Illustration of a skinny guy eating a feast in an attempt to gain weight and build muscle.

How to Eat More Calories (to Gain Weight)

To eat more calories, eat more often, focusing on dense foods that are easy to chew, lower in fibre, or lower in water. Think of foods like trail mix, ground meat, smoothies, yogurt, milk, bananas, and dark chocolate.

Even then, though, many skinny guys still have trouble eating enough calories to gain weight. There’s a good reason for that: we often have faster metabolisms and smaller stomachs. Unfortunately, the only way to gain weight is to get into a calorie surplus. I know that’s a tough bite to swallow, especially if you’re already stuffed to the gills, but there’s no way around it.

To make matters worse, we aren’t just trying to gain weight, we’re trying to build muscle. That adds a few other considerations. Protein is very filling, but we need to eat enough of it. Fat is very calorically dense, but we need to make sure we aren’t overdoing it. And we can’t rely on junk food to boost our calories up. That makes gaining weight much harder.

So what we want to do is design a diet around calorie-rich foods that improve our digestion and make it easier to build muscle quickly and leanly.

Illustration of a skinny ectomorph building muscle and becoming muscular.

Gaining Weight is Hard

I know how hard it can be to gain weight. I spent years trying to bulk up before I finally managed to budge the scale. So before we dive deeper, let me explain why I’m so confident that these principles will actually help you gain weight:

  • They’re evidence-based: This diet is based on all of the best research looking into appetite, digestion, weight gain, and muscle growth.
  • They’re time-tested: These are the same techniques that we use in our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program, which has helped nearly 10,000 naturally skinny guys bulk up.
  • We’ve used them at the highest level: We’ve used this same diet to help professional and Olympic athletes bulk up; to help doctors and dieticians bulk up.
  • We’re skinny guys, too: We’re naturally skinny guys ourselves, we had a brutal time gaining weight, and this is what finally allowed us to bulk up. I’ve personally used this weight-gain diet to gain 55 pounds in just a couple years, finishing visibly leaner than when I started:
Shane Duquette gaining 55 pounds

Pillar 1: Don’t Shoot Yourself in The Stomach

To start things off, we need to learn the difference between a weight-loss diet and a bulking diet. Most people are overweight, and so most diets are built with weight loss in mind. That means that the very first step is to make sure that you aren’t accidentally following weight-loss advice—to make sure that you aren’t shooting yourself in the stomach, so to speak.

For example, in most bodybuilding communities, there’s a big emphasis on lifting weights, eating lots of protein, and eating “clean.” Clean is a vague term that can mean a variety of things: avoiding carbs, avoiding sugar, avoiding junk food, avoiding gluten, etc. We’ve got a full article about the pros and cons of clean and dirty bulking.

Generally, the foods that are being restricted are the foods that are higher in calories—the foods that are easier to overeat. Restricting these foods makes it easier for people to lose weight, which is why these diets have gained mainstream popularity. These are weight-loss diets.

Weight-Loss Diets Masquerading as Bulking Diets

To illustrate this example, let’s consider intermittent fasting, where you restrict the number of meals you eat. The most popular form of intermittent fasting is where you skip breakfast, eating just lunch and dinner. This approach was popularized by Martin Berkhan, who dubbed it LeanGains. It was then further popularized by guys like Greg O’Gallagher (from Kinobody).

If we look at the research on appetite, such as this 2014 study on meal frequency, it shows that the more meals the participants ate, the more weight they gained. This tells us that if we’re trying to gain weight, we should be adding snacks into our diets, not removing meals. Intermittent fasting isn’t a magic diet, it just makes it harder for us to gain weight.

That raises the question, then: why is the most popular type of intermittent fasting called LeanGains? I suspect it’s because intermittent fasting is a weight-loss diet that’s being marketed towards guys who want to be lean and muscular. However, make no mistake: it’s still a weight-loss diet.

The same is true with the ketogenic diet. In theory, it’s possible to bulk up on a ketogenic diet, but when researchers tried to study it, they found that the participants weren’t even able to get into a calorie surplus.

Plant-based diets are associated with weight loss, too. It’s certainly possible to bulk on a vegan diet, but when people switch over to a plant-based diet, they tend to inadvertently lose weight.

Are Restrictive Bulking Diets Healthier? 

Many popular diets are good for improving the average person’s health. There’s an important caveat to that, though: these diets are good for our health in the same way that losing weight is good for our health.

Most people are overweight. So for most people, losing weight is healthy. However, given that we’re skinny, that stops being the case. Our circumstances call for something different.

There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about breakfast, carbs, grains, or even a modest amount of sugar. The only “unhealthy” thing about them is that they make it easier to eat more calories, causing people to accidentally gain weight.

However, since skinny guys tend to benefit from gaining weight, diets that make it easier to eat more calories are often better for our health. Once we understand that, we can relax on the restrictions, eat a wider variety of foods, and have a far easier time bulking up.

Lightning summary: it’s important to eat a healthy diet that’s centred around whole foods, but if as skinny guys who are trying to bulk up, it’s usually better to think about adding in more good foods, not removing the bad foods.

By focusing on adding more high-calorie whole foods into our diets, we can add in more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and protein, and we can do it in a way that also helps us gain weight.

Pillar 2: Make Your Diet Less Filling

Illustration of how much space various foods take up in the stomach.

After we’ve removed any unnecessary dietary restrictions, the next thing we want to do is add in energy-dense foods that will help us gain weight. More specifically, we’re looking for foods that are:

  1. Easy on our appetites
  2. Good for our health
  3. Great for building muscle
  4. Less likely to be stored as body fat

To start, we can use The Satiety Index of Common Foods. In this study, they took a sampling of common foods, figured out how filling they were, and then observed how food choices impacted our overall calorie intake.

The goal of the study, as you can probably guess, was to help people feel more satisfied while eating fewer calories. We’re going to use it for the opposite purpose: to find out how to eat more calories.

I’ve organized the foods into categories and remade their results graph:

A chart showing how filling common foods are

Most of the results are fairly intuitive. Whole foods are filling, and then the more you process them—removing fibre, removing water, and breaking them down into smaller particles—the less filling they become. This explains how junk food contributes to obesity: it delivers calories too efficiently. No huge surprise there.

But some of these results are weird. I never would have guessed that potatoes were the best weight-loss food ever. They’re 300% more filling than bananas and 700% more filling than croissants. Mind you, “steak and potatoes” is an expression that means simple yet filling, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find that both steak and potatoes are indeed simple yet filling.

However, keep in mind that the preparation of the food matters. They studied boiled potatoes. Boiled potatoes are fairly low in calories and fairly high in water content. If we made homefries, cutting those potatoes up into wedges, coated them in olive oil, and then baked out some of the water, we’d be adding more healthy calories while making the potatoes less filling per calorie. This would make it easier to gain weight.

We can prepare steak in a way that’s less filling, too. But first we need to find out why steak is so filling in the first place. More on that in a second.

Does satiety actually affect how many calories we eat? The researchers found that with these 250-calorie meals, for every 100-point difference on the satiety scale, there was a corresponding 50-calorie difference in how much was eaten in the next meal. That means that if you ate a potato for lunch (323 satiety), you’d eat a 650-calorie dinner. On the other hand, if you ate a croissant for lunch (47 satiety), then you’d eat an 800-calorie dinner.

If you eat three meals per day, these simple food choices yield a difference of 450 calories. That’s enough to bulk up. In fact, that’s enough of a calorie surplus to bulk quite quickly, gaining nearly a pound per week. Best of all, we’d be bulking without needing to force-feed ourselves.

The trick is, we can’t just haphazardly eat more processed foods. That would allow us to gain weight, sure, but it wouldn’t be an effective way to gain muscle quickly and leanly. Processed food, especially if it’s high in saturated fat and fructose, can reduce muscle growth and increase fat storage (study).

Besides, most of us who are trying to get bigger want to do it in a way that has a positive effect on our health. So we need to make sure that we’re eating a diet that’s promoting muscle gain, not fat gain.

Why Are Some Foods More Filling Than Others?

The researchers concluded that the most filling foods were either high in protein (like chicken breast), high in fibre (like broccoli), or high in water (like boiled potatoes).

If we look at research conducted since then, we can also see that foods that are harder to chew are more filling. This means that a tough steak is more filling than ground meat, and overcooked chicken breast is more filling than shredded chicken.

Even better if you don’t need to chew the food at all—such as with milk, fruit juice, smoothies, and protein shakes. In that case, your body barely even realizes that you’re consuming calories at all. This is one of the reasons why milk is so good for helping people bulk up.

Flavour is also an important factor, as explained in books like The Dorito Effect. After all, part of the reason that we eat more calories is that we enjoy eating those extra calories.

