How to Eat More – Ectomorphs, Appetite and Building Muscle

The Skinny on “Just Eat More”

Written by Shane Duquette on December 17, 2013

(Updated July 13, 2015) As a skinny guy, each and every time I tried to build muscle people would tell me two things: “just eat more” and “just lift heavy.” Then they’d look at me like they’d just solved all of my problems – totally confident they’d given me the information I’d been missing all my life. I was quite familiar with being skinny though, so I was also quite familiar with that advice.

I’d even tried it. Many times.

We’ll cover the lifting heavy part in another post. Both are really misunderstood and fascinating topics, and I think going into some depth could be really helpful. In this article we’ll cover the eating more part – the part that hits really close to home for me. Literally close to home – even my mother would tell me to just eat more.

That’s because in a world where the average first worlder is overweight, us skinny guys, hardgainers, ectomorphs, dreamboats – whatever you want to call us naturally thin guys – we’re outliers. Even when it comes to building muscle we’re often slotted into a footnote – “Oh yeah, and for hardgainer ectomorph body types, you’ve got a fast metabolism and stuff so you’ll need to eat more. Eat carbs – lots of carbs.”

That “just eat more” advice would work fine for most people, but the fact that we aren’t most people is precisely why they’re giving us that advice … and also why that advice is rather naive. I mean, for most people eating lots of food and gaining weight is second nature. If you tell the average dude to “just eat more” he’d be able to. He’d probably get fat, but he’d be able to do it. Hell, he’d probably even like it.

Little do people know that they’ve just casually told us to climb the mount everest of ectomorph challenges.

Eating more is rough. First, our physiology makes it hard to get into a caloric surplus. Second, most mainstream approaches to muscle make it even harder, since they either totally ignore appetite issues or, worse yet, they’re cleverly designed to reduce our appetites. Third, even when we do manage to get into a caloric surplus, our adaptive metabolisms kick in.

By trying to simply eat more and lift heavy we often find our results underwhelming and unsustainable. Ironically, as skinny guys we often have the most natural potential for muscle growth … since, err, we’re so far away from our genetic potential …

Anyway, we should be seeing extremely rapid gains – especially at first. Gaining 2+ pounds of muscle per week is pretty much unheard of in the muscle-building world, and yet us skinny guys are able to do it pretty consistently.

Appetite can bottleneck our results, yes, but most of the news is actually pretty good. In this article we’ll cover ectomorph physiology and appetite, and how overfeeding, building muscle and staying lean differs for guys like us. Turns out we’ve even got some incredible natural advantages when it comes to leanly building muscle – advantages that we can leverage.

Different goals, different physiology

The Skinny on how to Eat More as an Ectomorph – Building Muscle despite a huge metabolism and a small appetite

I’m not a neuropsychologist, so I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of this neuropsychology of appetite stuff went a little over my head – especially at first. Nobody else is writing about this stuff from an ectomorph perspective though, so if we want to get to the bottom of this we pretty much need to do it ourselves.

The first thing I did was sign myself up for some research reviews analyzing all the studies done into appetite and satiety (aka fullness). How little attention was given to us naturally skinny guys became more and more evident the more and more research I did. There haven’t been many studies looking into healthfully gaining weight since the Second World War, when famine was running rampant through Europe. Nowadays the smartest people are all feverishly conducting research into preventing overeating. That’s not wrong – obesity is a far more widespread problem than ours – but it means that when we read things we need to need to be constantly asking ourselves “does this apply to me, or are they assuming that I’m overweight?”

That can be really damn confusing.

Lots of popular approaches to fitness, nutrition and muscle-building bundle up weight-loss tricks along with them. During my first few attempts at building muscle I lost weight – even though I was doing programs seemingly designed to build muscle. I attributed this to my own lack of potential. Now, sixty pounds later, I’m realizing that my failed efforts were largely due to a lack of understanding. Our potential is just swell.

That lack of understanding is pretty understandable. For example, maybe you’ve read about intermittent fasting – about how strategically reducing the number of meals you eat will help leanly build muscle. Little do we know that it’s a dieting strategy designed for people with enormous stomach capacities and ravenous appetites. Since these guys love eating big meals, it’s a diet designed around eating fewer meals instead of smaller meals. Martin Berkhan, the creator of LeanGains, and arguably the most influential intermittent faster out there, is notorious for his insatiable appetite and epic cheesecake binges.

Reducing meal frequency and increasing portion size can help people comfortably consume fewer calories overall (study) … but these are not the woes of an ectomorph. What intermittent fasters are desperately after – being able to eat fewer calories without going crazy – is what we do by default. We need exactly the opposite – a way to comfortable increase the amount of calories we eat.

Or maybe you’ve read about Paleo – about how avoiding grains, beans, peanuts, dairy and junk food can help you become lean and muscular. This approach works for many people, but this is still a restrictive approach to nutrition. It’s a diet designed around comfortably eating less. Again, we need the opposite. Restricting the foods that we eat should be the last thing on our to-do list.*

*If you’ve got an allergy, dislike a food, feel bad after eating a food, can’t afford a food, etc – no worries. The benefit of a non-restrictive approach to nutrition is that once you understand the fundamentals of nutrition you can eat however you like. A healthy and balanced approach to nutrition is very flexible. If you believe in a plant-based diet, prefer Paleo or enjoy intermittent fasting – no problem.

Since most people eat too much, the emphasis in most diets is on what to remove. Since we’re actively trying to eat more, the first thing we should be doing to our diets is cleverly adding things in. We don’t really need to be restricting anything.

So, since most diets are based around the physiological needs of people who overeat by default, let’s start by understanding a little bit about our physiology regarding appetite so that we can realistically and efficiently build muscle.

Ectomorph Insulin Sensitivity.

Insulin is one of the main drivers of appetite. When we eat, our insulin levels go up. As our insulin levels go up our appetite goes down, leaving a nice pleasant feeling of fullness behind. This is one of the reasons that we know when to stop eating.

Many of us ectomorphs tend to be rather sensitive to insulin. This means two things. First, that our insulin rises eagerly in response to food: in goes food, up goes insulin. Second, it means that our bodies are hyper-sensitive to insulin: up goes insulin, down goes appetite. This is good as far as health and appetite regulation goes … but bad as far as eating enough to build muscle goes. We certainly aren’t about to overeat by accident, since our bodies are so good at regulating our appetite.

Beefy dudes are generally much less sensitive to insulin. Since their response is blunted, their process looks more like this: in goes food, in goes a little more food, up goes insulin, up goes a little more insulin, and finally down goes appetite. By the time their insulin gets high enough to trigger a feeling off fullness they’ve already eaten a whole lot more food than us.

The fact that we’re insulin sensitive, while seemingly a pain in the ass, is actually a tremendous asset. More insulin sensitivity in muscle cells and less in fat cells will direct more nutrients toward muscle and less toward fat, making building muscle very leanly very easy. We hit the genetic jackpot with this one, and we want to hold onto it at all costs.

Luckily, so long as we approach building muscle cleverly, we can not only hold onto our insulin sensitivity, we can improve upon it. Being lean increases insulin sensitivity. (study) Heavy weightlifting increases insulin sensitivity. (study) So does building up more muscle mass. (study) So if you take a skinny guy with a genetic advantage already and then put him on a hearty muscle-building program, well, he’ll be an insulin sensitivity powerhouse.

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that the last thing we want to do is recklessly dirty-bulk our abs away* with a ‘see food’ diet, where you try your best to eat everything in sight. Our body types are the best at rockin’ those kinds of diets, but that doesn’t mean that those diets are any good for anyone, even us. If were to go about gaining a bunch of fat we’d be reducing our insulin sensitivity every step of the way. (study) I’m not saying that to scare you or anything though. If you gained a little bit of fat it wouldn’t be any kind of big deal –  you’d be able to burn it off in a jiffy.**

*Back as a skinny guy I didn’t have abs. I’m much leaner now than I was at 130 pounds, because nowadays I have 60 more pounds of muscle on my body and I lift weights three times a week. If you don’t have abs now that’s not any kind of concern. If you’re a naturally thin guy you can probably get them relatively easily if you want them.
**Members, here‘s our guide for guys who are either ‘skinny-fat’ or who bulked their abs away and want them back.

I’m not even a guy who cares all that much about how lean I am. I spent so much of my life being skinny that these days I just want to be big and strong. A lot of our members are the same – we’re more keen on building up burlier biceps and broader shoulders than worrying about being super duper lean. What I mean is that we may as well run with our natural strengths – being able to build muscle very leanly.

So having heightened insulin sensitivity is a tremendous asset, and it helps to take advantage of it. But while it helps us build muscle quickly, leanly and healthfully … it certainly doesn’t help us overcome our appetites.

(Appetite tips are coming, don’t worry.)

Ectomorph metabolism

Many of us ectomorphs are like caloric bottomless pits. No matter how much food we shovel into our mouths our weight refuses to budge on the scale. Some experts argue that most people burn around the same amount of calories – that us ectomorphs just underestimate how much we eat. So why does it often seem like we’ve got these furnace-like ecto-metabolisms that make it impossible to gain weight?

Well that’s because those experts are wrong 😉

While we do burn about the same amount of calories as everyone else while we sleep (BMR), when we’re roaming around and being active (TEA), while we exercise (EPOC), and when we digest food (TEF) … we’ve also got our ectomorph metabolisms kicking things into overdrive in a far more elusive way.

William Sheldon – the 1940’s psychologist who coined the terms ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph – described our body type as being ‘fidgety’. He was trying to link up personality types to body types. Huge fail. You can’t predict someone’s personality based on his body type. All of his psychological body type stuff has been disproven in pretty much every way imaginable.

As far as the underlying physiological qualities go though, his categorizations are still rather useful. You can’t tell how adventurous someone is based on their body type, but you can tell a lot about their body type from their body type. (Obviously.) When it comes to building muscle that can be incredibly useful.

And it turns out Sheldon was onto something with his “fidgety ectomorph” thing.

See, where our metabolisms tend to differ from other guys is in our non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). These are the calories burned through our subconscious activity – things like heat production, fidgeting, postural control, etc. (study)

That’s what does us in calorically.

Most people are fairly frugal with their calories, trying to store as many as possible for a rainy day. Not us. We’re caloric high rollers, baby, and we’re all about spending calories like there’s no tomorrow.

For example, I don’t get cold. Ever. I live in Canada and don’t even own a winter coat. I don’t own a car either, so I do a lot of roaming around outside in frigid temperatures and generally feel just dandy. My friends joke that I’m a human furnace. I also pace when I talk on the phone, roam around the gym between sets, tap my feet along to music and just generally find sitting still really damn difficult.

How much of an effect can this have? A pretty huge one, apparently. A study looking into metabolisms found that regular people burned 3% more calories sitting in a chair than they did lying motionless on their backs. Add in some fidgeting though, and they burned 54% more calories just by casually relaxing in a chair. The same is true with standing. Casual standing burns just 13% more calories than lying on your back, whereas ecto-standing burns 94% more calories. (study)

The Skinny on how to Eat More as an Ectomorph – Us hardgainers burn a lot more calories (way higher metabolism)

Over the course of a day that works out to a 600 calorie difference if you spend most of your time sitting, and a 950 calorie difference if you spend most of your time standing. And that’s just the fidgeting part of this – that doesn’t account for heat production, postural control, etc.

As far as posture and body position goes, James Levine, the leading subconscious energy expenditure researcher, recruited ten obese people and ten lean people and measured their body postures and movements every half-second for ten days. (He did this by using kinky high-tech undergarments.) The lean people spent two more hours standing than the obese people, burning an estimated 350 more calories each day (again via NEAT). He also found that this held true even when lean people gained weight, leading him to believe that this is largely genetically predetermined. (study)

To put this into perspective, most people’s calorie requirements fall within the range of bodyweight x 13-23. For a 150 pound guy that’s the difference between burning 2,000 and 3,500 calories each day. That’s a huge difference.

And that’s actually only the beginning. Things get really interesting when you start overfeeding us.

A hardgainer’s response to overfeeding

Different people respond very very differently to overfeeding. In one study, the participants were overfed by 1000 calories per day for eight straight weeks and instructed not to exercise. (study)

At the end of the eight week study some guys gained 0.79 pounds of fat and some guys gained 9.3 pounds. That’s more than a tenfold difference in how much fat was stored.

This puzzled researchers for a long time, but it’s now attributed to subconscious movement. When overfeeding almost everyone’s metabolism will rev up, but it’s usually not nearly enough to offset the effects of overeating. Us hardgainers respond to overfeeding by turning up our caloric furnaces far higher than your average person – producing more heat, moving more, fidgeting more, etc. Other studies have found the same ecto-phenomenon. (studystudy) This keeps us lean, but it also keeps us small.

So that “just eat more” advice is pretty damn shoddy. Our metabolisms eagerly adapt to any attempts at overfeeding, making our attempts feel totally futile.

Luckily, we aren’t simply trying to gain weight, we’re trying to build muscle. This is actually a highly desirable trait. People are probably quite jealous of you for it – and rightly so. You know how chubbier guys often do all kinds of cardio when trying to build muscle? If they don’t … they often risk building up fat alongside their muscle. Us ectomorphs don’t really need to worry about the cardio because we burn  off the surplus calories automatically.

With a good enough nutrition and weightlifting program this won’t much get in the way of building muscle. Our body’s adapt to the training stimulus by building up extra muscle before sending the extra calories off to the furnace. Calories that ‘need’ to be invested in your biceps aren’t extra calories, after all. This can be a huge asset, since it makes some of us extremely resistant to fat but not muscle.

So, combined with our heightened insulin sensitivity, we can often get away with eating large caloric surpluses, building as much muscle as our bodies will allow … and any caloric excess not used for building muscle won’t get stored as fat – it will get tossed in the furnace. This allows us to leanly build muscle more rapidly than your average guy, who needs to add in cardio while keeping a strict eye on his caloric surplus. As with most of these things though, that depends on the ectomorph, and everyone can hit a point where the excess calories do eventually start spilling over into fat. We tend to get a pretty wide berth though, especially when our nutrition fundamentals are in order.

Overfeeding & food aversion.

That fact that we’re awesome at building all kinds of lean muscle when we’re in a hearty caloric surplus is all well and good … but the problem remains that eating a huge caloric surplus is really damn hard.

During the 70’s the obesity researcher Ethan Sims spent his time running a decade’s worth of overfeeding studies on American prisoners – men who were in a totally controlled environment and were at the nutritional whim of the research team. Force-feeding and then starving prisoners is perhaps a little ethically questionable by modern standards, but hey, this was the 70’s. (study, study)

One interesting thing that the researchers found was that many of the subjects slowly started growing bored of food during prolonged periods of overfeeding, finding it more and more difficult to sustain the willpower needed to overeat. Some even developed an aversion to food – they just didn’t ever want to eat. They’d want to skip breakfast, and then as the day went on sometimes their appetite would come back, but sometimes it wouldn’t. Some men even dropped out of the study because they couldn’t handle eating the volumes of food they were being asked to eat.

Overeating is a lot harder for some of us than a lot of people realize, especially when we’re talking about overeating by a fairly significant amount. This is especially true with us naturally leaner hardgainers:

“One of his volunteers, for example, began at 132 pounds. He struggled resolutely for more than thirty weeks to gain weight, ate great amounts of food, and reduced his activity to less than half its former level, but was never able to push above 144 pounds. He simply didn’t have the willpower to get fat.”

Story of my life.

Well except for the fat part.

Interestingly, this study also shows more good news for us naturally thin guys: while the number of fat cells varies even among lean guys, we likely have a modest number of fat cells compared to people who struggle with being overweight. Perhaps partially because of this, the leaner guys gained modest amounts of fat and then were able to return to a lean state far more quickly than the others. Better still, the participants gained 23 pounds of fat on average and still had the same number of fat cells as when they started. This suggests that even when we store a fair bit of fat, our fat cells simply increase in size instead of increasing in number, making it relatively easy to get back to being comfortably lean again. Long story short: our potential for gaining fat is small, and if we do it’s easy to burn off.

Stomach capacity

If you’re anything like me you may have realized that attempting to eat enormous meals doesn’t work very well. Back in skinnier times my girlfriends could always eat me under the table. Since they were keen on eating less and I was keen on eating more, well, we all found it rather disheartening.

Turns out that stomachs come in different sizes. In a 2001 study researchers discovered that obese people had markedly larger stomachs than people of normal bodyweight, and that binge eaters had larger stomachs still. Stomachs are sort of like balloons, with the balloons coming in different sizes and capable of being inflated to different degrees. (study)

Are we stuck with our stomach sizes? In another study, scientists recruited a group of obese men and women and split them into two groups: one group ate what they normally ate, and the other was forced to eat itty bitty meals. Four weeks later the group that ate normal sized meals, not surprisingly, had the same stomach size as when they started. The itty bitty meal group, however, had reduced their stomach size by 27 to 36 percent. (study)

More relevantly, the researchers in the first study posit that binge eating behaviour was the cause of the larger stomach sizes. The binge eaters weren’t born with larger stomachs, but rather their stomachs adapted to their eating habits by growing larger. This suggests that by gradually eating larger and larger meals we could gradually increase our stomach sizes, sort of like how stretching out a balloon makes it easier to inflate. This certainly lines up with my own experiences. After having gained 60 pounds my stomach capacity has seemingly doubled, allowing me to effortlessly eat much larger meals. I don’t get eaten under the table on dates anymore, either.

With that said, we don’t even need to increase our stomach sizes. Simply eating more meals, or adding snacks between meals, can work pretty well. I suspect that’s why many bodybuilders consume lots of meals – because they have so many calories they need to consume. Perhaps that’s why there’s all that mumbo-jumbo mythology about needing to eat every three hours to build muscle. The myths are false – you can eat however many meals you want – but that doesn’t mean that snacking every couple hours isn’t a great idea as far as fitting food in our stomachs goes. Nothing says they need to be fancy either – just a handful of trail mix, some fruit or a glass of milk between meals will add up over the course of a day, making it a easier to hit your nutrition goals.

Heightened dopamine sensitivity

Eating food causes the release of dopamine, and that release of dopamine causes feelings of intense pleasure. In fact, that’s how our bodies let us know that we’re doing something pleasurable – by releasing dopamine.

Not surprisingly, it’s pretty common for people to get bummed, tired or stressed and automatically turn to food, knowing that if they eat enough of it they’ll stimulate the release of dopamine and thus feel better. It’s not a physiological hunger thing – they don’t need more food –they eat simply due to the pleasure response that their body has in response to calorie rich food. This is your typical scenario where the heartbroken gal drowns her sorrows in a tub or ten of Ben & Jerry’s.

When enough dopamine is released it eventually satisfies that insatiable craving or urge. Some people are more sensitive to it than others, and thus some people need to eat a hell of a lot of food in order to stimulate a large enough dopamine response to satisfy their cravings. Our bony hearts, however, are mendable with relatively small portions of ice cream.

… but turning to ice cream in tough times isn’t even something that skinny guys tend to do in the first place. Eating for that pleasurable hormonal response is more of a beefy person thing. (study, study) Moreover, our stress response is often far more affected by other factors – factors that turn our appetites off. When we get stressed, bummed or tired we often lose our appetite entirely or forget to eat. In tough times we tend to find ourselves losing weight, not gaining it.

So if you get in a fight with your gal she might storm off and raid the fridge, meanwhile you’re busy forgetting to have dinner.

Hunger & Weightlifting

This applies to other stressors as well, like weightlifting. Lifting heavy things makes many guys ravenous, whereas I’ve always found that it makes me less hungry. According to a study published in Physiology and Behavior, some people compensate for the calories burned by eating more … whereas others respond by eating less. They suggest that this may relate back to dopamine sensitivity and our hedonistic response to food, i.e., how primed our brains are to food pleasure and reward signals. This lines up with other studies as well, and seems especially pronounced when the type of exercise is heavy weightlifting. (study, study, study)

This is one reason why some guys go to the gym and lift weights and wind up way bigger and stronger in no time – their bodies automatically up-regulate their food intake (or they already eat enough). Since rate of bodyweight change is largely determined by the degree of the caloric surplus, this is one reason why weightlifting alone seems to make some guys automatically gain weight.

A recent meta-analysis (January 2014) compared the results of all studies looking into exercise and appetite. The study found that, on average, exercise caused people to eat a little bit more … but not by enough to compensate for the amount of calories they burned by exercising. So maybe after exercising we’ll naturally eat an extra 200 calories, but if we burned 300 by exercising … we sure as hell won’t be gaining weight. (study)

Luckily there’s a good fix for this one, and we wrote up a big blog post on ectomorph workout nutrition here.

Muscle & Metabolism

One big worry I used to have is that if I were to successfully build muscle, well, I’d surely just lose it again. I worried that as soon as I stopped overfeeding my muscles would shrivel up back up and be skinny again.

Luckily I was dead wrong. Building muscle can require consuming a lot of calories (among other things) and that can certainly be challenging, but maintaining muscle is a whole different story. Your calorie demands drop back down into the realm of normalcy, for one. A pound of muscle only burns around 6 calories per day, so adding even 20 pounds of muscle to your frame won’t really make your life much harder. (studystudystudy) That’s only 120 extra calories you’ll need to eat. That’s a small glass of milk.

Sometimes we can lose weight if we turn to a life of inactivity and Pop-Tarts, but so long as we stay strong and healthy our hard-earned muscle mass will stick around just fine. You don’t need to eat that much protein to maintain your muscle mass, and you don’t even need to lift weights all that often*. Plus, if we do lose muscle mass, it’s generally pretty easy to build it right back up in a jiffy. Re-building muscle is a whole lot easier than building muscle.

