Hardgainers: 4 Tips to Put On Weight and Build Solid Muscle Mass

You probably know the guy who swears up and down that no matter how hard they try they can’t gain any weight. You may very well be that guy…or gal (the gains know no gender boundaries).

They’ll go on to label themselves a #hardgainer, forever doomed to stay skinny and never gain any muscle despite eating a seemingly endless amount of food. I promise the situation is not that dire.

With bulking season upon us, I want to help those of you out who are looking to add some solid muscle mass to your frame dial in your nutrition and escape the “hardgainer” pitfall.

1. The Hard Truth (You’re Not Eating Enough)

You are not a genetic freak who can’t gain weight, you’re not doomed to be skinny forever, it’s not “impossible” or “hopeless” calmmmmm down. If you are currently unable to gain weight there is only one truth you need to know…you aren’t eating enough.

It really is that simple. If the scale isn’t budging you haven’t yet hit a calorie surplus and need to add more calories to your diet.

But I’m eating a TON each day…”, obviously not enough. My follow up to this is always, “are you actually tracking your calories” to which the response is almost unanimously “no“. To the few that say “yes” their tracking is usually slight off and once corrected they realize…you guessed it…need to eat more.

Track your eating on a daily basis. Keep adding calories until you notice the scale start to trend upwards and don’t stop until that happens. Some people can be genuinely surprised by just how many calories it takes for them to gain weight and it’s not unheard of to have individuals who need upwards of 5,000 calories a day to do so.

Once you actually figure out how many calories you need each day there are some strategies below for how you can actually fit all those in in one day.

2. Small Frequent Meals

Say you need to take down 5000 calories a day to gain weight. How well do you think you’d do accomplishing this task with only 3 square meals for the day?

Maybe you get lucky and you slam down the first ~1,700cal meal. But now you’re stuffed. You remain this way for the next ~4-5 hours and now you’re facing down meal 2. By some grace of god you get through meal 2 and now you’re nauseous. You manage to just barely get things under control in the next few hours and bam…meal 3 is here to kick you while you’re down. Make it through that one? Cool, rinse and repeat that exact experience everyday for weeks on end…sound like fun?

Or…save yourself the trouble and spread your daily calories out into smaller, easier to manage portions.

Eating small frequent meals not only allows you to spread what can sometimes be massive amounts of calories across the entirety of the day. You’re never going to be left feeling like you are gorging yourself, staring down a meal you don’t actually want to eat, or in worst case scenarios getting sick.

If you space things out well enough and stay on top of eating you can set up a nutrition routine where you are actually hungry every time it’s time to get more calories in.

3. Liquid Calories

Drinking your calories is always going to be easier than wholefoods.

That’s not to say you have to switch to all liquid calories and go on the gym rat equivalent of a juice cleanse. Just, if you are struggling to hit your daily calories, try adding in some different shakes.

Mass builders are always a popular choice and provide massive amounts of calories in a shaker cup portion size. You can make your own high calorie smoothies if you don’t quite like the taste or feel of mass builders. And you can always have higher calorie drinks on hand like milks and juices to beef up your calorie count for the day alongside your wholefoods.

4. Carbs, Carbs, Carbs

I’m not here to continue to spread the myth that carbs are inherently going to make you gain weight. They aren’t.

That being said of the macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) these are the easiest to consume in larger quantities. Protein while it’s going to be important for building muscle is actually the most satiating macronutrient. Meaning if you are trying to slam a majority of your calories down in the form of protein you’ll likely find yourself feeling more full than you would utilizing carbs.

Likewise, while fats can also be an easy way to pack in extra calories, most individuals won’t feel so hot eating massive quantities of them.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.