Mistakes Skinny Guys Make: Eating Like an Olsen Twin (<== LOL, Get it?)
It happens on a weekly basis – almost like clockwork. A parent walks in with their 15-16 year old kid, and after a good 10-15 minutes of them telling us how he’s the next Roger Clemens, proceeds to insist that no matter what he or she does, or how hard they try, their kid just can’t seem to put on any weight.
Likewise, the same scenario rears its ugly head with the “weekend warrior” crowd that frequent the facility. Guys, sick and tired of being sick of tired trying to put on weight, come in seeking advice on what they should be doing.
Funnily enough, using a prime example, about two years ago one of our current high school football players, Patrick, walked in with his parents and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t look like a broomstick with arms. He was a quiet kid, and resembled a deer in headlights when we took him out on the gym floor to see the rest of the athletes in action.
As we walked the floor, his parents went on to say that no matter what they tried – numerous personal trainers, those 1000-calorie mass gainer formulas, radioactive mutant spiders, you name it – they were convinced that Patrick couldn’t put on any weight. Nodding my head, I explained that we’ve heard it all before and that we’d try our best to beef Patrick up.
Fast forward to a year later, Patrick, weighing in 70 lbs heavier from when he started, transformed his body from looking like the McLovin from Superbad to where opposing teams are now encouraged to sign a health waiver to play against him. Okay, I lied. They don’t really do that. But who cares, read that again: 70 lbs. In a year!
And remember, this was a kid whose parents thought it was IMPOSSIBLE for him to put on any weight. To his credit, Patrick listened, followed our advice to a “t”, and as result, he went on to make the varsity football team, as a freshman wide-receiver. Oh, and he started.
Patrick’s story isn’t uncommon at CP. This past summer alone, we had numerous athletes from all over he country come in to train with us, only to go back home and have family members and friends not recognize them.
Similarly, there’s CP client, Michael, a twenty-something aspiring bodybuilder who, upon walking in on day one a little over a year ago with a frame that would make Steve Urkel jealous, has taken his frame from a 150-160 lb girly-man to that of a rock solid 200+ lb barrel chested freedom fighter.
With that, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. In short, this is my attempt at laying a little smack down to all the guys out there who, much like Patrick, Michael, and countless others, claim that they’re more likely make out with Jessica Alba than put on any appreciable weight.
So, here’s my contribution to the never ending saga that is helping skinny guys everywhere put on weight, and as a result, make girls want to hang out with them. My goal is to make this an on-going series, writing a post here and there on the topic. This is the first one. You’re welcome.
Seriously, Stop Eating Like an Olsen Twin
As counterintuitive as it sounds, you don’t add muscle in the weight room. Sure, placing a barbell on the floor, or on your back, and then lifting it, repeatedly, sometimes even over your head, is an important step in the “I want to make people destroy the back of their pants when they look at me” process. I’d be remiss to state otherwise.
Thing is though, you’re actually BREAKING DOWN MUSCLE when you train, and all you’re really doing is giving the body the stimulus it needs to adaptively change. This is a good thing. Keep doing it.
Nothing is going to change, however, if you don’t allot for ample rest and recovery. More specifically, if you’re not giving the body the nutrients it needs to actually grow, then well, you’re just going to be spinning your wheels.
Think of it this way: battles are won on the gym floor. Wars are won in the kitchen. If you want to grow, you need to eat. A lot. There’s no way around this point. Point. Blank. Period.
Personally, I love to use analogies to help me learn. One analogy I like to use with our younger guys (and weekend warriors for that matter) to try to elucidate this whole concept that you sorta need to eat in order to grow, is getting them to think about foundations. You know, like, the foundation of a building.
In terms of construction, what do bricklayers need the most of in order to build a foundation?
SPOILER ALERT: bricks.
You can’t make something out of nothing. It’s imperative (read: kind of a big deal) to give the body the nutrients (bricks) it needs to lay down a solid foundation. If you don’t, the body (bricklayers) are just going to stand around, twiddle their thumbs, whistle at hot chicks all day, and otherwise do jack squat without providing a finished product.
Similarly, and most important of all, you need to fuel performance. Again, lifting heavy things is an important component to putting on weight. But, if you’re not fueling the body with adequate calories, you’re going to be hard pressed to make progress – let alone build a chest that could scratch diamonds.
Weight gain a side, from a performance standpoint, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not providing the body with fuel. I mean, how far will your car go if you refuse to put gas in it? Huh, smarty pants?
Okay, I think by now you’re getting the general jist of what I’m trying to get across. But, telling someone that they need to eat more and them actually following through are two completely different things. To that end, below are some common strategies that, for better or worse, we try to instill in all of our guys interested in putting on weight. Is it an all-encompassing list? Hell no. But it’s a start.
Eating is a Job
Many feel that once they leave the gym that their job is done. Not so fast skinny. Like I mentioned above, training BREAKS DOWN tissue, and it’s up to you to provide ample calories to not only recover, but to grow!
I don’t care if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself, make it a point to have a meal (or snack) every three to four hours.
