• Busting The Hardgainer Myth


      By Paul Kita Men's Health

      I'VE BEEN CALLED A pencil, a string bean, skin and bones. I've heard the three words no man who cares about his physique ever wants to hear: "You work out?" Trainers refer to us as ectomorphs—which sounds like something from Ghostbusters—to distinguish us from mesomorphs, the guys who always look like they work out even when they don't.

      My fellow ectomorphs and I prefer to call ourselves "hard gainers." We brush off the insults, chalk up our physiques to high metabolism, and take solace in the fact that some of us are good at endurance sports.

      At least that's what I used to do. Then I had my Charles Atlas moment. But it wasn't a sand-kicking bully who made me want to become bigger and stronger. It was a former girlfriend who wanted to hire movers to carry her furniture into a new apartment because she was afraid I'd hurt myself if I tried to help.

      I knew it was time to build strength and muscle. But before I could, I had to demolish five of the myths that hold skinny guys back.

      MYTH 1: An ectomorph can't gain muscle
      I almost puked during a test of my maximum bench press. Martin Rooney, C.S.C.S., director of the Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, explains why: "Lifting weights is a stimulus. It attacks your body—everything from your muscles to your nervous system," he says. "That was your body being challenged in a way it's never been before. It isn't used to that kind of stress. Now your muscles will rebuild and prepare for the next attack."

      I'd need it: That first workout was humbling. At 6 feet tall and 146 pounds, I could deadlift just 105 pounds and bench press 95 pounds only three times. I could do 11 chinups, which isn't bad, and my 11.5 percent body fat would be the envy of many mesomorphs if they weren't already laughing at my 12-inch upper-arm girth or my wimpy 20-inch vertical jump.

      Rooney assured me that building up from this shaky platform would be difficult but not impossible, as long as I was willing to push myself. "Your body is an incredibly adaptive organism," he says. "That's why every time you lift, you have to challenge yourself to provide a greater and greater jolt to shock your muscles into another round of rebuilding."

      MYTH 2: No matter how much he eats, a hard gainer can't put on weight
      If you think you eat enough to build muscle, try this experiment, courtesy of Alan Aragon, M.S., a nutritionist and Men's Health advisor from Thousand Oaks, California.

      Pick a recent day that represents how you typically eat. Try to remember everything you consumed and run it all through a calorie calculator, like the one at nutritiondata.self.com. If you're like me, you'll see a problem. I estimated that I ate about 2,000 calories a day, but it was really more like 1,700—nowhere near what I needed to maintain my existing muscle mass, let alone add to it. "Underweight people tend to overestimate their daily calorie intake," Aragon says. "Then they incorrectly attribute their low weight to a high metabolism."

      So calories matter. But so do the sources of those calories, Aragon says. More food means higher levels of glucose circulating in your blood. That creates metabolic stress, leading to inflammation, and inflammation can lead to a whole host of problems, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. So trying to build a more muscular body with junk food is like trying to build a log cabin with wood drenched in lighter fluid.

      Aragon directed me toward whole grains, which provide fiber that may help regulate blood glucose, and foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation. But I still dreaded the answer to my next question: How much will I have to eat?

      MYTH 3: He has to eat till he bursts
      Aragon's nutrition plan called for 2,500 calories on workout days, including 213 grams of protein. That much protein amounts to almost 2 1/2 pounds of raw sirloin, or 34 large eggs!

      I had trouble stuffing it all down at first. It took me a half hour to finish breakfast, and my lunches in the company cafeteria horrified my coworkers. Soon I realized I couldn't consume all my calories in three giant meals. So I adapted: I kept a jug of almonds and a bunch of bananas at my desk for snacks. I stored a block of cheese and a gallon of chocolate milk in the office fridge. "Your body will tell you how it best processes calories," Aragon says.

      "For some people it's large meals. For others it's around-the-clock eating. If you time it right, you should rarely feel as if you're force-feeding yourself."

      MYTH 4: He must live in the gym
      Each week I worked out 4 or 5 days, training for up to 6 hours total. (See this month's poster.) But if I felt physically or mentally drained, I skipped a workout or two. "If your body's sore, it's telling you it needs more time to recover," Rooney says. I'm convinced that the extra rest time enhanced my results, giving my body the time it needed to recover and to come back stronger.

