It’s rare to want to learn how to eat more calories. Most guys feel like their stomachs are too big and their metabolisms are too slow. And they’re right. Their stomachs really are too big, and their metabolisms really are too slow.
However, there are also a small minority of guys—guys like us—who are naturally underweight. We struggle against our small stomachs and fast metabolisms, and most people have absolutely no idea how insanely difficult it can be for us to eat enough calories to gain weight.
People will tell us to “just eat more calories.” Yeah, sure, that’s technically true, but we know that already, and it doesn’t help. How can we possibly eat more calories when we’re so damn full all the time?
But the thing is, if we want to bulk up, we need to find a way to eat more. I know that’s a tough bite to swallow, but that’s just the science of bulking up. It takes roughly 3,500 extra calories to gain a pound, so if we want to gain around a pound each week, we need to find a way to eat around 500 extra calories per day.
That’s what we need to do to gain weight, but it doesn’t teach us how to do it. And the “how” is actually quite complicated for guys like us, especially since our problem is so rare.
So that’s what this article is about—about how to eat more calories.
We’ll go over:
- How not to reduce your appetite by accident
- What makes a food filling
- Whether you should be clean or dirty bulking
- How many meals you should be eating per day
- What the best bulking foods are
- Tips to improve your bulking diet
Shane, Marco and I all built muscle. But our reasons for building that muscle in the first place couldn’t have been more different.
For Marco, as a teenager, his initial reason for getting into lifting was that he wanted girls to like him and he was dealing with injuries from sports. For Shane, he wanted to feel like a protector, instead of shyly taking jokes about being the one protected.
For me, at 23 years old, building muscle (45+ pounds) wasn’t even on my radar.
But pain was.
More specifically, my tendonitis—chronic tendonitis—or the newly coined term, tendinosis…. whatever name you’re familiar with. Well, my heavy computer use was keeping me up at night and kept me worried about work.
Long story short, I had tendinosis in my right arm by the time I was 18 years old. Shortly thereafter I became ambidextrous to continue to support my heavy computer use. I was spending all day on the computer building and running websites. It wasn’t long until I had tendinosis in my left arm. My physiotherapist said she had never seen tendinosis in someone so young, let alone someone who was suffering in both arms.
Whatever you believe about destiny, materialist chance, or providence—I feel so incredibly blessed to have been to be connected to Shane with his passion for bodybuilding, and his connection to Marco with his passion for helping people reach their full potential with athleticism and fix their injuries.
Because of lifting and eating well, I no longer deal with crippling tendonsis. It is a non-problem for me.
With this huge burden removed, I’ve come to discover some of the less talked about benefits of lifting weights that I didn’t know about when I was skinny. And my own hope would be that perhaps this article could play a minuscule part of passing these same blessings I experience onto you in your own story.
Did you know that being skinny means you can’t use the normal way of measuring your body fat percentage?
Or that being just a little bit too skinny-fat might sabotage your ability to build muscle leanly?
Or that most body fat percentage charts are ruined by a fatal flaw?
In this article we cover why your body fat percentage matters even as an ectomorph, how to measure it properly, and then we’ll run through some real-life examples (with pictures) so that you’ll know exactly what to do next.
But first, let me show you just how ridiculous this can be for skinny guys.
Let’s take a totally average guy in this study. He goes to get a DEXA scan, and he’s told that he has a body fat percentage of 20%. Then he goes to sit in the BodPod, which puts him at 22%. A bit of a discrepancy, but he can be reasonably confident that he’s between 20–22%. Moreover, both of those body fat percentages have the same implication for his health and appearance: he’s a decently healthy guy who looks a bit out of shape.
The overweight guy goes in next. DEXA puts him at 34%. BodPod puts him at 32%. Now it’s DEXA that’s estimating high, but the discrepancy is still just 2%. Again, not a big difference at all. He’s overweight either way.
Now you walk in. DEXA puts you at 9%. Amazing! Not only are you lean enough to bulk aggressively, but you’re also leaner than most professional athletes. Next, you get your BodPod done. They tell you that you’re 16% body fat…
Huh? 16% is a high enough body fat percentage that you shouldn’t even be bulking at all yet. You should be cutting.
You’ve spent a few hundred dollars and an entire day getting two of the most accurate body fat percentage tests in the world, and you can’t even tell if you should start bulking or not. For guys who are underweight, DEXA and BodPod can be off by up to 13%. Totally useless.
So what should you do?
…and wait a second—why shouldn’t you bulk if you’re 16% body fat?
Being a man is about being a good person, and part of being a good person is knowing how to fit into society. Demonstrating that social savvy will make you more attractive to women, earn you more respect with other men, and make frailer people feel safer around your strength instead of threatened by it.
As you gain more strength, that last point becomes more important.
There are a few things we can do. Being polite, knowing when to smile, improving our posture, and knowing what to wear.
Even by just fixing up our style, we can start living better almost instantly.
But for us ectomorphs, things are not quite so simple. We’ve got a rarer bone structure, and it can be hard to find clothes that fit and flatter us.
