Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Mehdi of Stronglifts.
A lot of people who are skinny wish they could gain weight and a muscular physique, but don’t know where to start. And going to the gym can be intimidating when you’re a beginner.
Today we’ll look at the biggest reason people are skinny, and how to begin to build muscle, the healthy way.
If you’re skinny, you might think you eat a lot. But you probably don’t. The No. 1 reason people are skinny is because they don’t eat enough calories.
Even if you have a fast metabolism, you’ll need to eat more to gain weight. Couple that with strength training and you’ll go from skinny to muscular. Here’s how.
1. Eat More. Skinny people claim they can eat everything they want without gaining weight. The truth is, you can eat everything you want without gaining weight because you’re not eating a lot. But you can change that.
- Track Calories. Track your calorie intake for a week using FitDay. You need to eat your body-weight x 20kcal daily. You’re probably hardly getting this right now. This is why you’re skinny.
- Eat Body-weight x 20kcal. If you weigh 140 lbs., that’s 140 x 20 = 2800kcal daily. You’ll need about 2 weeks to get used to eating this amount of calories. Keep tracking calories using FitDay.
- Add Calories. After 2 weeks, add 500kcal per day. You won’t feel like throwing up if you ate the same amount of calories the previous 14 days. At 140lbs, switch from 2800kcal to 3300kcal after 2 weeks.
- Track Weight. Weigh yourself weekly. Keep eating the same amount of calories if you gain weight. If you don’t gain weight: add 500kcal per day the next week. Repeat this until you have your goal weight.
2. Eat 6x a Day. No more kicking off the day with coffee, then nothing until lunch time, then a big dinner, then some late-night snacking. Build the habit of eating 6 times a day, without forgetting in-between meals.
- Eat Breakfast. Your body will use muscles for energy if you don’t eat breakfast. You want to go from skinny to muscular. Get calories from the first hour. Build the habit of eating breakfast.
- Eat Every 3 Hours. Set times to eat and stick to them. Breakfast 7 a.m., snack 10 a.m., lunch 1 p.m., snack 4 p.m., dinner 7 p.m. and before bed snack 10 p.m.
- Alternate Meal Size. If you eat 3000kcal daily, try 600kcal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and 400kcal for snacks. This isn’t an exact science — what counts is the calories per day/week/month, not the calories per meal.
3. Eat Calorie Dense Food. Veggies are healthy but don’t work well if you want to go from skinny to muscular. 250g broccoli for example has only 100kcal. You need calorie-dense food.
- Whole Grain Carbs. Oats, rice, breads, pasta, potatoes, yams, beans, etc. 200g whole grain pasta is 700kcal.
- Milk. If you don’t fear gaining some fat, go for whole milk. Else use skimmed milk. 1 liter whole milk is 500kcal.
- Nuts. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, etc. 100g peanuts is 500kcal. Also try peanut butter.
- Healthy Fats. Flax oil, liquid fish oil, olive oil, etc. 1 Tbsp. of each gets you 300kcal daily.
4. Build Strength. The stronger you become, the more muscles you’ll have. Get into strength training. Do exercises that hit several muscles at the same time: Pull-ups, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Deadlifts and most importantly, Squats.
Start with an empty barbell. Learn how to do the exercises first. Increase the weight progressively.
5. Prepare Food in Advance. Nobody has time to cook 3 times a day. Preparing your food in advance is easier. When it’s time to eat, take it out of the fridge and put it for 2 minutes in the microwave. And you’re done.
- Morning. Wake up 30-45 minutes earlier and prepare your foods for the day including breakfast. Let it cool down in the fridge while having a shower.
- Evening. If you have trouble waking up early, cook your meals for the next day when coming back from work.
This isn’t as much work as it sounds. You have to make breakfast anyway, prepare your other meals in the meanwhile. Make double rations. Keep leftovers for the next day. You’ll get used to it.
7. Take Food With You. Avoid situations where you don’t have access to food for more than 3 hours. Built the habit of taking food with you.
- Work and School. Prepare food in advance and take it with you to work or school. Ask if you can microwave your food at the cafeteria.
- Movies. Take a bag of peanuts with you instead of the usual things like popcorn or ice cream. It’s healthier, calorie dense and saves you money.
- Going to Town. Eat before you leave. Take a bag of mixed nuts or a protein shake with you in case you get hungry.
Don’t care about drinking protein shakes in public. Don’t care about eating the food you prepared at work while colleagues go out eating junk food. Care about gaining muscle and being healthy, not about what people think.
The Skinny to Muscular Diet. Some inspiration to get started. Use FitDay and the bodyweight x 20kcal rule to know how much you need of each food.
- Breakfast. Scrambled eggs. Oats with raisins and milk. Granola with milk.
- Snack. Quark with apples. Peanuts. Protein shake.
- Lunch. Can of tuna with rice. Turkey sandwich. Pasta bolognese.
- Dinner. Meat or poultry with rice and legumes. Fruit as dessert.
- Before Bed Snack. Cottage cheese with flax seeds and berries. Glass of milk.
Do What it Takes. You’ll sometimes have to force yourself to finish your meals. And yes preparing your food is more work than buying food on the road. If you really want to lose your skinny look, you’ll do what it takes. Else, you don’t really want it after all.