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The hardgainer bulking diet

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by Yuan

Today, I’m going to talk about a hardgainer bulking diet that will help you grow at an incredible rate. Paired with the right program, you will be able to raise the weight on your major lifts every single session. As impressive as this sounds, it is nothing new. It is just some conventional weight lifting knowledge presented from a different angle.

Hardgainers have a hard time growing and the problem is in their diet. Hardgainers tend to think that they eat a lot, which is never the case. I used to be one of them, thinking I was just a skinny kid with a big appetite. After keeping a food journal for one week, I realized how delusional I was. Turns out I only ate around 1500 calories a day on average, no wonder I couldn’t grow.

After scaling my calories up to 3500-4000 calories a day, I started growing at a speed that I didn’t think was possible. I was following Starting Strength and all of my lifts went up every single session (linear progression), it was unbelievable, like newbie gains on crack. At this point, I discovered that showing up and working out 3 times a week was the easy part, consistently eating right every single day was the real challenge.

Some of my friends noticed my results and joined in. The ones that couldn’t grow faced the same problem of thinking they already ate a lot. So I challenged them to keep up with my food intake for a day and none of the ‘hardgainers’ could, at that moment they realized how much they actually needed to eat.

Hollywood hardgainers

There have been some impressive hollywood transformations in the past. Transformations that required a thin actor to put on mass all shared a common theme; the actors complained about how much food they had to eat. Here are 3 examples:

Taylor Lautner for Twilight

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“The actual getting into the gym and working out process was easier, but the eating was harder. Because I had to eat, and everyone’s like “Are you kidding me? I’d love to eat like that!” I had to eat every two hours. At one point, my trainer said, “Put anything in your mouth. Go to McDonald’s, get the biggest shake possible, I just need to get calories in you.” Because my body fat at the time was only, like, seven and a half percent.

I’d wake up and my trainer would say, “You need to have six egg whites, and bacon and toast and…” It became a lot, so that was the hardest part. Especially putting something in my mouth every two hours.”  – Taylor Lautner, MSN Interview

Rain for Ninja Assassin

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“Everyday, eating eating!”  Rain, training video

Chris Hemsworth for Thor.

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“I feel as if I’ve been busy, but all I’ve been doing is eating all day,” he says as we pass a farm stand brimming with organic broccoli. “Eating when you’re not hungry and taking in that amount of food is exhausting.” – Chris Hemsworth, Men’s Health interview

The hardgainer myth – “I already eat a lot”

If you are a hardgainer, I can get you to grow incredibly fast if I can dispel your myth of “I already eat a lot”. While I can’t get you to eat with me for a day, I can show you a visual representation of it. You can check out what I ate on a typical day and compare it with your typical days to see where you stand.

My typical day of food

Everyday, I made a big pot of something involving pasta/rice and split it into 4 meals. This would be a pasta day:

Pasta ingredients for the day:

454g box of dry pasta = 1,684 calories (52g protein, 7g fat, 339g carbs)
400g of raw ground pork, 79% lean / 21% fat = 1052 calories (68g protein, 85g fat)
600ml of passata = 120 calories (10g protein, 38g carbs)
1 medium onion = 48 calories (1g protein, 12g carbs)
25g of grated parmesan cheese = 108 calories (10g protein, 7g fat, 1g protein)

Desert for the day:

4x 100g of 2% Liberte greek yogurt = 360 calories (32g protein, 8g fat, 48g carbohydrates)
250g of fresh pineapple = 125 calories (1g protein, 33g carbs)

Pre-workout:

40g of whey protein concentrate = 160 calories (20g protein, 2g fat, 12g carbohydrates)
1 medium banana = 121 calories (31g carbs)

Misc.

14x Ultra 40 liver tablets = 112 calories (28g protein)
Olive oil used to dress the pasta (never bothered to measure)

Total = 3,871+ calories

Here are some of the main items I have at the time of writing this post (gives a rough idea):

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Self-assessment

Follow the same quantity and make all of that food for yourself. Try to finish it in one day and see how far you get. If you can’t, ramp up over time and eat that same quantity every single day for consistent growth.

Height, age and activity based calorie range

The amount of calories you need will depend on your height, age and activity level. An active 19 year old male standing at 6’4” will obviously need to eat a lot more than an inactive 35 year old male standing at 5’6”. Aim to eat more every single week until you are growing successfully. This gradual ramp up process will help you find the sweet spot.

Eating for a beginner vs eating for an intermediate and beyond

Linear progression is an aggressive growth rate and it’s only possible for a beginner that has never been through the process before. This stage of training benefits most from a high excess of calories. If you optimize this phase, the average male should be able to squat (full range) around 1.5 times their own body weight.

The macronutrients don’t have to be precise, you just have to meet the quantity. Skinnier guys can benefit from eating a lot more carbs, something like this can work:

50% carbs, at least 80g of fat a day and the rest in protein. Use calorieking.com to plan your weekly meals. Start with 2000-2500 calories a day and  increase it every week.

When you can no longer progress linearly, it’s time to move onto an intermediate program that accommodates your new (slower) capacity to grow. At this time, you’ll have more experience and it becomes more effective to follow more precise macronutrient guidelines. Doing this will help you achieve a better body composition, check out my guide on counting macros.

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