Building Muscle for Hardgainers 101

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Building muscle for hardgainers is no easy feat. I’m not going to blow smoke up your butt and say the following information is easy to implement into your lifestyle. If that were the case then there’d be a lot more swole ass bros walking around the place. The information will get you muscles and more size guaranteed, but you sure as hell better get ready to put in the effort.

Let me just give you the dirty rundown first on what’s going to happen. You’re going to eat a lot and fucking hate eating over time. You’re going to move weights harder and heavier than before.

You’ll probably want to invest in supplements to ensure the bulk is on point and getting you big. Still interested? Then let’s break everything down and get your hardgainer body to stop being stubborn with weight gain.


Reasons Why Hardgainers Can’t Gain Weight

This isn’t the freaking excuse section of the lecture. First thing to know off the bat is that only those with medical issues that prevent weight gain are able to say they can’t legitimately gain weight. The rest of you hardgainers are just not doing everything you need to in order to make your body gain muscle and size.

gaining muscleYou can live in denial or accept this and get ready to know why you haven’t been able to put on weight. Genetics isn’t the issue and your fast metabolism isn’t going to prevent your body from gaining mass. You won’t grow taller, but you’ll be able to put on mass.

Here’s the simplest rundown for you to think about and understand why you haven’t been putting on weight:

  1. Not Eating Enough – I bet you think because you ate two big meals and a cookie that this is enough to gain mass. Nope, or you’d be gaining weight by now. Use a calorie tracker phone app and see what your intake is. I guarantee you’re probably not even close to the amount required DAILY.
  2. Daily Activities are too High – You may be in a working environment that uses more calories than a person who sits at a desk. This means even more food is required for that active work life alongside what you need for training as well.
  3. Food Choices are Wrong – So yeah salads, egg whites, carrots sticks, etc. are healthy for you but not going to do enough for your bulk. You need calories dude, so eat more dense foods such as nuts, pasta, and red meats. Have the salad on the side smothered in ranch if you want. Don’t get it twisted – I’m not saying go eat a whole freaking cake. Food choices for hardgainers are still pretty good just calorie dense.
  4. You Want to Avoid Fat Gains – I know it sounds better to gain lean muscle only without fat, but let’s have a serious talk. Realistically the average person can only add 2lbs. of true muscle per month, and that’s only through very dedicated training and dieting i.e. a very slow tormenting process. Putting on a little fat and shaving it down to build bigger muscles is your goal.
  5. Training is Wrong – Are you running miles on the treadmill at the gym? Then freaking stop that shit. The foods you just cussed at before eating to meet caloric needs have now just been wasted to non-muscle building cardio. Do sprints instead for short bouts and move on to heavy weight training. This isn’t bro science. You have to resistance train with exercises like barbell squats and deadlifts to gain mass.
  6. You’re Not Consistent with Training and Dieting – Here is one of the main reasons why hardgainers cannot put on size properly. You have to stick to that high ass calorie diet for 1-3 months depending on your needs to gain weight. You also have to train consistently 4-5 days a week to put on that size.

These are all primary, straight-up reasons why you probably are not putting on size. That and the feeling of all hope is lost. There’s hope ahead bro just hang in there. Now that we’ve gotten past the “acceptance phase”, you can learn how to put on weight as a hardgainer.


Building Muscle for Hardgainers

Let’s go over everything you need to be doing in order to put on size. Like I said previously, you will not get anywhere without consistently sticking to your dreaded calorie intake and training program.

Do the work and you’ll see results. People probably won’t get what you’re doing when you talk about bulking, so just don’t pay any care to their opinions really. Just do you.


Consume a High Amount of Calories

Each person’s body is different, but it’s safe to say that consuming 4,000-5,000 calories daily will suffice. This covers daily energy needs including weight training as well, which basically means you have left over calories for gains to occur.