The Five Factors That Make Food More Filling

So far, researchers have found five factors that make food more filling:

  1. High protein content (like chicken breast).
  2. High fibre content (like broccoli).
  3. High water content (like potatoes).
  4. It’s hard to chew (like tough steak).
  5. It doesn’t taste good (like plain chicken breast).

Some foods are a perfect storm. They’re low in protein, low in fibre, easy to chew, intensely flavourful, and don’t have much water in them. Dorito chips are a good example of that.

The problem is that Doritos aren’t very good for building muscle. They don’t have enough vitamins and minerals, they’re too low in protein, they’re too low in fibre, they’re too high in processed fat, and they’re bad for our digestive systems if we have too many of them.

We need to find foods that make it easier to eat more calories that are still good for gaining muscle.

How to Make Protein Less Filling

Illustration of a Thanksgiving turkey

If you look at lean fish, steak, and chicken breast, you get protein sources that are hard to chew and slow to digest, making them almost impossible to bulk up with. That still leaves us with a few ways to eat more protein without ruining our appetite:

  1. Choose liquid protein sources, such as whey protein shakes, yogurt, or milk.
  2. Choose high-calorie protein sources, such as salmon or chicken thighs, which are high in protein while also being high in healthy fat, raising their overall calorie content.
  3. Cook the meat in a way that makes it easier to chew and quicker to digest. One example of this is stewing the meat until it falls apart on your fork. Another example is to choose ground meat instead of steak. This is why foods like hamburgers, chili, and picadillo can be great for bulking.

How to Make Fibre less Filling

First of all, you don’t need to be eating that much fibre, especially when bulking up. Experts like Eric Helms, PhD, recommend getting around ten grams of fibre for every thousand calories.

Illustration of a cherry pie

For example, if you’re bulking up on 3000 calories per day, you only need about thirty grams of fibre. That’s not very much fibre, and eating more fibre than that can begin to put a strain on your digestive system, given the sheer volume of food that you’re eating.

Here are some tips to keep your diet healthy while reducing your fibre intake:

  1. White foods are okay. For example, brown rice is usually marketed as being healthier because of its higher fibre content. However, white rice is cheaper, less filling, quicker to prepare, easier to digest, and, yes, lower in fibre (which in this case is a good thing).
  2. Eat fruits instead of vegetables. Vegetables have a reputation for being healthier than fruits, but that’s a myth. Fruits and vegetables are actually both equally healthy sources of fibre and phytonutrients. The only “downside” to fruits is that they’re higher in calories and natural sugars, making it easier to gain weight. These natural sugars are contained within plant cells, and so they don’t tend to have any negative impact on our health. You could say that vegetables are healthier for overweight people, whereas fruits are healthier for underweight people.
  3. Blend the foods that are higher in fibre. Leafy greens are great for your health. No getting around that. The problem is that they’re also incredibly filling. They take a lot of effort to chew, and they’re made up almost entirely of fibre and water, which won’t get you any closer to your calorie goals. So blend them. They’ll be pulverized into perfectly “chewed” particles, taking up far less space in your stomach and digesting far more quickly.

How to Make Water Less Filling

A 12-week study looking into water intake and digestion found that people who drank a glass of water with their meals inadvertently wound up losing 4.4 pounds more than the control group. Not quite the effect we’re going for.

However, a recent systematic review found that people who drank milk, fruit juice, or other sugary drinks wound up consuming 8–15% more calories overall. For the average person eating a 2500-calorie diet, that amounts to an extra 200–375 calories per day. That’s enough to gain more than half a pound per week.

Illustration of three gallons of milk with a muscular bodybuilder logo.

If you’re feeling thirsty during a meal, I’d recommend having some milk or cranberry juice instead. That way the fluid you’re drinking is smuggling in some calories along with the water. 

The next thing to consider is watery foods. For example, soup is notorious for being incredibly filling despite being extremely low in calories. For another example, if you compare a grape with a raisin, it becomes obvious that 90% of its volume comes from water.

  1. Don’t fill up on fluids. Have your water between meals instead of with meals. Or, if you like having water with meals, try having milk or cranberry juice instead.
  2. Dried fruits are far less filling than regular fruits. If you take a grape and remove the water, you’re left with a raisin that’s 1/10th the size and yet still contains the exact same nutrients and calories. Prunes, dates, and dried mangoes are also great for bulking up.
  3. Most fluids are hydrating. Keep in mind that most fluids, and even many foods, contain plenty of water. That water is still hydrating. So long as your pee isn’t darker than straw, there’s probably enough water in your diet.

How to Make Food Easier to Chew

The easiest way to make food easier to chew is to blend it. That doesn’t mean that you should blend everything, but it does mean that a morning smoothie might make for a good start to your day.

  1. Blend up fruits with yogurt, milk, or protein powder. You’ll get all the same nutrients, but they’ll be far less filling.
  2. Choose ground meat instead of steak. This is the same idea as blending up your fruits, except instead of blending chewy fruit into a smoothie, you’re grinding chewy meat into a hamburger patty or chili. Some bulkers just mix ground meat with some rice and veggies, throw some hamburger helper into it, and call it a meal. Not a bad idea.
  3. Cook your food well. Cooked carrots are easier to chew than raw carrots, (properly) stewed beef is easier to chew than steak, and kale chips are easier to eat than a kale salad. Cooking is also a form of healthy processing that will help your body digest the food more easily, allowing you to extract more calories from it with less of a strain on your digestive system.

How to Leverage the Buffet Effect

The buffet effect the phenomenon where people tend to eat more calories when they have access to a greater variety of foods and flavours. A common example of this is when someone stops eating dinner because they feel full, but then they magically find space in their stomach for dessert (study, study, study).

The reason behind this effect is that our bodies naturally crave a varied intake of nutrients from a number of different sources. Perhaps the dinner you’re eating is rich in iron but low in vitamin C, so when you’re presented with a fruity dessert, your stomach is eager to find extra room for it.

If you’re binging on junk food, the buffet effect can be a real problem, which is why it’s being studied. Switching from salty chips to sweet soda will activate this effect, causing people to overeat, but without providing their bodies with the nutrients that they need.

When bulking, though, we can switch between different nutritious foods. This will not only help us eat more calories, but it will also help to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

  1. Use sauces and spices liberally. There’s nothing wrong with using plenty of barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and whatever else you enjoy using on your foods. Some of them contain calories (often coming from sugar), but that just boosts the calorie content of your food without removing any of the vitamins, minerals and fibre in it.
  2. Vary the flavours in your food. It’s easiest to bulk up when your meals are fairly consistent, but your body will burn out on certain flavours if you eat them over and over again. So try to add variety via spices, sauces, and toppings. For example, my wife and I will have picadillo served on tortillas one day (as tacos) with plenty of hot sauce, then picadillo served on a bed of rice the next day with a little bit of soy sauce (which tastes better than it sounds). This allows us to make a giant pot of picadillo that we eat all week long without feeling like we’re eating the same thing every day.
  3. Combine smaller meals into one mega-meal. When doing his Geek to Freak muscle-building experiment, Tim Ferriss famously bulked up on chili served on a bed of macaroni and cheese. A bizarre combination, but one that helped him prevent flavour fatigue. A more common example of this would be to have dinner (e.g. stew) served alongside a drink (e.g. cranberry juice) followed by a dessert (e.g. ice cream). Yes, these larger meals will take a while to digest, but if you have them at night, your body can digest them while you sleep.

Lightning summary: Now’s not the time to be loading up on raw low-calorie watery fibrous foods like broccoli, lettuce, and watermelon. Go for the higher calorie choices instead, such as hamburgers, bananas, milk and trail mix. They’re often just as healthy while being far less filling.

The Best Bulking Foods

We’ve got a full article doing in-depth on the very best bulking foods. But here are some quick examples of nutritious whole foods that also have a high energy density:

  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts (and nut butter)
  • Muesli cereal
  • White rice
  • Protein powders
  • Smoothies
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Fatty fish (and fish oil)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Bananas
  • Ground meat
  • Oats

Pillar 3: Eat More Snacks

One of the main differences between naturally skinny guys (ectomorphs) and naturally overweight guys (endomorphs) is that our stomachs are much smaller. In fact, our stomachs can be up to 6 times smaller than theirs. This is why they can wolf down giant meals with ease, but if we try to match them fork for fork, we wind up feeling sick and lethargic.

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

For example, eating meals that are too big for your stomach to handle can increase your risk of getting acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is especially common with ectomorphs due to our smaller stomachs. And, as you can imagine, bulking diets can exacerbate this issue (study).

When I started experimenting with an intermittent fasting diet, within a couple of weeks I started to get acid reflux, and before long it became full-fledged GERD. When I switched back to eating more frequently, the acid reflux went away over the course of the next couple months.

