Tips for hardgainers

Tips for hardgainers

17-03-2015
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Hardgainer? Is that a hard gainer? Well, kind of. At least they are trying hard to gain some muscle, with hardly any success, most of the time. Many consider themselves hardgainers: Guys who have one junk meal a day, others who (think they) binge like crazy or others with really fast metabolism. They have one thing in common: They are all skinny and they just wouldn’t grow, no matter how hard they try. Being a hardgainer is not easy; still many choose to label themselves as hardgainers rather than admitting to themselves that they have been doing it all wrong. And they are not even keen on finding the right solution regarding diet or training. Whether you are really a hardgainer or you just think you are, this article may be helpful for you to pack on some muscle mass!

Are you a hardgainer?

Before answering this question to yourself, please consider some aspects. What do you eat, when do you eat and how much do you eat a day? If your daily diet is based on a few sandwiches, pastries and milk, it’s no wonder that you are full all the time and feel like you eat a lot. But this doesn’t mean you really eat a lot.Your blood sugar will race up and down like a roller coaster; sometimes you will be hungry, while there will be moments when you feel like a python who just swallowed a deer, and its horns are sticking its belly from the inside. The feeling that you eat a lot may be misleading. Your body may need more or different food to start growing (and I don’t mean growing a pretty little muffin top clinging above your belt so you become “skinnyfat” from just “skinny”.) And food quality may matter more than quantity. So, if this is the case, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a hardgainer. It only means that you are following a wrong diet (and probably a wrong training regime, too). For “fake-hardgainers”, the solution may be simple: Some minor changes in the diet (which consists of one sandwich a day with a “huge” slice of meat, am I right?) will work. So, maybe all you need to do is follow a proper diet consistently; be conscious about the amounts of nutrients as well as your training regime; make sure you get enough rest for recovery, and that’s all, roughly.

 Are you a hardgainer?

But what if you are already on a bodybuilding diet and you are still not gaining? Well, that’s another question. If you have a shredded physique and fast metabolism by default, and you only make little progress despite eating a lot, you can say you are a hardgainer. This sucks, but there are a lot of advantages, too.

Possible mistakes

Whether you are a real hardgainer or you just think you are, there are some common mistakes both groups share, both in diet and training. Let’s see them one by one:

  • Lack of food: This is the most common problem. I know you think you eat a lot, but you don’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be skinny. If a poor diet is your only problem, you better track your daily calorie intake on a piece of paper or in a document, a fitness app, whatever. It may sound a bit gay, but it works. Calculate the amount of nutrients you consume daily. You’ll see that you’re not eating as much as you think you are.
  • Wrong food choices: A fried-meat sandwich is NOT a proper meal. The meat might look big, but actually it’s about 3 mm thick (thin) under the crispy coating. This won’t fuel your muscles for growth. Drinking a quart of milk a day is not a good idea either. Milk SUCKS as a source of protein. And if you are “lucky”, it might as well overload your digestive tract. And that will make you feel like you are full indeed. Wake up! You cannot build a castle out of crap. Or you might, if you have a lot of crap. But it will not be very well-founded.
  • Too much activity: 5-6 workouts a week and crap like that. Many start training brainlessly when they don’t experience any results. But for hardgainers, actually purposeful under-training may be the answer. Even if there is nothing extreme about your training regime, it may still be too much if you do not eat enough or your metabolism burns all the calories you consume. No matter how hard you train; without fuel, you will stay skinny.
  • Training wrong: Training too frequently or wrong exercise choices like too much isolation exercises, while missing difficult compound exercises. After all, how could you do squats, presses or deadlifts with heavy weights without any muscle mass or energy? No way. You should quit exercising that little lump of muscle on your upper arm all the time. Review your training program and rearrange it, if necessary: It should be based on good old basic exercises. They will make you stronger and will provide you more additional load, too.

Tips for hardgainers!

  • Our favorite: Avoiding fat gains. They suffer from being so skinny, still they insist on gaining “lean muscle” ONLY. If you have a hard time gaining, you have to binge. Literally. Therefore, gaining some fat (more or less, depending on your individual characteristics) is unavoidable. If you have an ectomorph body type, you don’t really have to worry about it. Still there are many aesthetic-morons, desperate to get an “aesthetic” physique, which is incompatible with any fat gains in their little minds. Forget about it.
  • No consistency: Always take your daily caloric needs into account. Occasional binges may be effective in the short term, but this is ONLY a short-term effect. Once you manage to set your calorie intake, you should insist on it consistently, every day.
  • Limiting beliefs: You believe you have bad genetics, a fast metabolism and that you’ll always be skinny because everyone else is in your family. We have good news: There are plenty of things you can do about that. But finding excuses and going the easy way is always easier than fighting for your goals.
  • No faith: You’ve given up all hope because everything you tried failed. You believe you’ll be skinny for the rest of your life. Forget all your past failures (if any). They shall not blur your vision of your future goals.
  • Relying too much on supplements: Limit the use of weight gainers to what is absolute necessary. Would you gorge on sugar-loaded weight gainers for breakfast, before and after workout, even before going to bed? It is not a secret: No weight gainer will “bring you muscles” if your diet is crap. Weight gainers will bring you nothing themselves, no matter how many buckets you bring home. But even if you do, limit their use for their original purpose, which is quick reload after workout. In cases of emergency, when you are in a great hurry or you have to skip a meal, it’s OK, but ONLY as a last resort. No matter how skinny you are, you can easily grow a pretty little muffin top (as mentioned above), if you want to “save the world” with weight gainers. Another thing you should get out of your mind is amino acids. Every hardgainer is hooked on BCAA or glutamine. But what for? What you need is real nutrients from quality food, not just a few amino acids. 

