It can be hard to figure out what the best diet for ectomorphs is. When you search for the healthiest diets, you’ll find diets that are designed to help people lose weight. And that makes sense. After all, at least in the United States, the CDC estimates that only 1.9% of people are underweight. Wanting to gain weight is quite rare.

The reason the CDC cares about this stuff is because so many people are running into health problems from being overweight. As a result, most people need to adopt various diets to help them lose weight. This has become the standard recommendation for improving health: choose a diet that helps you lose weight.

In fact, the very term “dieting” implies that we should be restricting foods and calories to help us eat less. But what if we’re trying to gain weight? Do ectomorphs need an anti-diet?

Yes. We do.

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Illustration of a gallon of whole milk with a muscular bodybuilder on the front.

If you’re a naturally skinny guy who’s been having trouble bulking up, milk can often help. There’s a simple reason for that: by drinking more milk, you’ll be adding more calories and protein into your diet. Milk is also a rich source of nutrients that are helpful for guys who are trying to build muscle. Finally, milk is extremely easy on the appetite, making it easier for us ectomorphs to gain weight.

However, if you add too much milk into your diet, then you may find yourself gaining quite a bit of fat along with your muscle (study). Worse, since whole milk is so high in saturated fat, going overboard with it can cause you to store proportionally more visceral fat, which can negatively impact your longterm health (study). That’s why GOMAD, where you drink a gallon of whole milk every day, is so infamous for making guys fat.

You could avoid some of those problems by choosing low-fat milk, yes, but higher-fat milk has some unique muscle-building properties that you might want to take advantage of.

So, what’s the best way to bulk up with milk?

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I’m a huge fan of improving posture. It may not be the most “hardcore” thing to focus on in a training program, however, it will turn your body into a hard-core machine. If you took a look at all the people in super hero movies you will find some commonalities. They are usually devilishly handsome, very muscular, big fans of Bony to Beastly and they all have great posture.

I get it. Your parents have already told you a thousand times to sit up straight, and I’m sure you’ve already heard that it improves the way you look, improves your performance, and maybe even that it improves your energy levels and how you feel.

Some people have even claimed that having great posture is why these actors are able to build muscle so quickly when they need to bulk up for their superhero movie roles.

But is there really a link between posture and muscle?

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Bodybuilders used to think that they needed to eat five, six, or even seven meals per day while bulking. If you asked him why he was eating so often, he would tell you that he needed to stoke the metabolic fire, prevent muscle catabolism, keep his blood sugar levels steady, and keep his muscles fuelled with a steady supply of amino acids / protein. Perhaps most importantly of all, he would tell you that he needs to prevent his body from going into starvation mode, which would cause him to store more body fat. That’s a lot to worry about.

Now that intermittent fasting is becoming popular, that idea is starting to die out. Instead of eating seven meals per day, it’s common for bodybuilders to experiment with eating as few as 1–3 meals per day. Now the idea is reversed. Those periods of fasting are good for limiting fat gain while bulking.

So. How many meals per day should you be eating while bulking? What meal frequency is going to produce the most muscle growth with the least amount of fat gain?

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Okay so not having heard of something isn’t a myth—it’s a mistake.  (I apologize for the lithpy pun.) Anyway, neutral spine and neutral neck (or “packed neck”, as Marco calls it) are both really damn important. Proper spinal alignment is debatably the single most important training cue out there. All performance trainers, powerlifters and high level athletes know this, but most gym-goers are out of the loop. They lift with really poor spinal alignment, not because they aren’t focusing enough on form, but because they’ve never even heard that spinal alignment exists, let alone matters. You’ve probably heard not to round your back, but that’s as far as mainstream sources go on the matter. The problem here is that as ectomorphs we’re particularly vulnerable to injuries, as our structures are naturally smaller. We can fix this, of course, and your bone density and tendon strength will soon reach beastly levels, but as a skinny dude starting out you can do some real damage to yourself if you neglect your alignment.

This post will help you improve your longterm health and strength, dodge future back pain, and help you build more muscle in the short term by properly targeting the muscles you’re trying to hit.

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Illustration of several different bulking foods

When figuring out our ideal bulking macros—how much protein, carbs, and fat we should—there are a few things we need to consider. First, we can look at the research to see which macros allow us to build muscle the fastest. Second, we can see which macros help us avoid gaining fat while bulking. Third, we can look at which macros make it easier to get into a sustainable calorie surplus.

However, a lot of us care about more than merely building muscle. We also want to improve our general health as we do it. So we can also look at which macros have the best impact on our health as we bulk up.

So, what are the best macros for bulking up as a naturally skinny “ectomorph?”

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For most guys, stopping most of their sets short of failure will allow them to build muscle more quickly. This is especially true of people who are still relatively new to lifting. This is because training to failure can cause excessive muscle damage, which can impede muscle growth. It can also ingrain poor lifting technique, which can negatively impact longterm progress.

But isn’t that last rep the only one that matters? Isn’t that last rep the one that separates the weaklings from the warriors? Grab a seat by the curl rack, and let me tell you about keeping two in the tank.

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We’re going to write up a 5-part series debunking some common muscle-building/fitness industry myths, starting with the most scam-ridden body part of all—your abs. You already know that you need to lose fat to see your abs, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. This myth is far more insidious, and besides, this blog is for ectomorphs, so typically the reason we don’t have kickass abs is that they just aren’t big enough. Most ectomorphs thus try to solve the problem by doing crunches (or sit-ups). Jared and I sure did. We did crunches, reverse crunches, sit-ups, ab circuits, myotatic crunches, weighted crunches, side crunches, that bicycle thing, rope crunches. We did a hell of a lot of shitty ab exercises. The problem is that we were training spinal flexion instead of stability. That’s the opposite of what you want in a powerful body. Not only that, we were damaging our thoracic spine with every rep.

What the hell are you talking about?! Let me explain.

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One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with training, and in life, is to worry about useless-ass trivial things. When I used to be a “pro” bodybuilder (in my parents’ basement), my regime was more complicated than trying to understand why they made 13 movies of Land Before Time. The first one was just fine. Each one just got progressively weirder.

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Obe is a student in studying commercial aviation, not unlike the other Obi you all know and love. Unlike Obi though, Obe is real. He’s married, spends his free time playing soccer and watching movies, and a little over 5 weeks ago became a really supportive member of the Bony to Beastly community. He’s kicking some serious ectomorph ass, but isn’t even doing anything all that crazy to get his results. He’s following the plan, working out for an hour three times a week, eating well and making sure he has his calories in before going to bed. And he gained 4 pounds of muscle a week 5 weeks in a row. This just goes to show what proper training and nutrition can do, and that our potential for growth, hardgainer or not, is a hell of a lot greater than what most of us assume.

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