Illustration of a skinny guy eating a big bowl of chili, one of the best bulking foods.

The Best Bulking Diet for Ectomorphs Isn’t a Diet at All

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.

A skinny guy building muscle, illustrated by Shane Duquette from Bony to Beastly.

A Note on the Word “Ectomorph”

Ectomorph” is a slang term that originated in old psychological pseudoscience. The idea was that people with thinner body types tended to be more anxious, introverted, and intellectual. Several decades later, the term was coopted by the fitness industry. The psychological aspect was dropped. It came to refer to someone with a narrower bone structure who has a propensity for thinness. That’s how we’re using the term here.

You could also call us “hardgainers” because we have a hard time gaining weight. That term has a bit more scientific credibility. Either way, though, these words are used colloquially. It’s just a way of referring to people who have a hard time eating enough calories to bulk up.

This is one of our older articles, originally published in 2012. ‘m editing it in 2023 to make it easier to read. I’m leaving the original message alone. In more recent articles, we’ve started saying “naturally thin” instead of “ectomorph.” The problem is, if we completely avoid the word, people searching for content for ectomorphs won’t find us. By using more precise terminology, we’d abandon our tribe.

An Obsession With Healthy Eating

I had coffee a few weeks back with a good friend of mine. I had just finished a couple of months of the Bony to Beastly program, and I’d put on 20 pounds since she last saw me. She was wowed by my progress and asked how I did it.

She said I looked healthy, but she worried I was headed down the road to obsession. She was concerned that I was developing an obsession with eating an overly “clean” diet. She’d struggled with an eating disorder herself, and she knew that clean eating often led to an unhealthy relationship with food.

She had a point. Most people struggle with eating too much junk food, but a substantial minority place too much emphasis on healthy eating. I’m sure you’ve seen them. These are the people who shun everyday foods in favour of exotic superfoods, trendy supplements, and fad diets.

The secret to becoming superhuman isn’t to eat superfoods, it’s to eat “Clark Kent” foods—everyday bulking foods that yield superhuman results.

Underweight Ectomorph to Dirty Bulker

I used to suffer from reverse anorexia, which, unfortunately, looks about the same as its opposite. In my desperation to gain weight, I was trying to eat as much as I possibly could, and yet, I still left strangers wondering if I had an eating disorder.

I was 6’2 and 130 pounds (BMI under 17) with a body that made runway models jealous. I come from a long line of extraordinarily skinny people, so I knew it had something to do with my genetics. My dad weighed 100 pounds in his early twenties. My mum’s nickname had been “lampshade.”

No one in my family is sporty or athletic. None of us gravitated toward sports or exercise. We’ve never been the best at eating, either. But we weren’t intentionally making ourselves thin—quite the opposite. This is an example of me having no idea what I was doing nutritionally, and quite obviously, it wasn’t working for me.

Now, 60 pounds of muscle heavier and with my “genetics” soundly defeated, I’ve been accused of something a little bit more flattering: orthorexia.

Orthorexia is when someone restricts themselves to eating only the very healthiest of foods. It’s perfectly fine to gravitate toward healthy foods. Eating a good diet is good. But orthorexia takes that to an unhealthy extreme. It’s an obsession.

Skinny guy Shane Duquette's ectomorph muscle-building transformation (before and after)

I wasn’t orthorexic. In fact, if you had to classify me as either a clean or dirty bulker, I’d probably fall more on the dirty side of things. But even so, that accusation raised an interesting question. Should ectomorphs loosen up their diets?

The Problem with Restrictive Diets

Restricting Foods Restricts Nutrients

Health-conscious people eating restrictive diets have the highest chance of suffering from nutrient deficiencies, even when comparing them against the general population. These nutrient deficiencies are common among top athletes and bodybuilders (study, study, study, study, study). The people who pay the most attention to their diets are suffering from it.

Part of the reason they run into deficiencies is simply because they’re consuming fewer calories. Eating fewer calories means that fewer nutrients are coming in overall, which makes it more likely that you won’t get enough of them (study). But that’s not the whole story.

The other problem is that eating a clean bodybuilding diet is kind of a weird way to eat. It’s usually based around just a few foods: skinless chicken breast, egg whites, lean cuts of steak, olive oil, fish oil, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, brown rice, tuna, oats, protein powder and creatine.

