The ectomorph is the lucky body type that doesn’t carry much body fat, but are unlucky in that their body burns a lot of calories per day normally. In order to increase body weight, this type of person would need to increase calorie levels in stages until a pound in body weight is being added per week. The ectomorph's diet is crucial to increasing muscle tissue from their training. They should use a calorie level of 20-25 times their bodyweight in pounds as a starting position for calorie level. Example; a 140 lb lifter would use a starting calorie level of between 2800-3500 calories per day.
Meals should be split into 6-8 meals (including weight gainer drinks) per day, split into meals every 2.5 - 3 hours throughout the day. Protein intake should be 25%-30% of total calories; carbohydrates should be approx 50% of total calories; and fats at approx. 20%-25% of total calories. A meal or meal replacement shake should be taken before bed. Simple sugars should be limited or avoided totally.
Eat lower glycemic index foods such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, yams, oats, sweet potatoes, whole grain foods. Supplement the diet with a good branded multivitamin and mineral. Essential fats should come from the following foods. Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils (safflower, corn, sunflower, cottonseed oil), fatty cold water fish (salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts.
Ectomorph Intensity Booster Training Tips
Ectomorph Workout Plan: Resistance Training
ectomorph workoutBeing a female ectomorph is currently in vogue. Unfortunately, male ectomorphs are in a less enviable position. In men, muscularity is the prized trait. Ectomorphs, tend to lack both muscle and fat. However, it is not impossible to overcome your lack of muscle mass. It requires a serious focus on mass building through diet and weight training. The good news is that you have a naturally low body fat percentage. Thus, with even little gains in muscle you are able to boast excellent muscle definition. Female ectomorphs may want to gain mass to add shape.

ECTOMORPH WORKOUT STRATEGY
Ectomorphs need to stimulate their muscles “deeply” in order to increase your muscle mass. Whereas a mesomorph could almost accidentally gain mass, an ectomorph has to start their workout with a well laid out plan. You need to work intensely with heavy weights and low repetitions. Avoid isolation exercises, which only target individual muscles. This tactic won’t achieve the kind of full body muscle stimulation you require. Instead, go for major compound exercises such as the bench press, deadlifts, squats, lunges and bent over barbell rows. Also, exercises using barbell and dumbbell are great, as they allow you to use full range of motion. The more muscles you work, the more muscle growth you get.

ECTOMORPH WORKOUT PROTOCOL
You probably will benefit the most if you train with heavy weights. Therefore, build up muscle with 2 – 4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions using a moderate-to-heavy weight for each major muscle group. Take longer rests between sets (2-3 min). This allows you to lift intensively again for the next set. Consider doing a split routine where you work some parts of the body one day and then others the next. You can also try body-sculpting classes. Once you are happy with your muscle size simply train to maintain it.

ECTOMORPH R&R
Performing workouts using heavy weight is intense and taxing on your body. You need to make sure you are resting and recovering fully between sessions. Therefore, be careful not to overwork your muscles in a bid to gain mass fast. This will not help your effort to grow muscle. Continually tearing muscle during workouts does not allow it to heal. Moreover, the extra exercise will burn the calories you need for that same muscle to grow. This results in your energy-deprived body consuming its own fat and muscle. Muscle is broken down during workouts and repairs and grows during recovery. Therefore, do not work a muscle group two times per week.

A much higher percentage of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates. The nice thing about carbs is that we can eat boat-loads of them without getting full. Use that to your advantage by eating a generous serving of carbs at every meal. Starchy, unprocessed, whole grain carbs will help you feel and look your best—opt for sweet potatoes over white bread. Drink simple carbs during your workout. If anyone should be drinking calories, it's the ectomorph. You'll feel energized and have more to give, especially towards the end of a grueling workout. Don't get in the habit of drinking sugary carbs all day, however. Outside of your workout window (from the start of your workout until about an hour after your last lift), keep your carbs unprocessed, starchy, and whole, as mentioned above.

Benefits of Ectomorph Body type
One of the biggest benefits of this body type is when it actually does gain muscle, the muscle is usually not accompanied by unnecessary fat stores which are typically normal in weight gains in a mass cycle. Other body types (Endomorphs and Mesomorphs) can grow and make mass gains even if they are training/dieting incorrectly, of course it will not be all lean muscle, but gains none the less. There is nothing more important to a true Ectomorph than an intense training routine and impeccable dieting. In fact, one of the biggest problems faced for the body type is over training. Because they are naturally lean, it's not hard to fall into the over training category. Some people, including myself at one point, are so desperate to gain mass, that they put in way too much time and effort in the gym. Insufficient recovery times can also hinder any kind of gains at all. So don't over do it. Doing to many movements, high rep ranges and sets, and a lot of volume over all can spell zero gains and make you more susceptible to injury.

