Eat More Sammiches – The Muscle Building Guide for Skinny Guys Part I

Alright, I did some searching online, trying to find a really good guide for the skinny guys interested in building muscle.  While I found some decent stuff, most of it was pseudo-intellectual bs, making things more complicated than they needed to be.  I even found a few articles on getting abs for a skinny guy.  Since when has a skinny dude ever had trouble getting abs?  They sport a six-pack all the time, hence the adjective skinny.

Throughout the next week or so, I want to leave all of you skinny guys with no questions whatsoever when it comes to building a sizeable frame, gaining strength and adding some quality weight to that skeleton of yours.

Forget About Everything You’ve Read and Heard

First of all, I want you to forget everything you have ever heard about what it takes to go from skinny to buff.  The reason I say this is because the chances are highly likely you’ve had your face buried in a piece o’ crap magazine, some silly forums or you’ve been listening to the bros at the gym.  Now there is nothing wrong with a little comical reading or listening to others opinions but take it all with a grain of salt.  Chances are the folks in the magazines are very advanced (unless they have a newbie magazine I am unaware of) or on drugs or both.  Chances are the bros at the gym are somewhat further along and forgot what it was like to be a newbie OR they are skinny as well and have just been reading a lot of bodybuilding magazines.  In theory, what they say works, just not for them – yeah right.

I just glossed over an article that states “After eating breakfast you ought to be eating every 2-3 hours.”  Please forget about regimented meal frequency, as obsessing over it will not serve you.  The only real way that eating more than 3-4 meals per day will be beneficial is if you have to eat an insane amount of kcals daily or because you cannot stomach such large meals.  The same article said to Live Your Life Around Food. Are you freaking serious?!  That’s the craziest thing I have ever heard.  There is no reason to plan your life around your anal eating schedule unless you like to eat alone, have no friends and be a boring Benjamin.  If that’s your thing, then get right to it.  Otherwise I suggest scrapping any ideas about structured meal frequency.  Eat a pre workout meal with a decent amount of protein (30+ grams) and the same amount or more of carbohydrates and some fat for taste.  Then once you are done be sure to eat a hefty meal afterward (1000+ kcals is normal for me).

Now that I have ragged on some of the silly information out on the interwebz, let’s look at some better ideas for the transformation you are striving for.

Scrap the BS Supplements

If you have been around bodybuilding training for any amount of time you likely know all about the latest and greatest supplements.  After all you’ve probably seen all the pros touting their Nitric Oxide tubs while flexing for the camera.  Sorry to burst your bubble but the N.O. did not make them into a grotesque mass monster, I promise.

The only supplements you need in your arsenal are fish oil, protein powder (it’s a cheap source of amino acids) and a multivitamin if your diet is lacking in fresh fruit and veggies.  Creatine is a great supplement to take as well but don’t go for the hyped up, overpriced crap.  Stick to the plain creatine monohydrate powder you find for $10-$15 on the shelf behind the expensive stuff.

Another gem to remember: there is no pill sold over the counter that will make significant changes to your physique.  The only place you will notice the difference is your pocketbook because it will be significantly lighter after shelling out your weekly allowance.  There is no magical weight gaining supplement that cannot be replaced by food.  There is no substitution for hard work at the dinner table.  So on that note, eat up.

Eat More Sammiches – The Most Important Rule

The plain truth as to why you are skinny is because you don’t eat enough.  There is no other excuse.  If you were chubby we would know that you eat enough and I would simply just ask you to train at this point.  However it’s not that simple for skinny guys.

Over the last few years I’ve had the luxury of observing some of my friends as well as a client or two who were of the skinny population looking to gain some appreciable mass.  What did they all have in common?  They never ate enough.

The cycle usually went like so:  They would decide to embark on a muscle building diet and immediately up their caloric intake.  Day one and two were awesome.  We’d be eating burgers together, washing them down with shakes ice cream cones.  They were off to a good start.  Then by the end of the week we’d go out again and do the same thing.  After about a month I would ask them how much they weigh and in a pissed off response they’d say “I haven’t gained a damn pound!”

After some thought, I would say “that is not possible; you have been eating like a horse, right?”  Of course their response was always, “yes, I have been eating like this daily.”  I knew there was more to the story; something was not lining up.  They were either lying (unintentionally) or they had a tapeworm.  I was hoping the former.  I decided to spend a week with them watching their daily eating habits, making them religiously track their intake etc.

So what did I find out?  The biggest issue I found was inconsistency.  They would stuff themselves silly for a few days and then eat next to nothing for a couple days afterward.  It’s not that they were doing this on purpose but because they were just going by their hunger signals.  They simply were not hungry after a few days of overfeeding; thus the lack of overfeeding.  This is very common and in my opinion is the number one reason some guys have such a hard time gaining weight.  I have never been a skinny guy but can definitely relate to being so stuffed and sick of food for a day or so afterward.

