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The Post-Workout Nutrition Window

Escape from Hardgainer Hell: Nutrition for Hardgainers

For some dudes building muscle is easy. Add protein and creatine to their diet mixed with any  training and voila: 10 pounds of muscle in a month.

I’m not that guy.

In fact, I could pull off skinny jeans and small t-shirts no matter how much I thought I ate or how hard I trained.

It sucked.

That all changed one hot, muggy afternoon.

I just got done peeling myself off the turf at Football practice after I was absolutely trucked by a teammate. My teammate wasn’t a prick; I just provided less resistance than a blade of grass.

It was embarrassing, humiliating, and a huge wake up call to change. I read everything on nutrition and training I could, trying to implement it all at once.

Still, I failed miserably. My desire desire to change was so great that I changed everything whenever I read a fancy supplement label with giant promises or a new training routine.

When it comes to building muscle, information overload is a surefire way to fail.

Much like a Hail Mary pass your efforts will probably end up with a turnover and failure. It’s much better to dink and dunk your way down the field, taking what you can and creating small wins on a daily basis until you spark a big play.

Much like training, you wouldn’t jump into heavy singles without first building up and practicing technique with heavy loads.
Nutrition for hardgainers is no different.

It’s time to stop being the object of ridicule despite busting your ass. By implementing these hardgainer nutrition laws one at a time you’ll see the light and earn your pass out of hard gainer hell.

 1)Drink Liquid Meals Before, During, and/or After your Training

Ironically, when I’m working with clients looking to lose weight one of the first things we look to clean up is the intake of liquid calories. As it stands, my number one strategy to gain the first few pounds of hard-gainer muscle is to incorporate liquid calories before, during, and/or after training. The benefits are huge. Since you’re already guzzling fluids to rehydrate during workouts it’s easy to sneak in 500+ calories for improved exercise recovery, protein synthesis, and tissue repair.

Nutrition for hardgainers

What you need:

-Blender because well, you need to blend the damn thing

Fruit for flavor, high quality nutrients, and carbohydrates for energy

-Spinach or Greens, you wont even taste it and the added veggies are vital to balance a high-protein diet

Protein to support muscle growth and tissue repair

Topper/Texture adder for additional nutrients and to bring the whole recipe together

Optional: Creatine monohydrate to support high performance training, or a greens supplement to fill nutritional gaps.

Raspberry Chocolate Goodness:

This shake is an awesome post-workout shake, quick breakfast, or a healthy sweet treat option. If you are looking for fat loss keep this decadent treat for a post-workout treat due to the carbohydrate count.


-1 Cup Raspberries (frozen)

-2 Scoops Chocolate Whey Protein

-1.5 Cups Raw Spinach

-1 Cup Coconut Milk

– ½ cup water, ½ cup ice

Bottom Line: In all seriousness supplements make things much easier. If you’re busy then $2 for two scoops of protein per day is a no-brainer compared to cooking up an extra ½ pound of chicken for a similar protein equivalent. Both from a financial and time perspective protein supplements like Biotrust or Onnit are a godsend. Make a batch of Supershakes like the shake listed above.

 2) Track Your Calories for Self-Awareness

Tracking calories is a pain in the ass.

Tracking Calories is an in-exact science at best.

Still, if you’re not gaining weight the reason is simple—you’re not getting enough calories. Simple and straightforward, multiply your bodyweight by 18 to find the minimum number of calories you need.

Therefore, if you weigh 160 pounds… 160×18= 2880 calories

Thermogenics are simple–if you’re in a caloric surplus you will begin adding weight to your hard gainer frame. When it comes to “energy out,” the body’s energy needs include the amount of energy required for maintenance at rest, physical activity and movement, plus food digestion, absorption, and transport. “Energy in” is simpler: how many calories you’re putting into your body. Altogether, you need to put in 300-500 more calories than you’re burning for a positive energy balance.