Fair warning: if you’re not used to eating that often, it’s going to suck. In fact, you’re most likely going to hate life for a few weeks. But, as with anything, the body grows accustomed to it, adapts, and what used to be an insurmountable amount of food, will soon turn into a snack.
Some food for thought:
- Using an old trick stolen from Dr. John Berardi, take a package of bagels and spread peanut butter between each one. In between EVERY meal, eat one.
- Take a gallon of water and fill it with 8-10 scoops of protein powder. If you can’t eat your calories, you might as well drink them.
- Add 1-2 tbsp olive or coconut oil to your shakes. That’s an easy 120-240 calories right there.
- Quit with the egg whites you (no offense to any ladies reading) raging vagina. Eat the entire egg. That’s where all the nutrients are.
- Or. when all else fails, you can always just kill a grizzly bear with your bare hand and eat it.
Basically, just make a concerted effort to increase your total calories by 150-300 kcals, incrementally. You can’t expect to go from 1800 to 4000 calories overnight – especially if you’re concerned with fat gain. Increase here and there and good things will happen.
Prepare Foods In Advance
Many people will balk at this right off the bat, but I can’t stress enough how integral it is. Taking the time to actually plan a head and cook, package, and store your food will almost single-handedly guarantee compliance (and success). Simply put, if the food is there to eat, then you’ll eat it. Ma, meatloaf!
Speaking of Foods to Eat
Pick a day and do all your grocery shopping for the week. Additionally, if you happen to have a farmer’s market nearby – frequent that, too. Nothing tastes better than fresh produce.
Outside of that, here’s my short list of foods to strive for:
Protein: dead animal flesh. I don’t care. If it’s a mammal, has four legs, and lives in the woods, it’s fair game. I can get nitpicky and tell everyone to try to get grass-fed beef, but the reality is, many people don’t have access to it (and it’s freakin expensive). At the very least, and in your own best interests, try to buy meat that’s at least hormone free.
Eat meat, and lots of it.
Carbs: I’m not a paleo-fanatic or anything, but I do feel there’s a lot of efficacy to eating more “real,” natural sources of carbohydrates. Things like rice, potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, various beans (kidney, red, black, garbanzo), would all be high on my list. And, of course, eat your fruits and veggies. Fructose won’t kill you. I promise.
Also, I’m not opposed to things like pasta and cold cereals – I’d just prefer that they’re more of the whole grain variety. Although, to be fair, I used to crush Golden Grahams back in the day when I was trying to put on weight. And, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have a slice (or two**) of pizza every so often.
In an ideal world, I’d say to focus on “clean” carbs, but the fact of the matter is, when trying to put on weight, you need calories. And well,
Fats: Fish oil, olive oil, nuts, butter, coconut oil, avocados, cacoa nibs, etc are all staples in my diet (and that of our clients at CP).
What Did You Have For Breakfast?
That’s the first question we tend to ask when someone mentions that they can’t put on any weight.
More often than not, the answer we get lies somewhere between crickets chirping and a pop-tart.
Never skip breakfast. Like, ever. Every morning I wake up, and I’m excited to eat. I get out of bed, head to the little boys room to take a leak, and then b-line it to the kitchen to make my daily five-(whole)egg omelet, complete with onion, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese. On top of that, I have a pb/banana toast sandwich, along with a giant glass of water.
Easily, my breakfast runs anywhere from 800 to a cool 1000 calories.
I’m not saying you have to eat the exact same breakfast, but it stands to reason you shouldn’t be skipping it. If you do, I’ll kill you.
Understandably, and as noted above, EATING calories tends to be problematic for a lot of guys – particularly when they’re not used to ingesting that much food in the first place.
That said, oftentimes, relying on LIQUID calories is an easy fix and something that can easily be implemented right away. The post-training “window” (1-2 hours after training) is the absolute ideal time to take in a boat load of calories, particularly since this is the time when your muscles need those calories to recover, repair, and subsequently grow like weeds.
As such, at CP, we’ve found that having our guys down a post-workout shake (Surge Recovery, for example) immediately after training is an easy and fail proof way to get in extra calories at an ideal time.
As a last resort, I’ll sometimes recommend guys try to drink a quick shake in the middle of the night. The key, though, is to make sure you wake up naturally and not resort to setting an alarm that will do nothing but disturb your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Here’s what to do: before bed, down a ginormous glass of water; then place a pre-made shake either in your fridge or next to your bed on the nightstand. At some point in the middle of the night, you’ll wake up (naturally) to go to the bathroom. On your way back to bed, grab the shake you made earlier, gulp it down, and go back to sleepies.
While not ideal, nocturnal feedings are an easy way to get in 300-500 calories without really inconveniencing yourself too much. Your girlfriend or wife, however, might think otherwise when they realize you missed the toilet. Jerk!
Okay, I’m Done
Wow, I’m at over 2000 words right now and I could easily keep going, but I’ll stop there. If you made it this far, you’re a champ! Anyways, I’ll definitely be hitting on some other point in later installments – particularly with regards to the training side of things, but for now, if you happen to have any advice for all the skinny guys out there, chime in below. I’d love to hear what you have to say!
** or three.