Today’s society seems to be obsessed with weight loss. Everywhere you turn you’ll find another ad for a weight loss drug, another new health craze, or another perfect celebrity swimsuit body. However, when it comes to men the common desire is to gain weight by adding muscle. From a young age men are taught that they need to be big and strong. While this stereotype may be bending slightly in 2015, allowing more and more men of various body types to still be seen as masculine, the consensus often remains that men want to get bigger.
Now, this doesn’t seem like too difficult of a task right? Head to the gym, work out a few times a week, and you should be golden. Wrong. All men are not the same when it comes to their bodies. Different men have differing body types and therefore they react in varying ways when it comes to gaining weight. A diet plan and workout regimen that works for one guy may not work for the next. This is simple genetics. This is why you shouldn’t just go out and google search “how to gain muscle.” The chances of finding something that works for you within the first few results are slim. That means that you could choose a training plan and stick with it while still seeing little to no results.
One common body type that is often not adequately catered to is the “skinny man”. This is the guy who is 5’ 11”, weighs under 150 Ibs, and looks like a pencil. If you fall into the category of the “skinny man” than this article is perfect for you. Here I will teach you how to gain weight in a healthy and effective way for your body type. If you aren’t a skinny guy, keep reading! This article is full of helpful tips for weight gain that can work well for any man with slight adjustments made to fit your body type.
The Struggle of the Skinny Man
Being thin as a man isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Any man who has been seen as skinny for much of his life knows the constant struggle of finding clothing that fit (and doesn’t make you look like a bean stock), feeling confident in a swimsuit, or fighting to overcome their significant lack of strength. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there many times. No matter how hard you try, you just never seem to gain weight. And even if you finally do put on a few pounds it all goes right to your gut, leaving your legs and arms to look like pipe cleaners. Now instead of bulking up, you have simply reached “skinny fat” status and all the extra insecurities that come with that.
Well don’t worry, I’m here to help! Skinny guys like us need a way to gain weight that is catered to our specific body types and doesn’t just keep us running in circles with no results.
First I want to let you know that it’s not your fault! Truly. You can’t control that you have been given a skinny body. This is what life handed to you. It’s no use complaining about it or throwing yourself a pitting party. Instead, set up and accept the challenge. Skinny men are often referred to as “hard gainers” or ectomorphs within the fitness industry. Basically this means that you have a high metabolism, long-thin limbs, and about zero strength. That’s just the way your body works. Ectomorphs have a very high ability to assimilate carbohydrates within their body. This keeps your weight down and your body looking small.
Now, you could go out there and buy every fitness magazine there is and work out 7 days a week and still remain a twig. This is because a vast majority of fitness plans out there are shaped for men who are natural athletes. These are the men who were born with bodies that react to working out 5-7 days a week and drinking protein nonstop.These workouts aren’t for you. Please don’t go out and blindly follow fitness programs that likely aren’t fitted for you. Skinny guys have to do things a little differently. From your diet, to training to your overall lifestyle, you need to find a plan that is created for your skinny body. But where do you begin?
The first and most important step in weight gain is your diet. Skinny guys can’t get away with a skinny man’s diet. If you stick with your half a chicken breast and a small side of veggies for dinner, you will never get anywhere. That’s a promise.
In order to fight your body’s natural ability to keep your weight down you need to step up your food intake. This means that you need to at least double the amount of food you are eating. You must live for food. Food is your life. Have I made myself clear yet? Food is the key here people!
This means that you should be eating every 2-3 hours, spending more time and money in the kitchen, and doubling your daily potions. From the moment you wake up you should be eating. Your first meal needs to come within the first 15-30 minutes after waking up and needs to continue throughout the day. The traditional nutrient split of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat isn’t going to work for you. You need more carbs in your diet in order to achieve an insulin spike after your training (this works to assist in recovery). Eating is about 80-90 percent of what is going to make you successful in your journey to gain weight. Working out less and eating more is much more efficient and effective for ectomorphs. It is much preferred that you eat properly and work out 2-3 times a week rather than not eating the sufficient amount and working out like crazy.