If you’re cutting out dairy, grains, and fruits, you’re cutting out entire categories of food, missing out on entire classes of nutrients. You may be eating plenty of healthy foods, consuming a high quantity of nutrients. But if your diet lacks balance, it may fail to give you the breadth of nutrients you need.

Most cultures have found a way of meeting their nutritional needs, and over time these practices become cultural traditions. Mexicans who cut out corn, chocolate, and beans are knocking down pillars of their diets, setting themselves up for collapse. Northern European diets often rely on dairy and meat, making them somewhat difficult to remove.

Depriving yourself of a food group that’s commonly consumed in your culture creates a nutritional hole. That isn’t always a problem. You can plug these holes. Some people have much better digestion when they limit certain foods. Other people alter their diets based on their moral convictions. That’s perfectly fine. But you need to be aware of what you’re missing so you can add it back in.

Trendy Diets CAN Work—Sometimes

You’ve probably heard of vegan dietsketogenic diets, intermittent fasting, or bodybuilding diets where you need to eat every 3 hours. You’ve also probably heard a lot about acai berries, flax, pomegranates, red wine, goji berries, broccoli, spinach, coconut oil, chick peas, blueberries, turmeric and garlic.

Walter's before and after photos from bulking on a plant-based diet

You can build muscle just fine while eating a vegan diet. Eating nine times a day can work. If you find that your lifestyle or moral code meshes well with a certain doctrine, great—you can probably make it work wonders for you. Most diet fads do work, at least in part. But probably not for the reason you think they do.

Whether you eat three meals a day or twelve, you’ll get comparable results if the foods you’re eating are the same. Plant-based pea protein blends are an awesome source of protein, but so is steak. There are many valid ways to get in the macronutrients you need to accomplish your goals.

Superfoods ARE Healthy—But There’s a Catch

Blueberries are fiercely rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, broccoli has fat and toxin-fighting properties, flax is a great source of polyunsaturated fats, and turmeric has incredible anti-inflammatory properties. If you love these foods, fantastic—devour them with reckless abandon. They taste delicious, and the benefits are real, so there’s little downside to enjoying them.

Blueberries rock, but so do apples and oranges—everyday Clark Kent foods. Chick peas are great, but so are yams. Don’t place too much emphasis on superfoods or super supplements. That’s not how a superhuman body is built. Chances are they won’t produce a noticeable difference in your results unless you figure out a great overall approach to eating.

Consider this study, where blueberries are being examined for their superfood-like phytochemical and antioxidant levels. The premise is that blueberries might be able to improve strength training recovery times, thus allowing you to build muscle more quickly. One group of study participants was given 2.2 pounds of blueberries between workouts, while the control group was given 2.2 pounds of regular fruits. Both were in the form of fruit smoothies, and neither group knew which type of smoothie they were drinking. The result? Eating 2.2 pounds of Blueberries slightly improved muscle recovery versus the control group.

Now check out this study, where participants started strength training and eating at a calorie surplus. The first group, who didn’t alter their diets at all, gained 3 pounds of muscle in 8 weeks just from the strength training. Pretty good. The second group, who consumed an extra 356g carbs and 106g protein powder, gained over 6 pounds of lean mass. More than double the muscle gains! The third group, who consumed an extra 438g carbs and just 24g protein powder, gained 7.5 pounds of lean mass!

These weren’t fancy carbs—just simple sugar and starch powders. A potato, fruit or bagel would have had the same effect. Interestingly enough, eating more bananas and potatoes, it seems, results in more muscle gains than even consuming protein powders.

The moral of the story? Superfoods can make the tiniest of differences, so if you’re looking to gain 1.1 pounds of muscle instead of 1 pound of muscle this week, go for it. How do you double your gains? Eat large amounts of staple foods. (Easier said than done, I know.) The problem is that people fall hook, line, and sinker for supplement ads and novel diets when the simple truth is that a good workout program and a healthy bulking diet are where the real results are built.

The Anti-Diet for Ectomorphs

If you’re trying to bulk up, build muscle, gain strength, and improve your health, that’s probably going to require that you lift weights and change your diet. And when it comes to your diet, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn about nutrition. In fact, you absolutely should.

