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WHAT IS A HARDGAINER?
An individual who has a naturally “smaller” frame and lighter bone structure, and carries little body fat and muscle. Beginning your bodybuilding journey with this somatotype isn’t exactly ideal, but you could be in a less favorable position— as in, the polar opposite body type. Keep in mind, people’s somatotypes—ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph—are not cut and dry, meaning certain individuals can fall somewhere in the middle of a somatotype. First, a quick overview of the three somatotypes and their accompanying characteristics.
Thinner, long limbs and narrow clavicle structure. Has dif culty gaining muscle or fat.
Naturally heavier frame, with a propensity to accumulate body fat and muscle easily. Has wider hips and shoulders.
The natural athlete. The natural bodybuilder. Has a wide clavicle structure and smaller hip structure, revealing an innate X-frame. This individual gains muscle easily, and can burn body fat easily, too.
HOW AN ECTOMORPH PACKS ON BODY MASS
The answer is actually rather obvious: Eat big and lif big weights!
But the task is far from easy. The hardgainer will typically have a poor appetite and be naturally “weaker” in regard to muscle strength. This means diligent, planned eating will take priority and daily appointments with heavy iron will need to be habitual. As the hardgainer slowly but surely gets meals down and masters the mechanics of old-school Olympic lifts, his/ her muscle mass and muscle strength will inevitably increase.
As time passes, progress will stall due to an inability to fathom more food consumption and lifting heavier weights without risking injury. Frustration sets in, and unnecessary cortisol floods your system from the stress of a plummeted appetite and stagnant lifts.
Yes, dedicated bodybuilders often stress and panic over the inability to eat and train optimally for their goal, and actually make things worse with constant worrying and fretting. Note that this continual stress can increase cortisol production and impair glucose tolerance and glycogen levels, which further compounds the issue of mass gain.
Please stop stressing, take a deep breath, and relax—everything will be OK, I promise.
I’ve been in this position more often than I like to remember, and I know the rigors and constant annoyance of having difficulty packing on mass. I have some ideas that may help you keep cortisol levels down and boost your spirits.
Don’t be afraid of drinking meals. I know you’ve heard “whole food is better,” and I pretty much agree, but sometimes eating 100 grams of carbs and 80 grams of protein in an already satiated state isn’t feasible. I’ve found waxy maize starch to be the affordable carbohydrate of choice, combined with a blended protein powder source comprised of whey, egg, and milk protein.
Don’t be afraid of the “glycemic load” or “glycemic index” of a carbohydrate or carb/ protein mixture. Eating meals consisting of a kid’s cereal plus full-fat coconut milk mixed with whey protein isolate is a wonderful meal option.
Think about it: A 12-ounce steak plus a giant baked yam or a large bowl of oatmeal is dreadful to think about. However, a sugary, tasty, and easy-to-eat bowl (salad bowl) of Golden Grahams cereal plus a 32-ounce carton of 100% liquid pasteurized egg whites is easy to get down.
Supplement with herbs that work to increase your desire for food. Gentian root extract, also known as an herbal “bitter,” treats digestion and rejuvenates the liver. Echinacea, which is popular for immune defense, also stimulates salivary secretions and aids in digestion. This herb also has “cannabislike” effects from compounds called alkylamides, which interact with cannabinoid receptors that affect appetite signaling in the brain.
Try using antihistamines at your final meal before going to bed. Histamine suppresses appetite by mediating leptin activity, and acts as an anorexigenic agent. Antihistamines have been used in underweight children to induce weight gain and for treatment of anorexia nervosa. Implement antihistamines before bed for the drowsiness that follows ingestion.
Change your training program every six weeks to supply a new stimulus to your muscles. All six-week programs should be centered on free weights, as free weights stimulate whole-body hypertrophy and augment favorable endogenous hormone production.
Whole food is wonderful, but not when the hardgainer has a poor appetite. I’d recommend three meals of whole food and three shakes. The three whole-food meals should be relatively low in micronutrients. Dense nutritional foods supplying micronutrients could actually better satiate the hardgainer’s appetite.
HARDGAINER SAMPLE MENU
Let’s go ahead and conclude this topic of discussion with a sample menu for our ectomorph hardgainer.