So, in short, the key is making sure you eat enough to grow.  Do whatever the hell you have to do.  It might mean picking certain number of kcals daily and making sure to hit it, even if you have to track you meals to get enough.  If you put your mind to it, it becomes really easy actually.  Set your protein at 1g per pound of bodyweight.  Multiply your bodyweight by .4 -.5 to get grams of fat and then fill in the rest with carbohydrates.  I got that little equation thanks to Alan Aragon.  Err it may have been Lyle McDonald; I can’t remember which one I stole it from.

First you must find your maintenance intake and then aim to eat 400-500 kcals over maintenance daily.  If you are not gaining weight, it’s time to raise the calories.  No other way around it.

Here is a quick recipe for my favorite muscle building snack.
Two pieces of bread (160ish kcals)
2 tbsp peanut butter (200 kcals)
2 tbsp strawberry jelly (100 kcals)
2 cups whole milk (300 kcals).
Total: 760 easy kcals.  I could eat this multiple times per day.

If you can’t stomach two PB&J sammiches per day, you’ve lost all hope.

Consistency

As I mentioned in many previous articles, consistency is always key to long term success.  When you were learning to ride a bike you didn’t jump on and stroll like a pro after one day.  You screwed up a ton, skinned your knees and blooded your nose after flying over the handle bars but you learned to ride because you kept at it.

The same applies when eating to grow.  Overeating for one or two days in a row and then under eating the rest of the week is not going to yield the results you are after.  Focus on big eating and the big body will follow.

Next week I will discuss training for the skinny guy, what works, what doesn’t and how to put it all together.

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37 thoughts on “Eat More Sammiches – The Muscle Building Guide for Skinny Guys Part I”

  1. Hey :)
    I knew how much calorie I need to get big but the only problem is I can’t eat much.I tried hard but everytime I want to eat more I feel like puke.

  2. Hi Jc i am currently working in a gym with 3 kinesiologist and ive been working out for about 7 months now …
    I have put on 20 pounds but i have much difficulty adding more
    I am a little bit under 6 feet 145 pounds
    I was wondering if you could show us a “Meal plan “ … like when are the best times for eating … what should i be eating what are the mesures in callorie intake and stuff .

  3. HI there,
    i’m soon going to be 31 yr old woman and my height is 5’4.5″ and weigh around 96-97 lbs – i know m way too skinny and want to gain muscle mass…

    I read your article and could relate with your skinny friends/clients…. i do exactly the same…just that whenever i eat high calorie food i feel so guilty and i will cut down on calories for next few days… i totally understand its wrong…but that habit is not stopping :P

    Well, as a part of exercise i do ZUMBA – 3x/week with toning on 1-2 days… Along with this i do crunches/ab-exercises daily at home….I’m not saying i havent build up any muscle but yes very little… and i’m pretty sure i’m wrong in doing something… and thats how i started looking and reading your article… Can you please guide me here… that would be a great help!!

    Thanks
    Richa

  4. I’m in my 40’s and while I’m skinny (160 lbs at 5’11”) I am getting a bit of a belly on me. My concern is that I can’t gain weight and add muscle in my upper body/core/legs without also adding to this gut I’m developing. Should I just not worry about the gut and start packing on the weight while working out? Or should I cut down the gut first and then add on the muscle? I’m confused.

    • to keep you from having to diet excessively later on, it might be a good choice to diet down first. However, I can’t imagine you having much of a belly at 160lbs at your height. I’m 3 inches shorter and 30lbs heavier. I’d focus on a good program and eating at maintenance for a while – about 12-16 weeks. Focus on strength gains and then see where you’re at.

      • I think maybe the gut will melt off as I build some muscle. I’m going to stay the course eating and working out according to the simple advice you’ve provided to us and see how that goes this first round. Thanks JC!

  5. Im 21 years old. im 6,3 and way 175. i know for a fact in induce around 4500-5000 cals a day. i eat three meaks a day and eat 1-2 MRE a day. 1 MRE consist of 2600 cals. so either im a odd ball and there aint no other way to gain weight or there is another way. and it cant be just by eating more. cause i eat alot as of now.

    • Hehe so try eating 6000 ;)

      I’m 6’2 and went from 130 up to 185. I felt the same. Sometimes I still do. And then I eat more, and it works. If you’re eating MREs I’m guessing you have a pretty active lifestyle. Means you’ve got to eat more :(

  6. I would like to recommend adding some cottage cheese to the PBJ sandwich. The mushy nature fits in pretty well, and you get some more protein that way.

