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This blog post on being a hard gainer started out as an Instagram caption. Then I wrote what seemed like wayyy too much for Instagram. So, now it’s going to be a blog post. It branches off from our post a few weeks ago on our fitness journey900
When I was researching keywords for SEO for this post, I found that a lot of websites say there is no such thing as hard gainers. Most of the articles were pretty condescending as well. They basically said “muscle gain is hard for everyone. If you’re not eating anything and you’re not working out, then you can’t say you’re a hard gainer”. Ok, well obviously… But there are some people who naturally gain weight easier and some who I would consider to be hard gainers. The thing is, for us personally it’s not just about gaining muscle. Gaining any weight, even fat is very difficult.
Basically, even if we keep with the same diet and fitness routine, we will lose weight. Even when we’re just trying to maintain, we have to make sure we’re eating a lot more calories than we’re expending. Evan eats a lot, so it’s not really an under-eating issue for him. If we didn’t lift, we’d be extremely skinny. We were small before we started lifting. We’re still kinda small anyway, haha.
Why Are We Hard Gainers?
We’re hard gainers because we are both naturally small people. I’m 5’6. Evan is 5’10.
We have high metabolisms. The two of us can’t really keep weight on unless we are actively trying to eat a caloric surplus. We eat relatively healthy and only go out to eat once a week and that’s usually sushi.
Generally when people start weightlifting they are either on the larger side and trying to get smaller or small and trying to get big. If you’re starting out small and can’t seem to put on weight, you’re probably a hard gainer too.
Where We’re At Right Now
For the past year or so I’ve been maintaining for the most part. I started trying to bulk at the same time as Evan last year. Due to migraine issues, I couldn’t keep it up. Evan isn’t bulking or cutting right now, just maintaining as well. He plans to start bulking towards the end of summer. I’m trying to eat a lot more now in hopes that it will help reduce the impact of the days where I can’t eat.
The Biggest Challenges as a Hard Gainer
Eating enough is hard. I don’t have much of an appetite, so I’m rarely hungry and always feel like I have to force myself to eat. Also, I can’t eat gluten, which restricts what I can eat, especially in the carbs department. We work out 6 days a week, which means we have to eat more to compensate for the calories we expend in our workouts. We just gain weight slowly due to our metabolisms as well.
I have chronic migraines. I typically have a migraine once a week that lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Since I haven’t been able to find a treatment that helps, I spend a couple days a month in bed, in the dark without being able to keep food or water down. Obviously this means I don’t have any calorie intake on those days. Migraine postdrome also reduces my appetite for the next few days.
How We Try to Gain
So now that you know what makes if difficult for us to gain weight, here’s what we’re doing to try to gain anyway.
I’m sure you know by now that we lift weights. We have definitely got into a workout routine. We’ve been lifting together for around a year, which you can read more about in Our Fitness Journey Together and How to Work Out Together to Become Couple Goals. We continually try to up the weights and/or reps to increase strength. If you’re not actively strength training, then you probably wouldn’t describe yourself as a hard gainer, so weightlifting is kind of a given.
I just use protein powder. I also don’t do super well with dairy, so I have to take vegan protein powder instead of whey. Evan uses protein powder, creatine, and BCAAs. Protein powder is an easy way to add more protein into your diet. Creatine and BCAAs are supposed to help with muscle mass and lifting. Once Evan starts bulking again, his plan is to start taking a mass gainer.
Using a Smart ScaleREDOVER-Bluetooth Body Fat Scale with Free iOS & Android App, Smart Wireless Digital Bathroom Scale, Body Composition Analyzer for Body Weight, Body Fat, Muscle Mass, BMI, BMR and More, 400lb (Black)
We recently got a smart scale from Amazon. It’s been nice since we can’t use the scale at the gym because the gym is closed.
The smart scale also measure things such as muscle mass, fat-free body weight, visceral fat, body fat percentage, etc. It helps break it down to show how healthy you really are rather than just focusing on your weight. It’s been a fun device for us. A smart scale will really come in handy when we’re trying to bulk/cut and if we ever compete. It’s one of those cool gadgets you don’t really think you need, but for fitness folks, it can be pretty useful.
Since we started using the scale, we both discovered that we’re unfortunately losing weight. For some people that would be a good thing. For us, it’s really not.
In addition to using the scale, I’ve also started using an app called Lifesum to track macros. I’m only on the first week of using it consistently. The first few days it kept saying I was under on everything, but high on fat. So I cut out the amount of cheese and other fats I was eating. I ended up eating less than before I started trying to bulk. That didn’t make sense, so now I’m just logging everything in the app and making sure I’m eating more calories.
One of the issues with the app is the only free plan it has is “classic”. I don’t think the proportions for fat, protein, and carbs are correct for my body type and body goals. There’s a muscle building plan, but it requires a subscription. Since we’re cheap and don’t like spending money on things unless they’re absolutely necessary, I’m staying with the classic plan just to log my food and make sure I’m eating enough. To find the correct proportions, I will need to do some research.
If you don’t know, tracking macros is paying attention to the three main groups: carbs, protein, and fat. It is more than counting calories, but not as detailed as calculating servings of fruit, veggies, grains, etc. Talking to a nutritionist is probably your best bet for determining what you need to eat and how much.
Our Tips for Anyone Who Is a Hard Gainer
- Stay consistent: This is in regards to diet and exercise. If you’re not consistent with either, it is hard to track and make changes.
- Be patient: If you’re not seeing results immediately, don’t just change everything.
- Get advice from professionals: If you really struggle with inability to gain weight, talk to a doctor. For awhile my family thought I had a thyroid problem because I was so skinny. Went to a specialist and thyroid issues were ruled out. But it helped reassure me that I can actually gain weight. I just needed to change my lifestyle. For working out, talk to a personal trainer. As stated previously, speak to a nutritionist for more help on diet.
- Have someone keep you accountable: Evan and I tell each other to eat more food and drink supplements. We also go to the gym together.