Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and can only speak from experience on how I personally gained 18 pounds (both muscle and fat) in 5 months. If you feel anything wrong with your body then I highly recommend you go visit your doctor.
You can’t gain weight.
No matter how much you eat… pushing yourself to eat more every day… your weight never changes.
And you probably heard this a dozen times: “I wish I had your body type” or “I wish I can eat as much as I want without gaining weight…”
But they don’t understand that just sometimes you don’t want to be a walking skeleton being skin and bones all the time.
You want to look good. You want to gain muscle. You just want to look like a good looking normal human being.
But alas, your body doesn’t want to change and that’s just a teeny tiny problem.
After not being able to gain weight for 20 years, I just wanted to see at what point I had to eat for me to gain muscle and gain weight.
And so I decided to document my journey to show you guys how I personally gained weight (and give you ideas on how to do the same for you!)
Now there is no insane transformation or any BS marketing hype (like hose fitness magazines) that happened to me in 5 months
This is a 100% GENUINE transformation and what would probably happen if you started to gain weight.
Now I wasn’t able to shape my body into Chris Hemsworth in 5 months, but I was able to gain 18 pounds which are an amazing achievement for someone trying to gain weight for the past 20 years.
So what is this formula for me to also gain weight?
It’s actually pretty simple actually.
All you have to do is whenever you are eating and working out all you have to do is keep these two principles in mind:
- You have to eat more than what you are burning throughout the day
- You have to be gradually getting stronger.
And you need BOTH of these components if you want to gain muscle in your body.
If you only focus on gradually getting stronger, then you are going to look like a ripped featherweight boxer (or something like me in the first picture.)
If you only focus on eating more… I’m sure you can guess what will happen.
That’s why you need a system to follow to show that you are gradually gaining weight AND gaining stronger.
Luckily for us skinny guys, it’s not all that bad being skinny. While it may feel impossible to gain weight, it’s actually a lot easier to cut fat (when we reach our weight) compared to the other guys.
I’ve Been Trying But My Body Doesn’t Seem To Want To Gain Weight At All…
I completely understand what you are going through.
I’m around 6’0’’ and weighed around 155 pounds (you could see my ribs) and even though I thought was eating a lot I never seemed to gain weight at all.
But we’ve been doing it all wrong all along. What you need is to follow a system that allows you to gain both muscle and fat (aka weight.)
A system where you determine how many calories you need to eat to gain weight and consistently reach it every day.
Even though you feel like you are eating a ton for one meal, doesn’t necessarily mean you are reaching your calorie mark for that day.
And even if you reach your calorie mark for that day, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t eat that much for the rest of the week. Otherwise, your body will go back to your original weight.
You also have to think about how many calories you are actually burning throughout the day.
This includes everything from walking around in school, playing sports, going to the gym, etc.
Our bodies burn fat like it’s melted butter and that’s why it’s doubly important to meet your calorie intake every day.
Otherwise, you are going to experience a sudden drop in weight and have to work twice as hard to get it back.
This Is All That You Technically Need
- A Weight Scale
- An Excel Sheet
- Something to track your foods and workout (Notebook or Phone)
- Gym Membership
- A crap ton of food (Ideally nutrient-dense foods)
That’s all you really need to gain weight.
The First Thing You Need To Do Is Find Your Motivation
Yeah yeah yeah…
You probably see this all the time if you are trying to get a ripped body… but it’s true.
Especially if you are a skinny guy like me who doesn’t have a big appetite.
It’s going to be a lifestyle change… and it’s going to really suck at first.
Going to the gym and doing your workout 5 times a week for an hour every day is the easy part.
The hardest part is getting your diet and nutrition right every single day. This means:
- Meal prepping your food with multiple meals throughout the week
- Gorging food down even though you are already full to hit your calorie mark
- The amount of time it takes to eat extra meals and extra cooking
- Even more time if you want to have a variety of food and actually make it taste good…
And if you don’t have a big appetite like me then you are going to have to create a system where you are going to need multiple meals throughout the day.
And the feeling you get when you are already full from your first meal and it’s time to eat your second meal…
Imagine that feeling of being really really full after that amazing dinner (where you feel so satisfied that you don’t think you can stuff any more food down…) and then you need to add even more food every couple hours while being full…
Waking up really full, going to class full, eating while you are full, going to sleep when you are too full…
Even though it doesn’t sound that bad, It really isn’t a pleasant feeling at all.