Start by literally doubling you food intake. If you have 1 chicken breast for dinner, have 2. If you eat 2 eggs in the morning, make 4 instead. Do this for every food item in your life. 2 cups of rice will go much further than 1 in the process of gaining weight. In order to accomplish this, it may be helpful to invest in larger containers for your food. If you are eating off a larger plate, putting more onto the plate won’t be such a dramatic visual difference. This may seem like a silly idea, but trust me it works. It’s all about what your brain sees and interprets.
You need to make sure you have a calories surplus at the end of the day. If you don’t, all this work will be for nothing because your body will work to break this food down and keep you thin. You’ll want approximately 250-500 surplus daily calories. This may seem like a lot but it’s absolutely worth it. However, be cautious not to have TOO many calories, for this is when you begin to gain fat weight rather than muscle. Choosing the correct food to eat will help immensely with this. Eating nutrient rich foods will allow your body to stay healthy while still gaining weight. You want to be sure to avoid foods with empty calories. If the food is full of unhealthy fats and sugars, it’s probably best not to be eating it. That means when it comes to dinner, you should probably stay in and make yourself a meal rather than stopping at a burger joint on your way home. You shouldn’t be consuming a 500 plus calorie meal that does absolutely nothing for your physical health.
To insure good health during this process you’ll want to have a well-rounded diet. This entails a sufficient amount of carbs, proteins, fiber, fats, etc. Obviously you can get several of these nutrients from the food at the convenient store down the road. However, this is a perfect example of food to avoid! Just because eating is your life doesn’t mean eating everything in sight should be your life.
But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you have to eat cardboard every day. If it did I wouldn’t be writing this article. This guy loves to eat good food and I’m sure most of you do too. To get carbs into your diet some healthy options that still taste great are oatmeal, yams, breads, rice, veggies, bananas and potatoes. For protein you can try eating foods such as chicken, steak, cottage cheese, milk and eggs. You can add healthy fats to your diet with things such as olive oil, almonds, avocados, and peanut butter. These make for a great, healthy snack throughout the day. As far as drinking protein goes, stick with having a shake during your workout only. A good ratio to work with when it comes to carb/protein drinks is 2:1. Two scoops for every one liter of water. This will work to allow you an extra few hundred calories. If you are choosing to train at a very high intensity, go with having a protein drink before and after the work out as well. If you’re training is less intense stick with the one drink during your workout.
Alright, so you know to eat more yes? But now I’m sure your now freaking out about how the heck you are going to eat all this extra food when you already feel full with the diet you are currently on. It’s alright, just breathe. It’s completely possible to do, trust me. First, start with spreading out your eating to 5-7 meals per day. Also be sure to stick with slower digesting foods during this process. Brown rice and quinoa are perfect examples of this. However, when your workout is approaching go with faster digesting food like fruits and honey for energy.
Of course in the beginning it may be hard to be consuming such a high and differing amount of calories from what your body is used to. One way to work around this is liquid calories. Truly these were my lifesaver in the beginning and I’m sure they will do the same for you. You can get these liquid calories in the form of healthy smoothies made with ingredients like honey, milk, oats, whey protein, and fruits. Simply adding a glass of whole milk to every meal will help to do the trick.
You are going to have to force yourself to eat. Your stomach may not love you from time to time in the beginning but it’s completely necessary. Your stomach is going to adjust as time goes on and this new lifestyle is going to become easier and easier for you.
It’s important to stop here and note that weight gain is a slow process. It isn’t going to happen overnight and it shouldn’t be happening within 1 month either. You will see tons of ads for supplements that will allow you to gain 20 Ibs in one month. Don’t do it! It’s not good for your body and it isn’t going to help you in the long-term journey of keeping the weight on. Instead, with this diet, you may see gains of 1 pound a week or maybe a couple per month. This can be discouraging for people who are wanting to stop looking like a human coatrack as soon as possible. But trust me, slower is better. In the end you’ll be glad you kept it slow and healthy.
Now comes everyone’s favorite part, training. Up until this point you were probably on cloud nine thinking you could gain muscle weight by simply eating healthy foods. And while that is a hugely important part of it, without training the extra food will turn to fat and all your work will be pointless. That is why it’s so important to find a good balance of eating and training within your life.
