I can’t tell you how many people have come into my office and told me that they absolutely can’t gain weight no matter what they do. They go on to tell me that they have tried everything imaginable and now they have just accepted the “fact” that they will be skinny little estrogen-filled boys for the rest of their lives.

The term they always use is “hard gainer.” I hate that word. It’s so far from the truth that it’s not even funny. Sure you can come back with a number of arguments—high metabolism, genetics, etc. You can go through the whole list, but the truth is most people just aren’t taking the right approach to weight gain.

Without exception, every single one of my clients whom I just described has packed on 10–15 pounds or more of muscle in just the first few months! From there, they go on to gain more muscle than they ever though imaginable.

Weight training is obviously a crucial element in improving your performance, packing on muscle mass, and accomplishing everything else you’re looking to do. But one of the most overlooked aspects is the necessity and benefit of a proper nutrition plan. Picture it like this—when a contractor builds a house, he has to build a solid foundation before he builds the walls and roof. Otherwise, his progress will be shaky and eventually collapse. The same is true with weight training.

Nutrition is the foundation that has to be laid solid before the big gains can be made through training. Without a solid nutrition plan, you’re limiting yourself and your potential to perform and pack on some serious size. Here are some tips to start you on your way to gaining muscle mass the way you have always dreamed of doing!

Weight gain tip #1: Eat more meals

Most people don’t eat enough meals every day, and many don’t even know how many they should be eating. This is one of the most common problems I see with people trying to pack on size.

Say goodbye to eating two, three, or even four meals per day. You need to start eating 6–8 times every day. This is the only way to get enough nutrients in your body to put yourself in the positive caloric state needed to gain weight. However, not every meal has to be a full course, whole food meal. You should consume 3–4 whole food meals along with 3–4 snacks. Protein shakes and snacks are a great way to get in some extra calories without stuffing yourself full of food all day.

With today’s lifestyle, many people don’t have time to cook, eat, cook, and eat all day so protein shakes are a huge benefit in this manner since it takes about 30 seconds to shake and drink one.

Weight gain tip #2: Drink protein shakes

What kind of protein shake should you drink?

Since you are looking to pack on muscle mass, you want something that is going to give you the calories and nutrients you need. Whey protein is a great supplement and probably the most common among trainees. However, if you’re trying to pack on muscle and gain weight, whey protein by itself just isn’t going to supply you with enough calories to help you in your quest.

You will benefit more from a weight gain or meal replacement formula. Try something with a good amount of protein and at least double that amount in carbs. Something that is often overlooked is making sure you are getting some fats in it also. They should be derived from healthy oil (canola, safflower) or in the form of essential fatty acids (EFA). If you have a hard time finding this then just add 1–2 tbsp of flaxseed oil into your shake.

You should be consuming 3–4 meals per day along with 3–4 “pseudo feedings” or snacks. These can consist of protein shakes, unsalted nuts, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Weight gain tip #3: Proper food choice

Since you’re trying to pack on muscle, you need to choose foods that will enable you to do so. There are so many options available that it’s easy to be confused by all of the advertising. Let’s make it easy.

First, everything you eat should be chosen because it is calorie dense. Choosing calorie dense foods will greatly enhance your ability to gain good weight in the form of muscle. What does that mean? Stay away from foods that contain empty calories such as chips, candy, and junk food. These will do nothing but hinder your progress and have an undesired effect on your body.

In order to determine if the food you’re eating is a good choice you need to read the label. For example, one gram of carbohydrates or protein each contains four calories. So if you consume 10 grams of protein, you’ve consumed 40 calories. One gram of fat contains nine calories—more than double that of protein or carbs! This is why consuming enough healthy fats and EFAs daily is essential to packing on muscle. So choose food accordingly. If the food you’re eating has its calories coming from these sources and not from others like saturated fats, sugars, and partially hydrogenated oils then you’re in good shape.

Second, a very common question that I get is, what kind of carbs should I be eating? The answer to that can be found in the glycemic index (GI). This is a numeric rating system that shows how a carbohydrate affects the blood glucose levels in your body. A carbohydrate with a low rating will have a steady release into your bloodstream and not a cause a spike in your insulin, which can cause excess carbs to be stored as body fat.

On the contrary, a carbohydrate with a high GI rating will cause an insulin spike in your bloodstream. As a general rule of thumb, dark carbs (wheat bread, sweet potatoes, etc.) have a lower GI rating, though *this is not always true.*

High GI carbohydrates do have a place in a performance enhancing diet. After exercise or during times when rapid muscle glycogen replacement is necessary, it is recommended to eat high GI carbohydrates. Consuming 50–100 grams after intense exercise is best.

Along with choosing calorie dense foods, you need to do a couple other things. One is eat more red meat. Red meat should be the main protein source in your diet over chicken, fish, etc. It contains more calories and lends itself better to gaining weight.

Another thing is to drink calories whenever you can. Add milk to your protein shakes or drink a glass of milk with breakfast. This is an easy, no-hassle way to increase your valuable caloric intake.

This is the first installment of the “Packing on the Mass” series. Take these tips and put them to use! They will take your weight gain and training to the next level. Stay tuned for some more tips that are guaranteed to help you gain muscle mass like never before.