Putting On Muscle For Hardgainers


If you are currently involved in a weight loss program, the idea of someone having a difficult time putting on weight likely sounds like blasphemy to you.

You spend your days and nights opening the refrigerator and cupboards tempted by the various carb and fat bombs, yet the hardgainer is struggling with eating enough food.

Many of you would die for this “problem”.

But, like many things in life, it’s all based on perspective.

Just as many individuals are self-conscious of being overweight, there are those same feelings from the excessively skinny as well.

It can stop you from having a body with proportional muscle and halt many student athletes from progressing to the next level in their sport of choice.

Remember, those who put on weight easier also have the ability to add muscle easier.

Furthermore, understand that in order to put on weight, a hardgainer must be just as consistent with their nutrition and training as the person trying to lose weight.

There are no days off.

They can’t eat in the correct caloric surplus Monday through Friday and let the weekends go out the window by dropping their calories down.

Their body needs consistency every single day just like those trying to lose weight.

For most hardgainers, the challenge is every bit as difficult as those on the opposite side of the fence.

In this article I will explain how to go about eating and training in order to take the first steps towards progressing the body of the hardgainer.


Going back to the basics we know that if you take in less calories than you burn, over time you will lose weight in the vast majority of cases.

Similarly, if you take in more calories than you burn you will gain weight.

Let’s start there.

Calories are always an estimate. The goal is to take an educated guess at what a person burns based on their age, weight, body fat, body type, and activity level and develop a daily estimate as to what they burn.

Then, over time, as the person has been following their prescribed numbers they are adjusted based on the changes or lack thereof that the person sees.

Since this article must be generalized to some degree, I am going to give you hardgainers a good jumping off point.

Start with body weight x 20 for your daily calorie goal.

After a couple of weeks go by you can gauge progress. Most hardgainers will end up between 20–25 x body weight.

Just haphazardly trying to “eat more” doesn’t do anything for determining what your personal caloric needs are to gain muscle on a day to day basis.

You can’t just aimlessly eat everything in site. Although Yukon may argue that.

Next, aim to have protein make up around 30–40% of your calories. Then, divide up your remaining calories with carbohydrates and fat at levels of your choosing, but keep them at similar percentages (30–40%).

For example, let’s consider 140 pound hardgainer named Gerald.

140 x 20 = 2,800 calories

2,800 x 30% protein=840/4 (there are 4 calories per gram of protein)=210 grams of protein

2,800 x 40% carbohydrates=1,120/4 (there are 4 calories per gram of carbs)=280 grams of carbohydrates

2,800 x 30% fat=840/9 (there are 9 calories per gram of fat)=93 grams of fat

So 140 pound hardgainer Gerald would start at:

2,800 calories made up of 210 grams protein, 280 grams carbohydrates, and 93 grams fat.

Make CERTAIN you are tracking your calories and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Without doing so you aren’t gaining any direct input as to what values are working or not working.

As for foods, you still need to eat nutrient dense things like fruits and veggies, but make sure to save room for the more calorically dense foods as well.

Stuffing yourself with piles of lettuce and fruit trays is not going to satisfy the calorie needs of the hardgainer.

Think about including some of these on a daily basis: whole eggs, beef, poultry, fish, nuts, oils, avocados, peanut butter, whole grain breads, rice, oats, and potatoes.

Blended shakes are also an excellent way to get easy calories in a healthy manner that tastes awesome.

Think about including: protein powder, peanut butter, oats, fruit, greek yogurt, or similar, along with some ice and water/milk for a fast and easy snack.

There are loads of great shake combinations, but always make sure you include protein powder if you are having trouble hitting your protein goal.

Also, consider a casein protein shake before bed. Casein is a slow absorbing protein that is anti-catabolic (prevents muscle breakdown) and great to have in your system at night.

Does everyone need to be using it?


But we are talking about true hardgainers who are trying to do anything they can to build muscle and the last thing they need to worry about is losing it.

