If only the gains came as fast we wanted them to. We would all be lean and superhero like, walking around with our imaginary capes on feeling like a jacked up superman. But, we all know they don’t come this easy, so what can we do to ensure we are at least maximising muscle gain instead of just wishing it happened.
Let me get something straight from the beginning…You’re not a hard gainer, you’re actually an underperformer.
Now before I lose all the hard gainers due to the polarising slap in the face I just gave you by essentially calling you lazy, just bear with me a second. Hang in there and read on.
And for those who read no further than this line… you are the exact type of person I am referring to when I call hard gainers under performers.
If you’re an underperformer, aka ‘hard gainer’ now is your chance to make the changes necessary.
So why do people think they are Hard Gainers?
Because they have NO idea about the amount of food they put in their mouths, NO idea about how they are actually performing in the gym and NO idea about finding the correct balance between training and nutrition.
Let me put it this way…Hard gainers are too busy focusing on the destination and they forget about the journey.
Instead of mapping out the most efficient way to drive to their destination, they jump in the car blind and just drive, hoping they end up where they want to be and then complain about the car they were given to get there when they don’t end up where they should.
It's far easier to blame the car than it is to blame the driver.
You see…In this scenario, your body is the car and the car is not the problem.
The problem is your lack of planning and therefore your inability to execute a plan that otherwise does not exist. So how do we fix this? We measure…
If you are a hard gainer, here are the 5 must do things you should do if you want to be able to grow the maximum amount of muscle genetically possible.
1. Measure Input
Food… we all know how important it is.
Without the necessary food required to fuel the system, your vehicle will never perform optimally. Start off by reading the following two articles for some insight into calories, protein and what macronutrients you should consume.
Think of calories as currency exchange and your muscle as the ATM.
If you want a bigger ATM (more muscle) then you need to inject more cash (calories) into the machine. However, unlike an ATM, your muscle cells theoretically will never become ‘full’ but instead can adapt and grow to make a bigger machine.
But they will not grow without sufficient calories. Start by taking your maintenance calories and multiplying it by 1.2.
Doing this will put you into a 20% calorie surplus, meaning you are giving your body 20% more calories than it needs to survive in its current state, which you will then force it to use them for growing a bigger ATM machine.
Please note: A 20% surplus is quite high, normally speaking you only require approximately 300kcal above maintenance calories to begin growing muscle, however, given you are still reading this article, I am going to assume you struggle to gain muscle and also body fat, which means a 20% increase is more than likely necessary for someone like yourself.
Not gaining weight on those calories after 2 weeks? Add another 5-10% of calories from carbs and fats and continue following this approach until you reach your goal weight.
2. Measure Output
So you’ve nailed the input, but what about the stimulus required to achieve muscle growth? That is where measuring your output comes into play.
Now, I don’t mean measuring caloric burn, that’s not what we are after, I mean measuring your weight training performance. Because the fact remains, muscle tissue won’t grow unless it is forced to do so. In order to force a muscle to grow, it is required for it to progress in performance…
What kind of performance?
It either needs to be stronger on each lift or have the ability to lift more weight in kilograms over the course of an entire session / week / month.
You see… training isn’t about causing pain, nor is it about doing countless amounts of sets and reps to get a pump either. It's about setting a benchmark of performance, then forcing your body to beat that benchmark week in, week out.
Not sure what I mean? Check out what aspects of training are most important.
Nail those training aspects in a measurable fashion over time and you are good to go. However, as a ‘hard gainer,’ it may be worth considering your overall training volume.
Remember, more output equals more input required. With this in mind, sometimes training less frequently may be advantageous if you do not have the physical capability to eat enough food to account for your output.
3. Change the Equation
Sometimes you need to change the equation in order to determine your best approach. With the end goal being that you want to find the most efficient way possible for you to grow muscle, consider all of the variables you have to play with.
- Try high food intake with high volume output
- Try moderate food with low volume output and more strength based training
- Try high food and low volume output
- Try high-frequency training
- Try higher fat percentages and moderate carbs
BUT… before you try all of these things, make sure you test and measure one approach for a minimum of 6-8 weeks before you change it again.
In the end, you should have data on all approaches and can then determine which one gives you the most 'bang for your buck'.
4. Support with Supplementation
The most effective supplements you can use to maximise muscle gain long term are:
- Creatine monohydrate
- Carbohydrate powder
- Protein powder
- Citrulline Malate
- Pre Workout for performance enhancement
These 5 supplements will help ensure you are getting in adequate caloric intake and that you can maximise workload capacity, which is critically important for optimising performance.
Can you gain muscle without them? Absolutely, however, using these 5 supplements will almost always make the approach a little easier, more maintainable and potentially a little faster as well due to the convenience and performance enhancement they offer.
EVERYBODY forgets this aspect of muscle growth but it is critically important. Let me put this in simple terms…
The limiting factor to long term performance improvement is not athletic ability, but instead your ability to remain uninjured and physically able to perform better consistently.
And that limiting factor is rest…A bruised, beat up and broken body that isn’t rested will NEVER be optimal.
So, don’t forget this aspect of your programming.
In fact, I would argue that if you don’t feel like you need rest, then your training is probably not being taken to the level of intensity it needs either.
- Aim to get between 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Ensure you have at least 1 full day off all training
- Focus on maintaining joint mobility
- Utilise massage or recovery techniques at your disposal
The better you rest, the better you will perform. And there you have it… 5 key aspects of muscle growth that you need to consider as a hard gainer.
While I can appreciate that some of us gain muscle more efficiently, the true notion of a hard gainer, in my experience, is more of an issue with effort towards measuring, than it is a genetic predisposition.
Ask yourself this...If you want to gain muscle more than you currently are and you are not measuring these 5 aspects, how can you even choose what to change in order to cause the result you are searching for?
You can’t…So track, measure and test. Then you will get the gains you are after!