*Although it would certainly be good for your health, longevity, brainpower, energy levels and mood if you kept up a regular weightlifting routine.


The Skinny on how to Eat More as an Ectomorph – Building Muscle despite a huge metabolism and a small appetite

If I were to share every useful strategy I’ve come across, this post would be a hundred pages long … but I do want to conclude this article by sharing a few actionable tips and one of the more fascinating appetite studies I’ve come across.

You know how when people are trying to lose weight they’re encouraged to eat lots of voluminous and fibrous veggies (like broccoli) since they’re so low in calories and take up so much stomach space? Don’t you wish there was a study that looked into which nutritious foods were easy to eat whole hell of a lot of? Luckily, there is one: A satiety index of common foods.

I adore this study with a passion. I mean, they took a bunch of the most common foods, figured out how filling they were, and then figured out how many more calories people would naturally eat in their next meal based on how filling their previous meal was. The goal of the study, of course, was to figure out how to fill people up with fewer calories so that they could lose weight without feeling hungry … but given that a lot of the not-so-filling-foods are actually pretty healthy, it can also be applied to leanly building muscle without feeling full. To make things a little easier still, I organized the foods into categories and remade their results graph:

Ectomorph Appetite – which foods are filling, and thus easy to eat more of

Some of this stuff will be pretty obvious. Obviously fish is more filing than donuts. Eating 1000 calories of junk food is pretty easy, whereas you’d be hard pressed to shovel down 1000 calories of fish, no matter how bottomless your pit.

Some of the stuff might surprise you though. Would you have guessed that 250 calories coming from potatoes was three times as filling as 250 calories coming from bananas? Even more impressively, potatoes are seven times more filling than a croissant. Potatoes are also pretty damn nutritious, making them pretty much the best food ever if you’re trying to lose weight. Prrretty crazy.


Does how filling something is affect how many calories we eat? In this case, yes. The researchers found that with these 250 calorie meals, for every 100 point difference on the satiety scale, there was a corresponding 50 calorie difference in how much was eaten in the next meal. That means that if you ate an itty bitty 250 calorie croissant (47 satiety) for lunch you might eat an 800 calorie dinner, whereas if you ate a huge 250 calorie potato (323 satiety) you’d eat a 650 calorie dinner. Over the course of a few meals that would add up to several hundred calories without you even noticing the difference. You’d still be eating a comfortable and natural amount … except all of a sudden it might be enough to build muscle.

So what makes a food more filling than another food? The researchers concluded that a combination of three things make a food fearsomely filling:

  • High protein content.
  • High fibre content.
  • High water content.

Considering that protein is the building block of muscle, fibre is incredibly important when it comes to digesting large amounts of food, and water is kind of the most essential thing out there … this is tricky. These three things are both essential for building muscle and yet simultaneously make eating enough to build muscle a challenge.

The solution? Get the protein that you need to maximally build muscle in, but get most of your calories from carbs. (More on that here.) Drink water between meals, but not necessarily between bites. (studystudy) You don’t necessarily want to be filling your stomach up with water at the same time as you’re packing it full of food. And as far as fibre goes, getting enough is key, since it will allow you to process the large amounts of food you’re consuming, but more fibre is not always better. Fibre will tend to take care of itself if you get around 80% of your calories from whole foods, but eating too ‘clean’ can lead to getting more fibre than you need, making this a little harder than it needs to be.

Long story short: now’s not the time to be loading up on low calorie watery fibrous foods like broccoli, lettuce, watermelon, etc. Go for the higher calorie and denser fruits and veggies instead. Bananas, grapes, peas, etc.

Should we start adding in tons of hyper-palatable (junk) food? Probably not. They’re very easy to consume in large quantities, but they’re lower in micronutrients, very low in fibre, and often contain a ton of fat. Us ectomorphs tend to build muscle the most leanly when the majority of our calories are coming from carbs. Junk food tends to throw our fat intake way too high… often making our gains a little fattier.

Like I said at the beginning of this article though, as skinny guys we need to emphasize adding things into our diet, not taking things out. Removing all the hyper-palatable food from your diet is going to leave a caloric hole. Now isn’t the time to cut out the “bad” stuff, it’s time to add in the good stuff—to add in nutritious whole foods.

If 80% or more of your diet is made up of whole foods, you’re doing pretty swell from a micronutrient and fibre standpoint, so with the high calorie diets we’re eating that certainly leaves room for some desserts.

Make your food taste good. Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect, wrote about how the 60’s changed the food industry in two key ways.

First, artificial food flavouring scientists were truly mastering the art of making junk food taste incredible. Artificial flavours were beginning to taste more intense than natural ones. Flour fried in vegetable oil could now become the delivery vehicle for the richest flavours that science had to offer.

Second, farms were starting to master the art of growing greater volumes of food, which was excellent for feeding tons of people at reasonable prices… but not so great for food flavour. The soil was less nutrient rich, and produce was being bred for size instead of taste. All of a sudden farmed foods began tasting blander.

It’s no surprise then that people started gravitating towards junk food.

There’s another solution though. We can make our food taste better. Buying from small local farms, or maybe buying organic—that could help. That can be expensive though, if those options are even available at all.

However, there are other ways to make our food taste better. For example, adding hot peppers to a food will stimulate our body’s pain response system, causing us to produce morphine-like pleasure hormones in an adept to blunt the “pain.” This is something many cultures have been doing for thousands of years to get a (very healthy) almost drug-like feeling out of our meals. Doritos take advantage of that spicy bliss feeling, and so can we.

And as technology has progressed, so too has the availability of other spices from all over the world. While eating boiled chicken, rice and a tomato for dinner might not be as fun as it used to be, back when farmed food was naturally incredibly flavour rich, we don’t need to eat plain boiled foods anymore either. We could combine those ingredients together with spices imported from India and have a delicious Tikka Masala. Or combine steak and potatoes into a hearty European stew. Or ground meat and beans into a delicious latin chili.

We can add delicious flavours to the whole foods that we cook. That way they taste comparably good—or even better—than all the junk food we have at our disposal. The better your food tastes, the more fun it will be to eat a ton of it.

Dried Fruit. When it comes to adding in nutritious high calorie whole foods, dried fruit is about as good as it gets. Dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, but is way less filling, since all the water is removed. Water is one of the three main factors that make a food filling, so taking the water out of fruit makes it easier to eat a ton of.

Other studies found that energy density (calories / volume) is a key factor in how filling a good is, so the fact that dried fruit is smaller helps too. As you can imagine, eating 10 plums is very very difficult. Eating 10 prunes is very very easy.

Dried fruits are also super healthy. If you were to compare dried fruit against fresh fruit by weight, dried fruit contains about 3.5 times the amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals as the fresh fruit.

Making things more interesting still, our bodies tend to crave a variety of flavours. If you fill up on a salty and savoury chili for dinner, chances are you’ll still have room for something sweet afterwards—something like dried mangoes, perhaps?

Still struggling to eat enough? It’s time to get clever. So, given that potatoes are incredibly filling, should we eat them? Sure. There are lots of ways to increase the energy density of them, too, so that we can still get our calories in easily. Looking at that chart, homemade french fries might do the trick. You’re adding delicious fats and salt to the potatoes, and then perhaps dipping them in Ketchup to make them taste refreshingly sweet and acidic.

Are there even easier ways to eat a lot of calories? Probably. Rice isn’t very filling, and that’s Marco’s go-to bulking staple. Cook it with spices, add some soy sauce, or put some chili on top.

Our chili recipe is deliciously spicy and rich in a variety of complementary spices and nutrients. It’s indulgently delicious and savoury, fresh and spicy, and incredibly healthy. Best of all, you can cook up fourteen servings of it in thirty minutes. That means thirteen extra servings of it in the freezer for later. (That’s my go-to bulking staple.)

Making things easier still, you don’t even need to cook! Muesli cereal takes seconds to prepare (just pour into a bowl and add milk), it’s made up of nutritious whole foods (dried fruit and nuts), it’s easy to eat a ton of (see chart), and it’s delicious—especially if you add in some dark chocolate and berries.

Snacking. Snacking itself also makes it easier to eat more calories. Generally having a snack will cause you to eat only just slightly less in your next meal. For example, if you eat a 300 calorie snack, you may only reduce the size of your dinner by 100 calories. You’ll still effortlessly come out ahead by 200 calories. (study) Snacking on something like trail mix combines the appetite wizardry of dried fruit and nuts, too.

Liquid calories. Then there’s liquid calories, which are incredibly easy on the appetite. (study) Our bodies hardly count liquid calories as calories at all, making it really easy to get in a lot of ‘bonus’ calories. Milk is great for that – it’s cheap, quick and incredibly good at building muscle. Smoothies are fantastic too, especially since you can blend up so many nutritious foods. And having a high calorie workout shake is pretty helpful too.

There are dozens of ways to make eating more achievable, efficient, affordable, effective, enjoyable, etc.

(For members, I’ve put an article on the member forum with a sample meal plan optimized for all these things, a few more studies, links to a bunch of our recipes that bring a bunch of these principles together, and a few more tips, tricks and strategies for how to apply this stuff to leanly building muscle.)


To say that this was a huge challenge of mine is an understatement. “Just eat more” kept me up at night, had me browsing articles for hundreds of hours trying to find a way around it, had me trying all kinds of weight gainers and fad diets. None of it worked, and so for most of my life I thought it was physically impossible to overcome the dastardly hardgainer trio: a really high metabolism, a really small appetite and a really small stomach. I didn’t just think this was tough, I thought it was impossible. I though I was just $%^& out of luck.

Every once in a while though I’d think “okay enough is enough – I’m fed up with being skinny” and I’d give it another try. Over years of research, personally experimenting, recruiting guinea pigs (like Jared), and then starting up the Bony to Beastly Program and helping other guys master this stuff … now we’re actually really quite good at this stuff. Eating well is easy and enjoyable.

Plus, due to homeostasis (our bodies regulating our body weight), once our bodies adjust to their new muscular burliness, our appetite will naturally increase to accommodate our ever so slightly higher caloric needs. There is an adjustment period, but it soon begins to feel just as effortless as ever. It’s the changing part that’s challenging, since our bodies are programmed to resist change. Although those regulatory systems kept us small in the past, they can also keep us strong and healthy in the future. Moreover, due to the increased insulin sensitivity that the weightlifting and added muscle mass give us, it eventually becomes pretty easy to stay strong and fearsomely lean without ever really needing to do any cardio, restrict our diets, feel miserably hungry, etc. Nowadays I hover between 180-190 pounds just as easily as I used to hover between 125-130 pounds.

This was a really big deal for me, so if you’re in the same boat I was in then I really hope this article helps.

Questions? Tips and tricks? Success stories? Drop ’em below.

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So, what'd you think? 231 responses below.


One truly honest and gem of a post this is. I was virtually nodding for every point you have explained here! So many things are absolutely true for me like fidgety, small stomach, forgetting to eat when sad etc. This article has been a great reminder and reality check to get things right and try smarter for my muscle gain journey. Thanks a million Shane 🙂

Shane Duquette

Really glad you liked it Dino!
Good luck building muscle man 🙂


Hey Shane,

Just stumbled on the blog. I’m what you would call “skinny fat.” I look thin through my clothes but when I take them off I’m just not all that toned. Anyway, there’s this insanely hot chick at my school whose got a total crush on this guy who plays on the HBO show Girls. His name is Adam Driver and he’s a skinny guy but he’s got some muscle and a really toned body. She’s basically in love with him. I’d really like to get a body like that. Right now I just feel too nervous to talk to her but I feel like if I improve looks wise… Any tips to that specific look?

Shane Duquette

Ah no way! One of my best female friends loves that show, and I know exactly who you’re talking about.

Although I’m no dating expert I’d also suggest that you shouldn’t let your physique hold you back from getting what you want out of your love life. In university, at 6’2 and 130 pounds, I was dating an ambitious, kind and gorgeous gal who was on a university rugby AND basketball scholarship. She had a killer bod’, and she fell in love with me even though I didn’t. Similarly, I’ve fallen for charismatic and clever gals who weren’t particularly fit.

Building muscle made ME feel better in relationships, and gave me a lot more confidence in the dating world … but it’s not a pre-requisite for attracting the gals you fancy.

Jared met his wonderful wife-to-be back when he was 130 pounds too, and now they both lift weights together (and they both look and feel more fantastic than ever).

With that said, being a wickedly strong and healthy dude can certainly help:

As for how to get that look – find a program (like ours) and follow it! Adam Driver doesn’t have the body of a professional bodybuilder or anything, but rather that of a strong and healthy man, so I suspect you’d be able to achieve that look really fairly quickly and then maintain it rather enjoyably 🙂

As for what you’d do, you’d either build muscle leanly and then drop your body fat percentage a bit … or you’d drop your body fat percentage a bit and then build muscle leanly. If you aren’t currently training, both approaches might accomplish muscle gain and fat loss simultaneously, although the emphasis would be different.

I wasn’t all too toned back in the day either, so I know how you feel! By the time I gained 10-20 pounds my muscles were showing through though.

Does that help?


Im really enjoying reading all of this and seriously thinking of signing up for the program I’m just having a hard time finding a way to contact you guys (maybe it’s my phone) but I signed up twice for the first chapter and haven’t got anything yet. Maybe it takes a little bit but I’m just curious haha also wondering if the program is all online or if you guys mail a physical copy of it out. Thanks!

Shane Duquette

Hey Josiah,

Glad to hear you’re interested, man! We try our best to be super easy to reach (and we’re very active in the member community every single day). I’m sorry that you were having trouble. I’ll personally send you the first chapter again now, but my guess is that our emails are landing in your junk mail folder. I think if you check there you’ll find ’em 🙂


This is like the god-(p)article of ectomorphs ! I’ve looked for this thing for such a long time and it explains everything ! Why We are like this. Thanks so much for writing this, it is awesome, and I really need this kind of advice during my phase one ! 🙂

Shane Duquette

Ahaha thanks Florian – glad you dug it 😀

Good luck kickin’ ass with the first phase! Stoked to hear how you do. I’ll be adding some more info to the forum over the next little bit too, so stay tuned 🙂


I recently started lean bulking (logging all exercise and eating a small surplus over that) recently, and here’s what I found:

-I absolutely have to measure/weight food and log calories right now. Eventually I’ll probably get a good idea of how much some foods are worth and what portion sizes are. But I have to go by my calorie counts, b/c my feeling of fullness isn’t usually accurate. I can eat 2100 cal or 3200 cal a day (precisely measured) and feel equally satiated on both. It’s like there’s no difference after a certain point.

-Weight lifting is essential to gain weight. I feel like crap when I don’t do it. My body (mind) hates gaining fat. It feels terrible to overeat and not lift. Makes me want to throw up. Lifting feels good, and makes me hungry. Cardio takes away my appetite.

-My body runs a bit colder than some thin guys. I wear long-sleeves in the colder weather. I think it helps keep from burning up too much energy. If I didn’t, my body would invest more in heat production. But I have a theory that the reason thinnner people’s bodies try to create more heat, is simply due to more surface area. Once you build muscle, you have a lower surface area in relation to your body size.

-I get cravings for certain foods. I have days where I could eat like a big guy in terms of cookies. But I control it, b/c too much sugar isn’t a good thing. Eating 20+ cookies isn’t what I feel is best.

-If thinner people really do have fewer fat cells naturally, and make new ones (hyperplasia) less readily, that could be bad. There’s new research out that points to fat cell tendency (hypertrophy vs. hyperplasia) as being a huge factor in diabetes susceptibility. And it’s genetic…we have the same tendency as our parents. People with fewer fat cells and less tendency to make new ones apparently end up with hypertrophied fat cells when they gain fat. And overloaded fat cells can send out hormones that may impact the insulin-glucagon secretion system negatively, reducing insulin sensitivity, increasing pro-inflammatory molecules, and causing glycogen to be broken down and released as glucose, increasing resting blood sugar. So, my theory on this is that skinny people are simply people who were supposed to carry more muscle than the average person…we need it in order to avoid diabetes. (This makes sense b/c our LBM is usually higher relative to fat mass compared to obese people.) So, I really thing muscle-building is not only desireable for us, but may even be required.

Just my experiences/thoughts.

Shane Duquette

You’re so so right that depending on what you eat and what’s going on that day, 2100 and 3200 calories can feel very similar … and yet produce totally different results.

I agree! Relying on feelings of fullness takes practice (and might not be best when trying to make rapid results). I’ve always found that finding a way to estimate calories is key – not forever, but at least until you develop an intuitive feel for things.

I agree with you about the lifting, too. Weightlifting is a very very powerful nutrient partitioner. Overeating without weightlifting would yield a shoddy muscle / fat ratio, and you’re right, probably leave you feeling pretty crappy for it. I’ve had experience with that too. Plus, striving to eat more is a lot more fun when you know it’s making you stronger and more muscular, versus just ‘bigger’ 🙂

Jared is one of those ectomorphs who runs cold as well. (Do you find you feel warmer when you’re in a calorie surplus, i.e., when your body has more calories to spend?)

The fat cell thing is really really interesting, and I want to first say two things:

1. It’s a very new area of research and I don’t know if there are many definitive conclusions yet.

2. I have a cursory knowledge of it, but I haven’t spent that much time researching it (yet). Developing a really thorough understanding of that stuff is definitely on my to-do list.

With that said, here’s my understanding:

Insulin sensitivity in muscle cells – what us naturally thin guys often have, especially when we lift weights – is very good when it comes to leanly building muscle, since it helps us direct more of the calories that we consume towards building muscle. Insulin sensitivity in fat cells, on the other hand, has the inverse effect – making it more easy to gain fat.

Fat cells are more insulin sensitive when they’re shrunken – they send out signals to your body that they’re undersized and want to be filled back up. Someone with a lot of fat cells would need to radically shrink their fat cells in order to be lean, since they have so many. These shrunken fat cells are all then very insulin sensitive, which can make re-gaining weight easy (when in a calorie surplus). It can be hard to stay lean – you need to constantly watch your caloric intake.

As naturally thin guys with fewer fat cells we can appear lean even when our fat cells are regularly sized though, since we have fewer of them. Since these appropriately full fat cells aren’t signalling to our body that they want to be refilled, our body directs more of our surplus nutrients to building lean mass.

(This may mean that we have a body fat “set point” – a point where our fat cells are regularly sized and maintaining body fat levels is very very easy. That set point is perhaps much leaner in us skinny guys, since we may have fewer fat cells.)

But hey I mean I’m not saying we should be trying to become medically obese or anything – far from it. I’m saying we should build muscle leanly and keep our body fat within a very healthy range. Being lean is wonderful for insulin sensitivity and health, so I think we should play to our strengths and keep our body fat under control. No need to jam-pack those fat cells. Luckily, that should be relatively easy to do, since those fat cells are already comfortably full.

Building muscle definitely helps us too! Having lots of muscle mass, being relatively lean, and then exercising that muscle mass – all absolutely amazing ways to rock rad insulin sensitivity. I think you’re right – aiming to be strong and muscular is an amazing way to improve our health and longevity 🙂



I always assumed that if I was full, it meant there was food in my stomach still. I think that’s not necessarily right, though. now I’m starting to notice finer degrees of hunger, and I am retraining myself to eat at the slightest hint. It makes it easier to get in the calories that way.

I do experience a rush of heat in the third or fourth day of eating a surplus. My understanding is it’s due to a higher conversion of T4–>T3. After a day or so, it settles
down, so it’s transitory. But it’s like a high I guess. Not a
dopamine high, but a metabolic high. You feel like a super-charged engine. Do some thin guys (and heck, maybe even some fat guys) feel this way all the time and have generally high body temperature? I can’t imagine that all the time! It would get pretty tiresome, I think. People being treated for hypothyroidism also experience the exact same feeling while they are adjusting to a higher thyroid hormone supplement level, btw.

So, would you say hardgainers and thin people (I’m lumping them both together, b/c I
honestly still am not sure which I truly am, but there are a lot of similarities between the two, and some will of course be both) actually build muscle more readily than the
average chubby person because of the higher baseline (starting?) muscle insulin sensitivity? Some of these stories on here…the rate at which guys have put on muscle
when their diet and trianing is dialed in…are amazing. And I’ve seen it in action, too.
There were a few guys in high school who played football, and were skinny, and got
absolutely huge. Kai Greene is another one who comes to mind…the guy was naturally thin, but is huge now…

But if we do tend to put on muscle fast under the right conditions, would we also lose it fast, too? I read on that apparently people who gain muscle fast in a surplus will also lose it fast in a deficit, and vice versa (the slow gainers are slow losers).

The other thing is, I swear that a lot of the fat people today are people who have the “ecto” metabolic profile. They just keep on eating, even when they’re full. But I know people like this. They were really thin, usually skinny-fat to start with, and for some reason kept eating to much. Also, when I’ve talked with such people, many say they almost never actually feel hungry! They just eat anyway.

Finally, one thing really bothers me, now that I’ve made friends with some obese girls (people might be surprised; there are a lot of very attractive, yet obese women). Some of these women are 2.5 times my weight or whatever. Most don’t do anywhere near as much exercise as I do, but more often than not, are still active. And lately I’ve been finding that a lot of these girls have tremendous physical strength. One in particular, (whose leg is probably the size of my whole body), did a rep with over 500 lbs on one of those old-school football-gym style squat machines, and you could see what appeared to be very large muscles flexing her legs despute the fat, I kid you not! (And I failed with 170 lbs.). I’m trying to investigate this stuff in more depth…why the heck are these women so strong.

