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.
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.