And every single day was uncomfortable. Besides being full, I was constantly gassy, a little bit tired, and just plain uncomfortable throughout the day doing normal activities throughout the day.
But the way I started to bulk was kinda dumb. So the proper method to gain weight is to gradually increase your calorie intake by 100 calories and let your body get used to it before increasing your calorie intake again (even if takes forever.) and your body will thank you for it.
The way I did it because I really wanted to gain weight fast was to suddenly spike my calorie intake by like 700 calories every day and try to maintain that for a whole month before increasing again (not the best month of my life.)
And I went through all of that for the dream of chasing after that Chris Hemsworth body every single day.
So earning that dream body is not going to be easy. Especially if it isn’t your job to get ripped like in those American superhero movies.
That’s why we need you to find some sort of motivation not only make time but to get through the uncomfortable moments.
Take Your Measurement Every day In The Morning After You Wake up
This is going to be one of the most important things to do if you are trying to gain (or even lose) weight.
Every single morning I want you go on the weight scale and record your weight in your journal.
That’s it. Every single day.
You want to go on the weight scale at the same time every day and chart your progress.
I like the morning because you haven’t had breakfast yet (so it’s one less variable out of your weight equation.)
And I wouldn’t pay too much attention to your daily weight fluctuations.
What you should do instead of do is take the average of your weight for the week and compare that with the week before.
Having a weekly comparison of your weight changes is a lot more reliable to see whether your eating/workout plans are working.
If you aren’t gaining any weight, then you need to eat more.
If you are gaining too much weight suddenly, then that means you are putting on too much fat.
If you are just starting this weight gaining journey, then on average your weight should be increasing around .5-1lb per week while you are getting stronger.
And it’s okay to gain a little fat with some muscle because we can always burn off that fat later.
It’s near impossible to gain weight without gaining fat (since your foods will have some amounts of fat) and it’s pretty healthy to have some healthy fats in your diet.
Pro tip: Make sure to use the same weight scale because different weight scales will probably give you slightly different weights.
How To Create Your Diet Strategy To Actually Gain Weight
This is the most important and hardest step in gaining weight: creating and following through with your diet strategy.
The simple goal is this: all you need to do is eat more than what you burn.
This means you have to eat enough to cover the calories lost from walking, going to the gym, your resting metabolic rate (which is pretty high), and any other activities you did and then eat PLUS a surplus of that.
And to gain weight you need to hit your calorie mark every single day.
This means that if you are already full and 100 calories away from hitting your mark, then you gotta make yourself eat that banana.
So how do you actually create a calorie plan that works specifically for me?
Every single body is different and has different needs. Which means everyone has to meet different caloric intakes.
The strategy is to create a baseline of what you should eat and then customizing it through trial and error that fits your needs.
So what I did in the beginning was I used the formula of the Bigger Leaner Stronger book (non-affiliate link) as a baseline and then figured out what works best for me through trial and error.
For us skinny dudes, you want to start with a (1/2/0.4) ratio of (carbs/protein/fats) to your bodyweight.
This means that if I weigh 160 pounds, I want to eat 160g of carbs, 320g of protein, and 64g of fat as a starting base.
And since each gram of protein and carb is 4 calories and each gram of fat is 9 calories, that means my baseline caloric intake is:
(160 x 4) + (320 X 4) + (64 x 9) = 2,496 calories.
Now eating that much amount of protein is an insane amount so you might want to reduce it first and see how that goes.
So let’s say that you have been eating less protein (240g) and found out that you are getting stronger and increasing your weight by 0.5 lbs per week… That’s perfect.
Just keep that up until you hit a plateau and then either increase your caloric intake by 200 every day (mainly carbs and protein) or do a recalculation with your new bodyweight.
You need to reach your caloric intake AND your macronutrients goals if you want to gain muscle. If you only eat carbs and fats and 0 protein, then you are probably going to gain more fat even if you are getting stronger (makes sense right?)
How To Specifically Create A Plan With Foods We Enjoy
So the first thing you need to do is create a list of all the foods that you usually eat throughout the week.
And then I want you to create a list of all the calories, proteins, and fats of every single food that you eat.
If it’s something like meat without nutrition facts you can google it to see how much eat one contains. And I want you to put that list into an excel sheet like this below:
It’s going to be annoying at first but luckily you only need to do this once in the beginning.
