I am a hardgainer. I've been skinny all my life, and found it difficult to develop muscle mass. About 2 years ago, I started lifting seriously, to gain mass, but it was compounded by the fact that I've been kind of skinny-fat for the last 10 years. Not a good way to be. So now I'm losing fat on Paleo and working on gaining it back in lean muscle mass. I've always been told that it's good to be a hardgainer, because it's easier for us to see our 6-packs. Well...I never have, but I'm workin' on it now!
I'm 5'6", and started at a flabby 142. I'm down to 130.5 now, and when I hit 130, I want to concentrate on gaining back about 10-15 pounds of good, lean muscle mass. I've started a stronglifts 5x5 protocol, and want to continue to burn fat, and gain muscle at the same time. So far my results on Paleo have outshined anything I've ever done before. I finally have a chest! Shame it took me til I was 29 to get it.
So far I've just been eating good, clean paleo food (grass-fed, pastured, cultured, organic, etc..) but I'm considering adding whey shakes (before I was using that horrible vitamin shop brand, Bodytech, full of crap, and I think it just made me fat) and possibly creatine. I know of Leangains, but I've never tried it, and I know it's been covered before. I know whey and creatine have been covered before, but never in this context. This question is for hardgainers (you know who you are) and their friends, families or doctors.
The original question:
- What does your diet for gains look like? Do you use whey or creatine? What kind of lift protocol are you using? Are you following leangains? What do you think about sprints, sprint intervals, etc? Have you seen dramatic results since going Paleo? Hardgainers unite!!
There is a debate going on in this thread:
Are we hardgainers simply because we have a very fast metabolic rate/we are "hyper-catabolic?" Or is there a different root cause, i.e. broken digestion or malabsorption? I would love to have everyone chime in!
Personally, if it's malabsorption, I'm wondering if it's a) been this way my entire life and b) if there's something I can do to fix it, and if the results would be immediately visible? I suspect however, that the cause of my being a hardgainer is simply not enough calories. I need more beef (which translates directly into "I need more money.").
asked byFutureboy (5639)
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on April 27, 2011
at 06:28 PM
I've been on leangains for about 6 weeks now, and I'm a hardgainer myself. I know, I know, on leangains, I have to eat potatoes PWO. Whatever, I have no conscience.
Anyway, my results have been solid so far. I've been recording every workout and weighing myself every other day. There has been a steady increase in my weight from about 136 to about 141 in the past 6 weeks, and I don't think I've gotten any fatter. My shitty body fat calipers don't think so either, but I don't put too much stock in them. I absolutely have more definition in my chest (especially my chest), shoulders, and thighs, though my abs don't really look any different. All my lifts have increased substantially, though I can't really separate that from the fact that I'm a lifting noob who should expect quick strength gains anyway.
My typical diet on a workout day: PWO = 1 lb. minute steak (very lean) and 1 lb. starchy tuber = ~130g protein, 130g carbs, 1600-1700 Cal. 2nd meal = 0.5 lb. some beef or 7.5 oz. can of wild-caught salmon w/ a piece of fruit = ~65 g protein, 35g carbs, 700 Cal.
My typical diet on a non-workout day: Paleo. VLC. Emphasis on protein. So many coconut pancakes.
I shoot for ~200g protein, 2400+ Cal. daily.
I don't use whey, I don't use creatine. Creatine adds mass in the form of water osmosing into your creatine-overloaded muscle, and studies show it DOES increase anaerobic performance (enhanced ATP delivery to myosin), but I'm not sure if that translates to actual muscle mass gains or quicker hypertrophic adaptation. My guess is not because studies also show that the strength gains and water mass "gains" are lost within 30 days of ending creatine supplementation.
Whey seems like it would work for enhancing protein intake if it absorbed well, but I'm not positive I trust the isolation methods. I just pack down more meat instead. Oh damn!