The good news is that your body does a poor job of tracking how many calories you eat while snacking. This study found that if you have a 300-calorie snack after lunch, you’ll naturally eat around 100 fewer calories for dinner, resulting in an accidental gain of 200 calories with zero stress on your stomach or appetite. Therefore, one of the best ways for ectomorphs to improve their bulking diets is to forget about eating bigger meals and instead focus on snacking between meals. That will not only prevent discomfort but also boost your appetite.

To switch from a maintenance diet into a bulking diet, you only need about 500 extra calories per day. You could do that by adding in a couple of 250-calorie snacks.

There’s another factor to consider as well. Every time you eat a meal that has enough protein in it (at least 20 grams), you’ll stimulate muscle growth. This extra muscle growth will last for a few hours, and then your body will return to normal, at which point you can stimulate muscle growth again by eating another protein-rich meal (study). This means that adding extra snacks into your bulking diet could increase how much muscle you build. And by increasing how much muscle you can build without increasing your overall calorie intake, you’re going to make leaner gains.

Dr Helms estimates that eating 4–5 meals per day, each containing at least 20 grams of protein, is the absolute ideal for building muscle quickly and leanly. Furthermore, it has the added bonus of allowing us to eat more calories more comfortably.

Lightning summary: if you currently eat the standard three meals per day, instead of making those meals bigger, you might want to experiment with adding in a single 500-calorie meal, or adding in a couple 250-calorie snacks.

Pillar 4: Make Your Diet Easier to Digest

One of the main complaints that ectomorphs have is that bulking diets make them tired, bloated, and gassy. Another issue is that a meal might keep us full for hours, making it difficult to eat often enough, and thus causing us to fall behind on our calories. Then, once we fall behind, we’re forced to eat bigger meals. That only makes the discomfort worse.

Eating a diet that’s high in saturated fats, processed foods, and food additives has been linked with digestive issues ranging in severity from mild discomfort all the way up to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), meaning that it’s important to eat a diet that’s made up mostly of whole foods (study, study).

Aiming to get 80% of your calories from whole foods is a good rule of thumb. That means that it’s probably okay to have some dessert after dinner most nights, and there’s little harm in the occasional pizza. However, your diet should still be made up mostly of whole foods.

So the key to building a good ectomorph bulking diet is to build it mainly out of whole foods, giving us plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, prebiotics, and probiotics, but to do so in a way that doesn’t cause too much gas and bloating, and that doesn’t slow our digestion down too much.

Eat a Moderate Amount of Fibre

More often than not, eating more fibre is a good thing. In fact, one of the main benefits to eating whole foods is that they’re high in fibre, which helps your digestive system in a few ways:

  • Insoluble fibre acts as a sort of toothbrush, cleaning your digestive tract as it passes through, and keeping everything moving along at a steady pace.
  • Fibre is a prebiotic, which means that it feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. These beneficial bacteria then help with your digestion.
  • Having enough fibre in your bulking diet reduces your risk of developing digestive issues (study).

However, more fibre isn’t always better. There’s a limit to how much we can process before it starts to strain our digestive system. When we raise our intake of whole foods and we start eating an extra 500+ calories every day, we run the risk of driving our fibre intake way too high, which is going to cause the opposite sort of problem, where it takes so much effort to digest the food that our digestive system can’t keep up. After all, one of the benefits of eating unprocessed foods is that they tend to digest most slowly and steadily. For ectomorphs who are trying to eat a bulking diet, that can be a real problem.

A good rule of thumb is to aim for ten grams of fibre per thousand calories, which represents a moderate fibre intake. If your diet is made up of 80% whole foods, there’s a good chance that you’re already at or above that threshold. In that case, you may benefit from getting your extra calories from lower-fibre foods, such as:

  • White rice
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit juice
  • Bananas

These foods are still nutritious and good for your digestive system, but they’re also fairly low in fibre, which will speed up your digestion and help to reduce bloating and gas.

On the other hand, if your diet is higher in processed foods, you might want to think about adding in foods that are higher in fibre yet still easy to digest, such as:

  • Smoothies containing fruits and veggies
  • Oatmeal and muesli cereals
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Flax and chia

Eat Plenty of Probiotics and Prebiotics

If you eat a bulking diet that’s made up mostly of whole foods, you’re naturally going to be eating plenty of foods that support strong microflora. Many common cooking ingredients, such as onions and garlic, are great for your immune system and digestive health. Other foods have fibre that feeds your microflora. And some common bulking foods, such as bananas, are great for your digestion.

However, just to make sure that you have the right kind of bacteria in your gut, it’s also a good idea to make a habit of eating fermented foods that have healthy bacteria in them (study), such as:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Hard cheeses
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

Eating more of these probiotic sources will help to reduce digestion issues (study, study, study). Hard cheeses, yogurt, and milk-based kefir are also high in calories and high in protein, making them incredible bulking foods. They’re also easy to digest (study, study).

Blend, Grind, and Cook Your Food

Processed food is essentially pre-digested. It’s been ground into a pulp, the fibre has been removed, and it’s been cooked to the point of sterilization. This removes many of the nutrients, which is a problem, but it also makes these foods easy to digest. That’s one of the reasons that processed foods are so easy to overeat—they pass through the digestive system very quickly and easily, allowing us to eat more calories overall.

The problem with a lot of whole foods, then, is that they’re slower and harder to digest. We can fix that, though, and without making our bulking diets any less healthy:

  • Choose whole foods that are naturally easier to chew and digest, such as getting our carbs from bananas instead of apples, or from white rice instead of brown rice.
  • Cook your food well, such as eating your veggies cooked instead of raw, your meat medium instead of rare.
  • Eat ground meat instead of steak, which is just as nutritious but far easier to chew and digest.
  • Blend your fruits, veggies, and oats into smoothies.

If all else fails, put more effort into chewing your food before swallowing. The more saliva your food comes into contact with while it’s in your mouth, the sooner it will start digesting. And the smaller you can crush your food before you swallow it, the less work you’re leaving for your digestive system (study).

Bonus Pillar: Manage Your Stress

There’s an association between higher stress levels, anxiety, and troubles with digestion, such as bloating and diarrhea. One of my favourite books on stress is Robert Sapolsky’s Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers. In the section on digestion, Sapolsky explains that stress causes our digestive system to prioritize the shorter term over the longer term. For example, if a zebra needs to escape a lion, better to dump the bowels. Yes, it means missing out on calories, but it also gives the zebra a better chance of outrunning the lion. We’re not trying to outrun a lion, though, we’re trying to bulk up. And so our digestion will go a lot smoother if we can dial down the stress a little bit.

Now, I realize that telling you not to stress isn’t going to magically reduce your stress levels. But maybe there are some lifestyle changes you can make, especially surrounding meals, and especially before going to sleep, that can help to ease your stress enough for your digestion to improve. One of my favourite ways to relax is to read speculative fiction (fantasy and sci-fi) in the hour before I go to bed. I find that if I can focus on the book, my own internal dialogue is replaced by the story I’m reading. There are many different techniques for reducing stress, though, and the method is entirely up to you.


It’s common for skinny guys to have a hard time gaining weight. Fortunately, if we leverage appetite and satiety research, there are ways that we can make bulking much easier.

Here’s how to eat a good ectomorph bulking diet:

  1. Stop focusing on cutting bad things out, start focusing on adding good things in. Add foods into your diet that make it easier to gain weight: smoothies, juice, milk, ground meat, nuts, dried fruits, trail mix, protein powder, etc.
  2. Don’t make your meals bigger, add snacks. If you have a small stomach, eating bigger meals will make you feel bloated and lethargic. Snacking is a much easier way to add calories into your diet.
  3. Eat calorie-dense foods. Nuts and dried fruits are great for this, making trail mix one of the best bulking foods.
  4. Eat foods that are lower in fibre. You need fibre in your diet, but it’s also important not to eat too much. 10 grams of fibre per 1000 calories is usually ideal for bulking.
  5. Blend, grind, and cook your food. The better you can prepare your food, the less work your digestive system will have to do. For example, ground meat and smoothies are essentially pre-chewed, they’re easier to digest, and your digestive system can process them more quickly.
  6. Drink your calories instead of eating them. Liquid calories are less filling per calorie and clear out your stomach faster. Smoothies, milk, fruit juice, and protein shakes are all great choices while bulking.
  7. Build a stronger digestive system. Eating plenty of prebiotics and probiotics can improve your ability to digest food. For example, a diet rich in onions, garlic, bananas, and yogurt can make it easier to digest more calories.
  8. Make your food taste better. The better your food tastes, the more of it you’ll want to eat. One simple trick is to have dessert after dinner. If you want to avoid processed foods, simply have a nutritious dessert.
Illustration showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program

If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free bulking newsletter for skinny guys. If you want a full foundational bulking program, including a 5-month full-body workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Beginner Bulking Program. Or, if you want a customizable intermediate program, check out our Outlift Intermediate Muscle-Building Program.