Solutions for your problem

We highlighted a few potential mistakes above and gave you some hints, too. Still there are a few more small things you should be aware of. Actually, these are not so small things. They can be the key to your progress, so it’s high time to make them clear. First of all, never forget about the importance of eating regularly and consistently, based on a concept. It’s cool that you can eat anything and will not get fat, but now you have to take it one step further. There is a catch about “eating anything”. Even if you can make some progress, you will come to a plateau sooner or later. For example, if you made it to 65 kilos from 60, you will need more calories in order to continue gaining. Heavier bodyweight, higher calorie needs. It is simple.

Solutions for your problem: A regular high-calorie diet

For this reason, it is inevitable that you start calculating the necessary amounts of nutrients. Calculate exactly how much carbs and protein you need. Talking about carbs: Another common mistake among hardgainers is focusing only on protein intake, while the carbohydrate intake is fluctuating. You will need carbs to increase your bodyweight. A whole lot of carbs. From quality sources, of course. Alright, if you have extreme fast metabolism, some junk food is allowed. But basing your diet on buns, bread and pastries is not an option. On the other hand, you can rely on various types of pasta, durum wheat or potatoes. These are generally carb sources which often cannot be fit into the diet of other bodybuilders who are more prone to fat gains. HERE you can find some help to determine the amounts of nutrients you need. You may exceed the recommended amount of carbs, depending on your individual needs. In extreme cases you might even add some junk food; there are some freaks who really do not gain fat from anything. For such mutants, some extra calories can be provided from junk, too. 

Increase the amount of nutrients until your weight starts to grow.

The point is: Increase the amount of nutrients until your weight starts to grow. In the beginning you will probably have a really hard time choking down your food, but believe me: It will be rewarded. Of course you should also make sure you stay hydrated all the time. Plus, drinking a lot can increase your appetite, too. It’s as simple as that. Back then, as a 60-kilo skeleton, I finally managed to kickstart my progress with this trick. I set a goal of consuming 4 liters of water every day and from then on, I was sipping water nonstop, whether I was thirsty or not. After a while, I noticed I was hungry all the time, so it was easier to consume the prescribed amount of food. Another dirty little secret that works.Eating every 2 or 3 hours is essential for progress. You have to stick to it, come hell or high water.

Training and rest

If you are a hardgainer, it’s time for you to let machines rest: Do not focus on simple isolation exercises. The core of your training program should be made up by basic exercises like presses and squats, using the heaviest weights possible. Of course, only to a point that will not compromise strict form or the necessary amount of reps. The more compound exercises you do, the more muscles are involved into the work simultaneously.The volume should not be too high; your workouts should be short but intense, with heavy weights.

Training and rest: Don’t just train, rest, too!

For a certain period of time, running or any other cardio or aerobic workout on rest days should be avoided, too. True: Fitness is important, but you can acquire it through intense weight training, too. As long as your primary goal is gaining mass, cardio or aerobic workout will do you more harm than good. You should learn to slow down a little bit and be “lazy” on purpose. Recovery is a prerequisite of anabolic processes, and rest is inevitable for proper recovery.

Supplements

For some reason, hardgainers insist on taking creatine with amino acids, right away. But what for, if they have no muscles yet? The most basic and most important supplement you will need is a multivitamin. As I mentioned above, you should not rely on weight gainers more than necessary: A weight gainer is nothing but a shake rich in protein and carbs, which will reload your muscles quickly after workout. Nothing more. In general, in the post-workout shake, 1 g of carbs for each kilogram of bodyweight is ideal for anyone. But if you are an extreme hardgainer and your metabolism really burns everything, you might go for stuff with more carbs. But only AFTER workout, and not at other times. 

A basic protein supplement (maybe even with somewhat higher carbohydrate content) can be ideal anytime when you wish to add some extra protein to a meal or replace it completely: A protein shake with oatmeal can be a good solution for such cases. So much for the necessary supplements. Creatine and other wonders should only be considered after you have made some considerable progress by following a proper diet and training regime. Always remember: As the name “supplement” indicates, supplements are for supplementing your diet only. And it’s your diet that is decisive for your weight and muscle gains, not weight gainers, creatine etc. .

Muscles come to those who wait!

Recovery and anabolic processes take a lot of time by nature, especially if your body burns everything up to the last calorie out of a ton of food. But you should not give up. You should not lose your heart when you see no progress despite eating a lot and getting enough rest.It’s like a turn-based strategic game: You take your turn and your body responds. And depending on the response, you adjust your next step so that you can reach your goals. If your body does not respond the way you expected and you do not see the progress that could be expected, you should act again: Increase your calorie intake, especially carbs. Essential fatty acids like flaxseed oil or nuts are also great for providing some extra calories. 

All in all, don’t lose your spirit and be patient. As a hardgainer, you should work much harder than an average person. And most of the work is done outside the gym, by always having a box of food in your hands.  In time, you will find the solution that works the best for you. Just make sure you are not getting lost in the details while experimenting. 

 



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