The right nutrition plan for hardgainers
- Hardgainers and their special metabolism
- Principles of a balanced diet - the same basis for all body types
- Strength training for muscle hypertrophy and complementary supplements
- Orientation for your nutrition plan as a hardgainer
- Discipline and patience - your way to a muscular body as a hardgainer
Hardgainers and their special metabolism
You probably know a person who can eat whatever they want without gaining weight. Or maybe you are such a person yourself? What is a luxury problem for others, is a hard punishment for those who have the goal to build muscles. Most people who experience this phenomenon have a very fast metabolism that processes nutrients inefficiently. In 1930, William Sheldon made a classification of three different metabolic or body types - ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph. The hardgainer is the ectomorph metabolic type, which can be visually classified as follows: he is usually tall and particularly slender, characterized by a short torso, narrow shoulders and narrow hips, while his hands and feet are petite and, last but not least, his arms and legs are relatively long. The difficulty of a hardgainer is that at the end of a day - insofar as he listens exclusively to his natural feeling of hunger - he is left with no nutrients from which muscles or even fat deposits can be created. From this we can conclude why most people of this body type have a very low body fat percentage.
In the following, based on the existing special conditions of the ectomorph body type, we will go into the necessities of nutrition and show that with the help of a hardgainer nutrition plan it is possible, despite all the circumstances, to supply enough nutrients so that ultimately muscle can be built up.
Principles of a balanced diet - the same basis for all body types
Most of us love food - especially sweets and junk food. If a person is additionally "lucky" enough to be able to eat everything without gaining weight from it, it must be the perfect life, many think. At first glance it may sound enviable, but at second glance it becomes apparent how fatal it can be if the body does not send warning signals - e.g. in the form of obesity - because the perception of health changes thus only occurs at a much later point in time.
Many researches show that serious diseases are related to poor nutrition.[¹] [²] Just one of many examples is the increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[³] [⁴] [⁵] In turn, a healthy, balanced diet is beneficial for many parts of our lives. For example, our cells, organs and brain functions are positively influenced in such a way that we are also physically more efficient in total.[⁶] [⁷] [⁸] [⁹] This positive effect is particularly apparent in combination with sports.[¹⁰]
To help you understand how calories are made up and thus what a balanced diet looks like, here's a brief overview of macro- and micronutrients: macronutrients are divided into carbohydrates, fats and proteins. With four calories per gram, carbohydrates are primarily found in all starchy foods such as bread, potatoes or pasta. The main sources of proteins - also with four calories per gram - are meat, eggs and dairy products. Fats are primarily found in nuts, seeds and oils - these have nine calories per gram. Micronutrients are important vitamins and minerals that our bodies need only in small amounts, but still to perform important metabolic processes and functionalities - in short, they ensure our survival and must therefore be ingested through food. Examples include magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, and all vitamins from A to K. We humans derive most of our gains from whole foods, which are natural, unprocessed foods that are rich in nutrients and low in energy density. They are therefore the exact opposite of sweets and junk food, as these have been processed and consequently have low nutritional value and bring "empty calories".
As you can see, it makes a lot of sense to make your meals primarily of vegetables, fruits, meat and fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and healthy dairy products. Avoid industrial sugar and trans fats as much as possible. No witchcraft, right? Above all, this approach is no different from that of other metabolic types. For us humans, a balanced diet is the guarantee for a healthy existence. Therefore, be sure to follow these points for your hardgainer nutrition plan.
The be-all and end-all for muscle growth - the calorie surplus
Many people are said to be hardgainers simply because they do not gain muscle despite regular training. However, people forget firstly that a hardgainer is also said to have an increased metabolic rate and a specific physical existence and secondly that training alone is not the decisive factor for muscle growth. A rule of thumb is that any body specific goal is made up by 30% of adjustments in training and 70% of adjustments in nutrition. This shows you once again how important a balanced diet is for you as a hardgainer and why you should have a hardgainer nutrition plan ready!
