Nutrition, Hardgainers

What Should my Diet be if I am Skinny and Want to Gain Weight?

By Joe Talarico on May 12, 2020 11:44:31 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


The Plan:

  • Stop skipping meals. Figure out how many calories you need to put on weight, and consistently hit that target, or in a way that allows your weight to go up week to week.
  • Your weight should be going up by .5-1lb a week. If you find too much of it is body fat, then aim more towards the lower end. But any lower than that, and it’ll be too hard to track. Adjust up or down 200 calories accordingly.
  • Stop being afraid to lose your abs! We need to be in a surplus to gain size. While that doesn’t mean you get an excuse to be fat, you don’t need to be above 15% body fat during a bulk. This means, your abs should never fully go away regardless.
  • Stop comparing what your friends eat to how you eat. If you are skinny and can’t put on size, you most likely need to eat a lot more than the average person like me. This means your caloric intake is likely to be 3500-4000 calories to start. Uncommon goals require uncommon solutions. Follow guidelines below to calculate your starting point.
  • Consistency is the key to success! Any hard gaining client I’ve worked with in the past who reached their goal, did so because they did all the above points at least 90% of the time! No one reaches their end goal in life, by half assing their approach. Make a plan and stick with it.

Calculating your calories and macros

To get a rough baseline of how many calories to bulk, calculate your bodyweight x 15-16, and go from there.

150lbs -> 2,250-2400 calories to start

180lbs -> 2,700-2,880 calories

You don’t need to be putting on 5 pounds a week contrary to what people tell you. You should be shooting for ½ pound to 1 pound a week. If you’re gaining weight faster, lower the calories. If it’s slower, bring it up by 200 calories. It is a journey after all. It will take a couple weeks at a time to figure out your sweet spot.

Protein: .82-1g per pound

150lbs -> 123-150 grams of protein x 4 (calories per gram of protein) = 492-600cals

180lbs -> 148-180 grams of protein x 4 = 592-720cals

Fats: 20-25% of your daily intake

150lbs -> 2,250-2400 calories x .25 = 563-600cals / 9 (calories per gram of fat) = 63-67 g/day

180lbs -> 2,700-2,880 calories x .25 = 675-720cals / 9 = 75-80g/day

Carbs: Remainder of your caloric intake

150lbs -> 492-600cals (protein) + 563-600cals (fats) = 1,055-1200 cals / 4 (cals per gram carb) = 263-300g carbs

180lbs -> 592-720cals + 675-720 cals = 1267-1440 cals / 4 = 316-360g carbs

What Foods to eat?

90% from whole food sources:

Protein sources - turkey, beef, steak, chicken, fish, eggs, etc.

Carb sources - oatmeal, rice, potatoes, quinoa, beans, etc

Fat sources - nut butters, nuts, olive oil, egg yolks, etc.

While I definitely push eating higher quality foods listed above, if you’ve had 90% of your intake from there, and hitting the goal, or being too full all the time is still a problem, feel free to add more calorically dense items in like shakes and more savory snacks. This isn’t ideal, but as I said before, you have an uncommon goal. You need the calories to gain weight.

Stop comparing yourself! 

Let’s use me as an example. I’m pretty average, and I’ll start putting on weight if I eat more than 2500 calories. Not terrible, not great. If I think back to my last 6 skinny clients, across the board they needed MINIMUM 3500 calories. And that’s being conservative. Most ended up needing 4000-4500 calories just to see the scale move up ½ a pound. That’s double the amount of calories I eat in a day.

Most of you in my position would go “God, that's the dream I could easily eat 4500 calories today.” You probably can. But how about every single day, 7 days a week? Also, try keeping the quality of food high. It’s exhausting. Oh, and on top of that, most of my skinnier clients don’t have as big of an appetite as us average folk, and already get full off 2500 calories. This is why I allow that 10% for more calorically dense items.

Use body fat as a gauge

Not an exact science, but most gyms either have an InBody machine, or one of those handheld body fat testers. Use those once every other week or month to get a rough gauge. If you don’t have access to that use your abs. Once they start disappearing to the point you can’t even see the rough outline, it’s time to start a mini cut down to 10%.

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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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