Shane Duquette

Well a hardgainer by definition is someone who has a harder time building muscle due to a variety of factors. I’m a very stereotypical hardgainer. I probably would have built muscle even MORE quickly though had, say, my muscle bellies been naturally longer, or had I been a hyper-responder to weightlifting. Not every skinny guy / ectomorph is a hardgainer, per say.

When it comes to gaining twenty, thirty, forty pounds of muscle most of us are able to do it very quickly because our frames can easily support that amount of muscle, hardgainers or not. Since we’re so far away from our genetic potential it’s very easy to fill our frames out rather quickly.

There’s a ton of stuff to talk about here. I’m going to go more in-depth on that one in the follow-up article – The Skinny on “Just Lift Heavy.”


Lyle McDonald, over at Body Recomp, is an evidence-based guy. I suspect he has very good reason for saying that. I also suspect that’s also very easily remedied with a clever approach. If you just go recklessly go from huge deficit to huge surplus and vis versa without first letting your body adapt you’ll have a pretty rough time (for a few reasons) … but I don’t know who would recommend that?

(Do you have a link to that article?)


Lots of reasons for overweight people being strong! For example, eating in a surplus, even in the absence of exercise, causes gains in fat AND muscle. In the overfeeding studies mentioned above people gained around 2/3 fat and 1/3 muscle. So if you were to gain 100 pounds, you’d perhaps gain 67 pounds of fat and 33 pounds of muscle. Shoddy ratio, but still lots of muscle being built!



No idea whether it has anything to with thin vs. chubby people…or hard vs. easy gainers. I’m betting not necessarily, since there are so many factors that influence how readily you’ll gain muscle vs. fat–which are influenced by diet and exercise, not just body tendency.


Wow, so then these women I know who are in the 340-lb range and are active probably much more muscle mass than I do. That’s crazy! No wonder this particular girl was so much stronger than me, even though she never really strength trains.At 55% body fat, that’s still 185-190 lbs LBM. They just eat their way to muscles…and a ton of fat. lol.

Shane Duquette

That’s a really cool article, and Lyle’s research seems to line up well with my own – it seems like we’re reading a lot of the same studies. I don’t think it’s suggesting that people who build muscle quickly will also necessarily lose muscle quickly though.


So here‘s a video of a girl who started lifting a few months ago and is already back-squatting 275 and leg pressing 650.

With fat, comes serious muscle and strength, apparently.
I guess it’s not that much different than bulking, other than the shoddy fat:muscle ratio of 2:1 or thereabouts.


Oh, and I forgot one other thing:

Regarding the movement thing–
I feel like crap if I don’t get up and move every so often, yes.

But I also have this habit of doing isometric exercise almost all the time. I just naturally do it, and always have…clenching my jaw, digging my feet into the ground, flexing muscles, etc. Personally, I think it’s a good thing, even though it burns more calories up. Why? B/c first of all I’ve always been more muscular than the average thin guy. I think this is the reason. And second, I’ve read that thin people are more susceptible to
getting osteoporosis later in life, b/c there is less weight (resistance) to train the bones
during movement to keep them healthy. I think isometric behaviors can really help to
strengthen bones and simulate having more weight on them. The downside of course,
is obvious. I have like zero flexibility. So, I’m starting to stretch, big deal, that’ll take
care of that issue.


Agreed. I also think it’s great to have more resistance when not lifting, too. Either by walking with a weighted vest, or gaining muscle weight.


I have been rather thin my whole life. I was very fit, worked out and/or did heavy manual labor since I was 16, but putting on muscle seemed almost impossible. In August I was the heaviest I had been at 205 @ 6′ 7″.

As of now, I am just under 240 and, while I have temporarily lost my abs, I am nowhere near fat. I’ve also increased my deadlift and squat by over 100lbs and my OH Press by over 50lbs.

The reality was that there was nothing wrong with the “lift heavy” and “eat more” advice. The problem I was having was that I , like most skinny guys, was kidding myself about me really doing either. I guarantee that if most guys honestly recorded their calorie intake and their lifting history it would be obvious that they were not doing either consistently.

Most skinny guys, like that one study you mention, just wimp out when it gets hard to do either. You simply have to treat eating like training and be willing to suffer a bit while your stomach grows and you need to add weight to the bar EVERY session you can. After the first 2 months of eating big it will no longer feel like you’re going to barf and your ‘pain’ threshold will do the same in regards to the gym.

Stop worrying about your abs and malnutrition. Once you get a gram of protein per pound it doesn’t matter where the rest of your calories come from. You will get more than enough vitamins and minerals chasing the protein numbers and eating a surplus of calories. All the carbs, fat, or protein that do not get used in your daily activity or to build muscle will go to fat, so the only reason to be picky about the food choices after that is taste. You’ll be doing this for months, not years.

It is simple, but difficult.


Not a dude, but still really thankful for this article! Have been going CRAZY trying to add cals in. Seems my body is wired at 3k. Will swap out my sweet potatoes for white rice, and will start adding some almond butter to my whole milk. Thanks again!!

Shane Duquette

Ah glad you liked it Erin! No problem. You’ll definitely want to check out Bony to Bombshell, too 🙂

We’ve had a lot of requests to develop a muscle-building program for naturally thin women, so we’ve been beta testing a sister program. It’s been going well, and we’re hoping to launch it in January!


Great article, Shane. As for tips, I found that I can stuff my face with potatoes way more easily if they’re thinly sliced, sprinkled with salt and caraway seeds and baked. It’s the Czech way. Plus they’re delicious. And home-made dried apples and prunes are just the best.

Shane Duquette

Oo that sounds delicious. I find the same – served home-fry style potatoes become much easier to eat in bulk. Perhaps because they just taste so damn good!

That lines up with the findings in the satiety study too, in that they found homemade french fries were easier to eat than boiled potatoes.

I wonder how mashed potatoes stack up …


Well, I don’t know how they’d stack up in the research…but for me at least the amount of water and addition of cream (‘n stuff) makes them even more filling than regular boiled potatoes and a prime reason of me lacking mobility on Thanksgivings.


In the beginning I was worried about what eating a surplus might do to my physiology. I was worried it might promote diabetes. But I think the takeway is if you’re using it for muscle generation and force production, that shouldn’t happen. Plus, the average healthy (not overweight) person in the US is probably eating like that already, anyway. Certainly in the long run, the increased muscle will make diabetes less likely.

Shane Duquette

Yeah, becoming obese and becoming strong and lean are kind of the exact opposite as far as your health goes 🙂

Skinny Pete

Great article Shane…thanks!

Couple of thoughts:
I remember years ago reading about WWII and survival rates in the concentration camps (grim i know). I cannot recall if it was an actual study or just observation, but skinny guys survived much better in the camps compared to fat or muscled guys. These were people doing heavy workloads with few calories.

The reason i bring this up is because i often hear that skinny or skinny/fat is a genetically inferior. Perhaps ectomorphs are more genetically adaptable but not as visually pleasing without focused effort.

By default i tend to eat a high fat low calorie diet. While doing my daily work, standing at the computer, I tend to get cold, turn up the heat and layer up the clothing. I’m currently skinny/fat.

While learning this new Bony to Beastly method of eating my metabolism has soared, I’m like a furnace, I don’t feel the cold and usually wake up soaking wet in the night.

I’m still struggling with getting in enough calories and I’m hoping that lowering my fat intake and raising my carb intake will help solve the skinny/fat issue.

Shane Duquette

Ah that’s really interesting! Grim indeed – but still interesting. I’m going to do some digging and see what I can learn about that 🙂

Yeah, I wouldn’t say being naturally skinny is genetically inferior at all. You make a good point in that we’re highly adaptive, and I mean that doesn’t only apply to resisting starvation / being fat resistant, it also applies to building muscle and strength – we can certainly become burlier dudes if we so desire.

Regarding being visually pleasing – Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Frank Zane, David Beckham, Johnny Depp, etc., are all ectomorphs. You’re right – they’ve all made conscious effort to be fitter, stronger and/or better looking, surely, but I wouldn’t say their genetics were holding them back or anything. I think us ectomorphs have a TON of natural potential aesthetically (and athletically).

Really stoked to hear that the program is treating you well so far! Cultivating a higher metabolism through (strategic) overeating is brilliant when it comes to fat loss. (And macros can help too, certainly.) Given that you’re also cleverly weightlifting and building muscle I think you’ll soon find that skinny-fat was just a phase you were in, not any sort of genetic hand you were dealt 🙂


Hey guys, love the article and thanks to you guys I’ve been drinking alot more milk now. I’ve been lifting for close to 4 years now and its pretty much become part of my life style. I’ll keep going till the wheels fall off. Being into health and fitness for awhile, I’ve read alot on intermittent fasting and have tried it(the Eat stop Eat one) and did pretty good for my body fat levels but obviously needs to be avoided as I am a ectomoprh. I was wondering if the program helps with getting abs and rid of the small amount of stubborn fat that constantly covers my stomach?

And I am a skater, which isnt exactly low cardio or intensity. Im also into Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mauy thai although currently not in. Would either one these activities affect my muscle building considering the amount of calories used?

Shane Duquette

Hey Joey, that’s awesome. Getting into the habit of weightlifting regularly is a huge part of being a beastly dude in the longer term. Ahaha and luckily it should even help you keep the wheels on! Weightlifting is known to maintain muscle / body function into old age. (study, study)

Yeah I’ve tried 24 hour fasts too. Brad Pilon (the creator of Eat, Stop, Eat) is a clever cat, and I thought there might be potential there for stopping some of the metabolic adaptations that come along with consistently overeating. I didn’t find any evidence to support that though, I wasn’t noticing any changes in my overall calorie requirements, and it was difficult to eat enough on the non-fasting days. Moreover, in a recent interview Brad Pilon mentioned that it wasn’t really well suited to speedily building muscle mass.

Definitely an effective way to restrict calories though.

Yes sir, our program can help get rid of the little bit of fat you have. Us naturally thin dudes sometimes develop a bit of fat, and that’s no problem. I’ve been there myself. If you’d call yourself an ectomorph you’ll likely find you fit in pretty well 🙂

Both Marco and Jared were into skateboarding, and I have some history with martial arts. Those may not be the types of exercise that cause your body to adapt by building more muscle mass, but they’re certainly good for your health and fitness. When it comes to building muscle being a fit dude is great.

When Jared and I first had success building muscle we hadn’t done any real physical activity in a long time – we were sorely out of shape – but things likely would have been easier had we been in better shape. Marco has built 60+ pounds of muscle while always playing a ton of sports, skateboarding, etc.

Like you’ve guessed though, you’ll still need to consume enough calories to grow, so you’ll need to eat a little more to compensate for the extra activity. Not by that much though – should still be very manageable.

Hope you decide to join us man!


Shane, thanks for the quick response dude! Most of the time, the blog person says he “encourages” commenting and community, but i never seem to get responded to so kudos on actually interacting man!

haha yeah I knew about the old age and exercise. I think its kind of sad that most people think diabetes 2, osteoporosis, arthritis, etc. are just part of getting old. Whats even more sad to me is that most people dont want to anything about it anyway cause that actually means “work”(sorry I have no sympathy towards this level of laziness . And believe me, I’m a musician and skater, Im pretty damn lazy haha)

Yeah, I look forward to actually joining you guys. I’m planning on January. Sorry for the somewhat long reply. Im a social guy, even through text haha.


“When Jared and I first had success building muscle we hadn’t done any real physical activity in a long time – we were sorely out of shape – but things likely would have been easier had we been in better shape. Marco has built 60+ pounds of muscle while always playing a ton of sports, skateboarding, etc. ”

That is a really good point, Shane, which differentiates your programs from many other philosophies in training. Many trainers and lay-people alike mistakenly tell newbies that in order to gain fast, they have to be naive to training (newb gains) due to never haivng lifted, or a long lay-off from lifting. My own feeling is that this is an incorrect idea and there is no such thing as newbie gains; it’s actually a misinterpretation of the physiological response that occurs from training. If one has been lifting 5-lb dumbbells for a year, you are not going to have less gains when you start “real training”. How far someone is from their “genetic potential” is a much better indication of how fast they will progress, imho, all other factors being equal.


This is awesome. Like Dino said, I was nodding at every point. Definitely brings a lot more into light. Thanks for writing this!
I’ll admit, sometimes I find myself washing my meals down with water just so I can finish them. Lately I’ve been trying to stay way from doing that.
Oh, and I definitely want to try this Muesli you speak of, sounds very good!

Shane Duquette

No problem Jude, glad you liked it! 🙂

Ah muesli is great! Cereal is just so incredibly easy to prepare and easy to consume a lot of. Lots of ways to get creative with it, too. Check this out: Strongman Cereal.

If you find it easier to eat meals if you wash ’em down with water then go for it. Water is certainly great for you, and it’s important to get enough of it. Whether that’s between meals or during meals doesn’t much matter, so I’d just go with what’s easiest / most enjoyable.

(Milk is perhaps an option, too. I have skim milk alongside things like peanut butter and banana sandwiches.)


Sweet, will check that out. Thanks!

Yeah, milk certainly helps!



In your aesthetics article (awesome article, and I mean that–but please do stay with fitness and please don’t ever go to the darkside–selling dating help for guys–We have far too much of that already), you mention the well known fact that resistance training builds bone.

You know those bone structure/frame size calculation directions you can find online? I’m wondering how accurate they are. If I measure the circumference of the smallest part of my forearm/wirst area, and really pull the measuring tape super tight against my skin, I can get a measurement of 6 inches, whic htranslates to small bone structure. But there’s nothing there, other than bone! If I position my hand in front of me with my palm flat toward the floor, and I look at the side of my wrist area, it’s extremely thin. But it’s all bone. When I look at most other people’s they have more top-to-bottom thickness. Is that really because their bones are thicker in the top-to-bottom direction but the same in the side-to-side direction? Or am I lacking something (muscle) in that area? Sometimes I even think I don’t have a certain tendon on the bottom of the ulnar side of the wirst that everyone else has. Am I going crazy?


btw, in case it matters (I don’t think it does though), at the start of this lean bulk, I’m just under 140 lbs at 5’9 with a 30″ waist, 44.5-inch shoulders, and ~8% bodyfat. Somewhere between skinny and fit, but closer to skinny.

Shane Duquette

That’s a small, i.e., ectomorphic, bone structure. I’m in the same ecto-boat. I’ve got the wrist size of a 5’4 man. (You can see them in my transformation shots.)

Building up bone density doesn’t mean you’d build up bone size, just bone … hardness, for lack of a better word. Your wrists will stay small, since, as you note, there aren’t muscle bellies there. Luckily your forearms won’t, so you’ll have a nice taper going from beastly forearms down to thin wrists. (You may also wind up way stronger than you look, given that your girth will be made up of muscle, not bone.)


It’s weird though. My wirst size looks similar to most guys’ my size from the top, and it measures 6.5 in some places. But there’s no depth to it. It also tapes in such a way that the widest part is right near my hand (and I have big hands the size of a man 3 inches taller). Those parts (between the bones and my hand) measure 6.5, which is considered medium. So I’m still not sure if I’m really small or medium. I also have somewhat of a T-rex shape…with smaller (but long) forearms and more normal-girth knees and shoulders. By elbow breadth, I get solidly medium frame. That’s why I was thinking the wrist thing isn’t reliable. Then again, most of my female friends’ wirsts seem to have more top-to-bottom depth (muscle I guess) than mine do, even if theirs are a bit smaller in other dimensions than mine. Maybe I just have really short forearm muscles, and so it’s all tendon until I get 3-4 inches away from my hand. So I would like to build up muscle close to my hands too, but I’ve read studies that have said that trying to turn tendon into muscle is difficult and doesn’t work that well (though it’s kind of possible, apparently, especially through negative eccentric motion training). Also, I know the bone will thicken up a bit (look at those tennis player studies again–their racket hand has slightly bigger bones–but this would have worked better in childhood than in my late 20s).

And LOL to the dating guide! Truth be told, I made the mistake of telling a female friend that I didn’t feel comfortable in my body and that weight training was going to make me fully self-confident. I still believe that, but she thought it was a stupid excuse for not accepting myself. Nope, truth is, I was/am supposed to be muscular. It’s cognitive dissonance, and the closer I get, the better I feel. And my tastes change toward more and more feminine women, too. Right now, I still prefer the bigger, curvier girls with more muscle than me, in general. Probably a typical preference among smaller guys…


This is the study on tennis players. Resistance increases bone size a bit, even in adults.

Shane Duquette

You mean you wouldn’t buy ‘Bony to Babely’? The program for naturally skinny daters looking to build dashingness?


Shane, how should we interprete the info you mentioned about the prison overfeeding study? Do you think the case was that the guy probably didn’t increase his weight much because he wasn’t lifting weights, and therefore his (probably) ecto body interpreted all the extra calories as useless and simply burnt them off?

Also, how would you think quinoa rates on the satiety index? Wondering especially because the B2B literature mainly advices us to avoid refined carbs like white rice, so would quinoa be a good substitue as a low satiety food that you can eat lots of?

Shane Duquette

Hey Lewis, good question!

I think it’s hard to say what would have happened had he been weightlifting and/or his diet had been more conducive to building muscle. I suspect he would have had some success leanly building muscle. I’m hoping to be able to answer that a little better in the follow-up article – The Skinny on “Just Lift Heavy.” 🙂

White rice is fine! It’s low in fibre, protein and micronutrients, but it’s rich in, obviously, starchy carbs – something we tend to respond very well to. Many of the healthiest cultures out there eat a diet rich in rice too, and it can be a great component of a balanced diet. So long as you get your fibre and such elsewhere rice is good.

Marco’s of Asian descent eats loads of rice. I’m of Cuban descent, and was raised eating tons of beans. Jared’s Ukrainian and British, and he was raised on unseasoned boiled potatoes. I wrote the nutrition chapters and I have to admit rice took a backseat because I initially kind of, err, forgot about it. I edited it into later versions of the literature though, so make sure you’ve got the most current version.

Quinoa is a super badass muscle-building food with a whole hell of a lot of nutrients in it. I’ve always found quinoa relatively easy to eat lots of. I suspect it’s probably comparable to brown rice … but it could be as filling as something like porridge, given that it’s higher in fibre and protein.


Hmm… I’m maybe not a typical ectomomorph in that way, but I can easily fit twice as much food as friends of mine that are twice my weight, but way shorter. I did notice that when I drink sodas I can’t really fit anything. [I really like water and tea. Milk, coffee, sodas,… are so disgusting I think >< ]

In highschool I once ate one bar of chocolate every day for two weeks, and did gain two kilograms,but lost them within one week of normal eating, pretty shady metabolism. The more I eat, the easier I loose weight afterwards.. and more than I initially gained.

Shane Duquette

It’s rare to find someone who’s got all of the ectomorphic traits, so it’s not unusual that you’ve got a combination of a huge stomach capacity and a huge metabolism. Marco’s that way as well – he’s a really tall guy (6’4) who can fit a ton into his stomach.

It’s not necessarily bad that you’re able to burn off any extra fat that you gain through strictly overeating. It would be bad if you had trouble holding onto muscle mass that you build, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with us – us and our members seem to hold onto muscle just fine once we build it.

I suspect if you were able to build muscle you’d have an easier time holding onto that weight? Or was it muscle you were building?


This article is densely packed with useful information. Glad I read this before I went to the grocery store- I’ll definitely stock up on rice instead of potatoes this time.

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked it, Ben 🙂


Hello, great article! I have a question that isn’t really related to this article. Can I gain (continue gaining) muscle mass with only calisthenics? Or will I soon hit a “wall” when I can’t gain any more muscle with calisthenics? I tried weight lifting before, but I didn’t liked it as much as calisthenics. By the way I’m 16 years old, ~6’2”, I have been working out for about 5 months and went from 132 lbs to 160 lbs (gaining less and less each month, but my strength and endurance goes up progressively).

Shane Duquette

Hey Marius, that’s awesome man! +28 pounds?! Congratulations! I started off at nearly the same height and weight, and I remember well how thrilled I was to hit 160 😀

Calisthenics is never really the quickest, most efficient or most effective way to build muscle – lifting progressively heavy weights tends to be the way to go if that’s what you’re after. If you prefer it though, love the sport of it, it’s much more convenient, or it’s all you can do … it can be pretty good. You obviously know that, since you’ve been absolutely kicking ass with it! 🙂

The challenge is what do you do when you can do 15 clap pushups, jump squats or chin ups? Going from 15 to 30 won’t really make you any bigger or stronger, since your muscles will be adapting for endurance instead of strength and size. Most people hit that point fairly early and need to start externally loading their lifts to continue to build muscle. It’s possible to creatively progress the lifts without weights, but difficult.

Genetics also play a role. It works better for some than others. If you go on YouTube you can see tons of naturally muscular guys who do really really well with callisthenics. It’s never really worked for me though, and I’ve grown to find weights far more fun.

I don’t mean this to take away from callisthenics though. There’s something really badass about going after total mastery of your bodyweight, there’s nothing wrong with training for endurance, and most types of exercise are absolutely brilliant for your health.

Plus, nothing says you can’t do callisthenics AND lift weights, either. Lots of the best weightlifters and strongmen do acrobatics, and lots of the best acrobats lift weights!


