Both recreational and professional athletes who have made muscle building their goal strive to get the most out of their own bodies in order to excel both in terms of performance and appearance. Since we humans are very individual and nature does not place any value on justice, we also do not all bring the same basic requirements for the development of our musculature. Genetics has a great influence on the possibilities of our body. Even though most people are aware of this fact, they begin to compare themselves with other athletes - sometimes even with those who are fundamentally different in body type. For this reason, it is not uncommon for frustration to grow, causing an athlete to slip into resignation in the short to medium term, which can have a negative impact on training and nutritional discipline. Since comparisons usually make one look worse than one's peers, a negative spiral begins from which it seems difficult to break out.
In the fitness community, there is often talk of one body type that has been hit very hard because they have a particularly hard time gaining muscle mass - the hardgainer. What exactly a hardgainer is and what special challenges they face, we will explain in the following paragraphs. If you have already been described as a hardgainer and are now looking for more information about your training and nutrition, you might be lucky and find out that your successes fail in a completely different place than you think, because often people describe themselves as hardgainers who actually are not. Behind the lack of success so far are usually quite different causes. If you follow our tips, nothing should stand in your way for your muscle building!
- Hardgainer - the ectomorph body type
- The somatotypes - hardgainer, easygainer and softgainer
- Can hardgainers still gain mass and change their body shape?
- Supplements for hardgainers
- Whether a curse or a blessing - it all depends on your goal!
Hardgainer - the ectomorph body type
Behind the so-called hardgainer is the ectomorphic body or metabolism type, which is one of three, which will be discussed in more detail in the following section. People of this metabolic type usually fall visually into the same pattern: they are rather tall and particularly slim in relation to other people. Quite clear characteristics are a short upper body, narrow shoulders and hips, a small chest and delicate hands and feet, while the arms and legs tend to be long. Due to the described physique, the muscles of the hardgainer also tend to be naturally long and thus thinner. Here now the first shortcoming becomes clear - the growth of longer muscles does not catch the eye very quickly, because the muscle has to distribute the volume over a much larger area. This often leads to the first fallacy regarding hardgainers: If the conditions are right, muscle mass is built up very well - the optical perception, however, takes some time.
The body of a hardgainer, however, can not only be visually assigned to one type. The metabolism also differs from the other two types. The metabolic rate is significantly increased, which leads to an inefficient utilization of nutrients and energy by the organism. Often the body consumes everything at once, so that no reserves remain, with the help of which muscles could be built up or even fat deposits could be created. The body fat percentage of a hardgainer is therefore usually very low. In science, with this high metabolic rate, it is often assumed that the thyroid gland is overactive. Whether this is the case should definitely be clarified first with a doctor and if necessary treated accordingly. Many examples have already shown that it is possible to alleviate or even eliminate the problem through medical therapy.
Type 2 muscle fibers are primarily responsible for muscle growth. Type 2 embodies the FT fibers (Fast Twitch fibers), which can contract quickly with a lot of force, but only for a short period of time. The hardgainer, however, has significantly more type 1 muscle fibers - the ST fibers (slow twitch fibers). These can contract for a long time without much effort and are predestined for endurance performance due to the above-average oxygen supply, among other things.
The somatotypes - hardgainer, easygainer and softgainer
You have already got to know the hardgainer extensively. In addition to the ectomorph type, there is also the mesomorph (easygainer) and the endomorph (softgainer). In 1930, William Sheldon defined these three rough variants according to the cotyledonous tissues of the embryo, since, according to his theory, these contributed to different extents of body mass. Today, this theory has been disproved, but nevertheless, the terms continue to be used in the fitness field to create a more body-specific training and nutrition plan.
The mesomorphic body or metabolic type naturally brings optimal metabolic conditions and tends to be more muscular because muscle can be built more quickly. Looking at the external characteristics, it often shows broad shoulders, a massive chest and narrow hips, resulting in a natural V-shape of the upper body. Especially in terms of strength training and muscle building, this description sounds perfect. However, there are always two sides to the coin - imbalances can quickly occur, which can have a negative effect on posture and thus bring consequences that should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, the term "Easygainer" is attributed to it not without reason. If only the facts are considered, this type definitely has it easiest when it comes to body formation.
