Hard Gainer or Under EaterAm I eating enough?
A lot of times the word “Hard gainer” is thrown around when about someone who may classify themselves as an “Ectomorph” which refers to someone needing a larger caloric surplus to gain weight. Now I have seen various people on online message boards, and in real life that always tell you they eat so much but cannot put on a pound. The next question I usually ask them is what your diet is and how much you are eating. First, they often say I don’t count calories but eat till I am full, or two they state I have a few meals a day but can’t stomach any more food. For those who do track their intake, I would only tell them to add another 200-500 kcals of food (mostly carbs/fat) due to meeting protein intake will be very easy in a surplus and see what the scale/mirror will show over the upcoming weeks towards your goal of adding size and strength.
Are you enough macros and calories?
Back to my first two points on an individual who tells you they are a hard gainer, most of the time you will get the reply I have a protein shake and some oatmeal for breakfast (without specifics on amounts), a sandwich from subway or takeout for lunch, and come home and eat a dinner with some chicken/beef rice and veggies, and a protein shake before going to bed. Now even without calculating this out you can clearly see this is not much of calories (based on portions), but in reality, this individual’s diet has a very lacking micronutrient content as well. A proper diet regardless if bulking or dieting should make sure you strive to hit a few things first and foremost. Those are Protein, Fiber, and Fat minimums. A general estimate of protein intake is to aim for at least 1g/lb of protein for the average lifter, 20% of your intake from fat (to aid with hormones), and also a good 30-40g of fiber which many do skimp on (not eating veggies, fruits, or fiber-based sources of carbs) in which you could supplement with fiber such as Psyllium Husk Powder to help reach that intake. Another possibility, which you could do, is use greens shake or greens product by blending them into a protein shake. This is something I have never done as I enjoy eating too much, but just an option I would throw out there.
Now that we have our Protein, Fiber and Fat minimums to an understanding let’s next try and take this individual and help them gain weight. Let’s say this person weighs 200 pounds. Therefore that individual should get at least 200g of protein first and foremost. Without even knowing how much NEAT (non-exercise activity) based on their job and calories they may burn, height, weight, or other various factors such as training frequency, volume, and cardio which are other equations to put into a puzzle. Let’s just start with 3000 calories for this individual as a standpoint and see how they react and adjust to that diet I posted above of those lacking 4 meals they had.
So if we took that diet again which I am going to outline below, I will show you just how much that individual would have to eat at those meals to reach at least 3,000 calories as most people will very underestimate portion size to their caloric amount.
Taking 3000 calories we need 200g of protein which is 800 kcals, that leaves 2200 kcals left and 20% of 3000 would give us 600kcals or around 66g of fat, leaving 1600 kcals or 400g of carbs.
Meal Ideas by Macros
For instance, Meal 1 would be around 60g of protein from whey protein (2 scoops) and at least 120g of oatmeal (1.5 cups dry) which would yield
100g of carbs, 60g of protein and 12g of fat.
Next meal would be what we outlined as a subway sandwich lets take a 12” Footlong Sub Chicken Breast
Almost 100g of carbs, 20g of fat, and 50g of protein
Leaving our totals to 200g of carbs, 32g of fat, and 110g of protein
Next meal would be Chicken/beef + Rice + Veggies, let’s just say our individual would need around 5oz Chicken, + 2 cups dry rice + 1 cup broccoli making that 50g of protein, 85g of carbs, and 3g of fat
Totals as of now are 285g of carbs, 35g of fat and 160g of protein
Lastly, our protein shake before bed as most people will use around 1-2 scoops showing you that this individual fell short of their carb total by almost 100+g and fat total by close to half at 35g. So you can see just from a general standpoint and take a diet and give them portion amounts how the individual may not meet their daily intake and classify themselves as a hard gainer when in reality they barely reached over 2200-2500 kcals. For most out there that are higher in weight, train on a routine, and include some various forms of cardio their intake may be a lot more than this to grow and eclipse the 3,000 caloric intake.
Some advice I would give to this individuals is look into these following sources to help them reach their intake while also getting some decent micronutrients as well. First and foremost, many may remember Arnold and drinking milk as a good way to add weight and bulk up, and in fact, that is a great option. Milk contains a mix of Casein and Whey, has a good chunk of protein and carbs, and also a healthy dose of Vitamin D and Calcium which are vital for bone health/strength. Mixing a protein shake with milk, drinking a cup at a few meals would be a great way to help boost your intake and help our first individual significantly.
Carb Sources Alternatives
Another good carb source to include would be pasta, a few ounces nearly tops almost 50g of carbs, not very filling and is very versatile with chicken, beef, or mixed with eggs to make something similar to “Fried Rice” Like you would have at a restaurant. You could also invest in whole wheat to get some added fiber to boot.