Training Routine
Your workouts should consist of mostly compound movements (movements involving several body parts at the same time, incorporating the most muscle fibers). One or two movements per body part would be most beneficial. Compound movements inspire your body to release the most testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone), so using these movements are imperative for your growth. Your training should be heavy, for the most part, intense and brief, with longer recovery times between workouts. Training just one body part per day and focusing on heavier, intense training. Sets should be about 3 per movement, with a rep range between 6 -10. This will advocate hypertrophy. The heavy weight will drive intensity and shorter rest periods should be taken in between sets, however the rest between your training sessions should be longer. If your are an Ectomorph and are spending 2 hours in the gym, if your actually training for all that time, your more than likely over training. You don't have a lot of fat to burn, your work out should be hard and fast. Anything longer than an hour is pushing it.

Angel Chicken pasta

6 Chicken breast halves, Boneless, skinless
1/4 cup Butter
1 (.7 oz) Salad dressing mix, Dry Italian style
1/2 cup White wine
1 lb Angel hair pasta
4 oz Cream cheese, with chives
1 can (10.75 oz) Golden Mushroom soup, Condensed

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large sauce pan melt butter over low heat. Blend wine and golden mushroom soup. Mix in cream cheese and stir until smooth. Heat through, do not boil. Arrange chicken breast in single layer on baking dish. Pour sauce over.
bake for 60 minutes in preheated oven. 20 minutes prior to chicken being done, boil a large pot of lightly salted water. Cook pasta until al dente (approximately 5 minutes) Drain. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Diet
It's important to create a diet that has more than the normal daily requirement of calories. If you are a true Ectomorph, simply adding more calories means absolutely nothing. Your body will burn right through them with no problem. Its the type of calories that you are adding that are most important. You want to consume a lot of slow burning foods and macro nutrients that encourages the body into storage and retention, and not released automatically are essential. Ectomorphs absorb and assimilate nutrients very quickly. Foods that you consume that are quick burning will not stay in your stomach long enough to develop into anything. Oatmeal, pasta, bread, rice or yams are some excellent choices for slow release carbs that will slow your body/metabolic rate down. Omega 3 fats and proteins with an above average fat content are also a necessity. Meals should be consumed approximately every 2 to 3 hours. Initially your body will not be accustomed to eating all the extra calories, so you will almost have to force yourself to eat more. Meal replacement or weight gain drinks/protein shakes should be taken often, 2 or 3 times a day and nutritional supplements such as creatine or testosterone boosting products will also be beneficial when consumed properly.

If you are a true Ectomorph and follow this game plan, you will be well on your way to gaining big, lean muscle. This is a process and will take time so you have to be patient and consistent. Understand that you may lose some of your hard cuts during this mass building stage and look a little softer, but your body type will have you bounce back and razor sharp once you have reached your desired weight gain goal.

Don't Skimp on Protein
Also have a post workout protein shake. That's right, in addition to a carb drink during the workout, you should have a protein shake immediately after your workout. Post workout protein does wonders for recovery and allows your hard work in the gym to pay off. Adding some carbs to your shake (berries, honey, almond milk) is a way to sneak in some extra calories and make your shake delightfully delicious. Push your calorie intake until you start gaining mass. You want to do the exact opposite of someone trying to lose weight. Add about 500 calories to your diet and see if your weight starts to increase. If it doesn't, try reducing your non-resistance exercise (any cardio-based exercise). Still no weight-gain? Add another 500 calories to your diet. Repeat until the scale starts to move.

Pace Yourself
You need to eat every two to four hours. Because your metabolic rate is so fast, you need to constantly be fueling your engine. If you want to get bigger, eating needs to become your job. Endomorphs (naturally broad and "thick-boned") also need to eat often but for exactly the opposite reasons. For endomorphs it helps with control, for ectomorphs it helps with excess.