Thanks for the reply! I think I’ll try lifting weights every once and then, maybe one week of weight lifting program and the other of calisthenics. And I learned how to challenge my self with calisthenics. If I can do something with two arms (like clapping push-ups) then I can try to do the same with one arm. 😀 And I almost forgot – Merry Christmas! 😀

Shane Duquette

Right on 🙂

Merry Christmas to you too man!
And Happy New Year!


Hi Shane,

When you were gaining 55 pounds of muscle, was your diet the same every day? To be more specific, did you eat what you considerd to be a muscle building diet day after day, even on days you weren’t training?

Is it necessary for us ectomorphs to eat a lot, take in lots of staple foods, and try to eat an excess of calories on non-training days? This is something I’ve been pondering for a while.

Thanks for the awesome articles and have a great day

Shane Duquette

Hey Eli, thanks for the kind words man. Happy New Year!

I gained my 55 pounds in little intense spurts. I’d do 3-6 months of ‘bulking’ and gain twenty or so pounds, then rather effortlessly and casually maintain for 8 months or so, then go into another muscle-building phase where I kicked things up a notch, etc. So I wasn’t diligently eating year after year or anything. When trying to build muscle I was eating beastly-style day after day though. I’m not perfect, so I’d have good days and bad, but the goal was to keep myself in an overall surplus.

What you’re describing is a nutrient timing strategy called calorie cycling. It’s the overall quality and quantity of what you eat that counts far more than nutrient timing. That isn’t to say that nutrient timing is irrelevant – it isn’t – but it’s small potatoes compared to the fundamentals, and one of the key fundamentals is getting in enough quality food to grow.

Different guys structure their intake in different ways. Personally, when trying to rapidly build muscle I eat a rather large surplus on workout days (largely coming from the workout shake) and just a slight surplus on rest days. That’s what we recommend in our program – sort of a casual and easygoing approach to carb/calorie cycling. Seems to make things a little easier for guys like us, since we get a bit of a break on rest days from pushing our digestive systems. It also give us a good shot at keeping the gains lean even when we’re gaining weight pretty quickly.

… but you could just as easily eat a moderate surplus always, or a huuuuge surplus on workout days and even a slight deficit on rest days. So long as you’re in a calorie surplus overall you’ll gain weight just fine 🙂

Nick A

Hey man I just found your site. What a gem!

I started taking workouts more seriously three months ago. I got back from deployment and started hitting the gym 3-5 times a week. I focus on compound exercises for about 30 mins then go on to isolation moves and working kettlebells for another 20-30 mins. I do some light cardio on occasion, but overall my days are fairly laid back and sedentary when at work.

I’ve started eating 1800-2200 calories a day. I’m 5’9″ and 155 lbs. I’ve got some fat around my stomach I’m trying to get rid of, and have been completely unable no matter what diet I try. I’d like to get much bigger in the upper body and still lose the belly fat. Nothing I do seems to really work that well. I’ve lost about 3 lbs since October, but can’t tell if that’s fat loss or what. I have seen some muscle gain in my upper body, just not as much as I thought I would. I’m currently balancing weight loss with muscle gain and eating about about 300-500 calories below my BMR calculation to try to lose the weight.

Do you think I can still gain muscle while eating below my daily maintenance requirement even though I eat healthy and pack on about 100-120g protein daily? Does my plan make sense or am I trying too hard to “have my cake and eat it too”?

Thanks man. Great blog! I’ve spent hours reading through it tonight. Favorite’d.

-Nick A.

Shane Duquette

Hey Nick, congrats on your progress! Losing three pounds while simultaneously building up upper body muscle is pretty impressive. That’s awesome 🙂

It’s not impossible to build muscle while losing fat, but it’s not very efficient and it generally only happens at first, when you’re either recovering lost muscle mass or making newbie gains. It’s very hard to consistently build appreciable amounts of muscle when not eating in a surplus.

It’s rare that we get guys who aren’t skinny or skinny-fat, but occasionally we do get different body types. Check this transformation out. Pretty badass job of losing fat and building muscle simultaneously.

I would continue on emphasizing fat loss (while maintaining muscle mass) and taking whatever bits of muscle that may (or may not) come your way. When you’ve gotten to a weight you’re happy with you’ll be able to do a really good job building muscle be venturing into a calorie surplus.

As a 155 pound guy eating in a calorie deficit you’ll want a higher protein intake though! 1g protein / pound bodyweight works well when cutting. As odd as it may sound, you actually need more protein when eating in a calorie deficit. (study) You’ll want to have your STEAK and eat it too 😉

Good luck Nick, and thank you for the kind words!

indra kumar

hi….i am indra and iam 15 years old….i have abs and my hieght is 6feet 5 inches long..i eat alot and still my wieght is can i gain weight and become fat..???pls reply

Shane Duquette

Ahaha well becoming fat would just involve eating a calorie surplus! In that case you could also turn to hyper-palatable foods, too – foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. Donuts, milkshakes, etc.

I wouldn’t recommend intentionally becoming fat though.



I have been reading a lot of your articles and picking up quite a lot of useful stuff. However, for me as a skinny-fat person, eating enough isn’t even the problem. It’s quite hard for me to put on any muscle, but pretty easy to gain fat around the stomach and love handle areas. So if I don’t pay real close attention to what and how much I eat, I won’t end up beastly but fat (and still skinny … d’oh!).
It seems most of your articles on nutrition (like this one) are tailored to the skinny-skinny guys, but maybe you also have some advice for us skinny-fats? I feel nutrition/diet really is the key problem for us!

Shane Duquette

Hey MJ,

I would say our site is for skinny guys / hardgainers / ectomorphs / naturally thin guys looking to build up pretty hearty amounts of muscle (20-30+ pounds). As for how skinny-fit or skinny-fat you are, we get a range of guys. If your goal is to lose fat in order to wind up slim then our program is an awful fit – we’re a hearty muscle-building program. If your goal is to build up tons of muscle mass AND lose a bit of fat (either before or after) … then we’re a pretty great fit 🙂

Our goal is to have guys wind up strong, muscular and as lean as they’d like to be. So sometimes some fat loss is involved. We’ve got a guide for skinny-fat guys, or guys who accidentally bulked themselves into a gut, etc.

I actually didn’t start out that lean. I didn’t have abs or anything back at 130 pounds. I wasn’t skinny-fat per say, but I definitely didn’t have any hints of muscle definition anywhere. That only came later, once I’d added 20 or so pounds of muscle and lost a little bit of fat. I’ve also accidentally bulked myself into a gut. So I’ve dealt with both haha.

I think there are lots of reasons why guys end up skinny and with higher body fat percentages. Nutrition is a factor – a huge factor – and there’s also the weightlifting component, which is arguably an even bigger deal. Weightlifting is the most powerful nutrient partitioner out there, so if your weightlifting plan isn’t a good one then there’s nothing telling your body to invest any extra calories you’re consuming into building muscle instead of simply storing them as fat.

The very first thing I’d recommend doing is getting into the habit of consistently and cleverly lifting weights. Once that habit is in place I would then gradually work to improve your nutrition. You won’t really see the body composition benefits unless you’ve already got the weightlifting in place, so I’d start with the lifting. Weightlifting helps your body ditch fat when you lose weight and it helps your body build muscle when you gain weight. Without the heavy and clever lifting, your body will likely ditch some muscle when you lose weight and gain awkward amounts of fat when you gain weight.

As far as nutrition goes, there are a ton of things you could do. One of the first things you’d probably want to do is ramp up your protein intake. Guys who store fat more easily often do better on higher protein diets.

Does that help?


Thanks a lot for the reply! I think I’ve got the weightlifting part covered … been doing that for quite a while.

As far as nutrition goes, I am sitting on the fence. There are those who say first lean down, and only after that:clean bulk. Could be that bulking and cutting won’t do it for the skinny-fat ectomorphs. At least I tried it once and failed (lost most of my muscle during the cut). Then there are those like you who say “either before or after”. May I ask what your own experience is? It seems that you also started your current gains from a very lean state, bf-wise? And I think I read in one of the articles that you once had a bulking episode prior to that … were you able to retain those prior gains, or did you end up losing much of those?

P.S. And I would like to thank you SO MUCH for spending so much time answering and basically giving advice for free! I feel a bit bad for relying on this, cause I still don’t know if I will buy the whole B2B program.If only you sold it in smaller packages so I could pick what I think is most useful for me! … or maybe you could put up a “donate” button on your site! 😀

Shane Duquette

No problem man. This blog is and will always be free 🙂
I’m really glad you’re getting value out of it!

Bulking and cutting poorly won’t do it for guys who build muscle less easily / who gain fat more easily. I would say that just means you need to be more mindful and clever about it.

When bulking almost all of the gains you make should be lean. Obviously it’s tough to do these things perfectly, and, well, trying to bulk 100% leanly would likely radically slow down your muscle gains … but you definitely shouldn’t be noticeably getting fatter. When bulking you should look “bigger and stronger” not “chubbier”, you know? If you have abs when you start bulking you should probably still have ’em at the end. To give you an example, here‘s me gaining 20 or so pounds. I did gain a bit of fat, but my stomach looks about as lean as it did at the beginning and I had more muscle definition than when I started. Here‘s a photo of me dressed normally right when I’d finished the bulk. (That was the bulk that brought me from 150ish to 170ish.)

When cutting you should be able to preserve all of your muscle mass unless you’re in a phenomenal hurry, dieting down to a very very low body fat percentage (under 8%), or incredibly muscular. As for whether I’m able to retain muscle, luckily I’ve got a photo of that too! Check this out.

I’ve had some failed bulks where I gained mostly fat, and I’ve also had some failed cuts where I’ve lost a lot of muscle. Luckily, since I’ve learned more about how to do this stuff my results have been very predictable and consistent. Cutting without losing muscle is very achievable when you’ve got the fundamentals down, and we’ve got a really really good guide for holding onto every ounce of muscle when cutting 🙂

Your questions are good ones. You’ve got me thinking that maybe I should write an article on how to tackle this stuff as a skinny-fat guy?


That would be greatly appreciated!

And if I may repeat another article suggestion I made a while ago: vegan bodybuilding nutrition 101 😀


hi shane, what is your opinion on carb back loading for ectomorphs to gain mass ? i know cbl is used by many endo’s or even meso’s for burning fat but people also report great gains in strength and size also. could an ectomorph use cbl successfully for gaining lean mass or should i just consume my carbs throughout the day ?

Shane Duquette

Good question. Nutrient timing and calorie/carb cycling are really fascinating topics.

Carb Backloading is Kiefer’s specific trademarked approach to nutrient timing and carb cycling, and I actually don’t know that much about it. He has a whole book about restricting carbs except surrounding training … at which point you eat a ton of ’em, yeah? Some of those more radical approaches to dieting can be useful for some people in some circumstances, so it might have its merits.

I don’t think it’s the best approach for us though, or at least not for the stereotypical ectomorph anyway. A diet centred around restricting various things is usually the last thing we want to do, and that absolutely definitely includes restricting carbs over the course of the day so that we can overeat them later.

The Bony to Beastly style approach to carb/calorie cycling + taking advantage of post-workout insulin sensitivity in order to build tons of muscle (leanly) is more like this:

So I’d say you probably want to forget the restriction part and consume proteins, carbs and fats throughout the day … and then maybe add in a ton more protein and carbs surrounding your training (like we do). That’s the mass building version for ectomorphs, I’d posit 🙂

The overall quantity and quality of what we eat should always be the main priority though. Stuff like carb/calorie cycling is exciting and it might influence our results a little, but we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, you know? It’s the cherry on the cake.


thanks for the quick response. i’ll keep on with what i’m doing now then, which is essentially what you said. loads of carbs throughout the day and loads of high GI carbs post-workout


Do you know any good and effective workouts that include MOSTLY machines? how many reps/ sets etc? and what machines?
I know free weights are better but i was wondering if Machines could do the work aswell
because in my gym, there are mostly machines and alot of people use them.

Thanks! I think I’ll join B2B soon!

Shane Duquette

Machines, while I would argue that you’re right – they aren’t necessarily ideal – can definitely be used to build all kinds of muscle! It’s not a black and white thing where just because one way of doing things is slightly better that the other doesn’t work at all. Truth be told, machines build muscle wonderfully, it’s just that free weights build muscle a little better still.

I’m working on an a follow-up article right now called “The Skinny on Just Lift Heavy”, and I think that will answer a lot of your questions 🙂

I hope you do decide to join us Tony – we’d love to have you.


This is a great article – I don’t want to start any exercising until I get the diet right for a month or so. (and see results) My only real concern is kitchen space for the food (living with others) and the sheer amount of time spent having to constantly prepare meals as well. I’m anticipating vomiting from the shock of over-eating so much too.

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked it Piers! 🙂

Perhaps surprisingly, I’d do it the other way around! If you aren’t comfortable starting into both the weightlifting and nutrition side of things simultaneously, I’d start with the weightlifting.

When guys aren’t weightlifting I generally recommend eating at around maintenance, i.e., keeping your weight about the same.

Although this is simplified far too much, you need the weightlifting to tell your body what adaptations you’re looking to make – that you want to be building muscle. If your body isn’t itching to add muscle to your frame, well, it will happily store those extra calories as fat.

If those overfeeding studies are any indication, you’d be looking at 50-70% fat gains. You could probably do better if you were really thin, really fat resistant, eating really well, or etc … but the ratio of fat to muscle would still be pretty shoddy.

If you start with the weightlifting you may not gain any significant amount of weight until you get the nutrition side of things down, but you’d begin building up good habits, growing stronger by making neural adaptations, learning good technique, improving your health, etc … and when you DO add the nutrition side of things in you’ll have a great shot at building muscle leanly 🙂



Just stopping by, and I want to ask you quick question or two. In your home gym article, you wrote:
“At first I had my burly friend Louis pick up the barbell, curl it, and put it on my back so that I could squat. You might be thinking that my friend Louis was a really strong guy. He was a lot stronger than me … but I could only squat 60 pounds … so when Louis quit after a couple workouts my little sixteen year old sister was able to do it for me.”

It is amazing how weak some of us were when we started, isn’t it?
Were you also able able to curl the 60-lb barbell at that time? Is your sister also an ectomorph? I’m guessing not, if she did that for you without a problem.

(Sometimes I feel like a thin build can come out of nowhere in a family. Or you might inherit it from one of your parents. Or worse yet, both of your parents have mixed builds and you get the skinny upper body from one and teh skinny lower body from the other.)

Shane Duquette

Ahaha nah, my little sister is just as ectomorphic as I am. And she wasn’t able to curl it. It was a very very awkward process, trying to get the bar onto my back. I wouldn’t recommend it 😉

(Both my parents were very tall and thin in their teens, twenties and thirties, too.)


Chanced upon your (much-needed) website during a leisurely web-surf…
I’m a 58-year-old ecto ( 5’8″with 6.5″ wrists and tiny 7.875″ ankles) who’s been weight training since 1972 when I was age 16.
A word of encouragement to each of you who might have less than a year or two of consistent training and feeding — think “long range” and stick with it. When I began at age sixteen, at 140 lbs bodyweight, after a full month of workouts, I could back squat 45 lbs for 8 reps, floor press (think, “bench press with no bench”) 30 lbs for 8, and deadlift 40 lbs for 8; obviously, I started from a weak condition. But, after seven years of consistent training and nutrition, I weighed 175 lbs with a visible washboard and was regularly front squatting 245 for 7 (following a work set of vertical leg presses of 690 for 7), flat benching 220 for 3 sets of 5-6, pressing a pair of 62.5 lb dumbells for 7 while seated on a flat bench (meaning, no backrest), and deadlifting 390 for 7 (using an extra-long Standard bar loaded with smaller-diametered 25-pound plates, so from a slightly-lower-than-with-45’s-on-an-Olympic-bar start position).
Even now at age 58, at 165 lbs, despite the normal strength-and-mass ebb of age-declining testosterone and despite my accumulated job-incurred rotator-cuff, knee, and lower-spine injuries; I regularly below-parallel squat 280 for 20 reps, partial squat 525 for 20 reps, and deadlift 325 for 8 reps.
Sooooooo…my ol’ man story is that IF you’re willing to stick with training– and by that I mean FOR SEVERAL YEARS, , you can achieve what for your ectomorph frame are substantial gains. While I’ve achieved far less than what the guys with better or even average genetic potentials can achieve, I’ve nevertheless built a physique that is far from the skinny-fat body I’d have if I’d never trained nor had CONTINUED to train long-term. A half a glass is better than an empty glass, isn’t it?

In my initial years, I faced the consuming-enough-calories dilemma, of course, and solved it when I was about age 19. I found that, for my metabolism, I had to consistently consume 5,000 calories (including at least 150 grams of protein) each and every day for an entire year before my body finally grew and, more important, adapted to my new “norm” of bodyweight; after which I was able to significantly reduce my calorie intake. To overcome the “it’s-a-job-to-eat-that-many-calories” problem, I utilized the liquid calories trick mentioned by Shane. I based my calories around MILK, in the form of EVAPORATED milk (not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk). In the 1970’s, evaporated milk was sold in the USA in slightly larger cans than it is today; each can at that time contained 600 calories and 30 grams of protein. Into a blender, I added ice cream, bananas, raw eggs, honey, peanut butter, weight-gain powder, powdered dry milk, chocolate syrup, frozen fruit, and whatever else I could think of or had, to one can of evaporated milk, in order to increase the calorie total to 1,000; and I drank FIVE of those blenderized 1,000-calorie concoctions every day FOR A YEAR. I did eat other food, but I ensured that I consumed at least those five milk-blends every day. In that year, I managed to push my bodyweight from 155 to almost 180, and made my greatest strength gains. In my subsequent decades of reading, I’ve noted that MILK has typically been key in weight-gaining for many ; as Shane explained, it’s high in calories and nutrients, and easy to consume, so, it’s an excellent choice for most ectos seeking to add bodyweight.


Shane Duquette

Thank you so much for sharing your story Joe – that’s amazing. Man if you told skinny-Shane that he’d be deadlifting three plates well into his 50’s he would have laughed. Okay, well, okay so he probably would have cried … but you get my point. Anyway, it’s great to hear a success story from someone who’s been in the game so long and come out so well.

Keep being a beast! Two years from now, in your 60’s, your story will be even more impressive 😉


Want to add to my previous post that, along with my small-diameter bones, I have very short muscle bellies/long attachments in my legs, chest, back, and arms. I believe that the only real genetic advantage I got for bodybuilding was a temperament which includes a large measure of self-discipline and stubborn perseverance — and, ultimately in muscle-and-strength building, I’ve observed through my 40+ years since beginning to weight train, it is that consistency and perseverance can often take a less-than-average-gened trainee farther than that average-gened person who either trains/feeds erratically or simply quits.

And nope, I don’t use nor ever have used nor tried steroids, prohormones, growth factors, nor any other PED’s (not even Testosterone Replacement Therapy for aged guys like myself). What I slowly, incrementally achieved has all been as a lifelong drug-free natural.

So, take heart — if I could do it, most likely YOU can too.

Nathan @ The Ectomorph

Solid article. In my experience, gaining the weight was by far the hardest part. I went from about 158 (6’1″) to a consistent 186-188 and I’m now only consuming about 2,500 calories per day and using IF. Of course, I did force-feed all my macros to get there, but it’s worth it now 😉

– Gotch

Shane Duquette

Ah that’s awesome Gotch, congrats on gaining 30 pounds – that’s great 😀

Glad to hear that you’re consuming a regular amount of calories these days (hopefully comfortably) and ahaha without even needing breakfast. That’s a great testament to the fact that building muscle can be hard, especially for us skinny ectomorphs, but that maintaining results is often a lot easier than we expect 🙂


luckily for u, you are ectomorph. But many people are skinny fats. Worst possible combination for muscle gaining.
This body type hates carbs and loves to store them as fat if in excessive quantity.
So there is no known cure for having steady, controllable gains as this body easily loses muscle gains like ectomorph, and sticks to its fat, like endos?
So, its impossible to eat right, because whatever you do is either loose muscle or gain fat.
Well, this is my case obviously, so i stopped, because my body told my no no after countless years of experimenting with hi carb hi meal, intermittent fasting, balanced diet…

Each has benefits, but also isnt perfect for constant meal plan.

So now i obsess only in getting stronger in a small number of exercises, like bench, DL, squat, chinup, pushup.

Body is still not cured of skinny fattness, but very smal progress is visible.
But to be able to do personal best 21 chins, and currently push 3×5 182lb bench @ 161BV is a feat that gives me a solid base of selfconfidence.
Otherwise, very good article, and 100% correct for ectomorph, which at first I thought was one, untill overfeeding only increased love handles and belly and gave little size to other areas, while training very hard on compounds and support exercises.
Keep it up.


Denis, the skinny-fat dilemma is about as disappointing as it can be for any guy wanting to have a physique that he can feel is at least “okay” aesthetics-wise.

I’m saddled with skinny-fat too, although apparently not as severely as you describe yours. For the first two years after I began weight training at age 16 (I’m still bodybuilding at age 58 now), it seemed any significant bodyweight I added merely did what you describe, added bodyfat around my waist. However, once I understood that progressing in strength on basic compound movements — squats, deadlifts, chins, overhead presses, barbell rows, bench presses, dips — is essential for most guys for adding muscle size, and I consistently used 5-7 rep sets (even for chins and dips) and actually, gradually, increased my poundages substantially on those core movements, then my body did start channeling calories into muscle tissue instead of merely fat tissue. Seemed like, until my body grew stronger and was handling what for it was serious resistance, it saw no need to respond by growing muscle tissue. From about 140 pounds at age 16, I eventually climbed to 175/176 pounds bodyweight at my 5’8″height by my early 20’s (at which point I hit what I now know were my natural, drug-free genetic muscle mass limits). I still have the problem losing too much muscle mass when I alter my eating in order to carry a lean washboard , but at least now, thanks to the muscle I managed to build after my strength increased and have managed to mostly retain through the years by means of keeping my compounds as heavy as possible, I do have some muscle to show when I diet for that leanness during six months out of every year.

