Are you a hard gainer, please read!

psuLemon Posts: 38,178 MFP Moderator
Since one of the most common threads in this section seems to be that people struggle to gain weight, I wanted to create a one stop source for members to read on how to gain (particularly, specific foods to help and some techniques). First, you have to eat enough calories to get above your maintenance levels; you cannot add mass, if you are not providing a foundation to grow (i.e - calories). Once you achieve a surplus, and you want to minimize fat gains, you should consistently maintain a surplus (as opposed to huge calorie fluctuations) and ensure proper training (progressive overload lifting program that is focused on compound moves).

There are a variety of reason why people struggle to gain. One of the main reasons why people feel they are hard gainers is because they believe they have a high metabolism. Statistically speaking, the average person doesn't have a slow or fast metabolism, but rather have one of the following issues: 1. current eating style isn't conducive towards their goals, 2. psychological struggles or 3. high/active job/daily routine. What I mean by each is simple. Many people develop eating strategies, whether during dieting or habitual, that focus on many low calorie or "diet" foods. This in turn, makes it very difficult to add enough calories to get into a surplus. Also, bulking can be a huge psychological barrier for many people. It's hard going into a program where you are intentionally gaining fat and getting rid of the progress you previously had. And lastly, there are some people (teachers, construction workers, etc...) whom have jobs that are extremely active and will burn a ton of calories. This in turn, makes achieving a surplus a more difficult task than those of us who have desk jobs. Unfortunately, if you want to achieve the goal of gaining muscle, you must hit a surplus and ideally, in a consistent manor.

With that in mind, hopefully the below list of foods and some dietary strategies will provide you a guide to meet your goals:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts, granola
  • Chia seed
  • Olive/Coconut Oil (as a dressing or to cook in)
  • Peanut/Almond/Pumpkin/etc butter
  • Full fat mayonnaise
  • Butter, dressing and spreads
  • Greek Yogurt (higher fat options)
  • Cheese (put that crap on everything or eat a brick of it)
  • Creams (sour cream, cream cheese)
  • Ice cream, chocolate, candy
  • Chocolate/Strawberry milk
  • Bagels (I use P28 protein bagels and top with peanut butter and jelly/jam)
  • Pancakes (if you want a "healthier" version, then go protein pancakes)
  • Waffles
  • Muffins/Scones
  • Syrup, honey, jams, fluff, Nutella
  • Marinade all meats - especially oil based marinades
  • Add sauces to foods
  • High sugar fruits (pineapple, banana, mango, apples, etc...)
  • High calorie protein bars (Cliff Builder, Cliff Energy Bars, etc...)
  • High calorie protein drinks (put in milk)
  • Red meats (Buffalo, Bison, Steak, 80/20 Hamburger, Duck, Ribs)
  • Dark Fish (Salmon,Tuna)
  • Bacon (thick cut)
  • Eggs
  • Starches (potatoes, corn, etc..)
  • Pizza
  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Honey Buns
  • Pudding
  • etc...

While above is not a full list and I can expand if people have other suggestions, there are a few other things you can try to get those calories up:

  • Increase meal frequency
  • Limit cardio while you bulk
  • No diet foods (stay away from low calorie dense foods - again, aim for the veggies/fruits that are higher in sugars)
  • Limit "clean" foods
  • Drink calories (protein shakes, flavored milks, occasional juice)
  • Recognize this is mental and that getting nutrients in a bulk is a lot easier
  • And trust the program and the math.

Favor recipe websites
Hopefully, this can provide a good start to a bulk.


  • Auroraskies2015
    Auroraskies2015 Posts: 1 Member
    :) thanks
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,145 Member
    psulemon wrote: »
    ndj1979 wrote: »
    can you add that hard gainers are a myth too please?

    Updated. Let me know your thoughts.

    approved :)

  • psuLemon
    psuLemon Posts: 38,178 MFP Moderator
    edited February 2016
    I'd also add the suggestion to "drink" calories if you're having trouble eating enough to your second list (I'll leave the exact verbiage to you).

    I had that in my food list, but I added it to the strategies as well to make it more clear. Thanks.
  • psuLemon
    psuLemon Posts: 38,178 MFP Moderator
  • psuLemon
    psuLemon Posts: 38,178 MFP Moderator