All About Balance
Protein requirements are still important. Like all good eaters, you should be eating protein with every meal. That means eggs for breakfast, mid-morning nuts (which are mostly fat, but contain protein), chicken for lunch, a post workout protein shake, and steak for dinner. Mmm. Manhood. Fruits and vegetables are still important. Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are in these foods that are absolutely essential for you to grow and be healthy. Don't allow ectomorphia to be an excuse to eat crap. A healthy diet always includes plants also with every meal. Ultimately, getting bigger is not an easy task for the ectomorph. Most of the information out there is about weight loss. Some of those rules need to be broken and some of those rules still apply. But a smart nutrition plan will make all of the difference when going from she-man to He-Man.

Ectomorph vs Hardgainer: Is There A Difference?
Alright, sure… an ectomorph is a naturally skinny person with a thinner overall frame and faster metabolism who has a harder time gaining weight/muscle than everyone else. And yes, I would say that all of this describes the hardgainer as well.

They are very similar, and there’s tons of overlap between them in that most hardgainers ARE ectomorphs, and many ectomorphs ARE hardgainers. But, if you ask me, there is one very subtle difference here:

An ectomorph is someone who genetically has a harder time building muscle.

A hardgainer is someone who genetically sucks at it.

To put it another way, I’d define a hardgainer as an ectomorph with worse genetics.

Ectomorph + Fat = The Hardgainer
The best example I can give you of what I mean revolves around the word “skinny” which we keep throwing around here. How so? Because some ectomorphs aren’t just naturally skinny. They’re naturally lean. And therein lies a key difference.

I mean, a male ectomorph could be 15% body fat and look super skinny. Another male ectomorph could be 9% body fat and still look super skinny. Hell, in clothes, they’d probably look identical.

But take those clothes off and you’ll see the difference. One is skinny and lean, and one is just plain skinny. Or, more accurately with this body type… skinny-fat.

And that’s what I think a true hardgainer is. There are skinny ectomorphs that are naturally lean and defined (the good version), and there are skinny ectomorphs that are naturally skinny-fat (the bad version). Now granted, both versions suck if your goal is building muscle (and this article is aimed at helping both).

But, that second version  the bad one that one sucks a little extra. Those are what I call hardgainers.

They’re essentially ectomorphs that aren’t naturally lean. They have all the negative aspects of this body type (super thin frame, fast metabolism, etc.) without the one positive aspect.

They’re the ones who, while in a caloric surplus, tend to put on more fat and less muscle than most people do with all else being equal. And in a deficit, they tend to lose more muscle and less fat. Basically, a hardgainer’s calorie partitioning is much worse than everyone else’s, including the “good” version of the ectomorph.

With me so far? Awesome. Now it’s time to send half of you packing.

The “Fake” Hardgainer

Here’s the funny thing about all of this. After learning what a hardgainer is, everyone thinks they are one.

I bet most of the people reading this were probably nodding along while thinking “Yes, this is totally me… building muscle is extra hard for me and happens very slowly. I gain too much fat in a surplus, I lose too much muscle in a deficit… thus leaving me skinny-fat. I’m clearly a hardgainer.”

Wanna know why I think that’s funny? Because out of the TONS of people who might THINK they are hardgainers, I’d guess that maybe (at most) 25% of them actually are. Probably less.

Why is this? I think there are two primary reasons.

Unrealistic expectations.
As I’ve covered before, the rate of muscle growth is painfully slow. Yet most people expect to build 20lbs of muscle in 6 weeks like all of the bodybuilding magazines, supplement companies, fitness products and muscle building programs have been promising for decades. Our perception of reality is clouded by a combination of deceptive sales tactics (blatant lies and bullshit claims) and the amazing unrealistic results of steroid users. So when a person isn’t gaining muscle at the “lightning fast” rate they’ve been promised or somehow came to believe was possible, they assume the problem is their crappy hardgainer/ectomorph genetics. Nope. It’s that their expectations are way too high.
You eat and train like a moron.
This is the most common reason of all. Take someone who has approached their goal of building muscle in a way that is less than optimal. Hell, take someone who has approached their goal of building muscle in a way that isn’t even remotely intelligent or effective. Guess what? I just described the majority of the population. Now guess what happens after a few weeks/months/years of training and eating that way? They all come to the incorrect conclusion that building muscle is harder for them than it is for everyone else, and they are cue the dramatic trumpets a hardgainer!
Sorry, but no.

They are just normal people who attempted to build muscle by doing things that don’t work very well for building muscle.

So the problem isn’t your supposed ectomorph body type or hardgainer genetics. The problem is that you don’t eat enough to support growth and your workout routine is horseshit. Or maybe that you weren’t consistent. Or maybe that you didn’t give it enough time. Or maybe one of the other 100 reasons people fail at improving their bodies.

