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3 Best Tips for Hardgainers to Build Muscle Fast

By Darren Nuzzo on Jun 7, 2024 9:00:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time

It’s an interesting life as a hardgainer. Our metabolism makes calories disappear like a handkerchief in a magic act; our New Year’s Resolution is the exact opposite of the global population; and our abs are a sign of failure. Needless to say, hardgainers are a unique bunch. Overcoming our tendency to stay slim despite how many Snickers we eat and how heavy of dumbbells we curl can be a difficult and frustrating task.

While the fundamentals of diet and exercise are most important, specific tricks can accelerate the muscle-building process. Here are three evidence-based hacks to help hardgainers build muscle fast:

Tip #1: Shakes After Meals to Increase Calories

One of the biggest hurdles for hardgainers is consuming enough calories to support muscle growth. Even if you're eating three solid meals a day, it might not be enough to create the caloric surplus needed for muscle gain. A practical trick to overcome this is to drink calorie-dense shakes after meals. These shakes can include ingredients like protein powder, oats, milk, peanut butter, and fruits to pack in extra calories without making you feel overly full.

Research supports the use of liquid calories for increasing overall caloric intake because liquids are less satiating than solid foods, making it easier to consume more calories. By incorporating these shakes into your routine, you can significantly boost your daily caloric intake, providing your body with the energy it needs to build muscle.

Tip #2: Approach Sleep as Methodically as Your Training

Sleep is a critical component of muscle recovery and growth, yet it's often overlooked by hardgainers. Treating sleep with the same importance as your workouts can yield significant benefits. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, and establish a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body's internal clock. Creating a sleep-friendly environment—cool, dark, and quiet—can enhance sleep quality as well.

Studies have shown that inadequate sleep impairs muscle recovery and actually reduces the effectiveness of workouts. Prioritizing sleep helps optimize hormonal balance, particularly the release of growth hormone, which plays a vital role in muscle growth.

Tip #3: Utilize Compound Movements

For hardgainers, maximizing the efficiency of workouts is crucial. Compound movements are particularly effective for building muscle. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups engage a large number of muscle fibers and stimulate greater hormonal responses compared to isolation exercises.

Research indicates that compound movements lead to higher testosterone and growth hormone levels post-exercise, which are essential for muscle growth. These exercises also allow you to lift heavier weights, further promoting muscle hypertrophy.

Studies have also shown that compound movements result in greater muscle activation. For example, a study comparing the squat to the leg press found significantly higher activation of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes during the squat. Another study reported that multi-joint exercises like the bench press and deadlift elicited greater increases in strength and muscle mass compared to single-joint exercises.

Focusing on compound movements ensures you are getting the most from your training without wasting time and expending unnecessary energy that could better be spent on recovery and growth. This approach not only maximizes muscle gain but also improves your efficiency in the gym, allowing you to get in and get out much quicker so you can shift your attention to eating and growing.


Building muscle as a hardgainer requires more than just hitting the gym and eating well. By incorporating specific strategies, such as drinking calorie-dense shakes after meals, approaching sleep methodically, and focusing on compound movements, you can accelerate your muscle-building efforts.

Hardgainer Guide | Mind Pump

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Darren Nuzzo

Darren Nuzzo is a writer and performer from Huntington Beach, California. When he’s not authoring works of literary fiction or bombing at open mics, he returns to his roots of health and wellness, teaming up with Mind Pump to bring a new voice to the fitness industry.

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