Nutrition For Hard-Gainers!

It's rough being a hardgainer, isn't it? You train hard, you eat like crazy, and you drop money on supplements, only to get on the scale and be disappointed. If this sounds like your situation, I've been there.

It's rough being a hardgainer, isn't it? You train hard, you eat like crazy, and you drop money on supplements, only to get on the scale and be disappointed. If this sounds like your situation, I've been there. Lots of us out there are hardgainers, but for those of us with the really fast metabolisms, the skinny guys that think they'll never gain weight, the key is to beat your metabolism into submission. That's what I want to give you some tips on doing.

In my case, I've actually had doctors tell me I have an incredible metabolism. I burn energy like a hummingbird, and I eat like a bear. I've put on about 35 pounds since I first got into bodybuilding four years ago, and I worked like a dog for every one of those pounds. The gains only came when I realized the body is a fuel-burning machine, and three big meals were not going to do it. Only by overwhelming my metabolism with a constant flow of good food was I going to gain mass.

The first thing you've got to do is EAT. Eat like a bear, like you're about to go into hibernation for four months and won't be able to eat for that whole time. In bodybuilding we like to talk about eating "clean," watching the fat content and sugar content. That's important, but the key for the hardgainer is it's not that important. Instead of thinking, "I'm going to cut back on the junk food, cokes, and desserts because it's not eating clean" think "I'm going to cut back on the junk food, cokes, and desserts because it's taking up valuable space in my stomach where I could put things that will help me grow." In other words, eat clean, but more importantly just eat!

So what should you be eating? Think of everything you put in your body during the day, and think of it in terms of carbs, protein, and fats. Keep a journal of everything you eat in a day if you can. It will really help you out in evaluating your diet. You should be eating six meals a day or so, getting roughly 4000 calories (or just as many as you can), and at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (though I go for 1.5). When you sit down to eat a meal, look at it. What in it is giving you carbs? What is giving you protein? There should be at least one of each.

Don't obsess over the ratios, but remember that you need to eat to grow. Ask yourself, am I getting enough calories from this? You should be eating things like chicken, fish, rice, whole wheat breads, pasta, fruits, vegetables, etc, but remember, some food is better than none. If all you can get is a Big Mac, eat the Big Mac. Don't eat the French fries; they aren't really doing much for you. But a couple of those chicken sandwiches will give you carbs, protein, and most importantly, calories. Most of us can't fit six meals a day in, so drink a weight gainer for one or two of those meals.

That gets expensive, so what I do is whenever I feel even the slightest bit of hunger, I eat peanut butter. Just pull out a jar, and down a few spoonfuls. Put it on bread if you have to, but then you're talking prep time and I love the convenience of just pulling the jar out and stopping the hunger before it gets away from me. Peanut butter is tailor-made for us hardgainers, and I seriously credit it with helping me gain. It's calorie dense (but without too much saturated fat), and it's got carbs and protein. Throw a jar in your bag or desk for during the day, it will make a difference. Another good tip is nature's perfect drink, by which of course I mean milk. Whenever you're thirsty, drink milk. It's full of good carbs and protein, and if you're drinking two percent or even whole milk, it's got enough calories to really help you out.

The key here is that your blazing metabolism can handle this onslaught of food, so you have to overwhelm it. I don't mean gorge till you puke, but just good-sized meals spread throughout the day. You don't even need meals, but like the peanut butter idea, you just need to keep that engine of yours constantly supplied with food. Another key is the last thing you eat before bed. I recommend taking a weight gainer shake. Or you can just mix some flax seed or canola oil in with some whey and milk. (Flax seed oil contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which help muscle growth and overall health. It's one of the best sources of fat; fat you need for those calories!) But remember you're going to go roughly eight hours without eating and burn probably 600 calories, so you need to fuel up before sleeping. And when the morning comes, even though it may be hard to eat in the morning, you've got to refuel again, with a vengeance. Approach every meal like it's your last.

Aaron Madron eats big for big gains. (c)Ron Avidan

I've mentioned weight gainers, and I think they're really a key. They can help you get a big shot of calories quickly, with a good mix of carbs, fats, and proteins. A lot of people, supplement companies mainly, will push these "lean gainer" meal replacements on you. Now these MRPs are OK for some people, but not for us hardgainers. They don't contain enough calories, fats, or carbs to give people with fast metabolisms the energy they need to gain. Plus they're expensive! Weight gainers are usually a little less money, and have more calories, more good fats, more essential carbs, and more protein. You can't go wrong with a quality gainer. But remember, supplements don't replace eating, and I really want to focus on eating. Plan on getting most of you calories from real food.

Overall, just remember you need a good mix of carbs and protein every time you eat if you're a hardgainer. Never let yourself be hungry. Carry protein bars or peanut butter with you. And remember, when you're in a situation where you have to eat fast food or something, go for the chicken burger if you can. Go for grilled not fried if you can. But if you can't, remember that you're a hardgainer and just eat what you can get! Avoid the desserts and processed snacks and fulfill that hunger instead with a can of tuna, or a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. Avoid excess junk food and fat, but remember that eating is more important.

I'm not going to give you a sample diet because I know you know what you need to eat, and most of us can't follow those anyway. Instead, I'm going to make you a guarantee. If you train right (3-4 times a week), drink plenty of water (a gallon a day minimum), and EAT like a bear, you will see those mass gains you've been wanting. Good luck and email me with any questions!