How to Create a Positive Energy Balance:

Seriously—EAT MORE

If you’re not gaining weight the hard truth is you need to eat more. All the training in the world won’t do anything for you if you’re not putting enough fuel into your body. You need tons of fuel to support your hard training and even more to build muscle. You can’t build a brick wall without bricks—get your calories in.

Bottom Line: The science is in-exact, but self-awareness is priceless. The biggest most jacked guys in the world count their calories because it instills self-awareness and discipline on exactly what it takes to accomplish your goal. Count calories using Myfitnesspal for the next two weeks and monitor your weight every other day. This way you’ll see the amount of food needed to reach your goals and develop eating habits that match your goals.

3) Don’t Fast if you want to Gain Muscle

I understand the draw of intermittent fasting for fat loss, overall health, and working around a hectic schedule, but a restricted eating schedule is the last thing under-eating hard gainers need to gain muscle. Hardgainers simply can’t eat 4 cups of rice and 16oz of steak at dinner- they think a chicken breast and one sweet potato is eating big.
While you don’t need to eat every two or three hours or drag a cooler to work you must make time to get your calories in. If you’re dead-set on intermittent fasting for muscle gain don’t go over twelve hours without eating, you wont get enough calories in to support muscle growth.

Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter how many bricklayers you have; if there aren’t enough bricks you won’t build a foundation. The same logical applies to building muscle—all the training is for naught unless you eat enough calories to support muscle growth.

4.) Balance Acids and Bases:

Look bones: You’re crushing your diet, training hard, and making headway in your escape from hard gainer hell. Problem is, you reek like a toxic dump, your stomach is in fits, and your digestion is garbage.

What gives?

Digestive health is huge indicator of what’s going on side your body while you’re preoccupied with pumping your pecs and squatting a house. When muscle building is the goal, hard gainers opt for high-protein foods like tasty dead animal flesh to support their hard training. The tradeoff is on imbalance between having too many highly acidic foods (meats) and not enough bases (leafy greens) that results in symptoms from increased inflammation, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Any way you look at it health suffers unless the body is in balance between acidic foods and base foods.

Nutrition for Hardgainers
Get your greens while knowing at bambi’s femur

Without a balanced approach to eating training, recovery, and overall health suffer due to an acidic environment. Basically, you should be eating a handful of veggies while you’re gnawing away at your next sirloin.

Tips to Balance Your Diet:

– Have 2 “handfuls” or two cups with of veggies with each meat based meal. Eat one before diving into your protein source to jump-start the digestive process.

– Incorporate fermented foods like raw sauerkraut to improve digestion. Not only is it great on Brats (I’m from Wisconsin, dontcha know), raw sauerkraut and other fermented foods are rich in digestive enzymes and bacteria to aim in digestion.

  • Kudos on the Scrawny to Brawny program, blending spinach into protein shakes is an easy way to balance acids and bases in your diet. From here on out, blend spinach into your shakes. Trust me, you won’t even taste it.
  • Take a greens supplement like ONNIT Superfood. Not only can these replace a multi-vitamin, but they’ll also improve your digestion, immune function, and counteract a high protein diet. Plus, most of us struggle to get our veggies. Pick up ONNIT Superfood and have it you’re your creatine first thing in the morning.

Bottom line: Health is the first wealth and an unhealthy body is unlikely to be optimal for training. Without our health in line, we won’t ever build lean muscle and improve performance anyways so it is always best to focus on health first.

5.) Don’t Fear Fat

If you haven’t caught onto the theme yet calories are the supreme ruler for your hardgainer nutrition. Without enough calories your muscle building workouts are all for naught. One of the easiest ways to increase your calorie intake is to increase your intake of higher fat foods because fat contains 9 calories per gram of fat.