Like I said, this describes most of the population. It’s why most of the people trying to build muscle don’t get great results. It’s not that the majority of the population are hardgainers… it’s that the majority of the population are dumbasses. (Don’t worry, as a proud long-time former dumbass, I’m allowed to say stuff like that.)

In fact, I think a better name for this group would be “dumbgainer” rather than “hardgainer.” It’s not legitimately harder for you to make gains than everyone else, you’re just going about making those gains in a way that is dumber than you ideally should be and it just seems harder. It’s not.

So if you’re currently skinny or skinny-fat, and you’ve been trying to change it but your results have been poor, chances are it’s NOT your genetics. Chances are it’s because you’re just doing a bad job at building muscle and/or losing fat. True story.

The Real Hardgainer: Does It Even Exist?
Because this “fake” version is so damn common, it leads some people to claim that there is no such thing as a hardgainer (or even an ectomorph)there’s just people who eat and train incorrectly for their goal.

To which I say bullshit.

The true hardgainer definitely DOES exist in that there are people who, when doing everything right, are just genetically below average at gaining muscle. With all else being equal, they’re just physiologically worse at it than most people are. How so?

Maybe their rate of muscle growth is below realistic averages in terms of the speed they are capable of building it and/or the quantity that gets built.
Maybe their genetic potential for total muscle gained in their lifetime is below realistic averages.
Maybe some aspect (or every aspect) of their hormonal profile (testosterone especially, cortisol, insulin, thyroid, etc.) is less ideal than realistic averages.
Maybe their muscle fiber composition, tendon insertion points and muscle belly lengths are less suited for muscle growth than that of the average person.
Maybe their overall bone structure, joints and tendons put them at a significant disadvantage for gaining muscle or even just lifting heavy things on a regular basis for the purpose of gaining muscle.
Maybe their p-ratio is below realistic averages. Maybe with all else being equal, they do gain more fat in a surplus and lose more muscle in a deficit than the average person does.
Maybe their recovery rate and/or work capacity is below average.
Maybe they are more injury prone than others.
Maybe all of the above and then some.
But whatever is it, there are most definitely men and women out there who, with all else being equal, are genetically less-good at muscle growth than the average person is.

You know, just like how there are a few lucky bastards who are above average in all of these categories (the “genetic elite”). And then there’s the majority of the population who is neither above nor below average they’ll fall somewhere in the middle (aka average).

And some will just use drugs/steroids and make all of this stuff irrelevant.

But the point is, while most of the people who assume they’re hardgainers will fall into the “fake” hardgainer category described above (aka the dumbgainer), there is indeed a decent number of us who can legitimately be considered real life hardgainers.

If you’re one of them, welcome to the club. Please allow me to take your coat and remind you that as long as your diet and workout routine are designed intelligently and executed correctly, you CAN still build muscle (and get lean) despite your less-than-stellar genetics.

Let me show you how

The Best Hardgainer/Ectomorph Workout Routine
Alright, so you realized long ago that you had an “ectomorph” body type and assumed you’re a hardgainer… an assumption which may have been confirmed as you read through the beginning of this article.

The next step is figuring out how you need to train to get the most out of your below average genetics and build muscle as well as you can. So, what kind of workout routine is best for people like us?

How You’ve Been Told To Train
If you have ever researched this kind of thing before, I can almost guarantee the majority of what you’ve heard is something along the lines of the following. This is supposedly how an ectomorph/hardgainer should approach weight training for muscle growth…

Very low volume (very few exercises, very few sets… this body type supposedly overtrains very easily).
And this fact means we respond to certain aspects of training a bit differently than others and should tweak these things accordingly. One such area is rest periods. If I’m doing a big compound exercise like the bench press, squat or deadlift (for example) in a lower rep range (say 5-8) and therefore heavier, and I try to rest less than 3 minutes (2:30, 2:00, 1:30, etc.), my performance absolutely sucks and the drop-off from one set to the next is substantial.

In a scenario like this (big exercise done heavy in a lowish rep range), I ALWAYS take a full 3 minutes on most exercises. Not a second less, and sometimes slightly more (like 3:30). Doing so leads to a huge improvement in my strength, performance, form, ability to progress, and just my overall comfort level on subsequent sets.

Now I’m definitely not suggesting that you take 3 minutes or more between everything. I’m suggesting you do it during your couple of biggest/heaviest lower rep primary lifts of the day, where progressive tension is the main focus.