The endomorphic body type - also called softgainer - is the exact opposite of the hardgainer. This type can utilize nutrients particularly efficiently. Visually, it is usually recognizable by a voluminous chest, a wide hip and a pronounced shoulder area. The musculature is less defined due to the naturally higher body fat percentage, which also makes the face look rather soft and rounded. Building muscle is usually not a problem - but "exposing" the muscles so that they become visible is.
As already mentioned, William Sheldon's theory has been disproved in the meantime. In most cases, a person cannot be assigned to a specific body type. Much more often there are combination types, such as the ecto-endomorph, whose figure is also called "pear" because he has a thinner upper body and more fat stores in the lower half of the body, or the ecto-endomorph (also called "apple"), where the exact opposite is the case.
Can hardgainers still gain mass and change their body shape?
A supposed visual hardgainer is not the same as an ectomorph. In the same way, it is not correct to call an athlete who does not achieve (fast) success despite strength training a hardgainer across the board. If you suspect that you have an inefficient metabolism and therefore do not build muscles, you should first check whether the problem is not rather with your food intake or your training intensity. We will inform you about the right nutrition plan for hardgainers.
If you are sure that you are a hardgainer, we have good news for you: There is a way for you too to gain muscle mass and get closer to your dream body. You can find a detailed explanation of the points you should pay attention to when training in our article on the hardgainer training plan.
Your body is malleable within its genetic capabilities. However, don't forget that you are probably a very large person, which will always make you look a little less bulky compared to the other body types. Ideally, you should simply avoid any comparisons and pay attention only to yourself and your physical development.
If you are more of one of the other body types, you can pick up a tip or two for your training in our guide on the topic of metabolic types.
Supplements for hardgainers
Now that you've taken a closer look at the optimal diet for a hardgainer, you're probably wondering if supplements wouldn't be a useful approach to reaching your target calories, and we can tell you - yes, definitely. Basically, supplements are equally useful for all athletes, but they are not mandatory. As the term implies, they support you in your balanced diet and tend to bring you closer to your personal goal.
Proteins are the building material of your muscles, because they contribute to a proven increase and maintenance of muscle mass. Especially in combination with strength training, your body is already very helped if you supply it with the necessary nutrients. For your adequate protein supply, our ESN Designer Whey or our ESN Micellar Casein can help you very well.
With casein protein, you should make sure that it provides you with protein over a longer period of time, since it is digested more slowly - the disadvantage of this is that your muscles are not immediately supplied after training and your feeling of satiety also lasts a little longer.
Of course, a protein powder alone does not provide enough calories. That's why we have developed the ESN Massive Weight Gainer, which also provides you with wholesome carbohydrates and valuable fiber. We recommend that you take one serving per day - for example after training or in the morning after getting up. You get a few extra calories if you prepare the shake with (low-fat) milk instead of water. Even though we are convinced of the added value of our weight gainer, you should never replace a complete meal with it. Here's another idea: If you don't want a ready-made mixed product, you can also use our ESN Instant Oats, which you can easily add to your shake in your desired amount. To support your balanced diet exzellent, you should always fall back on long-chain carbohydrates as a source of carbohydrates. In many other weight gainers, however, there are often short-chain carbohydrates, with which you will have less success, because the nutrient supply is only maintained over a short period of time.
Ultimately, the same applies to you as a hardgainer as it does to all other (strength) athletes when it comes to training supplements. We have some products that can help you build muscle. Discover your perfect match in our assortment. We are sure that there is something suitable for you.
Whether a curse or a blessing - it depends on your goal!
The points described to build muscle mass seem like a lot of work, but ultimately it depends on your individual goal. Not every hardgainer has the goal to go strong in width and look massive. Often, only small muscle gains are enough to achieve attractive body definition. In fact, many people of the ectomorph type are grateful to be able to eat a lot without gaining weight. After all, this option is often a desire of soft or easygainers, as they are very sensitive to a calorie surplus. It's like all things in life - there are always two sides to the coin that you can come to terms with.
However, if you notice any changes, such as excessive loss of body fat and weight, consult a doctor immediately. Even if your metabolism is fast, it should not be destroying your body by breaking down more and more muscle. The framework of strong skeletal muscles is essential for your health.