Illustration of a skinny hardgainer's stomach.

Why Is It So Hard for Hardgainers to Gain Weight?

Struggling to bulk up as a naturally skinny “hardgainer” can be confusing. We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic, surrounded by people who gain weight by accident, and yet no matter what we do, we can’t budge the scale. Why is it so hard for us to bulk up?

We’re hardgainers ourselves, and when we first started trying to bulk up, we found it incredibly frustrating. We each gave up several times before finally succeeding. Marco gained 63 pounds while getting his health sciences degree and training certifications, and then went on to help college, professional, and Olympic athletes bulk up. When I started blogging about my weight-gain attempts on my design blog, I was referred to Marco. With his help, I was able to gain 55 pounds in around two years, with our readers getting similar results. We then created a program and have since helped nearly 10,000 other skinny people bulk up.

This is all to say that it’s hard to bulk up as a hardgainer, but it’s not impossible. In fact, we have a number of genetic advantages that can allow us to gain muscle more quickly and leanly than the average person. We just need to combine hypertrophy training with a proper bulking diet and a good lifestyle. If we can do that, we can build muscle, and we can build it fast.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Do we really have faster metabolisms?
  • Do hardgainers have smaller stomachs?
  • Why do we resist weight gain?
  • What’s the best bulking diet?
  • What’s the best type of training for hardgainers?
  • Why stress management and sleep are so important.
  • How fast can hardgainers build muscle?
Before and after illustration of a skinny hardgainer ectomorph becoming muscular.

What’s A Hardgainer?

A hardgainer is, quite simply, someone who has trouble gaining weight. It applies to people who have trouble gaining fat, but it’s more commonly used to describe skinny guys who have a hard time bulking up.

The fact that hardgainers exist isn’t controversial. It’s well-documented that some people have a hard time gaining weight. Here’s a quote about Dr Ethan Sims, a famous researcher who conducted several overfeeding studies in the 70s (study, study):

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.

Ethan A. H. Sims, MD

However, even though “hardgainer” isn’t a controversial term, it is a confusing one. It’s often used interchangeably with a few other terms that describe skinny guys, such as ectomorph and non-responder. So here are some definitions:

  • Hardgainer: someone who has a hard time gaining weight. Not every hardgainer is naturally skinny or has a thin bone structure, but many of them do.
  • Ectomorph: someone with a thin bone structure. However, not every ectomorph has trouble gaining weight. It’s also worth noting that “ectomorph” isn’t a scientific term, it’s just used colloquially to describe a skinny body type.
  • Non-Responder: someone who doesn’t get a strong growth response from lifting weights. Not all non-responders are skinny. In fact, if we can eat enough, skinny people tend to get a fairly strong muscle-building stimulus from hypertrophy training.
Illustration of the skinny ectomorph hardgainer body type.

However, although these terms all mean different things, they do tend to overlap with one another. For example, having a thinner body type (being an ectomorph) usually makes it harder to gain weight (making us hardgainers), and failing to gain weight prevents us from building muscle (making us non-responders). So in that sense, they can all describe a skinny guy who’s struggling to bulk up.

Here’s what’s happening:

  • Having narrower “ectomorph” frames means that our stomachs are smaller, which makes it hard for us to eat enough to gain weight. Plus, having a thinner body type with less fat to insulate us causes us to radiate more body heat outwards, raising our metabolisms.
  • Having a higher “hardgainer” metabolism means that we need to eat even more calories in order to gain weight. But we have smaller stomachs. So where are we supposed to put those calories?
  • And then to add insult to injury, another feature of being a hardgainer is that our metabolisms tend to adapt quite quickly to higher calorie intakes, preventing us from gaining weight even when we do succeed at eating more.
  • If being an ectomorph or hardgainer prevents us from eating enough calories to fuel muscle growth, then we’ll have trouble gaining muscle size and strength when we work out, making it (falsely) seem like we have poor muscle-building genetics. This can get us labelled as “non-responders.”

So being an ectomorph often overlaps with being a hardgainer, which then makes us seem like non-responders. We aren’t really non-responders, though. We’ve coached nearly 10,000 guys through this. We can build muscle just fine. Here are some client examples, and here’s me after gaining sixty pounds:

Before/after photo of Shane Duquette starting skinny, bulking up, and building muscle.

If we can figure out how to overcome our small ectomorph stomachs and our fast hardgainer metabolisms, then we’ll be able to gain weight. And once we can gain weight, all of our muscle-building problems disappear. In fact, because of the law of diminishing returns, and because we’re essentially starting behind the starting line, skinny guys tend to be able to gain muscle faster than any other body type.

For instance, the average man starts off with around eighty pounds of muscle mass on his frame (source). A skinny guy might start off with half of that—forty pounds. However, our frames can hold similar amounts of muscle (give or take 10%), meaning that we’re starting off much further away from our genetic potential. This allows us to get explosive growth when we first start bulking up. We fill out quickly.

This period of rapid growth when people first start weight training is often called “newbie gains,” but keep in mind that anyone who is untrained can experience newbie gains. What makes our situation special is that we’re so far away from our genetic potential. We build muscle so quickly because our frames are capable of holding much more muscle mass than they’re currently holding.

Best of all, having a fast metabolism and being insulin sensitive can help us stay lean and healthy while building muscle, and those genetic advantages only become more exaggerated as we continue bulking up.

Bulking as a skinny hardgainer just requires a different approach. Thing is, it’s a rare problem, and so it’s rare to find a diet designed for hardgainers. In fact, we’ve had to reverse engineer our bulking diets from research conducted on overweight people.

To summarize, a hardgainer is someone who has trouble gaining weight. However, that doesn’t mean that hardgainers have poor muscle-building genetics. Quite the opposite—we’re often able to gain muscle more quickly than other body types.

Hardgainers are Designed to Burn Calories

According to the Smithsonian, there’s an evolutionary reason why ectomorphs burn more calories. If you’re trying to run a marathon across the plains of Africa, being an ectomorph helps quite a lot. If you watch the summer Olympics, this will come as no surprise. Ectomorphs—especially those from places like Kenya—absolutely dominate long-distance races.

Illustration comparing a skinny hardgainer against the average man.

People with thin builds evolved to be good at travelling long distances in hot climates, radiating their energy outwards to avoid overheating. To do this, we evolved smaller stomachs, faster metabolisms, lighter bones, longer limbs, and less body fat to insulate us.

Then, if you look at populations who evolved in Northern climates, such as the Inuit, you’ll notice that they tend to be shorter and thicker. The Smithsonian argues that this is because endomorphs, with their thicker builds, are good at conserving heat and hibernating, making them great for surviving harsh arctic winters.

Diagram showing Allen's Rule.

One reason this happens is explained by Allen’s Rule, where lankier body shapes have a greater surface area, thus causing them to radiate more heat outwards. This is then further exaggerated because skinny people have less fat to insulate them.

Our body types evolved for different purposes, giving us totally different strengths and weaknesses:

  • Ectomorphs burn calories to keep them lean, light, and cool. Cardio tends to come naturally to us.
  • Endomorphs conserve calories to stay chubby, insulated, and warm. Strength training tends to go quite smoothly.

Even if you’re a classic ectomorph, though, it’s hardly a limitation. We can’t change our bone structure, but as you can see with our members, we can build muscle on top of it.

Being hardgainers doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. We’ve just got genetics that are helpful in slightly different circumstances. For instance, we’re good at keeping cool while running long distances in the hot sun.

Skinny Guys Often Have Smaller Stomachs

Whenever I would try to eat more calories, I always felt bloated, sick, and lethargic for hours afterwards. Worse still, after a few weeks of trying to eat more, I started getting acid reflux. My stomach just wasn’t big enough to handle large meals. (I made this issue worse by trying to bulk while intermittent fasting.)

Even when I experimented with dirty bulking, getting more of my calories from sweets, treats, and grease, I still had a hard time gaining weight. It just seemed like my body was determined to resist weight gain no matter what I stuffed into it.

Illustration of the stomach size variation between skinny and overweight people.

It turns out that stomachs come in different sizes. In his famous 1945 study, AJ Cox found that the size of the human stomach varies by up to 600% between individuals. In fact, according to Cunningham’s Textbook of Anatomy, “no organ in the body varies more in size than the stomach.” This means that another guy the same height as you may have a stomach six times as large.

There’s a fairly simple explanation for why ectomorphs tend to have smaller stomachs. Ectomorphs have narrower torsos and shallower rib cages, which leaves less room for our organs. Our other organs have fairly fixed sizes, though, so our stomachs wind up seeing the greatest reduction in size.