If you don’t have the physique that you want, obviously, some things need to change. If you’re a naturally skinny guy like me, then you might even need to change your lifestyle quite a bit. What I’m saying is that you don’t need to adopt any kind of extreme diet.

We help our members build a bulking diet that suits their preferences, lifestyle, and budget. Our members in Texas are eating quite differently from our members in Latin America, who eat a very different diet from our members in India. And that’s okay. You can bulk up on a wide variety of foods. If you’re reading this from halfway across the world, rest assured that your local foods will be perfectly fine for bulking up. You don’t need to import your foods from Los Angeles because some fitness blogger there is in love with grass-fed beef or whatever the new fad is.

A good ectomorph bulking “diet” should be built around the foods that you enjoy. Within reason, of course. We can’t build your muscles entirely out of McDonalds and Pop-Tarts, no. But we can build them out of hamburgers and chicken parmesan. You may want to eat a side of green beans with your burgers to make your diet a bit more balanced, but there’s no need to eat a restrictive diet.

Skinny guys trying to build muscle and gain weight are the last guys who should be restricting foods for no reason. All this restrictive stuff is really more so for people trying to avoid foods that are easy to overeat. We’re trying to overeat, and we’re intentionally consuming a lot of calories. We’ve got a lot of room in our diets for the things that we love, even if they aren’t technically “clean” foods.

Even dessert can help. When it comes to eating enough food to build impressive amount of muscle, us skinny guys often struggle. That’s one of our biggest struggles. It’s a complicated issue, too. There are a lot of reasons why it’s so hard for ectomorphs to gain weight. Processed foods and desserts offer us an easy way to get more calories in. So long as we’re also getting the nutrients that we need to be healthy and build muscle from other foods, well, a dessert will surely help us hit our calorie goals.

We aren’t taking a casual approach to our bulking diets because we don’t care about results. Rest assured, our goal is to help you build muscle as quickly as humanly possible. We use this approach because this how you get results.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with superfoods and supplements. It’s fascinating, but it becomes so easy to forget the bigger picture. You can stock your cupboard full of normal foods that rival the best muscle-building supplements and superfoods on the market.

Tips for Bulking on an Anti-Diet

A good rule of thumb is to get around 80% of your calories from whole foods. When it comes to choosing which whole foods to eat, choose a wide variety of foods you actually want to eat. Try to include some foods from every food group. Try to find good sources of protein, carbs, healthy fats, fibre, and micronutrients.

  1. Put less emphasis on eliminating junk food and more emphasis on adding more nutritious foods. The best way to build muscle is to eat a wide, varied, and plentiful diet. This gives us a greater breadth of nutrients.
  2. Eat a diet that helps you to eat more calories. Most diets are designed to help people eat fewer calories, so you may need to deviate quite a bit from them.
  3. Eat a balanced diet rich in protein, carbs, healthy fats, fibre, and micronutrients. Don’t put too much emphasis on protein. Carbs and fats are just as good for building muscle. Fibre and micronutrients are part of a nutritious diet that supports our hormones and digestive health.
  4. Eat plenty of carbohydrates, especially after working out. Potatoes, yams, rice, corn, beans, peas, bananas, and oats are all great for building muscle. This is anabolic fuel for us ectomorphs. They pack our muscles full of glycogen.
  5. Eat plenty of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, avocados, eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt, and kefir. Healthy fats are rich in fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, they help us regulate our hormones, and they give us the energy we need to grow.
  6. Eat irresponsibly large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Carrots, apples, pineapples, cherries, berries, oranges, sea cucumbers—whatever you want. If you’re having trouble eating enough calories to gain weight, blend your fruits and veggies into smoothies.
  7. Eat the right amount of food, but don’t stress about your meal schedule. As a general rule of thumb, naturally skinny guys tend to have an easier time bulking up when they eat smaller meals more often. Fewer huge meals, more snacks. But that’s entirely up to you.
  8. Supplements can help, but they’re the cherry on top of the cake, so treat them as such. Put the bulk of your bulking focus on regular foods.
  9. It’s probably okay to have a drink or two now and then. Unless, of course, you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. In that case, feel free to avoid it.
  10. Liquid calories tend to be easier on the appetite. Smoothies are an incredibly nutritious way to take advantage of that. If there are any holes in your diet, find the foods that plug them and blend them together.
  11. Base your diet around your personal preferences, tolerances, and convictions.
  12. Eat as many superfoods as you want. They’re nutritious.
Photo showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program for Skinny and Skinny-Fat Guys

Alright, that’s it for now. If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free bulking newsletter for skinny guysIf you want our foundational bulking program, including a 5-month full-body workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. Or, if you want a customizable intermediate bulking program, check out our Outlift Program.

