If you've got an ectomporphic body type, you're long and lean, and may find it seemingly impossible to gain weight. But a guy who's been skinny most of his life can still pack on the pounds, despite his genes. While you may never be the size of a football linebacker or a heavy-weight boxer -- by strategically increasing your calorie intake and hitting the weight rack -- you can gain muscle to look stronger and sturdier. A skinny guy needs daily focus and planning to gain weight.
Weight Gain Strategies for Hardgainers
Skinny guys who are challenged with building muscle are known as "hardgainers." You have to put forth a concerted effort, including increasing your calorie intake by about 500 calories more than the number of calories you burn daily. For some men, this can mean taking in 3,000 or more calories daily. Figure out your individual needs by using an online calculator or speak with a dietitian about your activity level and your experience with trying to gain weight.
A 500-calorie addition will help you gain about 1 pound per week, which is a healthy amount that ensures you're putting on muscle and not all body fat. Divide the estimate for how many calories you need to eat daily among three meals and three smaller snacks. The snacks may fall between meals and before bed, but always plan to have a protein-rich snack right after a heavy weight workout to help muscles repair and grow.
Exercise Musts for Skinny Guys
Lifting heavy weights and using compound movements that work multiple muscle groups at once are going to maximize your muscle-building potential. Skip isolation exercises, like concentration curls, and do squats, dead lifts, rows, pull-ups, chest presses and overhead should presses instead. A set of four to eight repetitions will suffice but use a weight that makes the last rep or two difficult to finish. When you become stronger, add more sets and heavier weights.
Do a total-body strength workout two to four times a week, leaving 48 hours between muscle groups worked. When you lift heavy weights, you break down muscle fibers. A rest day between workouts give those muscles adequate time to repair so they grow stronger and thicker to increase your size.
Support Gym Efforts With Nutrition
Protein is a priority when you're trying to gain muscle. Aim to eat between 0.6 and 0.9 grams per pound of body weight per day. Lean options are best so you don't overeat saturated fat -- aim for lean ground beef or steak, tofu, chicken or turkey breast, eggs, salmon, tuna and whey protein.
After a strength-training workout, have a high-calorie snack with 20 to 30 grams of protein and quality carbohydrates for the calories and to restore your energy. Good choices include a scoop of whey protein mixed with milk; a banana and peanut butter; a chicken breast sandwich on a thick whole-wheat roll with avocado; or a cup of cottage cheese blended with raisins and walnuts.
Other high-calorie, nutritious foods to eat at meals include starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy. Full-fat milk, cottage cheese and yogurt are good additions to cereal, snacks, soups and casseroles when you need to add pounds. For snacks, carry nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, granola and packets of nut butter. Bananas, hummus and Greek yogurt are other quality snacks.
Habits to Encourage Weight Gain
Junk food and cheap supplements will deliver calories, but they lack quality nutrients. Make most of your meals and snacks from whole, unprocessed foods. By choosing quality calorie-dense foods over a quantity of cheap calories, you'll gain less unwanted fat, improve your recovery time, reduce inflammation and promote energy for workouts and life.
You'll benefit from measuring your servings and keeping a food log to track calories. It's possible you've overestimated portions in the past and that's why weight gain has been difficult A log will keep you honest and will show you when you skip meals or snacks that are essential to weight gain.
Adequate sleep is critical for muscle growth and development, which is the crux of weight gain. Aim for seven to nine hours a night of sleep to promote a healthy bodily environment for muscle growth.
- McKinley Health Center: Gaining Weight the Healthy Way
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Gaining Weight the Right Way
- CNN: How Should I Eat to Build Muscle Mass?
- Experience Life: Protein Power: What You Need to Know
- USDA Dietary Guidelines 2015: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level