For your secondary exercises (the stuff in the 8-10, or 10-12, or even 12-15 rep range, where progressive tension is still a big focus, but metabolic fatigue and muscular damage is now a focus as well), I think slightly shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes) are still ideal.

BUT, you may still want to experiment with exactly how long you take. A 30 or 60 second difference doesn’t seem like much, but for us ectomorphs/hardgainers, that tiny time difference can have a surprisingly big impact on our performance. So, experiment. I know exactly which exercises I do best with more or less rest during. You should too.
But who gives a shit? No one wants to unnecessarily gain extra fat, period. Even the super skinny.

As someone who once fit that description (it may have even been an understatement), I know I sure as hell didn’t. But, all of the advice I was hearing at the time made it seem like someone as skinny as I was needed to ignore everything and just eat a ton. Eat big, get big, right?

Why should someone who is barely 125lbs and the width of a broomstick waste time closely monitoring their calorie intake or try to gain weight at a slower more moderate pace? Someone with my body type should be gaining 20lbs in the next 10 weeks!!! Right?

This seemed to make sense in my silly noob head, so that’s exactly what I did. And do you know what happened? I built some muscle, but I also got fat as hell in the process.

And last but not least…

That’s why whenever I see people recommend the “eating whatever isn’t nailed down” approach, or to not bother closely counting calories, or suggesting you aim for 2 pounds gained per week (or more), or doing GOMAD (gallon of milk a day) for the purpose of gaining something as insane as 25lbs in 25 days… I do a combination of laugh and cringe.

Seriously… as someone who started off as skinny as anyone ever will, I can tell you firsthand that it’s all just flat out wrong. Even for the super skinny. You’ll certainly gain a ton of weight really fast by following this type of bulking advice. There’s no doubt about that at all, and if all you care about is just gaining weight, then I guess it’s alright.

But if you actually give a crap about what that weight is, then it’s not alright at all. Why? Because the majority of that weight will always be fat, not muscle.

Got it? Good.

But We’re Skinny… It’s OK To Gain A Little Fat!

A little fat? Sure. And let me tell you straight up… if you’re going to try to build muscle/gain weight while remaining super lean and not gaining ANY fat whatsoever, you’ll probably never build an ounce of muscle or gain a pound of weight. You’ll just spin your wheels and get nowhere.

Without steroids or amazing genetics, some small degree of fat gains WILL come with the muscle gains. It’s just not gonna happen any other way. But the key however is to try to keep those fat gains as low as possible.

But that’s not what the “experts” tell us. Nah, they’ll say things like “Don’t worry about gaining a bunch of fat now… with your skinny ectomorph genetics, you’ll be able to easily lose that fat later on! Just focus on eating a ton and gaining weight fast!”

Um, no. Sure, people like us will probably have a much easier time losing that fat than others might. But, it’s still just terrible advice. Here’s why:

Who wants that unnecessary job? Who wants to waste any amount of time losing a bunch of fat that you didn’t need to gain in the first place and didn’t help you build muscle any faster? I sure as hell don’t.
Who wants to look fat, bloated and disgusting during the long period of time between when you first start gaining this fat and finally finish losing it? Isn’t the goal here to, you know, look good? Who wants to even temporarily look like crap for no beneficial reason? Not me.
Besides the potential for loose skin and stretch marks (gain enough weight/fat fast enough, and that CAN happen to us just like everyone else), gaining too much excess fat now will improve how good your body is at storing fat in the future (thus screwing with your p-ratio during future attempts at building muscle/bulking).
And for the hardgainer, gaining excess fat is the ultimate recipe for us becoming exactly what our genetics want us to be… skinny-fat. It’s one of the absolute worst things we can do.

Just Eat Clean!
To supposedly counter any excess body fat gains, it’s commonly suggested that ectomorphs just need to eat clean. You know, avoid “dirty foods” and “bad carbs” and eat nothing but TONS of safe, healthy, “clean” foods (grilled chicken, oatmeal, vegetables, etc.). As long as you do that (and do it with 6 smalls meals every 3 hours!!!), you’ll gain only lean muscle mass.

Sorry, give me a minute
Alright, I’m back. First and foremost, that’s pure bullshit. Clean or dirty, healthy or unhealthy, good or bad… that has no direct impact on body composition with all else (total calorie and macronutrient intake, training, etc.) being equal. More here: Clean Eatings.

