Tip: Know Your Food Intake

Not making gains? It's probably more diet-related than training-related. Here's a reality check.

In gyms all over the world, you hear the following conversation:

  • Skinny guy: "I can't gain weight."
  • Coach: "You need to eat more."
  • Skinny guy: "But I eat a ton!"

At this point, the skinny guy usually blows off the coach and walks off in search of someone else who will tell him what he wants to hear: "You just need to find a special, really complicated, super-scientific workout program." Too bad the coach didn't just demand to see the guy's food log.

Keep a Food Log

In the same way that the obese typically underestimate how much they eat, many so-called hardgainers overestimate it. They may feel like they're eating a ton, but if they actually crunched the numbers, they'd see that their intake is pitiful.

Use a website, app, or an old-school notebook and track your food intake. Keep increasing this intake until your weight starts to climb. Unless you have a tape worm, you'll gain weight.

Food Quality First

Eating more calories isn't the whole picture. While "a calorie is a calorie" in a food incinerator that measures calories, it's not that simple when it comes to food and the human body.

What you eat is just as important. Many hardgainers go all Michael Phelps and start pounding back junk food to get their calories in. Most will be able to gain quality weight with a lot fewer calories than that per day. If you only need 4,000 calories per day to be in a caloric surplus, then you can get the majority of these with high-quality foods. (If you want to use a "weight gainer" shake, make a healthy one, like this.)

Make whole foods your dietary base. This base can also include natural calorie-dense foods (nuts, nut butter, dried fruit). Then, live a little and enjoy some treats. As a result of having the majority of your diet consist of high-quality foods, you'll gain less unwanted fat, have more energy for training, recover faster, reduce inflammation, and enjoy better health.

Andrew Heming is a strength coach, professor, and former Canadian University U-Sport head strength coach. Andrew helps athletes and skinny hardgainers get bigger, faster, and stronger. Follow Andrew Heming on Facebook