What is a hard gainer? A hard gainer is someone who practices body building or weight lifting but has difficulty with muscle gain.
Do you feel like no matter how much you eat or how hard you work out, you just can't seem to obtain the results you are after?
Also known as an ectomorph, a physical body type that is characterized by a rather slim and slender body frame. These body types often have more difficulty with gaining weight and experience a quick metabolism which enables them to burn energy quickly but build muscle more slowly. If you identify with the hard gainer or ectomorph body type and feel frustrated with lack of results in the gym, don't give up!
Though some may gain muscle more quickly and easily than others, the reality is, it's often not that easy and takes real work and dedication.
The good news is there are ways we can support muscle building. Today we tell you how:
Get Food Right First
We've said it before, and we'll say it again. What you eat matters!
Food quality and food intake are important factors to consider on any fitness journey. A healthy diet will support a healthy body and improve exercise performance.
It's important for athletes to obtain sufficient caloric intake while still prioritizing daily nutrition. Nutrient-dense and calorie-dense foods will help to support energy for training, fat-burning, and muscle growth while reducing inflammation and health issues. These could include things like eggs, cooked vegetables, dried fruit, oatmeal, and quality meat products.
Though protein is usually the star of the show when it comes to muscle gains, carbohydrates should not be overlooked and need to be included post workout to replenish muscle glycogen and promote proper recovery.
Sleep Matters Too
Recovery is just as important as training! This is when the body repairs, heals, and grows so you don't want to skip out.
Not only will adequate sleep improve energy levels during your day, but it also decreases inflammation, supports repair and healing of tissues, and improves overall physical and mental performance. Lack of sleep has actually been shown to favor loss of muscle and decrease the rate of muscle growth (1).
Growth hormone is an important bodybuilding hormone secreted during sleep that stimulates muscle growth (2). But that's not the only hormone that is impacted by sleep, did you know your testosterone level can also be influenced by the quality and quantity of your sleep? Testosterone levels increase as you sleep and loss of sleep has been associated with decreased testosterone production (3). Sleep restriction of 5.5 hours per night or less has been shown to be enough to make a difference in hormone levels.
For most, it is recommended to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep but for those who are very active such as hard gainers, it may be closer to 9.
In order to show up optimally at the gym, it starts in the kitchen and the bedroom!
4 Supplements For Hardgainers
A popular dietary supplement for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, creatine is known as one of the best supplements to increase lean muscle mass and strength (4). It is now one of the most researched ergogenic supplements for athletes.
Creatine can not only increase ATP production, the body's own energy currency, but also reduce muscle breakdown and body fat while supporting muscle synthesis over the long term (5)(6). For these reasons, a creatine supplement can be taken multiple times throughout the day, pre - workout and post-workout.
Creatine may also support glucose and insulin uptake into the muscle cell, though more research is needed (7).
2. Protein Powder
Protein intake is of course an essential factor in muscle synthesis and strength. Though recommendations will vary, for hard gainers and those wanting to build more muscle it is typically recommended to consume 1.2 - 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily to promote muscle growth (8).
Whey protein is a popular choice for bodybuilders as it is the fastest absorbed protein and helps support recovery post-workout while stimulating muscle gain.
Daily intake of protein should be obtained primarily from whole food sources however often times protein shakes are recommended for those needing help to reach their nutritional targets.
A protein shake is a great way to boost your protein intake and a convenient source when you are on the go. Always look for quality protein products without the use of artificial ingredients or sweeteners.
For those needing more of a caloric boost with their protein, a mass gainer can help to build strong muscles and repair body tissues by obtaining optimal nutrition in an easily absorbable format.
Another common supplement for active individuals and bodybuilders, glutamine is an amino acid that has been shown to provide catabolic and growth hormone elevating effects to grow muscle and anti-catabolic effects to prevent muscle breakdown. It plays an important role in exercise recovery and the need for glutamine will rise in the occurrence of injury, heavy exercise, stress, or illness.
The most abundant amino acid found in the human body, approximately 80% of glutamine is found in skeletal muscle. Glutamine supplementation in active individuals has shown to decrease muscle soreness after exercise and aid in recovery and strength (9).
During exercise, stress is increased and muscle damage can occur. This leads to muscle repair which makes the muscle stronger. Glutamine can potentially help speed up recovery time as the body's need for glutamine will increase with intense exercise (12).
You can take glutamine right before or after a workout to support energy, recovery, and muscle building.
4. Fish Oil/Omega 3
Excess inflammation and chronically elevated levels of cortisol can result in increased muscle damage and impair muscle protein synthesis (13). Though acute inflammation is required for tissue recovery, ongoing chronic inflammation can be damaging to the entire body as well as our fitness goals (14).
Omega 3 fats are especially well known for their anti-inflammatory effects and they can also help to blunt the stress response influenced by the catabolic hormone, cortisol.
Clinical research indicates that healthy levels of omega 3 fats help to increase muscle size and strength while alleviating the loss of muscle mass (15). These essential fats can also help to improve muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness (15).
As the Standard American Diet heavily consumes omega 6 fats but not enough of the omega 3 fats, this can promote more inflammatory states.
These omega 3 fats fats are essential and required to be obtained from our diet, and if you find you don't eat a lot of fish it might be wise to supplement.