BCAAs are almost universally recommended pre-workout to stimulate post-workout protein synthesis. I'm not positive how these are isolated either, but the intake amount is pretty minor (~10g) compared to recommended whey intake (~50g), so I'll be adding the BCAAs when I can. Art de Vany and Martin Berkhan both swear by BCAAs adding so much to their gain rate that I trust its efficacy on that alone.
My lifting protocol is 5x3, maximum effort, with 2-3 minutes of rest between work sets (studies show 2-5 minutes maximizes hypertrophy) with 3-5 progressive warm-up sets with little rest between. I focus on squats, deadlifts, press, bench press, and weights chins, pull-ups, and dips as my primary compound movements. I've added ~8 compound assistance exercises as well that I've tossed in as strategically as I could. Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe was an awesome resource regarding technique and what I should expect regarding my gain rate and common newbie issues. I work out Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday around 11:00AM with about a 16-18 hr fast preceding the workout. I fast until about 11:00AM on non-workout days.
I feel great on this protocol, and I'm getting quantifiable results. Definitely sticking with it. Give Martin Berkhan the Nobel Prize he deserves.
on June 21, 2011
at 10:25 PM
You've already gotten great answers. Eat more, plenty of carbs, lift heavy. When I am trying to gain I find it useful to track calories to make sure I am stuffing myself to the gills.
Everyone in this thread sounds a bit strong and sturdy for the definition of 'hard gainer' as I've always understood it (super-skinny and still unable to gain). Maybe you are mostly success stories! 5'6" to 5'9" and 130-150 lbs is hardly tiny, plenty of room for muscles.
For most of the past decade I was what most would consider dangerously underweight/emaciated (BMI 14-16) and still couldn't gain weight. I am female and have a tiny frame, so BMI 14 isn't quite so horrifying on me as it would be on a man. Still very bad. But this isn't just for vanity, it's for basic health - it's not good for someone to be that thin. I had literally no cushion against illness, and I was rather weak simply because my muscles were so small.
On 3000 calories per day now that I am so active, and getting close to 4000 when I am really trying to gain, I've only barely touching BMI 18. Which is the most I've weighed in my life, and much better from every standpoint, but isn't ideal for me. I'm 26 now and so far age hasn't helped me - I only gained and maintained this weight due to paleo in the past year and a half. I've made big strength gains, but not a lot of mass gains. I'm limited by my stomach capacity, and the hypoglycemia issues I suffer from excessive carbs. If I could eat 300+g of potatoes every day, I'd probably be set. But it messes me up too much.
I'm kind of resigned to my pencil arms. At least they are wiry and can do more than you'd think.
on April 27, 2011
at 09:11 PM
Oh the envy of easy muscle gainers! I will answer this question both from experience and results, and simultaneously from being right smack dabb in the middle of continuing to gain muscle, so I am still trying to find a groove myself actually.
After 9 solid months of strength training at a solid pace of 3x per week, I think I'd definitely consider myself a hard gainer at this point. It just so happens that I started eating low carb (and then Paleo-ish) at the same time that I began lifting weights consistently.
I began at 163 pounds. The last time I weighed myself I was at 150 but I think I have gained a few pounds of lean muscle since that time. See my Paleo before and After here.
My workout routine: Currently, I use the Powertec Leverage Workbench System.
I hit it 3x per week, consistently, employing about 20 different exercises, rotating about 7-8 on each workout, so I only work the same exercise a max of 2 times per week, and often 1 time per week.
The exercises that I perform at least 2x per week are:
squats, barbell rows, and [either] bench press or shoulder press or a combination of the two.
The remainder of my exercises include:
seated row, cable preacher curls, triceps pushdowns, lat pulldowns, palms up pulldowns, upright rows, weighted decline situps, leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises, shoulder shrugs, dips, lateral raises
That works basically the whole body very well. After every workout, I feel like jello. I work out HARD every single time. I use some kind of derviative of Mark McManus's suggestions from MuscleHack.com. He teaches repping to failure within a 90 second window, resting 60-90 seconds between sets, and increasing weight until 6-8 reps takes you to failure within 90 seconds. Meaning that if you are pounding out 8 reps in 40 seconds and could go further, it's time to increase the weight, until the last rep is slow and difficult due to muscle fatigue. This is how you activate the fast twitch type 2b muscle fibers, the fibers that cause muscle hypertrophy.
