Hard-gainer syndrome is a nightmare for skinny guys. You’re tired of being called lanky and you want to bulk up; problem is that no matter how much food you cram down your throat, you stay lean and slim. What’s the issue here?
You’ve been genetically gifted (or cursed) with a rocket fuel metabolism. Does this mean you’re stuck at that weight and size? Can you learn how to gain weight with a high metabolism?
Just because you have high metabolism doesn’t mean you can’t gain weight or pack on muscle mass. Breaking out of that genetic box requires a major overhaul of your current nutrition, training, and lifestyle habits.
Let’s take a look at how to know if you have a high metabolism and exactly what you can do about it to get bigger. No guesswork here; this is a step-by-step guide on how to gain muscle with a high metabolism.
How to Gain Weight Even with High Metabolism
If you want to gain weight, especially muscle mass, you might think the best thing to do is to lift heavier and to hit up the gym more often. We like your enthusiasm, but if you are increasing your workload without the proper caloric intake, you’ll stay right where you are. You might even lose more weight.
Gaining weight with a high metabolism starts with nutrition. You’ll probably be surprised to discover that you aren’t eating enough of the right calories (and no, PopTarts and BigMacs are not the right types). Once you know the exact number of calories you should be eating to gain weight, you can begin meal planning and adding in supplements to help you hit that number each and every day.
With your diet taken care of, it’ll be time to get off that treadmill and get into the weight room. Cardio-based exercise will speed up your metabolism, enabling the issue you already have and ensuring you stay at the same weight. Resistance training, especially when you incorporate dumbbell and barbell-based exercises has been shown to dramatically increase lean muscle mass and overall weight.
What is Metabolism and Does It Influence Muscle Building?
Diet and training form the foundation of gaining weight in a healthy way. Before we jump into what you have to do to start gaining weight, let’s discuss metabolism, its role in muscle building, and high metabolism symptoms.
Metabolism has developed an association with being related to weight loss and weight gain. In fact, at some point, you might have said, “Oh, I can’t gain weight because of my high metabolism.” While this is partially correct, metabolism has a much larger role in the body.
Metabolism is literally responsible for all chemical reactions that keep you alive and well. Converting food into energy is just one of those reactions. But how does metabolism impact the amount of weight, specifically muscle mass, that you can put on?
When you want to build muscle, you must supply your body with two things: a comprehensive and consistent resistance training program AND adequate nutrition that delivers a caloric surplus. This means you need to train hard and eat big.
If you are lacking in calories, your high metabolic rate will burn through that energy then it’ll start looking for more. If you aren’t eating enough, amino acids from muscle protein could be used as fuel. For those people looking to gain weight, this is the last thing you want to happen.
Ironically, studies show that as you begin to gain muscle, your metabolism will increase because lean tissue burns more calories while at rest than fat mass. The more muscle you put on, the more you’ll have to tweak your nutritional program.
Not sure if you have a high metabolism? Here’s a checklist of high metabolism symptoms:
- Constant hunger
- Needing to eat a lot
- Going to the bathroom often
- Increased body temperature
- High level of energy without stimulants
Nutrition Tips for People with a High Metabolism
Don’t stress – You don’t have to be a scientist to know how much to eat to gain mass. Here are some nutritional tips to help you get bigger and gain weight with a high metabolism.
Want to gain weight? The first step is to eat more. Studies show that people with a high metabolism must increase their daily caloric intake; otherwise, they risk losing hard-earned muscle mass.
A general rule of thumb is to establish the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight and add an additional 500 calories. But it’s best to be precise so we recommend using an online calorie calculator.
These simple-to-use calculators will ask you for a few pieces of information including your current weight and fitness goals. The number that it gives you is the number of calories that you have to eat consistently in order to gain weight.
To make it even easier on yourself, use a calorie calculator that breaks down your total caloric intake by the number of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) you should eat each day.
Time Your Meals
Instead of eating three giant meals per day, get into the habit of spacing out your calories over the course of the day. Eat smaller meals but do it frequently, usually every two to three hours.
The best way to do this is to take your recommended caloric intake from above and divide it into the number of times you can find time to eat.
For example, let’s say I have to eat 3,500 calories every day and I can find time in my schedule to eat seven times (3,500 / 7). That means I would have to eat 500 calories at every meal.
This approach seems to work well for most as you don’t have to eat 1,500 or more calories in one sitting.
While there is some debate about the exact timing of the anabolic window after a tough workout, most experts agree that it is between 45 to 90 minutes post-workout. What’s so special about this time? This is when your body is primed to take in nutrients to help with recovery, muscle building, and growth.
One of the best ways to maximize this anabolic window is to supplement with whey protein isolate and a source of simple carbohydrates. Studies show that the amino acids from the whey protein increase protein synthesis or the creation of muscle protein. The simple carbohydrates are used to restore muscle glycogen, sparing lean muscle from being used as a fuel source.
Here are a few post-workout meals to consider:
- Whey protein shake with instant oats
- Chicken breast with russet (white) potato
- Tuna with white rice
Use the Right Supplements
Speaking of whey protein, supplements can help you gain weight by increasing your total caloric intake and providing muscle-building nutrients. Here are three proven supplements that will complement any weight gaining or muscle building-focused diet program:
Protein: Whey protein and casein protein are perfect supplements for anyone who wants to put on weight, especially muscle mass. Studies show that they contain the literal building blocks of muscle tissue and they support muscle recovery and growth. Whey protein is ideal for post-workout nutrition while casein protein should be used an hour before bed. Since it digests at a slower rate, casein protein will deliver amino acids (and an anabolic environment) while you sleep.