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.

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  • What you need to know about aesthetics, health and strength while bulking up


  1. Cole on March 13, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Is appetite also psychological? Being ectomorph, I likely have a small stomach, but I love to eat, I could easily down 6000 calories of protein and fiber. It would get me fat, as it has twice in the past! Even while lean bulking I really have to control myself to not overeat.

    • Shane Duquette on March 13, 2018 at 5:10 pm

      Hey Cole, appetite can definitely be psychological. One example of that is our desire to eat more calories when the food tastes good.

      Not all ectomorphs have small stomachs, though. Sounds like you’ve actually got quite a large one. If you’re eating a surplus of calories and still not feeling even satisfied, then that makes it sound like you’ve got a VERY large stomach.

      You might have other ectomorph traits, but I’d guess you don’t have this one!

      • alex on April 12, 2019 at 11:47 pm

        how do i email or contact u guys i have a few questions.
        like if i want to do sports but i still want gain mass (im 16).

        • Shane Duquette on April 13, 2019 at 8:47 pm

          Marco has specialized in working with athletes for most of his career, including working with high school athletes. We can absolutely help you gain mass while playing sports—that’s no problem at all 🙂

          And, of course, you can always email

          I hope you decide to join the program, man!

    • Earlene Smith on March 10, 2021 at 10:03 pm

      Is this good for females?

      • Shane Duquette on March 11, 2021 at 7:41 am

        Hey Earlene!

        Are the strategies in this article good for women? Absolutely! We use all of these same methods with our female clients.

        If you’re a woman trying to gain weight, though, you might prefer our women’s bulking site, Bony to Bombshell 🙂

  2. Rafael on March 13, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Isn’t true that high processed foods (white bread, rice, etc) trigger a spike in insuline levels which could be terrible mid-long term? Is that something we should worry?

    on the same subject, would be okay to eat, for exemple, 3 bananas (only carb) for a meal, considering that they are easyly digested by themselfs, or we should again worry with the insulin spikes?

    What about nutrient timing… Should we try to make an effort to eat most macros before and after the workout or would be okay to have a massive 1000 calorie breakfast even when working out only in nighttime? Can’t help to think that would be bad…

    Anyway, thanks for the article, really appreciate your work.

    • Shane Duquette on March 13, 2018 at 11:49 pm

      Hey Rafael, those are good questions.

      It’s true that carbs are more insulinogenic than fat. So, for example, rice will indeed cause bigger insulin spikes than butter. Protein is also quite insulinogenic, mind you, so having a whey protein shake will also trigger a hearty rise in insulin.

      Whether that’s good or bad depends on where the insulin is carrying those calories. If the insulin is storing it in your fat cells, then yes, that would be bad in the long term, especially if you’re overweight. However, the whole point of bulking up is to get the insulin to help you store the extra energy as muscle. And more muscle is fantastic for your longterm health.

      If you’re lifting weights, sleeping well, and eating a diet that’s made up mostly of whole foods, some bread and rice and whatnot shouldn’t be a problem, especially if you bulk up fairly leanly—and you should indeed definitely bulk up leanly. Always a good idea to clear these diet changes with your doctor, though.

      Is it okay to eat three bananas as a meal? Something like trail mix would be better. Or a banana and a pint of milk. Those would also make it really easy to consume more calories, they’d also digest easily, they’d give you a wider variety of nutrients, and would include some protein. I don’t really see a big issue with eating three bananas, though.

      Calorie cycling is effective, yeah. In the Bony to Beastly Program we also recommend calorie cycling though (along with a few other little tricks to further boost results). So having bigger meals with lots of protein and carbs surrounding your workouts can indeed help. That’s very minor compared to the fundamentals of building muscle, though (a great lifting protein, and the right amount of calories, protein and sleep). Also keep in mind that any meals within a couple days of your last workout are still going to be used to build muscle, especially if they contain sufficient protein to stimulate muscle growth (20+ grams). So don’t stress about that 1,000-calorie breakfast, just make sure there’s a protein source in there 🙂

      I hope that helps, and good luck!

  3. RR on March 16, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    IF has a lot of positive effects hormonally which are great for gains. It brings down insulin while naturally boosting GH and Testosterone. This causes the body to burn the fat store during the long window of fasting which can help get rid of the skinny fat while the muscle mass only increases due to the increased GH and T levels when combined with lifting. And if you do IF, your appetite becomes so great that you end up eating the same amount of calories in an 8 hour window. So IF is really about fat loss and muscle gain (hence called LeanGains) which all body types including us skinny guys can only benefit from.

    • Shane Duquette on March 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      Hey RR, I disagree. First of all, I want to point out that this article is written for guys who are struggling with bulking diets, and who are trying to eat more calories. Many of these guys have naturally smaller stomachs, faster metabolisms, and appetites that don’t respond as expected.

      With that in mind, yes, you’re going to be more hungry when you finish your fast, but your stomach isn’t going to be any bigger. For guys with naturally big stomachs, this isn’t an issue, but if someone struggles to eat a 1,000-calorie dinner, then having to eat a 2,000-calorie dinner because they skipped breakfast is a nightmare. Not only are they going to feel awful, but they’re at risk for developing issues like acid reflux (as I did when I tried to bulk using while using a LeanGains approach).

      Now, this article is for guys who are trying to find a way to eat more calories, but let’s say you have a big stomach and you enjoy intermittent fasting while bulking. Would you get any muscle-building advantages due to testosterone or growth hormone? Yeah, sure, but you’d also be facing muscle-building disadvantages. For one example, you miss an opportunity to stimulate muscle growth by eating a protein-rich breakfast and you thus spend less time each day in a calorie surplus. And keep in mind that being in a calorie surplus is WAY more anabolic than the acute increases in growth hormone and testosterone caused by intermittent fasting.

      I don’t want to make this sound like a big deal. Most of the muscle-building nutrition researchers, such as Dr Eric Helms, Dr John Berardi and Dr Layne Norton, agree that 4–5 meals per day is ideal for muscle growth. However, you can still build muscle just fine while intermittent fasting, just like you can build muscle just fine while eating 8 times per day. This is relatively minor stuff here. The main point I’m trying to make is that intermittent fasting makes it harder to eat enough calories, not that it’s bad for building muscle.

      Here’s Dr John Berardi, who has researched intermittent fasting extensively: “I think periodic fasting (at most, once per week) could easily be included in an offseason bodybuilder’s schedule and would lend some unique benefits as long as the athlete ate more on the other six days of the week. Of course, you don’t have to use IF at all. Most successful bodybuilders don’t. And, to be honest, I prefer IF for guys who are simply interested in being lean and muscular for life, without the weight swings of the average competitive bodybuilder.”

      (Keep in mind that most of our blog articles are written for someone who wants to gain 20+ pounds in just a few months. That’s a huge swing in weight, so we fall into the category of people he thinks should stay away from intermittent fasting.)

      Dr Layne Norton takes a harsher stance against intermittent fasting for muscle growth. He argues that there’s no way to make up for the lost opportunity for muscle growth that comes along with skipping breakfast: “Research from our lab concluded that when it comes to optimizing muscle protein synthesis, overconsuming protein at one time of the day couldn’t make up for low protein at another time of the day.”

      You know what, this merits a full blog post. I’ve got a lot more to say on this, there’s a lot more research to discuss, and obviously even in the ectomorph community there’s still some disagreement on this. Stay tuned for a full blog post titled something like “The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting.”

      I appreciate your comment, I think it’s a great topic, and I hope you decide to comment on that upcoming article also so that we can have a deeper conversation about it. In the meantime, if you have any particular research you want me to delve into, or any arguments you find particularly compelling, let me know and I’ll take them into consideration when writing the post 🙂

      • RR on March 17, 2018 at 12:09 am

        Appreciate your long response, Shane. However there is a lot of conventional science quoted here that are getting debunked now. This idea of eating 5 meals a day throughout the day keeps the insulin level spiked up all the time that has all kinds of negative effects in the long term. Fasting in addition to increasing growth hormone and testosterone also results in building up body’s immunity (which prevents down times that are terrible for builders), improves digestion (which results in processing more food easily during the eating window), reduces triglycerides, slows aging and so many other benefits.

        Dr. Jason Fung has been doing some good work on this topic and here is something I found on this topic from him:

        “One common myth is that fasting will lead to loss of muscle mass. The book clearly describes the process of protein catabolism, explaining how your body actually downregulates protein catabolism and upregulates growth hormones in response to fasting.

        “If you follow the biochemistry, your body stores energy as glycogen in the liver, which is links or chains of sugar, and then it stores [it as] body fat.

