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Nutrition, Hardgainers

Nutritional Advice for Hardgainers

By Joe Talarico on May 1, 2023 9:45:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


We can put all the time and effort into the gym. If your nutrition isn’t dialed in, you might feel like you are constantly spinning your wheels, even if your training sessions are on point. I find making sure your nutrition is set up, and you are following it consistently will always lead to the best results. In today’s article, I’d like to provide some advice on making sure your nutrition is where it needs to be.  

Calorie Intake

Whenever someone tells me they aren’t putting on weight or losing weight, my first question is asking how much they are eating. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, how much you are taking in, and what makes up those calories is all that matters. If you are looking to gain size, you HAVE to be consuming more calories than you expend. There is no way around that.  

It helps to spend some weeks tracking your intake to see what your maintenance is. From there, we can add 300-500 calories, and reassess to see if the scale starts to move. If you still don’t see any change in two weeks, 300-500 more. 


As I said before, what makes up those calories is just as important. 1g/lb of bodyweight is the standard for putting on size. It’s okay if you fall just shy of it, but I generally recommend 1g/lb because even just aiming for that as a goal will put people in the ballpark they need to be to have enough protein to grow.

Some high sources of protein include fish, meats, eggs, chicken, and dairy. The goal should always be to try and hit your targets using whole food as they contain many micronutrients supplements just don’t have. If after including those in your meal plan you still find your not hitting your required intake, then you can include some whey protein.


There is a lot of debate on whether we should be eating high fat or high carb. Ultimately I say go with whatever you prefer. Both options will help you grow. The one caveat I’d say that has me lean slightly towards eating more carbs over fats, is that carbohydrates are better at providing immediate fuel for a typical gym workout. Fats can accomplish this as well, but they physiologically require more steps to tap into versus carbs.

Some good sources of carbohydrates are rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, and beans. You could include cereal, pasta, or bread if your body can handle it, or your appetite is small and need something more calorically dense, but generally I prefer minimally processed foods. Whole foods tend to include fiber which is more satiating and great for your gut flora, whereas more heavily processed foods can wreck some people's guts.


Fats still play a very important role in muscle building. We want at LEAST 0.3g/lb body weight to ensure optimal hormone production. Fats are vital for making sure our testosterone is where it needs to be. They also contain many fat soluble vitamins that will only be absorbed in the body in the presence of a fat.  

Some good sources of fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon.

Meal Timing

I won’t get too lost in the weeds on this. People used to think you had to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to grow muscle but that has been debunked. If you wanted to optimize your meals on some level, you could aim to eat the majority of your carbs before and after your workouts. It is when you are the most insulin sensitive and your body will prioritize the energy source towards muscle over fat storage.

The only other tip I’d give here to keep it simple is spreading your protein intake to every 3-4 hours if you can. That ensures your muscle building signal stays elevated (research shows the elevation after a 30-40g meal goes back down to baseline after this time) and sets you up for muscle growth in a more optimized fashion.  

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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