Gaining weight is simple, but it’s not easy. As long as you are hitting your calorie goal, you will gain weight. As long as you hit the gym, you will build muscle. And as long as you get enough sleep, neither of these measures of success will stall for long.
This article will serve as a troubleshooting guide for anybody who is failing to gain weight. If you are absolutely certain that you have put a complete effort into everything on this page and you still can’t gain weight; you are an outlier, and you should consult your doctor.
Here are the most common reasons skinny people are unable to gain weight:
You’re Not Consuming Enough Calories
“I can’t gain weight no matter how much food I eat!”
This is a very popular lie among skinny folk who genuinely believe they have some sort of super power that allows them to consume an unlimited amount of food without gaining any weight. You best believe that if such a power existed skinny people would be burned at the stake by envious weight watchers eager to extract that power source right out of our frail bodies.
How many calories are you really consuming? Because “a lot” means nothing. Download a calorie counter and track your calories for a week. You will likely be very surprised how much less you are actually eating. Make sure you don’t cheat. It’s easy to “accidentally” add an extra cup of milk to your digital calorie count just so that shiny green checkmark appears – but tricking an app on your phone won’t make you any bigger. Just more stupid.
You’re Burning Too Many Calories
“Bro, if I don’t do cardio everyday I will literally die.”
If you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, you’re going to lose weight. It’s for this reason that most bulkers tend to leave out cardio and endurance exercises focusing instead on lifting heavy weights for low reps. If you choose to leave cardio into your routine you will have to make up for those extra burned calories.
You are burning calories anytime you do anything, but you need to be extra mindful of where your calories are going as long as you are trying to gain weight. Don’t stop skiiing, playing tennis, or having sex, but make sure the amount of calories you’re feeding your body corresponds with your activity level.
You’re Not Getting Enough Rest
There are too many benefits to be gained from good sleep and too many negative consequences caused by sleep deprivation to question the importance of sleep. You can transform your entire life just by doing everything you can to get better sleep.
Fun fact: Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released into the bloodstream during sleep*. HGH is one of the many reasons why ESPN ran a story claiming sleep is a magic pill for athletes looking to increase performance.
Here’s an infographic by Fatigue Science that details the importance of sleep for athletes:
You Think Gaining Weight is Out of Your Control
“I’d like to gain weight, but I have a fast metabolism…”
“I have a high metabolism… I can’t gain weight.” – said every skinny person ever. Throughout my childhood my skinniness was justified with the magic ‘M’ word that nobody really understood. I was told that it was just one of those things I can’t control, but eventually it would “fix itself”.
Let’s debunk this ectomorph folklore right now. Even if your metabolism does fit in with the highest of high metabolisms, you’re probably only burning an extra 200 calories more than the average person. That’s less than 2 glasses of 2% milk.
Therefore even if you do have an extra-high metabolism, the rules are still the same: eat more calories than you burn, and you will gain weight.
You Expect Overnight Results
“It takes me like a month to gain 2lbs…”
The problem here lies within your expectations. When we talk about ‘gaining weight’ what we’re really talking about is the process of going from a skinny person to a larger, more muscular person. That is a journey that involves more than just putting on some extra pounds.
If your goal is strictly to put on an extra 10lbs, then things get much easier. If you are not concerned with the body fat:muscle ratio, eating more calories than you burn is all that is required of you. In this situation you can gain more weight faster by increasing your calorie consumption above what is was when you gained at a rate of 2lbs/month.
However, most people reading this DO care about their fat:muscle ratio and wish to trade their body in for a stronger, more muscular version of what it is today. This kind of transformation takes much more time and effort due to muscle gain limitations.
According to research done by physiologist Lyle McDonald, the average male new to weight training can only gain a maximum of 2.5lbs of muscle per month. This means no matter how hard you’re going at the gym, if you’re gaining more than 2.5lbs every month, there’s a good chance anything past the 2.5lb mark is not muscle gain.
You can’t prevent fat gain while bulking up, but you can limit it. By intentionally limiting your weight gain to around 2lb-3lb/month, and by giving your all in the gym, you can ensure that you maximize your muscle gains during a bulk while minimizing your fat gains. Temper your expectations accordingly.
You Aren’t Committed
“I hit my calorie target most of the days…”
Gaining weight is a full time job with three primary responsibilities:
- Eat at a caloric surplus every day
- Show up to every workout
- Go to bed on time
You are going to suffer speed bumps and go through periods where you dread putting on your workout clothes. If you can force yourself to power through those moments and decide you are going to do whatever it takes to transform your body, regardless of how you’re feeling at the time, you will see results and come out a stronger person.