June 26, 2020 10 min read

Skinny guys are usually known as the lucky...fellows who can eat all they want, all day, and still look like models. In short: those who can get away with anything. Fashion is made for them, transportation seats are made for them; there is no place they wouldn't fit right in.

That, at least, is how the rest of the world sees them. But if you are a skinny guy reading this, you are well aware that not all that glitters is gold, right?

A search for "skinny guy problems" on Google brings up over 20 million results. Searching "Skinny man arms" brings back almost 30 million. And if you type "skinny man" into the bar, and look at the most searched expressions, you will find "skinny man funny" among the top five. Coincidentally, it sits just above "skinny man lifting weights."

Men instinctively compare themselves to other men; it's just primal. Some guys are intimidated by the mere idea of entering the gym. It's not because they feel lazy, but from the thought of being judged by guys who are bigger and stronger. Or even worse, by beautiful women who seem like they could lift them in the air. Single-handed.

The truth is, it will not happen. We are constantly judged by everyone, everywhere. By people fatter and slower, smaller or weaker, smarter or richer, you name it. The problem is, we tend to focus on that one single thing that bothers us the most and put everything else in the shadow. Instead, what you need to do is to remember all the advantages you have, and make them work for you on your path to fix the issues.

In short, if you're tired of being a skinny guy, let's see what we can do to bulk you up.

Gain Weight, Build Muscle — Easy For You to Say, Right?

As a skinny guy, you are probably fed up by people asking if you are eating enough. However, some eating habits can sabotage your efforts to gain weight. If you believe that you eat a lot, but are still not getting bigger, then chances are high you either are not eating enough, or you are not eating right.

Your body burns more than 2000 calories every day just to keep you alive and healthy—you know, basic fueling. It means that your first step must be to secure the calorie overload of the system, so it has enough to enroll in the muscle-building process. The amount of calories required for such an overload is individual. It depends on your whole system, and on additional factors like how active you are, what your goal target is, and so on. It can be anywhere from 2500 to 6000 calories a day, sometimes even more. 

The best way to start is to write a diary. Yes, a diary. We don't care if you begin every day with "Dear Patty," as long as you take note of every single bite you take. There are many desktop or mobile applications to help you with this. Use the calculator and sum up your average daily caloric intake. Are you still convinced you eat enough?

Maybe you do have a beast of metabolism that can destroy a slice of cake like it never existed within minutes. Or maybe genetics has its role, and you have a naturally small body frame. In any case, there is a threshold that will help you change, and the trick is to find it and craft a proper nutrition plan.

A skillet with a steak and salt on it.

How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs to Bulk Up Fast

Do you know what your metabolic type is? Are you a gainer, a hard gainer, or an average guy? To calculate your daily calorie intake and make any kind of plan for weight gain, knowing which group you belong to is crucial. You can start by the rule of thumb, which puts 2500 calories as a minimum. As you advance, you can adapt your macronutrient program more precisely, and add an extra count over the basic 2500 daily calorie needs.

  • Endomorph: The type of guy with low metabolism, usually with a larger frame and bone structure, and no problem to store fat. Additional calorie intake for this type is 14 x bodyweight.
  • Ectomorph: Average "lucky guy" with a normal or fast metabolism and no problem to lose weight, the naturally skinny type. The recommended additional calorie intake is 17 x bodyweight.
  • Mesomorph: Ideally fit athlete type with an average metabolism and recommended an additional calorie intake of 15 x bodyweight.

Let's Start From Scratch

Food is the fuel of life, and the fuel formula consists of several essential components that carry everything else. Your body requires three macronutrients. Their ratio is critical when bulking if you want to promote muscle growth.

  • Protein is the constructor
  • Carbohydrates are suppliers
  • Fat is the guardian

It's clear that every component has its own vital role. Protein will build your muscle and make your gym efforts worthy of sweating. Carbohydrates will deliver the fuel to make you endure the task. And fat is not just for storage. It helps your body function, supports cell growth, and protects your organs. 

The most important part of bulking is eating more calories. Still, for a healthy lifestyle, it's equally vital where you get them, and how.