Finally, in addition to protein, make sure a good portion of your daily carbohydrates are eaten post workout to replenish glycogen stores (stored carbohydrates) and aid in recovery.


In an era where everyone always wants to do more in their workouts, the path of the hardgainer needs to be a little different.

First, consider that hardgainers burn more calories at rest and during activity than most people.

With that it mind, you have to careful about choosing workouts that build muscle and aren’t designed around aerobic activity and excessive calorie burn.

Generally speaking, your training should be focused on heavier weights and longer rest periods.

Seeing how many sets you can do in 60 minutes is definitely not the best protocol for the hardgainer.

If you plan to do some direct cardiovascular training whether it’s to keep your heart health in check or to keep yourself prepped for a sport, make sure you limit it to what is necessary.

20–30 minutes two to three times per week is plenty.

Also, keep in mind that if you are going to add cardio or if you have a manual labor job, add calories to your daily total to account for the extra burn.

Aim to focus your workouts around compound exercises. They are the ones that will recruit the most parts of the body and exert the largest overall stimulus.

For those that are unfamiliar with what these are, think multi-joint multi-muscle movements. Save the isolation exercises for the end of the workout after the foundational lifts are already taken care of.

AKA: Squats, deadlifts, lunges, pullups, pushups, overhead presses, chest presses, dips etc.

Compound lifts FTW. My client Judy getting some squats in.

Doing 20 sets of tricep extensions isn’t going to make you huge.

Finally, get plenty of sleep.

Quit watching LOST and go to bed.

The hardgainer needs an optimal environment for building muscle and being sleep deprived is definitely not it. Seven to eight hours a night would be ideal.

If a nap is needed during the day, take one.


Putting on muscle is tough. Doing it when you’re a hardgainer is even tougher.

It takes hard work and consistency. Just like losing weight.

Aimlessly stuffing your face and being sloppy about weight gain is not the route to take. Just because the scales shows you put on 20 pounds in a few months does not mean it’s all muscle.

If a hardgainer can pack on ten pounds of lean muscle in a year, that would be awesome.

Be realistic about the process. While fat loss can be very dramatic in only a matter of months, muscle gain is a much slower process.

That is why you must stay on top of it every day.

If you are a hardgainer and are ready to take the plunge I advise you to commit 100% of your efforts for one month to kick start the endeavor.

If you aren’t spot on after that it won’t be the end of the world, but aim to give it your full effort in month one.

Also, if you can find a friend to jump on board with you who has similar goals, that can help tremendously. Accountability is huge, so find someone who supports what you are doing and feed off their energy.

One last thing.

When you are in a caloric surplus you may find yourself feeling a little softer than normal.

Not to worry.

Assuming you aren’t binge eating garbage and are going about your nutrition in the manner recommended above, you are not packing on tons of fat, but rather simply having some added water retention.

You will be able to easily cut down when the time comes.

HARDGAINERS RECAP (for those who skimmed):

  1. To start, set calories to bodyweight x 20. Adjust from there.
  2. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat should should all sit between 30 and 40% of your total calories.
  3. Track your calories and macronutrients everyday.
  4. Eat lots of calorie dense foods and be careful not to overfeed yourself on things like fruits and veggies, which may leave you too full to hit your numbers.
  5. Enjoy a large serving of protein and carbohydrates post workout.
  6. In your workouts, focus on heavy compound lifts with adequate rest periods.
  7. Avoid excessive cardio and make sure to add calories to your day if you involve it or have a manual labor job.
  8. Get plenty of sleep.
  9. Aim to hit your numbers and workouts 100% for the first month.
  10. Find a friend to progress with and hold each other accountable.

Are you a hardgainer who wants to take the next step?

If you want more help and would like to work with me one-on-one I want to hear from you!

Email me today at: JwaltersPT@gmail.com

OR visit my website to learn more at: JonWalters.CO

IG: JonWalters15

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