Second, this is just going to make the already hard dietary life of an ectomorph even harder. Your calorie needs are super high. Your metabolism is super fast. You’re (usually) a picky eater with a small appetite. Your hardest job is going to be eating enough. But hey, guess what… let’s make it even harder by limiting your food choices to only “clean foods” like grilled chicken, oatmeal and vegetables highly filling foods that contain very few calories.

Genius idea guys. Seriously. Be sure to let me know how that goes. Idiots.

How You Actually SHOULD Eat
Now here’s what I actually recommend. This is what I’ve personally found to work best for those of us with the ectomorph body type and/or hardgainer genetics… including myself:

Calorie Intake
Since the rate of muscle growth of the ectomorph is already BELOW AVERAGE, and the skinny-fat hardgainer is already genetically prone to gaining more fat/less muscle while in a surplus, this means our calorie intake needs to be more controlled and optimized than most people’s, and our rate of weight gain needs to be slower.

Yeah, the complete opposite of the horseshit advice we’re usually given.

With that in mind, my recommendation is to consume a surplus of about 200-250 calories per day. (Women should cut that recommendation in half.) Which means…

Is to estimate what your current daily calorie maintenance level is. The full details of doing that are here: Calorie Requirements Calculator
Is to then add this small surplus of calories on top of it. The full details of doing that are here: How Many Calories To Build Muscle.
Is to monitor what your weight is doing over the next couple of weeks. If it’s increasing at the ideal rate it should be (I’ll explain that in a second), then you’re good. Keep eating that amount. BUT, if your weight is NOT increasing at that ideal rate (or just not increasing at all), add an additional 250 calories and monitor what happens then. And, if your weight happens to be increasing too quickly, remove 250 calories and monitor what happens. Your goal is to end up gaining weight at the ideal rate explained below. If you are, good. If you’re not, adjust until you are.
Optionally for all ectomorphs but especially for the true hardgainer, I’d also suggest using some type of calorie/nutrient cycling approach (more calories and carbs on training days, less on rest days… but the same total weekly net surplus still remains present).

I find that, with all else being equal, calorie cycling provides a small calorie partitioning benefit for everyone (more muscle/less fat being gained). But for a skinny-fat hardgainer genetically prone to having a below average partitioning ratio from the start? We need all the help we can get, and this is one very effective way of helping.

If you want more details and specifics for exactly how this should be done, hang in there. This article has already crossed the lines of sanity in terms of length and the amount of stuff being covered, so this is definitely not the place to go into a whole thing on calorie and nutrient cycling. But stay tuned, it’s on my to-do list.

(IMPORTANT NOTE : The most important thing is that you’re eating as much as you need to eat to be in a surplus. That’s rule #1. I say this because calorie cycling, while beneficial, is a bit more complicated than a straight forward surplus each day, and may require a bit more effort to sustain. So, if there is any chance this approach would make things too hard/annoying for you and possibly cause you to fail to meet rule (eating enough total calories to be in a surplus), then skip it. Rule is infinitely more important here. But if you’re confident that you won’t have any problems eating this way, I’d highly recommend calorie cycling, especially for hardgainers.)

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Something else to keep in mind ONLY in the case of the skinny-fat hardgainer. Just how fat are you right now? I ask because, if you’re above a certain level of body fat, you’d be better off losing some of that fat first and getting a bit leaner before going into a surplus. For most ectomorphs, this is a total non-issue and this note should be ignored completely. BUT, for many of the people starting out in a “skinny-fat” state, the “fat” part of that equation is sometimes just too high to justify going into a surplus and gaining weight. Doing so will actually have a negative effect on your already below average p-ratio, thus making you even more likely to gain fat instead of muscle in a surplus. In these cases, your results will be much better if you lose some of that fat first so you can start out a little leaner. Additional details here: Should I Build Muscle Or Lose Fat First? and here: How Can I Build Muscle & Lose Fat At The Same Time?)

Rate Of Weight Gain
You remember before when I mentioned that it’s typically recommended for ectomorphs to aim to gain 1-2 pounds per week (or even more)?

Well, guess what? I want you to aim to gain 1-2 pounds… per month. So somewhere between 0.25-0.5lb per week is the goal. (Women should shoot for about 0.25lb per week, or about 1lb per month.)

That might not sound like much (although if you really think about it guys, is being 12-24lbs bigger at this time next year really that bad?) and it’s probably not as fast as you’d wish it could be (because that just can’t happen without you gaining a ton of unnecessary fat), but it is what I’ve found will work best.

