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Tiger Toning

Breakfast of champions. Photo by Angela Gzowski

“We always hear about those people trying to lose weight, but what about those of us with the opposite problem? I am trying to gain weight and have been pumping the irons and trying to eat as much as I can. Any advice on how I might improve my progress?” – Skinny McBony

This article is dedicated to the little guys (and girls) who can’t seem to pack on the pounds. For years, you have been made fun of for being too small and for eating whatever you want without worrying about a bulge. I mean, you’ll have trouble getting sympathy from the majority of us who have to think about those calories and the nasty consequences of having that slice of pizza after the bar, but your concern is still valid.

So, how do you fight the body type you were given and build those rippling muscles you’ve always wanted, or at least put on a few pounds of fat?

Building muscles takes more than just lifting heavier weights, and that goes for everyone.  You can’t build a house without bricks, and, similarly, you can’t build muscles without the necessary materials.

The building blocks of our body come from protein. While protein is counted in the body as ‘calories’ and, therefore, a source of energy, its primary purpose is to build tissue, including muscle. That’s why after you work out and rip your muscles to shreds, the building blocks for recovery, protein, must be present in your body to get it done.

This is accomplished by ensuring there’s an adequate supply of protein—which most of us achieve—and the amino acids that come with it. This, however, does not mean you should down a ridiculous amount of protein at one time, even after a workout. The reason for this is our body can only process so much protein at once. In fact, if you have way too much, it can be toxic to the body. That’s why a steady supply of protein throughout the day is preferred, with a good shot post-workout, too.

What many people forget is that protein can also be a source of energy, and if you’re not maintaining adequate levels of carbs, your body may turn to the protein, depleting your ‘bricks’ for growth. This is where the hard gainers find their biggest disadvantage.

The hard gainers have super metabolisms that burn energy at crazy rates, which is why an energy surplus or weight gain is more difficult. This also means their bodies must turn protein to energy more often, making it harder to keep building blocks available for growth purposes.

To combat this, hard gainers need to take eating to a whole new level. The calories they consume must be significantly more inflated than the rest of us and a good mix of carbs, fats and protein is also important.

As mentioned already, protein consumption should be kept high throughout the day. Fats should also be inflated (as this calorie-dense source makes reaching a high calorie count easier) but chosen carefully. Saturated and trans fats provide almost no benefit and should still be avoided. Though, the good fats (poly and mono fats) can be consumed safely in greater amounts. A few good sources of these fats include nuts, fish and oils.

Finally, carbs are where you are going to need to focus your work. This is where you can combat the mighty metabolism head on. Constant carb-based snacks and plenty of protein will help keep a consistently high level of energy flowing through your body and protect those amino acids (proteins) from being taken away. Be careful of consuming too much sugar though, there are still nasty consequences other than weight gain that sugar can inflict. Check out the glycemic index online for a good reference of which carbs you should consume and which to limit.

So, onward hard gainers! Eat like you’ve never eaten before, but do it smartly. Look online for more great food choices for hard gainers!

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Colin Hebb

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