The skinny guide to weight gain

skinny weight gain

Image source: Diego Cervo
Gain weight the healthy way

We live in a society more prone to obesity than ever before, but for some, it’s putting on weight that’s the problem.

If you’re one of those people for whom bulking up is a challenge – here are some good reasons to keep trying. And of course we give you the lowdown on how to achieve healthy weight gain.

Body type

There are three main body types:

Ectomorphs are typically skinny
Mesomorphs are those lucky people for whom weight gain and loss come easily
Endomorphs are natural heavy weights

It’s the ectomorphs that we’re looking at here. You’re super skinny with long, thin bones, narrow shoulders, and find it difficult to put on muscle or fat. Sound familiar?

The good news is that there’s nothing wrong with being on the thin side – as long as you’re healthy, physically active and eating enough. But even for people who are naturally slight, making the effort to gain a few pounds of lean muscle mass is good for you.

Good to bulk

Anyone who wants to put on muscle mass, will have to work hard in the gym – no matter what their body type. But for you ectomorphs, the process will be a little tougher still. Here’s why you should persist:

Bones, ligaments and tendons: Pump iron and your body will become tougher as well as stronger, reducing the risk of injury as you pursue an active life.
Confidence: Muscle mass improves posture, helps prevent back problems and will give your body a nice shape.
Cardio improvement: Your cardio workout will be enhanced by your strength conditioning.
Combats ageing: Resistance training can help keep you healthier as you age. It fights age related weight loss, increases balance and coordination, and helps keep you active, agile and steady on your feet.

How much should I eat?

Work out how much extra fuel your body will need by first calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the number of calories you’d have to consume to maintain your current body mass, if you did nothing but lie in bed.

Now multiply your BMR by your PAL – your physical activity level. To make things simple, here is a rule of thumb guide:

Sedentary, Office worker getting little or no exercise, 1.40-1.69
Moderately active, Active job or works out for one hour a day, 1.70-1.99
Vigorously active, Vigorously active job – works out for two hours per day, 2.00-2.40
Extremely active, Competitive cyclist, >2.40

Source: Wikipedia

A 30 year old 5ft 10” skinny guy weighing in at 10 stone would have a BMR of around 1623.2. Multiply this figure by the moderately active PAL of 1.99 and that makes a daily calorie requirement of 3230 calories. And this is just to maintain your body weight.

You’ll need to eat around 3500 extra calories to gain a pound of body fat – but while you can’t avoid gaining a certain amount of fat while bulking, your main aim is to build lean muscle mass. See how hard it’s going to be?

Making the weight gain

Simply put, to gain weight you need to combine your training regime with more food. But not all foods are equal. Healthy weight gain is achieved by increasing your consumption of protein, carbs and fats.


Every cell membrane in your body is constructed from protein – when you pump iron, it’s protein that builds bigger muscles. You’re going to need a healthy amount of protein in your diet – lean protein.

You’re looking at lean red meat, fish, poultry, dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, natural low fat yoghurt and eggs. Beans and pulses are also a great source of veggie protein, as are nuts and seeds.


Steer clear of the simple carbs contained in junk foods and fizzy drinks. Complex carbs help keep you energised throughout the day – important for hard working people. Generally, around 40% of your diet needs to be carbohydrate. Think porridge oats, brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, beans, sweetcorn and vegetables.


Everybody needs fat, but if you overdo the wrong types, you’re asking for trouble. Omega 3 fats from fish are great. Fry using olive oil. Nuts are great sources of good fats – particularly walnuts. Keep your consumption of saturated fats like those contained in red meat and butter, to a minimum. Ditto trans-fats from fried foods, and hydrogenated fats in junk food. Remember – skinny people get heart disease too.

Work around

For some, consuming enough calories to gain weight is simply impossible. Whether because of lack of time, or appetite or both, increasing a healthy calorie intake is tough. To avoid over taxing your stomach, you could try eating five or six small meals each day. Or if time is the issue, why not consider weight gain supplements. Another alternative is to make sure you’ve always got a healthy snack to hand so that you can keep on topping up. Just think how great you’ll feel when you hit your healthy weight gain target.

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