.
8. The skinnier you are, the bigger and more soulful your eyes look. You could be sitting in a Starbucks writing an email to your bookie begging for another week to cover your losses, and the woman at the next table will assume you’re composing haiku about her breasts.
9. You, your girlfriend, and her Irish Wolfhound are all perfectly comfortable on that twin bed. A queen-size bed is like an aircraft carrier.
10. Your doctor will never, ever say, “You know, you could really stand to lose some weight.” Of course, there’s only a one in five chance he’ll say that to someone who’s 5-3 and 270 pounds, but at least with you, there’s no risk at all.
11. When a stiff wind blows you across the sidewalk, strangers will laugh and applaud, assuming it’s part of your comedy routine.
12. In the gym, women offer to spot you when you’re warming up with the bar.
14. If you ever want to shut people up, just tell them you’re trying to lose weight. They’ll be speechless for the next five minutes.
15. Women will feed you (as soon as you tell them you’re kidding about trying to lose weight).
16. As long as Hollywood makes movies about people dying of horrible diseases, your acting career will flourish.
17. Not only can you fit into a Mini Cooper, you can drive it and clip your toenails at the same time.
18. “Thin is the new rich.”
19. The department store is never out of your size. It’s always on the first shelf, and it’s always in stock.
20. When you tell people you play tennis, they automatically assume you’re good.
21. The “layered look” is always in style, which is a good thing, because if you go outside in winter without half your wardrobe, you’ll die of hypothermia.
22. At orgies, no one panics when you jump in the pile.
23. There’s one person on earth who doesn’t look horrible in a Speedo: you.
24. Carbs, schmarbs.
25. You could be dying of emphysema and people you haven’t seen in 10 years will say, “Wow! You look great!”
Why It’s OK to Not Be Skinny
POPSUGAR Photography / Hedy Phillips
Curvy. Thick. Voluptuous. These are all words I’ve been hearing people call me for most of my life, and in my younger years, they all felt like an insult every single time.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been just a little bit chubby. I was a chubby kid and a thick teenager, and now I’m a curvy woman.
In high school, I was incredibly healthy. I was too busy to eat too much and didn’t have any interest in crappy food. I was a year-round cheerleader, so I had practice (which included running, weight-lifting, and tumbling) two hours a day, five days a week, in addition to basketball games, football games, and cheerleading competitions. I was strong, I was in shape, and I was still thick.
After one of my last cheerleading competitions my senior year in high school, a mom of a young girl on a different squad pulled me aside and thanked me. I asked her what she was thanking me for, and she told me I was a role model for her daughter who thought she was too heavy to be a successful cheerleader. She told me that when her daughter saw me out there, tumbling with my squad, she felt like she could grow up to do the same, despite what she weighed. At the time, I didn’t know how to take that. At 18, I felt like she was telling me I was the fat cheerleader, and let’s be honest, I already felt like I was. But thinking about it now, I realize how amazing it was to show that little girl that you don’t have to be skinny to do the things you want to do. I flipped my fat ass over my head better than half the girls in that gym, and that little girl knew it.
Once I left high school and my daily activities shifted away from constant exercise and more toward TiVo and nap time (I was a really lazy college student), I realized I needed to make some serious changes to keep healthy. I started going to the university gym at least five times a week and tried not to eat anything stupid, but nothing worked. I started down a dangerous path that I nearly didn’t pull myself out of.
But then I tried a doctor-monitored diet a few years later and lost about 50 pounds, still placing me on the “overweight” side of normal for my height by about five pounds. Maintaining that weight was not even close to manageable. I had a resting energy expenditure test done at the end of the weight-loss journey and found out that I literally have a metabolism slower than that of a middle-aged woman. With no activity, I barely burn a thousand calories a day, which surprised even the nutritionist who did the test for me. We tried the test twice to make sure there were no errors, and nope, I just have a really, really crappy metabolism.
I tried maintaining that weight. I was eating the healthiest (and littlest amount) I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I was exercising an average of an hour a day, seven days a week. No matter what I did, the weight crept back on. But I didn’t really mind, because I was still really healthy and active.
But then I had a backslide. Just like always. Just like after every other diet I’d tried in my life – and I’d tried them all. I went back to living how I was used to and how I was comfortable, which included mostly healthy eating with treats here and there and exercise a few times a week. I was happy, I was healthy, and I was still thick.