Shane Duquette is the founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, each with millions of readers. He's a Certified Conditioning Coach (CCC), has gained seventy pounds, and has over a decade of experience helping more than ten thousand naturally thin people build muscle. He also has a degree in fine arts, but those are inversely correlated with muscle growth.

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42 Comments

  1. Jeff on June 19, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Good stuff. The reason I like this program a lot because I know that you guys care about nutrition. Its addicting watching yourself change so quickly. It’s hard to believe less than 6 months ago I was 22 lbs lighter. I eat great everyday now, better than I have in a long time. It’s okay to cheat and have a drink or eat something that has no nutritional value whatsoever. It’s knowing that if you do it all of the time, you probably won’t be so beastly in the long run. I never used to look at any labels in the stores either. Now I know from reading tons of labels what is good and what is just complete and utter crap. My diet now? Whole foods, organic vegetables, raw foods, organic meat are my staple foods and will be for life. Do I swear by eating these foods? No, but I try to eat them when I am at home which is where I eat the most. I don’t even shop at a “super” market really anymore because 95 percent of whats on the shelf is just processed non-sense. So nice to be a part of a program that is always teaching me more about what I am eating and how it effects my life style.

    • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      Muahaha a beast in the making! Can’t wait to see you at the end of the program!

  2. Hoyle on June 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I hope to be coming on board next month. So far, everything seems AWESOME!!! Thanks for the time and effort you guys have put in to this. Reminds me of the “Scrawny to Brawny” book and program, BUT much more relative to me and my life. And you guys are waaayyyy cooler, just sayin’.

    • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks man, we appreciate it!
      Scrawny to Brawny is pretty cool. I have the book and really enjoyed it. In some ways our program is somewhat similar, and in some ways really quite different. I’m glad you prefer our approach, and I really hope you decide to join us!

  3. Viviane on June 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    The “Take a Chill Pill” Approach, oh man, kick-ass article!

    I am in love with the incorporation of concepts such as “love of life and accomplishment of goals”, along with “muscle building and fat loss”! Way to keep it balanced, Bony-to-BEASTly, I love seeing you guys’ results while you’re not only maintaining, but boosting the social/adventurous aspects of your lifestyles.

    Keep it up, I’m rooting for you and I’ll make sure my next apartment has bigger doors to allow for visits!

    • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      “I’ll make sure my next apartment has bigger doors to allow for visits!”

      Hahahahaha 🙂

  4. Hassan on February 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Hey Shane, awesome website, full of top-notch nutrition and training info relevant to us ectomorphs. I was just wondering, is it a good idea to reduce (or even eliminate) our intake of starchy carbs on days we’re not training (I myself perform full-body workouts, three days a week)? If so, how should one go about doing so?

    • Shane Duquette on March 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Glad you like our stuff man 🙂

      That depends on your goals and body type! Carb cycling becomes more powerful when trying to lose fat, not build muscle … but it’s a pretty solid strategy in a number of situations, and our program does use it. If you’re an ectomorph trying to rapidly build muscle you’d probably still want a fair bit of starchy carbs on your rest days though.

      When you get to a weight you’re happy with, or you’re trying to lose fat, you may want to keep your carbs fairly low on rest days, yeah. How do you do that? You fill up on leafy/fibrous veggies (broccoli, green beans, spinach, lettuce, celery, etc) when you’d otherwise be eating starches. Replace your side of potatoes with a side of salad kind of thing.

      Does that answer your question?

      • Hassan on March 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm

        Yep, perfect response – thanks, man!

  5. Danno on July 1, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Ran across your site doing a Google search for the prefix, ‘ecto’. What a cool site and concept and approach!

    I’m not proper subject matter for your program, though–I’m 47 yars old, 5’6″ or 7″, and now overweight. I sure wish you had a program for guys like me, because the likes of P90X is too brutal for my destroyed knees from athletically over-doing it (to make up for my size) when I was young.