I take high quality whey protein for a PWO shake (sometimes pre, sometimes post). I haven't nailed down which helps more yet. I may never know. I recently ordered BlueBonnet whey protein, which has no soy lecithin and no weird additives.
Also, I recently (as in about 2 weeks ago) starting taking Creatine daily. I can't say yet if it's helped, but from what I understand it takes a month to see any results anyway. I don't plan on taking Creatine long term, for 2 reasons. #1) it's a pain in the neck. It doesn't dissolve worth crap and it remains as 'sand' in my drink. #2) One of the potential drawbacks is accelerated hair loss possibility, which isn't very exciting really.
My results in 9 months of hard lifting >> all my lifting numbers have nearly doubled, some more than doubled. For example, on the bench press, I began at 163 lbs, repping 160 five times last August. Now I weigh ~150, and rep 260 five times and probably max close to 300 I suppose. My squats have increased from repping 190 eight times to 370 eight times.
So what I am doing is definitely working from a strength perspective. For gaining muscle, it's also working, but slower than my lifting numbers indicate. In other words, I thought I'd be bigger than I am by this time.
My plan: increase calories yet again, adding more sweet potatoes and probably increase protein significantly. Also, it's time to implement high intensity sprints between workouts.
My overall goal: to look like The Incredible Hulk. haha. No, just kidding. Actually it's just to see what my body is capable of in my 30s. I've always wondered, and I love the idea of being a muscular stud. I imagine once I reach a certian point that I am 'happy with', I will back off to more of a maintanence phase. I am actually looking forward to that time.
Also, everyone seems to have a different angle/spin on this. Some say pre workout drink. Some say post. Some take eggs, some do GOMAD. Some take whey. Others eat loads of steak.
Some do low carb and let the body convert for glycogen replenishment. Others use carbs to spike insulin to force the nutrients into the muscles.
Some say do 5x5. Others say do 8-10 reps twice. Some swear by creatine. Others say its pointless. Some roid up. Others want to stay natural.
It will make your head spin, and it will make a preacher curse, I tell you. The only way to go is to see what gives you the best results. Know your goals. Know what you're willing to do to achieve them, and then don't back off unless you need to.
Hope that helps someone :)
on April 27, 2011
at 06:15 PM
Its all about the amount you eat. Aim for 4000-6000 clean paleo cals and you get the results ;-) My body was not able to handle this amount and I got sick ... but try it for yourself. If you eat dairy, cream is awesome to reach this mark. Personally, I take whey without taste and shake it (banana,cream,whey,berries).
I train after the HIT protocol and get great results with 15min/week (one set to failure, whole body)
Leangains, I think, is better for people wanting to loose their last amount of body fat, because it says calorie restriction on off days (when remembering right). And, its hard to get enough cals in 8hours for hardgainer...
on April 28, 2011
at 11:48 PM
Drop the whey. You can get more nutrition from real food, plus you actually know where that food comes from - the quality of supplement-grade whey protein has always been surrounded with nefarious history, such as irradiation, heavy metal content, etc...
No prob with making the move to tubers post workout. If you must have a shake, take a pint of heavy cream, blend a sweet potato in there, some water, and drink up.
on April 27, 2011
at 06:46 PM
Keep it simple. Shoot to normalize hormones and remove irritating foods. Once you take care of those two the rest should fall into place. You can do some hormone testing if you'd like, but really just taking care of sleep and doing some HIIT should boost things. Make sure your body knows that it's not still sleeping when I get up in the morning. That involves getting water and food ASAP and moving. Pushups, a walk, squats, whatever your gig is. Just get that blood flowing. Going outside is also a nice extra kick. If you want to get those hormones rocking, don't go from a sedentary reclined position to a sedentary sitting position. The difference between night and day shouldn't only be light.
