I am frequently asked by Bodybuilding.com surfers how they can gain weight with a fast metabolism. My answer most commonly is: "You must eat the right foods in the right amounts on a frequent basis to gain weight. If you aren't willing to eat 5 solid meals daily and supplement one with a protein drink then you might as well forget it."
Below is my story of how I gained 40 pounds (from 115 to 155 pounds) in my first year to a year and a half - while training at home. I'll be 40 this year in September 2002 and making significant progress since 1999 have been the result of exclusively modifying my nutritional habits.
Although altering my training program contributed to more muscle and less fat this factor is of very little consequence compared to nutritional changes. Refer to my training and nutritional articles on Bodybuilding.Com.
In The Beginning
When I first began training, I was 15 years old and weighed a mere 115 pounds. I trained every day, three times a day in the garage with a barbell and dumbbell set doing basic exercises and with no nutritional guidance. Check out these before and after pictures!
Training at home for six months and not knowing anything about nutrition, I only put on 10 pounds (from 115 to 125 pounds). I was skinny because of my high metabolism and also I didn't eat very healthy.
I liked to eat candy and junk food. If you think you have a high metabolism and have thoughts of taking a drug or supplement to help slow it down, that is the last thing you want to do if your condition is not medically diagnosed as a metabolic disorder.
My Decision to Eat, Eat, Eat
Then I sent away for a mail order program to help me gain weight. I religiously followed this weight gain diet that helped me gain 56 pounds in 8 months (from 125 to 181 pounds)! I ate six frequent meals every day that were evenly spaced every 3 to 4 hours. I ate and ate and ate.
Every day I would get up every morning at 6 am to have my first meal. If it was during the weekends I would get up, eat and then go back to bed and sleep. I ate meat, gorged on desserts, drank lots of milk, ate a lot of breads, and consumed my protein drinks.
At 181 pounds I undertook a different training and diet regimen to maintain muscle and lose fat. Two months later I weighed 155 pounds (a loss of 26 pounds of fat). In my first year of serious training starting at 125 pounds I gained 30 pounds of lean muscle - at home. I finally joined a local health club three months later. Had I joined a gym sooner, I would have gained much more.
My Weight-Gain Diet Experience The Detailed Story
My first diet I tried was a "weight gain diet." I began weight training after purchasing my first set of weights after Christmas of 1977. I weighed a mere 115 pounds. I was working out in the garage and using an old toy box as a bench. I would work out as much as three times a day on a daily basis!
Working out in the garage and not knowing what I was doing, I managed to put on 10 pounds in 6 months. Shortly after this, just days before school recessed for the summer I came across a bodybuilding ad in a magazine in my high school library. It was called Universal Bodybuilding. Ecstatically, I sent away for the program.
Beginning June 1, 1978 I religiously followed the Universal Bodybuilding program and its weight gain diet to the letter. By mid February 1979, I weighed 181 pounds. I had gained over 50 pounds in less than 9 months! Heads turned and people noticed my new physique at school. I felt proud.
But a weight gain of this magnitude and in so little time is dangerous and is not recommended. I knew nothing about nutrition so I just stuffed and stuffed myself daily to the point of feeling nauseous. The worst thing about this diet is that it was extremely high in fat.
My waist went from a slim 27 inches to a ballooning 36 inches in 9 months. From my experience and my effort on this weight gain diet I am convinced that anybody who has the determination and will power to gain weight, he or she can do it. That is, unless s/he has a rare eating disorder or a disease associated with an irregular metabolism.
I began Universal Bodybuilding's fat loss program to lose the fat I had gained while "bulking-up." The first month I lost 18 pounds. The second month I lost 8 more pounds. In two months I lost a total of 26 pounds and weighed 155 pounds. My waist reduced from 36 to 31 inches.
Sometime at this point I purchased my first muscle magazine. I remember opening it up and seeing a breathtaking photo of a bodybuilder doing a double biceps pose - taking up two full pages!
This bodybuilder, I thought, resembled a Greek god sculpt by the fruits of his own labor in the gym. He had incredible mass, shape, power and hardness. He definitely knew who he was, what he was doing and where he was going. He was truly awe-inspiring.
This was my first encounter with The King himself, the Austrian Oak, the so-called icon: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Still training at home, I sent away for Arnold's bodybuilding program. A month and a half later, on June 25, 1979, I felt healthier, looked better and assumed an athletic appearance. Shortly thereafter, I turned back to gaining weight - Arnold's way. It was around this time I joined my first health club in my hometown.
During this first year of training and dieting, not only did I gain and lose weight at my own discretion through various bodybuilding programs but most importantly, I gained self-confidence. I imagined myself a god in control of my own destiny!
Falling Short Of Our Goals
Saying you have a fast metabolism, don't have the proper equipment or can't workout in a suitable training environment you wish to be in to gain weight is an unfortunate closure, preference and a weighty problem involving setbacks in life that must be delt with. We fall short of our goals at one time or another because our mind says so.
Our limitations we set for ourselves, our closures we surround ourselves in, and our physical comparison with others all determine one thing in this Fitness Revolution: Whether or not we measure up. And quite frankly, that's a shame.
When I was in my late teens I believed I had to move to California to train at the famous "Gold's Gym" where the psychological training aspect of positive thinking is contagious to building big muscles fast! Arnold Schwarzenegger changed my attitude about training when he responded to my somewhat boyish question in the early 80s regarding place and training environment.
He said, "If you can't be a first-rate bodybuilder where you are at, then forget it." Arnold's response devastated me. I hated him and I felt stupid for even posing the question.
But as the years rolled on, Arnold's answer made more sense. In my mind my excuse for not even trying to become a first-rate bodybuilder was that my geographical location and training environment was a disadvantage. It was unacceptable to me because it did not match up to the famous Gold's Gym -- the Mecca of Bodybuilding.
My Training Quest
I decided to take Arnold Schwarzenegger's answer to my question and use it to my advantage the best I could. Every gym I visited or was a member of, I challenged my mind to train seriously. This became my quest; I could be a first-rate bodybuilder.
This quest took me from training in my hometown Gresham, Oregon to gyms across the country: in Michigan, Montana, California and with Bill Pearl (Mr. Universe, author of Keys to the Inner Universe, Bodybuilding Hall of Fame) at his ranch and home gym in Phoenix, Oregon.
This same mind-set was carried overseas: Osaka and China, Japan to the West Bank, Palestine and Israel. Finally, this mind-set brought me back home - this time to Spokane, Washington.
Regardless what the gyms looked like, how the environment was and types of equipment - all these things that we look for in a gym - they were used to my advantage and put to good use, no matter how limited, how old fashioned or how different they were. If your exercise equipment is limited, you have to work with what you have. Basic compound exercises build muscle and/or lose fat because they utilize so much energy!
There are many exercises you can do with an Olympic bar, a few plates, and a bench. Arnold Schwarzenegger's gift to the sport secured the rule to a life-long pursuit of fitness and a truth about pursuing a life lived well (financially and ethically): Your mind-set determines success or failure!