10 Hardgainer Nutrition Myths – Simplifying the Ectomorph Diet
Being a hardgainer is tough enough. Fighting, scratching and clawing for hours, days and weeks on end just to gain a measly pound of muscle can make you seem like you need to be committed to a muscle asylum for starting this journey in the first place.
Hardgainer nutrition is a huge part of the physique-building equation. You’ve most-likely been told that you need to eat everything in sight in order to gain any appreciable muscle and any degree of waiver from that plan of massive eating, even if for a single meal, will result in little to no gain.
Hardgainer nutrition is difficult indeed. With so much of the fitness industry focused on fat loss and ways to strip to get ripped where does the skinny-bodied hardgainer go to get answers and ultimately results? The old adages of stuffing your face and being lazy are still among us. Let’s cut through these old rules of hardgainer eating and shed some light on reality and finally get some real-world results once and for all.
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10 Ectomorph Diet Myths
Myth #1 – You need to eat a ton
The first piece of advice you’ll often hear is the “fact” that you must eat a metric ton of food each and every day. Stuffing your face day-in and day-out whether you’re hungry or not is the only way to truly gain muscular bodyweight weight. Eating, in other words, is of the highest priority 24/7.
I won’t argue that nutrition is key regarding putting on quality muscle, but the main point here is quality. Firstly, eating everything in sight doesn’t account for any control of calories in. This habit contains no system of nutrient regulation therefore you have no idea of what level of calories works and what is too much.
When you decide, one day, to lean-up or change your intake of food you will have no foundation of knowledge to go by. You’re calorie blind. Secondly, scale back on your intake to the point that you are taking in only a few hundred calories over maintenance levels. Any more and you will start storing more fat.
Myth #2 – You can eat whatever you want
Piggybacking off of the above point you will also hear that you are allowed to eat whatever kind of calorie you want. Fast food, junk food, desserts, fattening foods, sugary foods, etc., are all on your to-eat list. You’re skinny and in need of muscle mass so why limit yourself? Eating healthy is for the overweight types who need to drop serious pounds.
Here’s the bottom line: You are still a human being that needs nutritious foods not only in order to survive but to live a healthy life. By being on the healthy side of the coin you will make it so much easier for your body to process nutrients, conduct protein synthesis (and build muscle), recover from your workouts, repair tissues and be more athletic, capable and functional.
Healthy foods still matter – the unhealthy stuff will only slow you down and turn your body into an inefficient, sluggish machine. Adhere to lean proteins, complex carbs with fiber and healthy fats.
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Myth #3 – You need to gain some fat to build muscle
Ah yes, the perpetual off-season guy. You know the type; wears pants to the gym, always in bulking mode? The old mentality that you have to gain fat in order to build muscle is as old as the barbell itself. The belief goes like this: You need that extra cushion and an influx of excess calories so your body can tap into those reserves when it needs to in order to build muscle. Basically the mindset is that you can’t build muscle on a lean frame.
This is completely false. Sure, you can build muscle while gaining fat, but do you want to? Gaining fat and muscle is tougher to do for several reasons. One, you can’t tell which you’re gaining more of and two, you have to eat a lot of food in order to maintain fat levels. You read that right, you are eating for fat too.
So why not just eat for muscle? The jumps in bodyweight (not just muscle, but fat too) when adding fat are larger and show up on the scale faster but gaining a little lean muscle at a time is better in the long run. You will have built a much better and sustainable base of real muscle on a leaner frame – plus it will be more noticeable.
Myth #4 – Never go hungry or you’ll lose muscle
The moment the hardgainer feels the slightest twinge of hunger their warning system goes off and they go into desperation mode. Thoughts of dwindling, shrinking muscles flood their heads and stress levels go into overdrive. It is believed that you must never, ever feel the slightest hunger pang or all of your efforts in the gym are for not.
The body is an amazing piece of work. It has built-in machinery for survival and adaptation. When you’re on the hardgainer bandwagon it’s tough to imagine your body without access to food. The fact is that you will not lose muscle if you feel hunger.