I’ve come to realize that what’s great about the world we live in today is that, even though it seems like models are getting thinner and thinner, society seems to be getting more and more comfortable with highly visible people who aren’t stick-thin. I’ve got people from every angle preaching at me to love myself and be comfortable with who I am, but my brain just wouldn’t accept that. My brain still wanted me to be skinny. It has been an unbelievably frustrating battle for virtually my whole life.
And now today, I’m what doctors would consider to be overweight, but you know what? I’m also really healthy. I even ran two half-marathons last year. I eat right, I exercise regularly, but my genes just don’t want me to be skinny. No one in my family is skinny. It’s just not going to happen. But if I’m healthy, does being skinny really matter? Sure, I’d love for shopping trips to be less stressful. I’d love to look in the mirror and not think my arms look terrible. I’d love for people to stop telling me that blaming my genes is an excuse. But I’m coming up on 30 now, and I’ve decided it’s time to stop being mad at myself. It’s time to stop constantly agonizing over the number on the scale and the number on the tag in my pants. It’s time to embrace being thick. It’s time to embrace being curvy.
It’s time to love me.
This article originally appeared on PopSugar Fitness.
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Okay, so I want to start this post off by clarifying that I don’t think I’m fat. However, I know I’m not stick thin. And that’s fine. No I’m not looking for comments from people being like, “OMG Sam you look GREAT” or “Girlll you have been looking so thin lately, stop it!” because in all seriousness, I am not Beyonce. I am Sam. And I am really busy so I can’t go to the gym every day like I used to. And I like french fries. And alcohol. But I have a nice looking face, I work out at least three times a week, I drink green smoothies (it’s like, they’re not that healthy, but they look like they are… so whatever), and I’m not obese so I REALLY DON’T GIVE A FUCK.
1. Analyzing the “You look so thin!” comment on a picture.
Wait, do I actually look thin? Because I didn’t lose any weight. Are you just amazed as to how good I look in this picture as opposed to other pictures, or to what I look like in person? People don’t comment “skinny mini” on a skinny person’s picture. So now you have me thinking… do you really think I’m skinny? Or do you think I’m skinny just in that picture?
2. Eating with people you’re not close with.
So you’re at a restaurant with a person or a couple people you’re not close with. They could be co-workers, a date, acquaintances (AKA not your BFFs), people you just started to become friends with, etc. You scan the menu and see a lot of things that make you want to have sex, i.e. macaroni and cheese, pizza, a burger with fries. However, your inner skinny person is telling you that should probably get a salad. Your inner fat person, though, is begging you to get the fries… but umm what is everyone else getting? What if no one else gets a big meal? What if they all get salads? You can’t be the fat one who gets carbs. Then they’ll think you’re fat… even though you’re not… but you’re not skinny… so… whatever. You’re getting cheese fries salad. You’ll probably have a snack when you get home. It’s fine.
3. Choosing an outfit to wear out on a weekend night.
You can’t cover yourself in an oversized sweater now. You have to look good, which usually means your clothes have to be tight fitting – UGH. You try on an outfit. You look at yourself in the mirror. You look at yourself from the right side. Then the left side. You maybe put on spanx and check out the side views again. Then you take a mirror selfie from a high angle and look at the picture, because the way your phone views you is a great representation of how others are going to view you. Duh. If you’re still not sure if you look fat or not, you send the picture to friends asking for their opinion. And if anyone is around you, you ask them if you look fat… FROM THE SIDE. Eventually, you change approximately six times until you find an outfit you don’t question. Because from the minute you start to question an outfit, you’ve already basically decided that you look fat — even if everyone else thinks you look bangin.’ The only thing that can change this is when a guy says “I would fuck you in that. ” A guy wouldn’t openly say that he would fuck a fat girl. So it must mean you don’t look fat. Right?
4. Buying jeans.
Especially when people ask you if you need help… and then even worse, when you have to get their help. When answering “what size are you?” you probably say a size below what you actually are, pretend you’re doing okay in the dressing room when they knock and ask, and then leave empty handed… planning to return later when you won’t have to tell people what size you really are. Asking a girl who isn’t skinny but isn’t fat her pants size is like asking any human being how much they weigh – NOT OKAY. They should make some sort of system at stores where you can type in what size you’re looking for and have it magically appear without you having confront anyone about it. Right?! This is 2014. Where is this technology?