So, perhaps as you continue gaining strength on your (in my opinion, excellent program), your stubborn body will experience the same.

Shane Duquette

Hey Denis, yeah, sometimes it seems like your genetics are against you. One thing I’ve learned is that with a certain degree of cleverness and tenacity you can often seemingly change your perspective on the cards you’ve been dealt. Someone with poor genetics doing a good job of following a great program will often get much better results than someone with superior genetics, after all.

Like Joesantus and you have both noticed, if you can also build up some appreciable muscle mass, get into the habit of lifting heavy and getting stronger, and eat cleverly you can actually CHANGE your genetics to a certain degree. Your muscles will build up more muscle nuclei making you “naturally” more musclebound, your insulin sensitivity in your muscle cells will increase, etc.

When it comes to dieting and maintaining muscle mass there’s a very particular way to do it. It can be really frustrating when your formula is a little bit off and whenever you diet you lose all kinds of muscle mass along with your fat. It essentially comes down to a couple things:
1. Lifting heavy and follow a good weightlifting program.
2. Revving your protein intake up, not down.
3. Keeping your calorie deficit modest.

This is a really good study for further reading:

I would consider skinny-fat just the state that you’re in now, not what your genetics are telling you that you’ll be forever. As your body adapts, down the road you may find being lean and muscular feels just as natural as being skinny-fat does now 🙂


Shane! I have a question for you!
I’m 6’3″, and 135 pounds right now, more or less exactly where you started. Also I become a little unnerved looking along the side, because some of those guys’ before pictures are like a dream to my current self.
I found this article, and I find that it shares a lot with what you guys have to say. I’m a little tight on money, otherwise I’d jump into your program right away, but I have a nice, padded bench, and I have a bar with up to 300lbs. in weights. What I have to ask is, if you could read that article and tell me if, from your experience, it’s giving me realistic, true info? I plan on starting training and eating this Monday, so if you can’t let me know by then, wish me luck!


Jeremy, I apologize to you and to Shane for intruding before Shane has had time to answer you, but, after reading Elya’s article, I expect Shane will say the same as I do about Elya, so I’ll give myself license here and offer this: Elya is giving you realistic, true information. Elya’s advice to ectomorphs regarding both eating and free-weight compound training is excellent, in my experience and in my opinion.

I just emphasize again what can’t be emphasized enough: as an ectomorph trying to gain any substantial bodyweight, YOU MUST EAT and eat and eat.; and, you must stick to that limited program of free-weight compound movements, on which you gradually and progressively seek to increase the poundages you handle.

Shane Duquette

Hey Jeremy, ahaha oh man do I ever know how you feel! As a guy who started out at 6’2 and 130 I suspect I was in a very similar boat. I remember looking at before photos and thinking the same thing – “damn I wish I looked like that!”

We’ve got a lot of skinnier guys who have accomplished amaaaazing transformations, but not everyone lets us share their topless photos (understandably haha). You’d fit right in 🙂

I think that program will get you lightyears further than nothing. The most important thing is that you find a well programmed weightlifting program and follow it. The benefits of exercise are many, and if you’re eating enough to fuel growth most heavy strength training workouts will do just fine. And there’s no better time to do that than yesterday.

A caveat to that, I would say, is that your first goal should be avoiding injury. Obviously there is always a risk with everything (especially inactivity), but that’s a major point where we diverge from programs that are simply 5 reps of squats/deadlifts/chin-ups/bench presses/overhead presses. Those programs are rather advanced and built for guys with excellent mobility, stability, tendon strength, structural sturdiness and athleticism. I don’t think that’s AT ALL appropriate for a skinny guy trying to build muscle.

A couple reasons for that here:

(And I think that will give you a good idea of how to modify things to make them safer, at the very least, and thus make the program a viable one!)

Those programs are also designed to accomplish a very different goal – they’re built to emphasize strength over size. You’ll grow in size eventually, of course, because strength and size are linked, but you won’t grow optimally – far from it. They’re not taking advantage of a wide and varied rep range, for one. They’re also not using anywhere close to the ideal amount of volume.

They’ll still give results, but the risk for injury I think is too high, especially given that you’re also reducing the amount of size you’ll be able to build.

I’m not against lifting for strength. Becoming radically stronger over time is indeed how you build up an impressive physique. Hell, we drop as low as three reps sometimes – but it needs to be done very strategically and only once a certain degree of tendon strength, technique, stability and mobility are built up. (And then we pack on a bunch of accessory lifts to add more training volume to optimize muscle size gains, since that’s what a lot of us skinny dudes are after.)

Does that help at all?


Hey man, sorry if this question is a bit off topic. I just didn’t know where I could post a question. So I wanted to ask if I could maybe grow a few inches taller with this program? I’m 5’9″ and I’d really love to be 6′. Thanks again.


If it helps, I just turned 18 and I too am an ectomorph. Currently at 62 kilograms which is about 136 lbs.

Shane Duquette

Our program can help you improve your posture, so, especially if you’re kind of hunchy, you’ll likely notice that you’re standing a fair bit taller by the end of it. We’ve had a lot of guys remark on that as they go through the program. It won’t actually make you grow taller though, and given that you probably stand your absolute straightest when measuring your height, I imagine you’ll go from appearing 5’7 or whatnot up to your full 5’9.

You’re just 18 though, so you’ve probably got some growth left in you, no?


Hi! I discovered this website yesterday and im eating all the articles on it! Its awesome!! It’s a pitty that i don’t have the money for getting the B2B program,but all this articles have teached me a lot, and i will get beasty using your tips! By the way I got a few questions, hope you can answer them:

1) ¿I was told that the body can digest only 30 grs. of protein every meal, is that true?
2) What do you think about eating carbs on the night? I mean, i was told that you should not eat carbs too late cause they will turn in fat, and that you have to eat protein+vegs on the last meals of the day
3) About fruits and vegs, how many? Are they important to build muscle?
4) About sugar, i’ve been trying not to eat refined-hyper-palatable foods, due to sugar and saturated fats. I think its beacause im a skinny-fat guy (got a little belly thats annoying). But i was wondering if there is not problem at all for me to eat things like “Quaker granola -> “. It’s delicious but it got some sugar on it.

Thanks a lot!

Shane Duquette

1) Nope! I’ve heard that myth before too, but that’s all it is. There’s no actual evidence to suggest that. In fact, even if you were to give your grandmother twice that amount of protein she’d still digest it just fine (and grandmothers don’t process protein nearly as well as we do).

2) Again, just a myth. That one I know the source of the though. There’s this old diabetes study where they found that morbidly obese men with diabetes weren’t handling big carb meals right before bed very well. It has nothing to do with healthy guys trying to build muscle though. I eat tons of carbs before bed, even when cutting!

3) 7+ servings a day would be ideal. Yes, they can be important when building muscle. First I would worry about lifting weights and gaining weight on the scale though. You can worry about adding more fruits and veggies a little later, if that’s a challenge for you. If you’re struggling to eat enough food to build muscle though, try tossing some dried fruits (prunes, raisins, dried mangoes, etc) and bananas into your diet! They taste pretty good, they’re easy on your appetite, and they’ll help you get more fruits in your diet.

4. Oats are great! If that’s one of the ones with all the added sugar, just be mindful to keep the heavily processed stuff to only around 20% of your total calories. Try to get the rest from whole foods. Sugar isn’t bad or anything, and neither is saturated fat. Just need to be mindful that the dosages are reasonable.

I hope that helps!


Thanks Shane!


Hey, Shane, I’m a 110 lb freshman in high school (and that’s after gaining 10 lbs from your tips). Am I working out at too young a age? Should I wait until I’m fully grown and developed?


Forgot to mention I’m 5’7″.

Shane Duquette

High school seems to be a great age to get into weightlifting and building muscle! Marco started at around your age and by the time I’d gained my first pound of muscle (at 22) Marco had already gained 63.

There are risks for injury of course, as they are for anything, but weightlifting is pretty safe as far as being active goes. Far safer than common sports like soccer, football and rugby, for example.

There’s a good post here on the New York Times blog about weightlifting in high school.

(I believe the whole thing about weightlifting, height, and needing to be fully grown is just a weird old wives’ tale. Although this certainly doesn’t prove anything, Marco’s now 6’4 and he started in high school.)

As with all of this internet fitness stuff though, always best to act your doctor. I suspect he’ll be thrilled that you’re exercising consistently, eating well, building muscle, etc … but the only way to know for sure is to ask!


Hey Shane,

I’ve often wondered where the ectomorphic body comes from. I’ve read that it’s genetic and inherited from our parents, but I don’t think that’s always the case. For example, I’m fully a fully grown guy and weigh 140 lbs. I’ve gained 10 lbs over the past year on 3500 calories a day. I noticed that my mom, who is a few inches shorter than me (and female of course), outweighed me by about 20 lbs when I started and had bigger arms and legs than me. She was not fat, just a bit overweight. I was of course curious as to how her bone structure compared with mine, and I shouldn’t have done this (ignorance is bliss!) so we measured our wirsts and ankles. Of course, I found out that my own mom indeed has thicker bones than me. I’m not going to lie, I got pretty depressed when I found that out!

It just makes no sense how that could be…where does our body type come from if no one in our family has it? I’ve studied genetics, too, btw.

The other thing that makes no sense is, how having smaller bones makes someone need more calories. All I can figure is that the bones are small due to undernutrition growing up–a product of burning more energy (and therefore not having as much left for growth) and not being hungry, so eating less than the average kid.


Everyone has a maximum size they can grow to. Realistically, if you’re born as a stick figure, you’re not gonna look like Arnold unless there’s a lot of steroids and other enhancements. But you can still look really good if you put in enough work. Your body also has a chemical called myostatin that will dictate how large your muscles will get. Luckily for us skinny guys, the limit is VERY far away. We have a lot of growing to do, and our bones will be able to handle the extra weight for as long as we’re getting bigger. As Shane has mentioned, we really do have a lot of benefits for putting on healthy weight.

Trust me, I was REALLY skinny. I last posted here February 28th. In a little less than two months, I’ve gone up 20 pounds, and am a lot stronger and more muscular. Body types do vary, it’s just how the world works. My brother was a 200lb shot-putting tank, and my other brother was a skinny-fat theater kid. It’s all up to you. You can change.

Shane Duquette

Well said!

My family is full of a bunch of different body types as well. My mum and dad are both very thin, as is my sister, so it’s no wonder that I’m naturally thin as well. My dad’s parents were very thin as well, so it’s a pretty good example of it running in the family generation after generation.

More along what you’re describing though, my mum’s two brothers are both effortlessly very very athletic and strong, whereas her dad was always very thin despite being a boxer / soldier. (The muscle was presumably coming from her mother’s side.) My cousins on my mum’s side are pretty muscular, too.

Malnutrition to the degree that it would impair growth is fairly uncommon these days in the developed world, and I think the predominant theory is that most people are reaching their full growth potential from a structural standpoint. I could be wrong though – I haven’t studied that area much!


Hi, I have read all your blog and watched your videos and got really interested in start the program. I am really brave an fear no exercises!
I and my brother are both 6’0 tall, but my brother is a pretty good mesomorph and weigh 205 pounds and he’s gaining weight and becoming more muscular year after year, and he just do some chin-ups and push-ups regularly and eat well. I also do push-ups and chin-ups regularly since long time, and I eat the same amount of food that my brother eats, but damn! I just weigh boring 165 pounds.
Our grandfather was also 6’0 tall but he weighed more than 237 pounds, he had big arms, shoulders , a powerful chest , very muscular, and was very good in sprints, a really Bear-Wolf-like man. I want to be like him,do you think I could be able to gain 70 pounds and jump from 165lbs to 235lbs doing the program?
I saw you gain 60lbs and that guy Marcel gain 78lbs,so I guess is not that impossible to gain 70 pounds,what you think?

Shane Duquette

Hey C.B., I’d say gaining 70 pounds would take a very long time! I started out at 130, and the most I’ve managed to weigh was 200 … so I’ve gained 70 pounds. Marco has also had points in his life where he’s been 70 pounds heavier than he started. Marcel has also gained over 70 pounds.

It’s possible, but keep in mind that we were starting VERY skinny. Marcel and I started a good 35 pounds skinnier than you. Even Marco started out 15 pounds lighter than you, and he’s 6’4!

Gaining that much weight takes a lot of work and a lot of patience though. We normally see guys gain 20-30 over the course of the program, and progress slows the more advanced you get, so if they repeat the program they inevitably gain less the second time – perhaps 10-20 pounds.

If it were indeed possible for you to gain 70 pounds (and it may not be, you may reach your genetic potential before then) you’d need to do the program many times 😛

That also depends on how lean you’d like to be though. If you’re comfortable carrying around a higher body fat percentage then your goal isn’t out of reach at all, and you may even be able to get there quicker, since you’ll be able to gain at a quicker pace if you aren’t trying to keep the gains strictly lean.

I hope that helps, and what’d I’d recommend is getting started! When your goal is lofty, the best time to start is yesterday 😉

We’d love to help you on that journey!


Many thanks for your reply Shane, it really inspired me to start the program as soon as I can.



this “Ironically, as skinny guys we often have the most natural potential for muscle growth … since, err, we’re so far away from our genetic potential …” should be implanted into every hardgainer’s brain. I didn’t do that much as some of you, only 37 pounds in 10 months, but that is true. Most skinny guys end up being easy gainers when switching to lifting heavy weights progressively.

As for the diet, cottege cheese pancakes (from full fat cottege cheese) are the beast.


Shane Duquette

Thanks Vlad, and haha I agree!

Congratulations on the 37 pounds!! You sound quite modest, but with gains that incredible there’s really no need for it haha – you’ve done phenomenally well!! 😀


Hi, I have a question, when you guys make body measurements( biceps, waist, shoulders,etc…) and weighing, what time of the day do you do that? For example, I read that the right way to measure the height is to measure when you wake up, in the afternoon and at night, then you take average, and that is your real height. Should I do the same with some other parts of the body? For instance, the waist varies in size during the day due to the meals so…
Thanks in advance.

Shane Duquette

I always take them first thing in the morning. What’s more important than establishing a perfectly accurate absolute value is being able to track change though, so as long as you take them at a consistent time you should be okay when it comes to tracking your progress 🙂


I’ve put on some belly fat from eating an excess amount of calories recently :/ . I started a calorie deficit but now i find when i’m working out i get really tired, pretty quick. Soo just wondering should i make changes to my workout and/or diet ? . i was thinking using sugar as a means of short time energy might work but i really don’t have any idea.

Shane Duquette

Having less energy in the gym is pretty common when cutting. Yep! Keep in mind that you don’t need to go low-carb or anything when cutting, so keeping your carbs up (1g / pound bodyweight or more) can really help! Sugars (e.g. fruits, dairy, indulgences) and starches (e.g. rice, potatoes, grains) are great. I can’t say for sure if that’s the problem you’re running into, but it very well may be.

You can play with the timing of it as well. Maybe you’ll find more carbs in the meal before training will help.


cheers man 🙂 , i’ll try and put those ideas into effect. i think my main problem was that i was eating to close to my workout and the food didn’t have time to break down to energy . Also whats your stance on pre-workout drinks ? , i have alot friends who use it and they seem to get a heap of energy. I can see how it’d be relatively unhealthy though .

I’m considering buying your program soon also , thanks for helping with my questions and writing the really informative articles.

Shane Duquette

I don’t know if we can necessarily say they’re unhealthy … it’s just we don’t really know yet. A lot of the energy-drinky sorts of ingredients aren’t very well studied, so it’s really a bit of a gamble.

My favourite pre-workout drink is a simple coffee. Coffee is quite healthy, the caffeine is quite effective, and it’s been around for thousands of years. We have a fairly good idea of what it does and what you can expect. It’s relatively affordable, too.

If you DO want to try a pre-workout drink, I’d recommend one with minimal ingredients. Tier One, by Citadel Nutrition, is pretty good for that. They only use evidence-based ingredients and they leave out all the junk filler and proprietary blends. Pretty good bang for your buck and minimal longer term risk 🙂

Also keep in mind that these supplements aren’t designed to improve your results, but rather make you feel perkier while training. It’s more for enjoyment than progress. If it helps get you to the gym and it helps you lift well though … that can indeed translate into building more muscle mass!

Shane Duquette

And I hope you decide to join us, man! We’d love to have you 🙂


Hi, Shane. I just want to beef up just like you but at the same time, I’m not all crazy about numbers and calories. I want to get through each day knowing that I have consume crazy amounts of calories to go with my training program. I don’t really want to calculate everything and create an extra headache for myself each day by worrying whether I have consume enough calories.

You might think I’m lazy but I am studying right now and I want to ace my studies. Honestly, nutrition is really not something I would like to think about day and night. I just hope that there’s an easier way to ensure I eat enough. I live in South East Asia and I don’t eat beef for religious reasons. My diet consists of mainly chicken, fish, pork, vegetables and lots and lots and lots of rice. I also got myself a GNC Weight Gainer 1850 (I heard it’s not good but since my mom bought it, I might as well finish it). It’s got maltodrextrin and whey protein all in one package, so it can’t be that bad.

Is there a foolproof way to ensure that I eat enough? Just eat more, I can. Is it enough, I HOPE SO!! So far, I’m eating four meals a day, at least two heavy (meaning lots of rice, lean meat, and vegetables) and I can’t be bothered to check the calories because I just eat what I can see. I wake early everyday at about 6.30 to get to school so there isn’t a lot of time for me to prepare a monster breakfast (I would need your advice on this). How do I prepare a monster breakfast in no time?

I just want to make it real simple and straight forward. You could send me an email if it’s gonna be a long reply from you. Thanks!


I would love to buy your program but I don’t have any income nor do I have a credit card. It’s kinda hard to convince my mom to splash up to 600 dollars (due to exchange rate) for ebooks. Haha! I feel kinda left out right now..

Shane Duquette

Don’t worry Edmund, that’s what the blog is for! We’ll be coming out with lots of good free content over the coming months 🙂

I’m always willing to answer questions here for free as well.

Shane Duquette

Hehe you’re sort of following a “see-food diet” then if you just eat everything in site. Those are notorious for causing pretty fatty bulks, but you obviously also build a lot of muscle if you succeed in consistently staying in a huge caloric surplus. It’s not what I recommend, but it’s not wrong. In fact, us skinny ectomorph guys are the best at those kinds of diets, because of the adaptive metabolisms that I talk about in the article above.

There are many ways to prepare breakfast in no time. I usually have a smoothie. Some people have peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Some people like cereal. (Just make sure your breakfast is mostly made up of whole foods and has enough protein to help you meet your protein goals.)

Meals don’t need a lot of prep time.

As for simply “hoping” to eat enough, I wouldn’t really advise that. Counting calories is far from necessary, and we have a lot of guys following our program who don’t. That’s okay. I would track your results and adjust based on how you’re doing. If you weigh yourself every week and your weight isn’t moving up you know for certain that you aren’t eating enough. If you weigh yourself every week and you’re gaining a lot of weight and a lot of fat … you might be eating too much (or training poorly, eating a poor diet for building muscle, etc – but worry about calories first).

I hope that helps!


Hey Shane and the Bony to Beastly crew,

I’m a 20 year old student looking for some help in adding exercise to my lifestyle after leaving competitive cross country. I ran A LOT in high school (my high school team won the national championship twice and I was varsity; we ran ~80 miles a week on average), and after getting a scholarship to run in college I decided I couldn’t keep up the workload and quit. I am looking for a sustainable, feasible program to keep my fitness up and improve my health.
I’m a little over 6 feet tall and am currently ~165 lbs. (I gained around 15-20 lbs. after stopping running and eating junky college food for 2 years). I am not terribly skinny but am not fat either. I could lose weight rapidly if I chose to, although I would lose just as much muscle as I would lose fat. But I am still unsure of whether I should consider myself as an ectomorph. I was skinny in high school, but I’m not sure that i could eat 5 to 6 thousand calories a day and still lose weight had I not been running (I thought I might have seen you make a similar claim on one of your articles, but that might have been an exaggeration.
As an educated athlete I feel like I already have a good grasp on a few things. I drink plenty of water everyday, get enough sleep, stay away from excess sugar (including all soda), and warmup and cooldown effectively. Although I do not run competitively anymore, I still recreationally run 30 miles a week. In addition, to keep my fitness levels up, I play basketball and swim recreationally. But now, I feel like it is time for a change.
I’d like to try the bony to beastly program but I am still unsure about whether it would be right for me. I am willing to get in the gym 2-4 times a week, and sacrifice any of the other activities I am trying. I have three goals: I would like to reduce my body fat percentage (I’m probably around 18% right now, and I’d like to get under 12%), I would like to get stronger and help my posture, and I would like to build enough muscle to fill out my frame.
I’ve read all of your articles, and am very impressed with your straight-forwardness and your optimism and enthusiasm. As a student, I also enjoy the research links and the evidence based approach.
My current routine consists of a warm-up, 10 exercises (squats, lunges, lateral shoulder raises, shrugs, incline bench press, dips, pull-ups, bent-over rows, deadlifts, and planks in that order), and a cooldown. I plan on doing this full-body routine 3 times a week. I feel like I might be expecting too much from my body with this routine, along with recreational running, basketball, and swimming. I have no specific time to reach my goals (I kinda feel like any of these 4/8/10 week programs are just numbers aimed at getting page clicks rather than helping people make meaningful change). I’d love to build 10-20 lbs of muscle in the right places and lose around the equivalent in fat. I eat around 2500 calories a day (usually split up into 2-3 meals), and not too much of it is in processed foods (I’ll cheat and have a cookie somedays). Most of it is a pretty even balance of meat (chicken, turkey, ham, steak, etc.), vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy, and some type of carb (brown or white rice, wheat bread or tortilla, etc.). I try to stay away from excess sugar, salt, fried foods, candy, starch, etc.
I’m looking for wholesale change in my exercise routine, and I don’t particularly care what my weight is, although I would like to keep it above 150 and below 190 (I think that’s a pretty wide range). I’ll buy the program if you think I fit the description of an ectomorph, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on implementing the bony to beastly program with recreational sports. Should other sports be relegated to the territory of active rest, or be actively promoted to increase fitness?