    Keep up the good work, guys–you ROCK!

    • Shane Duquette on July 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Thanks for the kind words man, glad you’re liking our stuff!
      A lot of the stuff we post has to deal with guys in general, so definitely stay tuned. A lot of us ectomorphs have a little bit of a extra body fat hanging around too, so we do deal with fat loss … it’s just not where our emphasis lies. We might be digging into it in future posts though.

      I just put together a fat loss pdf you might be interested in, actually. Shoot me an email at us@bonytobeastly.com if you want to check it out 🙂

  6. Justin on November 14, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Dudes. You rock. For the past three nights I have been drinking in your articles. I am digging it! I have been VERY active for about 7 years now, but I am ready to be a beast. I have probably been TOO active actually. I am currently hovering at about 150 and I am six-foot. I have known about you guys for a while and been implementing the tiny pieces that I extract from your articles. I am in the process of saving for the program, and it should just be a few weeks longer!! Nutrition has ALWAYS been my hangup. I also have trouble fitting enough calories into my tiny stomach and even smaller appetite. I have been eating a lot of chili lately and it fits in my stomach really well, is high in calories, and SO easy to prepare. What other foods would you recommend that share the same three properties as the chili??

    • Shane Duquette on November 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      That’s awesome man! Stoked to hear that you’ll be joining us soon 🙂

      Yeah … nutrition seems to be the biggest struggling point for guys with our body type. We put a lot of emphasis on our program, not in that we restrict a lot of stuff, but in that we try to get clever with trying to make it easy, quick and enjoyable to comfortably eat enough food to build all kinds of muscle.

      Chili pretty much rocks. One of my all-time favourite meals, and I’ve got a bunch sitting in my fridge and freezer right now.

      Stews, curries, casseroles, gumbos – tons of options! You can even make batches of homemade protein bars (which have the added advantage of being portable).

      I’m making a thai green curry inspired dish in bulk tonight – pretty delicious. Tons of ways to get creative 🙂

      Hope that helps, and hope to see you on the other side soon!

  7. Dean W on March 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Hey Guys
    What a great article!!!
    Your writing is always easy to read and understand.

    I love eating all those great foods like yams, potatoes, steaks etc and always try to vary my meals up.

    You guys are a true inspiration to me, thanks
    D

    • Shane Duquette on April 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Thank you so much for the positive feedback! Ahaha I love how this is just purely a compliment 🙂

      Keep eating those steak & potato meals!

  8. Adam on April 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Well done!

  9. eli on April 22, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Hey Shane,

    for an ectomorph like me who’s trying to gain muscle, would you recommend eating the same on rest days as on training days? I want to keep my protein intake up, but what about carbs and fats?

    Awesome article and thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on April 26, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, man – glad you liked it!

      You can carb and calorie cycle if you like. Our program involves some of that by default, since our workout shake spikes our carbs and calories on training days. (We don’t cycle much – just around 400 extra calories on training days.)

      You certainly don’t HAVE to carb/calorie cycle though, and the potential benefits are relatively mild. What’s most important is hitting your overall protein/calorie goals.

      As for carbs, proteins and fats, check this article out. We recently updated it, so it’s quite current 🙂

      I hope that helps, and good luck!

  10. Mick on August 25, 2014 at 3:34 am

    What I learned is : The longer your hair, the bigger you get.

    • Shane Duquette on August 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      True! The law of Samson.

      However one must be very careful. “Samson was given supernatural strength by God in order to combat his enemies and perform heroic feats, such as killing a lion, slaying an entire army with only the jawbone of an ass, and destroying a pagan temple. Samson had two vulnerabilities, however: his attraction to untrustworthy women and his hair, without which he was powerless. These vulnerabilities ultimately proved fatal for him.”

  11. Anibal on October 27, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Im super skinny, im 115lb and I want to see real results, im 19 so my money is limted, I just dont wanna waste no.money if I out my heart into it and I see a lil results, I got tons of questions so if I can get your email I will proceed to checkout and go from Bony to Beastly

    • Shane Duquette on October 28, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      Our program is pretty thorough, and we teach you how to troubleshoot the most common problems us skinny guys run into… but we also include the community and coaching. If you were failing to get results after your first week, you’d just let us know and we’d help you adjust what you’re doing so that you could get results in your second week 🙂

      (Our email is us@bonytobeastly.com)

      And I hope you decide to join us!