Trail Mix and Granola are two sources that are very overlooked that could aid an individual significantly. Though processed some forms do contain useful traces of vitamins and minerals, are not going to settle too heavy compared to something like oatmeal, or potatoes and a good way to really rack up your carb intake. Take a protein shake and pour it on top of your trail mix or granola as a bowl of cereal (like the milk) and it’s a very easy post-workout meal.
Banana’s are a great carb source that many could use that are always on the go (high carb content) and also contains a healthy dose of potassium which many do lack in their diet, not to mention the amount of minerals/vitamins this fruit does contain which many may not get from their diet.
Last carb source I like to utilize would be bagels. They are so versatile as you can spread peanut butter (which I will discuss shortly) and top with banana’s or honey to add extra kcals, good for a post-workout treat with a protein shake and very portable. You could easily use these to make sandwiches or burgers with (beef again something I will talk about soon) as there are too many possibilities to list.
What Protein Should You Eat
Protein wise, a lot of people always tend to stick to the leaner cuts of meat when in reality having some red meat or saturated fat in your diet will aid you in reaching adequate levels of other fat sources (omega 3’s, 6’s, 9’s, saturated, mono, and polyunsaturated fats). Most people do not get enough variety and usually, overshoot their omega 6’s and never get enough 3’s (from eating fish and have to supplement with fish oils), and avoid saturated fat because they think it is the plaque when in reality there have been countless PubMed studies to prove otherwise. I am not saying you have to make the majority of your fat intake from saturated fat, but excluding it is a big no no!
Whole Eggs, fattier cuts of beef (such as 90/10) are easy sources to boost fat intake which our original individual lacked, you could also venture towards cuts of pork or sausage as well (in moderation) not make it an everyday thing but something for variety and also a way to boost your overall fat intake.
Where to get your fat sources
Nut Butter + Nuts are another very easy way to do so like I talked about with the bagel earlier, taking some nuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts while on the go is an easy snack and racks up calories very fast. I highly suggest it for those who live a very busy lifestyle and have trouble squeezing in calories.
Another source is Oils such as Olive, MCT, or Peanut, or Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is great to put on a skillet and cook eggs with, Peanut/MCT/Olive could be used to drizzle on top of veggies, in a salad, or used when baking (say potatoes) to help boost fat intake as well and virtually cause your stomach any problems because it is just a liquid. It won’t really make you very full or bloated because of how light it is for such a heavy caloric amount.
Now with all of these suggestions above what could the first individual do to help boost his intake and actually reach his caloric goals? Let’s go back to his diet and revamp it
Meal 1 we will add in 2 TBSP of peanut butter and 100g of blueberries (fruit) mixed with his oatmeal and whey protein to help add another good 180+ kcals mostly coming from fat and another 15g of carbs from blueberries. An extra 16g of fat and 180 kcals will help boost those kcals and another 60kcals from blueberries.
New Totals on meal 1 are:
120g of carbs, 65g of protein and 28g of fat.
Meal 2 will remain constant with the footlong sub (which is not the most optimal thing) but still it will help an individual now and then with a busy lifestyle.
Almost 100g of carbs, 20g of fat, and 50g of protein
Making our totals come to 220g of carbs, 115g of protein, and 48g of fat
Meal 3 we will add in 1 TBSP of Oil and use 90/10 beef instead of chicken making this come out to
5oz 90/10 Beef + 2 cups rice + 1 Tbsp Olive Oil + 1 Cup Broccoli
40g of protein, 85g of carbs, and 30g of fat
new Totals are now up to 305g Carbs, 155g of protein, and 78g of fat.
Last meal which was just a protein shake we will now revamp to 1 Scoop of Protein in 8oz of milk, 2 Cups of Trail mix or granola topped with 100g of a banana (long banana) making those totals come out to:
45g of protein, 115g of carbs, 9g of fat.
Making our final totals come out to:
420g of carbs (total met), 200g of protein (total met), 87g of fat (total exceeded).
As you can see our mission was accomplished, the individual finally met his 3000kcals and broke over that with some small changes and additions to his diet. Now while this may not be an everyday thing there is plenty of variety and sources I did not include in this short write-up. The matter of the fact is too many people diverse themselves to X food sources when in reality there are plenty of options out there to help you reach your protein, fiber, and fat minimums while still making healthy choices and meeting your intake. Don’t make the excuse you cannot eat enough when in reality 3,000 calories are not much. When you get to the 5000 or so mark then it may become a daily grind and struggle to force down the food and when liquid calories may become your best friend, but until then many will not reach those levels, so with that said use the tips above to help you overcome your eating problems, getting in adequate calories, and expanding the diversity in your diet to prevent that individual or people from saying they cannot gain weight. There are plenty of things in the grocery store to fix that problem!