You’ll build muscle as fast as you’re genetically capable, and you’ll keep fat gains to a bare minimum. It’s the ideal scenario.

Also keep in mind that when you reach a point where you stop gaining weight for 2-3 consecutive weeks, you’ll need to add an additional 200-250 calories (and again for women, half that). Don’t forget.

And just in case it needs to be mentioned as well, if you reach a point where you’re gaining weight faster than you should be for 2-3 consecutive weeks, reduce your calorie intake slightly.

And finally, for tracking your weight, I’d suggest weighing yourself daily (first thing in the morning on an empty stomach) and then taking the weekly average.

Food Choices
All of the usual choices remain. You know… protein sources like chicken breast, turkey, fish, lean cuts of meat, eggs, milk and protein powder. And of course, various fruits and vegetables.

This stuff contains some calories, so it will help make a dent in reaching your calorie intake goal each day. However, that dent won’t be all that big. The main purpose of this stuff is to ensure you hit your daily protein requirements (which, after total calories, is the next most important part of a muscle building diet) and get plenty of fiber and micronutrients as well.

But from there, the majority of your daily calorie intake will come from high carb foods that ideally taste good and are easy to eat large amounts of. So for example, rice (white, brown, whatever the hell you like best), potatoes (white, sweet, whatever), pasta, oatmeal, beans, bread and various grains. High fat calorie dense sources like various nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.) and oils (like olive oil) are going to be important and helpful, too.

The key here is going to be picking foods you enjoy, and then eating a lot of them. (Here’s an example from my own diet.)

Also keep in mind what I mentioned earlier about digestibility, something that I think is an underrated characteristic of our high calorie needs. Be sure to pick foods you don’t have issues digesting and/or foods that just make you feel like crap (common symptoms include gas, bloating, nasal congestion, diarrhea, etc.).

For example, in my case specifically, I completely avoid milk and all milk/dairy products due to the first 3 symptoms mentioned above . I also avoid oats . And after experimenting a bit over the last few years, I find many wheat products bother me a little too (similar to dairy, just to a lesser degree).

Instead, in my case specifically, I’ve found white rice and white potatoes to be PERFECT for me from a digestion standpoint (they’re usually well digested by everyone, white rice especially). They, along with various fruits and vegetables, comprise the majority of my daily carb intake. Chicken, turkey, eggs, tuna fish and whey protein powder are my preferred protein sources. And fat comes primarily from almonds and other nuts, olive oil (it can be mixed with balsamic vinegar and thrown on damn near everything), and egg yolks.

Keep in mind however that this is just an example of what I’ve found to be ideal for me. These are the foods I like best, don’t have issues digesting, don’t make me feel like crap, and that I’ll happily eat in large amounts on a regular basis to meet my above average calorie and macronutrient requirements.

You need to find whatever foods fit that description for you and do the same.

Additional details here: How To Choose The Best Foods For Your Diet

Diet Organization
The exact amount, frequency, timing and size of your meals still doesn’t matter, even for ectomorphs. You can eat 5-8 frequent small meals, 2-4 infrequent large meals or anything in between. As long as your total calorie and macronutrient intake is what it needs to be each day, it doesn’t matter at all. (Additional details here: How Many Meals A Day?)

HOWEVER, if there is one group of people that a moderate-higher meal frequency MAY be more ideal for, it’s people like us. Due to our higher than normal calorie needs, it can get kinda tough trying to eat the amount we need to eat in just 2 or 3 meals per day.

Those will often end up being some CRAZY huge meals, especially for someone with a below-average appetite to begin with.

So whereas something like IF (intermittent fasting) can certainly be a useful approach for some, it might not be as ideal for higher calorie intakes like ours as it is for those with lower-moderate calorie intakes.

I personally find I do best with 4-6 meals per day (currently 4 on rest days, 5 on workout days) because my calorie intake is just too high to eat any less frequently and not explode during each meal. And trying to eat even more frequently than that is just pure lifestyle torture (I actually spent some time years ago eating 7-8 times per day… it sucked). 4-6 seems to be my sweet spot.

But of course, this is nothing more than a suggestion based on a personal preference. I’d recommend experimenting with different meal sizes/frequencies/combinations until you find what best suits your preferences/life and allows you to most easily and consistently eat the amount you need to eat.

I should also note that, for me, the key to getting myself to eat as much as I needed to eat early on (back when it seemed impossible… it definitely gets easier over time… you’ll see) was coming up with some kind of overall meal plan, schedule and frequency, and being pretty strict with it.