Avoid fat phobia—an increase intake of fatty foods like grass-fed meats, raw nuts, and cooking with virgin unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil has been shown to increase anabolic hormone levels like testosterone to support healthy energy, libido, and muscle building.


hardgainer nutrition
Behold the power of grassfed beef
  • For example, by using 2 tbsp. of olive oil to prepare our meals 2x per day, we can “sneak in” over 60g of fat and 540 calories into our diets.
  • Further, if we eat 3 handfuls (1/4 cup) of mixed nuts per day, which may be an extra 300-400 calories, depending on the size of your hands.
  • If we go with 4 whole eggs for breakfast instead of 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg, that’s an extra 18g of fat and 162 calories.


Bottom Line: Fatty foods are the most calorically dense and will drastic bump in calories for building muscle. Furthermore, fats in your diet will support anabolic hormone levels, libido, and energy for better workouts, more muscle, and 2000% more awesome manliness.

6.) Hyper Hydrate

Body water in humans varies with age and sex, but the body is composed of 40-60% water. Than means for a 160lb dude 80+ pounds of your water are composed of water.

80 pounds.

Needless to say, proper hydration is key for tons of bodily functions:

  • Water acts as a solvent to dissolve chemicals
  • Water transports nutrients to and from cells
  • Waste management
  • Water plays a role in the synthesis of proteins, glycogen, and other molecules
  • Water acts as a catalyst for metabolic reactions in the body
  • Water lubricates joints and tissues
  • Water helps regulate temperature

Our demands for water obviously increase with hard training. The enhanced metabolic rate of muscle contraction requires a larger delivery of nutrients and oxygen along with faster waste and heat removal from the body to continue training. Even the most experienced athletes struggle with water intake despite the fact that 1-2 % reduction in bodyweight from water loss leads drops in performance through muscle cramping, decreased endurance, loss of motor skill, and a loss of muscular strength.

Bottom Line: As much as 60% of your body and 75% of muscle tissue is water. If you’re dehydrated you’re not performing up to your maximum potential and limiting growth. After training, muscle repair requires fluid for nutrient absorption to maximize recovery. Get dat water bruh.


Implementing the Goodies

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change.

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change. (yes, it bears repeating)

Start for the first two weeks by adding a super shake like the recipe listed above after every workout and off day for breakfast.

Next, start tracking your calories for the following two weeks.

By one month from now you’ll be consuming an extra 500 calories/day in shakes with a huge bump in awareness of what’s going into your body.

At the end of one month that’s at least a bump in 15,000 total calories, or an extra 7.5 days worth of food to help you build muscle. Slowly add fats, additional water, and keep your health a priority while you bulk.


Ending your hard gainer hardships isn’t about the perfect plan; rather, it’s about consistent behaviors that manifest into long-term change. If you’re a scrawny dude who sticks to a routine and diet for three days and then flips out when his abs lose a vein, only to switch to a fat loss diet this is for you.

The road is tough, but you must stay the course and persevere through the tough times. Muscle growth and getting jacked only take place in the presence of excess calories and amino acids for muscle fiber repair. If you’re gaining too much body fat look back at your food log and clean things up—health is still important.

Keep your goal, persevere, and crush your nutrition. If your goal truly matters I’m challenging you to step to the plate and see things through.
You’ve got this—now win the day.


[Stuck as a Hardgainer? I’ve been there and I’m here to help. This week I’m taking 20% off all Bach Performance Online Training until 11:59 pm Friday Only. That means four months of World-Class workout programs, Nutrition, Weekly and Monthly Skype Calls with a fifth month 100% Free. Apply NOW before spots are gone.]


Now, let’s hear it from YOU – what are your TOP SOURCES for muscle gaining information? Drop your comments below!

photo credit: cranrob via photopin cc

photo credit: ratterrell via photopin cc

SHOULD Athletes Be Eating Junk Food?

Today’s Guest Post comes Courtesy of Mike Samuels of healthylivingheavylifting.com/ in Southampton, England. Mike and I have collaborated on a few posts together in the past (here and here).

Mike has been everywhere lately and has one of the most interactive Facebook pages around. 
Anyways, I reached out Mike because he specializes on Nutrition and gets great results in a style that I ‘ve never tried– the “If it Fits your Macros” philosophy.

