Gaining muscle mass with a fast metabolism is not impossible, as many so-called "hard-gainers" believe. Hard-gainer types have a high metabolism and are skinny with a smaller bone structure and less natural muscular build than other body types. These are the same people who can get away with eating cookies for lunch while you angrily munch on a salad.
Muscle Gain for Hard Gainers
There's a simple equation for gaining muscle mass, and it applies to hard-gainers as well: create a growth stimulus and supply the body with adequate nutrition to repair damaged muscle and rebuild it stronger. The tricky part about gaining muscle mass with a fast metabolism is the "adequate nutrition" part.
Eat More Calories
Hard-gainers burn calories at an incredible rate, putting them in an energy deficit. It's hard to gain muscle in an energy deficit, and you often loose some, as demonstrated in this 2014 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. The simple answer is that you must eat as hard as you train to gain muscle with a fast metabolism.
Figuring Out Your Metabolism
It's hard to figure out how many calories you're burning and how many you need to eat. You can try increasing your daily caloric intake by 500 calories or more over your maintenance calories to prevent your body from going into an energy deficit.
For a more exact approach, consult with a registered dietitian or use the energy expenditure calculator from MyPlate to find your personal maintenance caloric intake, then add 500 or more to that total.
How to Eat More
When you start eating more, you'll feel very full. Try spreading the extra food out over 5 to 8 small meals throughout the day. Your can also use weight gain drinks to supplement your diet since liquids are easier to digest than solids.
As you increase your calorie intake, monitor your weight at the same. Use a scale at the same time every day to get the most accurate reading, as your weight fluctuates throughout the day.
You Need Carbs to Gain
Eat Healthy Carbs
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates have a low glycemic index, which means that they don't raise your blood sugar too much. They tend to be low in fiber and take longer to digest, which is why they slowly release blood sugar into your system.
The problem with these high-fiber carbohydrates, like whole wheat bread, it that they're hard to digest in large amounts. You can try fruit juices if you're having a hard time digesting solid carbohydrates. One serving of Welch's grape juice, for example, provides 42 grams of carbohydrates. Weight gain drinks also tend to be high in carbohydrates.
Add Healthy Fats
Fats contain a whopping nine calories per gram, making them a valuable tool for someone looking to gain weight. Try to stick to the healthiest forms of fat: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
The Best Types of Fat
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are typically not stored as body fat and can be used by the body for energy. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, egg yolks, avocados and nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are your omega-3, 6 and 9 fats, which are essential for overall health and wellness.
Add a serving or two of these healthy fats to each of your meals. For example, two tablespoons of flax seed oil in a protein shake adds about 250 calories.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine shows that you should use a repetition range between 8 and 12 reps on every set to specifically target hypertrophy or muscle growth. You should also choose compound exercises that tax the maximum number of muscles in one movement.
High Metabolism Exercises
Focus on the compound mass movements for each muscle group because they create a surge of testosterone and growth hormone, which can stimulate muscle growth according to a 2016 article published in Sports Medicine.
Barbell squats and deadlifts are best for the lower body. The bench press and chin-ups are best for the upper body. Try to avoid doing the same compound movements on consecutive days. To avoid this, start your Monday and Friday workouts with squats, and Wednesday workouts with deadlifts.
Fuel Up After Your Workout
When you workout, extra blood is sent to your muscles to deliver important fuel. After your workout, you can take advantage of this extra blood flow by providing the appropriate resources for your muscles to recover.
This is the best time to use weight gain drinks, since your muscles are primed for recovery. According to a 2017 research review on post-workout nutrition published in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition, you should aim to have 20 to 40 grams of protein after your workout to minimize muscle damage and boost the release of muscle building hormones.
Carbohydrates are also essential after your workout because you need to replenish the fuel you burned while lifting weights. In the same journal article from the International Society for Sports Nutrition, the researchers found that you should have a one to two cups of a drink that contains six to eight percent carbohydrates, like Gatorade.
- Iron Man Magazine: Maximizing Anabolic Hormones During Training
- Journal of Sports Science & Medicine: Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men
- Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism: Effects of short-term energy deficit on muscle protein breakdown and intramuscular proteolysis in normal-weight young adults
- FDA: Total Carbohydrate
- Sports Medicine: Intramuscular Anabolic Signaling and Endocrine Response Following Resistance Exercise: Implications for Muscle Hypertrophy