A commonly held opinion is that people would rather be skinny than fat, but people who have this opinion have never tried to build muscle!
While an overweight person just has to cut calories and exercise more, a skinny person has to drastically change their calorie intake while tailoring their exercise to suit bulking. We’ve covered this before in our “How to Build Muscle with a Fast Metabolism” guide.
In this article we are going to look at the four pillars of dietary success, follow them religiously and you will soon be huge!
Pillar #1. Track Everything
Calorie counting, getting on the scales, and working out your macros sound like something that only people who want to lose weight would need to bother with. But actually, all of the above are just as important (if not more) for skinny people who want to gain weight.
The first thing that you need to ascertain is how many calories you are burning each day. You can use a website calculator to give you a decent estimate.
Once you have found out your average calories burned per day, you can work out how many calories you need to create a surplus. How aggressive you go with this can depend on your personal circumstances and your goals.
You also need to start taking measurements of everything. Your weight, body fat estimations, tape measurements of your arms, legs, chest, waist, and anywhere else which you want to improve.
Throughout your bulk you should continue to take measurements, ideally doing so at the same time each week (Monday at 7am for example). This way you will know if you are gaining size, and by how much.
Next it’s calorie counting, there will be a temptation to throw caution to the wind and just eat everything in sight. This approach can fail you for two reasons:
- It may lead to overeating which can lead to increased body fat (more so than is necessary), and
- You might still be under eating, people find it very difficult to estimate the amount of calories in their food.
Pillar #2. Hit Your Protein Target
While creating a calorie surplus is incredibly important, you must ensure that those calories contain the right amount of protein.
While fat and carbohydrate numbers should also be followed, there are many different ratios (ketogenic or high carb for example). But protein should always be very high.
A 2012 study states that your protein intake should be around 2.3-3.1g per kg of lean body mass (in other words your body weight minus body fat).
If you currently weigh 60kg and have a body fat percentage of 10% then you have a lean body mass of 54kg (60kg minus 10%). You can then pick an amount of protein that suits you (between 2.3 and 3.1 x 54). If you picked the higher number (3.1) that would equal 167.4g of protein per day.
The added protein is necessary for repairing and rebuilding damaged muscle fiber. When you exercise, you are basically breaking down these muscle fiber. Then through a process called Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) the damaged fiber are repaired and rebuilt into stronger and larger muscle fiber.
You need to be consuming a large amount of protein for this to occur. If you don’t then your muscle fibers will not be maximally repaired/rebuilt which will prevent growth.
You can increase protein by purchasing a whey protein supplement, eating more lean meats and fish, heck you could also eat less lean meat (pork, steak, etc) as you’re trying to bulk!
Additionally, there are protein (whey/casein/blends) powders with extra added calories for adding mass as fast as humanly possible. These types of powders are most commonly known as “mass gainers” or just “gainers”. We reviewed the top performers in our Top 7 Mass Gainers guide.
Vegetarians and vegans can look at lentils, nuts, and higher protein vegetables to provide adequate protein, but it is obviously more difficult to achieve without meat and dairy.
In addition to protein you need to be eating your daily requirements of fresh fruits and vegetables to get all of your vitamins. If you work full-time or live in a big city, or are just constrained by budget, this isn’t always an option.
This is why adding a multi-vitamin that is loaded with vitamins and minerals is a great idea to ensure your diet is completely up to snuff. We have used Optimum Nutrition’s Opti-men for years simply because of the broad spectrum of ingredients incorporated into that vitamin.
For other things though we look to get specific, as a non-mixed vitamin can be more potent than a vitamin into which 200 different ingredients are packed.
For example, for joint support we prefer having a dedicated joint support supplement like glucosamine and MSM, as you need a decent portion (in terms of milligrams) and it is hard to fit all that into one pill with all your other vitamins.
Another supplement that is hard to get in good dosages in multivitamins and which makes a good stand alone addition to a nutrition stack is choline, preferably one that passes the brain-blood barrier to work more effectively.
Choline is essentially a vitamin for the brain. Examine has a big break down on this chemical and it’s impact on your body with regular supplementation.
If you a read the Examine article closely you will note that while research on choline is very positive, one big hindrance is its inability to pass the blood/brain barrier. If it can’t get to the brain, or just a little gets to the brain, it’s not nearly as effective and the studies become less impactful.
There are companies though making forms of choline that can enter the brain in and make a significantly greater impact on brain health and function. Vitamonk, one of our favorite specialized vitamin companies because they cite scientific studies for every one of their products on the product page itself, makes a Alpha GPC capsule that’s 325grams in size.
Whether it’s choline or krill oil, adding a dedicated supplement to your vitamin stack is a great way to 1. ensure you are not under-dosing because your daily multi-vitamin doesn’t have sufficient quantities and 2. ensure purity and volume enough to actually have the desired outcomes found in scientifically backed studies.
In our opinion, having both a dialed in diet that works in conjunction with quality science-backed supplements is the quickest way to gains Valhalla.
Pillar #3. Become a Meal Prep Expert
Now, if you are incredibly rich or have a very understanding and helpful partner you do not need to worry about this step. Just decide what your calories are, find some meals that match it and pass it to someone else to sort out for you (personal chef, family member, partner).
For those of you who aren’t insanely lucky you’ll have to learn how to meal prep.
You’re going to be eating a lot of foods to hit your calorie target, and if you’re doing it right your macro targets are going to be mighty close. This means that you’ll need to eat a lot of high protein meals.
This cannot be easily achieved if you are eating in restaurants or fast food outlets. So you are going to have to cook a lot of meals. This can be difficult, particularly if your work takes up a lot of your time.
Because of this, you will have to learn how to meal prep like a pro. This involves finding meals that you can make in large batches. Curries, stews, chillis, bolognaise, or basic chicken and broccoli.
Cook lots of the same meal at the same time, place them in Tupperware, and freeze them. Then each day you’ll have all your meals ready for you.
Learning how to cook well is probably one of the most underrated aspects of bulking, so follow recipes and get creative.
There’s nothing worse on earth than unseasoned chicken, broccoli, and rice with no sauce, particularly if you’ve had it in the freezer for 6 months.
While making this write down the macros and calories (many recipes now contain them, alternatively you can use myfitnesspal to estimate them).
Write them on a sticky label and place it on the Tupperware. It will really help you in 4 weeks when you grab a meal and want to track its calories.
Pillar #4. Be Consistent
The reason why most skinny guys never gain any muscle? A lack of consistency.
Sure they may say that they can eat what they want and never gain weight, but when it comes down to tracking calories, many go for hours and hours without eating anything.
Don’t follow this advice if you’re only going to do so for 3 weeks before ditching it. You need to set aside 6-8 weeks of following this diet advice (and combine it with being a beast in the gym) before you will start to see good results. But after that you’ll never look back.
There are no lifehacks that can immediately change your physique, no shortcuts to success. It’s all about following the right advice and being consistent.
Turning up day in, day out, and doing the work required. Follow everything on this list, lift heavy weights, and don’t give up. If you could use a little motivation we have identified the single most motivating bodybuilding video in existence. Give it a shot before your next workout to get into the mentality of a warrior..
12 weeks from now you’ll have some serious results coming your way!