      MYTH 5: Results will be minor
      I won't lie: This plan is tough, especially in the first few weeks. Some days I was so sore I wanted to avoid walking up a flight of stairs. And the results are unpredictable. You may gain a few pounds right away, or you may lose a pound or two because of the radical change in your routine. But once you're past the shock stage, you should see steady growth. "Beginning lifters can expect about 2 pounds of muscle growth a month," Aragon says.

      Key point: Each time you hit the gym, give your best effort. "You may think it's just 1 rep you're missing, but that last rep is when your muscles are working hardest," Rooney says. "The question isn't whether you're a hard gainer, but are you a hard trainer?"

      Rooney retested me about 4 1/2 months after my first visit. I deadlifted 250, and my 3-rep max on the bench press jumped to 165 pounds. I cranked out 20 chinups, and my vertical leap soared to 26 1/2 inches. That's in addition to the 14 pounds I gained. And it may not sound like much, but I added 2 inches to my biceps. My waist was still 32 inches, and my body fat actually decreased to 9.8 percent.

      But the sweetest reward wasn't measured with a barbell or tape measure. A friend mentioned that she was moving to a new apartment and asked if I could help with the furniture.

      "No problem," I said. And it wasn't.

      Want to try it? The Skinny Man’s Muscle Plan is available exclusively on Men’s Health Personal Trainer. There you’ll find Rooney’s complete plan, and have access to our customizable nutrition program—which will help you create the best diet for your goals, lifestyle, and preferences. Click here to learn more!

      Source: http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/skinny-man-muscle
      Comments 8 Comments
      1. keithgeiling's Avatar
        keithgeiling -
        He's a "hard gainer" and he takes in 2500 calories on training days?? Wow.. I think I'm doing things wrong! Lol
      1. Bigcountry08's Avatar
        Bigcountry08 -
        Lol, I'm eating 2500 calories to lose weight for the summer.
      1. Nerdabolic's Avatar
        Nerdabolic -
        I'm naturally around 135 lbs at 6ft. To get up to 190lbs in the last year and a half I have to eat closer 3,700-4,000 calories on training days. How does Men's Health keep making the feed with this rubbish?
      1. yowler99's Avatar
        yowler99 -
        Wow 2500 calories? I do strongman and I intake 6000 calories on most days... I find this hard to believe.
      1. Ashto70's Avatar
        Ashto70 -
        Originally Posted by yowler99 View Post
        Wow 2500 calories? I do strongman and I intake 6000 calories on most days... I find this hard to believe.
        If he ate say 1700kcals a day, as he said he was, and at a starting weight of 10st 7Ib, then it's not unreasonable to conclude that after 18 weeks of training and 2500kcals (+800kcals/day), he could put on 14Ibs in weight (at 0.75Ib per week). That would be 5,600kcals per every 0.75Ib he gained. I reckon that's very achievable with the right nutrition and trainer behind you. My only doubt is regarding the apparent drop in bodyfat over the same period, but it's not impossible.
      1. yowler99's Avatar
        yowler99 -
        Originally Posted by Ashto70 View Post

        If he ate say 1700kcals a day, as he said he was, and at a starting weight of 10st 7Ib, then it's not unreasonable to conclude that after 18 weeks of training and 2500kcals (+800kcals/day), he could put on 14Ibs in weight (at 0.75Ib per week). That would be 5,600kcals per every 0.75Ib he gained. I reckon that's very achievable with the right nutrition and trainer behind you. My only doubt is regarding the apparent drop in bodyfat over the same period, but it's not impossible.
        I suppose you are right, I've never trained like a bodybuilder for definition or ate like it so I may be wrong. 4 gallons of chocolate milk right here every week :)
      1. Mr.Sinister's Avatar
        Mr.Sinister -
        If he was training with Rooney I believe every word. Rooney is extremely meticulous about everything.
      1. cmr989's Avatar
        cmr989 -
        Originally Posted by Mr.Sinister View Post
        If he was training with Rooney I believe every word. Rooney is extremely meticulous about everything.
        Kcal intake and gains are in complete proportion to your lean body mass, absolute numbers like 6000 kcal mean nothing at all if body weight and lean body mass aren't figured. 2500 could be just fine for someone who weights 146 lbs......

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