    Yummers.

  7. Great article, just had a few questions for you.
    I’m quite skinny and I have a crazy high metabolism, should I cut out activities like walking/jogging home from school and focus more on weightlifting?

    Also about how long should it take before I start to notice any difference ( weight gain or muscle)

    • if your goal is to build some muscle and gain weight, YES. You should cut out the extra activity, focus on eating more and train 3-4 times per week. No more than this.

      Your second question is impossible answer but I’d say you should see improvement within the first month if you get after it.

      • Thanks, I had a couple more questions.
        I’m starting to take creatine, but I have no idea how much I should take a day and when. I looked it up and found all sorts of contrasting ideas.

        Also, for someone with a high metabolism, would around 3000 calories a day be a good intake to gain weight?

        • 5g of monohydrate (cheap stuff) per day is all you need. no loading. no cycling. just keep taking it. You can take it any time during the day – it doesn’t matter.

          3000 kcals is relative. it just depends on your activity. some people have to eat upwards of 4000-5000 kcals per day to gain weight. thankfully, I don’t have this problem.

  8. Sir I am going to have to protest, I’m
    5,7
    140 pounds
    Look like this: http://i45.tinypic.com/14mc7yq.jpg
    and I eat like a monster. 6 full meals a day, often more if I work up a good sweat. I do swimming and Roller Blading as they help me concentrate on my school work.
    I’m working on increasing my Cal by drinking whole milk, Cottage cheese, ect. But I certainly don’t have a weight problem because of my lack of a diet. Its genetics.

    • It’s common for people to think they “eat like a monster” only to add up their kcals later in the day and find they aren’t eating as much as they thought.

      • Yes, you say that, exactly the reason why I am posting JC, because I feel at least in my situation, and in the situation of some of the skinny friends I think, that’s simply not true.
        I would not even know where to begin calculating my Kcals, but I’ll start tracking what I eat with a camera and notepad, perhaps you are right. I’ll report back with the data and you can judge for yourself whether I eat like a monster, or a skinny dude.

        I appreciate your article, I particularly like hearing Supplements for the most part are BS and unnecessary and I am trying to eat more and more. I’m going to try working PB & J into my Diet on top of the roast Beef Sandwiches I snack on between meals.

        • And let’s just assume right now that you are indeed eating a truckload of food. The only way to fix your skinny butt is to eat more(and/or move less) and train sensibly. There really is no other way.

          It’s very simple. If you are the young, spastic lad who spends his days running around like a chicken with your head cut off and you burn 3500+ kcals per day but only eat that much, guess what? You aren’t going to magically make any progress.

          Your body requires energy to synthesize new tissue. It also requires the proper training stimulus in order for that new tissue to become muscle mass.

          I do not mean to dumb this down or sound harsh at all but let’s just face the facts.

          Either you are not eating enough and only think you’re eating enough or you have a tapeworm. I’m willing to consider the second thought for pure entertainment only.

          • I understand that eating more is the solution, and never disagreed with that, however, I think you are ignoring how much a fast metabolism or genetics play into the matter. I lay in bed all day and eat 3 full meals a day and I would still stay skinny, that’s the way I am, that’s the way my father was.
            I spent a year of my life living in what was practically a jail, only more supervised.
            Everyone ate the same, did the same amount of exercise, ect. If anything I did less work than most people, they felt I was too skinny, I was given double portions at ever meal(that I had to eat BTW), free access to snacks and was forced to take a weight gain shake every night.
            I know for a fact I was eating at least twice as much as everyone else and was in no way doing more work.
            But the bottom line is I stayed skinny.
            I would love to write more, but I’m absolutely starving.
            I know with enough work I can find a point where I start gaining weight, but its not fair to say I don’t eat enough, every time I eat more my body just adapts to it and my metabolism works harder. And I’m not the only one who’s body works like this, I know others.

            • I’m not ignoring anything.

              read about NEAT.

              There is no magic solution, pill or whatever.

              Have you per chance gotten blood work done? Perhaps you are hyperthyroid? Definitely a possibility.

              • > She can barely sit still. She gets up and curves between the tightly squeezed tables, just to get a napkin.
                Oh wow thats me. Only I sit back down to realize I really want two napkins. Haha I’m always burning energy, whether that be by playing video games, or skipping up stairs and bouncing off trees as I jog just for the hell of it.
                I am using up my energy in all sorts of ways that would not constitute as exercise.

                This is explains so much. Thanks JC, you really know your stuff!

                So does this means I need to work on being more zen like with my movement, and try to fight against my constant desire to fidget and waste energy while eating more.