It’s easy to see how having a smaller stomach could make it harder to gain weight. That bears out in the research, too. A second study showed that the smaller someone’s stomach was, the fewer calories they were able to consume per meal, and the less they were likely to weigh.

It’s no wonder we can’t “just eat more.” Our stomachs aren’t big enough… yet.

What’s interesting, though, is that unlike our ectomorph bone structure, we actually have a bit more control over our stomach size. In a third study, researchers recruited participants and split them into two groups. One group ate their normal diet, whereas the other group was forced to eat extremely small meals. Four weeks later, the stomachs of the people who were eating the tiny meals shrunk by as much as 36%. The researchers concluded that stomach size can adapt over time.

This suggests that by gradually eating larger and larger meals, you can increase your stomach size. This certainly lines up with my personal experience. After gaining sixty pounds of muscle over the course of a couple of years, my stomach got bigger, allowing me to comfortably eat larger meals. That helped me to intuitively maintain my higher body weight.

That doesn’t help us when we’re trying to bulk up, though. Ectomorphs still start this journey with too-small stomachs. However, there are a number of effective strategies we can use to eat more calories more easily, and there are a lot of great bulking foods.

To summarize, guys with thinner torsos often have smaller stomachs, especially if they aren’t used to eating large meals. However, as we bulk up, our stomachs will grow along with us.

Hardgainers Tend to Have Great Insulin Sensitivity

If you’re a naturally skinny-fat ectomorph, your insulin sensitivity is likely what differentiates you from a naturally leaner ectomorph. You can ignore this section and read our article for skinny-fat guys instead. If you’re a lean ectomorph, though, one muscle-building advantage that you have is your insulin sensitivity (study).

Having great insulin sensitivity is a genetic advantage that’s associated with numerous health benefits, including the ability to gain muscle leanly. However, as you might be able to guess, it can also make it harder to gain weight. And if you can’t gain weight, then you won’t be able to build muscle at all, let alone leanly.

Here’s a quick primer on how insulin works:

  • When your insulin levels are low, you get hungry.
  • When you eat, your insulin levels go up, and the insulin shuttles the nutrients to the more insulin sensitive areas (such as muscle and fat). Whether you gain more muscle or fat depends on a number of different things, such as your genetics, what kind of food you ate, if you’ve recently lifted weights, how fat you are, and how full or depleted your fat cells are.
  • As your insulin levels rise, you start to feel full, and so you stop eating.

The thing is, as soon as you’ve eaten enough food to maintain your body weight, your rising insulin levels cause you to feel full (if everything is working properly). And for a hardgainer, fullness is no joke. Because of how insulin sensitive we are, fullness is a very strong signal. It can be extremely unpleasant to continue eating, and so it can be very hard to gain weight.

This is rather different from the typical overweight person. Being overweight makes people less insulin sensitive, and so all of these signals are slow and blunted. By the time the average person feels full, not only have they produced too much insulin, they’ve already eaten too much food. And their fullness ramps up so meekly that it’s easy to ignore. If the average person wants to gain weight, they can just do it. That’s why you’ll often hear overweight people telling skinny guys to “just eat more.” They assume that it’s as easy for us as it is for them.

To be clear, insulin is part of your body’s weight regulation system. The whole purpose of that system is to keep you weighing the same amount day after day, year after year. Insulin is supposed to make it hard for you to gain weight. It’s everyone else who’s broken, not us.

The problem is, if you’re currently underweight, as many of us ectomorphs are, then bulking up can dramatically improve our health, strength, and appearance. Being insulin sensitive can make that much harder. It can be extremely frustrating. I hated it.

However, as we alluded to earlier, insulin has another role. Insulin also affects what kind of weight we gain while bulking. This phenomenon is called nutrient partitioning, and it works like this:

  • If your fat cells are more insulin sensitive, you’ll gain more fat.
  • If your muscles are more insulin sensitive, you’ll gain more muscle.

Overweight people often run into a problem where their fat cells are more insulin sensitive than their muscle fibres, and so rising insulin levels can cause them to gain fat. Because of that, there are a number of different diet trends designed to limit insulin production ketogenic diets (where insulin is kept low by avoiding carbs) and intermittent fasting (where insulin is kept low during the fasting period).

However, as naturally skinny hardgainers, we don’t tend to have those problems, especially if we lift weights and get a proper night’s rest. If you’re following a good bulking program, your muscle fibres will be more insulin sensitive than your fat cells, and so as your insulin levels rise (mainly from eating protein and carbs), you’ll be shuttling more nutrients towards muscle growth, less towards fat storage.

That’s where a lot of skinny guys get confused. They see all of these overweight people trying to reduce their insulin to get rid of fat, not realizing that insulin is also responsible for muscle growth.

When we train for muscle growth (hypertrophy training), then the insulin sensitivity in our muscles rises way higher for up to around 72 hours (study). During this period, the extra calories we’re eating are more likely to be invested in muscle growth. We don’t want to limit our carbs, we want to be eating plenty of them. We don’t want to skip breakfast, we want to add in an extra meal. And in that extra meal, we want to include some protein and carbs.

Essentially, we want to stimulate muscle growth with our training, and then create a situation where we can be shuttling nutrients towards muscle growth all day long. (This is the approach that bodybuilders take, too, and some of the crazier ones even inject insulin.)

What’s neat is that just like gaining fat makes our fat cells more insulin sensitive, building muscle makes our muscles more insulin sensitive. So having good insulin sensitivity makes it easier to build muscle, and building muscle further improves our insulin sensitivity (study).

This is one of the reasons why skinny hardgainers can bulk so aggressively, building muscle so quickly and leanly. I’ve always tried to gain at least a pound per week while bulking, which can seem quite fast to the average person, and we often have members who bulk even more quickly than that:

Eating more calories with a small appetite, fast metabolism and small stomach

To summarize, one of the reasons that it’s hard to gain weight is because our appetite turns off once we’ve eaten enough to maintain our body weight. This happens because we’re insulin sensitive, and it’s a good thing. Not only is it healthy, but if we follow a good hypertrophy training program, having better insulin sensitivity helps us build muscle more quickly and leanly.

Hardgainers Do Indeed Have Faster Metabolisms

Many of us ectomorphs feel like caloric bottomless pits. No matter how much food we shovel into our mouths, our weight refuses to budge on the scale. Why is that? Are our metabolisms really that much higher?

Some experts argue that we’re just underestimating how much we eat, and that can certainly happen. As we’ll cover later, sometimes being stressed or busy can turn off our appetites and make us forget to eat. For some hardgainers, that may explain the mystery.

However, we’re also naturally thinner, which gives us a greater surface area, causing us to burn extra calories compared with shorter and thicker people. That also explains part of the mystery, and it has nothing to do with us underreporting our calorie intake.

The mystery is far more interesting than any of that, though. When researchers have conducted overfeeding studies to study fat gain, they realized that some of the participants weren’t gaining weight even though they were eating in a large calorie surplus.

What We Can Learn From Overfeeding Studies

In one study, the participants were overfed by a thousand calories per day for eight straight weeks and instructed not to exercise. Eight weeks later, most people had gained quite a bit of fat, with one guy gaining a whopping 9.3 pounds. That’s fairly normal, and it’s exactly what the researchers expected: if you overeat, you gain weight. And if you overeat without exercising, most of that weight gain is fat.

However, there were also a couple of participants who hardly gained any weight, with one guy gaining just 0.79 pounds. This was a puzzling result, so they came up with a name for these superhuman creatures: hardgainers. What was interesting is that the researchers had no idea where these extra calories were disappearing to. The calories were vanishing into thin air.

These hardgainer wizards remained a mystery until a group of researchers discovered that we burn extra calories through subconscious activity, such as fidgeting and adopting odd postures (study). While this may not sound like a big deal, the effect can be enormous. Hardgainers burn 50% more calories than the average person while just sitting in a chair, and when they stand up, they start burning 80% more calories (study).

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

Depending on how much of your time you spend standing, that works out to burning an extra 600–950 calories each day, which explains how a thousand calories can disappear. And that’s not even the whole story. Hardgainers also choose to spend about two extra hours on their feet each day (study), burning another 350 extra calories.

To put this into perspective, the average guy might be able to maintain his weight by eating 13x his body weight (in pounds) in calories each day. If he weighs 150 pounds, that means eating about 2,000 calories per day. If he eats more than that, he may start gaining fat.

A hardgainer, on the other hand, might be able to eat 22x their body weight each day without gaining any fat. For someone who weighs 150 pounds, that’s 3,300 calories per day. That’s a big difference, especially when considering our higher insulin sensitivity and smaller stomachs.