MCT Oil: Fat is the most nutrient-dense macronutrient, but not all fat is created equal. One of the best ways to get more healthy fats in your diet is with MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil. Studies show that this cognitive-boosting oil can help to increase the number of healthy calories in your diet without promoting unhealthy fat mass accumulation. It’s also an easy way to make sure you reach your number of recommended daily calories.
D-Bal: Modeled after the famous bodybuilding steroid, Dianabol, D-Bal is a tried-and-true weight gaining supplement that specifically promotes muscle mass. D-Bal contains a unique blend of anabolic compounds to promote a comprehensive training program and diet plan. Best of all, it’s totally natural and legal!
One popular type of supplement for hard gainers is a weight gainer shake. We don’t recommend using these as they primarily contain maltodextrin, a cheap, high-glycemic carbohydrate that will promote fat mass gains, not muscle mass gains.
Workout Tips for People with a High Metabolism
Now that you know what type of diet you have to follow to gain weight, let’s jump into the next most important thing: your workouts.
Know Your Variables
Acute variables are the number of sets, repetitions, weight, etc. that you have to use during each workout. Studies show that the ideal set of acute variables is as follows:
- 2 for major muscle groups (e.g., chest, legs, back)
- 1 exercise for smaller muscle groups (e.g., triceps, biceps, calves)
- 3 to 5 sets per exercise for larger muscle groups
- 1 to 3 sets per exercise for smaller muscle groups
- 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise
- 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum, or the maximum amount of weight you can safely lift one time with perfect form
Time Under Tension:
- 2 seconds lifting the weight (concentric)
- 0 seconds pausing (isometric)
- 2 seconds lowering the weight (eccentric)
- 60 to 90 seconds between sets
Use Periodization Training
Once you get adjusted to the basics of bodybuilding and the acute variables mentioned above, your body is going to be looking for its next challenge. We recommend periodization training.
Periodization training is when you cycle through different acute variables, focusing on a different goal each week: endurance, hypertrophy (muscle growth), strength, and power. As you cycle from week to week, you’ll notice that you’ll get better in all four areas. In fact, each fitness goal will support the others.
Try this periodization schedule after you go through two to three months of the basic bodybuilding acute variables. Each week will be different as far as the variables go, but you’ll use the same exercises.
Week One – Endurance:
- Sets: 2 to 4
- Repetitions: 12 to 20
- Weight Used: 50% to 60% 1RM
- Time Under Tension: 2 / 1 / 3 (seconds)
- Rest: 60 seconds
Week Two – Hypertrophy:
- Sets: 3 to 5
- Repetitions: 8 to 12
- Weight Used: 65% to 75% 1RM
- Time Under Tension: 2 / 0 / 2 (seconds)
- Rest: 60 to 90 seconds
Week Three – Strength:
- Sets: 4 to 6
- Repetitions: 5 to 8
- Weight Used: 75% to 85% 1RM
- Time Under Tension: 1 / 1 / 2 (seconds)
- Rest: 90 seconds
Week Four – Power:
- Sets: 5 to 7
- Repetitions: 1 to 4
- Weight Used: 85% to 100% 1RM
- Time Under Tension: x / x / x (move as fast but as safely as possible)
- Rest: 120 seconds
Cut Down on Cardio (Don’t Cut it Out)
The focus of your workouts should be resistance training – not cardio. Why should you reduce your cardiovascular exercise? Cardio can burn more calories than weight training, putting you in a caloric deficit and zapping your chance to gain weight.
Put weight training first with at least three days a week, ideally four days per week. Restrict your cardio workouts to no more than two days per week.
Also, focus on cardio workouts that are high in intensity but short in duration. Don’t spend an hour on the treadmill. For example, high-intensity interval training or sprints are perfect cardio workouts.
Sleep and Other Lifestyle Factors
You have the ideal diet and training program to get big, but you’re not done yet. There are a few things that you can change in your daily routine to help you achieve your goals of swole faster.
Progress comes from tracking what you achieve. How will you know how many calories you eat each day if you aren’t tracking it? Will you remember every single workout and the acute variables you used without tracking them?
We highly recommend that you begin to track meals and training with an app or old school notebook. The idea is to have a complete archive that you can look back on to see how it contributed to your current progress point.
For example, is there a week when you didn’t lose weight? Perhaps it’s because you weren’t eating as many calories. Having a meal tracking app lets you verify. Another example is with your weight training routine.
If you want to increase weight from week to week, tracking your workouts lets you see how much weight you need to use to set a new personal best.
Get More Sleep
It might not be the most glamorous part of gaining muscle, but you need to be as dedicated to recovery as you are to training. Why? Because sleep is the key to optimizing your performance and results.
Studies show that proper sleep promotes recovery by releasing growth hormones that repair muscle tissue and help you avoid muscle breakdown.
Experts agree that you should aim for no less than seven hours of sleep each night. Between eight and nine hours of sleep is ideal, but the more active you are, the more you may need.
One of the most important habits to foster is consistency. Progress takes time. You might not see the results you want right away, but if you are consistent with your nutrition and training, you’ll get there. Everyone falls off the horse, but when that happens, dust yourself off, and get back on.
Keeping track of your diet and training is a great way to hold yourself accountable for daily progress. Also, be sure to take before and after pictures. Seeing the physical changes that are happening will provide more motivation.
Beat Your High Metabolism and Gain Muscle
Having a high metabolism can feel like a curse when you want to gain weight. But metabolism plays a part in a bigger picture of training, nutrition, and proper recovery.
Make sure you stick to your recommended caloric intake and weight training program for weight gain each and every day. It might take a few weeks to start seeing progress, but it will happen as long you’re dedicated and consistent.