Thanks for any input!


Shane Duquette

Hey K.C.,

I suspect you’d be able to lose weight fairly quickly and keep all of your muscle. It sounds like you perhaps aren’t that experienced a weightlifter, so hell, you may even be able to BUILD muscle while losing weight. We’ve got a fat loss guide for naturally skinny guys included with the program, so we can help with that. It’s a common goal in the community to lean out a bit.

I eat around 3800 calories per day these days. If I’m trying to gain weight I eat around 4200. My lifestyle isn’t all too active, I just live downtown and do some walking around, lots of fidgeting, and I think my body heat production keeps my entire apartment building warm during the winter 😉 It sounds like you’re rockin’ an even more extreme ectomorph metabolism!

I don’t think you’d need to sacrifice your other hobbies and activities. Whether it would count as active rest of something to improve fitness would depend on the type of recreational sport you’re talking about! Things like biking, swimming and soccer usually do a good job of improving fitness without interfering with weightlifting workouts, so they’d more or less be both. Running a full 30 miles per week may be too high a volume to optimally help with either – it really depends. Improving general fitness improves your ability to recover and allows you do handle higher volumes of activity, so this stuff can all work really well together, depending on how you do it! Where the emphasis lies will determine where the bulk of your results are.

As far as having a 4/8/12 week program … I think sometimes it’s just marketing mumbo jumbo, and sometimes it’s a very effective way to plan a period of focused rapid progress. In our program we do a lot to control the pace that you gain weight, so it’s very possible to set out to gain (or lose), say, 20 pounds over the course of three or four months and then actually do it. You need to listen to your body and track your progress to make sure the weight you’re gaining is lean (or the weight you’re losing is strictly fat), and some people may need to take a slightly slower pace (and some people can get away with taking an even quicker pace). I gained most of my 55ish pounds over the course of three 3-5 month periods, gaining 20 pounds in each and then just more or less maintaining in between those little muscle-building sprints.

I think you sound like a good fit! Also, you don’t need to be a totally textbook ectomorph. We’re glad to customize things and help you individually to accomplish your own goals 🙂


Good stuff!


Hi, Shane. I’ve been using some supplements to help me gain weight but I can’t seem to understand what a rounded scoop means. Is it an ice cream scoop or a formula milk scoop? I don’t know what the fudge is a rounded scoop. The direction says that you should consume 3 rounded scoops (485g). Is there an easier way to do this like how many spoons would be equivalent to 3 rounded scoops or 485 grams?

I don’t have a weighing machine and I certainly don’t what a rounded scoop looks like so I’m at wit’s end here.


Rounded scoop, means you stick the scoop in and whatever comes out of the whey goes in your cereal, etc.

Shane Duquette

There’s probably a scoop buried in the tub (or at least it sounds like there should have been) and they mean instead of levelling it off to sit even with the top rim of the scoop, that you’d take a “heaping” scoop.

Like Jay said, I think it just means take a big scoop and that’s it.

Does that make sense?


Hi Shane,

I have a quite interesting problem and I’m not sure how to solve it. So I’m 170 cm and 60 kg at a body fat level of 7-8% maybe, i don’ know it exactly, but I’m sure it’s very low because there are clearly visible veins even on my lower abs too. So I’m pretty lean. Or well, at least my body is… because my face looks like a chubby guy’s face. I didn’t use steroids or anything, I’m only 19 years old and an ectomorph, i had a pretty lean face, when i was only 46 kg at this height, but i’m leaner than i was before so i don’t get it, why i don”t have a muscular face and why does it look like it’s swollen or chubby or something. I started training at the age of 15, with some beginner gains (5-6 kg), then stopped, and 1 year later i started it again with soe gains (4-5 kg), and now i started again last november with some fat loss and muscle gain (56 kg 12-13% and now i’m 60kg 7-8%). If you have any advice, i would appreciate it, thanks.

Shane Duquette

Hey Ben,

First of all, let’s say you were 46kg and 10% body fat. That’d be 4.6 kilos of fat on your body. Now let’s say you’re 60kg and 8%. That’d be 4.8 kilos of fat on your body. Leaner … but also fatter. Your bigger muscles will also make you appear much leaner than before, since your muscles will now readily show through small amounts of fat. As a result you may be underestimating how lean you were back then and overestimating how lean you are now. 7-8% is comparable to an Olympic sprinter in peak condition, like Usain Bolt here.

Even if you’re a little “chubbier” than you were before though I doubt this would have a visible effect on your face. Most skinny guys wind up with markedly more chiseled faces when building muscle leanly-ish.

When overeating sometimes guys store fat first in their face. I’m this way. When I bulk my face gets chubbier, and then when I stop bulking my face quickly leans out again. You can see that here. It’s not dramatic enough that other people really notice, but I can always tell. You say you’re losing fat right now though, so that wouldn’t explain it either.

This means that your problem is perhaps a little trickier than fat, and as far as this question goes that’s where my area of expertise stops. My *guess* would be that it’s hormonal (like high levels of cortisol) or a food allergy (like an allergy to milk). If you’re taking drugs or medication that could obviously play a role as well. This puts it squarely in the realm of your doctor. So I’d ask them.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help, and I hope you get to the bottom of it. Good luck!


Hi Shane, great article! Was just wondering how many calories you were consuming when you had your first successful “bulking” session. I’m 5’11 and 128lb and I can’t see myself consistently eating 3500 calories a day, even if its only on workout days.

Shane Duquette

When I first began bulking I didn’t count calories. For breakfast I’d have a fruit/veggie/protein smoothie, for lunch I’d have a 12″ Subway sub with triple meat and double cheese (half of it at 10 and the other half at 2). For dinner I’d have something like chicken, broccoli, olive oil, sweet potatoes. And throughout the day I’d be sipping on 1.3 litres of milk. I don’t know how many calories it was, but it was enough to make me grow.

I have a much easier bulking diet now in terms of time, appetite and enjoyment, a little bit of which I discuss in the above article. So even though it’s more food than before, it’s a lot easier. (Now I bulk on a little over 4,000 calories.) I’m an extreme ectomorph though. All of those traits I talk about in the article I have in a very exaggerated way. Only a few guys in the community need to consume as many calories as I do to gain weight. Although there are also a couple that need to consume even more!

If you’re tracking calories you could start at 2500 and work your way up as needed, adjusting by maybe +200 per week.

Keep in mind that it’s overall calories that count, not just calories consumed on workout days.


Thanks buddy, I think I’ll try out 2800 a day for now and see how it goes!


Hi Shane
I enjoy surfing your site and read all the research you’ve done.It’s quite interesting and insightful.

Have one small concern though. As a kid, I was always on the skinny side. I think I’m borderline ecto (now). My reasons for saying that, is that I probably lean towards the skinny/fat side of things. I am 5’8″ at 170 lbs and probably 20%+ bodyfat (41 years of age). I have a relative small bone structure. My job keeps me fairly occupied and I am on the road a lot or otherwise in the office, so I do eat a lot of “junk food”you know the fattening type (for the beefy guys I guess), but I don’t gain wait. I guess I have skinny genes. Since I left school more than 23 years ago, I gained about 35 lbs in total.Currently have some flab around the waste-line believe it or not and have some posture problems(hunched over shoulders). While at school, I never felt that I am “too skinny” I guess I just never thought about it then, but in the latter years I really wanted to gain muscle as at 41 I still look like a bit of a geek.

My question though is, can I for sure say that I am ecto or not.

Thanks for an awesome site

Hope to hear your insights on the above

Shane Duquette

Hey Paul,

Ectomorph is a term that means a collection of a bunch of different traits that result in a skinny body type. Some people have all of the ectomorph traits (like me) but the vast majority of people are a combination of a couple different ones. You may have a small stomach capacity and smaller appetite (i.e. you don’t gain weight easily) but also less insulin sensitivity (i.e. you gain fat more easily), for example. Could be any number of things.

Mostly it sounds like you have a sedentary lifestyle and iffy nutrition habits. That’ll make almost anyone skinny-fat given enough time (in your case decades)! Your genetics may be fantastic it’s just that you’re not taking advantage of them, you know?

Does that make sense / help?


Hey Shane

Thanks for your response, I really appreciate the effort and time.
You are spot on with iffy nutrition on my part. I have a fast metabolism and a small stomach and eat maybe 2-3 meals a day. I guess there are quite a number of factors that keep me skinny.But I can eat about every 2-3 hours.No problem with appetite. Struggling to drink a lot of water though. Mostly drink if I feel thirsty.I did workout when I was younger, but didn’t stick with it because I didn’t see great results. Looking back, I now know that I approached it the wrong way. Was caught up in the marketing hype and training programs of the BB magazines.
I am curious though if your regimen will work for me, especially the nutrition part as I’m not a ‘thoroughbred’ ectopmorph so to speak. I guess I have nothing to lose (quite literally) by trying it out. I’m from South Africa and supplements are ridiculously expensive, but if I use what you recommend it won’t break the bank. The creatine here however is mostly a combo of mono and ethyl ester + other stuff which makes it more expensive than mono. Seems that mono is not readily available, at least not the local brands. Do those combos work just as well as mono? Also the maltodextrin is fairly cheap, but the brand I saw here doesn’t dissolve well. It tends to form clumps.

Any tips/advice would be appreciated.


Shane Duquette

I’d get one of those shakers with a little whisk inside if you find your shakes clumping. That tends to break ’em up.

The other types of creatine probably work equally as well, yeah, although they’re not as well studied as creatine monohydrate, so it’s hard to say for sure.

Keep in mind that supplements are very much optional, and also that if you can’t get results with weightlifting and nutrition, supplements won’t make the difference. I’d say focus on the fundamentals first, especially if the supplements are expensive, and then you can get them later if you get them at all.

And yes! Even if you aren’t 100% ectomorph the program will work 🙂


I’m a little bit confused by the idea behind losing muscle once training is stopped. I’ve read several accounts of ectomorphs who gained a fair amount of muscle, and then stopped training for an extended period of time. During this period of time, they say they did lose some (or even most) of their gains, and not just fat. You mentioned that you maintain your weight the same now, but couldn’t that be because you do still lift weights?

Shane Duquette

Hey Jason,

Over time you’d lose your muscle if you stop training, yes. Or at least a lot of it. This is called muscle atrophy. On the bright side, you’d be able to rebuild it fairly quickly, since the nuclei in your muscle cells that you develop when building muscle will stick around. (You’ll also have your technique down pat.)

This is true with any type of training adaptation. If you become good at running long distances and then stop running for years, you’ll lose that ability. Some of the benefits will remain—you’ll probably still remember how to run well—but some won’t.

I’d recommend keeping up a regular exercise routine regardless of your goals. That could be lifting weights, it could be sports, it could something else. This will keep you healthy, fit, mentally sharp and calm. If building muscle is your goal I’d say lift weights regularly (this will be good for your general health and also allow you to accomplish your goals). If maintaining muscle is your goal I’d say exercise however you like for general health but lift heavy once every week (or maybe two) in order to keep your strength/muscle mass up.

You’re correct—I still lift weights regularly. I’ve switched to light home workouts some months, sometimes my frequency has gone down (or up), but mostly I train three times per week and lift pretty heavy when I do. That’s why my muscle has stuck around and my strength/posture continues to slowly improve 🙂

Does that help / make sense?


Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks.


Hi Shane, have started lifing quite recently and have made some noticeable gains, however, my weight dosent really seem to be changing, I added about 8 lb and now I don’t seen to able to keep gaining weight. It sounded like a nutrition problem so I upped the calories, my weight started increasing very VERY slowly but I have noticed fairly large increases in my measurements (such as shoulder width) even without weight increase. Any ideas?

Shane Duquette

It sounds like things are going pretty well! You’ve gained eight pounds, and your measurements are moving up in good places. I think you’re right—if your weight stops moving up on the scale it’s a calorie issue. I mean, the better your program is the more inclined your body will be to build muscle out of whatever you give it, but you also need to supply the calories in order to get into a surplus, especially in the early stages of the game.

Obviously this is the worst news possible as a skinny dude who’s probably already struggling to eat enough, and that’s why you’ve really got to be clever about it!


Hey Shane. Longtime lurker and lifelong ecto here. The more of your articles and comment responses I read the more I’m getting convinced to try your product. I seem to be relating to most of the things I see described even though I still have a hard time believing you actually had as horrible of an appetite as I do when you were around 130 haha. That’s basically my ultimate struggle. Anyway, my question is, how do your workout routines address such a crucial issue as having weak knees? I do use neoprene knee supports for my squats but I imagine that I will hit a weight plateau where adding anything more could compromise my joints and have severe consequences.

Shane Duquette

Really glad to hear it, man—we’d love to have you 🙂

Ahaha even after all of this you’d be surprised at how horrible my appetite STILL is. Before it used to be rather embarrassing when going out for dinner… but it’s still noticeable enough that I get teased about it 😛

Keeping the muscle is easy enough, but I sure as hell won’t accidentally be getting fat anytime soon!

Well for starters, we don’t just have guys doing back squats on day one. We start with regressions, and generally with regressions the goal is to teach guys to sit back deep into their hips. This takes stress off the knees and puts it in your hips instead, and your hips are more than powerful enough to handle it just fine. When you transition back into back squats hopefully the issue will have resolved on its own. However, if this approach doesn’t work we can help you through it on an individual level and adjust things accordingly. Marco is very well trained in that.


Hello Shane,
I’m 6’4″190. 35″ waist. Been “skinny” my whole life. Never really had any muscle definition. Since i left college, i have put on weight but only in my gut, no where else. Your program sounds intriguing but i would like to get rid of my gut as well as build muscle. Seems like your program involves eating more calories, i just dont want to get any bigger in my gut.

Shane Duquette

Hey Jay,

Ahaha yeah… that seems to happen to a lot of longtime ectomorphs. As the years roll by a gut begins to form.

We can help you trim the fat ’round your gut, and if you’re relatively new to weightlifting and building muscle, you may even be able to build some muscle and strength while you do it. Combining a good weightlifting plan, a muscle-building nutrition plan and a calorie deficit is good for that. (We’ve got guide for guys in your situation included with the program.)

Then, with the gut gone, we can transition you into a higher calorie diet that will have you building muscle even more quickly 🙂


Love the website and great article. I just wanted to mention something about satiating foods.
I find that when I eat warm pasta that I’m actually feeling STARVING not long after. Initially I feel full but within like 10 minutes I have hunger like nothing else. I looked it up and I’m not the only one to experience this, but no one seems to know why. Maybe it fills the stomach and then gets digestive quickly, leaving you with a large, empty stomach perhaps?
I feel so hungry after pasta that it’s been the reason that I never eat it. But I never actually thought of feeling hungry as an advantage!
I’m going to experiment with it and see if I can get in a load of pasta before a main meal to get a few hundred more calories in.

Shane Duquette

My guess would be that this has to do with the food being digested rather quickly, yeah. Regular pasta is fairly low in fibre so while it might be filling at first, it wouldn’t be very satiating for very long. And you’re right—this kind of thing is great when bulking. It’s one reason why rice is so popular among guys trying to build muscle 🙂


Im pretty skinny so I wanted to know what should I eat to gain weight at first and then gain muscle afterwards and what exercises I should do for arm and leg muscle for a skinny person like myself.

The dutch guy

Hi Shane!

First of all. Thank you for the articles. Very Nice read. I especially enjoyed the workout one. I have been lifting weights for a Year now. Im 6’5, thin but i have a bit of stomach fat. I am wondering if eating more, suggested by your article wise, would make me even store more body fat? I basically do all major compound exercises 5 times a week. Looking forward to a are welcome.

All the way from europe,

The dutch guy

Shane Duquette

Hey Martjin, thanks 🙂

If you’re looking to get bigger and stronger, aka, gain weight overall (but not gain fat), then you’ll want to eat enough to steadily grow heavier on the scale, yeah. If you aren’t currently gaining a little bit of weight each week, then you’ll want to eat a little more. You’ll need to eat well enough to build muscle and train well enough to build muscle, but eating the right amount—enough to gain weight—is the biggest priority.

If your goal is to get leaner, aka, lose weight overall (but maintain muscle mass), then you’ll want to be in a calorie deficit and losing a little bit of weight each week. If you do a really good job of this and your bodyfat percentage is high-ish, sometimes you can build a little muscle at the same time… but that’s rare with experienced/advanced lifters, and you’d still be getting smaller on the scale each week.

As for the type of training that would optimize your muscle growth when overeating (and help keep your gains lean), check this article out.

I hope that helps!

The dutch guy

Thanks shane!

The thing is. I think im kinda stuck. I did gain muscle but thats kinda stuck. Im going to throw in all the major coumpound exercises since you explained it in your article. Im kinda scared to eat more since i dont want the stomach fat to grow. But when it comes to gym, i never akipp a session and train really hard. Im thin as hell but easily squat 220 wrists are like cheerios though AND i have stomach fat.

Do you think its a good idea to keep on gaining muscle by eating the right macros and lose the belly fat later on? It feels like a waste if id go on a cut right now. Im also trying a bit of carb cycling..but im not sure what your thought is on that.. Again thanks. Its starting to become a bit more obvious to me.


Shane Duquette

If you can squat 220 pounds to depth with good form there’s some hearty muscle on you somewhere, even if it’s not where you want it, and even if those muscles still aren’t as burly as you’d like them to be. You might have a nice strong butt and fairly thin legs for example. In that case you might want to add in more accessory lifts for your hamstrings and quads.

You can always get stronger at squats too! Both by working up to, say, a 315 pound squat. Or by working up being able to do 20 reps with those 220 pounds. Both of those will add some serious size to your lower body!

Your wrists, however, will stay thin. I’ve gained 50-60 pounds of muscle and my wrists are the same size as ever—that of the average 5’4 man (and I’m 6’2). This is simply genetics and bone structure. You can change the size of your forearms and upper arms though!

Carb cycling can work sometimes a little bit. It’s an effective ADVANCED technique to try. It’s not the problem you’re currently facing though, and it’s not going to solve any of your issues. That’s something you’d worry about later, when you’re progressing well and you’re trying to add an extra little something.

If you eat enough to gain a slight amount on the scale each week—maybe even just 0.25 or 0.5 pounds each week—then you should be able to gain very leanly. More would be riskier, but a slow pace, provided your program is a good one, is usually pretty safe as far as not getting fatter goes.

Does that help / make sense?

Dutch guy

So good!

Finally some advice from someone that seems to know what their talking about! Thanks man ill definitely going to keep track of this website! Im going to follow your advice and see what happens. By the way. You seem to be a guy with a taste for fast music. Check this out.

If you like. Good friends of mine with a lady on vocals.

Thanks again!


This article is absolutely fantastic, THANK YOU. I’ve learned more in 30 minutes than i’ve learned in the last 5 years about my body type.

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked it, Scott—and thanks for the kind words! 🙂


Hi Shane! I weigh 155lbs and stand 177cm tall. A year ago, I began working out and since then I have gained only 10lbs.

However, since the past 4 months, my weight has not changed one bit, and this is really bothering me. It feels like I’m working out in vain. The weights I lift haven’t changed much too. Is my workout wrong or am I eating less?

I live in India so meat isn’t really a staple food for me(although I try to eat chicken breast four times a week). Also, my parents are against me using any kind of protein supplements since they’re artificial. I also have muesli, 5-6 eggs and two glasses of whole milk.

I’m really frustrated with my size and really want to fill out my T- shirt. If you could just help me out here, I would be really grateful Shane.

Cheers 🙂


Just a little addition to my comment. I can lift fairly heavy in my lower body workouts-
200lbs squats, 450lbs leg press, 160lbs deadlifts and 150lbs leg curls.

My arms and the rest of the upper body is what makes me feel like a kid.


I follow a 4 day split routine-
1. Chest and triceps
2. Back and biceps
3. Shoulders and calves
4. Legs and abs
Provided you with that info just in case you might need.

Shane Duquette

Hey Nimish,

Your workout plan may not be optimal, but if your weight gain has stalled the main factor is probably calories, and appetite manipulation strategies are probably your best bet. Might be time to bake yourself up an apple pie to eat for dessert, or start having a glass of milk alongside meals, or start having a daily smoothie—that kind of thing. (The Indian guys we have in the Bony to Beastly community seem to have good success with milk, as that seems a common strategy for Indian wrestlers, strongmen and bodybuilders.)

