How you can effectively build muscle mass as a hardgainer
The ectomorphic metabolic type, also called a hardgainer, has a particularly difficult time building muscle. The genetic prerequisites and, as a rule, insufficiently effective energy utilization in the ectomorphic metabolism mean that the hardgainer is less “hard gain,” but rather quickly reaches his physical and genetic limits. Since it is not possible to override genetics in a natural way, a diet that is optimized for the anabolic metabolism (muscle building) is necessary so that, despite genetic disadvantages, promising muscle growth can be achieved with the hardgainer.
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Basics in the nutrition of a hard gainer
First of all, regardless of the genetic requirements, you should pay attention to a balanced, healthy diet. In general, as an ectormorph, you should pay attention to the quality of the macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates). Good sources of protein are meat, fish and dairy products such as cottage cheese, low-fat quark or natural yoghurt, but especially legumes and nuts. Nuts and fish also contain significant amounts of the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for the metabolism of proteins and amino acids as well as the natural synthesis of growth hormones such as testosterone. Linseed oil is a real natural talent that provides many of these unsaturated fatty acids. Long-chain carbohydrates, which provide the metabolism with constant and long-term energy, are contained in oat flakes, whole grain products, potatoes and vegetables.
But also the so-called micronutrients are of great importance. These are vital substances such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements, which are essential for healthy cell regeneration, among other things. Fruit and vegetables in particular contain large amounts of these micronutrients. This should not be underestimated due to the prefix “micro” – micronutrients are vital and essential for a healthy body (and thus also muscle building).
Vitamins are organic compounds that are required for vital biochemical processes in the body to run. As with proteins and fats, there are some essential vitamins among vitamins that must be taken in through food.
Minerals such as calcium, zinc or magnesium are inorganic elements or compounds that are required for the regulation of important body functions, but have to be consumed in very different amounts. A distinction is therefore made between bulk elements (at least 50 mg per kg body weight) and trace elements (less than 50 mg per kg body weight). A deficiency in certain minerals can have serious effects on muscle function or the cardiovascular system.
Dietary fiber usually fulfills only a digestive function. They do not serve as a cell building block or energy supplier.
In order to interrupt the catabolic (muscle-degrading) metabolic state after training and to replenish the glycogen stores quickly, a whey protein shake is to be mixed with foods containing monosaccharides (e.g. grape juice or dextrose) in the morning (after when getting up), as well as taken after training. The whey protein makes proteins available quickly, while the carbohydrate uptake creates a transport matrix through increased insulin release created for the nutrients. In this way, the energy-rich macronutrients in particular quickly reach the “application area” and fulfill anabolic functions there. A carbohydrate-rich weight gainer has a similar effect. Furthermore, raisins can be consumed after training – these have an alkaline effect and thus prevent possible over-acidification of the muscles, which is caused by too intense muscle building training.
For hardgainers, adequate nutrition is even more important than training. Ectomorphs need an enormous amount of calories in order to create a calorie surplus and thus make the building of muscle mass possible in the first place. The difficulty lies in following a healthy diet despite the high energy requirement. A positive nitrogen balance through an increased intake of proteins beyond the basic biological requirement can also stimulate muscle growth, provided that training and nutrition work together optimally.
Most hardgainer nutrition plans include consuming a small meal every 2 hours to meet the required caloric intake. At first it seems logical that you can get a calorie surplus through several meals. Because: More meals = more calories? Unfortunately this equation is as wrong as the assumption that Germany will be able to pay the bills of ailing EU countries for many years to come.
If you eat several small meals a day, the result is that metabolic activity is permanently kept at a high level. During the metabolism of nutrients, the contained energy is not converted 1: 1 . Energy is even required to break down proteins, chain amino acids or link carbohydrates.
It is not for nothing that people who would like to lose weight are recommended to eat many small meals. So you have a constant feeling of satiety, the individual meals are smaller and lower in calories and above all the energy-intensive metabolism is permanently active.
If you want to gain weight, you have to take exactly the opposite route! That means: fewer, but bigger, higher-calorie meals!
We recommend 4 meals at the following times:
- In the morning (8-10 a.m.)
- Lunch (12 noon – 1 p.m.)
- Afternoon (3 p.m. – 4 p.m.)
- Evenings (7-9pm)
The energetic share of macronutrients in the total energy requirement should be divided according to the following priorities:
- Carbohydrates (approx. 50%)
- Proteins (approx. 20%)
- Fats (approx. 30%)
Basics in training a hard gainer
Keyword: Diversity! The variation in training is not only important for the hardgainer, but also plays a decisive role in every muscle building training. The 5 × 5 training or a change from maximum strength training and hypertrophy training represent a very effective training method for the hardgainer.
Exercises such as deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, dips, etc. are highly recommended because they target several muscles, require more coordination and thus trigger stronger growth stimuli (accordingly, they are also more strenuous). These exercises should not be missing in any training plan for hard gainers. On the other hand, hours of sessions on the cross trainer or treadmill are taboo.
Furthermore, the following principles must be observed:
- Maximum training duration: 60 minutes
- Training intensity: (mostly) high (short breaks, a lot of weight)
- Basically fewer repetitions, but more sets
- Change of intensity, e.g. through periodization (see 5 × 5 training)
- Diversity in the choice of exercises
- Strength training on a maximum of 4 days a week
And now? Muscle building as a hardgainer?
Only works with optimal nutrition! Hard gainers not only have to be very meticulous to ensure that their need for the necessary macronutrients is met in every case, but also that the necessary calorie surplus enables the build-up of muscle mass.
This not only requires very detailed and extensive meal planning, but also the amount and distribution of macronutrients should be based on recommendations from the physiology of sports and be constantly monitored. This is the only way to achieve an adequate supply of essential nutrients.
We have already done this work for you in our nutrition plans especially for muscle building! Hey, no issue. We enjoyed doing it. We know very well that as a hardgainer you want to deal much more intensively with your training. From now on you never have to calculate nutrient distributions, write shopping lists or search through recipe books again! Just take care of your workout. Maybe you will take a look at the nutrition plans.
As a hardgainer, building muscle is a tough matter. You can only build muscles quickly and effectively as a hardgainer if you really deal intensively with the fundamental basics of training, nutrition and physiology. Otherwise you will eventually become depressed due to stagnant training success and switch from strength training to chess.
Because we don’t want that, we have all the important basics for you as a hardgainer in our Hypertrophy Guide compiled. Just take a look. A few minutes of intelligently invested time can save you months of useless training time.
Building muscle effectively as a hardgainer is difficult, but not impossible. The decisive factor for the success of training is not the training, but the diet. Without a regular excess of calories and a positive nitrogen balance, anabolic processes will only take place very slowly. Particular attention should be paid to the selection of macronutrients. Carbohydrates can do a lot more than just make you fat! Once the energetic basis has been created, you can work on the training. Variation and intensity are the recipe for success for the hardgainer.
Note: These tips, guidelines, and dietary information are intended only as guidelines for the average ectomorphic metabolic type. Depending on the training goal, progress and genetic requirements, it makes sense to seek individual advice so that a detailed nutrition and training plan can be worked out. This is the only way to achieve optimal results.