The flexible plan allows people to eat foods they enjoy even if they aren’t the cleanest option and still make gains in the gym. 
I was hoping to learn a bit more about the IIFYM and surely did from Mike. Personally,  I’m not a huge fan of eating junk in any instance.

That said, if your current eating style isn’t providing enough fuel to support your training needs then it could be beneficial to loosen the reigns and get a few more calories. 

Athletes: Why You SHOULD Be Eating Junk Food

Whoops, that’s bound to ruffle a few feathers.

And that’s kind of the point. I’m “that guy.”

The one who brags about being a reformed clean eater, posts pictures of ice cream on Instagram, and likes the fact I eat pretzels and cereal on a daily basis while staying lean and getting strong.

But the purpose of this article is not to slate those who eat clean, or follow rules-based diets.

It’s not a piece on the scientific flaws with Paleo, or how low-carb is a fad that needs to die out. Nope, you won’t find much in the way of diet-bashing here. Instead, we’ll be delving in to exactly why eating junk food is not only something you CAN do, but something you SHOULD do.

“So I should Be Eating Junk Food?”


That’s not to say you want to base your diet around Pop Tarts, sandwiches and cookies, but for an athlete, these kinds of foods are an integral part of a solid eating plan.

First up, let’s define an athlete.

Enter the Athlete

For the purposes of this article, an athlete is –

  1. Someone who competes in sport on a regular basis and at a high level.
  2. Someone who is seeking to improve their performance in the gym, either with the goal of competing in an event such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman or CrossFit, or who just wants to see gains in their strength, size and fitness.

I’m guessing most of you reading this will fall into one of these categories. Therefore, you’re an athlete.

So, why the hell then, when you’re looking to build a well-oiled machine of a body and reach the peak of your physical prowess, should you be eating crap?


Debunking the Ferrari Myth

My favourite expression of the clean eater when talking about junk food vs “clean food” is –

“You wouldn’t put budget fuel in a Ferrari, so don’t fill your body with poor quality food.”

First, we’re not high-performance sports cars – we’re people, so that analogy starts to crumble.

Second, your body can’t tell “food quality.” It knows when you’re eating protein, carbohydrate and fat, and it recognises and uses vitamins and minerals. The body doesn’t know is whether these macro and micronutrients are coming from bread or sweet potato, or whether you’re eating an apple or an apple pie Quest bar.

Third, we have the issue of how to define food “quality.”

To someone on the Paleo diet, a quality food will be one that’s non-processed, and isn’t a grain, legume or dairy product. A low-carber would define quality as any food low in carbs. To a vegan it’d be a plant-based product. Some might only buy organic and free range….. Can you see how not having a set definition of quality makes deciding what’s good and what’s bad very difficult.

Getting the Calories In

When training at a high level, you need plenty of calories.

No two ways about it – calories are your body’s fuel, and without them, you’ll struggle.

While individual calorie intakes will differ greatly, most of us will go through spells of training where we really need to cram in the calories.

As an extreme example, take Michael Phelps and his diet here. He is 6’7” , 194 lbs and trains for up to 7 hours per day, and shovels down insane amounts of food. While he has an insane training schedule 12,000 calories is still A LOT of food.


Imagine if Phelps tried to get all his calories from “clean food.” I dread to think how he’d feel. He’s probably bloated to high heaven as it is, getting a large proportion of his calories from pizza, mayonnaise and energy drinks.

I pity his stomach and his toilet if he got this many calories from just oats, broccoli and chicken breast.

You may not need that many (and in fact, almost certainly don’t!) But, take a guy who trains 5 or 6 days a week for an hour, works a fairly active job and wants to bulk up.

I’d wager you’d be looking at somewhere between 22 and 26 calories per pound of bodyweight each day. At 180 lbs, that’d mean you’d need between 3,960 and 4,680 calories every day.

