NOTE by Mehdi: this post was written by StrongLifts Member Jake McMillan (18y, Canada, page 187 inside the 5×5 report) who currently holds the British Columbia powerlifting records with his 600lb Squat and 600lb Deadlift.
Last week marked 100lb of bodyweight I’ve gained in high school so far. 90lb of that weight was gained in 2,5 years. This is proof that you can do it without getting fat, without drugs, and with average genetics (I was once one of those guys who complained that he was a freaking ‘hardgainer’).
To gain weight, it’s generally recommended to aim for 5000 calories per day. Start there (or work your way up to it) and then eat more if you’re not gaining fast enough. For us naturally skinny people, our appetite usually sucks. Mine still does to this day! So here are my rules to bulk up:
- Take in lots of liquid calories! Liquids digest faster, and they’re easier to consume in large amounts. I personally start the day off by mixing milk, five raw eggs and some cocoa in a blender. 4x World Strongest Man, Jon Pall Sigmarsson, was notorious for blending eggs, tuna, milk and bananas in a massive blender. Huge calories!
- Eat breakfast! Eating breakfast gets your appetite going, and gets you in the weight gaining ‘mindset’ for the day. You aren’t hungry in the morning? Again, start with liquid calories, and build up the amount of food (eventually adding solid food) even if you don’t feel like eating. With the increased eating along with your strength increasing, it’s guaranteed that you’ll at least get a bit hungry in the morning.
- Eat often! 6 meals per day is easier than 3 giant ones. Don’t sleep in too late, and eat a big healthy breakfast. Sleeping in tends to kill my motivation to train and eat, and obviously gives you less time to get in your much needed calories! I don’t eat at the same times every day since I don’t like forcing myself to eat. Just space your meals as best you can. Whatever lets you eat the most amount of calories consistently.
- Have protein powder on hand! Protein powder makes for a quick and easy snack, obviously high in protein and decent calories. There is no need for sugary “weight gainers”. Just buy a standard whey protein and mix with whole milk.
- Have 3 ‘base’ foods! Sometimes it’s hard to eat the same things every day, so make sure you get enough calories by loading up on 3 calorie-dense foods. Every day I eat 15 eggs per day, 5 bananas, and drink 2 litres of milk. That alone is over 3000 calories. This way I know that as long as I eat a decent lunch, and big dinner, I’ll be well over 5000 calories. For you these foods might be: pasta, ground beef, rice, etc.
- Track your calories! Most skinny guys overestimate how much they’re eating. When in doubt, underestimate! I use fitday, but see #5. I can estimate how much I’m eating even if I haven’t tracked all of my calories.
To touch on preparation, the weekend is the best time to make big batches of meals. Meat stew, casserole dishes, or other large meals are great to prepare over the weekend. It’s also good to go out once per week to go buy the basic foods (meat, eggs, bananas, pasta, rice, potatoes). I generally live on the “see-food” diet over the weekend, much less programmed like I am during the week.
Like strength training, the success of your weight gain comes down to consistency and hard work. I don’t know how many times I’ve been able to eat 6000 calories per day for 2 days in a row, and then just completely drop off and eat 3000 the next day. This is basically just due to getting lazy. You must always remember to make a conscious effort to gain weight, and find a way to eat as much as you can CONSISTENTLY.
That may mean that you need to eat until you’re uncomfortable several times per day. This usually results in what powerlifters refer to as ‘bloat’. Don’t worry, you’ll come to accept and enjoy it! As Dave Tate says, “no bloat… no leverage, no strength, no confidence”. I truly adhere to this saying.
Growing thick slabs of muscle all over you body is hard work. Many calories will have to be consumed in the process. But unlike what many people wish to believe, there’s no “6 weeks to a better body.” Try one or two years. Be patient, work hard, be consistent, and stick to the basics.
-StrongLifts Member Jake McMillan (18y, Canada).
This is a post by StrongLifts Member Jake McMillan (18y, Canada) current BC record holder with his 600lb Squat and 600lb Deadlift. StrongLifts Members, follow his 700lb race Squat against SL Member Greg Prince inside the StrongLifts Community. Non-Members: the StrongLifts Community is closed to new Members. To stay up to date of future openings and join over 20,948 Members, click here.