Your calories should come from dense foods such as nuts, pasta, rice, and whole milk as well. Chicken is good, but honestly you want the protein WITH THE FATS from red meats. Forget the myth that saturated fat messes with your blood cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is needed to have healthy testosterone and other hormone levels that allow muscular strength, recovery, and growth.

hargainers need caloriesBlood cholesterol is not affected by dietary cholesterol i.e. you are not going to get heart disease eating steak for dinner each night. Surprise!

This again isn’t bro science. Our body produces cholesterol naturally at rates of 3x or more than what we could possibly eat if we tried.

Doctors from top nutrition authorities say that the cholesterol an average person consume will not affect a person’s overall cholesterol level good or bad.

It’s simply genetic makeup that we have to look into. Just eat the whole damn egg next time and benefit from ALL the nutrients.

Note: Those with diabetes do have to worry about dietary cholesterol because they’re in a separate category of special needs to process things such as cholesterol.


Hardgainers Should Drink Plenty of Milk

Yup milk just got its whole little section. I’m not saying 2% milk or any of those other low fat milk variations. Drink whole milk because it gives your body plenty of protein, fats, and minerals to allow hardgainers the chance to increase weight and size.

No, a high amount of calcium from milk will not affect your kidneys, and has instead been found to reduce chances of kidney stones.

The awesome benefit of milk is that it’s cheap as hell. A container of 30 servings for whey protein is likemilk for hardgainers $25-$40! A gallon of milk is around $2-$3 depending on location. Whole milk is 20% whey and 80% casein protein, so you get both fast digesting and slow digesting protein.

Not to forget to hype on that whole milk contains dextrose, which is a super carb that spikes insulin release in your bloodstream allowing protein to be sent towards muscle cells. If you’re not lactose intolerant then drink milk seriously to get out of being a hardgainer.

True story. I was in the Marine Corps infantry school waiting for the next recruit battalion behind me to come in so we had enough to start training. During that month we were stuck in the barracks going to the chow hall 3x daily.

That’s 3-4 tall glasses of milk each day for a month. Low and behold my hardgainer body stuck at 145lbs. since junior high has now gained fat. Sadly we didn’t get time to workout so it was just fat gain. But none the less I’m a firm believer in milk overcoming being a hardgainer.


Eat Throughout the Day and Track Those Calories!vital4u sponsored athlete

Hardgainers have to consume food every 3 hours in order to gain muscle and size. This means meals and snacks throughout the entire day and even the hour before bedtime as well.

I’m still dead serious about you hating to eat food, but it has to be done if you don’t want to be skinny anymore.

As mentioned you need to consume 4k-5k calories daily from a variety of foods focusing on macro watching as well. But the first month ease into it by consuming only 3k calories daily and go from there the following month increasing the amount by 500-1k.

This is where app trackers come in handy after you place in the necessary info to see what you need from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Here’s a simple reference guide looking at the 3 macros:


Protein = 4 calories per gram

Carbs = 4 calories per gram

Fats = 9 calories per gram

(We will use a 150lbs. man wanting to consume 3k calories for the example)


You want 1.8g’s of protein per pound of body weight so:

150 pounds body weight x 1.5 = 225g’s of protein

225g protein x 4 calories per g = 900 protein calories daily

3,000 daily calories – 900 = 2,100 calories left to consume


You want 200g’s of carbs each day so:

250g of carbs x 4 calorie per g = 1,000 calories

2,100 daily calories – 1,000 carb calories = 1,100 calories left

Dietary fats are left so:

1,100 fat calories / 9 calorie per g = 122g’s of fat to consume

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Our final macro count is:

Protein – 225g’s daily

Carbs – 250g’s daily

Fats – 122g’s daily

Keep in mind fats and carbs may fluctuate and change depending on what your needs are. Use this rough approximation first and go from there.


Train Like You Give a Fuck

In all honesty training does freaking matter when it comes to getting past being a hardgainer. Lift big with compound movements and pump out reps with accessory lifts as well. Let’s take a look at these terms real fast to keep you in the loop.

