Muscle Gains for the 'Hard Gainer'

by Scott Abbett


Are you one of many people with a fast metabolism?

Do you feel slowed down in your bodybuilding progress because you can’t seem to “gain weight”?

Relax and quit worrying about it; chances are… you’ve been mislead. Let me explain.

Did you notice I put the words ‘gain weight’ in quotation marks when I asked the second question above? I did that for good reason. It’s because gaining weight (as in any kind of weight) is not really in your best interest. You need to see the clear distinction between gaining weight and building muscle. Yes, significant muscle gains do add weight to the body. But that doesn’t mean you should adopt the relatively ambiguous notion that you need to simply “gain weight” so you’ll no longer be skinny. Gaining body fat will give you a mostly unusable, unhealthy, and visually unappealing form of body weight.

Natural Muscle Gains and Fat Burning Secrets

But you wouldn’t think this difference really mattered to writers of most bodybuilding articles. They just keep pumping out the same simplistic advice. It usually reads something like this:

  • Stuff down as many calories as you can during each of six meals per day.

  • Use a lot of big compound exercises because that’ll make you BIG.

  • Don’t train for over forty minutes because it’ll cause your testosterone to drop.

  • Try to move as little as possible so you can soak up those precious calories.

  • Sleep at least a third of your life away so you can “gain weight”.

With this kind of crap being dispensed as natural bodybuilding wisdom, it’s no wonder there are countless trainees getting dismal results.

Is there truth within at least a couple of these example bullet points? Yes; but it’s so tempered with caveats that it’s barely worth mentioning in these type of general terms. For example: It’s a good idea to eat a bodybuilding meal every three hours. But stuffing down too much food can be counterproductive even for skinny people. If your body expends too much energy digesting and processing excess calories, it won’t have as much energy left for constructing muscle tissue.

Does testosterone really drop after forty minutes to an hour of weight training? Uh… well… maybe – but who cares? This concern makes me want to laugh. My common sense says it’s the average testosterone level my body maintains during recuperation between workouts that helps determine my bodybuilding gains. Who cares if it temporarily drops during training? It bounces right back up. My muscles aren’t growing during a workout.

And if someone tells me there’s a two hour “window of opportunity” immediately following a workout in which muscles get a jump on recuperation, I’ll tell them to throw unsubstantiated claims out the window. Eat a lot of carbs and protein soon after a workout because… well, you’ll probably be hungry. However, if you eat them ninety minutes after you’ve finished instead of twenty minutes after, don’t worry – you won’t dry up and blow away in the wind.

Do compound exercises build muscle better than isolation exercises? Well, if ‘Joe Compound’ is doing squats followed by lousy attention to his muscle breakdown/recuperation ratio and ‘Bill Isolation’ does leg extensions followed by diligent attention to his, I’ll bet on Bill having better thigh development in the near future. What really matters for long-term muscle growth is breaking down muscle tissue with just the right amount of training and then letting it recuperate with just the right amount of time before training it again. So sadly, you could bust your balls doing squats, dead-lifts, bench presses, and military presses and still fall short of “gaining weight”. In fact, these exercises take more of a toll on your body which calls for more recuperation time between workouts. Unless your “weight gain” guru tells you this, you could be disappointed.

Here’s the #1 Key to Natural Bodybuilding Gains

The biggest key to building natural muscle (and thus – “gaining weight”) is to adequately break down the muscle tissue and then sufficiently recuperate that tissue before breaking it down again. In fact, when you do this repeatedly for respectable stretches of time, you develop a muscular physique. If you fail to do this successfully for any stretch of time, you waste time, effort, and a good chunk of emotional investment.

So where does stuffing down tons of food fall into the equation – especially if you have a “fast metabolism”? It doesn’t. Yes… you might need to increase your calorie intake somewhat above your pre-bodybuilding levels. But stuffing down a lot more calories than your body needs is nothing more than that unwelcome recipe for gaining fat. Take it from a guy who’s been both skinny and tubby; you’re better off being slender.

If you consider yourself a “hard gainer” and you personally attribute it to your inability to gain weight no matter how much you eat, remember this: There are thousands of people training in gyms who gain fat easily – yet they’re having as much trouble gaining muscle as you. This should tell you something. A haphazard training strategy cannot be compensated for by a gluttonous eating approach. If your “how to gain weight” expert has advocated the latter, it’s time for you to put your trust in a better expert.

When you learn to make your muscle breakdown/recuperation ratio and schedule the pivotal factor in your muscle building strategy, you’ll gain muscle mass and the kind of weight you want: solid weight. And this can happen steadily – even if you’ve been blessed with a fast metabolism and (like most everyone) you consider yourself a hard gainer.