By Martin Ebner
Weight gain is a topic that seems to be heavily outweighed by what many view as the bigger issue - weight loss. The truth of the matter is, for skinny guys, putting on weight can be a colossal challenge that is both frustrating and troublesome.
The good news for all you lanky lads is, with careful planning, hard work and consistency, putting on weight is well within your grasp.
The key to any health and fitness goal is 70% diet and weight gain is no exception.
If your typical day of eating currently consists of a frozen box and a microwave, some very drastic changes will need to be made to your diet in order for you to successfully gain weight.
Track your calorie intake
One of the main problems that skinny dudes have is the tendency to overestimate the amount they actually eat. You probably don't eat as much as you preach and without doing the math, you stand little chance of making any serious weight gains.
Whip out the scales and spend a couple of days carefully tracking your calorie consumption. Once you have a clear idea of how much you currently eat, you can set about making the necessary changes required.
Eat 3500+ calories every day
Let's set the bar at 3500 calories minimum per day. If you're young, have a "hyperdrive metabolism" or an especially active lifestyle, you will need to aim significantly higher!
Now, while consuming 3500+ calories per day of junk food is easy. Consuming equal amounts from high quality food sources is not. It takes dedication, consistency, planning and preparation. Depending on how thin you are, you may be required to eat every 2-3 hours, that's 6-10 meals a day! You will have to force yourself to eat even when you're not hungry and cram it down until you can't stomach another bite. Still sound easy?
Carbs are your best chum
Carbohydrates should make up the majority of your calorie intake (around 60%). With the exception of sugar and processed food, anything and everything goes here. Think: pasta, potatoes, bread, rice, oatmeal, cereals, you name it, you eat it, and eat it in abundance.
Despite what you may have heard, consuming excessive amounts of protein is not required to gain weight. As a rule of thumb, eat around 2g of protein per kilo of body weight and try to include a serving of high quality protein with every meal or snack.
Example: A 70kg man should aim to consume 140 grams of protein per day.
Related article: Protein - how to eat enough
Fat and calorie dense foods
At 9 calories per gram, fat is by far the most calorie dense macronutrient. By including ample amounts of healthy fats and calorie dense foods in your diet, you stand a far greater chance of comfortably hitting your immense daily calorie requirements.
Top calorie dense foods:
- Nuts and nut butter
- Whole milk
- Pasta, rice and bread
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Oily fish (Salmon)
- Full-fat Greek yogurt
Liquid calories are king
If you the idea of chomping your way through 2000 calories in a single sitting is enough to make you gag, throw it in a blender and slug it down! Try my bulk up super smoothie recipe below:
- 3 tbsp peanut butter
- 400ml whole milk
- 150g oats
- 2 bananas
- 2 scoops of chocolate whey protein powder.
Nutritional content: 1740 calories, 181g carbs, 90g protein, 60g fat
Drink full fat milk
At 60 calories per 100ml, whole milk is a great way to accumulate additional calories to your diet.
Make sure your kitchen is fully stocked
As rudimentary as it sounds, it is so important to keep your cupboards, fridge and freezer fully stocked with everything you need. Put a little planning into your run to the supermarket and get more than enough to keep stocks high.
Eat lots of fruit and veg
It is a well known fact that fruit and veg promote good health. They are packed with all the vitamins and minerals you need to help fuel your training and lifestyle. Not only that but it will also help move the abundance of food required to gain weight through your internal plumbing.
Pre and Post workout nutrition
When you eat can be equally important as what and how much and pre and post workout nutrition are perhaps your most important meals of the day.
Pre workout nutrition should focus on fuelling your body. Deprive it of what it needs and it will look elsewhere to fulfil it's energy requirements, burning fat and muscle for fuel. A big no no when you're training for weight gain.
Post workout your body seeks replenishment to help repair and build new muscle. In the 30 minutes following your workout, aim to get a healthy serving of fast digesting carbs and protein. Skip the fat post workout as it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates.
Request a meal plan
If the idea of eating a 3500+ calorie a day diet still has you scratching you head, leave it to the professionals to build a comprehensive tailor-made diet on your behalf. Knowing exactly what to eat and when eliminates the risk of skipping meals, under-eating and disappointing results. It will also help you to plan, stay motivated, and ultimately reach you're goal with encouragement.
Weight training is the skinny man's ticket to bulging biceps and a fuller looking physique. However, there are a few important aspects to take into account when training for effective results.
It's so important to know what you're at the gym to do. Yes, we know you're goal is to gain weight but without a solid workout plan to follow, your results at best will be limited. Follow the advice below to create a highly effective weight training workout or ask you personal trainer at the gym to tailor-make a workout plan specific to your goals.
For more bulk for your buck, centre your weight training workouts around compound exercises. While isolation exercises like: bicep curls and leg extensions are great for fine tuning, compound exercises target the greatest portion of muscle fibres. The result is a greater release of anabolic hormones (testosterone and growth hormone) in the body which yields far more impressive results.
Top compound exercises
- Bench press
- Standing Military Press
Don't skip leg day!
The reason many men skip leg day is either because A.) They're obsessed with beach muscles (Chest, arms and abs) or B.) They're pain threshold is too low. Either way, the result is always the same, a disproportional physique.
Squats and deadlifts increase growth hormone and testosterone more than any other exercise, literally shocking your body into better all round muscle growth.
Reps, sets and rest times
While it's beneficial to experiment with different rep ranges. When your focus is on weight gain, sticking to the 8-12 rep range is most beneficial for maximum hypertrophy (muscle growth).
If you are new to weight training, start with 3 sets, gradually working your way up to 5 as your form, strength and confidence improves.
Whilst this is a highly debated topic, the majority of studies suggest that 60-90 seconds is the optimal amount of rest between sets for maximum muscle growth.
Despite all the health benefits associated with regular cardiovascular exercise, slogging it out on a treadmill for hours at a time is counterproductive for weight gain. Unless you want to bump up your calorie intake even further to accommodate your already immense calorie requirements, give it a miss for the time being.
If you simply can't live without cardio, incorporate one HIIT session into your weekly workout routine.
Note: Regular activity is fine: a walk, light cycling to work, a hike with your girlfriend, working in the garden, etc. Just don't make cardio the focus of your exercise efforts.
Forget the no days off crap. In order to grow, you must rest! I cannot emphasise this enough. As motivated as you may be to gain weight, working out when your muscles are still recovering will have disadvantageous results. Aim to rest for at least 48 hours between workouts for optimal results.