Trying to pack on lean muscle mass but can’t seem to make progress? If so, it’s time to check your diet. 90% of the time, when someone – especially those that would consider themselves a hardgainer is unable to build muscle, it’s simply because they don’t have the calorie support to do so.
They may think they’re eating sufficient calories, but in reality, they simply are not. You can’t build muscle out of nothing, so if that surplus of energy isn’t there, progress will not be made.
If this is the situation you’re in, don’t lose hope. By simply adding a few smart foods to your diet, you should be able to tilt the calorie balance in your favor and start seeing the lean gains you’re looking for.
Here is a closer look at the eight best foods for a hard gainer.
As far as calories go, it doesn’t get better than nuts or nut butters. You can smear a tablespoon or two of peanut butter onto so many different foods (apples, bananas, Ezekiel bread, pitas, celery) or munch on a handful of nuts and easily add 200 calories to your day.
One great thing about nuts as well is they provide a nice balance of proteins, healthy fats, and dietary fiber as well.
When choosing your protein sources, don’t ever neglect salmon. It’s more calorie dense than chicken (perfect for getting in the energy you need!) and will supply a powerful dose of omega-3 fatty acids as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids will assist with everything from keeping your insulin sensitivity up (keeping any fat gain at bay), ensuring your immune system is strong, keeping your brain healthy, and encouraging faster recovery between workout sessions.
Aim to eat salmon at least twice per week on your diet program.
Want to take your gains one step further? Add some whey protein powder. A quality protein product will provide your body with the specific amino acids that kick-start the recovery process.
You can drink your protein powder immediately post training or at any other point during the day when you need a boost and don’t have time for a full meal. RE-KAGED® is a perfect addition of whey protein isolate to help you gain size, strength and recover faster.
Getting enough healthy fats into your day is a key task for any hardgainer. At 9 calories per gram (compared to the four you’d get from carbs and protein), they’ll help provide energy in a dense little package.
Half an avocado for instance adds 161 calories and nearly 15 grams of fat to your day. Avocado is also a great source of vitamin E, which can help combat oxidative damage that can come with stressful exercise training.
Try it mashed up and added to a can of tuna (or salmon), sliced and tossed into a salad, or simply served raw on the side of any meal.
For any hardgainer, carbs are your best friend. While some trainees need to moderate their carb intake to avoid fat gain, for you, generally speaking, the more, the better.
You’ve been blessed with a lightening fast metabolism and an ability to tolerate carbs very well, so you don’t want to be cutting back.
Whole-wheat bagels can be an excellent source of faster digesting carbohydrates to serve immediately post-workout. It’s at this point your body is hungry for some glucose to restore muscle glycogen levels and to put you into that anabolic state for muscle building.
As bagels are more calorie-dense than bread, they tend to be a superior choice for the hardgainer.
Another great carb source – raw oats will pack in calories in a hurry. While you can cook them if you prefer, you’ll be able to get more total energy in if you eat them raw like you would any other cereal.
As oats double their volume when cooked, this takes up room in your stomach and can make it harder to get the calorie support you need in.
Try them raw with some milk over top and some nut butter, dried fruit, and seeds added in.
Finally, make sure that whole eggs are making an appearance in your diet plan as well. A very cheap source of protein, whole eggs will also supply some saturated fat, which is necessary to keep your testosterone levels where they need to be.
Those who utilize lower fat, higher fiber diets tend to experience lower testosterone concentrations in their body, so care must be taken to avoid this. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat any dietary fiber, but you want to keep your fat to fiber ratio in check.
Eggs are also highly versatile, so are perfect for keeping boredom out of your day as well.
So there you have the best eight foods for any hardgainer. If these aren’t in your diet, it’s time that you make some room to include them.
Are there any foods you’d add to this list?
Elliot, Tabatha A., et al. "Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 38.4 (2006): 667-674.
Dorgan, Joanne F., et al. "Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study." The American journal of clinical nutrition 64.6 (1996): 850-855.