The following phrases are as common placed as dodgy form in almost every gym you enter, “I’m a hard gainer”, “I can’t put on any weight”, “You WON’T BELIEVE the amount of food I eat and still can’t put on any weight”. First off “WEIGHT” is not what you should be looking to gain in the gym. You’re there to build muscle. So here goes, I need to get this off my chest, WEIGHING SCALES DO NOT WEIGH JUST MUSCLE. Believe me I’ve put on the infamous weight in the past and yes I looked big in a t-shirt, but when it came off, well lets just say I looked smoother than the gluteus maximus of a baboon. Just because you weigh the same as Arnie, most certainly doesn’t mean you look like him. Do you really think people give a damn what weight you are if you look like something out of a superhero comic book, with more lumps and bumps of muscle on you that you look like an over inflated tyre.
Anyways lets get back to our “hard gainer”. Now I’ll be honest, I am guilty of using this phrase myself in the past. I know what ye are thinking, how could a mass monster like me be a hard gainer!!!! Little bit of sarcasm there, just to point out the obvious. So I get the question time and time again, “What can I eat to help me put on weight? GRRRRRR there is that “weight “word again. Relax, deep breaths Jason, just let it go, be the bigger beard. “What are you eating at the moment” I ask with a look of interest on my face, even though I know the answer already, as for years I nibbled on the same pigeon menu.
Drum roll please!!! First up is a protein shake upon waking. Nothing wrong there. Damn it, I think I may be wrong here, this guy has it well tuned in. But wait, here comes the breakfast, old faithful himself. Bowl of porridge and 3 whole eggs.
Next on the menu is the one, the only, please put your hands together for the ultimate in muscle building, the anabolic of the food world, the king of king. CHICKEN AND RICE, just plain old chicken and ½ a bag of rice (because that’s a lot of carbs right?) with no sauce or flavour because we don’t want to get fat now do we. There’s that sarcasm popping up again. The good old tuna sandwich is next on the list. On brown bread of course, got to make them gains. Gym session done and the race for the locker room are on, Usain Bolt wouldn’t get a look in, got to get that shake in or the famous anabolic window will be shut tightly and all your “hard work” in the gym is wasted. I will leave how hard most of these people actually train for another time, or we could be here all day. So its back home for more of that anabolic chicken and rice, and then a casein shake and spoon of peanut butter before its time to lay your head down and dream about all the “weight” you have put on today. So we wake up the following morning, hop on the scales full of excitement and hope, only for it all to turn to the sadness you feel when you knock over your tube of protein. No change. AGAIN!!
Does all this sound pretty familiar, I’d say it isn’t too far off for the majority? I know it was for me. “I told you” they say, I eat loads and I eat super clean”. Lets start to do a little math here, just to roughly see how much food is in it. Now don’t quote me on these numbers they are just off the top of my red head.
First off, protein comes in around 170g, not bad , as our typical hard gainer probably weighs around 125 to 150, and I would recommend 1-1.5g of protein per pound of body mass. I may have just wasted a whole article here. Hold on, the numbers are in for the carbs and fats, 160g carbs, 40g fat. And what does all this MASS amount of food come in at, 1680 calories (put away your calculators keyboard warriors, it’s a rough estimate). Yep, that’s even below the RDA for a woman. SHOCK, HORROR.
Protein intake would seem adequate for the your typical hard gainer but having a fast metabolism means your body will burn up calories at a very fast rate for energy and being that the carbohydrates are low for someone who has trouble putting on size, your body is actually going to start breaking down muscle protein through gluconeogenesis for energy. Therefore all your precious protein that you think is going to your muscle is in fact been converted for energy. Not what you want. So if we increase our carbs, we can let them do what they do best and give us energy, and let the protein get down and busy doing what it is supposed to. Build some muscle baby. My favourite one comes next, it always makes me laugh, when I hear the hard gainers say they don’t want to eat fat because it will make them fat. I laugh because I used to have the very same mentality due to the bad reputation and miss education that has been pushed on us by the media over the years. FATS DON’T MAKE YOU FAT, SITTING ON YOUR POSTERIOR DOES. Fats are extremely important for hormones, such as that 1 that ye all love to hear about, TESTOSTERONE. Calorie wise 1g of fat = 9 kcal, which is more than double what you get from protein and carbs, 4kcal per 1g.
I am all too familiar with all the above and it wasn’t until I started to weigh my food and track it that I realised how little I was eating. Now I am no mass monster and never will be, I am a hard gainer through and through and at the end of the day genetics will place a massive part in bodybuilding and how much muscle mass you can achieve and my genetics for bodybuilding are about as good as a 20 stone 6ft 6” rugby players are to be a race jockey, but I did make improvements once I realised that I was eating like a pigeon with a sick tummy. If you are serious about making them gainzzzzz that all the kids talk about, I highly recommend getting food scales and tracking your food with apps like My Fitness Pal. Look at more calorie dense foods to help you get your calories on the up for example, one whole bag of rice, which looks like a lot of food, you are only getting around 88g of carbs. You can get more than that from 2 bagels. Also pasta is a great form of carbs, potatoes also, and me being an Irish man you got to have those spuds. When it comes to porridge oats, why not throw them in a blender with some PPS Nutrition whey, milk, a banana and some peanut butter. Whey easier (see what I did there) to drink back a large amount of oats than eat them. PPS Nutrition also do great mass gainer stacks, such as Ano-mass that will hugely help you get in the extra calories if you find eating large amounts tough. Try making up 90% of your food intake with healthy micro rich food, and for the sake of the hard gainer gods don’t be afraid to eat the odd bit of “dirty” food. But lets not get carried away guys, there is a fine line between enough and too much. You need to eat as little as possible to get as big as possible!! Now I have really thrown some cortisol in the situation but think about what I have said. Something that is massively over looked is our digestive system and how we take care of it, we don’t want to over work our system and then there is insulin sensitivity, but we won’t get into all of that at this moment and time. I recommend 0.5 to 1 pound weight gain per week. Building muscle takes time after you have made the newbie gains. Note I said muscle, not weight.
So to finish up, you aren’t eating enough. Tough to hear I know. Believe me I didn’t want to hear it myself and tried to convince myself that I was but I know different now. And even tougher to hear is it doesn’t end just with the food. There is a serious lack of effort in what some people put into how they train, but will tell you they are a beast in the gym and then do nothing but complain about the lack of results they are seeing, but I will give that some red beard ranting next time around.
For now, lets finish on a positive my fellow hard gainers and that is to get stuck into that fridge and start raiding them cupboards guys. Food glorious food.
Created by Jason Morris PPS Ambassador