HardGainers HandBook

Are you an Adonis trapped inside of a bean pole body? I’ve known guys who can eat an entire gallon of ice cream, polished off with half of a chocolate cake, and the next day they lose weight. It seems that getting bigger is a battle that can only be won by the genetically predispositioned. However, if you’ve ever seen Fieval’s American Tail you know “Never to say Never.”

About one year ago I wrote a post called “Want To BuildMuscle, Jack?” That post is now our most clicked article. This suggests that a lot of people are looking for different ways to get big, because the standard method of “eat, eat, eat, and then eat some more” doesn’t always work. Fair warning though, this may not work for everyone. What I’m about to explain is meant for the hardgainer.

Insulin: A pancreatic hormone that is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the regulation of glucose in the blood. A transport hormone that helps mobilize glucose throughout the body.
Insulin resistance: Reduced sensitivity to insulin by the body’s Insulin dependent processes; a precursor to type II diabetes. Causes the pancreas to have to overproduce the hormone insulin.

*This isn’t a post to argue about the importance of insulin, or the controversy of a low carb diet. This is a strategy to help people overcome their natural inability to get bigger, even though they follow the standard protocol for gaining weight.

People who are naturally skinny, and I mean skin and bone with a double meat double cheese burger in his hand skinny, are very insulin resistant. Because of this, all of his muscle tissue doesn’t respond very well to normal amounts of insulin, which inhibits them from getting enough nutrients or from refueling with enough glycogen. This creates a black hole effect, where he can eat anything he wants but he won’t get any bigger. Even though his six pack is visible year round, his lack of accessory muscles motivates him to do something else.

In most cases our hardgainer hero will see what the heaviest-set person eats, and then they will mimic this; cheeseburgers, ice cream, soda, Gatorade, nutella, so on and so forth.  Unfortunately, when someone is already resistant to insulin, throwing more carbs on the fire will only further his insulin resistance. Being insulin resistant is like being a car with bad oil. It doesn’t matter what gas you put in, having bad oil will still wreck your engine and performance. When a hardgainer starts his journey towards growth, he shouldn’t try consuming more calories at first, but rather, he should try reducing his insulin resistance.

The first step in reducing insulin resistance is exercise. During exercise the body releases certain markers that have anti-diabetic effects which, in turn, reduce insulin resistance. [1] Try performing exercises at higher intensities; like HIIT training. Don’t worry about wasting calories at this point; the goal here is to fix a broken system not to get big. By pulling all of the glucose from the muscle source, and then having the inhibiting markers released, insulin sensitivity should improve dramatically.

The second step in reducing insulin resistance is a dramatic change in diet. The best way to adjust insulin resistance is to switch from a high refined carbohydrate diet to a higher fat very low carbohydrate diet. Unfortunately people who eat high sugar diets have reduced production of bile which helps break down fat. To fix this a hardgainer should spend 7 to 14 days removing foods high in refined sugars, and introducing leaner proteins and vegetables; like chicken, lean beef, and fish.
A meal should look like this:
8 oz Chicken Breast, 1 cup of rice, 2 heads of broccoli.

 After a couple of weeks the body should begin to produce more bile which will eliminate any discomfort felt during high fat consumption [2]. A higher fat lower carbohydrate diet should be consumed for another 7 to 14 days. Continue to exercise and avoid carbohydrates for this entire time period. It’s important to remember to also consume as many calories as normal. One gram of fat equals 9 calories, while one gram of carbohydrate equals only 4.
A meal should look like this:
6 oz Steak, 4 oz cooked bacon, Kale and Spinach Salad.

After a month of redirecting his diet, our hardgainer will be able to reintroduce carbohydrates and start the bulking process. Because everyone is different, there is no guarantee that a hardgainer won’t become highly insulin resistant after a while. If progress halts, then a high fat low carb diet should be reintroduced for another 7 to 14 days.

This is by no means the end all to end all of fixing a car with bad oil, however, it is the first step towards fixing a broken system. If a hardgainer can throw away his junk food for four weeks, then he might finally start to overcome his dreaded genetics!

Or he’ll at least save money on his ice cream budget. 

[1] Passos MC, Goncalves MC. (2014) Regulation of insulin sensitivity by adiponectin and its receptors in response to exercise. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25126860
[2] Gumowska, I. 1990. Wenus i atleta. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Alfa. 

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.