Hardgainers are those naturally skinny folks who, no matter what they eat or how often they hit the gym, generally seem to stay the same body weight and size. These people are often referred to as the somatotype "ectomorph." If that sounds familiar, here are some tips for you.
An ectomorph is a naturally skinny (and often lanky or tall) person who has trouble gaining weight, whether in the form of muscle or even fat. On the other side of things, the somatotype known as endomorph often finds it quite easy to gain weight or put on some amount of muscle. Finally, between those two on the somatotype scale is the mesomorph, who is a naturally muscular person, and for them, gains in muscle and reduction in body fat come rather easily provided they train and eat well. But back to those hardgaining ectomorphs.
I know ectomorphs get frustrated because the majority of society is focussed on losing weight when all they want to do is gain some. But let me remind you that being lean is not a terrible thing in athletic performance and sport because ultimately, if you have low body fat, strong muscles, and lots of gusto, you likely have one of the most important aspects of most sports: power-to-weight ratio.
But if you're a hardgainer and you have a goal of adding a few more pounds of muscle to your body, the good news is that it definitely can be done—with some effort. Most hardgainers I have worked with can add 10 to 15 pounds of muscle with a moderate amount of focused work. It’s after that 15 pounds where it gets more and more difficult to continue gaining and even harder to maintain.
If you have low body fat, strong muscles, and lots of gusto, you have one of the most important aspects of sports: power-to-weight ratio.
If you really want to put on some meat, here is where I would encourage you to start.
Food for Ectomorphs and Hardgainers
From a nutritional standpoint, I would first recommend that you make an effort to eat about one gram of protein per pound of your lean body mass per day. I am usually not a huge believer in rushing out of the gym and pounding a shake but for you hardgainers, a high-protein post-workout snack is important. I would still encourage you to eat a high-protein food of some variety rather than a protein supplement. Real food is always best but bars and shakes can be helpful in a pinch.
I would also encourage you to include more healthy fats in your diet. Fats from things like avocados, nuts, fish, and olive or coconut oil can enhance the conversion process of food protein to muscle protein. They are also dense sources of calories. You don’t need to get carried away but also don’t shy away from them.
Workouts for Ectomorphs and Hardgainers
Get ready to do some lifting because there is no way around lifting harder and heavier if you want to get the best results. Specifically performing some compound movements that use those larger muscle groups (gluteus maximus, lats, traps, quads, and hamstrings), which aside from giving you the best bang for your buck also pump out HGH (human growth hormone) immediately after a workout. Just like it sounds, that is the hormone that helps you grow muscle and bone but it also helps regulate your body composition, body fluids, sugar and fat metabolism, and heart function.