Ah, the life of a hardgainer. The full-throttle quest for muscle gain is wracked with frustration and stress, but the worst part? Almost nobody recognizes your complaints as legit.
But trust us, we’ve been through it all. Here are twelve of the biggest problems and successes that only people who are trying to gain weight will understand.
1) Accepting that no one on Earth wants to hear you complain about losing weight.
“FFS, I’ve been eating nonstop for two weeks and I lost weight? Babe, can you believe this?”
Hey, if you like putting your relationships in jeopardy, then complain to the average American about the problems of unintended weight loss. I’m sure they’d love to hear all about it.
2) Keeping your diet “clean” is almost impossible.
Remember thinking you could make it to 4,000 calories on chicken, brown rice, and broccoli? Every day of the week? Ah, you were so young.
Fortunately, this problem has a flipside: the wonderful realization that you can fill some of your macros with foods you previously thought were off limits. Which brings us to…
3) Rediscovering the joy of cereal.
Need 500 grams of carbs today? Well, welcome back to the table, Cap’n Crunch! Of course, to properly recover and meet the optimal intake of protein and micronutrients, you’ll still need to consume plenty of protein and green vegetables. But hey, with your calorie budget, you can do that and slam a few bowls of post-workout children’s cereal without a problem. Trix aren’t just for kids.
4) Getting winded by two flights of stairs.
Given the extreme aversion to weight loss, most hardgainers avoid cardio like the plague. That might be helpful for gaining weight, but your “real world’ functional fitness is going to drop like that kettlebell you couldn’t swing ten times.
Look, we get it: no one wants to sacrifice gains. But it is important to maintain a base level of conditioning to keep your heart healthy and your endurance somewhat functional. For hardgainers, a good compromise is to superset and/or lower your rest periods during accessory exercises – that’ll improve your cardiovascular health without the muscle loss that can accompany running or rowing.
5) Pooping a lot. Like, a lot.
Why do all these e-books on explosive muscle growth fail to mention how much of the exploding occurs sitting firmly on a toilet seat?
6) Disbelieving looks from your coworkers.
“What is that, your third lunch?!”
Be quiet, Janice, you’ve never bulked before.
7) Getting very, very well-acquainted with squats and deadlifts.
Ain’t no two ways about it: big compound exercises like squats and deadlifts are the best for sending testosterone and growth hormone levels soaring, and that means faster muscle gain and better recovery.
That said, training heavy for every single workout can be hard on your joints and your central nervous system (CNS). If you find that doing so compromises your recovery, try mixing up high weight/low rep and low-to-medium weight/high rep workouts instead.
8) Buying a delicious-sounding protein powder only to find it tastes like hopscotch chalk.
“Damn, Optimum Nutrition sells Rocky Road-flavored whey now? That sounds dope! Oh wait, they only have it in the 5-pound tubs? Well, OK, I mean that’ll save on cost per serving. I’ll take it!”
*the next day*
“Oh God, what have I done.”
9) Stanky stanky shaker bottles.
A whey shake one hour before the gym, BCAAs twenty minutes pre-workout, caffeine mid-workout, mass gainer post-workout… it’s a little too easy for streaky bottles, cups and shakers to pile up in the hardgainer’s gym bag. Wash that ish. You know what we’re talking about.
10) Cursing ancestors you’ve never met.
“Why did I inherit this lanky frame and inconveniently high metabolism, why?!?!”
11) Balancing your constant craving for weight gain with your constant fear of fat gain.
The fear of meeting your weight goal with a jiggling belly is real. Now, we’re body positive around here; if you’re happy to maintain a higher level of body fat—after all, a lot of strength athletes perform better that way—then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
But if fat loss is one of your priorities, try aiming for a calorie intake that will result in one to two pounds of weight gain per week, and structure your macros with one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, one-point-five to two grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight, and make up the rest of your calories with fat. Of course, these are very general recommendation—meet with a dietitian for a more individualized approach.
12) Being just a little unsure if this counts as an eating disorder.
While in the throes of a bulk, you might start to wonder if obsessively weighing food, tracking calories, and measuring your thigh circumference is a little… unhealthy.
To some, that might sound crazy: “I’m only obsessed with improving my body,” is one kneejerk reaction. “I’m trying to function at my best, how could that be unhealthy?not become losing so much weight that I can’t function!”
But while it’s not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, orthorexia nervosa—or an unhealthy obsession with being healthy—can be pretty real. This is despite the popular belief that strength sports and muscle gain should be enjoyable, and many people use them as ways to reduce stress in their lives, not increase it.
If you start to notice that your diet keeps resulting in anxiety, social isolation, or feelings of impurity, shame or self-loathing, consider having a chat with a mental health professional, like a cognitive behavioral therapist.
Remember: we eat and train because we love our bodies, not because we hate them! Eat big, lift heavy, and rest easy. Enjoy the gains!
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.