Recommended percentages of macronutrient calorie intake for healthy bulking:

  • 40-60% of carbohydrates
  • 25-35% of proteins
  • 15-25% of fat

Protein Is a Bulking Up Necessity

Protein can come from any number of tasty sources. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish...just choose what fits you the best. And if you are a vegetarian, go for legumes, nuts, quinoa, and other plant-based protein origins

Now you probably wonder how much protein you need. The average intake, when you start to build muscle, is anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 grams of protein per one kilogram of body weight. To gain muscle mass, the amount of protein you eat is more important than the timing of your meals. There's no need to get overly anxious with scheduling, just try to keep a reasonable balance.

Don't try to replace food with protein shakes! As much as you may be bored to eat, and tempted to bypass the process, this is the wrong way. What you CAN do, though, is adding protein shakes to your already balanced meal plan. 

Whey protein is a great nutritional ingredient. Add a shake to your breakfast, after the workout, even right before bed. If you are working hard to build muscle mass, the optimum time to take whey protein is right after exercise, to rebuild what's broken and boost recovery.

To increase protein and secure enough calories for bulking up, the best time to add another shake is late at night. The growth hormone throws a party right after you fall asleep, promoting your bone, muscle, and other tissues. Getting a serving of protein right before bed will further help to build muscle and bulk your body up.

Carbs For Endurance

Carbohydrates are the “turbo” part of body fuel. During the bulking phase, you should eat about 4-7 grams of healthy, complex carbs per kilogram of your body weight. Divide your carbs before your workouts to fuel yourself for heavy weight lifting, bench presses, push-ups, and after workouts to restore your glycogen reserves.

Make sure you eat a quality source of complex carbs. Go for rice, oats, lentils, regular and sweet potatoes, fruits, and whole-grains. 

Healthy Fats to Oil the Body Machinery

Fat has its own role in supplying energy to the body, together with supporting cell growth. Healthy fat consumption should never drop under 15% of total daily calorie intake. Your hormones are constructed from cholesterol and fat molecules and disturbing the balance of fat intake can disrupt the whole system. In short, if you disturb the balance in growth and development, you will find your bulking efforts at the bottom of a well-oiled slide.

Just like with everything else, the source of fat counts a lot. Get some healthy, monounsaturated fats from raw nuts and peanut butter, stuffed with minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus. Avocados might be known as a fruit, but nutritionally they are pure fat. Now we don't say you should use avocados to fry an egg on them, but you can certainly eat those together for a considerable portion of antioxidants and vitamin E.

And if you really want to fry or cook, use coconut oil and olive oil. Whatever you do, don't forget veggies!

The Best Supplements for Bulking

Protein powder is, more or less, a necessity during a bulking phase, since it can be challenging to get all of your daily intake from whole foods. However, you can boost your performance even more.

Creatine

Creatine is one of the rare muscle building supplements that last over 30 years with scientific proof to back it up. Creating can help you endure challenging times when you start bulking up and building muscle mass. It gets you ready for heavy compound exercises such as the deadlift, squat, and bench press, so you can do more reps and lift heavier weight. For optimal results aim to consume between 3 and 6 grams each day, portioned for before and after a training session. 

L-Leucine

This is a very important muscle-building amino acid, which can help your body recover quicker and rebuild muscles more effectively. Leucine is the essential amino acid for protein synthesis. For bulking up, the recommended portion is up to 4 grams, taken after a workout session.

Betaine

Betaine is a powerful ingredient with research that supports the claims. Studies have shown that six weeks of betaine supplementation can improvebody composition, muscle size, work capacity, and overall power. According to studies, consuming 1.25g of Betaine twice per day can result in a 10-25% increase in size and muscle mass.

L-Glutamine

L-Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that doesn't affect your muscles directly but supports the immune system. It helps your body endure the stress of a heavy training routine. Try with 5 grams of L-Glutamine every day and see how it works for you.