Then what you want to do is to pick and choose the foods that you like to eat in an ideal day that allows you to hit your calorie marks every single day like what I did below:
So this is my ideal eating plan every day and now I have some sort of vague idea of how much I need to eat to actually reach my caloric intake every single day.
I personally customized it with 5 meals a day (since that’s how my body rolls) and I also added MyFitnessPal just to compare it with the Bigger Leaner Stronger (BLS) benchmark (and to see the insane amount of calories it recommends you to eat.)
Now unless you can’t taste anything you are probably not going to be able to eat the same meal at the same time every single day.
That’s why we are going to create “bundles of food” and “accessory foods” to our list.
This means that if you usually eat pasta, then I want you to create for the first time how much calories, fat, carbs, and protein the whole serving of pasta. This means I want you to include everything from the cheese, tomato sauce, to the meatballs.
And then when you eat pasta for that day, all you have to do is copy and paste your “guesstimate” into your excel sheet about how much pasta you ate for that day.
“Accessory foods” are foods that I like to snack on throughout the day sometimes or things that taste good but don’t help with my fitness goals (Muenster cheese) as you can see below:
The beautiful part about this system is that you have a good rough estimate of how much you are actually eating without having to do any extra work after the first time.
So no more weighing your chicken before cooking every single meal or calculating how much cookies you ate throughout the day.
All you have to do is look at your excel sheet, consider how much serving portions you ate and then add it to your total calorie consumption.
Isn’t that nice?
Another nice thing about this system is that you know roughly how much calories you miss if you skipped a meal and vice versa.
Dirty Bulking Vs. Clean Bulking
You might be considering dirty bulking since you burn calories fast because of your resting metabolism rate.
Just to be clear dirty bulking is eating anything to hit your caloric intake while clean bulking is eating mainly nutrient-dense foods to hit your caloric intake.
Let me show you the pros and cons of each eating method:
- It’s a lot easier to eat more calories since you are eating snacks and candy that stimulate your appetite (Pizza is a lot tastier than bland chicken)
- You will gain a lot of weight faster
- Eating junk food with healthy food makes it easier to chow down through healthy food (because it stimulates your appetite)
- If you only eat a lot of junk food and sweets you are going to be mainly getting fat instead of muscle
- Eating that much junk food is not going to be healthy and it’s going to affect other parts of your life (energy levels, skin, smell, etc.)
- At one point you are going to feel sick of eating all this junk food and your body is going to want to start to crave healthy foods.
So you can tell that it’s okay to dirty bulk once in a while on days where you don’t feel like eating that much.
- Eating fruits and vegetables will be healthy for you with all its nutrients and vitamins but it has close to 0 calories
- You will build muscle a lot easier and gain less fat
- It’s hard to gain weight with fruits and vegetables since they are low-calorie foods
- Eating bland food all the time will make you start craving sweets and junk food and may possibly binge
- Eating too much fiber from fruits and veggies is going to make you run to the bathroom more often
- You may need to add one more meal to reach your caloric intake with just clean bulking
The only downside is that it is going to be eating a lot more boring foods just to help increase your muscle mass slightly faster.
The solution I found was to do 80% clean bulking and 20% dirty bulking (aka Pareto’s Law).
What this does is that you will mostly be gaining muscle mass but slightly more fat since we usually have a hard time gaining weight due to our appetites.
So this means you can have one cheat day (like on a Saturday) or have some cookies throughout the week to hit your caloric intake.
We aren’t worried about gaining fat at this stage but gaining weight (with muscle mass) and getting stronger.
We can always burn off our fat a lot easier AFTER we reach our ideal weight.
This is also another thing that probably crossed your mind: Intermittent Fasting (IF).
This is where you only have a small timeframe to eat all the foods that you need to eat (16 hours of no eating and an 8-hour timeframe for eating.)
And there are different kinds of fasting such as one-day fasts, 16/8, 20/4, etc. to retain and gain muscle.
Fasting is one of the healthiest things with tons of benefits. However, gaining weight is all about hitting your caloric goals consistently.
So if doesn’t make too much of a difference if you are able to eat 3,000 calories throughout the whole day vs. 3,000 calories within an 8-hour timeframe with gaining weight.
What I recommend you do first is see if you are the type of person who can stomach 3,000 calories (or whatever your caloric goals are) within a small timeframe.
