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Are You a Hardgainer? | Ectomorph

Are you a hardgainer? If you have a thin body type, and have trouble gaining weight and muscle, chances are you're a hardgainer. It's almost surprising that in a time when so many of us struggle to keep weight off, there are those who fight to put it on. We're beginning to hear more about this condition today than ever before. Not that it's a new condition, but because, as with so many issues, it's being brought to the forefront, which is good thing.

Endless information about it floods the internet and bodybuilding magazines, offering help and advice to men and women looking to increase body weight and muscle. As with everything, there's conflicting information, since everyone seems to have a different approach and protocol for hardgainers to follow. I've done lots of research and compiled what I believe to be the most sensible methods of tackling this condition. Still, what works for one guy, may not for the next. Understanding that will hopefully be the catalyst to trying different approaches should you not find success the first time around.

With that being said, let's take a look at the world of hard-gaining and ways to tackle the problem. Let me add that I realize not all men with low body weight view this as a problem. Many believe it's a healthier existence, which it may be, but if you'd rather make some changes, grab a bowl of ice cream and read on!

Hardgainers typically have a similar body type regardless of height. It's typically a light build with fine bone structure, very low body fat and lean muscle. "Ecotomorph" is the term used to describe the average hardgainer's body type. Many authorities believe the root of the problem is a genetic one that causes a fast metabolism, which burns calories faster than normal. This is definitely a possibility, and for the persistent resistant gainer, I suggest having a doctor check your thyroid function with a blood test that will determine if hyperthyroidism (see my article, Thyroid Health) is the cause.

The thyroid is that little gland at the base of the neck that regulates our metabolism. If that is the culprit, there is medical help available that can slow thyroid function down, which will enable weight gain. That's not to say that all fast metabolisms have thyroid problems, but if you're suspicious, or if hyperthyroidism is a family trait, consider discussing it with a doctor.

Other reasons for low body weight often include low caloric intake; an imbalance of the ratio between calories consumed and calories spent, especially if you're extremely active; poor sleep habits, and an insufficient consumption of fat. Often, all of these factors play a role in the hardgainer's life and should be addressed when making changes.

Assuming you want to gain muscle as part of the weight gain, bodybuilding is recommended; however, it must be approached differently than it is with guys not struggling with low weight issues.

Diet: The idea is to eat an excessive amount of calories. This is not the time to worry about eating an especially healthy diet, since the majority of healthy foods are low in calories. You're not expected to abandon fruits and vegetables, but you certainly don't want to rely on low calorie/low fat foods to gain weight. Instead, foods like milk, dairy, eggs, meat, nuts, avocados, pastas, breads, cereals, grains, healthy oils, and lots of protein shakes are on the menu. Opt for a weight-gaining protein shake, instead of a protein only shake. Avoid soy protein shakes and choose whey based ones instead, which are most effective for building muscle. It's important not to exclude fruit and veggies altogether, but to find a way to include them, so they leave room for weight gaining foods. Often it's done by incorporating them into a shake or smoothie. A weight gaining trick regarding shakes is to add cottage cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, etc. to them. One more thing, do not drink water while you're eating because it will fill you up, making it difficult to consume the required food.

It's not easy upping the average daily caloric intake of 2,500 calories to 5,000 or more calories per day. Give yourself time to adjust by making weekly increases of 1,000 calories a day, instead of trying to consume your target calorie amount all at once. It's perfectly fine to slow the increases down if you're having trouble adjusting, especially in the beginning. There are plenty of diet recommendations available, so check them out for guidance and suggestions. The use of a calorie-tracking program would be a great way to keep count of your caloric intake.

Exercise: There are many effective workout plans that cater to this condition. Without getting into specifics, two factors are important to keep in mind. Aerobic exercise needs to be limited to just enough to keep the ole ticker healthy. It's recommended to keep it to a 15-20 minute session, three times a week. Doing more would promote weight loss and sabotage your mission, so reduce your workout time if you're doing more.

Lifting weights should definitely build muscle; however, it's key to approach it by working large muscle groups, instead of doing isolated reps of targeted muscles. This is a common mistake many guys make, so, again, do your research, or find a trainer who specializes in working with hardgainers.

Diet recommendations vary from the average workout diet. Expect to consume both protein and carbs after a workout, but again, diet recommendations vary according to the source.

Sleep: We all know the value of a good night's sleep, but, for you, it's critical. It's as important as food and diet, so make sure you get plenty. Our bodies recuperate during sleep, which is the best time for muscles to heal after being worked and stressed from exercise. Recovery and growth take place during sleep, so you'll want to make sure to get plenty of shuteye. I'm not talking 10 or 12 hours a night necessarily, but make sure you at least get the recommended 8 hours. It's not easy to sleep for longer periods than you're used to, so be patient while your body adjusts. Eating before bedtime is recommended so muscle loss doesn't occur during the night.

Supplements: At the very least, take a good quality multivitamin/mineral supplement. Vitamin B-complex can be effective for stimulating the appetite. It will also give you more energy, which is especially important, since you may feel more sluggish than usual because of the amount of food you'll be eating. The multivitamin will have B vitamins it in; however, sometimes amounts are low. Adding an additional B-complex vitamin to equal a daily amount of at least 100 mg. may be advantageous. Along with increased appetite and energy comes yellow urine, so don't be surprised.

Fish oil capsules are a great way to get the essential Omega-3 fat into your diet, which will add additional calories, as well. If you've been avoiding fats, adjust your thinking and embrace their importance for overall health and weight gain. While we're talking about healthy fat, a trick to getting more into your diet is to add a tablespoon or more to a smoothie or shake. Flaxseed, olive, walnut, coconut and avocado oils are perfect choices. Peanut, soy, vegetable oil - which is soy oil, sunflower, safflower and canola are not the best choices.

There are herbs known to stimulate appetite, so if you're having trouble eating the required amount of food, give ginseng, catnip, ginger root, gotu kola, fennel seeds, papaya leaves, peppermint leaves, or saw palmetto berries a try. Herbs typically take two weeks to kick in and be effective, so give them enough time to work. I suggest trying one at a time, and if you're not satisfied with the results, try another one. Ginseng is a favorite that works well for men. Do not use ginseng if you have high blood pressure.

Smoking: If you do, stop. Smoking cigarettes decreases the appetite and is just bad news.

The objective is to gain weight and muscle. The overly abundant diet will put on fat, while bodybuilding will put on muscle. Don't stress about the amount of fat you gain. With your fast metabolism, you should be able to lose fat quickly once you reach your desired weight, which will be replaced with muscle. Everyone's different, so no one knows how long the process of gaining will take. Chances are a high calorie diet, to some degree, will become a lifestyle requirement.Weightlifting and exercise programs will be evaluated and changed as your body conditions change. Finding the right program and approach is crucial to your success, so don't become discouraged if at first you don't succeed. The hardgainer's diet and muscle building programs see great results with many guys. First and foremost, it's about patience, consistency and perseverance. I trust your amazing results will keep you motivated and moving forward. Gentlemen, good luck!

by Aaron Marino

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