Heavy Compound Exercises and Progressive Overload To Build Muscle

If you aim for bulking up and building a substantial muscle mass, a large portion of your gym effort should be focused on heavy, compound lifts. There are various combinations of strength training and weight training regimens that you can follow during a bulking phase, and you may try them all to see what fits you the best. Just stick to the base idea of progressive overload if you do home workouts, or get a personal trainer to help you put together a proper training program.

The key to success here is to keep raising the bar, metaphorically and literally. Just like you should establish a meal diary, you need to keep track of the weight and reps for each training session. That way, you can be sure that every following training will be a new challenge, either in the amount of weight/resistance or in the number of reps.

The progressive overload will save you from the temptation to put too much focus onbuilding a muscle appearance without increasing your real strength. Keeping track of your improvement is a path to the perfect physical form.

If you are a traditional bodybuilding type, you can keep your workout routine that focuses on isolation exercises and daily switches. However, this workout plan requires a serious commitment and amount of time spent at the gym. You have to train 5-6 days per week.

The best exercises for building muscle mass work simultaneously on multiple large muscle groups and surrounding smaller muscle groups at the same time. Make sure to put these in your training plan:

  • Barbell bench press
  • Barbell incline bench press
  • Barbell row
  • Seated Row Machine
  • Dumbbell lunges
  • Weighted dips and pull-ups
  • Deadlift
  • Squat and Front Squat 

Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench, press, and rows work several muscles at the same time, with heavy loads. The big fives should be the bulk of your bulking routine, as they trigger maximum strength and muscle growth in your entire body. Combining those with progressive overload routine will help you gain muscle fast, by forcing your body to go further each time.

You must secure everything with the proper form, working your muscles through a complete range of motion. Proper form leads to proper muscle development while preventing injuries and helping you lift heavier loads.

If you wonder how many reps to start with, there is a commonly accepted set of rules:

  • To improve strength and power: 3-5 reps
  • To focus more on strength and less on size: 5-8 reps
  • To focus more on size and less on strength: 8-12 reps
  • To build serious muscular endurance: over 12 reps

Short-Term Muscle Growth 

As you start lifting weights, you will notice some immediate gains. The first is the muscle pump that comes with a temporary boost of your blood flow. The impressive effects of that short-term pump will make you temporarily look bigger. Use this gain for motivation, as it's going to become a permanent reality soon.

Muscle gain is your body's response to the structural damage, which is the result of that resistance training. The word damage might sound scary, but there is nothing to be afraid of unless you let your ego go wild and seriously overestimate your shape. When you're lifting appropriate amounts of weight, the damage is a part of the most natural process that leads to your muscle fibers regrowing bigger and stronger.

A person tying their shoelaces.

Don't Become Too Big And Gain Weight in Fat

In case you overdid your meal plans, and this brings you to worry about getting unwanted fat reserves, there are solutions for that too. One way is to manipulate the body's vital fat-burning hormones with strategic cardio and a simplified diet.

Aerobic or cardio exercise is an essential part of heart health and metabolism, and it's also beneficial for muscle growth. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and suddenly decide to change and bulk up, adding some simple cardio to your training program will give you many benefits.

If you have some fitness experience, then HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, can give you the best cardio challenge for gaining lean muscle mass and burning body fat. HIIT training will increase your anabolic hormones and help stimulate your metabolism for up to 24 hours following the cardio regimen. You can perform a HIIT session as simple as running sprint intervals, on a flat track, up the stairs or uphill. Do up to 10 intervals of intensity training combined with short rests, and enjoy the results.

To keep the perfect balance during a bulking period, you can include up to three high-intensity interval-training sessions per week. This routine will lock your metabolism at the highest levels and securely keep fat storage at a minimum during your calorie overload. 

Bulk Up Your Patience 

Skinny guys usually think they can't gain weight, and many just accept that idea without challenging it. Some believe their metabolism will cover them for eating junk food all day. Health is more important than looks and, sooner or later, every bad lifestyle comes for its payment. 

The truth is that you can absolutely bulk up. Adopting a healthy regimen will improve the quality of all other aspects of your life. Sometimes it takes longer to see the results, but once you do, the reward just keeps getting bigger. Or, maybe we should say—keeps bulking up.