Compound lifts require multiple muscles groups and joints to execute the movement, plus core and stabilizer muscles to keep you balanced and from falling over. These awesome exercises include dips, pull-ups, bench press, overhead press, squats, and deadlifts.

train hardPerforming these often will get you bigger, and you should definitely start off with a 5×5 lift program for deadlift, squat, and bench press. Then follow up with the accessory lifts.

Now accessory lifts support compound movements where as they increase specific muscle group strength to help lift heavier in compound movements. Plus performing 8-10 reps with moderately high resistance allows muscle growth to occur.

So in a nutshell you start training as a powerlifter and end as a bodybuilder also referred to as “powerbuilding”. This combo will definitely put on size for hardgainers and create some definition as well.

Go ahead and checkout my article for increasing your biceps as a hardgainer!


Have a Good Supplement Stack for Better Gains

There are no magic pills to burn fat or increase muscle size, but there are plenty of awesome supplements to increase your training potential and make calorie intake a bit easier as well.


Creatine Monohydrate

creatine monohydrate for hardgainersIf you wanted a supplement with the most research and proven benefits then here it is. Creatine monohydrate is a hardgainers best friend when it comes to supplements. The purpose is to store creatine in your muscles to be used for strength, endurance, and muscle recovery that leads to muscle growth.

Creatine monohydrate will also help retain some water to assist hardgainers with gaining actual weight. This will be shredded later, but the fact is not THAT much water weight is going to be retained through creatine monohydrate.

Simply drinking creatine isn’t going to make you bigger. The stored muscle creatine allows you to train hard and go further in your workout sessions. Cheap and reliable, I always recommend creatine for hardgainers.



This is thglutamine for hardgainerse second supplement I’d recommend to all hardgainers. Back when I first started, which was only 10 years ago, I didn’t see glutamine available by many brands and it often was never discussed. Now this amino is quite important for all especially hardgainers.

Glutamine is an amino that is also stored within your muscle cells. When your body is under stress through the training this is one of the natural substances that helps. Basically it decreases the time needed to recover after intense training.

Hardgainers are going to be training in compound lifts that stress your body’s central nervous system and muscles. Without enough glutamine circulating in your body the muscles begin to shutdown similar to not having enough protein.

Glutamine is affordable just like creatine monohydrate is and easy to get ahold of these days. Boost your muscle recovery and be ready for the next training day with this amino.


Protein Powder

protein for hardgainersYeah of course protein powder is added into the list of supplements that become useful. Drinking only milk gets pretty tiring, but mixing protein powder with it gives you more calories and different tastes to try.

You can also turn protein shakes into high calorie shakes as well meant for mass gaining. For example, one scoop of protein generally has 20-25 grams of protein. You then mix this with whole milk, peanut butter, and oats within a blender and there you go.

You now have a shake that’s worth close to a thousand calories or more depending on what you choose. Mass gainer supplements can be expensive, but if you got the cash they’re quite convenient for calorie intake especially for hardgainers.


Nitric Oxide (N.O.) Booster

nitric oxide for hardgainersThere are a variety of different ingredients available that increase your nitric oxide levels, which basically means oxygen flow into your muscles. This occurs when the blood flow has been increased, but ingredients used these days do not really affect your heart very much.

The reason a hardgainer would want a nitric oxide booster is for several reasons. One is because your strength and endurance becomes increased adding on to the creatine your consuming.

Secondly, increased nitric oxide levels improve muscle recovery since the increased blood flow is bringing nutrients to damaged muscle cells faster. The best ingredient I’ve used so far for N.O. boosting is agmantine sulfate on its own or mixed with other ingredients like arginine and citrulline.


Be Consistent and You won’t be a Hardgainer much Longer

So there you have fellow hardgainers. Take everything you’ve learned today and start implementing it into your lifestyle choices. Remember, you’ve got to be consistent with this or you will not see results.

If it takes a month before noticeable results then so be it. Being a hardgainer is tough, but the nutrient plan provided along with hard training and supplements will get you through it. Trust me. From one to another it’s a crappy road and you’ll make it through with confidence and again – consistency.


Brian Pankau

Brian Pankau

Experienced personal trainer and strength coach

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