However, note that hardgainers can maintain their weight on both caloric intakes. If a 150-pound hardgainers eats 2,000 calories per day, his metabolism will slow down and his weight will stay the same. If he starts eating 3,300 calories, you’d expect him to gain weight, but he doesn’t. His metabolism just revs up and burns the extra energy. It’s not that our metabolisms are always running faster, it’s just that when we eat more calories, our furnaces kick into a higher gear.

To summarise, not only is it incredibly difficult to eat more calories, but even if we do, our metabolisms will often adapt to our higher calorie intakes, rendering our bulking attempts futile.

Is It Impossible for Hardgainers to Gain Weight?

It’s not impossible for a hardgainer to gain weight, it’s just harder, and it calls for a more deliberate approach. We just need a little finesse, especially because we aren’t simply trying to gain weight, we’re trying to build muscle

Because we have the specific goal of building muscle, we don’t want to do a general weight training program. There are a number of different ways of lifting weights, ranging from cardio-oriented programs like CrossFit to strength-oriented programs like Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5. These are good programs in many ways, but they aren’t designed to stimulate a maximal amount of muscle growth. The type of training specifically designed for gaining muscle size is called hypertrophy training.

Illustration of a skinny guy becoming muscular from doing biceps curls.

Being a hardgainer makes us resistant to fat gain but not muscle gain. So when we stimulate muscle growth by following a good hypertrophy training program, then instead of revving up our metabolisms to prevent fat gain, we’ll keep some of those extra calories to invest in muscle growth.

Being a hardgainer causes us to burn off unneeded calories. But if we’re stimulating a ton of muscle growth with our workout routines, then the extra calories we’re eating are no longer unneeded. After all, calories that need to be invested in building bigger biceps aren’t extra calories.

It gets better, too. If our training makes our bodies desperate enough to build muscle, then our appetite can rise, too. After all, our appetite is designed to prevent haphazard weight gain, not to prevent necessary adaptations that are deemed critical to our wellbeing. If we signal to our bodies that building muscle is a high priority, our appetites will often rise accordingly.

Now, this doesn’t last forever. You probably won’t have a big appetite for months on end. Your body will try to find a new set point. By the time you gain five, ten, or twenty pounds, it will probably want a break from the overeating. But a good hypertrophy training program can raise your appetite, at least for a little while.

Finally, as a word of caution, do keep in mind that there’s always a point where you’re eating so many excess calories that some will spill over into fat gains. We tend to get a pretty wide berth, especially if we’re following a good hypertrophy program and eating enough protein, but it’s often wise for skinny guys to cap their weight gain at around a pound per week.

To summarize, can help us build muscle out of the extra food we’re eating before our metabolisms torch all the extra calories. Plus, a good weight training program will often cause our appetites to rise!

Some People Lose Their Appetites When Stressed

Our small stomachs, insulin sensitivity and fast metabolisms make it hard to eat enough on a good day. But what about when we get tired, busy or stressed? If we were most people, the worse our lifestyles got, the more weight we’d gain. But strangely, hardgainers have the exact opposite emotional response.

Eating food causes the release of dopamine, and that release of dopamine causes feelings of intense pleasure. This is how our bodies encourage us to do things that are good for survival and replication. Eating calories helps us survive, so our body associates eating calories with pleasure. As a result, it’s common for people to turn to food when they’re tired or stressed, subconsciously craving that surge of dopamine. This is your typical scenario where the heartbroken gal drowns her sorrows in a tub or ten of Ben & Jerry’s.

For us skiny hardgainers, though, things are a little different. First of all, because we’re so insulin sensitive (as explained above), our bony hearts are mendable with relatively small portions of ice cream. Second of all, ectomorphs don’t drown their sorrows in ice cream to begin with (study, study). When we get stressed, heartbroken, or tired, we often lose our appetites entirely. We’ll often entirely forget to eat.

There are a couple of reasons why hardgainers lose weight during hard times:

  • A lower hedonistic response to food: different people get different amounts of pleasure from the food they eat. Most of us hardgainers have a lower hedonistic response to food, i.e., we aren’t as likely to seek out food as a source of pleasure. And so in tough times, we tend to find ourselves losing weight. For example, if you get in a fight with your gal, she might storm off and raid the fridge, whereas you forget that the fridge even exists.
  • Periods of high stress always cause a loss of appetite: when our stress levels are exceptionally high, it makes sense to prioritize short-term needs over longer-term ones. As the Stanford researcher Robert Sapolsky explains in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, if we’re being chased by lions, it’s not a good time to eat or digest food. Not only does our appetite shut down, but so does our digestive system. In some cases, we even get diarrhea. And digestion problems can make it much harder to bulk up.

Fortunately, there are a few things that we can do to reduce stress. Some people turn to prayer or meditation, others turn to stress-reduction supplements like ashwagandha or rhodiola rosea. All of that can work, and if you’re having trouble with stress, it might be worth experimenting with. However, there are three other methods that are quite effective for reducing stress while building muscle:

  • Hypertrophy training lowers stress: a number of studies have found that weight training reduces stress, but what’s interesting is that training in moderate rep ranges (of around twelve reps per set) seems to have the biggest stress-reduction effect. This is a rep range that’s more commonly used in hypertrophy training, which is a fortunate coincidence (systematic review).
  • Being active lowers stress: the next way to lower stress is to exercise regularly (study). This could be cardio or weight training, but if stress is bothering you, we’d recommend doing a bit of both. What often works well for bulking is to lift weights 2–4 times per week and then to do relaxing cardio (such as going on 30-minute walks outside) another 2–3 times per week. Even better if you go on a morning walk and get a bit of sunshine. This not only reduces stress, but it also helps us recover from our more strenuous weight training workouts.
  • Improving sleep lowers stress: the final way to reduce stress while building muscle is to improve our sleep. If we don’t get enough good sleep, our levels of the stress hormone cortisol are elevated the next morning, which can lead to higher stress levels throughout the day (study). And if we can improve our sleep, not only will we feel less stressed, but we’ll also build muscle around 30% faster, we’ll gain less fat, have more willpower, and our training performance will rise. For more on this, we have an article on how to improve sleep.

What’s nice about all of these stress-reduction techniques is that they synergize. Lifting weights reduces stress, which makes it easier to get a good night’s rest. Getting a good night’s rest gives us more energy to work out, and it also speeds up muscle growth, improving our training. And as we become stronger and fitter our sleep improves even more. The benefits compound.

The same is true with being active. Going on a walk outside doesn’t just lower stress, it also stimulates the production of melatonin, which makes it easier to fall and stay asleep. As a result, any small improvement in your lifestyle has the potential to grow over time as the benefits continue to compound.

To summarize, it’s important to get regular exercise, manage our stress, and get enough good sleep while bulking. Not only will it help increase our appetites and improve our digestion, it will also help us build muscle more quickly and leanly.

Lifting Weights Can Suppress Our Appetites

It isn’t just emotional stress that can suppress our appetites. Physical stress can also make us less hungry, including lifting weights. Now, as we covered above, hypertrophy training makes most guys ravenous, but that’s not always the case. In fact, I’ve often found that lifting weights has suppressed my appetite.

According to a study published in Physiology and Behavior, although lifting causes most people to eat more calories, it also makes some people eat fewer calories. Other studies found the same effect (study, study, study). For some people, lifting weights can suppress appetite.

Illustration of a man doing the barbell overhead press.

This is one reason why most guys naturally grow bigger and stronger when they start lifting weights. Their bodies automatically up-regulate their food intake when they start lifting weights to facilitate the muscle growth that they’ve stimulated. But it’s another reason why some guys mysteriously fail to gain weight.

Now, the type of exercise can play a role here, to. Generally, the more intense the exercise is, the more potential it has to suppress our appetites. Again, think of the zebra. If the zebra is highly stressed, such as when it’s being chased by a lion, then the last thing it will be thinking about is food. But if the activity is more moderate, then the stress response is lower, and appetite won’t be suppressed by as much, if at all.

Furthermore, even intense exercise only tends to suppress appetite for around an hour. Once stress levels fall off, our appetites tends to come back. with a vengeance. This would be a good time for a post-workout meal, but you may even want to get in ahead of it by having a mid-workout shake.

Back when I first started bulking up, I was having a lot of trouble eating enough calories after working out. By the time I’d waited for my stomach to settle after my afternoon snack, walked to the gym, worked out, walked home, and made dinner, a few hours had already gone by. My appetite would pick up an hour or two after lifting, yes, but by then I was already behind on my calories. And my stomach was so small that I just couldn’t catch up. If I tried, I’d feel sick and get acid reflux.

Illustration of a skinny hardgainer eating a feast in his attempt to bulk up, gain weight. and build muscle.