A better workout plan would likely help, but I think eating more is a good place to start 🙂

(Protein supplements aren’t artificial, per se, especially not whey. It’s a dairy product. It’s processed, but only mildly—similar to milk, cheese, etc. It still retains some nutrients and you can consume it as you would a whole food.)

I hope that helps!


Thanks a ton, Shane!

Since you say my calorie- intake is the larger problem- I’d be lying if I say that I haven’t been holding back on the desserts, but I’ll try to change that.

I am certainly going to use the eating strategies that you’ve mentioned in your brilliantly- written article. Kudos to you, for including personal experiences, rather than just stating facts and researches. I’m going to follow this website for more stuff.

P.S.- Seeing your ‘before’ and ‘after’ has restored my faith that I can gain too.


Shane Duquette

Glad I could help, man. And you can definitely gain too 🙂


It’s really annoying when people say Ectomorphs are unhealthy because we are naturally slim/lean. We’re perfectly fine when it comes to be healthy. Anyways your article is very useful. I’ve always eaten right for building muscle. It’s just so hard to eat so much per day as my body requires at least 3,000 calories to gain weight. I’m 6’1 at 165 pounds and I’ve been stuck at the same weight for a while. I still have a long ways to go.


Hey Shane,
I’ve been motivated to change myself for some time now and well I’ve pretty much read everything that you’ve written but the one thing i’d like to ask (not having an income being a student with no job and all ) What type of meal would i’d ideally want to eat to gain more weight ?? I train 3-4 times a week ( consisting of both Weight heavy reps and Calisthenics about 3 to 4 times a week also doing martial arts ). I’d have to say this is my biggest problem I’ve tried everything that people have probably told you too and i really haven’t seen any progress or weight gain I’ve stayed at 130 pounds and haven’t moved since… i’d really appreciate any advice I can get on a new eating routine to see better improvements :).

Shane Duquette

Hey Phil, glad you like our stuff man.

I’d aim to eat mostly whole foods. At least 80%. Mostly plants (fruits, veggies, rice, potatoes, grains, etc). That should get you enough fibre and micronutrients. You’ll want to eat protein in there too, so things like meat, dairy, eggs, grains, peas, nuts, legumes, etc.

So if you’re a student on a budget there’s nothing wrong with a peanut butter and banana sandwich made with whole grain bread and real peanut butter. Maybe a glass of milk alongside it. That kind of thing. No need for anything fancy.

Obviously this is way oversimplified, but there’s no need to get all fancy or anything.

I hope that helps! And I hope the appetite tricks in this article help you eat more!


Hi, Shane!
Congratulations! Great article and great site! I’m new here and I’ve already learned a lot!
But I have a question for you: I’ve read in other sites that ectomorphs need to take ~60% of the calories from carbs. Is this true?
Cheers from Brazil! 🙂

Shane Duquette

Hey Alexandre, greetings from Canada! I hope your holidays are going well 🙂

50-60% of your calories from carbs would be good. With that said though, most of the healthiest cultures in the world eat a ton of (whole food complex) carbohydrates. It works well for a while variety of people. For us, especially so 🙂 Us ectomorphs tend to handle them particularly well.

Alex Monyepao

Wow I feel like there’s light hovering above for skinny guys, thanx for the article Shane and all the tips you shared. I still feel like my struggle is far greater though because my weight goes rollercoaster ride on me (up an down) inconsistency that most of the time I just go %*@# this scale I’m done, but I really really want to see myself improve and get the satisfaction of envying my own body. And because of that constant “eat more” advice average bulky guys I’m scared to even set foot in any gym. I need help.

Shane Duquette

Hey Alex, I know what you mean about being nervous to set foot in the gym. That would quickly go away once you get used to it, but if you want to avoid that awkwardness entirely, you could build a very simple home gym.

The inconsistencies on the scale are normal. Getting more consistent with the circumstances of your weigh-ins should help. Perhaps always weigh yourself in your underwear first thing in the morning on Sunday after peeing and before breakfast. That would cancel out a lot of the common causes of fluctuations—inconsistent inflammation from the gym, inconsistent glycogen storage (from training and/or nutrition), inconsistent fluid (pee, water retention, etc), inconsistent amount of food in your stomach, wearing different things, etc. If you only weigh yourself once a week your gains will (hopefully) be large enough that they won’t be confused with daily fluctuations, too!

If that doesn’t solve ‘er, then perhaps your nutrition is fairly inconsistent. If it’s so inconsistent that you aren’t seeing measurable weekly gains, then maybe it’d be worth addressing.

Anyway, if you want a step-by-step guide about how to do all of this—track your progress, adjust based on how you’re progressing, what workouts to do, nutrition, appetite manipulation, etc—check out our program! We’d love to have you 🙂

If not, stay tuned—we’ll be posting new free articles in 2015!


Hi Shane,

Thanks for sharing all your knowledge with us ectomorphs, I’ve been reading your articles for some days now and am learning lots of things. Very carefully and thoroughly explained, I think you guys are doing a great job!
However I have 2 questions:
1) Altough I know that milk is highly recommended as an important part of bodybuilding diet (and myself am a big fan of milk), I am lactose intolerant. Now my questions is, will milk still have benefits for my body as long as it “refuses” to process it? Or should I remove it completely from my diet?
2) Is a protein shake before bed a good idea for my metabolism, in order to fill my daily calorie goal? Or will the effort put by my body to process the protein during sleep bigger than the shake’s nutritional value?

Shane Duquette

Milk is a great muscle-building food for a lot of people, but there are lots of great muscle-building foods. There’s no need to consume milk if you have an intolerance to it. I imagine you’d still get the benefits from the parts of the milk that you were digesting, but you can just as easily eat other foods that make you feel better 🙂

Given that you dig milk, there’s some research showing that gradually adding milk into your diet—starting with just a cup per day—will allow your body to start producing the digestive enzymes you need to digest the lactose. You can also get lactose free milk, where the digestive enzyme lactase is added in—the digestive enzyme you’re currently missing.

(These may be better questions for your doctor though.)

We digest food pretty well while we sleep, and there are a lot of muscle-building processes going on while we sleep… so it’d be good from a muscle-building perspective. Just make sure you aren’t having to wake up in the middle of the night to pee, and that digesting food while you’re sleeping isn’t interfering with your sleep. Sleep quality is important.

I hope that helps!

Jacob Martinez

Hello I have a question. I’m 16 years old and barely 102 lbs. I don’t have a job but really wanna try your program.I’m in high school right now but will soon go to college and I want to get “beastly” by the time I do. I’m the pickiest eater you will ever meet but I work out a lot and I’m not seeing much improvement. :/ could you help me out?

Shane Duquette

Hey Jacob,

Definitely! Sixteen is a great age to get into this, and you sound like a perfect fit for the program—we’re a community full of skinny guys with all kinds of difficulty surrounding eating enough to build muscle. Most of the guys coming into the program have tried and failed to build muscle, so don’t worry about that. We can help you work through it and figure out what’s holding you back. (Given your age you’d just need the blessing of your parents.)

I hope you decide to join us!

If that’s more than you’re looking for now, stay tuned for the new free content we’ll be putting out this year 🙂

Jacob Martinez

Thanks. And I was wondering: how much would it cost? I read somewhere on your website that it costs 197 but I wasn’t sure I you guys meant USD or Canadian dollars? I live in the US so I’d like to know in US dollars please.

Jacob Martinez

To recommend this to friends

Shane Duquette

Hey Jacob, you’re right—197. And it’s in US dollars. We’re Canadian, but hardly anyone knows the value of the Canadian dollar (which is very similar to the American dollar), so we used USD to keep it simple. And thank you! 😀


So I am 16 years old, about 5-10, and I’ve been very skinny my whole life – bony is more like it. I also have a bit of a concave chest, which adds to my skinny effect. Recently, I’ve been trying to work out in order to cover up my skinniness and concave chest, so far, my abs and pecs have gotten very noticeably bigger, and I’ve gained five pounds after about a month (maybe this is due to puberty – I’ve been getting very tall). So basically, I’m not worried about gaining muscle, as your article and my personal experience have justified. My main question is eating more in order to help gain weight, and ultimately look nicely beefy. I’m not sure if you at any point address how to begin making my stomach larger – is the”eat whatever you see” tactic it? What would you suggest in order to begin my journey on eating more? Also, I wake up early for school, and done always get in a good breakfast, or one at all. What meal would you recommend I eat that not only is quick to make and high in calories, but will also assist me in beginning to eat more and more? If you could explain this to me, I would be greatly appreciative! Also, amazing article, finally someone has nailed it about us ectomorphs!

Shane Duquette

Congrats on the five pounds, Roman—that’s sweet 🙂

Eating bigger meals will expand the size of your stomach, but different people handle that with different degrees of success.

Did you read the entire article? We have some appetite manipulation tricks in there that have to do with food choices. Another trick is to eat more often. More snacks, more meals.

If you get some whole grain bread, some bananas and some peanut butter (and maybe some jam) then you could start the day with a (toasted?) peanut butter and banana sandwich. Maybe a glass of milk on the side. Another option would be getting a muesli cereal—whole grains, fruits and nuts—and having that with milk. Maybe some fruit on the side (or some berries in the cereal). Another option would be a smoothie.

If you want to gain fat, just eat more calories. The further you overshoot your calorie needs by, the more fat you’ll gain. However I wouldn’t recommend it. Gaining fat won’t do much to make you look better. Less bony, yes, but also softer in the face, less muscle definition, poorer health, etc. If you’re VERY lean some fat isn’t a problem at all, but I wouldn’t gain it on purpose. If you gain 40 pounds of muscle by the time you accidentally gain the 10 pounds of fat to get you into a nice healthy bodyfat percentage, that’d be great. Much better than gaining 10 pounds of muscle and 10 pounds of fat and then needing to worry about cutting if you want to continue building muscle without looking fat. (Here‘s an article that talks about about skinniness, muscle and fat.)

I hope that helps!


Also a quick note, I’m not all that keen on making my gains strictly lean. Maybe that is the goal to look like you, im just worried that only eating lean in order to gain more muscle mass (I asked how to gain more fat) won’t make me bulkier and less bony (also hope to cover my moderate concavity as well). Could you also clear up whether you suggest a strictly lean diet, or continue to work out and eat to gain more fat? Thanks


Hey guys, I’ve posted here before and have had great success utilizing your advice. However I have run into a problem, I have developed a minor food aversion. How do you guys deal with this? Eating a lot of cal really has made me plain gag at some of my former favorite foods. Is there something I can do to nip this in the bud before it gets worse?

Shane Duquette

Hey John,

Congrats on your success!

Sounds like your body is just healthfully responding to a caloric surplus. It’s realizing that you’re gaining weight, so it’s cuing you to stop overeating by making food less appealing. It’s unpleasant, but not necessarily a bad sign. Luckily, you’d begin loving food again as soon as you accomplish your weight gain goals and go back to eating comfortably at maintenance. I don’t see this leading to longterm downsides. Doesn’t sound like an unhealthy relationship with food that you’re developing, just your body doing its best to tell you that you don’t need to be eating as much right now.

There are some tricks to overcome this to a certain degree though, and that’s what the second half of this article is about. I suspect there are ways for you to “trick” your appetite into thinking that you’re eating fewer calories, removing it’s desire to ruin your meals. We’ve got some tips above, and admittedly this may take some experimentation and trial and error… but here are a few that work well for me:

1. Have some hyper palatable and easily digestible foods that agree well with you. My go-to is frozen greek yoghurt (bought pre-made) with raspberries and a hearty helping of maple syrup (which is decently affordable here in Canada). Eaten after a healthy and reasonably sized dinner, I’m about to add another 15-20 grams of protein, a touch of extra fibre and micronutrients, and a ton of calories, primarily from carbs, which are what I need most. Yes, the meal is fairly processed and high in sugar, but I digest it so easily that it doesn’t “feel” like calorie onslaught that it is. (The workout shake is a great way to do this too.)

2. Snack! We often suck at eating a lot, but eating often is rarely a problem once you get into the swing of things. Yes, it’s difficult to have a snack a couple hours after lunch if you pigged out at lunch… but if you have a modestly sized lunch according to your appetite, I bet you’ll be able to fit in a modestly sized snack a couple hours before dinner, then another decently sized meal for dinner, then another snack, etc. The snacks remove the need to eat enormous meals, and removing enormous meals from the equation allows your appetite to fire more frequently.

3. Keep experimenting with different foods to see what you’re in the mood for these days. If your old favourites have grown boring, perhaps try to find some new favourites!

4. Take a break. Nothing wrong with dropping your calorie intake by 500 per day for a week or three, maintaining your gains, and then when you feel motivated again, upping the calories again. If you feel worn down by the gym you could also take a partial training break, either by reducing your workout frequency (perhaps twice per week instead of three), or better yet by reducing the volume per workout (two sets per lift instead of four). When you gear back into your bulk you’ll be fully rested and ready to grow again 🙂

Does that help / make sense?


Yes this all makes perfect sense, thank you for the reply! I really appreciate what you guys are doing here, you guys supply a lot of information and don’t ask anything for it. I can’t wait to join the program in the future. I am currently on a deload week and haven’t been eating a surplus either. I think some of these tricks will help. Thanks again!

Shane Duquette



Interesting, good article. I’m curious, what about the skinny guys who not only can’t gain wait, but produce muscle much when on a good workout routine? I swear the only muscle I can gain is abs. Which is actually quite easy to define them. But I digress.

Anyways, Shane, you have the same exact last name as a good friend of mine.

Shane Duquette

Hehe is he super skinny? If so, then perhaps he’s a relative of mine 😉

You’re asking about guys who don’t produce much muscle when on a good workout routine? If they’re gaining weight and training well it’s very rare for that to be the case—that someone would only gain fat. In that case, it’s just a matter of tracking what you’re doing, figuring out what factor is messing with your results. Is your calorie surplus too big? Your protein intake too low? Is your workout routine not very good? Is your diet not very good? Are you sleeping atrociously? Etc.

We’ve yet to run into a guy who couldn’t build muscle 🙂


He’s average skinny, lol. Lives down here in WA. I had no idea sleeping “atrociously” as you so eloquently put it, could affect muscle and or weight gain. That’s interesting. I suppose i would need to find the right diet, [or rather, more increased one] and fix said sleep schedule.

Shane Duquette

Sleep is surprisingly important factor. It will mess with your nutrient partitioning,causing you to lose more muscle when dieting (and lose less fat), and gain more fat when bulking (and gain less muscle). It’s significant enough that we’ll probably be posting an article on it breaking down some of the main sleep / body composition studies.

Good luck, Derek! 🙂


I’ve been browsing this site for some time now, reading your articles. You’ve mentioned that I should be eating 3,33g of protein per 1kg. For me that’s almost 200g per day (800 calories). My daily calorie need though is almost 3000 calories. So that means that you recomend protein to be only around 27% of my daily intake? What about the carbs and fats? What should be their daily intake if we want to look on our daily diet as a whole? I’m asking that because you’ve been saying to for example limit fats in a meal after training and have around 50% of carbs for breakfast. But what puzzles me is how this should look for the entire day. Knowing how my percentages should look like at the end of the day it would be much easier to plan meals during the day 🙂

Shane Duquette

Yep! In fact, as little as 1.8 grams per kilo would probably do the trick. So 27% is awesome, and 20% (or 30%) would probably be similarly effective. There’s a lot of flexibility with fats and carbs, since both are usable energy sources. However diets higher in carbs tend to leave us ectomorphs feeling a little better, gaining a little more leanly and holding a little more glycogen (which inflates our muscles a little). So aiming for around 50% carbs usually works out pretty well. Fill up the rest of your calories with fat 🙂


First of all, thanks a lot guys. I’ve read every article on this site several times. It’s great what you guys do! I’ve been thinking on buying the program but I’m a student from 18 years old and I just would try it first on my own. Maybe I will join later!
I’ve started lifting a year ago when I turned 17. I’ve got some ups and downs and problems with my stomach due to some antibiotics for my acne. Because of that I felt constantly back to my starting weight of 118lbs. Right now I weigh 128lbs, still not much, but I can see improvements. My biceps has grown to just 14inches wish is not bad for my weight I guess, I’m just 5ft8 (173cm). But I have diffuculties with my chest, just like Jared. But I think it’s more because of my low bodyweight. Most of the time I followed a push/pull/legs split but since a month I’m doing a UB/LB split 4 days a week. I’m gaining strength rapidly but my weight has stalled at 128lbs. I’m currently eating 3000-3200 calories every day. Mostly around 130grams of protein, 100grams of fats and the rest is carbs (I check this every day on MyFitnesspal). But right now my weight has stalled for about 3 weeks. Does this mean I need to eat even more? Is that possible at my bodyweight? I’m working on eating more clean. Right now I eat Nutella in the morning en 2-3 cookies during the day to reach the calories easier. I’d love to see some more gains and be finally at my current goal of 140lbs with a bodyfat under 13%. Thanks guys!

PS: sorry for my bad English, I’m Belgian…

Shane Duquette

Thanks for the kind words, Vincent. Really glad you’re digging the site. Greetings from Canada 🙂

17 is a great time to start lifting. I wish I’d had a successful run at this back then and managed to turn it into a lifestyle while still in high school. Sorry to hear about your struggles with antibiotics! That sounds frustrating. And props for pushing on anyway and gaining a solid ten pounds!

14 inch biceps is badass. Good work, man.

Yeah. Failing to gain weight on the scale means you should be eating a little more. Maybe another 200 calories per day. Metabolisms are every changing, so you need to listen to what the scale spits out and adjust as needed. Probably not what you were hoping to hear, but such is the nature of bulking as an ectomorph!

I hope that helps 🙂


Oke, just what I thought.. I think I will add some milk and a banana during the day to get the extra calories easily. I hope the scale goes up again within a few days. 3200+ are just a lot for someone who weighs only 128lbs 🙂

I think it’s because I’m still growing a little bit (1cm in the last 4 months). I heard this burns a lot of calories too.

Thanks for the quick reply Shane 😉


Hi Shane this is a great fuckin website good job!

Short story my doctor put me an ecto on cytomel t 3 for health reasons. In turn i went from 5-6% body fat 130 which wasnt big but i looked like a lightweigh boxer which i was cool with i have good training knowledge not an issue, i went from that 130 to 117! 5foot9 btw! looking anorexic now . And my diet is always great. I eat quite a damn bit also.

My question pertains to when you mention carb cycling calorie cyling. I have structured myn up for a large surplus on tarining days 600* and a low surplus on off days 200*. Carbs low fat high on off days, while the oppisite on training days. Protein always 1glb. Does this sound aboutright!? surplus too big too small?

Also what is your experince in regards to muscle memory. I mean actors like cristtian bale lost a ton of muscle but gained it back crazy quickly because of muscle memory.
Is this true in your experince?

Thanks for this bombin site!

Shane Duquette

Hey Carson, glad you dig it! And I’m really sorry to hear about your weight loss! That sounds really frustrating.

Carb cycling is an advanced concept, so I would first worry about getting your nutrition and training right so that you can gain weight fairly leanly each week. Otherwise you might worry too much about the carb cycling and too little about the things that will impact your results far more! If you can already do that though and have some practice with this, then yep, carb/calorie cycling would be a good trick to add to your arsenal 🙂

If you know the average daily surplus that will have you gaining your target amount of weight per week, you simple organize that as desired. So if you train three times per week and need an average surplus of 500 calories per day (+3500 per week), you could do +700 on training days and +350 on rest days (+3500 per week), or +800 on training days and +275 on rest days (+3500). Does that make sense?

Muscle memory is a real thing, yeah. When you build muscle you pull more nuclei into your muscle cells. These act like little muscle-building construction workers. The more muscle you build, the more builders you acquire. When your muscles atrophy these nuclei stick around, so when it comes time to regain the muscle you have an enormous team of builders ready to rock ‘n roll. (And you’re right, Christian Bale is a great example of that!)

Good luck, man!


Shane, Thanks for the reply.

Ive done fine tuned diets with ease many times so the car cycling is easy!
The biggest benefit I find is that after eating a huge amount of carbs 3+grams per pound you feel like a bloated whale ha. So the Next day eating low carb is relieving not to mention the added nutrient partitinong benefits and inuslin sensitivity etc.
So far im enjoying it, im just trying to figure the right carb level. Most info I see is 1 gram per pound. Lyle Mcdonald and david kingsbury mention 100 grams is good because protein breakdown will not occur at all.

I know that’s getting into finer detail , but im an accountant tis what I do lol.

Again thanks for your reply. your site is full of great info! I just sold my house and moving downtown condo so your build a gym article was good stuff thanks!


Hey guys, first off I just want to say that your site is very professional and offers a lot of highly valued information. I’ve been reading through some of your articles and have become quite intrigued with your program. I love the “down to earth” feeling you give off in your articles and videos. I can tell you guys are really passionate about helping others.