As far as training plans go, ectomorphs shouldn’t stick with the traditional 5 day split routine. Your body isn’t built to respond well to this and it will end up being worthless. You are training for strength. Getting bigger means getting stronger. Strength training will work to break down your muscles and with the help of your diet they will rebuild bigger and stronger. Also, please be sure not to focus on workout routines that isolate one body part per day. This has little practical use for you in everyday life.
Instead, focus on shorter, strength based workout plans with major compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats, presses, etc. Compound lifts do what we ectomorphs are looking to do. The ultimate goal is to stimulate your muscle size as a result of the strength gain. Higher reps does not equal higher results for ectomorphs. It’s all about the intensity of your workout, not the amount. Please remember this! You will get nowhere if you live by the high reps = high reward moto of life. It’s all about the progressive overload.
If you are a newbie to working out, please be sure to spend the first couple weeks in a preconditioning phase. You can’t just jump in hardcore and expect your body to react well. Leg, chest, and shoulder presses are a great way to start out. Lat pull-downs and DB shrugs are also helpful in this situation. Throwing yourself into deadlifts just isn’t going to work out well for you.
As you get more comfortable with working out move towards full body routines. These type of routines are going to give you the best bang for your buck. An example of this would be things such as bench press, overhead press, bent over rows, squats, deadlifts, and push-ups. Do these things 3-4 days a week. No more, no less. You don’t need to overwork yourself but also lack of training will lead to fat growth. Each workout should include legs, push and pull movements.
Once you find a routine that seems to be working for you, stick with it. You WILL be seeing gains if you have found the right balance. After a few months of your routine, reflect and adjust things as needed. You will know if something needs to be shifted slightly.
As far as lifting goes, I suggest starting with only the bar. Remember you are a starting out a twig. Please don’t try to show off and throw on the same amount of weight as the body builder next to you. This will surely get you a one way ticket to the nearest ER. So please, start with the bar and trust me, you won’t at this point forever. But you have to start somewhere. After about a week, add 5 Ibs and continue to do so each week (as long as your body is responding well to the increase). All bodies are different so listen to your body’s needs and go at your own pace. It’s not a sprint—this is a long distance race, so stay calm.
This also goes for your rest time in between sets. Listen to what your body is telling you. If you are ready to move on within 60-90 seconds, that’s fine. If you need a bit more time, then that is completely okay as well. The phrase “you do you” seems to be coming to mind in this instance.
Another common question when it comes to the skinny guy’s workout is should cardio be included. Unlike certain other body types, cardio is not our best friend. Running for miles on end will only hurt your weight gain process. However, this does not mean you should cut cardio out completely. It’s all about being healthy and well-rounded in the end. Therefore do keep a small amount of cardio in your weekly workout. Low burning exercises such as cycling and walking are helpful. I suggest approximately 30 minutes of one or the other a couple times per week. A very short amount of high intensity cardio can also work to maintain a healthy fitness level. Try throwing in something like track sprints every now and again to achieve this.
Finally, in regards to training, please be sure to eat! You cannot train on an empty stomach. It’s not healthy and it’s not going to get you the results you are looking for. Try to have at least a couple solid meals in your system by the time you want to begin training. Starving yourself will get you nowhere.
The final bit of advice I can give you on your skinny man’s journey towards weight gain is to be sure to be living a healthy lifestyle. One of the most important aspects of this is allowing yourself proper recovery time after a workout. It typically takes muscles around 48 hours to completely recover. Therefore you need to allow you muscles to do so. Don’t go into the gym back to back and work out the same muscles. This is only going to hurt you. Ectomorphs can’t work out as frequently. It’s just a fact.
Sleep is also a key component to healthy weight gain. The more muscle you are building up, the more sleep you need. This may mean that you begin to need around 10 hours of sleep a night during this process. Please allow yourself this rest time. Your body needs it in order to stay healthy.
Keeping all these tips and tricks in mind, you should be able to work your way out of flagpole status and achieve a weight that will not only be healthy, but will also give you the confidence and self-respect that you desire.