        During fasting, you start by burning off all the glycogen in the liver, which is all the sugar. There’s a point there where some of the excess amino acids in your body need to get burnt as well.

        That’s where people say, ‘That’s where you’re burning muscle.’ That’s not actually what happens. The body never upregulates its protein catabolism. Never is it burning muscle; there’s a normal turnover that goes on.

        There is a certain amount of protein that you need for a regular turnover. When you start fasting, that starts to go down and then fat oxidation goes way up. In essence, what you’ve done is you switched over from burning sugar to burning fat. Once you start burning fat, there’s almost an unlimited amount of calories there. You could go for days and days.”

        • Shane Duquette on March 17, 2018 at 10:37 am

          I’m not debating that there are benefits, just that you have to compare those benefits against the opportunity cost, i.e., eating a more traditional diet also comes with many benefits.

          Regarding insulin, no. If you’re eating 5 meals per day you’d have a series of smaller spikes throughout the day. If you skip breakfast you’d have larger spikes at lunch and dinner. You don’t wind up with chronically elevated insulin in either case.

          And that’s not really an issue that naturally skinny guys need to worry about anyway. Being lean raises insulin sensitivity, lifting weights raises insulin sensitivity, and building muscle raises insulin sensitivity. Again, this is an issue for overweight people that’s being generalized as if it applies to us equally. It doesn’t. In this case, we have separate issues.

          Now, I totally agree with you (and Dr Jason Fung—what he’s saying lines up with the research I’ve read) that muscle loss isn’t a risk when intermittent fasting. I’d add that it’s a great way to reduce calorie intake in an enjoyable way. This makes it great for cutting. No argument there.

          However, that has nothing to do with bulking. Bulking programs aren’t designed to minimize muscle loss, they’re designed to maximize muscle gain. Intermittent fasting isn’t optimal for muscle gain.

          Moreover, this article is about how to eat more calories, and the main concern with intermittent fasting is that it makes it WAY harder to eat more calories. After all, the main reason intermittent fasting is so popular is that people find it helps them eat fewer calories without feeling as hungry.

  4. Chris on March 17, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    One thing that’s been helping me bulk recently has been learning to bake.

    Like the other week I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I did the math and I ended up with about 30 cookies at 215 calories each. Of course they taste better than the prepackaged store-bought version. All for a few buck’s worth of ingredients. I froze them and take a couple out at a time.

    I know better than to base my whole diet on cookies, but they taste good and go down easy, so eating even one a day is a super-simple way to get in a couple hundred extra calories.

    • Shane Duquette on March 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Oo, I love that tip! Cheap, fun, delicious, convenient. Plus, homemade cookies not only taste better than store-bought ones, they also tend to have better quality ingredients. (They’ll often include eggs, dark chocolate, oatmeal, butter instead of palm oil, etc.) And they taste great with milk, which will bring the protein.

      • Chris on March 18, 2018 at 11:37 am

        Yeah, plus at this point I’m just trying a bunch of different recipes for the learning experience; doing what seems interesting or tasty.

        I’m sure if I wanted to I could make some sort of optimized bulking cookie with lots of walnuts or peanut butter or whatnot to boost the protein and calories even higher.

        • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm

          You can even get protein powders specifically designed to be used in baking. That can be fun to experiment with, but even just veering more towards higher quality ingredients (peanut butter, butter, oats, dried fruits, nuts, etc) should do the trick. And even then, yeah, not every cookie needs to be a health food or protein bar. Sometimes a delicious cookie can just be a delicious cookie.

  5. Krsiak Daniel on March 17, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    Nice article as usual 🙂

    I always read about “Trail mix” but never googled it. I mean it made sense to me it is something like dried fruits you take on a hike and munch on it along the way. Finally I know what it is.

    2 points I think about:

    1.] Don’t drink water alongside meals.

    This is my life time long problem. I always do this. I think it is more of a habit I guess. Interestingly enough my mum is the one telling me not to do. We had this “argument” again lately. Went to a restaurant, I pick up a glass, start drinking before the meal and I do drink during the meal. And yeah, it seems silly I am 32 yo and she reminds me all the time, she means well. Hard to get rid of this habit. I do it subconsciously but I think it comes down to me NOT drinking enough in general during the day so when the time of meal comes my brain goes: “Aha. Drink you fool, you are thirsty.”

    2.] You might not need to drink as much water as you think.

    I can tell when I am thirsty, obviously, I go to drink but I have hard time tracking water in meals / fruits, you name it. The app I use does not take this into account at all. I know well how much drinking healthy regular amount of water on daily basis during the day is beneficial but I really have to focus on this. It is one of those things I yet did not overcome oever the years and I drink well or enough only during focused bulk periods, be it one, two or three months. Once that is done I go back to my old silly me, not drinking enough. The question is how to tell how much I need. I know, headache, dark pee colour are all bad signs, but it is as if I feel thirsty every damn time only when it is late.

    Cheers ~ Daniel

    • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Glad you dug it, Daniel!

      1. If you’re trying to eat more calories and drink more fluid, you can always just swap the water for milk (or another liquid that has calories). It will be similarly hydrating but won’t have you falling behind on your calories 🙂

      2. Try starting the day off with a big glass of water as soon as you wake up. You could also add in a glass of water halfway between meals. If having water between meals sounds too boring or is too difficult to remember, you can always have some tea (or other flavoured beverage) instead.

      PS your comment got auto-flagged as spam because of the embedded links of the typos, which I’ve removed and fixed (Thank you!). If you don’t see your comment show up right after posting it, that’s what’s happened.

      • Krsiak Daniel on March 20, 2018 at 5:33 am

        In general I know I need to drink more water. I feel better when I drink more than “usual ” amount (which is not enough). I will try to unlearn this habit of drinking during meals. I already drink “extra” glass in the morning and also in the evening.

  6. Alex on March 30, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    So 500 kcal more a day is enough? Can you recommend a calorie calculator to count your maintenance calories?

    • Shane Duquette on April 3, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      The most effective way to figure out your maintenance calories is to track how many calories you eat for a few days. Metabolism and activity levels can vary quite a bit. If you want a rough idea, though, My Fitness Pal tends to have good algorithms. Just be ready to adjust based on how much weight you gain.

  7. Jason D on April 2, 2018 at 4:23 am

    Certified personal trainer with my own business and gym here; this site is a friggin’ goldmine of information!

    I’ve been ecto my entire life, and managed to put on weight on my own with the majority of the info here (before even finding it here; years of intense full-time effort), and it pleases me to see someone putting this info out there! I got myself from 139 to 165 over the course of 5 or so years, and I’m still climbing. None of the books for certification (ISSA here) talk about gaining weight in a realistic fashion for us furnace types.

    97% of my clients are looking to lose weight, and you’re so spot on about the industry being geared toward them. It’s insidious. Thank you for making this information available, corroborating my research, and supporting the theory of NEAT calorie burning via all the damn fidgeting, walking, feet tapping, nail biting (and in my off time) yo-yoing we do! Keep up the good work, Shane and team; the eBook is stellar!

    • Shane Duquette on April 3, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Thank you, Jason! 139 to 165 is badass, and I’m stoked to hear from a fellow bony brother fighting the good fight 🙂

      So crazy how personal trainers aren’t even trained to deal with our body type. I mean, yeah, it makes sense—it’s rare—but you’d think it would still be part of the mandatory training.

      Thanks again for the comment, glad you dug the eBook, and keep it up, man!

  8. Donald on April 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    I cannot drink milk, is it bad to drink 1 liter of fresh orange juice to get more calories (getting proteins is not the problem only calories)?

    • Shane Duquette on April 12, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Yeah, getting more protein in your meals and then having orange juice on the side is similar to having more carbs in your meal and then having milk on the side. I don’t see a problem with that.

      Just make sure that your meals have plenty of fibre and unprocessed foods so that the (natural) sugar in the orange juice doesn’t all hit you at once.

  9. Dave on April 23, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Shane my man I just want to say i think it’s great what you guys are doing!

    Skinny guy here from the UK, 6’2″ 145lbs, platued and haven’t gained anything in 2018. Appetite affected from a history of anxiety issues, over that now though. Working my darned hardest to put on another 30-40lbs, incredibly difficult!

    • Shane Duquette on May 8, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Dave. Glad to hear that you’ve managed to work through your anxiety and appetite issues. That’s great 🙂

      Good luck gaining those next 30–40 pounds. Difficult for sure, but also totally realistic, and once you succeed, it should be really easy to maintain those gains.

  10. BOPPER on May 4, 2018 at 1:30 am

    Buenos. Yo soy de puerto rico y ahora in inglés oieste..

