Heads up, hardgainers! You've been told plenty of times that you have a bigger need for calories than the average lifter. You're probably tired of hearing it. But guess what? It's true, and if you want to grow, nutrition needs to be every bit as important to you as training.
For a typical hardgainer, it will take significantly more food than normal to make the scale move. Faster calorie turnover and higher carbohydrate tolerance are just a couple of reasons why hardgainers burn energy quickly. If you think the solution is fast food, you're barking up the wrong tree.
Fortunately, I've helped millions of people achieve life-changing transformations, and I've seen what it takes to build muscle for every body type. Below are six of my favorite muscle-building recipes with additional ingredients to make them effective for hardgainers. Each recipe is abundant in muscle-building calories, but far from "junk food."
Remember: Quality is just as important as quantity. Now go get both!
1. Vanilla Blueberry Protein Pancakes
Protein pancakes should be a staple recipe in any hardgainers diet. Not only are they delicious, it's also easy to pack high-quality calories into these pancakes that are easy to digest!
Note: These pancakes are best served with a coating of natural crunchy almond butter to add taste as well as additional muscle-building calories from healthy fats.
2. High-Calorie Super Smoothie
High calorie smoothies are an incredibly easy way to quickly ingest large quantities of nutrients. This is a fast, convenient recipe to use whenever time is limited and convenience is key.
3. Creamy Protein Granola
Granola is a calorific breakfast cereal which often contains seeds and nuts for added fats. This recipe is a great way to start the day for any hardgainer in need of fast calories!
Note: Serve with an optional drizzling of Manuka honey over the top and some extra flaxseeds to add additional healthy fats and natural carbs.
4. Chocolate Nut Oatmeal Protein Bars
Protein bars are a highly convenient source of nutrition during the day, especially while on the go. Homemade ones are my preference because this allows for better control of nutrient quality.
As I explained in my article "How to Supplement for Endurance Sports," bars and protein balls were crucial for me being able to hold onto my muscle mass while training for a triathlon. If you're looking to add mass, they can be just as effective. These are also perfect to carry to work and in the car on journeys.
5. Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies
This recipe is a perfect treat following a savory evening meal, giving extra muscle-building nutrients before bed. As they cook, a sweet aroma fills the kitchen, letting your nose know the taste buds are in for a great treat! Like the homemade protein bars, these are a great on-the-go option.
6. Rice Cake Treats
Rice cake treats are for those days where time is really of the essence! This doesn't even take 2 minutes to prepare and packs a lot of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. This is a very uncomplicated recipe that is perfect for any hardgainer—especially the one who knows nothing about cooking!
How Do These Recipes Help Hard Gainers?
All of these recipes are calorie dense, abundant in complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and of course, protein. However, they are particularly rich in carbohydrates. Hardgainers are ectomorphic, which means their insulin sensitivity will be higher than in most other populations. This allows for the quick disposal of glucose, converting it into muscle glycogen ready to be used as fuel.
The insulin response experienced from the high carbohydrate content of these snacks helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue. As insulin is secreted, more amino acids and protein-sparing glycogen get shuttled into the muscle.
In layman's terms, getting adequate carbs with your protein through these snacks will help keep you from breaking down muscle tissue during hard training, and instead send your body the message to add mass!
What Is So Special About the Ingredients?
As I said earlier, quality is just as important as quantity when gaining mass is the goal. In order for muscle to grow the body must be as healthy as possible which is where some of these ingredients make a significant contribution.
Manuka Honey: Manuka honey is a superfood from New Zealand that is abundant in nutrition. It is thought to help improve digestion, but as with other raw honeys, can also spur melatonin release in the body. Melatonin is a crucial component of improved rest during the night—and hardgainers need to sleep well in order to build muscle!
Flaxseed: Flaxseed is one of the best sources of EPA and DHA Omega 3 fats which provide the much-needed cholesterol for maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Omega 3 fats are also particularly good for sustaining insulin sensitivity, which is going to be relevant for hardgainers who are eating considerably more carbohydrates than the average person. There's a lot of good dietary fiber in flaxseed as well, another crucial part of a high-calorie diet to support adequate digestion.
Walnuts: Walnuts contain a lot of ALA Omega-3 fats, another great source of nutrition for testosterone production. They are rich in manganese which contributes to bone strength, something any hardgainer who's rapidly gaining strength needs to consider. Walnuts are also calorie-dense which enables hardgainers to achieve an energy surplus more easily.
Kasein Protein: During times of the day where you could go several hours without food, this micellar casein isolate is the perfect protein source. It is gently processed at low temperatures through an innovative microfiltration process to retain the integrity of all protein content. This is the perfect anti-catabolic protein source for hardgainers who are susceptible to muscle tissue breakdown.
Re-Kaged Protein: Re-Kaged is a fast-digesting protein source ideal for taking before or after a workout. It contains ProHydrolase to further support quick digestion. Re-Kaged is also stacked with creatine HCl, fermented glutamine, and other ingredients, which support muscle recovery and growth. These are all perfect additions to any hardgainers diet to help maximize growth.
Almond Milk: In some of these recipes, natural almond milk has been recommended over water purely because of the added creamy taste this provides to the recipes. As a hardgainer who's consuming an awful lot of calories, it's important all food remains palatable. Many hardgainers struggle to consume enough to grow.
How Often Should You Use These Recipes?
Hardgainers should be consuming a meal every three hours to maximize muscle protein synthesis and harness the anabolic effects of insulin. These are clear benefits associated with high frequency meal plans. Don't try to fit all your nutrition into just three meals a day!
Each recipe given can act as a meal alternative, plugging into the diet when convenience is required. Using one recipe per day is fine, or even two. However, there should not be an over-reliance on supplement-based recipes, because solid whole food is abundant in crucial micronutrients and digestive enzymes. The majority of any diet, especially for hardgainers, should be made up from food.
Most importantly, building muscle for a hardgainer requires relentless consistency and a commitment to never missing meals, ever! These recipes, which are extremely rich in muscle-building nutrients, provide a convenient alternative when time is short. Use them appropriately to kill inconvenience, but don't become reliant upon them.