5. Wondering what guys refer to you as.
Do you they think you’re skinny? Do they call you average? Do they just say you’re a gigantic gross fat ass? And, like, what number are you on that world famous ratings scale? Would you be higher if you were thinner? You wonder these things constantly, and you’ll probably never know the answer. Even when you ask your boyfriend a million and six times. He’s never going to tell you (the truth). Unless he is actually telling you the truth. But you’ll never know. Because you can’t even decide what rating YOU would give yourself. Like if you were a guy would you call yourself skinny or fat? You don’t even KNOW.
6. Taking your cover up off at the beach.
This is, legit, the worst thing ever. You don’t want to bend over in a bikini (someone could see your roll!), so you’ve mastered the take-off-the-dress-while-already-lying-down act. Sure you could just wear a one piece to avoid this problem, but you’re not going to wear a fucking one piece – YOU’RE NOT FAT. The struggle continues through your entire beach trip. When coming back to your towel after going in the ocean, you are faced with a big dilemma. You don’t have your cover up on, so you have to lie down quickly before people see your fat shake around too much. But your towel is covered in sand and you don’t want to lie down in sand while wet. However, your alternative is bending down to shake the towel off. I’d rather be a sand monster than bend down in a bikini… thanks.
7. Deciding whether or not to eat free food at work.
You don’t want your co-workers to think you’re fat, so you usually say no to the free snacks in the kitchen and you definitely do NOT participate in bagel Wednesday (unless you’re hungover… and vow not to eat anything else the rest of the day). You also bring your own lunch every day instead of eating any sort of free lunch that comes your way. But when a co-worker comes around with cookies she baked for the whole team (or even worse — if she made a couple just for you — gluten free/nut free/dairy free/whatever the fuck you are), you have to eat them. Only an asshole would say no (Right?! Because you don’t want to be the fat ass saying yes to chocolate when every one else is saying no). After you DO indulge at work, you’ll feel bad about your entire life for about a week. Because, after all, you’re on a day diet. AKA you starve yourself during the day because you don’t want anyone to think you eat too much, but when you get home it’s balls to the walls in the pantry. You didn’t eat all day. You’re hungry. It’s fine. And you wonder why you can’t lose weight…
8. Losing and gaining weight.
Any weight. Even if its .2 pounds. You’re already not okay with your weight, and you don’t need it getting higher. You’re so close to being skinny and so close to being overweight. When Regina George said “I just wanna lose 3 pounds,” people were supposed to laugh. But not you. That’s your reality. You just wanna lose 3 pounds. I mean, it could really make all the difference.
9. Trying to figure out what guy(s) are actually interested in you at the bar.
They’re talking to you, but are they actually into you? Or are they just thinking of you as the “fat friend” while they try to make their way into your thinner friends’ pants? And then if they DO choose to pursue you for however many minutes you let them, is it because they think you’re thin? Or is it because they’re drunk and you’re there? You are just way too hard on yourself and can’t accept anything for what it is. Would you be into you at a bar? You’re not sure.
10. Explaining to people that you’re staying in because you… just wanna lose 3 pounds.
As I said above, a lot of people think 3 pounds is nothin’ …but to you – it’s everything. And a night out means you’re either going to gain 3 pounds after drinking non-stop red bull vodkas and eating late night pizza, or lose 3 pounds after throwing up everything you’ve consumed in the past week due to too many red bull vodkas. But it’s a risk. And it’s one you’re not always willing to take. Sometimes you just need ‘a weekend‘ to feel skinny again. No, you’re not magically losing a pants size overnight. But in your mind you are. And guess what – whether you feel fat or skinny – it’s all in your head!
You’re not skinny. You’re not fat. YOU’RE AVERAGE. And you look fine. Get over it.
This post originally appeared at Forever Twenty Somethings.
Learn how to be the best version of whatever you are here.
featured image – Flickr / Osamu Uchida
Skinny Kids, Ages 3-12
Should I be worried if my child is skinny?
As long as she’s a healthy eater, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern. A lot of children are naturally thin. Chances are, your child will fill out as she gets older. Most kids follow a fairly steady growth curve that’s dictated, in part, by genetics; if you were a beanpole in your youth, it’s more than likely that your child will be, too.