    Im always working and dont have alot of money for snacks. Also i eat alot of ramen noodle and milk. penut butter and milk yogurt for breakfeast. i want to gain more but how can i manage my time to eat? What should i buy for high calorie snacks? gracias

    • Shane Duquette on May 8, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Hey Bopper, greetings from Canada.

      We’ve got a lot of snack ideas in this article, but make sure to download the PDF guide for some recipe suggestions and extra tips 🙂

  11. Tom on May 15, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Thx for this article Shane. It´s very important to realize there are other ppl struggling out there!
    I would like to share my story and maybe warn ppl (but also motivate)
    Force feeding doesnt mean overfeeding! Which means you eat more than your stomach is capable of. So did I – eating when I was full, without apetite, just to hit 3500cals/day – and then, after about an half a year I ended up with terrible Git problems(stomach pain, acid reflux, and other pleasant symptoms) which almost destroyed me (not literally) and is still chasing me- even after almost year. But w/e I was doin it for muscles, I wanted them so much. My friend was motivating me that my body will get used to it. But it didnt somehow I am in the category of small fragile stomachs, sup!

    Now I am better but still got problems with acid reflux -always had since teenage. But still was able to gain 8kgs in about year – which is like fckim miracle with my stomach. At least least without fat, because what the heck is fat? Mirin a bit.

    Doctors advise to my stomach issues? Eat less. Ecto requirements? Eat more. Fck genetics, fck life. I will make it. You will make it too, just be careful guys.

    Sry, had to share it and here it is on its place. I hope it helps somebody avoid similar problems.
    You do great job Shane with these articles. You help ppl and thats just great today.

    Written on phone, excuse typos and form pls.

  12. David Dillehay on June 27, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    I’m sure you’ve answered this in previous threads, but if it’s scientifically impossible to gain more than 2 lbs of muscle per month, how can you advertise 20 pounds of muscle in 90 days? I understand that some of that will be water, bone density, and fat, is that true?

    • Jared Polowick on July 5, 2018 at 11:21 am

      Hey David,

      I might be missing something in your question. But it seems like:

      90 days divided by 7 days in a week = 12.85 weeks.

      2 pounds per week multiplied by 12.85 = 25.7 pounds.

      I’ll also add that we do get some members who are clinically underweight in terms of BMI, like Shane and I both were when starting out, who can gain an upward of 8 pounds in their first week. Those people can and have gained even more in that time period because their body is literally starving for that extra nutrition.

      We all have different starting points though. Someone who has been lifting for a number of years and has already gained an appreciable amount of muscle definitely shouldn’t be gaining as rapidly as a skinny guy could.

    • Shane Duquette on July 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      To add to what Jared said, Jared himself gained 33 pounds in 90 days (without drugs). The most I’ve gained in 90 days is a little over 20 pounds (also without drugs).

      It’s not scientifically impossible to gain more than two pounds of muscle per month. It’s not even impossible to gain more than two pounds of muscle per week. There have been numerous examples of this in the scientific literature. However, like Jared says, the situations are normally extraordinary. For example, someone who is underweight, or someone who is recovering lost muscle mass, someone who has never lifted weights before, someone who has remarkable genetics, or someone taking drugs.

      We cater to guys who are underweight or who have struggled in the past to gain weight. This means we can reliably leverage that period of rapid growth that comes when someone is far away from their genetic muscular potential. This is called “newbie gains,” and we’ve written about the science of that here:

      Moving beyond just gains in muscle mass (including glycogen, which is largely water), yeah, when people bulk up, they also tend to gain a variety of different kinds of weight: our muscles grow, we gain bone density, we gain some fat, our stomachs grow, etc. Even somebody who maintains the same body fat percentage while (say 12%) will gain some fat as they grow bigger (in this case 1.2 pounds of fat for every ten pounds they gain overall).

      As you get closer to your genetic muscular potential, though, yeah, gaining around two pounds of muscle per month is realistic for a while. At a certain point, though, even that will become too rapid. An advanced bodybuilder can’t gain 24 pounds of muscle in year. They’d be lucky to gain 1/10th of that.

  13. Jasper on August 15, 2018 at 4:10 am

    Thanks for the extremely informative, well-researched article. And it was free! You have helped a small man nurture his big dreams.

  14. Adria Trunnell on August 25, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    How to Eat More Calories (The Best Bulking Diet for Skinny Guys)

    […]Beating the addiction will take some reorganizing of your grocery checklist to exclude sugary sodas and processed foods, and to incorporate extra protein, excessive-fibre, and low glycaemic load foods.[…]

  15. Rafael on September 10, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    When I work out my joints hurt. They make noises all the time, but when I work out it comes with pain.

    Elbows, knees if I squat, shoulder sometimes.

    They didn’t used to. I used to work out before. Now I can’t and I’m not even that old (28)

    One doctor told me that It was ligament laxity, but I don’t think so. They don’t have a super range, it’s not abnormal, they just do a loot of cracking noises and get inflamed and hurtful after even the lightst of the work outs.

    Did you ever heard anything of the sort with anyone trying to work out?

    • Jared Polowick on September 26, 2018 at 8:53 am

      I can’t diagnose you as I’m not a medical professional, nor can I see you, but I can share my own experience. I got into weightlifting due to tendonitis in both my arms, but I also had a bummed knee earlier from skateboarding as a teen (had surgery, etc.). Weightlifting and eating well helped to solve my tendonitis almost 100%. But one of the things I had also tried was supplementing with Type II Collagen since I had read it could help with tendons. I started taking it and noticed no improvements in my arms but suddenly my knees stopped hurting. It was something I had totally learned to ignore. Before I had taken the supplement, I had to be ultra-careful with my form, couldn’t squat very deep, the knee could go out past my toes, etc. Now it doesn’t hurt at all.

      This is what I might do:

      • Visit a sports physiotherapist to keep checked in person by someone who specializes in movement and pain
      • Weightlift, eat lots of good food especially foods with vitamin C (pairs with collagen/gelatin)
      • Look up all the supplements to do with bone health on and evaluate if any of these sounds like it could work with minimal risks.

      I hope the physio or some other solution can help you out, I know how much these types of aches and pains can affect life!

  16. anthony on December 10, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Awesome article. Way to represent us skinny fucks!

  17. Justin on January 30, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Shane, I just wanted to thank you for sharing this article and many more that you have written. I am a hard gainer eating 4000 calories a day and your articles answer so many of my questions on point so much. This was such an awesome find. I wish so badly that I had found it a year ago. I have been following strictly Michael Mathews BLS program and I have made great gains in the last year but I’m sure I could have done it faster with your tips.
    Moving forward, Thank you so much.

    • Shane Duquette on February 18, 2019 at 6:04 pm

      My pleasure, Justin! So glad that I could help. We’ve had some members coming into our program who’ve also experimented with Michael Matthews and his BLS program. I’ve heard of it but I’m not that familiar with it. Glad to hear that it’s working, and congratulations on your gains! 😀

  18. […] skinny guy, and he’ll need all the stomach-stuffing tips he can get. Shane has a great article on how to eat more here. (If you’re skinny-fat, you can skip this step, you’ve already got a surplus built into your […]

  19. […] Eat a diet that’s made up mostly of whole foods. If you’re wondering what a healthy bulking diet looks like, here’s our guide for how to eat more calories. […]

  20. How To Eat More Calories? – Fitness Tricks on March 13, 2019 at 6:02 am

    […] Read more at: […]

  21. […] If you’re skinny and want to bulk up, that new muscle still to be built will need to come from food outside your body. Nutrition will play a key role, and eating enough to gain weight will likely be harder than doing the workouts. (There’s a great guide on eating more over at Bony to Beastly.) […]

  22. alex on May 15, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    how do i contact u guys here or lik is it by email cuz i got questions like how to gain mucle but lik be in a sport lik sprint cuz isnt usian bolt ecto he looks lik one but it looks lik from the artlicels i read that id need alot of cardio but he did it and is ripped so idk now really oh and im 16 and 6 ft tall if u guys needed to know that.