  12. John on November 26, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    As an old guy of 59, I had become skinny fat and came to the conclusion that I needed to fix myself . A carb addict, I stopped breads and pastas, sweets and cereals. Two weeks later, my lipid panel had normalized entirely. I hope to join you program after new year once a strained shoulder heals (steroid shot + PT). Started resistance training in September and new diet 5 weeks ago. Truly wonderful to have triceps for the first time in my life. As an older man, I’d be ecstatic to gain 20 pounds over the next year or so. How old is your uh, er… most mature trainee? Thanks so much.

    • Shane Duquette on December 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Hey John, glad to hear you’re keen on signing up!

      Also, congrats on normalizing your lipid panel, getting into heavy exercise and getting strong and healthy 🙂

      We’d love to have ya, man. Most members in the community are in their teens, twenties and thirties… but we’ve got a few older guys as well. So long as your old folks’ home has a gym, you’re set 😉

      (You’ll want to stick with the basic program though, as we begin with some classic bodybuilding training that will be good for your ligaments and tendons. You’ll also want clearance from your doc, of course.)

  13. Seth on June 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I am 6’1″ I am definitely a skinny guy….came out of HS at 6’0″ and 135 lbs.
    Now at ~170 lbs.
    I do Intermittent Fasting (LeanGains protocol). I have done it for 2 yrs almost. Does fine, I make sure I get my calories and macros in and eat what I want to. So IF is not a problem….does make it tougher to bulk, but for cutting it’s great.

    • Shane Duquette on June 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Congrats on making it up to 170, Seth! That’s amazing.

      Intermittent fasting is definitely suitable for cutting (especially for fit young men in their twenties). Like you found though, it makes bulking a lot harder, which is why we don’t recommend it. Aside from making bulking harder / less pleasant, it can also potentially lead to issues with acid reflux or whatnot if you’re trying to fit 1,500 or 2,000+ calorie meals into a small stomach in short succession, which is not unrealistic as a skinny guy with a large metabolism who’s well into a bulk.

      Anecdotally, I tried it for a little while and found that eating 4,200 calories within an 8 hour window was way too much for my stomach to handle, no matter how I split it up. It’s the only time I’ve ever had to go to the doctor due to my diet, and it took a long while to go back to feeling healthy again afterwards.

      It also limits the periods of muscle protein synthesis that you’d experience during the day, making bulking not just less pleasant/achievable/healthy, but also less effective. You’d only be building muscle at a good pace during certain periods of the day, instead of building muscle at a maximum rate all day long.

      For cutting I agree that it’s great though. I’ve cut with and without intermittent fasting and have no real preference. Both approaches work well, both produce good results 🙂

      Since this is a site for skinny guys trying to build muscle, IF is usually something we recommend avoiding. (We do have guys who go on cuts though, and we present it as an option in our cutting guide.)

  14. Michael on June 18, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    hey Shane,
    So I’m 51 and 6′ 1″ 170 lbs. been skinny all my life, just recently ( past 6-7 yrs) I gained fat, in gut, lower back and chest area. I’m not sure if that qualifies me as a fat skinny or not. I am seriously thinking of getting your program, and was wondering what equipment would be needed? I have bowflex selecttech dumbells, bench, curl bar with about 50 lbs of weights for it, what else would I need?

  15. Peter on July 16, 2015 at 8:12 am

    And what do you think about food replacements such as:
    – soyent
    – jake
    – bertrand\
    – etc.

    Do you think they might be worth something? I’m really struggling with eating this mountains of food I have to eat (even when I blend myself a breakfast) 🙁

    • Shane Duquette on July 16, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I think the marketing is pretty epic. The scientific community still doesn’t understand a lot of the benefits of food. I remember reading a study that found (mild) mental retardation in people who were carelessly avoiding animal products due to a creatine deficiency in their brain. That’s just one of many possible deficiencies, and some deficiencies can take years to manifest. What about nitrates and choline and different types of fibre and whatnot? What about all the things we don’t even know about yet?

      In addition to that, some parts of our digestive system we just don’t really understand at all. Our microbiome, for example. How does a diet made up of meal replacements affect the bajillions of bacteria in our guts?