So what I’d do is mix some carbs and protein together into a workout shake and sip on it while working out. Not only will the protein and simple carbs boost workout performance and make our muscle gains leaner, but it also makes it far easier to eat enough calories to gain weight. If you’re interested, here’s our workout shake recipe. (Keep in mind that digestion can be impaired when training, so be careful about eating foods that are hard to digest right before or during your workouts. The shake is simple and low in fibre for a reason. It’s designed to be quick and easy to digest.)

Finally, it’s not just weight training that can suppress our appetites. If you do intense cardio exercise, that can also delay your desire to eat as well as interfere with your digestion. That isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s something. to be mindful of, and it’s one of the reasons why we generally recommend going on a brisk walk outside as a good default form of cardio while bulking.

To summarize, it’s normal for strenuous exercise to suppress our appetites and interfere with digestion. Our appetites usually spring back an hour or so later, but that may not be soon enough, so you may want to sip on a workout shake either while lifting or chug it immediately afterwards.

How Hard is it to Maintain the Weight We Gain?

I used to worry that even if I could build muscle, at some point I’d surely get sick, stressed or busy and then just lose it all again. I worried that as soon as I stopped forcing myself to eat more, my muscles would shrivel up and I’d be skinny again. A lot of our members have this same fear. No hardgainer wants to spend the rest of his life struggling to eat more calories.

Luckily I was dead wrong. A pound of muscle only burns six calories per day (studystudystudy), so gaining 20 pounds of muscle will only burn 120 extra calories per day. That’s barely a 5% increase in our metabolisms. It’s a small glass of milk or a cookie for dessert.

Building muscle requires consuming a lot of extra calories (among other things), but maintaining muscle does not. That makes sense intuitively, too, if you think about it. Building muscle requires extra materials. The muscle needs to be built out of something. But once we stop bulking, there’s no longer any need for surplus calories and protein. All we need to do is maintain what we’ve built, which is much easier.

For instance, when we stop actively building muscle, we can cut our protein intake in half, meaning that we won’t ever really need to think about it again. We can also trim at least 500 calories out of our diets, and often quite a bit more.

Plus, to make things even easier, there are a number of adaptions taking place under the hood as we bulk up:

  • As we gain weight, our skinny stomachs grow bigger, making it easier and more enjoyable to eat bigger meals.
  • As we get used to eating more food, our digestive systems get better at digesting all of that food, making us feel better when digesting bigger or more frequent meals.
  • As we build muscle, that extra lean mass raises our insulin sensitivity even higher, making it even easier to maintain low body-fat percentages.
Illustration of a man flexing flaming biceps.

Moreover, many of the changes in our muscle fibres are totally permanent. The glycogen we store in our muscles can fluctuate depending on how many calories and carbs we eat, causing us to deflate and inflate a little bit, but the extra nuclei we add to our muscle fibres will stay there for the rest of our lives—even during periods of starvation.

If you want to learn more about maintaining your weight after bulking. here’s our article about changing your set point. But the point is, once we build muscle, it becomes quite easy to stay muscular. You’ll find that you’re just “naturally” stronger and leaner.

To summarize, it’s common for skinny guys to worry about maintaining their weight after they bulk up, but it’s rarely an issue. Maintaining a higher weight doesn’t require a calorie surplus, muscle doesn’t burn many calories, and our stomachs and appetites grow along with us. Maintaining a higher weight is often as easy as maintaining a lower one. It’s only the bulking that’s hard.


Trying to eat enough to gain weight is a lot harder for ectomorphs than most people realize. Not only is eating more incredibly difficult, but our metabolisms can readily adapt to higher calorie intakes.

  • A hardgainer’s stomach can be up to six times smaller than an obese person’s. Not only does that make it harder to eat more calories, but if we aren’t careful, force-feeding ourselves can also lead to issues such as lethargy and acid reflux.
  • Even if a hardgainer succeeds at getting into a calorie surplus, their metabolism can burn up to 1,300 extra calories per day, making that surplus disappear into thin (albeit hot) air.
  • When the average person gets stressed, they eat more food and they gain weight. However, when naturally skinny people get stressed, we often lose our appetites and lose weight.

It’s not as simple as just eating more. Thinking that “just eat more” is a good muscle-building strategy is like thinking the ultimate fat-loss secret is “just eat less.” It’s not that the advice is scientifically inaccurate, it’s just that it’s not helpful. If you told that to a fat person, he’d probably eat you, and rightfully so.

Illustration of a skinny hardgainer building muscle and becoming muscular (before/after).

On the other hand, hardgainers have a number of genetic advantages. Not only do we need to worry less about chronic health problems like inflammation, obesity, and diabetes, but we can also build muscle more quickly and leanly than other body types. And once we’ve succeeded at building muscle, it’s often easier for us to maintain an attractively low body-fat percentage year-round.

To build muscle, it pays to be deliberate about it. Instead of merely exercising or strength training, we should lift in the way that’s specifically designed to stimulate muscle growth: hypertrophy training. Instead of simply eating a generally healthy diet, we should eat in a way that’s designed to help us gain weight: a bulking diet. And to improve our digestion, increase our muscle growth, and ward off fat gains, it can help to manage our stress and improve our sleep.

Before and after photo of a skinny guy gaining muscle in one year

If you want to a muscle-building program designed for skinny hardgainers by skinny hardgainers, then I think you’d love our Bony to Beastly Program. It includes a full bulking guide outlining how to eat and train for muscle growth, a 5-month hypertrophy training routine, a recipe book, membership in our coaching community, and absolutely everything else you need to know to bulk up.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before

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Sign up for our 5-part bulking mini-course that covers everything you need to know about:

  • Hardgainer genetics and how to make the most of them
  • How to take a minimalist approach to bulking while still getting great results
  • What you need to know about aesthetics, health and strength while bulking up


  1. Dino on December 17, 2013 at 7:58 am

    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 on December 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

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

      • matt on December 22, 2013 at 1:31 am

        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 on December 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm

          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?

      • Josiah on September 8, 2015 at 8:42 pm

        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 on September 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm

          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 🙂

  2. Florian on December 17, 2013 at 11:24 am

    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 on December 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      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 🙂

  3. D-Man on December 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    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 on December 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      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 🙂

      • D-man on December 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm


        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 on December 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

          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!

          • D-Man on December 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm


            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.

          • D-Man on December 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm

            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 on December 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm

            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.

          • D-Man on December 23, 2013 at 12:55 am

            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.

  4. D-Man on December 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    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.

    • D-Man on December 17, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      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.

  5. George on December 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    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.

  6. Erin on December 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    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 on December 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      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!

  7. Vlad on December 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    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 on December 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      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 …

      • Vlad on December 18, 2013 at 10:09 am

        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.

  8. D-Man on December 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    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 on December 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

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

  9. Skinny Pete on December 17, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    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 on December 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      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 🙂

  10. Joey on December 18, 2013 at 12:50 am

    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 on December 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

      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!

      • Joey on December 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm

        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.

      • D-Man on December 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

        “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.

  11. Jude on December 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

    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 on December 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      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.)

      • Jude on December 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm

        Sweet, will check that out. Thanks!

        Yeah, milk certainly helps!

  12. D-Man on December 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm


    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?

    • D-Man on December 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      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 on December 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm

        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.)

        • D-Man on December 19, 2013 at 1:18 am

          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…

      • Shane Duquette on December 19, 2013 at 12:02 am

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

  13. LewisBW on December 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    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 on December 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      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.

  14. Ellen on December 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    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 on December 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      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?

  15. Ben on December 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    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 on December 23, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Glad you liked it, Ben 🙂

  16. Marius on December 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

    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 on December 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      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!

      • Marius on December 29, 2013 at 4:42 am

        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 on January 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

          Right on 🙂

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

  17. Eli on December 29, 2013 at 8:15 am

    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 on January 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      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 🙂

  18. Nick A on January 5, 2014 at 6:09 am

    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 on January 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      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!

  19. indra kumar on January 6, 2014 at 11:36 am

    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 on January 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      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.

  20. mj on January 15, 2014 at 2:41 pm


    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 on January 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      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?

      • MJ on January 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

        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 on January 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

          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?

          • MJ on January 19, 2014 at 1:24 pm

            That would be greatly appreciated!

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

  21. liam on January 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    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 on January 18, 2014 at 1:07 am

      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.

      • liam on January 19, 2014 at 4:21 pm

        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

  22. Tony on January 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

    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 on January 23, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      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.

  23. Piers on January 24, 2014 at 10:38 am

    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 on January 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      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 🙂

  24. D-Man on February 3, 2014 at 1:02 pm


    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 on February 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      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.)