  23. […] more food is notoriously difficult for skinny guys. There’s a great guide here on Bony to Beastly on eating more. Some good tricks include eating more often, eating foods with less water in them like dried fruits […]

  24. […] Because we’re only interested in bulking, we can immediately discount the main advantage of intermittent fasting: appetite reduction. After all, we aren’t trying to eat less food. Quite the opposite, actually. This is a bulking disadvantage, especially for naturally skinny guys, as most of us already struggle to eat enough to gain weight. (If you’re struggling to gain weight, here’s our article about how to eat more calories and gain weight more easily.) […]

  25. […] Ectomorph bulking diet: how to eat more calories and gain weight more easily […]

  26. […] Given that my goal was to gain weight overall, I couldn’t do a fitness program, shred some fat, and wind up looking ripped. I needed a workout and diet routine that would help me add mass to my frame. I started following a bulking program, and I managed to gain 32 pounds while reducing my body-fat percentage. (The above transformation shows about 7 months of bulking, but I took a break in the middle because I was tired of having to eat so many damn calories.) […]

  27. […] our more recent article about putting together a good ectomorph bulking diet: Ectomorph Bulking Diet: How to Eat More Calories and Gain Weight More Easily. We’ve been helping ectomorphs bulk up for nearly ten years now, and we’ve learned a […]

  28. […] we’ve made a free guide for you. It includes our popular article about how to eat more calories, a sample bulking meal plan designed for ectomorphs (which is how I was able to finally gain 55 […]

  29. […] Furthermore, eating a bulking diet that’s overly high in protein can make it harder to gain weight, especially if you’re an ectomorph who’s having trouble eating enough calories. (Here’s our article about how to eat more calories while bulking up.) […]

  30. […] Here’s our Ectomorph Bulking Diet article about how to eat more calories. […]

  31. […] from different diets and workouts? For example, is there such a thing as an ectomorph workout or an ectomorph diet? Or do all body types benefit from the same types of exercise and […]

  32. […] an article explaining why it’s so hard for ectomorphs to gain weight, and another article on the Ectomorph Bulking Diet, which is designed to make it easier to eat more calories. Here are some quick […]

  33. […] you’re still having trouble gaining weight after adding a litre of milk to your diet, here’s our guide for how to eat more calories. It might make more sense to start adding in calories from other bulking foods, such as trail mix. […]

  34. […] However, there are ways around that, and that just so happens to be our specialty. Here’s our guide for how to eat more calories. It’s not specific to the ketogenic diet, but all the same principles still […]

  35. […] like to bulk leanly, too. That means stimulating a serious amount of muscle growth, shuttling all the extra calories we’re eating towards muscle growth instead of fat storage. That’s going to allow us to bulk more quickly […]

  36. […] have a full guide on how to eat more calories here, but to get you started, I want to give you four strategies that work especially well with vegan […]

  37. Ben on August 29, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    I’ve bulked from 120 to 150 lbs during my lifting career but I have stayed at the plateau of 150 lbs in 2019. Recently, I noticed that my appetite decrease as I time pass further in a bulk. But when I go on a significant calorie deficit or maintenance calories, my appetite is good again. Struggling to consistently bulk for more than a month has made me stay around 150 lbs due to my appetite literally not letting me eat foods. Do you have a suggestion for my problem? My goal is an eventual 180 lbs

  38. […] common for us to have smaller stomachs and faster metabolisms, which can make it incredibly hard to eat enough calories to gain weight. That has a couple implications for which supplements we should […]

  39. […] we learn how to eat enough calories, hardgainers tend to respond incredibly well to lifting weights—with a proper bulking program, […]

  40. Bony to Beastly—Jeff's 5-Week Progress Update on September 11, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    […] a good bulking diet with a good bulking workout routine and you’ve got the perfect environment for ectomorph […]

  41. […] It’s worth pointing 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. (Here’s our guide for eating more calories.) […]

  42. Bony to Beastly—Should Ectomorphs Do Cardio? on September 14, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    […] masters of helping skinny guys eat more calories. But it’s still hard. And the more cardio you do, the more calories you’ll burn, and […]

  43. […] skinny ectomorph hardgainers—can build muscle if they learn how to exercise and eat a bulking diet that suits their body […]

  44. […] Most naturally skinny guys having a hard time eating enough to gain weight, but I was able to eat more calories without much effort. My weight was climbing higher. I was building […]

  45. […] we learn how to eat enough calories, hardgainers tend to respond incredibly well to lifting weights—with a proper bulking program, […]

  46. […] First, newbie gains. We have an entire article on newbie gains where we go over this science in even more detail, but long story short: when you first start lifting weights, your muscles will explode with rapid growth. It’s quick, it’s fairly easy, and you’ll grow as fast as you can shovel food into your mouth. (Mind you, eating that much food is hard, so it pays to learn how to eat more calories.) […]

  47. Jonathan on October 20, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    what are some snacks i should be eating in the middle of meals?

    • Shane Duquette on October 20, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      Hey, Jonathan. I like snacking on trail mix while bulking. If not that, maybe some Greek yogurt and fruit. Or if I’m out, usually a protein bar (either store-bought or homemade). You can really snack on anything, though. We have a bunch of ideas here:

  48. […] Pick more calorie-dense foods. Nuts, protein bars, whey protein, chocolate and dried fruit are all good choices. If you can’t get a large meal at a restaurant, you can supplement your calorie intake with one of those options or something else. When I was traveling in England, the portion sizes were much smaller than normal, so I’d often have a protein bar or something else to supplement my calorie intake. […]

  49. Maaike on January 19, 2020 at 4:03 am

    Yess, i’m an ectomorph female and have done the clean eating/lean gains thing for a long time, obviously having a hard time making gains past the newbie gains. Due to injury I stopped training for quite Some time (lost all the gains), and so now starting out as a newbie again! Found your articles quite helpful! Determined to max out the newbie gains! Greetz from Holland.

    • Shane Duquette on February 8, 2020 at 7:41 am

      So glad we could help, Maaike! In case you haven’t seen it yet, we have a bulking website for women, too: Bony to Bombshell.

  50. […] because you aren’t lifting right (or you aren’t lifting at all), you aren’t eating a good bulking diet, you aren’t sleeping well, or you haven’t been doing it consistently for long […]

  51. […] principle holds true. We need to challenge our muscles enough to stimulate growth, then recover by eating more calories and getting good sleep, and then challenge our muscles again—doing more than last time. This idea […]

  52. Rannar on May 16, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Good info and I think butter definitely should be on the list. It’s easy to add to most meals and easy to eat. Also kefir is good to drink with meals. Don’t know how available it is in the states tho. Some ethnic stores must have it if the supermarket doesn’t. Possible to make at home also. It gives calories, tastes good and strengthens digestion. But don’t drink much over 4 glasses per day which is about 500 calories. Sometimes I drink heavy cream before bed if I’ve had a physically demanding day and haven’t had time to eat enough. It’s not too bad if you manage less some days tho. No need to stress about it. Try to eat a little more the next day.

    • Shane Duquette on May 16, 2020 at 10:25 am

      Hey Rannar, thank you!

      I’m not sure how widely available kefir is in the states, but it’s quite common in Canada. I love kefir. It’s one of my favourite bulking foods for sure, and one of my favourite drinks in general. We have it listed as one of the best bulking foods. Not only is it great for digestion, but it’s also easy on the appetite and surprisingly high in protein (even when compared with milk).

      Butter is an okay bulking food. Mind you, we aren’t necessarily trying to intentionally raise our intake of saturated fat higher. Not that we need to avoid it or anything, but when adding in tons of extra calories, we normally recommend getting them from sources that aren’t especially high in saturated fat, especially if that person is already drinking more milk and eating more meat than normal (which will already raise their intake of saturated fat). So when adding oils, we often default to extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter or coconut oil.

  53. Ectomorph Diet — Outlive on June 4, 2020 at 11:31 am

    […] the “buffet” effect. In a Bony to Beastly article on eating more food, Shane discusses the idea behind different flavours driving eating. It’s a lot easier to eat […]

  54. Nic Schell on June 7, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    Hardgainer here, age 48. 6′ 3″ was 170lb for many years, now down to 160lbs. Used to do routine workouts and hit the protein shakes/bars HARD, but over time this stressed liver enzymes (itchy skin, etc) and wasn’t a sustainable way to keep muscle and weight on. Am now retooling for a whole foods lower impact nutrition plan at this stage of my life.

    One shortcut I’ve found to be very useful is making HUEL smoothies. I buy their unsweetened powder and mix with 1/2 banana, 1/2 avocado, healthy handful of almonds, cashews, and walnuts, a big sprig of kale, sprinkle of liquid stevia (NOW Better Stevia tastes great), 1 square of dark chocolate, Silk almond/cashew protein milk, frozen blueberries, and frozen mango/strawberries. Makes two smoothies I drink two hours apart for about 600 cals each, 55carb, 26g protein… an ideal mixture with complete amino acid profiles and terrific nutrition ratios. Pop a probiotic and you’re also on the way to healing your digestive system.

    Tip: Invest in a Nutribullet 900 Pro. Yes, it’s worth the upgrade. The above smoothie comes out smooth as milk… and that’s what you want because “chewy” smoothies are gross.

