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How to Gain Weight: The Ectomorph Guide to Gaining Weight

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Are you tired of being skinny? 

[dropcap type=”1″]B[/dropcap]eing skinny is overrated. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you are overweight or underweight, the result is still the same – you don’t have the body you want.

Being underweight isn’t just bad for your confidence either. You’re also subjecting yourself to a weakened immune system, fragile bones, and a lack of energy*.

Imagine how it would feel to finally achieve the body of your dreams. Imagine waking up in the morning, walking out to the shower, and looking in the mirror as you pull your shirt over your head with a grin on your face.

This can be you sooner than you think. This guide will educate you on how to gain weight. It isn’t the most technical explanation available, but it will teach you everything you need to know to get through a successful bulk.

Let’s get started.

The Only Word You Need to Know to Successfully Gain Weight

One word: Eat.

The secret to gaining weight isn’t so secret; consume more calories than you expend, and you will put on weight.

Let’s say that again; all together, out loud: consume more calories than you expend, and I will put on weight.

Everything you do expends energy. Your body expends energy even through simple tasks such as circulating blood and breathing, in addition to any kind of physical exercise you choose to do.

The term used to measure (roughly) how much energy you expend each day is: Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

We need to calculate your TDEE in order to know (roughly) how many calories you need to consume in order for your body to gain weight. To do this we’re going to follow the Mifflin – St Jeor formula which looks like this:

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For Men: BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) + 5

For Women: BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) – 161

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Is this gibberish to you? Don’t worry. You don’t need to understand algebra to gain weight.

Don’t bother searching for your highschool math notes – use this easy calorie calculator here. The link will open in a new window, so you won’t lose your place on this page.

An example of the calories required to gain weight for somebody who is 6'1 140lbs
The required caloric intake for somebody 6’1, 140lbs

This calculation proves the following for any 6’1, 140lb male out these who fits the “moderately active” criteria:

  • To stay the same weight (140lbs), you need to eat roughly 2,626 calories each day
  • To lose weight, you need to eat roughly 2,126 calories (or less) each day
  • To gain weight, you need to eat roughly 3,126 calories (or more) each day

I’ve included “roughly” into each statement because these are, in fact, rough predictions.

You could discover you need to consume considerably more, or less, calories to gain weight. The only way to find out is to try consistently eating a set amount of calories for period of time and measure your results. This calculation gives us a good estimate to start with.

Fact: you will gain weight if you eat above your maintenance caloric intake; the amount of calories you must consume to stay at your current weight.

When bulking, the general rule of thumb is to consume 500 additional calories on-top of your maintenance amount. This is how you gain weight, period.

The Definitive Answer to Why You’re Failing to Gain Weight

The reason why you're not gaining weight

When it comes to weight gain; you are not a special snowflake.The reason you are failing to gain weight is because you’re not eating enough.

Ectomorphs, hard gainers, skinny people who eat more than all their friends (combined?), folks with abnormal metabolism… The reason you are failing to gain weight is because you’re not eating enough.

The exception to this golden rule is if you have consulted a doctor who has diagnosed you with a condition that affects weight gain. If this isn’t the case, you need to eat more.

How to Eat your Way Through a Successful Bulk

OMNOMNOMNOMNOM

Eating to gain weight can be surprisingly difficult to those unprepared. I follow a few general guidelines to make bulking up easier, and more convenient.

  1. I schedule my meals. I eat 3 big meals a day, along with 2-3 mini-meals in order to hit my calorie goal. I have these meals literally scheduled into my day because it’s important to me that I don’t miss a meal.
  2. I plan my meals. On weeks which I hit my calorie goal on a daily basis it’s because I planned what I am going to eat the night before. If making food is a hassle to you, you NEED to plan your meals the night before.
  3.  I eat during breaks in the day. Anytime you find yourself with 10 minutes of free time, eat something. Carrying snacks on you (granola, trail mix, dried meats) can help you reach your target intake easier.
  4. I have “emergency calories” in case I was forced to skip a meal for any reason. Gainer shakes, peanut butter & banana sandwiches, anything that’s loaded with calories and easy to make.
  5. I know that I’m not going to hit my calorie goal every single day. I’m not hard on myself on days that I miss my goal because life happens. I just do my best to get back into the groove ASAP.

With those tips in mind, lets talk about what we should be eating on a bulk.

What are macronutrients?

I’m only going to briefly touch on macronutrients for the purpose of providing only what you NEED to know. I suggest you check out this link for a more in-depth explanation.

Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories (or energy). You know them as:

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  • Proteins (provide 4 calories per gram)
  • Fats (provide 9 calories per gram)
  • Carbohydrates (provide 4 calories per gram)
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When on a bulk, we want to aim for a 30/30/40 spread of macronutrients. That means our total caloric intake at the end of the day should be made up of  30% protein, 30% fats, and 40% carbohydrates.

Do You Need Supplements to Gain Weight?

A stack of various supplements

Nope. You could start at a scrawny 120lbs and finish at a muscular 180lbs, all without spending a single dime on protein powder, vitamins, or post-workout aids.

Now that we’ve settled that, let’s talk about why supplements are so popular, and why they may make your life easier.

Supplements are popular because they are convenient. People get busy, not always having the time to come up with that last 50g of protein they need to hit their goals for the day. When you can easily hit that goal by throwing some milk, fruit, ice, and protein powder into a blender; it becomes very easy to appreciate that convenience.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to use supplements. There is almost nothing wrong with using supplements. However, there are a few things you do need to be careful about:

  • Supplements are lacking in vitamins and nutrients that whole foods nourish you with.
  • Supplements do come at a (literal) price. I don’t mind the cost of protein powder every few months, but I can see it being an issue for some people.
  • Supplements can be too easy. Make sure supplements are making you lazy. When you have the option of a complete meal, or a shake, go with the meal every time. Or eat both.

The overall consensus on supplements is this: use them to supplement deficiencies in your diet. Don’t make them a regular stand-alone meal.

Popular supplements you should consider checking out: protein powder, weight gainers (essentially protein powders with extra calories), and creatine.

How to Convert All Those Calories to Muscle Mass

Now that you’re eating at a caloric surplus, you’ll find that you are gaining weight. Awesome.

If your goals are strictly to put on weight the healthy way, then simply rinse and repeat the steps listed on this page above.

This part to the skinny person’s guide to gaining weight will cover the final step: getting muscular.

The secret to getting strong is through intense exercise. In this article I’m going to talk about weight lifting, specifically 2 very popular full-body routines that have been proven by hundreds of former skinny people.

Turn those calories into muscle

Choose 1:

  1. Starting Strength
  2. Strong Lifts

Each respective routine links to a page where you can read more about it from the creator himself.

Both of these routines consist of free weight, compound exercises, using heavy loads to focus on strength gain, rather than say a repetition based bodybuilding style routine with a focus on toning. This is important for the following reasons:

  • Using free weights (barbell exercises) engage your stabilizing muscles to keep your body in balance. These muscles don’t receive much work when you’re using machines that keep the weight aligned for you.
  • Performing compound exercise will allow you to gain “real world strength”. Example: how often do you pick things up in a traditional arm curl motion?
  • Low repetitions of heavy weight builds mass, while high repetitions of lighter weight tones muscle – generally speaking.

You will need access to a gym to complete these routines. You’re looking for a squat rack and a bench press. If you have that kind of a home gym already, more power to you.

As a last resort, if you live in the North Pole with no humans within 100 miles, you can try bodyweight fitness. However, I strongly recommend you prioritize finding a proper gym.

Tracking Your Progress

Person on scale

Measuring your progress should always be a priority when you are trying to achieve any kind of goal. It’s crucial for proving to yourself that your hard work is paying off, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

Here are 3 things you MUST track while bulking up:

  1. Track your calories. This can be annoying for the first week or so, but after that it will become effortless. For homemade foods that don’t have nutritional labels on them just estimate as accurately as possible by combining the calories of each ingredient. My favorite calorie trackers are Dailyburn and My Fitness Pal.
  2. Track your weight. Probably the most obvious, but make sure you are getting on a scale on any set interval of time. Once a week, once every 2 weeks, once a month… doesn’t matter. Choose one and stick with it.
  3. Track your body. Go somewhere private right now, strip down to your underwear, and take a picture. Once a month do the same thing again. These pictures will are evidence of your hard work to keep you motivated when it feels like the scales are moving slowly.

 

The 3 Steps You Need to Follow to Get Gaining Today

Excercise Comic

There you have it – all the information you need to start gaining weight today.

Here are the quick notes (tl;dr) on what you need to do now:

  1. Use a calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis in order to gain weight. Write down your number, and make sure you exceed your maintenance amount by ~400 calories every day.
  2. Eat good food. Just because you want to gain weight doesn’t mean you should eat junk. It’s ok to “cheat” occasionally, nobody’s perfect, but don’t sacrifice your energy levels (among other things) for a couple minutes of satisfaction.
  3. Follow a tried and tested exercise routine. I recommend choosing either Stronglifts, or Starting Strength. Whichever you like better.

If you follow these steps beginning today, you will gain weight. What are you waiting for? Go get something to eat!

Questions, thoughts, advice for other gainers – post them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

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