Then I want you to compare the difference in your strength and weight change and see if intermittent fasting works for you.
I personally couldn’t do it because my body wouldn’t allow me to stomach that much food in a small time frame.
But I have heard that IF works for a lot of people trying to gain muscle and lose fat.
The Type of Exercises That Will Help You Gain The Weight Fastest
Now we get to the fun part and focus on the types of exercises that are the most effective for increasing muscle mass.
This means that we want to structure our workouts where we prioritize the workouts that hit multiple muscle groups first before working on our accessory muscles.
This means focusing on the big four lifts: Bench Press, Deadlifts, Shoulder Lifts, Squats, and Abs.
If you want to gain muscle mass as fast as possible, it makes sense that working on bigger muscles (chest or legs) will gain you a lot more muscle than just working on your arms.
But it’s also important to create a routine where we have a balanced, functional body.
This Is How I Scheduled My Workouts Every Week
So I worked out 5 times a week in the afternoon for about 1 hour every single day for 5 months.
- Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Flat Barbell Bench Press
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
- Face Pull
- Barbell Back Squat
- Barbell Front Squat
- Romanian Deadlift
- Barbell Deadlift
- Barbell Row
- Weighted Wide-Grip Pullups
- Barbell Row
- Close Grip Lat Pull-down
- Barbell Shrug
- Seated Military Press
- Side Lateral Raise
- Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise
- Face Pull
- Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Close-Grip Bench Press
- E-Z Bar Curl
- Alternating Dumbbell Curl
- Tricep Cable Pushdown
- Dip Tricep Variation
- Seated Triceps Press
Calf (Tuesday and Thursday)
- Weighted Standing Calf Raise
- Optional (Calf Press On The Leg Press)
Abs (Monday, Wednesday And Friday)
- Cable Crunch
- Myotatic Crunch
- Cat Vomit
- Captain’s Chair Leg Raise (Optional)
- Air Bicycles (Optional)
So What Do I Do With This Information
If you are starting out then I recommend you look up guides on how to do each exercise first and structure your workouts where you do one of the big four lifts first (Squats, Bench Press, Shoulder Lifts, Deadlifts)
And then try your best finding out the workouts that work best for you and that feel good to you (you can start by copying mine and then changing it along the way.)
I tried different reps and rest times and found that 2-3 min per set and 4-7 reps were ideal for me.
This means that if you are able to do 135 lbs of bench press with 7 proper reps, then increase the weight by 5 lbs until you are back into the 4-6 range.
If you are hitting 1-3 reps per set then I recommend you decrease the weight until you are back doing 4-6 reps.
This is what I found through my personal experience:
1-3 reps: This is purely for gaining strength and not much hypertrophy. Think of someone like a strongman where the goal is to lift as heavy as possible. You are going to train your muscles for just an explosive rep with lots of power. (Think of a big strongman or Bruce Lee).
4-6 reps: This is where you start to focus on gaining both strength and hypertrophy. This is what I recommend you aim for where you are gaining a mix of strength and hypertrophy.
6-8 reps: This is where we are focused less on gaining strength and more on endurance. Gaining muscle mass is still possible in this stage but you are strengthening a different kind of muscle.
8-12 reps: This is what bodybuilders usually do where they focus on increasing their endurance muscles and hypertrophy. You will still be gaining strength but it will be a different kind of strength compared to the other reps.
As you can see, increasing the reps will make you focus more on working your endurance muscles rather than your explosive muscles. Hypertrophy is still possible in every stage but I’d say the sweet spot is between 4-8 reps per set.
Make Sure To Chart Your Progress
This is also another vital step that I see a lot of people not doing in the gym.
If you want to see progress as fast as possible, I want you to chart how many reps and it’s weight for each set of that specific exercise during your rest time.
Yes, it’s annoying… but incredibly effective.
That’s what gives your body motivation if you are actually seeing progress with your own eyes.
Gaining .5 lbs per week and increasing your bench press by 5 lbs. won’t change your physique much but you know that the system’s working.
What Type Of Results Can I Expect In 5 Months
Even though my data got deleted I can still remember quite clearly what were my weights when I started and my maxes were after 5 months below:
|Military Press||55×5 (Dumbbell On Each Arm)||80×4|
So in addition to my gaining 18 pounds this is how much my strength increased in 5months.