  55. Gregory Berns on July 4, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Thanks again Shane for that informative article. I was recently on 220 grams of protein a day diet for about 7 months, under the guidance of a personal trainer. Like you mentioned in your article it was an uphill battle to get carbs in and the protein in. The important thing was I got the protein in but not the carbs. I had a lot of stomach issues and acid reflux, but I pushed through the issues and got the protein in. My energy was low and I did not have an appetite, I guess because I was filling my stomach up with high-protein foods all the time. I made some good gains but I quickly lost them when I slowed down my eating. Now after trying a more modest amount of protein—160 grams of protein—and getting more carbs and calories, I gained 5 pounds. As you mentioned in your article, you gain muscle at a faster rate when you eat your carbs and calories, and I feel good again. A really good energy lesson learned. Thanks again, Shane. I hope to be joining your program very soon!

    • Shane Duquette on July 6, 2020 at 11:46 am

      Really glad you liked the article, Gregory 😀

  56. Miiie on August 25, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    I am trying very hard to gain muscle. How many calories do I have to eat in a day if I am 58 kgs? I want to increase my muscle mass and gain weight to weigh 75 kgs.

    • Shane Duquette on September 8, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Hey Miiie, to gain weight, you need to eat enough calories to gain weight. To gain a pound on the scale per week, that means eating around 500 extra calories every day, i.e., 500 more calories than you’re currently eating. There’s no way to say exactly how many calories that will be, but eating somewhere in the neighbourhood of 18–22x bodyweight in pounds per day is usually enough for a skinny guy to gain around a pound per week. Then, depending on how much weight you’re gaining on the scale each week, you can adjust your calorie intake accordingly. Also, keep in mind that it’s a moving target. As you gain weight, and as your metabolism adapts to your new diet, your calorie needs will change. So the important thing is to take a stab in the dark, weigh yourself, and adjust as needed 🙂

  57. Lizette on January 31, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    I’m 55 and weigh 110 lbs. I am 5’4”. I’ve essentially weighed 110 my entire life with exceptions when I was pregnant. I am finding it increasingly difficult to build muscle at my age. I’ve been told I’m not eating right – need more protein. Can you refer me to resources I might use for dietary plans. I eat very healthy but probably not the correct makeup. Please advise.

  58. Abelius on May 9, 2021 at 7:46 am

    Hi there, Shane.

    Very nice info here and I’d would have loved to know this fifteen years ago, when I managed to bulk up 12 Kg in four months, while eating “clean”. It was hell, lol. The funny thing is, that I kind of suspected I didn’t need to do that, because I started at 59 Kg and my height is 1.73 m. 😛

    Anyway, there’s one thing I’d like to ask. The thing about milk… are we talking about regular cow milk here? Because, according to other sources, the amount of estrogen milk contains in industrialized countries is too much to ramp up its consumption. Certainly not to use it as a substitute for water! xD

    What do you guys think about this?

    • Shane Duquette on May 10, 2021 at 1:29 pm

      Soy milk, cow milk, kefir, goat milk—any sort of milk that’s rich in calories and high in protein. There can be hormones in it, but if I understand it correctly, we’re ingesting (as opposed to injecting) those hormones, mitigating their effects. But, as you say, that doesn’t mean we should be drinking milk like water. It also doesn’t mean that you need to drink any milk at all! Milk is just one of many sources of calories/protein 🙂

      • Abelius on May 10, 2021 at 3:25 pm

        Thanks for replying, Shane.

        I actually did some “research” around and it seems there’s no solid evidence of what I’ve heard from other (non-academic) sources. In fact, things like soy flour and beans (!) have several orders of magnitude more extraneous estrogen than cow whole milk.

        And that without considering other factors like absorption rates, as you mentioned. So we’re safe, lol.

        So… it seems to me that some people want to reinvent the wheel, and they’re trying to convince us all that a square-shaped one will a better job. 😛

        Now I only need to find inventory to make me a home gym in this crazy pandemic dare-not-go-to-gym times we’re living in. Not easy at all.

        • Shane Duquette on May 11, 2021 at 8:55 am

          My pleasure, man!

          While you wait to get your lifting equipment, check out our bodyweight bulking article 🙂

          • Abelius on May 12, 2021 at 6:30 pm

            Ooh, very nice, thanks!

          • Abelius on May 12, 2021 at 6:35 pm

            Now… where I can find myself a calf? 😀

  59. Harrison on May 10, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    Great article, Shane and Marco!

    I have a couple of questions about calorie intake though:
    – Let’s say my target is 3,000 calories, is this taking into account the workouts in the bulking program or 3,000 after subtracting what has been burned from exercising?
    – Also, if on one day I end up missing 300 calories should I add that to the next day or just continue with my normal daily target?


    • Shane Duquette on May 11, 2021 at 8:52 am

      Hey Harrison, thank you!

      If you’re trying to gain a pound per week, the idea is to add an extra 500 calories per day. If you’re also adding extra exercise, then yeah, you’d factor that in. For every extra calorie burned, you’d add them back in with your diet.

      But most of the rougher estimations already factor in that you’ll be lifting weights 3–4 times per week. If you’re taking your weight and multiplying it by 18–22 to get your initial calorie goals, it already accounts for exercise.

      Most importantly, these targets are very loose at first. You’re shooting in the dark with those initial estimations. The trick is to weigh yourself, see how much you gain (or fail to gain), and then adjust accordingly. Check this article out. We cover how to track your weight and adjust your calorie targets.

      For your next question, there’s no clear answer. If your main goal is to gain a pound per week, what matters is your calorie surplus per week. If you undershoot your calorie target one day, you’d want to overshoot it the next day to balance it out. But what can happen is that on the day where you undereat, you aren’t building as much muscle. And then on the day where you eat too much, you’re gaining extra fat. So ideally what you’d want to do is keep your calorie surplus pretty consistent from day to day. That’s how you’ll get the fastest, leanest muscle growth.

      With that said, you’re talking about a fairly small difference. If you’re aiming for a calorie surplus of 500 calories, and one day you’re in a 200-calorie surplus, and the next you’re in an 800-calorie surplus, that’s not all that big of a problem. It’s still better to be more consistent, but, eh, you’ll still get great results that way 🙂

  60. Ecto on June 6, 2021 at 1:12 am

    Hey guys, I recommend you look into Blood Type Diet. To eat only blood-compatible foods to prevent sicknesses, diseases, syndrome, etc. and of course the bloating and discomfort. I cut oats and milk as they are not for Type O and the improvement was HUGE.

    • Shane Duquette on June 12, 2021 at 8:56 am

      Hey Ecto,

      From what I can tell, when the Blood Type Diet was published in 1996, there was no evidence to support it. In 2013, a systematic published by Cusack et al still concluded that there was no supporting evidence for it. Then in 2014, a study by Wang et al looked into the Blood Type Diet directly and found that someone’s blood type had no impact on which diet they responded best to.

      However, there are lots of good diets, and different people respond best to different ones. So when people adopt one of the Blood Type Diets, they often see benefits, regardless of what their blood type is.

      You’ve seen benefits and that’s awesome. Sounds like it’s working for you 🙂

  61. Em on July 25, 2021 at 11:47 am

    Hi Shane,
    You mention that even if a hardgainer significantly increases his calorie intake, his metabolism seeks to adapt to that amount constantly, this leaves me with 2 questions:

    1. Is this metabolic adaptation to bulking indefinite, and if not, where exactly does it cease?

    2. Is it then possible to bypass this metabolic adaptation through certain methods?
    For example, if a person needs a 3000 weekly surplus, eating a 1000 calorie surplus every other day, or only bulking 2-5 days of the week to minimize the metabolic adaptation thus keeping calories low while bulking successfully, is this possible?

    • Shane Duquette on July 27, 2021 at 10:36 am

      Hey Em, those are good questions.

      1. You’re right that hardgainers tend to adapt to higher-calorie intakes by burning more calories. This adaptation has limits. It’s still possible for us to gain weight. The more food we eat, the higher our metabolisms will get, but the more weight we’ll gain.

      When you reach your target weight, you can stop eating in a calorie surplus, and your metabolism will settle back down. For instance, maybe as a skinny person you eat 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight. You start your bulk by eating 2,500 calories, gaining around a pound per week. A few months later, after gaining 20 pounds, you need to eat 3,000 calories to keep gaining weight. But you’ve finished your bulk, so you stop overeating. Over time, your metabolism will settle back down. Those extra 20 pounds might burn an extra 120 calories at rest, so maybe you eat 2,200 calories to maintain your new weight.

      2. The main reason our metabolisms increase is because of subconscious movement. The best way to burn fewer calories, then, is to intentionally move less. Instead of sitting in a chair with your knee bouncing, lie down on a couch. Or instead of going to grocery store, order your groceries online. Instead of spending 45 minutes standing up cooking a nice dinner, order takeout. That kind of thing. But I’m not sure that would be good. Having a high metabolism is difficult, but it isn’t bad. It’s probably better to be more active, burn more calories, and eat more food. Harder, but better for us.

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