Junk food would be your saviour here. Sure, you COULD eat 4,500 calories plus of clean food, but it ain’t gonna be pretty.
(Eric’s Note: And for most, damn near impossible)

The Post-Workout Nutrition Window

Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get different views on workout nutrition.

Some value it above all else, believing it to be the be all and end all, and that it’s the most important time of the day for getting in nutrients.

Others disregard it entirely, stating that total daily calories and macronutrients are the only important factor.

The truth is that it’s somewhere in the middle for the average trainer.

You don’t need super fast-digesting carbs and an isolated protein source immediately PWO, but then again, getting some protein and some carbohydrate around your workouts is probably a pretty good idea.

For an athlete however, nutrient timing matters a lot more.

Check out Alan Aragon’s nutrient timing continuum:

athletes should eat junk food


Image Courtesy of:  http://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrient-timing


If you’re training a couple of times per day, involved in endurance sports, or events that last more than a couple of hours (track meets, powerlifting competitions, even perhaps longer lifting workouts) the importance of workout nutrition is bumped up a notch.

When talking workout nutrition, we’re mainly talking carbs.

And for glycogen-dependant events, or when you need to refill your muscle glycogen stores quickly, fast-digesting carbs are where it’s at.Junk food to the rescue. The ideal foods in this scenario are high-carb, (preferably easily digestible) with little fiber and little fat (both of which slow digestion.)

Again, you could go with the “cleaner” option of potatoes, white pasta or fruit, but for convenience, taste and the fact they’re generally higher in calories, processed carbs such as caramel rice cakes, fig Newtons,, Oreos, or that old favourite – chocolate milk, win out over more nutrient-dense carb sources.

Avoiding a Fiber Overload

Fiber is a good thing, no doubt about it.

It helps keep you regular, aids digestion, and a high fiber intake has been linked time and time again with a reduced risk of certain diseases such as cancer, IBS and diverticulitis.

However, you can have too much of a good thing.

Ramp that fiber intake up past an optimal level, and you’re at risk of several nasties:

–       Diarrhea

–       Nutrient malabsorption

–       Gas

–       Stomach cramps

–       Constipation

Looking back at our active 180-lb guy who’s bulking, he might be eating in excess of 500 grams of carbs per day.

Eating only clean foods, his fiber would easily top 100 grams if he’s getting in plenty of oats, brown rice, beans, fruits and veggies.

For anyone bar someone with the most cast-iron of stomachs, this will almost certainly start to cause some of the above symptoms of excess fiber consumption.

As a rule of thumb, you need between 10 and 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories, though most women will find it beneficial to set a cap of around 45 grams per day, and men at 60 to 70 grams per day.

If you’re cramming down the carbs, and looking to limit fiber, then refined junk food carbs are your key to not spending your life in the bathroom.

So I HAVE to eat Junk Food?

No, you don’t HAVE to eat junk food.

But, it shouldn’t be completely discounted as part of a healthy diet either.

Without even touching on the aspect of completely restricting junk possibly leading to an obsessive nature about eating “clean” and causing binge eating tendencies, this article has addressed the physical benefits of including junk in your diet.

The majority of your diet should still be based around nutrient-dense foods – lean meats, oily fish, dairy, vegetables, fruits and unrefined grains.

But there certainly is a place for junk food, and not only as a “treat” – if you’re training hard and looking to optimize performance and health, sometimes that tub of ice cream is actually better than your berries and broccoli.

Thoughts or Experiences where junk food has helped your gains?
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athletes eat junk food

Mike Samuels works as a writer and online coach, based in Southampton, England. He is also a competing powerlifter. Mike loves lifting heavy stuff, helping people get shredded and drinking coffee.

Contact him at healthylivingheavylifting.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/HealthyLivingHeavyLifting

And check out his latest flexible dieting home study course – http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/flexible-fat-loss/


Aragon AA. Continuum of nutrient timing importance (original schematic). NSCA Personal Trainers Conference. April 2012
photo credit: free range jace via photopin cc

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