      Is there a part of our hormonal or digestive system that we don’t even know about yet? A little while ago we didn’t know about probiotics and whatnot. Are there other systems in play that we’re still unaware of?

      So the grandiose marketing scares me a little. But meal replacements in general aren’t really all that revolutionary. They’ve been around for a long time now. When Jared and I first began building muscle we would take Myoplex when we couldn’t have a real meal. Same deal—protein, maltodextrin, a bunch of vitamins, etc.

      I would treat Soylent, Jake, Bertrand, etc. the same way you would treat any other processed food. Try your best to get 80% of your calories from whole foods, and the rest you can get from wherever you like.

      When building muscle though, calories and protein are the most important things. If you really aren’t able to hit your calorie or protein goals, sometimes you’ve got to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Maybe that means getting more of your calories from processed foods.

      Does that help at all?

      • Peter on July 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        I would never abandon variety of foods, but i was hoping this ones to be the good “finishing touch” for those last 500kcal 🙂

  16. […] stuff we were doing was also excessive. There’s no need to eat every 3 hours, there’s no need to eat a perfectly “clean” bodybuilder’s diet, and there’s no need to eat 2g of protein per pound of bodyweight. A lot of those […]

  17. […] foods: Eat a diet made up mostly of whole foods (aiming for 80% is […]

  18. […] Try to lead a healthy lifestyle that isn’t leaving you feeling chronically inflamed. Sleep well, eat well, minimize chronic stress and […]

  19. […] you don’t need to worry as much about making every calorie count. It allows you to eat a more flexible bulking diet while still getting all of the nutrients that you […]

  20. Gail K on August 2, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Shane, So here I’m leaving a comment/question on one of your articles. Even though this was on B2Beastly, and I’m coming from B2Bombshell, I think my question would apply. You say here that “moderate” amounts of protein are best, neither excessively high or low. At B2Bombshell, I understood that 1gram per pound of body weight daily is best. For me, that’s more than I could have eaten, but the fact that here you use the word “moderate” amount of protein was confusing but also interesting and a “relief.” What would be a “moderate” amount for me now, just that much older, 5’6″ and weighing 99 pounds?

    • Shane Duquette on August 4, 2020 at 10:46 am

      Hey Gail,

      Yeah, a moderate amount of protein is in the neighbourhood of 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight per day. 0.8 grams of protein per pound bodyweight per day is a good minimum protein intake when trying to build muscle.

      It’s moderate in the sense that it makes up only around 20–30% of our total calorie intake when bulking, as opposed to 40–60% of our calories coming from carbs. It’s also moderate when considering that many bodybuilders and fitness models eat much more protein than that.

      But you’re right that for most people, it means eating more protein than they currently eat. Most people eat what I would call a low-protein diet—one that isn’t sufficient to support an active lifestyle.

      As for age, I’m not sure that older people would benefit from less protein. Most of the research seems to show that muscle only becomes more important as we get older, so eating a diet that supports that muscle becomes all the more crucial.

      • Gail K on August 4, 2020 at 2:15 pm

        Interesting. Thank you! I very much appreciate your feedback on this. I’m trying to push my body to doing the most it can do, all things considered. I will work at more protein intake, given your suggestion that as we age, preserving muscle health becomes all the more important. Also, I’m aware of that from what I’ve read. I don’t believe that I can get to 100g protein per day, but I DO have muscle in my “hindquarters” that I built since joining B2B so I must have been getting enough protein at that time. I’d like to gain back some of the weight I’ve lost in the past six months – about 10lbs. Keeping fat low though, but eating as much as my digestion seems to be able to tolerate.

        I have not found a protein powder that I like/agrees with me, so my proteins have been direct from eggs/dairy/animal/fish protein sources. I’m going to give some 2% milk a try this week and see what happens. I have been eating quite a bit of Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt – the Plain flavor 0% fat is 16g protein per 5.3 oz container.

        I might be able to get to 80g per day – about .8g per pound of my bodyweight. Maybe I’m getting more than I think I am. Also eating a small portion (1/4 of cookie) of high protein cookie per day, “Munk Pack” brand with 18g protein per cookie.