                I have had blood work, as far as I know I’m not hyperthyroid, thats a scary thought.

                • I know exactly how you feel. I’m 6’2 and weighed 130 pounds up until third year university. I naturally have a small appetite, a small stomach, a fidgety disposition, and my body produces a huge amount of heat, wasting calories left right and centre.

                  I’ve successfully gained weight 3 times in my life. The first I would wake up and have a shake (bananas, whey, whole milk, raspberries), bring a litre of milk to work with me, have a 6″ Subway sub for lunch with double meat and double cheese, come home and eat a 600 calorie meal (fish, potatoes, green beans, olive oil) and then eat dinner with my family. Before bed I’d eat a 500g tub of cottage cheese. I combined that with a poor workout plan and managed to gain 10-12 pounds of muscle over the summer.

                  Last year I gained 22 pounds in 3 months. Same idea, but I ate more, was more consistent and had a better training plan.

                  In the last 2 months I’ve gained 22 pounds again by eating more food, and healthier food. Lots more eggs, lots more olive oil, lots more fruit smoothies. I had better knowledge of macronutrient ratios, how my body produced hormones, nutrient partitioning, pH balance and a way better training plan. I was trying to push the limits of what my body could do and it worked.

                  I’m up +55 pounds of muscle and weighing in at 185 now. JC has it exactly right. If you aren’t gaining weight then increase the calories until you do. It really is that simple. Then and only then should you worry about the details.

                  Good luck man, you’ll figure it out :)

  9. In college I lived on PBJ, and to this day nothing really beats a big glass of milk and PBJ, waffles make perfect samiches. they have the perfect little square traps to hold PB & Jelly!

    another samich favorite of mine, is gobs of PB with eggs or egg whites.

    Oooo almost forgot, try some crunched up graham crackers on your next PBJ, satisfying to the extreme!

    To be honest I’ve been one of the guys to go through the eat like crazy 2 days and then 4 days of low cals.. no fun, what a waste of time in my life that was.

    Good post JC.

  10. Too true.

    My snack was

    large banana
    large amount of pb
    two slices of 100% pumpernickle bread.

    Man that tasted good

    Also did

    2 turkey breasts
    1 tin of chickpeas + butter then mashed and microwaved till there was a paste
    2 large white bread

    That go me good gains as well =D

    I hate it, especially on forums where a skinny guy comes in, asks for advice and people just start to chuck everything from low-GI to maltodrexin to low-carb diet at the OP. Sandwiches are so easy to eat, I hardly even think about the bread, it must be the easiest 200kcals to eat ever.

  11. Skinny trainees habitually under-eat protein, hence I begin there before fussing with other variables. I’m leary of the stuff your face method as I know guys who got away with awful habits in their late teens and early 20s that now can’t give up those routines and are paying for their dietary trangressions. Put simply, equatorial gains are outpacing biceps measurements.

    I encourage my muscle-gain clientsto go for fattier and arguably tastier cuts of meat. Pre-packaged, microwave-ready choices like breaded chicken and buffalo chicken wings fit well in between meals of fresh cuts that have to be broiled or grilled. Obviously protein powder can meet this need as well.

    After that I prefer these folks load up on carbohydrates. Given the demands of high-intensity weight training, this only makes sense. I’ve taken the gatorade route, the cereal strategy, and the pancake plan to task. These options are tasty and contribute a nice caloric load without challenging the GI tract like chicken breast and broccoli.

    Finally, dropping training volume and focusing on strength progression with proper pre and post workout training catalyzes the whole process. I’ve had clients get good results even if they just barely keep it together the rest of the week. Getting in a solid workout and then eating a lot of food afterward does the trick if you stay consistent.

    • Yea, I agree with you. However at the amount most need to eat, getting 1g/lb protein is going to be easy. Thus, I ensure they track their intake.

      And don’t worry, next week I am covering training.

      thanks for your input Ryan.

  12. I can’t even imagine not being able to eat enough calories to gain weight, but it’s true… The skinny guys eat like birds and they always say they eat a lot. Hogwash!

    As a former FFB… PBJ works very well, but make those babies triple deckers & double JC’s PBJ amounts!

    How about some oatmeal with gobs of honey & PB. Don’t put water in it though… make it with butter & full fat milk.

    Toast with gobs of butter, frosting, cinnamon & chocolate on top. Drink Heresy’s syrup from the bottle when your done.

    Birds, quit your bitchin about not being able to gain weight and eat something already! You make me sick!

    Gaining “weight” is easy, gaining gobs of muscle is what takes real work.

    Ah I forgot about pancakes and waffles. Have a box or two of Egos for breakfast every day. Drown them in syrup, butter and PB.

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