Then as we build muscle, we look better in clothes, yes, but new challenges are introduced. Having a butt means switching to a whole different cut of jeans. If you don’t, you’ll blow out the crotch.
Building up bigger shoulder muscles will bring you up a shirt size, but that bigger shirt will be enormous around your still-slim waist.
So now that you’ve bulked up and you need to buy new clothes anyway, let’s see if we can help you do it right.
You could think of your body as having a built-in bodyweight thermostat. You might have your weight set at, say, 130 pounds. If you go above 135, your appetite automatically turns off until you get back to 130 pounds. If you go below 125 pounds, your appetite automatically turns on until you get back up to 130 pounds. There’s more at play here than just your appetite, but you get the idea: your body is automatically regulating your weight around a given “set point.”
When you’re bulking up, you’re fighting that set point. It’s trying to regulate your bodyweight back down. It’s trying to eliminate all the progress you’ve made.
So how do we get your set point to 150, 180 or even 200 pounds? Is that even possible? That’s what this article is about.
Is it possible to build broader shoulders? If you’re an ectomorph, chances are you have a thinner bone structure, and perhaps that’s why you’re interested in finding out if you can build big, broad shoulders.
And lots of guys want broad shoulders… but why? Inside we’ll discuss why men want broad shoulders, what we can control and what we can’t, and some action steps to help you add a few inches to your shoulder circumference.
There is something about a straight back that screams power. It makes me think of a person who can accomplish whatever they want. Take, for example, the venerated George Washington, who was well known for his formidable posture. To quote social psychologist Amy Cuddy from her moving Ted Talk, “Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behaviour, our behaviour changes our outcomes.”
Inside this article, we cover how having a strong upper back is important when it comes to building muscle and looking your best. We also cover how to improve your posture and strengthen your upper back with 4 instructional videos.
We’ve got a new guest post for you guys. This one from a naturally skinny science communicator who reads a lot. You might think some of his points are controversial, and we’d love to hear what you think. We think his perspective on dealing with body image issues as a skinny guy is incredibly thought provoking in the best way. Without further ado, Will Chou:
Recently, I met with some old friends for a reunion lunch. As we walked out of the restaurant, the conversation turned to what I looked like when I was young. Two of the guys mentioned that I was not just skinny: I was bony and scrawny. One of them even emphasized it with his tone like it was a huge deal.
They weren’t being mean; they were just giving me some constructive honesty. Having said that, I was still very surprised because I didn’t think I was that weak. But it turns out, that’s how they viewed me.
For 80% of my life, I have found myself in frequent situations where I was left out. I had focused on school and struggled with any weight training programs, so I was as skinny as they get.
The worst parts of my day was lunch. My school had a huge, noisy cafeteria with hundreds of people in it. And as you got to higher grade levels, you got to sit in more exclusive areas. The seniors had their own VIP area with its own curtain. But when I was a senior, I still sat alone in the freshmen section.
Sitting there alone for half an hour while everyone around you chatted away creates a constant reminder of isolation. I felt horrible because every few seconds, I was reminded that I was left out. You can’t help but wonder why. Was it because I was Asian? Socially unskilled? Skinny?
If you have ever felt insecure or excluded, you are not alone. Body image is a constant problem in modern society.
But my story doesn’t end there. Your past doesn’t have to destroy your future. Nowadays, I am healthier physically and mentally than I have ever been. You can become secure with yourself no matter where you are in your progression. You can and should change your self-esteem so that you stay resilient no matter how you look. You can and must change your perceptions about the world so that you develop good mental health for your own success in life.
I’m going to share with you some cool science-backed advice on how to have badass self-esteem. First, let’s tackle a big myth about “looks being superficial”…
Couple quick questions.
Are you satisfied with how much muscle you’ve built?
If not… do you know what to do? I mean the basics: Eat 1g of protein per pound bodyweight, get into a calorie surplus, lift weights, and sleep. That kind of thing. Know them inside and out? Rad.
But if you know the basics and you’re not satisfied with what you’ve built so far, what’s going on?
How is it possible to not be where you want to be when you know everything?
I’m not asking these questions to be mean, or a downer. I’m asking because I really want to see you reach your potential.
I’m asking because I want to see if I can wake you up. Is it possible that there’s a gap between intellectual knowing something and actually doing it?
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to warm up. We’d all live active lives from birth, and our professions would keep us moving all day. Darkness would send us to bed, and sunlight would wake us in the morning. We could roll out of bed and go for a jog because our bodies would be balanced. The only warm up we’d need would be a big yawn.
While I’m sure there are some people in the world who live this reality, they are not the ones who are looking for personal trainers. Most of the people I work with spend some portions of their day in sedentary positions, which would make it riskier to jump straight into a gains-inducing workout.
What I hope to convince you of in this blog post is that warm-ups are not only great for improving your blood flow and joint lubrication, but can also be used as a mini workout to balance the body, expand your movement capabilities, and, most importantly, make the workout you’re about to demolish fun.