You should be concerned, however, when a youngster doesn’t seem to be growing properly. If your child has lost weight or has shot up in height without gaining pounds, discuss it with her pediatrician.
Is there anything I can do to encourage my child to eat more?
Parents can’t — and shouldn’t — force their kids to eat. Your responsibility is to offer a variety of nutritious foods, and to make mealtimes enjoyable. It may not seem like your child is eating much, but over the course of a day or a week, it’s probably more than you think.
Keep in mind that children have small stomachs, and some can only manage a few bites at a time. Because of this, kids need to eat more often than adults do. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for a child to chow down six times a day. Use snack time as an opportunity to slip in some healthy foods, not just empty calories. Offer fruit (dried and fresh), cheese, whole-wheat crackers, yogurt, peanut butter, whole-grain breads and muffins, smoothies, carrot sticks, and other nutritious but tempting treats. It’s also a good idea to leave snacks in rooms other than the kitchen — put some celery sticks or fruit on a coffee table in the living room, for example.
If your child is a finicky eater, try to make foods as appetizing as possible. For young children, you can cut sandwich bread into fun shapes with a cookie cutter, or dab spreads such as jam, peanut butter, mustard, and ketchup in the shape of faces.
To encourage your child’s interest in healthy eating, find ways to involve her in shopping for, growing, or preparing food. Try creating a vegetable garden together, or planting herbs in a pot or on the windowsill. Even kids who hate green beans can be enticed to sample ones they’ve grown themselves. Take your child to the grocery store and have her pick out (healthy) foods she likes. Ask her to dream up dinner ideas (within reason — chocolate cake doesn’t count as a main dish) and help you cook meals. There’s nothing like spending time in the kitchen amid tantalizing aromas to get your child excited about eating.
Most important, don’t get into battles over food. Remember that you’re trying to develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Keep your pantry stocked with whatever healthful foods your child does like, and offer new foods from time to time. Never force her to eat anything: That’s sure to backfire.
Should I try to get my child to eat more fat?
No. You may want to sneak in a few extra nutritious calories, but you don’t want your child bulking up on fatty foods. For extra protein and calcium, add a spoonful or two of powdered milk to macaroni and cheese, shakes, smoothies, mashed potatoes, pudding, and other foods made with milk.
(A caution for parents with infants: Fat is a critical nutrient for brain development in the first two years of life, so infants should never be placed on a fat-restricted diet and 1-year-old children should get 30 to 40 percent of their calories from fat. Breast milk is very high in fat, as is infant formula. It’s important never to substitute low-fat or skim milk in the first two years of life.)
Should I be worried about anorexia?
It’s unlikely but possible. Some children, particularly pre-adolescent and teenage girls, purposely eat very little in an attempt to be thin. This quest for a fashion-model-slim body can turn into an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is a preoccupation with thinness and dieting that leads to extreme weight loss. Some teenage girls also fall prey to bulimia, the binge-and-purge syndrome. Although girls as young as 8 are developing eating disorders, these illnesses generally don’t appear until adolescence.
What are some of the warning signs of an eating disorder?
If your child is suffering from anorexia, you may notice she exercises compulsively, has lost an excessive amount of weight (that is, weighing less than 85 percent of what is normal for her height and age), displays an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, has a distorted sense of what she looks like, refuses to maintain a normal weight, has developed peculiar food rituals, uses laxatives, diuretics, or enemas, and has stopped menstruating (if she’s a teenager). Other symptoms include fainting spells, hair loss, constipation, cold hands and feet, depression and anxiety, the growth of fine body hair on arms and legs, heart tremors, brittle skin, and shortness of breath.
If your child is bulimic, on the other hand, she may often binge on an enormous meal and then force herself to throw up; she may, however, be at a normal weight. If an unusual amount of food regularly goes missing in your house, your child regularly visits the bathroom after meals, and the bathroom often smells like vomit, it’s possible that she may be suffering from bulimia. Other symptoms of bulimia include fatigue, depression and anxiety, unexplained tooth decay, a sore throat, self-disparagement after eating, puffy cheeks and broken veins under the eyes, and a preoccupation with food and weight. If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, consult a physician immediately.
Roberta Larson Duyuff, MS, RD, CFCS, The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing, 1996, 1998, 2006.
American Medical Association, Good Food That’s Good For You: Good Nutrition at Every Age