Short-term bouts without food will only coax your body to look to fat for energy. However, long-term periods of time without proper nutrition will force your body to turn to muscle for fuel but as long as you’re eating a balanced, healthy diet and training properly a hunger pang or two won’t derail all your efforts.
Myth #5 – Use weight gainers as much as you can
Weight gainer powders were all the rage a decade or two ago. Everyone wanted to get as big as possible and these specialized powders promised extra carbs, extra protein, extra fat and, in turn, extra calories. The theory goes right along with the belief about stuffing your face with as much food as possible.
Weight gainers have their place. They can be effective supplements for post-workout recovery and also a handy calorie boost during times when solid food isn’t an option. For the most part, however, they aren’t that optimal for packing on lean muscle. Packed full of sugar and fat, weight gainers are fine for the power lifter or strongman whose priority is to lift as much as possible without the desire for an eight pack.
Myth #6 – Don’t worry about sugar
Sugars are carbs. They are simple forms of carbs but they’re still carbs. As a hardgainer, and with your desire to pack in the calories, you may not be concerned with sugar intake that much. A calories, you think, is a calorie right? Sugar is an easy way to increase calories and it’s also a tasty way to accomplish it.
If you’ve lived under a rock for the past few years then you don’t know about the evils of excess sugar intake. With a laundry list of ailments excess sugar intake causes to your health why would you haphazardly just inhale the stuff without any regard for your wellbeing?
Sugar does little for muscle gain, staying lean and getting stronger. Long-term muscle-building is built on complex carbs full of micronutrients to help you get to your goal faster, not simple sugars that go straight to your waistline.
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Myth #7 – Don’t worry about fat intake
Much on the tails of sugar intake is fat intake. You’re a hardgainer, why worry about fat intake? It’s just extra calories anyways, right? You’ve been told to welcome the extra intake in hopes to bolster your muscle-building pursuits even further.
Fat in it’s healthy from is great – but only in moderation. Providing energy, regulating hormones and buffering joints are just a few of the benefits of a healthy fat intake. Of course too much of a good thing is, well, not so good.
Fat has over twice the calories per gram as both protein and carbs so a little goes a long way. Excess intake will only move to fat stores making it that much more difficult to shed later. If you consider yourself a hardgainer then don’t look at food as an all-you-can-eat affair.
Myth #8 – Don’t worry about body fat gain
Along those same lines as described above fat gain is often accepted for the tough to gain type. You’re a skinny newbie yearning to gain any amount of bodyweight you can by any means necessary and if that means gaining fat then so be it. An Increase in bodyweight is weight gained as long as the scale keeps moving up.
Fat gain is never a good thing unless you happen to be an NFL linesman and need more umpf behind your hits. Excess fat gain will only hinder your muscle-building efforts whether you’re a hardgainer or not.
Remember when I mentioned the fact that you are eating for two when you carry excess weight? You have to eat for muscle and fat. The leaner you are the more likely you’ll have an easier time putting on lean muscle that will be much more noticeable on a leaner frame.
Myth #9 – Eat all the protein you want
So with the issues of bad carbs and excess fats out of the way you may feel like you have the all-clear when it comes to your protein intake. Protein is for building muscle, so why not just eat as much as you can? It can’t hurt, the more the better right?
Well, sorry to rain on your parade but even excess protein can promote fat gain if taken to extremes. Furthermore, if your carbs and fat intakes are off kilter then it will be easier to store the extra protein.
We live in a world of extremes and a mega dose of anything is never the best option. Take in moderate amounts of protein at regular intervals throughout the day and you’ll be fine. Stuffing your face with huge amounts won’t do your body or your wallet much good.
Myth #10 – Don’t break these rules
Finally, hardgainers are rule followers. They adhere painstakingly to these myths as if every single ounce of muscle depended on it. To be honest, that’s a lot of pressure and stress – the kind that would actually hinder gains. Take a more moderate, long-term approach to gaining muscle.
Stay lean, take small steps and have patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t be either. Once you get closer and closer to your ideal physique you may need to drop the hardgainer moniker since you will then know how it’s done the right way.