As for myself, I am 21 years old, 5’11, and about 109 lbs with 3-5% body fat. I ran long distance and swam in high school because I always felt more comfortable doing endurance training than lifting weights. My weight always remained stable at around 140 lbs and I could never put on any muscle. In my second year of college with a desire to increase my size, I started training calisthenics with my friend for about a year. While I saw gradual improvements in my number of repetitions, I never saw much of a difference in my physique or weight. I was taking supplements and eating a lot of meats, dairy, and nuts but this only seemed to put a lot of strain on my digestive system and caused bloating and foul smelling shits (you don’t want to know lol). This caused me to quit my pursuits of gaining muscle and I attempted to focus on pursuing a healthier diet instead. I experimented with various diets such as a low carb vegan diet(w/ cooked food), raw vegan diet, and fruitarianism over the course of a few months. While, my health seemed to be improving (no more acne or digestive problems) I also noticed that I didn’t have as much energy, I was steadily losing weight, and I no longer had the will to exercise. People had always said I was skinny but after 4-5 months on these diets with minimal amounts of exercise, they started to say I was nothing but skin and bones. Around January of this year (at about 103-105 lbs) I decided to follow the raw 80/10/10 diet (high carb, low fat) with hopes to start gaining weight back. 80/10/10 brought my energy levels up but also started bringing back some acne flare-ups as well as causing a lot of gas. I’ve been working out almost every day doing light calisthenics with occasional weight training, but I have failed to see any noticeable change in my physique and strength gains have been minimal. I’ve been eating fruit throughout most of the day which I do enjoy, but I’ve noticed that its hard to eat large quantities to the point of satiation. After about 20 minutes of eating I start to feel full and bloated even though my body seems to still be craving food. If I wait a few minutes the fullness usually goes away and I will start eating more fruit. Even after I’m satisfied I still find myself thinking about the next meal and I usually will want to eat again 2-3 hours later. I haven’t been counting calories exactly but I believe I’ve been getting about 2000-2500 cal/day. I’m beginning to think that this lifestyle is more effective for those who are overweight or chronically sick, and not for someone who is looking to build muscle. After doing a little more research I found that while a high carb-low fat diet is the most efficient for our bodies, some argue that we should be getting more carbs from starches like grains, tubers,and legumes. After my experience with 80/10/10 I think this may hold some merit especially for someone who needs to gain weight. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and the type of diet you feel is most effective for muscle gain.

After reading up on your program I feel that this may be a much more effective way to achieve my health goals. However, I would like to stick to a plant-based diet (high carb-low fat) and would prefer not to take any supplements. I am particularly looking to increase my functional strength and build a lean, muscular body. I would also like to continue running a few times per week. While these are my ideals, I am not completely unwilling to change them. I definitely respect the amount of time and work you all have put into this program, therefore I would certainly be open to any suggestions you may have. At this point I’m just sick of being skinny and being looked at as a weakling, so I am willing to do whatever it takes to get the results I am looking for. After giving you this background on my goals and history, do you think this program will be effective for me?

Thanks guys

Shane Duquette

Hey Eric, really glad you’re digging the site. Also glad that our passion comes through in our writing. Thanks for the kind words, man 🙂

I can definitely relate to gravitating more towards endurance sports, and then only wanting to go as far as callisthenics when it came to trying to build muscle. Unfortunately, us skinny guys shy away from the gym because it’s a place that’s focused on muscle, which is where we feel like failures, but it’s also the place that actually allows us to build muscle incredibly well… which would replace that feeling of failure with one of success.

If you want to stay out of the gym though, building a simple home gym is just as effective.

Vegan diets are marketed as being better for your health, but that’s not really supported by any scientific evidence. Eating a diet made up mostly of plants is certainly healthy—fruits and veggies are amazing for us—but the inclusion of meat, eggs and dairy alongside those plants can make a diet healthier, if anything (provided you’re not allergic/intolerant).

If a vegan were to begin eating fish, it’s not the vegan that would suffer for it, it’s the fish that would suffer. This is why I have a lot of respect for people choosing to eat a plant-based diet. Not because it’s healthier than an omnivorous diet made up primarily of whole foods, but because there’s so much kindness towards animals there.

I think those valid moral convictions can cause a lot of biases when it comes to nutrition research, and that makes things really confusing. Most research shows that it’s probably not the avoidance of animal products that’s responsible for the health benefits that can come with a plant-based diet, but rather the inclusion of a wide variety and ample quantity of fruits, veggies, grains, etc.

The good news is that if you would like to continue eating a plant-based diet (for whatever reason) you can certainly build muscle perfectly well while doing it. The nutritional requirements are the same, you’d just be eating slightly different foods to achieve your calorie/macronutrient/micronutrient goals 🙂

I think plant-based health supplements are pretty incredible these days, and certainly make things easier. SunWarrior, for example, is a pretty great all-natural plant-based protein powder that tastes brilliant in fruit/veggie smoothies and makes it super easy to hit your daily protein goals while avoiding meat/dairy. But you don’t have to take any supplements. (However I know some supplements, like vitamin b12, are commonly taken by vegans to round out nutrient deficiencies, so I would discuss the health side of things with your doc.)

This program would definitely be effective for you. You’ll find a few vegans and tons of vegetarians in the community, too! And we could help you adjust the diet to fit your own personal preferences.

I hope you decide to join us 🙂


Hey Shane, thanks for your feedback. You brought up a lot of good points, and allowed me to look at nutrition in a new light. For the past year I’ve been reading so much about the supposed benefits of raw foodism and plant based diets, but I never stopped to look at it from the other side. After now doing some research on the negatives of veganism, I’ve found there’s just as much evidence supporting an omnivorous diet as there is for a plant based diet. I was sadly being very biased in my research. Now that I’ve looked at both sides, I think what’s really important is balance and not restricting yourself from certain foods. There isn’t one optimal diet that’s right for everyone and we should listen to our own bodies to find out what works best for us.

Thanks again for your quick and personal reply. You guys really know what you’re talking about and I appreciate all the information. I’m looking forward to joining the community and learning more.

Shane Duquette

Really glad I could help, Eric. Being able to look at both sides of this is a lot harder than it sounds. I’m pretty impressed with how openminded and rational you’re being about such a hotly debated thing. Props.

I hope to see you in the community soon! 😀


Hey, guys! Do you have a calculator or know of one to estimate the amount of calories one would need to gain muscle? I’ve seen some that say to multiply your body weight by 20 but I wasn’t sure if that was right and you guys seem like experts, lol. Thanks in advance.

Shane Duquette

Hey Matthew,

We have a pretty detailed calorie guesstimating algorithm in our main eBook, but even that one is just an educated guess. Consuming 20x your bodyweight (in pounds) is a super simplified way to go about doing the same thing—get a very rough idea of how many calories it might take to gain weight. (We find that number is often closer to 22x for our classically skinny ectomorph guys.)

There are other ways to do it also. Assuming you weigh about the same amount every week, you could take your current calorie intake and increase it by 500. That would bring you from maintenance into a good surplus for bulking.

The main thing though is tracking how much weight you gain on the scale each week and strategically adjusting your intake as needed. That might mean tracking every calorie that goes into your body and raising/lowering the number based on how the scale responds, or it might mean just slightly increasing serving sizes, adding in an extra glass of milk, a handful of trail mix, a protein shake, a smoothie (or whatever) every time your weight gain stalls. Depends how intense you want to be.

Does that help / make sense?


Yes, that helps. Thanks, brother!


Shane- great article. Like most of the other posters, this is information I’ve been seeking most of my adult life. I recently began a weight training program, and while I’ve seen some decent results in my muscle tone , I’ve not seen the scale increase one bit, and I’ve come to the realization that I’m never going to make the real progress I’ve been wanting unless I really make an effort to eat more. As a scientist, I appreciate the (exhausting) effort you put in to backing things up with solid research. Furthermore, I’ve always felt a bit isolated based on my weight- now I feel like I’ve found my tribe! Thanks again!

Shane Duquette

Really glad the article resonated with you, Jonathan, and congrats on developing some muscle tone. You’re right, at this point it’s just a matter of eating more… which is way easier said than done.

You’ve definitely found your tribe 🙂

Good luck, man!!


Hi Shane,

this may seem like a ridiculous question and maybe your not the guy to ask.
I am all about the V Taper and astehtics and things are coming along great pound for pound I am slowly improving upon this while maintain a low body fat and definition.
Now to my question. being a really active ectomorph I have to pound in a lot of food everyday just to grow even at 1/2 pound to 1 pound per week. Of course a lot of that coming from Carbs I end up getting that good ol distended belly at the end of the day lol. I know pro bodybuilders get the distended gut from a combo of tons of food and drugs and it causes a permanent distension and they can never have that tight waistline again. If you see where im going with this…do you think with the heavy food consumption on a daily basis that its possible to do something similar??? (no drugs of course). The V Taper is all About that tight waist right lol, I mean were all training because we have a vision. Maybe I should be asking someone else on this one I don’t know but I feel you might have had it come up before. Went I pose/flex or drop the carbs for a day the waist is perfect….anyways hopefully you get what im saying lol.

THANKS and p.s. this website got me on track like 2 years ago and now i put Bruce lee to shame in asthetics! lol. Thanks for that your site played direct role in laying the foundation.

Shane Duquette

Hey Carson,

So glad you’re loving the website, and it sounds like you’re doing a wicked sweet job of bulking up. Great work, man.

Pro bodybuilders have a few things working against them. I’ve heard laymen speak about how growth hormone and insulin abuse is responsible for making their internal organs huge. However those drugs are commonly prescribed to treat medical issues in similar doses and those are not known side effects. I’m not a good person to ask about that though, since I know virtually nothing about bodybuilding drugs.

Perhaps a more likely cause is loading up on absurd amounts of carbs to puff their muscles up with glycogen. When you combine that with dehydration (I think because steroids can cause water retention otherwise?), diuretics, and a low sodium intake then digestion of that massive amount of food becomes difficult. If they want maximum muscle size on the day of the contest that can mean also having to deal with maximum gut size. Since overall size is prioritized over aesthetics in bodybuilding these days, they tend to go with the big muscles + big gut.

They also have enormous muscles all throughout their torso,including all of their abdominal muscles. Impossible to have a small waist when your waist muscles are hulk sized.

If you’re a drug free dude eating enough to bulk up I don’t see how any of that could happen to you. If your stomach is too full of food, perhaps have more frequent smaller meals that you digest well instead of epic nighttime meals. If you notice your ab muscles getting too big, stop doing ab isolation exercises.

You may also want to check that you don’t have anterior pelvic tilt. That can give you what we affectionately call ecto-belly. In fact, that’d be my best guess that what you’re struggling with. You say that flexing your abs fixes the issue. If your abs were never distended and always partially “on” then they would always look more flexed. Posture can do that for ya.

I hope that helps! And keep it up! 😀


Posture Anterior Pelvic tilt: I did have this a little but NOT that bad my posture is actually always been prrty good. Nonetheless I worked on this still for about 8 months now and it has helped or corrected what little problem was there.Great website for it.

Lots of food yea could be an issue but I eat 6 meals a day usually just because its easy to stomach that without getting too full. But as you know an ectomorph is not a big person nor will they ever be so 4-500 grams of carbs hold some serious water retention which is quite noticeable on a small frame which could be contributing. I’m sure if LeBron james stuffed 4-500grams carbs you wouldn’t notice shit lol.

I think the heart of the problem is the ab msucles. When I started training I trained abs hard a lot!, and yes my abs got big ripped and strong BUT who wants there waist to get bigger? that’s not gonna help a v-taper!. That’s a serious misconception in fitness I think, that you need to train abs to get a flat tight beautuiful waist. When you train the abs they grow just like any other muscle and the more you train them the bigger and bigger they grow. Nobody really tells you that. I think much better excercises are stomach vacuums, planks, and doing compound exercises which engage them anyways….the definition? that simply comes with low body fat usually sub 8% id say.
I train like this nowadays, and its gotten a little better but I cant seem to make the abs smaller….HOW do you make a muscle shrink without starving yourself and stop training? lol

Do you agree with any of my analogy here??

Shane Duquette

Yeah, man. All of what you’re saying makes sense. And you’re totally right about the misconception about training abs making your waist smaller. It does exactly the opposite. For those with naturally smaller waists and broader shoulders this doesn’t matter, since the shoulders will always grow proportionally bigger and quicker, but for people with larger waists and narrower shoulders… can get in the way of a v-taper for sure!

How do you shrink your waist? Reducing the volume could help, so stopping with crunches and whatnot. But maintaining muscle mass is fairly easy, so, well, even just doing the bigger compound lifts might keep ’em decently large. Starving yourself (especially of protein) would be the other way, yeah.

You may be better off continuing to work on your other muscles while keeping your ab exercises to planks and whatnot. Over time I think you’ll balance out in the way you’re looking for 🙂


Wow, thank you so much for this article. I have been looking for information like this literally for decades. The shortage of available scholarship on ectomorph metabolism; the frustration of being told to “just eat more” as if I had an unlimited appetite; the worry that if I even managed to figure out a way to overeat and work out intensely for a number of months, I’d never be able to maintain that pace anyway and would just end up where I started. Finally a practical, sensible, healthful path towards ectomorph weight gain!

Shane Duquette

So glad you liked it, Leo! And thank you so much for taking the time to write such a kind response 🙂

I hope this helps you gain the weight that you’re looking for.


But I’m skinny with pectus excavatum and my body is so ugly. I have a fucking sunken chest. I never naked when there’s people. My body is so ugly af

Shane Duquette

Hey Ed,

We have a great number of guys in the community with pectus excavatum. Sometimes it’s severe, sometimes mild. Some of them have had surgery, some are getting surgery. Most gain some weight and realize that they’re now shaped by muscle instead of just their bone structure. We even had a couple guys saying that the pectus excavatum was giving them really nice separation of their pecs and enhancing their muscularity.

Even if you’re certain that you don’t like the look of it, I really doubt other people who see you will judge you as critically as you judge yourself. We’re often our own worst critics.

There are plenty of reasons to become your best self—the fittest, strongest, most capable version of yourself. However I’d say that you should also learn to accept and enjoy what you’ve got.

Lamar Gant had extremely severe scoliosis and his doctor told him that he should try deadlifts to strengthen his fragile back. Lamar Gant discovered that his shortened spine gave him a deadlifting edge. With years of hard work he became the best deadlifter in the world.

Personally, I was the skinniest person I’d ever met for most of my life. I hated that about myself. Eventually it turned into an incredibly rewarding career. That thing I hated about myself allowed me to help a lot of people and make a living doing it.

I know you’re frustrated, but maybe there’s a silver lining. Even if there isn’t, maybe you can come to accept that about yourself anyway. And then perhaps you can make the most of what you’ve got 🙂

I really hope this helps!


And how I gonna to convince my parents about the surgery? I tried one and it comes to really huge argument, they found it’s okay to have this kind of deformity although they don’t feel how much socially retarded I am.

Shane Duquette

I never said you needed surgery. There are plenty of other paths to take, and many other ways to come to like your body. Whether you get surgery is up to you and your family and your doctor. One day you’ll also be at an age where you can make that decision with just your doctor.


Hello. First of all I should tell you that I’ve read almost all of your articles and I really appreciate them. They are gold for us skinny guys, and I thank you for it. I’m a big fan.

I have a question to to ask you, if you could aswner it I would really appreciate it.

As you said, i should it around 1 g protein per pound of bodyweight right? Should I take into that count both animal and vegetal proteins? If my protein income is, say, 70% from animal source, and the rest from vegetal proteins, would it be okay?

Also, what is in your opinion the superior division in macros? 40% carbs, 40% fat and 20% protein?

If you could awsner I’d be in your debt, thanks man.

Shane Duquette

Yes, around 1 gram per pound is fantastic and yes, getting a mix of that from plant and animal sources is also fantastic.

The average skinny guy trying to build muscle will usually make leaner gains with a higher carb intake and a lower fat intake. More like 50% carbs, 20-30% fat, 20-30% protein 🙂


Thanks a bunch for your asnwer ^.^

I’m 2m tall and by following that I would be eating +/- 500-520 g of carbs per day… I’ve read somewhere that this high amount of carb could be a big problem for the pancreas. You think that’s true?

Shane Duquette

I’ve never heard of anything like that, no, but with medical questions you can always consult your doctor. All of the healthiest and longest living cultures in the world eat a diet very high in carbohydrates though, those carbs often coming largely from rice.


Thanks for your repply, I really appreciate the time and I know I’m sucking your knowledge…

Can i ask one final question?

Say that in my breakfast I blend apples, bananas, raw eggs, avocado, granola, oatmeal, milk for a smothie of 1200 calories. (What you think of it?)

By eating the same breakfast everyday,should I be concerned about a potential “overdose” from a particular nutrient? Or our body just discard what it doesn’t need?

I thank you for your kindness and time.

btw if my bulk goes right im planing on making a youtube video and maybe with your permision i could post the link to this site, as a thanks.

Big hug from Brasil!

Shane Duquette

Your breakfast shake sounds pretty good. Yeah, it’s always wise to have a wide variety of nutrients that’s always shifting a little. You could use some different berries sometimes, some different fruits, use olive oil or coconut milk instead of avocado sometimes, etc. But lots of bodybuilders will got through a bulking phase where they repeatedly eat a lot of the same foods. Perhaps not totally ideal… but it still gets the job done!

And of course you can post a link to the site! Sharing our site helps us out tremendously 🙂

Best of luck with your bulk, Ricardo!


You think that eating around 1.5g protein per pound is excessive?

Shane Duquette

It probably won’t noticeably help you build more muscle, but it’s not harmful or anything either. Some studies have even shown a very slight benefit to higher protein intakes like that. We’ve got more information about ideal protein intakes in this article here.


O I’ve readed it, great article. You should just consider the intake of animal protein or both animal and vegetal? Because they say that vegetal proteins isnt great to build muscle since they are incomplete and whatnot…

Also if I may ask another question… When I go to the gym too many weeks without taking a break I start to feel really really tired, even eating the right ammount of macros… That maybe due to the lack of vitamines, right? Is there anyway to monitor that?

Thanks for your time.

Shane Duquette

If you’re getting a gram or so of protein per pound bodyweight it won’t matter if it’s plant-based protein or not, although it does help to have a wider variety of protein sources when it isn’t meat/dairy/eggs that you’re eating.

We use deload weeks in our program. Every fifth week has way fewer sets. This lets the body fully recover. That might help you as well 🙂


Hey Shane, great work!

Since I got to eat around 4.000 calories per day to grow, I was wondering if eating a large amount of pasta with chiken breast could be a good post workout meal, what you think?

Shane Duquette

Thanks for the kind words, Guilherme. Hell yeah! It’s high in calories, starchy carbs and protein and thus a great post-workout meal 🙂


Hey man, any tips for me, i am a student so cannot spend too much money on food?

Shane Duquette

A good student bulker are plain ol’ peanut butter and banana (and/or jam) sandwiches. If you use real peanut butter made from just ground peanuts and whole wheat bread you can actually get a pretty nice amount of protein in there. More if you have it alongside a glass of milk.

Nothing wrong with trail mix, microwaved potatoes, milk, getting cheap whey protein concentrate in bulk. These are all cheap, easy sources of calories that aren’t hard to prepare 🙂


Hey Shane

Reading the comment above

It would somehow be a problem to eat 3-4 bananas per day and 2-3 apples? Because i really like them and they are cheap.

Also, once I designed my diet placing 2,2 kg protein per kg, 1,1 fat per kg I was left with like 550 carbs total (6,5 per kg). Is that a problem somehow?

Anyway best of luck.

Shane Duquette

Not a problem and not a problem. Hopefully those were the only problems you were worried about because if so, life should be pretty smooth! 🙂


Every skinny fat guy was once a skinny guy. Meaning, skinny guys become desperate and eat a lot and end up skinny fat. LOL. Then they become desperate again and start working out, eating less, and become skinny again. Rinse, repeat. LOL.


Hey what’s up, man?

I’m going to spare you the details, but I’ve been struggling to gain weight since high school. I’m currently 36 years old, but I still feel like it is within the realm of possibility that I can achieve a pleasing body type. I’m not in horrible shape by any means. I live a fairly active life and my body could be considered “fit” in the sense that I have a decent amount of tone and the basic shapes of a man with a greater physique, but I cannot seem to surpass 125 lbs. In fact, this has been my average weight since those high school days. And I’m just tired of being the smallest (and I mean that very literally) guy I know.

My fiancé tells me to “eat more” but I suffer from exactly what you covered in the post. It just takes less to fill me up and I absolutely cannot STAND the feeling of overeating. It makes me feel very sick.

My main concern in all of this is my job, however. I am constantly on my feet. I would reckon that on an average day, I could walk anywhere up to 4 or 5 miles. And that’s just the walking part! I’m simultaneously handling equipment and using my arms for lifting (nothing excessively heavy). My concern is in my calorie usage on a day to day basis. I’ve been told that in order to get solid gains, I would have to cut back on my cardio; but I can’t give up my job just to get muscular. Is there any truth to this?

If nothing else, how many extra calories would I have to consume to fulfill my daily requirements, counteract all the calories I undoubtedly burn at work, and to finally start making gains? Obviously this isn’t something that I would expect a definitive answer to, but any advice on how to measure calorie usage or any general information would be great. I’ve seen a lot of great result testimonials on your site, I’m just unsure of how active the lifestyles of these individuals are when they’re not working out. Like I said earlier..I’m on my feet and on the move all day, 6 to 7 days a week.

Thanks again for the great site. There is a ton of information here.

Shane Duquette

Hey Steven, you could try inputting your daily activities into a calculator like has. I’m guessing you won’t need to eat more than around 3,500 calories to bulk though, which is difficult, but realistic. If you were to spend a few months focusing on eating enough to grow, you could then go back to eating enough just to maintain (which would be fairly easy).

If you don’t like feeling stuffed, you may benefit more from a snacking-based approach, where you have lots of smaller meals and snacks throughout the day.

As you bulk up, keep in mind that your digestive system will bulk up as well! This should help you in the future 🙂


Shane is the Man !! Thanks for everything bruh!

Shane Duquette

Glad you dug it, Mohammed! No problem 🙂

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