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Are you really a hard gainer or are you just not eating enough?

Most people are concerned with losing weight and fat. But what if this isn’t your case?

What if you’re in the opposite category- looking to put on a few pounds and build some muscle?

And what if it feels impossible to do so?

You know how it goes- you have to consume more calories than your body is able to burn. And you may think you are already doing it.

After all, you eat quite a lot, you never feel hungry and maybe you’ve also reached the point where you couldn’t overstuff yourself.

Sounds familiar?

Then the first thing you usually tell yourself if that you may simply be a hard gainer.

Yet this is hardly the problem. It’s not that your metabolism is too fast, nor that you’d be eating too little.

The real issue is that you are not eating enough of what matters. Not all foods are the same not even calories, carbs, or fat.

Being underweight comes with consequences in terms of immunity and bone health.

It also causes anemia (low blood counts) and induces a higher risk of developing sarcopenia (age-related muscle wasting).

So maybe it’s time to talk about healthy ways of putting on weight and building muscle.

This image was used to show how a hard gainer looks.

First obstacle: you don’t distinguish between protein and calories

The first piece of advice a hard gainer, anyone who struggles with gaining mass, is to eat more protein.

Easy peasy, right? Meat has protein, you’re eating plenty of meat, so you get enough protein.

But if you eat high-processed foods and meat, in particular, you may not get the protein intake you should.

Let’s take the following example: a young male, 1.90 m, 60 kgs. He eats a light breakfast, just enough to keep him going until lunchtime.

Then, for lunch, he eats two McChickens with some fries, thinking this is more than enough, maybe a bit beyond his limit.

In the evening, he only eats one chicken breast with some rice. But this is not enough to put on mass, is it?

This image was used to show the readers what a hard gainer eats wrong.

A McChicken has only 10 grams of protein and around 270 calories. In comparison, 100 g of chicken breast contains 31g of protein for about 165 calories.

Similarly, 100g of beef steak offer you about 25 g of protein for approximately 270 calories and 100g of pork bear roughly 27g of protein for about 240 calories.

This is why you should choose this kind of meat over fast food at any given time.

Another advantage is that you cook it however you like, making the most out of its nutritional value. 

Going back to our discussion, we should note that the common recommendation for gaining muscle: 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass.

In our case, the young man should be eating at least 120 g of protein per day if he wants to put on some weight and muscle.

At the current pace, he only gets about 70 g, which is way below the limit.

Thinking he might eating enough he is not seeing that the meals are not serving his purpose at all.

Second issue: it feels like it’s enough, yet you’re still a couple of hundred calories short

You need to eat more calories than your body burns to gain weight.

Generally speaking, the normal daily intake for healthy women is around 2000 calories and around 2500 calories for men.

Committing to a slow, long-term weight gain, 300–500 calories per day above your maintenance level, should be your aim.

If you want to see faster results, take it up a notch and go for 700–1,000 extra calories.

You should go for calorie-dense foods, like fatty meat, carbs, starchy vegetables, nuts, and oils.

People cut off carbs and fat when they want to lose weight.

If gaining weight is your priority, then you might consider bringing them back into your diet.

The right type of foods

If you’re not a fan of gravy or deep-fried foods (which is good, actually, because not only are they unhealthy but they also mess with your digestive system).

But nuts, such as quinoa seeds, avocado, fish, and dairy might be some good examples of healthy fats for you.

As of carbs, the healthiest ones come from whole grains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or quinoa, bananas, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and blueberries.

This image was used to show which are the healthy foods.

This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to eat junk food anymore, just less often. 

The key is to well balance them and to organize your meals in order to overcome palate fatigue.

Yes, that’s a thing! It happens when you eat so much of the same things that your taste buds get tired of it, leaving you nauseous at the simple thought of what you are about to consume.

You can try mixing it up a bit and cooking your food differently or you can choose a day when you eat what you like least and then treat yourself with what’s tastiest the next day.

Accustomed to small portions of food? Sadly we inform you that you should increase those portions.

A good idea may be to make your meals as visually and olfactorily appealing as possible, so you’ll be able to enjoy them.

You may not take supplements and if you do- you may not be taking the right ones

The three main meals of the day are sacred but what happens in-between?

You need to have a few snacks. Sweets and pastry are great and you should enjoy them every once in a while.

The secret weapon here is the right dietary supplements.

Like Creatine, for example- it positively impacts your muscle cells and physical performance, thus allowing you to build up the muscle mass faster.

While this is an extraordinary supplement, you should drink lots of water if you start taking it.

So that the increased levels of creatinine don’t get to take a toll on your kidneys.

This image was used to show the readers how to use supplements for hard gainers
Photo credit: Ivascu Mihaela

Protein shakes and those so-called “weight gainers” are also welcome. If you are not a big fan of the shakes you should take a look at our recipe for a baked protein tart.

The latter are special blends that are loaded with carbs and protein, helping you to put on weight and build muscle, while also stimulating post-exercise recovery.

Liquid calories are faster and better absorbed by the organism, thus leading to more effective results.

BCAA, aka Branched Chain Amino Acids, should also be considered, as they can help the muscle tissue to grow, reduce soreness, and improve the recovery time.

Last but not least- you may not be training appropriately

You may be training for size when you should be starting off by improving the strength.

If you’re skinny, you can’t expect to have the same routine as a bodybuilder and expect it to work for you.

The body must get accustomed to the weight and the pressure gradually.

This means bigger weights and fewer reps per set. Then, once you get towards the muscle building phase, you will be able to increase the training volume.

This image was used to show how to train properly if you are a hard gainer.
Photo credit: Gal Yates

Ultimately, don’t forget to not overdo it with cardio- this type of exercise promotes weight loss rather than mass gain.

You should keep in mind that the appropriate training program will also impact your appetite: by training harder, you’ll be able to eat more too.

A good exercise routine, coupled with a well-balanced sleeping schedule, proper supplements, and meal plans that are adapted to your body type is the key to effective mass gains.

They’re all connected: take one out of the equation and it will ruin the whole equilibrium.

Bottom line

You may not be a hard gainer, after all.

Check to see if you’re doing one of the mistakes highlighted in the article and start making changes for the better as of today.

Count your calories and increase the intake if necessary, cut out junk food and replace it with nutritious meals, and don’t forget to look for the right supplements.

Stay mindful and focused on your goals and let the transformation begin!

Posted by Adam Hunt

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