  25. joesantus on February 6, 2014 at 3:11 am

    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 on February 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      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 😉

  26. joesantus on February 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    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.

  27. Nathan @ The Ectomorph on February 9, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    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 on February 11, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      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 🙂

  28. Denis on February 20, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    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.

    • joesantus on February 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      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 on March 7, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      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 🙂

  29. Jeremy on February 28, 2014 at 2:56 am

    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!

    • joesantus on February 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      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 on March 7, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      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?

  30. Beast-To-Be on March 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    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.

    • Beast-To-Be on March 7, 2014 at 11:29 pm

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

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      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?

  31. Ian on March 31, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    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 on April 3, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      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!

      • Ian on April 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm

        Thanks Shane!

  32. Kyle on April 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    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?

    • Kyle on April 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Forgot to mention I’m 5’7″.

    • Shane Duquette on April 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      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!

  33. D-Man on April 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    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.

    • Jeremy on April 19, 2014 at 11:47 am

      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 on April 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        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!

  34. C.B on April 19, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    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 on April 26, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      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!

      • C.B on April 28, 2014 at 4:58 pm

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

  35. Vlad on April 24, 2014 at 3:14 am


    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 on April 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      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!! 😀

  36. C.B on April 29, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    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 on May 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      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 🙂

  37. Cole on May 27, 2014 at 11:26 am

    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 on May 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      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.

      • Cole on May 29, 2014 at 11:01 am

        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 on June 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm

          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 on June 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm

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

  38. Edmund on June 12, 2014 at 6:04 am

    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!

    • Edmund on June 12, 2014 at 6:56 am

      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 on June 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm

        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 on June 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      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!

  39. K.C. on June 24, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    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 on June 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      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 🙂

  40. Jay on July 2, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Good stuff!

  41. RoundedScoop on July 5, 2014 at 11:27 am

    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.

    • Jay on July 5, 2014 at 11:35 am

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

    • Shane Duquette on July 6, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      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?

  42. Ben on July 13, 2014 at 8:02 am

    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 on July 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      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!

  43. Luke on July 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    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 on July 20, 2014 at 12:47 am

      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.

  44. Luke on July 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

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

  45. Paul on July 31, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    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 on August 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      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?

  46. Paul on August 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    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 on August 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      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 🙂

  47. Jason on August 12, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    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 on August 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      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?

      • Jason on August 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm

        Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

  48. steve on August 24, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    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 on August 24, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      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!

  49. Serge on August 26, 2014 at 12:06 am

    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 on August 30, 2014 at 1:38 am

      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.

  50. Jay on August 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    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 on August 30, 2014 at 1:42 am

      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 🙂

  51. apk on September 6, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    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 on September 7, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      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 🙂

  52. Sam on September 10, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    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.

  53. The dutch guy on September 29, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    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 on September 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

      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 on September 30, 2014 at 12:27 pm

        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 on October 3, 2014 at 11:02 pm

          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 on October 4, 2014 at 4:32 am

            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!

  54. Scott on October 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    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 on October 15, 2014 at 7:46 pm

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

  55. Nimish on November 6, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    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 🙂

    • Nimish on November 6, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      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.

      • Nimish on November 7, 2014 at 12:08 am

        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 on November 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      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!

      • Nimish on November 7, 2014 at 10:35 pm

        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 on November 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm

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

  56. Franklin on November 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    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.

  57. Phil on November 27, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    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 on December 7, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      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!

  58. Alexandre on December 25, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    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 on December 26, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      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.

  59. Alex Monyepao on December 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    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 on December 30, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      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!

  60. Mihai on January 5, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    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 on January 6, 2015 at 10:20 am

      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!

  61. Jacob Martinez on January 10, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    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 on January 11, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      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 on January 11, 2015 at 5:43 pm

        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 on January 11, 2015 at 5:45 pm

          To recommend this to friends

        • Shane Duquette on January 13, 2015 at 1:07 pm

          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! 😀

  62. roman on March 31, 2015 at 6:55 am

    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 on March 31, 2015 at 10:14 am

      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!

  63. roman on March 31, 2015 at 7:12 am

    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

  64. John on April 18, 2015 at 8:32 am

    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 on April 18, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      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?

      • John on April 19, 2015 at 9:52 am

        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 on April 23, 2015 at 1:23 pm


  65. Derek on April 18, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    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 on April 23, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      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 🙂

      • Derek on April 23, 2015 at 5:37 pm

        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 on April 25, 2015 at 10:50 am

          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! 🙂

  66. Peter on May 13, 2015 at 3:28 am

    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 on May 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      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 🙂

  67. Vincent on May 18, 2015 at 10:53 am

    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 on May 18, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      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 🙂

      • Vincent on May 19, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        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 😉

  68. Carson on May 20, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    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 on May 22, 2015 at 11:57 am

      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!

      • Carson on May 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm

        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!

  69. Eric on May 28, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    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 on May 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      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 🙂

      • Eric on May 31, 2015 at 7:09 am

        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 on May 31, 2015 at 8:55 pm

          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! 😀

  70. Matthew on July 7, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    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 on July 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      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?

      • Matthew on July 11, 2015 at 9:28 pm

        Yes, that helps. Thanks, brother!

  71. Jonathan on August 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    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 on August 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      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!!

  72. Carson on August 26, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    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 on August 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      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! 😀

      • Carson on August 28, 2015 at 12:07 am

        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 on August 29, 2015 at 11:58 am

          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 🙂

  73. Leo on September 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    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 on September 23, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      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.

  74. Ed on October 6, 2015 at 6:06 am

    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 on October 7, 2015 at 7:22 pm

      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!

      • Ed on October 7, 2015 at 9:17 pm

        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 on October 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

          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.

  75. Bony to Beastly – The Skinny Struggle is Real on November 4, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    […] like dried fruits. We wrote about a ton of other options for increasing appetite in our article, The Skinny on “Just Eat More.” We have even more in our muscle-building […]

  76. […] If you’re not currently gaining weight, you’ll need to scheme up a way to eat more food (article on that here). […]

  77. Ricardo on February 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

    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 on February 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      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 🙂

      • Ricardo on February 23, 2016 at 10:41 am

        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 on February 23, 2016 at 11:05 am

          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.

          • Ricardo on February 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm

            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 on February 23, 2016 at 3:50 pm

            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!

  78. Mike on March 8, 2016 at 9:12 am

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

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2016 at 10:51 am

      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.

      • Mike on March 8, 2016 at 2:15 pm

        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 on March 9, 2016 at 11:59 am

          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 🙂

  79. Guilherme on March 14, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    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 on March 14, 2016 at 5:19 pm

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

  80. […] How to eat enough to gain weight […]

  81. Dayne on March 20, 2016 at 3:23 pm

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

    • Shane Duquette on March 21, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      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 🙂

  82. Erick on April 5, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    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 on April 5, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      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! 🙂

  83. […] Fresh fruit is great for your health, digestion and body composition though. It’s worth point out that frozen fruit  counts as fresh fruit too, since it’s frozen when fresh. Dried fruit is also very nutritious while also being very easy on the appetite—great for those of us trying to eating enough to gain weight. (more on appetite manipulation here.) […]

  84. […] As you may be noticing, us ectomorphs often stumble into doing mainstream appetite control tricks for chubby people trying to be lean and muscular. Paleo, low carb diets, etc—these are all diets designed for naturally chubby guys who are trying to get leaner. (Our article on appetite here.) […]

  85. Ahmed on June 17, 2016 at 4:38 am

    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.

  86. Steven on August 1, 2016 at 10:47 am

    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 on August 1, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      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 🙂

  87. […] if you find it hard to eat more than you need? Shane’s written an excellent article that breaks down all the science on this, and he shares r…. Here’s the […]

  88. Mohammed on October 22, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Shane is the Man !! Thanks for everything bruh!

    • Shane Duquette on October 22, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      Glad you dug it, Mohammed! No problem 🙂

  89. […] Supplements aren’t magic. You can build muscle very well with just a good lifting program, a good bulking diet, and some quality sleep. Cheap, simple and effective, and until you’re doing that properly, […]

  90. […] you don’t believe me, ask any ectomorph why he doesn’t “just eat more,” then ask any endomorph why he doesn’t “just eat less.” As they collapse […]

  91. Daniel Kim on March 12, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Found this post 3 week ago. I weighed 58kgs and my height is 179cm. I was extremely thin but decided to make a change. I incorporated some of your suggestions (changing habit like not drinking water in-between bites and eating musli and oats) and now i weigh 60.5-61kg at a stable rate.

    Obviously not a huge change, but i intend to follow this routine and sign up for the gym to gain more weight. Nice blogpost.

