The hardgainer myth

The hardgainer myth

One thing which really irritates me is when bloggers claim to be hardgainers – that is, someone who finds it impossible to gain weight. I have also come across many of these types of people in real life, who claim that no matter what they do and how much they eat (and it is already “sooooo much”) they can’t gain weight.

It is complete BS.

A man may have a slim chance of convincing me that he is in fact a hardgainer, but a woman? No way. Females have lower metabolisms compared with men, and I have yet to meet a woman who burns more than 3000 calories a day at rest. Even if you take a woman with the fastest metabolism around, and stick her on an intense exercise program, you’re looking at a daily caloric requirement of about 4000 calories. Most women, however, only need to eat about 2500 calories a day to gain weight.

I can eat 2500 calories in two meals, so it’s really not that difficult. But how many women out there actually eat 2500 calories a day? What about the women who are claiming to want to gain muscle? I am treated as a freak because I eat around 3500 calories a day. I am not actively trying to gain, just maintain size and build strength.


For men, it isn’t that different. A man with the craziest metabolism would need no more than 5000 calories per day. If I can eat as much as I do while still enjoying every mouthful and not having to force-feed myself, I can promise you that 5000 calories a day isn’t that hard.

You may think you are eating a lot, but you aren’t. Your metabolism and genetics really have little to do with it – gaining weight comes down to eating more calories than you expend.Β For a foolproof way to gain weight, men should eat 5000 and women 4000 calories a day.

The problem most hardgainers have is an overwhelming fear of carbs. When you eat 3000 calories a day, but it comes from protein, fat and a tiny amount of carbs, you will not gain a thing.

When someone swears they are a hardgainer, I politely nod and smile while rolling my eyes on the inside. When they tell me they eat “so many carbs”, it usually adds up to one banana and a cup of rice every day. Heaven forbid if they tell me what they eat on a rest day – it usually involves no carbs at all. But all that protein and fat should mean that they are gaining, right?!

First off, I usually tell my clients to spend one day eating as I do, and then honestly come back and tell me that they are eating enough to gain. To put it in perspective, Monday was a rest day for me. Ignoring the huge amount of fat and protein I eat throughout the day, I also had 300 grams 0f pasta, a large white potato, an apple, and half a block of chocolate. This is a ‘low’ carb day for me, yet probably more carbs than most people would eat on a training day.Β On training days, my protein and fat intake stays mostly the same, but I increase my carbs to around 400 grams.

carb ecard

When I take over the diet of a “hardgainer”, they rapidly see results. And it’s not hard to see why.

The problem with so-called hardgainers isn’t just a fear of carbs, but a fear of ‘dirty’ foods. People who are serious about gaining weight need to understand that you can’t eat sweet potato and bananas all day long and expect to gain muscle*. You need to eat rice, pasta and even bread (and not the Ezekiel kind!).

I recently worked with a pro junior tennis player who, thanks to my plan, gained 6kg of muscle in 8 weeks (measured via scale and body fat testing). Keeping in mind that the kid is 16 (so has an elevated metabolism already), plays tennis and trains in the gym for 6-7 hours a day, and is naturally lanky, he needed to eat about 6000-8000 calories a day.

There are certain tricks you can employ to make eating such a large amount of calories a bit easier. Most of his carbs came from pasta and bread as they are calorie-dense, and he also drank a lot of Vitargo/dextrose powder, milk and orange juice. There is a reason some bodybuilders swear by drinking a gallon of milk a day! Fat is also invaluable when it comes to reaching daily caloric targets, as you can obtain very large amounts of calories through small serving sizes of nuts and nut butters, oils, and butter.

If he can do it, I would be hard-pressed to see how a 100lb woman can honestly look me in the eye and claim to struggle to gain weight.

Another guy I know claims to struggle to gain weight, yet he only eats carbs (and only in the form of sweet potato) post-workout. Here’s an idea, genius – eat a burger!

Even the Rock eats junk food!

Even the Rock eats junk food!

What I will agree with is that some people find it difficult to addΒ quality mass. This means that they can add weight easily, but it won’t necessarily all be muscle. If you are an average person exercising an hour per day, you can’t eat all your carbs in the form of ice cream or you will gain fat and not muscle. That’s not to say you can’t have the occasional piece of cake and still experience good gains!

Gaining muscle does take a bit of work. You have to train hard – largely basing your workouts around the compound lifts – and eat the right types of food, making sure you’re getting enough protein and carbohydrates from mostly high-quality sources.

Most people who claim to be hardgainers have serious psychological issues with food. I can appreciate that. I would much prefer that someone is honest with me and admits to the mental struggle they are experiencing with not only eating more food than they perhaps think is ‘normal’ but also actively trying to get bigger. If you legitimately think you are a hardgainer, you should cut out ALL cardio. If the idea of doing that also scares you, I would definitely say your problem is mental and not physical.

Provided that you don’t have some kind of serious health issue, there is no physical reason why you aren’t gaining weight. You are just not trying hard enough. Eat some damn carbs and report back in a month.

*Some people can gain while eating fruits and vegetables as their only sources of carbs, but most people can’t as they underestimate the sheer volume they need to do so. How does a 1-2kgs of potatoes a day on top of 4-5 bananas sound?

Do you or have you ever considered yourself a hardgainer?

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