Now sure, I’m ALL about “flexible dieting.” If you know me, you know it’s what I recommend. However, for the skinny ectomorph who will basically be forcing themselves to eat more food than they have any interest or desire to actually eat, I found that a more strict, scheduled, structured (aka inflexible) approach may be beneficial… at least until you’ve become more accustomed to consistently eating how you now need to eat.

Just a suggestion to keep in mind. And I’ll also mention that, over time, my appetite has improved a ton as has my ability (and desire) to eat large amounts of food. Yours will too. Just give it time.

Protein, Fat And Carbs… And Everything Else (Supplements Too)
And now for the stuff you most likely already knew…

Get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (so if you weigh 150lbs, consume a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day). Full details here: How Much Protein Per Day?
Get about 25% of your total calorie intake from fat. Full details here: How Much Fat Per Day?
Everything else will be carbs. So after your protein and fat intake have been factored into your total calorie intake, whatever calories still need to be filled in to reach that total… they will all come from carbs. Full details (and a step-by-step example) here: How Many Carbs Per Day?
Drink plenty of water.
Surround your workouts with a decent amount of protein and carbs. I find there may be some calorie partitioning benefits to putting a large amount of your total calorie intake around your workouts. Full details here: 
The PRE & POST Workout Meal
No supplements are required whatsoever, but there are a couple that can be of use. They’re the exact same handful of basic, proven ones I recommend to everyone. Whey protein, fish oil (which may provide calorie partitioning benefits… hardgainers take note), creatine (be sure to read my amazing guide to taking creatine), maybe a multivitamin, maybe some other individual vitamins/minerals you may be lacking (vitamin D and calcium in my case). No special “mass gainer” bullshit. You just need more food. (If you have any questions about the effectiveness of other supplements, I’d highly recommend checking out The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide.)

Two Other Tips
These have nothing directly to do with your diet or workout, so they didn’t really belong anywhere else. So, I’ll put them here. And they are:

Avoid stress, and relax.
Sleep as much as you can.
Yes, good tips for everyone regardless of genetics. But, as with virtually everything else, the ectomorph (and extra especially the skinny-fat hardgainer) just handles stress and an insufficient amount of sleep worse than most people do. Or, it hits us harder and negatively affects us more.

And if there’s one thing you should realize by now it’s that we already have more than enough working against us to let other non-genetic factors come in and make things even worse. So, make sure you don’t let that happen.

The End
Well, that certainly turned into something bigger than I originally thought it was gonna be.

But, as someone who is in your same skinny shoes with your same shitty genetics, I’ve just spent too much time trying to figure it all out to be short and brief about it.

I know exactly what it’s like. I know the problems. I know how you think. I know what you’re going through. I know how hard it is and will be. I know what you need to hear. I know what you need to do. I know what you need to avoid doing.

And I know that the majority of the diet and training information out there directed at people with our body type and genetics is absolute garbage. It often comes across as if it’s written by people who don’t have the slightest F-ing clue what it’s like to actually BE an ectomorph or skinny-fat hardgainer, or the slightest F-ing clue about what actually works best and worst for us.

Or, maybe they’ve just used enough drugs/steroids for it to not even matter anymore.

Whatever it is, I wanted to put together a comprehensive guide to the REAL diet and training needs of the ectomorph/hardgainer. My advice? Read it, understand it, and most importantly… put it all into action.

I promise you, it WILL work. And not just work, but work better for you than anything else you’ve already tried, and everything else you might have ended up trying in the future.

And when that’s happening, when things ARE working well and you ARE seeing significantly positive results and progress IS going awesomely… do me a favor. Come back here and tell me about it. I love all success stories, but success stories from people like us with genetics like ours… I love those even more.
All About Balance
Protein requirements are still important. Like all good eaters, you should be eating protein with every meal. That means eggs for breakfast, mid-morning nuts (which are mostly fat, but contain protein), chicken for lunch, a post workout protein shake, and steak for dinner. Mmm. Manhood. Fruits and vegetables are still important. Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are in these foods that are absolutely essential for you to grow and be healthy. Don't allow ectomorphia to be an excuse to eat crap. A healthy diet always includes plants also with every meal. Ultimately, getting bigger is not an easy task for the ectomorph. Most of the information out there is about weight loss. Some of those rules need to be broken and some of those rules still apply. But a smart nutrition plan will make all of the difference when going from she-man to He-Man.
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