    • Daniel Kim on March 12, 2017 at 8:10 am

      Also i’m Asian. Not sure if ethnicity is also a factor because i heard Asians have the worst genetics. Not sure if true.

    • Shane Duquette on March 15, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Nice work, man. 2 kilos in 3 weeks is wild. If anything you’re gaining too quickly 🙂

      There are racial differences for sure, but they tend to pale in comparison to individual differences. So let’s say that what you’re saying is true, and Asians have lower than average muscle-building genetics. That applies when looking at large swaths of the population, but you aren’t an average, you’re you. It makes more sense to compare your individual genetics. With a site like this, we’re taking the genetic anomalies—the skinny, ectomorph hardgainers—and creating a group based around our specific muscle-building genetics. (Although there’s still variance here, for sure.) I bet that as a skinny guy struggling to gain weight you have more in common with other skinny guys than you have in common with other Asians, at least when it comes to building muscle.

      For an example: Marco is half Chinese and bulks up in a pretty similar way to me, with more European (and Cuban) heritage. We choose different foods sometimes, but the same principles still apply.

  92. gogeto on April 8, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Hello I have a question, say your only carbs are dried fruit and some bread, will it make you fat ? because dried fruit are 100% sugar

    • Shane Duquette on April 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Dried fruits are almost exactly the same as actual fruits. After all, they’re regular fruits with the water removed. So there’s fibre in there too, lots of phytonutrients, and the sugar is contained within plant cells. Having a prune is quite different from having a tablespoon of table sugar, but not so different from having a plum.

      Will it make you fat? Nope! Not if the other things you’re doing are on point. Still, though: the more variety you’ve got in your diet, the better.

      • gogeto on April 9, 2017 at 6:03 pm

        Thanks dude, I find it way more easier to eat dried fruit than cooking/eating rice etc. so I’ll try to get my carbs only from dried fruit + muesli and will report feedback, goodnight

  93. Victor on May 23, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Hey Shane, Awesome information. Very glad i found this, there are very few sources out there and this is defiantly one that you spent time on. Thank you!

    Question if you don’t mind, you’ve already given out such great advice that i feel odd asking lol. I’m 6′ 3″ currently weighing in at 178 lbs. I feel that my biggest struggle is determining my daily Calorie/Protein/Carb/Fat intake. I have been averaging at about 4k a day and not really sure on protein (i should probably start tracking) and feel that should be enough but i guess i’m not seeing much on the scale. The obvious answer (dun dun dun) eat more, right? Is it possible that i’m not eating the right kind of calories? Any tips greatly appreciated –

    • Shane Duquette on May 24, 2017 at 10:22 pm

      Glad you dug it, Victor!

      4,000 seems about right for a guy your height and weight who’s more of a hardgainer body type. But if you’re currently eating 4,000 calories and not gaining any weight, then I’d recommend bumping that up to 4,300 to get the scale moving again. This takes precedence over balancing macros. So, yeah, sort of a “just eat more” kind of scenario for sure, as much as it sucks to hear it.

      Another option would be to burn fewer calories, but that’s probably not realistic unless you’re training for a marathon or whatnot.

      As for balancing macros, yes, that can help. Starchy carbs tend to digest fairly easily, especially when talking about sources that aren’t also packed full of fibre. Something like white rice, for example, is very easy to digest and your body won’t waste a lot of energy producing heat in the process. So I’ve got two more articles for you to check out:

      The idea of the first is that a high-calorie drink surrounding your workouts might help a lot. The idea of the second is that aiming for more carbs in your diet relative to fats and protein might also help.

  94. gogetoss3 on August 24, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Eat the right amount of protein, then most of your calories in carbs

    I agree BUT I find that any carbs is incredibly filling in comparison with protein, eating 200g (uncooked) of rice is super hard while I can eat protein and fat forever (meat with sauce etc.)

    • Shane Duquette on August 27, 2017 at 11:09 am

      There’s quite a bit of personal preference involved in this, it seems. Some guys can have an easier time with rice if it’s a) white, b) cooked with some sort of broth or soy sauce or spices, c) served under some other food (like picadillo, stir fries, etc). If you’re eating it plain, it might just be that the flavour is too bland?

      Also, you’re talking about 700 or so calories of rice, no? That’s a lot of rice!

      • gogetoss3 on August 27, 2017 at 2:22 pm

        Yes absolutly you need to find the right spices but what I mean is I find it hard to eat any form of carbs (healthy carbs) in comparison with eating alot of protein. Its like I get a very high satiety from regular carbs

        • Shane Duquette on August 27, 2017 at 4:31 pm

          Hmm. Do you have an example of a food where you can get more than 700 calories worth of protein (175 grams of protein) without feeling overly full?

          • gogetoss3 on August 28, 2017 at 7:23 am

            Well if you put it this way .. I guess you are right, I never thought about it like that, cause we always eat less meat than rice for exemple + the meat is tasty so I draw conclusion too fast

            I am counting my calories since 18 days, And I find it so easy to hit my caloric goal when I eat dried raisins versus when I only eat standard carbs like rice

            But then there is that “myth” … is it true that once your liver if full of glycogene, all the fructose from dried fruit turn into fat cause it cant store in muscles ?

            Or you are more advocating iffym, as long as you hit your caloric goal, no more no less ?

          • Shane Duquette on August 29, 2017 at 11:18 am

            Well, eating tons and tons of fructose isn’t the best idea. Starches are a very solid source of carbohydrates when bulking. This is why we recommend having high-carb post-workout shakes that are made out starch (maltodextrin) instead of drinking fruit juice, for example.

            But in order to run into issues from that, you’d really need to take this to an extreme level. If you’re getting most of your carbs from relatively whole foods and you eat even somewhat of a balanced diet, you’ll do just fine even if more of your carbs from dried fruit instead of oats, say. I wouldn’t worry about that one bit.

            As for us being strict advocates of IIFYM, sure! But keep in mind that IIFYM isn’t the ice cream and Pop-Tart diet. When the term was coined (by Alan Aragon, was it?) it was in response to people asking if they could swap out the apple in their meal plan for a banana. Sometimes it could be used to say that if you indulge with some dessert, you should remove the respective macronutrients from other meals during the day. But the idea was always to be eating a balanced diet that was 80% or more whole food while focusing on getting your macros right for your goals. And when defined as such (which I think is the true definition) then we definitely agree with that 🙂

  95. gogetoss3 on August 29, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for the explanation, I would have a final question, what’s your opinion on macro distribution between meal.

    Lets say you count your macros : at the end of the day you hit your fat and protein goal number, BUT you still need 500 calories from carbs to complete the day, does eating like that have an impact on body composition or not ?

    • Shane Duquette on August 30, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      The most important thing is getting in the calories and protein that you need each day. Splitting up that protein between your meals, with at least 20 grams in each meal, would be the next thing I would worry about.

      So for the guy who realizes he needs an extra 500 calories (ideally from carbs) after finishing dinner, I would recommend either:

      a) Having a 500-calorie dessert. I’d say to aim for it to be mostly carbs, but some fat and protein might be in there too.
      b) Having another late-night meal later on with at least 20 grams of protein + mostly carbs.

      For me, in either case, that might be some greek yoghurt (or milk) + muesli + dried cherries + some semi-sweet chocolate chips.

  96. Alex on November 26, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    I weigh 120 pounds on a good day, and I’m 17. How much could I realistically expect to gain by eating and bulking like you suggest?

    • Shane Duquette on November 27, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      That depends on a few things. Your height, for one, and also how skinny you currently are. Perhaps most of all, it depends if you follow a good plan or not.

      If your plan is good, though, I’d guess it’s possible for you to gain a minimum of 20 pounds within just the next three months or so. You’d need to do a great job of it, though.

      If you’re talking about lifetime gains, it’s still hard to say. I gained 55 pounds. Jared gained 40. Marco gained 65. And I don’t think any of us are at our genetic potential. I’m guessing that if you’re expecting to grow to about average height, you’ve got a good 50 pounds in you, at least 🙂

  97. Amin on January 26, 2018 at 1:35 am

    In a study published in 2013 in the journal “Obesity,” researchers discovered that when you eat your calories has a major impact on weight loss. In the trial, one group of overweight women ate a big breakfast, medium lunch and light dinner. Another group ate a light breakfast, medium lunch and big dinner. Over a 12-week period, the big breakfast group showed greater weight loss and reduction in waist size than the big dinner group, even though the two groups ate exactly the same number of calories every day.

    • Shane Duquette on February 2, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Hey Amin, do you have a question about the study or its implications?

      • Amin on February 9, 2018 at 3:40 am

        Well initially I thought eating more at dinner might be a good idea for us ectos, but I tried it out myself and just got heated up from NEAT, along with sleeping disorders! So that sort of answered my question haha.