As already explained, every food is composed of different macro- and micronutrients, which is how you provide calories to your body. Every organism has a basic need for calories, which must be met in order for bodily processes to run smoothly. The more exercise we include in our daily routine, the more our body burns and the so-called power metabolism increases. This leads to a logical conclusion: if you burn more calories than you consume, your body will break down fat reserves and muscle. If consumption and intake are in balance, it is neither a positive nor a negative calorie balance, so that your body can call up the normal functionalities, but neither builds up nor breaks down muscle or fat. Essential for muscle growth is therefore a caloric surplus - that is, you eat more calories per day than you consume. This is often the real fault of people who call themselves hardgainers. They are rarely aware of their calorie needs and daily intake. To overcome this problem, you should start a food diary to record the calories you consume and put them in relation to your basal metabolic rate, which you can calculate using calorie calculators on the Internet. Since the metabolism of an ectomorphic body type is faster than average, we recommend that you start with a calorie surplus of about 500 calories. You can gradually increase your surplus. If you are worried that 500 calories might be too much, start with 250 calories. Your hardgainer nutrition plan can help you keep a close watch on your calorie intake. If you want to learn more about building mass, we have summarized information for you.
Tips for your diet as a hardgainer
Eating up to 500 calories more per day is anything but easy - especially if you are already eating below your actual needs. That's why we have a few tips below that you can consider alongside your hardgainer nutrition plan to make eating easier:
Based on the chewing process, your brain automatically sets a feeling of satiety at a certain point. For this reason, people who want to lose weight are often advised to chew more slowly and mindfully, so that the brain suggests to the stomach early on that it is full, even if it is not yet. You can reverse this principle by chewing much faster than usual. But don't chew less, because otherwise you won't be doing your stomach and intestines any favors!
This leads directly to the second tip: You only need to chew solid food. Liquid food saturates less or slower than solid food. In the near future, the blender could become your favorite kitchen tool for putting together energy-rich shakes.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Especially in relation to your strength training, you should definitely meet your needs, but be careful not to take in too much of them, as they require more digestive effort and thus keep you full much longer than carbohydrates or fats. Vegetables contain important fiber, but also have a large volume. Don't neglect this either, but put more focus on healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.
Strength training for muscle hypertrophy and complementary supplements
Besides the big "danger" of eating too few calories to build muscle, another mistake can lurk in strength training. Especially for hardgainers a very hard and on the goal adapted strength training is important, so that the muscle hypertrophy is addressed and the less existing ST-fibers are extensively stimulated. What you should pay attention to when training as a hardgainer, you will learn in our article on the hardgainer training plan.
The topic of supplements concerns you just as much as other (strength) athletes. You can help yourself a little bit with them, but you should never use them as a meal replacement. If you are interested in supplements, check out our general article on hardgainers - there you will find the best supplements for hardgainers.
Orientation for your nutrition plan as a hardgainer
As an ectomorph metabolic type, you have to consume a lot of calories during the day, so it's a good idea to make a sensible division and set up a nutrition plan so you don't lose track. The more calories you need to consume, the higher the number of meals you should eat, as this will definitely make it easier to reach your calorie goal. Ideally, try to eat every two to three hours. If you're on the go a lot, this requires a good meal prep - that is, meal prep.
For example, on a training day, your hardgainer nutrition plan might look like this:
- 07:00 - Breakfast
- 09:30 - Snack
- 12:00 - Lunch
- 15:00 - Pre-Workout Shake
- 17:00 - Post-Workout Shake
- 18:30 - Dinner
- 21:00 - Snack
Make sure to meet your protein requirements of around two grams per kilogram of body weight, sufficient but not too much fruit and vegetables, healthy fats from fish, pastured beef, nuts, seeds or kernels and lastly complex carbohydrates from potatoes, oatmeal or natural rice, for example.
Tip: If you tolerate milk and you don't have the time and/or the inclination, it can be used from time to time without any further mixing, as it is naturally very rich in nutrients and energy. Ideally, however, you should use non-homogenized organic milk.
Discipline and patience - your way to a muscular body as a hardgainer
Building muscle as a hardgainer may not be that easy, but it is definitely not impossible. If you stick to the previously mentioned points and especially pay attention to the calorie surplus in combination with heavy strength training, there is almost nothing standing in the way of your muscle growth. However, like many other things in life, this is also a process. You should therefore be very calm, patient and disciplined so that you do not give up early and bury your head in the sand. Always remember that you are not alone with the problem and that there are enough people in the world who have already gone this way. Keep at it and be proud of yourself even with the smallest successes!