        • Shane Duquette on August 5, 2020 at 10:29 am

          Even if you’re not eating the ideal amount of protein for building muscle, you can still build muscle, make progress, and maintain muscle as you age. If you’re under the target, that’s okay, just try to eat as much protein as you can. The more you get, the better your muscle will do. But don’t stress if everything you’re doing isn’t totally perfect 🙂

          No need to get your protein from powders, either. Getting your protein from whole foods is great!

  21. Gail K on August 5, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Thanks for reminding me of my own advice! ….”don’t try for perfection, don’t be too hard on yourself, good enough is good enough, etc.” You’re right that the best I can do with whole foods is where I’ll have to be happy – I know it’s still a lot better than most people are doing.

    RE: the powder idea…I don’t know what you think about non-fat dry milk powder as a source of protein mixed with milk, or applesauce, or whatever. I left a message on the Nutrition Forum of B2Bombshell, and ordered a small bag from Amazon (organic and made by NOW brand). I’m familiar with dry milk powder from my past as a source of “instant milk” when mixed with water. Seems harmless enough, and to me different from the protein powders made for the muscle building market. The milk powder might cause gas for me as the whey powder did, but maybe not, will be worth a try. Do you have an opinion on dry milk powder as a protein source?

    Also, I’m running into the old “weight loss diet is the ONLY diet” routine of our society. The more you move; the more you exercise; the more fiber the better; less calories etc. Even my iWatch Activity app encourages MORE movement is better than less. Pretty soon you find yourself believing it, and feeling pressured by it haha.

    I found your guidelines for setting up the My Fitness Pal to suit yourself, and thank you for that as well. You wrote that in 2014. I’m going to have fun with it, and indulge the OCD in me a little bit for fun!

    Thanks for your encouraging support, Shane. It is much appreciated. You are running fantastic businesses with B2B and B2B!

    • Shane Duquette on August 6, 2020 at 10:37 am

      My pleasure, Gail!

      Protein powders are probably an easier way to get protein than milk powders. Whey protein isolate is often a good place to start. If that gives trouble, there’s whey hydrolysate, which is essentially predigested, as well as pea/rice protein, egg white protein, beef protein, etc. There are a ton of different protein powders out there.

      Sometimes gas just comes from protein, so regardless of where you get the protein—whole food or powder—it’s more to do with how much protein you’re consuming, not where it’s coming from. But most people adjust to that once they settle into a higher intake.

      The more nefarious source of gas is often from non-caloric foods. So if you’re getting whey protein that’s full of non-caloric sweeteners and flavours, that could cause some gas. The same is true with sugar-free gummy bears, no-carb cookies, Quest bars, and so on. It’s really common for bodybuilding/health foods to have a bunch of that stuff in them. To dodge that problem, just order the plain, unflavored protein powders. At that point, you’re consuming a higher-protein equivalent of milk powder.

      On the note of movement being good, that’s true! It’s good to move. It’s good to be active. We recommend lifting weights, absolutely, but that’s not to say that cardio isn’t good as well. Or that we shouldn’t go on long walks, spend more time outside, etc. All of that stuff is part of a healthy lifestyle, whether trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight 🙂

      • Gail K on August 6, 2020 at 11:59 am

        Shane, thanks for this reply…..I’m trying to “keep it simple,” and not make things more complicated than they need to be!

        I would not order a protein powder with any “junk” in it. I want to stay with whole foods. I have tried some of the milk powder this AM mixed with some Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt on oatmeal, with banana and almond butter plus a small amount of 2% milk. I’m trying the liquid milk again for protein, warming it and not too much at once, or drinking it too fast. It’s difficult for me to slow down my eating!

        I’m not going to go down the protein powder route any further than this, as I’ve already done a lot on it in the past year. I also have a bag of the Alive & Vibrant Raw Protein Blend that I have barely used. The company is here in Wisconsin. This powder has 10g of protein per TBSP. It has spirulina in it, and the taste is OK, and can be gotten used to, but probably not daily. The dry milk powder (organic, “NOW” brand) is only 3g protein per TBSP.

        I went back to the B2B eBook, and found your description of “how to gain weight” starting on page 49 to refresh my memory. Concentrate on CALORIES and PROTEIN is what you’ve said, so that’s what I’m going to do. I would like to gain back the 10lbs I’ve lost since the beginning of the year, so will give it my best shot!

        Thanks again for your personalized help and great programs!

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