      • Amin on March 27, 2018 at 11:06 am

        Do you think maybe we should be eating our biggest meal at night? Nutrient timing is getting new attention and studies show big dinners equal weight gain.

        Although people may lose more weight when they make breakfast their largest meal, a study published in “The Journal of Nutrition” in 1997 found that those who make dinner their largest meal tend to have an easier time maintaining muscle mass while dieting. Making dinner your largest meal may help you lose more fat and less muscle, resulting in a better overall body composition at the end of your diet.

        • Shane Duquette on March 27, 2018 at 1:40 pm

          I think it depends. For most skinny guys, though, yeah, eating a big, protein-rich meal late at night makes a whole ton of sense. We build a lot of muscle while we sleep, our appetite tends to be the highest in the evening, and if we feel lethargic after big meals… great—we’re going to bed anyway! Just have to watch out for things like acid reflux.

          Sounds like you’re mixing together fat loss and muscle gain stuff, there. What works for someone trying to cut can backfire for those trying to gain. Eating at night isn’t one of those things—it’s fine for both sets of people—but just be careful with that.

  98. Amin on February 1, 2018 at 5:22 am

    Shane, what blood type are you guys? I’m A+.

    • Amin on March 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      It seems that a lot of ectomorphs are A+., Which makes me wonder if the blood type diet might at all have merit, at least for longivity. What are your thoughts on this Shane?

  99. Bony to Beastly—Should Ectomorphs do Cardio? on June 17, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    […] I’ve been researching and experimenting with appetite for an upcoming article (update: article here), and when it came time to trim back down after months of overeating, I lost 20 pounds of fat just […]

  100. Ian on September 11, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    I should probably preface this comment with the fact I know absolutely nothing about bodybuilding, nutrition – basically everything this website addresses. However, over the past few weeks I have noticed my posture is undoubtedly awful. I am only 17 years old (5’8, 125-130ish) and have attempted multiple methods of correcting this bad habit of mine, yet none of them have truly worked. My kyphosis looks exponentially protruded due to my weight, and to balance this offset in my body I have incurred hyperlordosis. Now I am in a fully active pursuit to correct this problem while also gaining weight. I have to admit this is mostly a superficial thing, although I do obviously care about my health. I was wondering if your course addresses these issues? Does putting on weight and building muscle in my back correct these issues? Or is this posture issue something that needs to be worked on separately?

    Thanks for reading the long message haha!

    • Jared Polowick on September 26, 2018 at 8:56 am

      We focus on the upper/lower cross syndrome quite a lot (indirectly) in this program. It’s super common from sitting a lot, and many of us skinny guys need help in the postural department. Doing exercises like the deadlift can help you build up your postural muscles, you just need to ease into it safely with the right progressions and chose the right weight, use the right amount of volume, etc. I think you’d get quite a lot out of the program! Marco also has some postural threads for extra work should you want to do it, inside the community.

  101. Joshua Rigney on May 1, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Great article! Well-written with lots of interesting information specific to ectomorphs. I’ve been working out for years now and I’ve recently been pushing to get through a plateau. I’m a combination between ectomorph and mesomorph. I’m 5’8, 128lbs, at approximately 6% body fat. I’ve been eating 2,300 to 2,500 calories a day for weeks and struggle to gain weight. Although, I could be burning fat and gaining muscle at the same time. My muscles are visibly bigger regardless of the unchanged number on the scale.

    When it comes to eating, I’m an ectomorph. When it comes to working out, I’m a mesomorph. I find that I do better with heavy weights (80-85% of 1rm), around the 4-6 rep range. I can’t do cardio because I’ll end up losing 4lbs in 3 days. Anyways, great article. Hopefully it will help me figure myself out.


  102. […] There has also been research showing that some people resist fat gain more than others. For example, in a famous 1999 study, the researchers overfed people by 1000 calories and measured how much weight they gained. Some of the study participants gained as much as 9 pounds, whereas other participants gained less than a single pound. This study (along with many others) proved that some people have a harder time gaining weight than others. We call these people “hardgainers.” (Here’s our article going in-depth on why it’s so hard for hardgainers to gain weight, an….) […]

  103. […] Why is it so hard for ectomorphs to gain weight? Why is your metabolism so fast? […]

  104. […] reason why some participants lost muscle size in their arms can likely be explained by nutrition, which wasn’t monitored, but nevertheless: some people naturally respond favourably to […]

  105. […] It took me quite a while to even figure out what our body type was. Eventually, though, I learned that we were ectomorphs because of our narrow bone structures and thin bones. I also learned that we were hardgainers because of our small stomachs, meagre appetites, and insanely fast metabolisms. […]

  106. Bony to Beastly—The Skinny Struggle is Real on July 23, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    […] want to save you from that fate. So here’s an article we wrote about how to eat more as an ectomorph. Here’s an article about how to lift as an ectomorph. I think those articles are a good […]

  107. The Science of Newbie Gains + How to Get Them on July 25, 2019 at 9:24 am

    […] The “non-responders” don’t have bad muscle-building genetics. Their muscles are having a normal response to lifting weights. The problem is that they’re hardgainers. These are guys who have a hard time eating enough calories to gain weight. It’s not a workout issue, it’s a diet issue. (More on hardgainers here.) […]

  108. […] that even though the keto participants were trying to bulk, they simply weren’t able to. Struggling to eat enough calories to gain weight is a common struggle for hardgainers, but it’s surprising to see a group of regular people unable to gain weight like […]

  109. […] amount of muscle, us skinny guys often struggle. That’s one of our biggest struggles, and 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 […]

  110. […] 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 […]

  111. […] adapted to crave, fit, and digest more food. They’ll find a bulking diet easy to stomach, we will not. And while we’ll be able to get and stay lean fairly easily, for them it can be a lifelong […]

  112. […] but our struggle to gain weight has little to do with our muscle-building genetics and more to with ectomorphs having higher metabolisms and smaller appetites/stomachs. In my case, at least, I wasn’t failing to build muscle because I was having a poor response […]

  113. […] People have varying levels of insulin sensitivity, differing quantities of fat cells, and even our metabolisms respond differently to overfeeding. Perhaps you’re someone who gains a higher proportion of fat when you gain weight, and some […]

  114. […] short answer is yes. Milk can be great for helping guys build muscle. This is especially true for skinny guys who are having trouble eating enough calories to gain weight. This is because a calorie surplus will make you gain weight (study, study, study), and milk is […]

  115. […] 3. Leg lifts burn the most calories. Just kidding. I mean, this is true, but I’m just kidding about this being a benefit for us. What hardgainer wants to burn more calories? We already have a hard time eating enough. […]

  116. […] 3. Leg lifts burn the most calories. Just kidding. I mean, this is true, but I’m just kidding about this being a benefit for us. What hardgainer wants to burn more calories? We already have a hard time eating enough. […]

  117. […] but our struggle to gain weight has little to do with our muscle-building genetics and more to with ectomorphs having higher metabolisms and smaller appetites/stomachs. In my case, at least, I wasn’t failing to build muscle because I was having a poor response […]

  118. […] aspect of bulking is easier said than done. For us naturally skinny guys, eating enough calories to bulk up can be incredibly difficult. This is how ectomorphs often get stuck at a beginner level, sometimes for years. It’s how I […]

  119. Sam on May 25, 2020 at 7:21 am

    Hey Shane,

    Simple (hopefully) question for you. Is it possible to build muscle without a caloric surplus? Essentially,, what am I doing (if anything) when I work out without eating a caloric surplus? Is it even worth it at that point?

    Thanks buddy!

    • Shane Duquette on May 25, 2020 at 8:35 am

      Hey Sam, that’s a really good question. I’ve had those same thoughts myself.

      Working out is good for your health whether or not you’re eating enough to stimulate muscle growth. You’ll be increasing your bone density, strength, body composition, tendon toughness, cardiovascular health, and so on. It would be even better if you were building a significant amount of muscle, but it’s still worth it even if you aren’t. It will help you live a longer and healthier life.

      If you’re talking about visual changes, those will happen to, at least to a point. Let’s imagine that right now you’re at 15% body fat at 150 pounds. If you lift weights, eat enough protein, and get enough good sleep, your body-fat percentage will probably fall while your muscle mass rises. Maybe a year from now you’ll find that you’ve lost five pounds of fat and gained five pounds of muscle, putting you at 11–12% body fat at 150 pounds. That will improve your appearance. It’s not a fast way of doing it, and you may still be thinner than you’d like, but it’s much better than nothing. It’s still worth it.