My typical day is about 2500 calories and I've been gaining about three to four pounds a month for six months. 50% fat, 20% protein and 30% carbs.
on April 27, 2011
at 06:31 PM
I ate about 1500 calories a day and wanted to gain weight. I'm a hardgainer at ~150lbs 5'8. I more than doubled my intake in all clean paleo carbs (before that I used cottage cheese). I didn't gain a pound. I took digestive enzymes and still nothing. I hit 2g of protein per pound of lean body mass and still nothing.
I also do StrongLifts and totally cut out additional workouts or cardio that would unnecessarily burn my precious calories. I lost 5 pounds. I'd argue that I have leaned out even more (only been 30days of SL and still no 6pk). I'd also say I did in fact gain in muscle, which means my body fat % must have been higher than I thought.
For me, I realized I might always be around 150lbs. If I have my strength, health and a high quality of life, that is what is important. I'm not going to supplement or spend all day eating beyond enjoyment just to gain weight.
If you are healthy, I just ask you be sure that it is worth it to you. You think it is tough to gain now, how will you maintain the additional 10lbs of muscle? ;)
I'm not trying to discourage you, just maybe evaluate your priorities before going further. Best of luck in whatever you end up doing.
on October 18, 2011
at 08:51 PM
I have always been pretty thin ... 130# (5'11") when I was running a lot from my teens to mid-20s. I got "up" to 168# by age 29 by stopping the running completely, religiously eating much more than I wanted, and lifting very consistently. So it took me 4 years to gain just under 40 lbs.
At the moment, I am 52 years old, about 162 pounds, very lean, and strong as hell. On the one hand, I have NO complaints, especially compared to my peers. On the other, I'd like to be around 175 if I can be a lot stronger when I get there.
To this end, I've started drinking quite a bit of raw milk, and it seems to be putting some weight on me. Probably a quart or so a day, nowhere near GOMAD levels. I also get plenty of rice, potatoes, and sweet potato carbs in. All this seems to be working, I'm gaining about a pound a week since starting the milk. I think it might act as a catalyst to force everything else you're eating to be turned into muscle.
on July 26, 2011
at 07:18 PM
I have been eating paleo consistently for the last year and a half, and I am pretty happy with it. I trained track and field (sprints, 400m) since I was 15 (plus other sports) and the reason that I started eating paleo was basically health. And I say health because I have never had any trouble/problem eating grains or other non-paleo product. Well, this is not completely true; I couldn't stand milk when I was a child.
Anyways, after the intro, I have to admit that since I started being paleo I haven't trained as hard as I did before, even though I have spent a pretty high amount of time training. I haven't felt any big difference in strength/results/capability while training, even though I have been training alone after being "used" to with people and the intensity is reduced when training alone. After only 3 months of training (I usually trained September until June to have "good" results) and after 2 years without competing, I competed again this march, with pretty good results to me, really close to my PB.
PB: 10.93 - SB: 11.17 PB: 22.15 - SB: 22.25 PB: 48.37 - SB: 49.99 (yeah, I wasn't ready for the 400).
I realized that the 400 were too long to me, not sure if the diet had anything to do with it; I would say that the lack of specific training (and some problems in my hamstrings and aquiles) was the main reason.
My weight was steady (160lb) since 1 month ago that I lost 12lb, and I am trying to win weight again. I don't know about my body fat composition, though.
on April 29, 2011
at 12:50 AM
IMO "post-workout window of opportunity" is a myth to sell protein powders. I prefer to maximize the HGH release by NOT eating for at least 2 hours and I've gone as high as 6 hours. Then I eat a HUGE meal high in fat/protein to continue to bathe in HGH. That will be the only meal I eat on lifting days. If I eat a sweet potato, its once every 7-10 days and never PWO. 5'9/178lbs 7%BF