I made sure to always increase my weight whenever I reached around 7 reps and worked out 5 times a week.
Although I also recorded my weights for my other body parts (bicep curls, tricep pulls, calf presses, etc.) my data got deleted and I can’t really remember those details clearly.
Other Things To Keep In Mind While Training
Don’t Worry Too Much About Muscle Memory
I wouldn’t worry about tricking your muscles since I did basically the same workout for 5 months and you can see the progress I went through.
Maybe if I continued for a year and saw no changes for a couple months despite me changing my diet/workout then MAYBE I would consider it.
But I wouldn’t worry about it at all at this stage.
Make Sure You Don’t Overtrain
As much as you are excited to get stronger as fast as possible, muscle building is a really slow and gradual process.
And it’s actually the resting period where your muscles grow. So if you feel overly fatigued one day and just don’t feel like working out… what I did was I just went to the gym, did a couple of pull ups, and then went back home.
This made my body’s habit not change and makes it easier for me to go to the gym the next day.
Mistakes I Made Along The Way
If You Switch back to your Old Eating Habits Your Weight Will Plummet Really Fast
It took 5 months of the gradual progress of consistently eating and increasing my weight.
Then when I wanted to switch back to my regular eating habits before the bulking, I lost around 10-15 lbs in 1 month (which is pretty insane.)
So if you have a really fast metabolism like me, make sure you don’t slack off on your eating diets if you want to maintain your weight.
I Should’ve Ate More Vegetables When My Stomach Was Used To Gorging Food
I was only focused on gaining weight and neglected eating vegetables since it had “0” zeroes and a ton of fiber despite the number of nutrients it contains.
After my body was used to the dumb amount of food I was eating every day, I decided to eat even more junk food so I can increase my weight even faster.
Which all it really did was put on more fat instead of muscle. So that’s why my transformation makes me look a little bit chubbier mainly because of this mistake.
Not Working On My Flexibility
I knew how important proper posture is if you want to continue doing this for years but I didn’t really put an emphasis since it took too much time.
My flexibility was so bad that just like most Americans I can’t even do the natural full squat without falling.
And that’s one of the reasons why I quit weightlifting for now so that I don’t destroy my knees and hips.
Why I personally Quit Bodybuilding For Now
So I’m trying out different stuff for now such as Calisthenics, running, and Jiu-Jitsu instead of bodybuilding and seeing how it feels compared to weight lifting. These are some of the reasons that I noticed when I quit going to the gym:
- Commute: Even if you can change and be ready, it still takes around 10 minutes to drive to your local gym and then 10 minutes to drive back which I can use that time for something else.
- Difference In Energy Levels Working In A Gym and Outside: I noticed I feel a lot better when I am doing calisthenics and running outside vs. staying in an office bright gym to do my workouts.
- Not Flexible Enough: You have to actually be pretty flexible to do many of the workouts with proper form. I personally didn’t want to get any spinal injuries in the future because my hips weren’t flexible enough.
- It’s Kinda Gross: You get used to the gym but I prefer smelling fresh air then the aroma of people’s sweat.
- It takes too much time cooking and eating: You could meal prep but you also have to consider the costs of cooking an additional hour for more food preparation for the amount you need to bulk and then the actual time to sometimes force yourself to eat that much food.
- I didn’t feel good forcing myself to eat: Your stomach does get used to it over time but sometimes it just sucks and you don’t feel great when you chugged down a 1600 calorie shake.
- There’s No Emphasis On Functional Exercises: Now you can change your workout to involve this… or you can do something like holding a calisthenic pose where you are already forced to work on your stability muscles that would be helpful for everyday life.
- I can get the type of body I want through Calisthenics: Although you won’t get big like those bodybuilders, I think my body prefers being incredibly ripped instead (since my body is already toned without much effort.)
Maybe when I have more time and money in the future (like a personal chef) then I would consider doing bodybuilding again.
That was a lot of information at once but there is a lot of useful information if you are going to the gym and not seeing any results of gaining muscle mass (especially for ectomorph-bodies)
I personally went through this so I can relate to a lot of the problems you might be experiencing if you are trying to gain weight while going to the gym.
If you take one thing from this post it’s this:
Track your weight and progress every day.
You can continue whatever you are doing and not listen to any of my 4,000 words of jibber-jabber but if you track your progress and notice you are NOT seeing any results, then you are going to need to change something.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about any part!