      And finally, lifting weights will also maintain your health and appearance as you age. Instead of gradually losing muscle and gaining fat, you’ll be maintaining or even slowly gaining muscle mass.

      So lifting weights is definitely still worth it, but if you’re trying to get bigger, stronger, and more muscular, I’d recommend trying to eat enough calories to gain weight. Not forever, just for a few months. You can go back to maintenance after a few months of effort, and then you’ll be maintaining a bigger and more muscular physique with the same ease that you’re maintaining your current one.

      (Also, I’m working on an article about whether skinny guys should “bulk” to build muscle. I think it will do a much better job of answering your question.)

      • Sam on May 25, 2020 at 4:55 pm

        Thanks bro, this is great! Looking forward to that article!

  120. chris on June 18, 2020 at 7:08 am

    My friend is a hardgainer and I am recommending this site to him.

    • Shane Duquette on June 18, 2020 at 9:20 am

      That’s great. Thank you, Chris!

      Mind you, as a skinny guy, I didn’t always love getting unsolicited advice. People coming up to me and saying “eat more” or “you should lift weights” or whatever. So make sure that he actually wants the recommendation, you know?

  121. Sam on September 28, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Hey Shane!

    It’s been a while! During the first months of the pandemic I didn’t have a lot to do so I devoured all of your articles and focused on lifting big and eating bigger. I was super happy with the results: 10 pounds in 2 months. Since then, I’ve been trying to continue to gain weight, but I haven’t been as focused or committed, and the results just haven’t been there. The main issue has been maintaining a caloric surplus. Going back to work (delivery driver) and getting back into sports has really spiked my caloric maintenance threshold. Sports have been the biggest issue. I will be gaining at a nice .2-4 pounds a day, and then one day I will play 2 hours of spike ball and wake up the next morning 2 pounds lighter, despite bumping up my calorie intake by 500 to account for the extra exercise. I also lose my appetite for solid food after I play sports, which complicates things further.

    My dilemma is this: I can’t seem to give up sports, but I don’t want to lose my past, present, and future gains. Is there an easy way to make up for the lost calories? I was thinking I could just drink a half gallon of milk afterward, but I’m afraid of kidney stones or other health problems associated with drinking too much milk. Would you recommend a mass gainer shake before or after sports? Junk food?

    As a secondary question and a follow up: How important is the timing and quality of your food? For example, if you eat 2500 calories + a bag of doritos before you play sports and then go to bed, would it be vastly different from eating 2000 calories + a bag of doritos (no sports) before bed (assuming the sport caused you to burn 500 calories)? Can junk food turn directly into energy and never negatively affect you if you time it right? Does it depend on the kind of junk food?

    Thanks for your help Shane. I’ve been able to help other skinny guys with your articles and its been pretty cool. Keep it up man.

    • Shane Duquette on September 28, 2020 at 4:10 pm

      Hey Sam, thanks for reposting the question on the right article. That really helps keep things organized 🙂

      Congrats on the gains, man! That’s awesome!

      It’s common to hit a weight-gain plateau after gaining some weight. Our bodies have a sort of built-in thermostat. When your body clues into the fact that your weight has gone up, it turns off your appetite to help get you back to maintaining your weight. That’s a good, healthy thing. It’s a sign that your appetite control mechanisms are working correctly. It’s damn frustrating, though.

      What’s going to happen is that over time, your body will get used to your new, higher body weight, at which point your appetite will naturally cue you to eat enough to maintain your new muscle mass. When that happens, it will become easier to bulk up again. In the meantime, though, it can be a bit of a pain.

      There’s nothing wrong with taking a break and just maintaining your weight for a while. But at least in my own case, I preferred bulking in 20-pound increments, so I’d usually push the dial a little further before settling into a maintenance phase. I’d take the occasional weekend off, where I’d just eat in line with my appetite, but I wouldn’t let it totally plateau.

      What you need to do is eat more calories. Maybe another 200–300 extra calories per day, on average. So don’t think about weight fluctuations with soccer or work days, just think about eating enough each week to gain a bit of weight. If you aren’t gaining weight right now, add extra calories. That could be +200 per day, or +500 on soccer days, or whatever helps you bring that average intake up.

      The next thing is not use a weekly average weight. You can weigh yourself every day, but don’t look at the numbers until Sunday (or whenever), when you calculate your weekly average. There will always be fluctuations, and little deviations in your schedule can account for them. It’s not that you’re burning off two pounds of fat every time you play soccer, just that you’re sweating out some extra water, or your meal schedule is a bit different, or you have less food in your gut, etc. That’s why it seems so confusing. So just use the weekly average and adjust based on that.

      Should you use a mass gainer, milk, or junk food after soccer games? Milk is probably the healthiest option, followed by a weight gainer, followed by junk food. But again, you don’t need to make up for burned calories immediately after burning them. It’s okay to just eat a bit more overall. But, yeah, it might be nice to eat more after soccer. That’s a good idea. All of those ideas will work. Just make sure that junk food isn’t making up more than around 20% of your overall calories. That’s a good rule of thumb, anyway.

      If you eat a bag of chips before soccer, I’d be worried about soccer performance suffering for it. Combining exercise with junk food isn’t a bad idea from a health and body composition perspective. It can help. That could be eating junk food before or after exercising. It will be in your gut when your body goes hunting for energy to burn either way. But meal timing isn’t all that major of a factor. I wouldn’t worry about it. And it’s protein/carb-based junk foods that tend to pair best with exercise, not fat-based junk foods. That’s why weight gainers are popular. They’re kinda junk, but at least they’re carb/protein junk.

      Eating junk food right before bed is the worst time to eat it. With something like chips, you might wake up thirsty during the night, which is a whole separate problem. But it’s usually best not to eat a bunch of junk food right before bed from a body composition perspective, either. A light meal with some protein and complex carbs tends to work best before bed. Something like oatmeal + berries + casein powder. Or greek yoghurt. Or cottage cheese with some fruit. That kind of thing. It doesn’t interfere with sleep and it gives a good source of slowly-digested protein.

      As for exercise and calories, it’s better to exercise more and eat more. That’s how you become big, strong, lean, and muscular. That’s much better than being sedentary and eating less, which is how you become skinny-fat. So challenge your muscles, build a strong cardiovascular system, eat enough food to fuel that active lifestyle, and, yeah, include some fun indulgences 🙂

      I hope that all makes sense.

      • Sam on September 28, 2020 at 4:17 pm

        Perfect sense! You’ve inspired me to play and lift, which is what I was hoping to hear haha. Thanks man.

  122. Paul Cross on February 22, 2021 at 2:19 am

    I am a 47yo Dad and have always struggled to gain weight,
    At my highest i managed to reach 13st and was quite ripped.
    It was amazing but because i have Hypermetabolism it took an extreme amount of food and calories to reach that point.
    Even with eating a shake @ 1040 calories ( mutant mass ) three times a day and meals like:
    1 weight gain shake
    Creatine drink
    2 pcs wholegrain bread
    1 full tin baked beans
    2 fried eggs
    4 rashers of bacon
    Large bowl of oats with berries.

    1x 8pk Wholewheat wraps
    1 whole onion
    1/2 lettuce
    2 tomatoes
    1 whole chicken
    Mayo for topping
    1/2lb burger with cheese, bacon, mushrooms and onions.
    Foot long bratwerst.
    Small salad mix with peanuts and raisins.

    1 shake
    Half a family size casserole dish of either Lasagne ( lean ground beef, extra onion, garlic, mushrooms, sweetcorn, extra mature cheese OR same portion Chicken broccoli bake with smoky bacon, white sauce made with full fat milk, extra mature cheese and plain chips for topping OR same portion Tuna pasta bake.

    Exactly as morning snack.

    Afternoon (5-6pm)
    1 weight gain shake
    Second 1/2 of whichever meal was cooked midday.
    1 banana or mixed berries

    1hr after Afternoon meal
    Preworkout 15mins before gym ( Creakong )
    Gym (30mins – 2hrs depending on routine that day)
    BCAA’s 9.7 during and after workout.

    Evening: ( about 30 mins after workout )
    Light Salad with fresh juice.

    At the highest i was taking in 12k – 15k calories per day and still topped out at 13st.
    My metabolism is crazy enough that i can drop 5lb over night and then gaim it back within 24hrs just resting.

    I have suffered with injuries a lot as well and recovery has always been a long running thing for me.
    In Sept’ 2015 i tore my Bicep, Triceps, Lats and Traps ( all left arm ),,,,Totally snapping my triceps from the remedial head.

    I know i can beat the 13st i reached before and can reach my goal of 210lb.
    It’s the struggle and crazy amounts of food that is hard.
    Any advice i could get will be very much appreciated.



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