Tony Gentilcore

Because heavy things won't lift themselves

Mistakes Skinny Guys Make: Eating Like an Olsen Twin (<== LOL, Get it?)

Mistakes Skinny Guys Make:  Eating Like an Olsen Twin (<== LOL, Get it?) Image

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. 

Post-Training Shakes

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.

Nocturnal Feedings

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.

Did I just blow your mind? Make (or ruin) your day? Leave a comment, then share this with EVERYBODY.
  • Jake

    A pound of meat and 6 eggs every day wouldn't hurt, as well as avoiding breads, flour, cereal to keep your digestive system running smoothly.

  • Will Levy

    My daily breakfast smoothie of ~1500 calories:

    * 1 Banana

    * 4 Whole eggs

    * 1 scoop natural whey

    * Good splash of pysllium husk

    * ” ” Chia seeds/Cacao powder

    * Cinnamon & nutmeg for taste

    * Frozen mixed berries

    * Handful baby spinach

    And the money shot….

    * 1 WHOLE tin of 100% natural coconut cream

    (800kcals right there)

    Add water. Blend. Drink. Be awesome.

  • http://www.marshallroy.com Marshall Roy

    Amen. This is the point I try to drive home with all my clients who want to put on size.

    Interestingly, before I began working as a trainer, I was known at my old job for always having two iterations of every meal. Like a hobbit. Breakfast, then second breakfast. Then lunch, then second lunch; dinner, and (naturally), second dinner. This wasn't including snacks and shakes. That protocol (plus LOTS of heavy-ass lifting and ample sleep) took me from 170 to about 205. To get from 205 to 215 (where I am now), I had to “relax” some of my dietary scruples. Ice cream? Couple times a week. Fattier cuts of beef? YES PLEASE. (I am very fortunate in that I live mere steps from a high-quality butcher in Brooklyn.)

    My current breakfast (which I drink on my way to the gym at 5:15am: 1 serving chocolate weight gain shake (550 Cal) mixed with 1 can full-fat coconut milk (750 Cal) and instant coffee. 1300 calories. Before sunrise. Booya. I usually have a solid food meal about 3 hours later, after my morning clients.

    Anyway, thanks for this no-BS post. It's very important for skinnier guys to remember. Eating for mass is WORK.

  • Patrick

    Awesome post Tony! I am one of those skinny guys. I've managed to put on 24 pounds in 4 months just by adding 2 or 3 shakes a day. Progress has stalled tho!

    I always had real trouble getting the enthusiasm to eat in the morning so I created this shake –

    2 scoops whey, 1 cup rolled oats, quarter cup ground almonds, scoop of greens supp, 3 eggs, 2 handfuls of mixed berries, might chuck in some other kind of fruit as well, couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt. Ends up being about a Litre. What do people think?

    Got to put more time in to eating tho!

    Cheers Tony

  • Simon

    Since you bring up this topic, I was wondering how is Pickles doing on his weight gain and who's gonna eat the alpo (http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/the-alpo-experiment) ?

  • http://www.niashanks.com Nia Shanks

    Awesome post, Tony. I'll recommend all of my male friends/clients to it. ; )

    I'm with Simon – how goes everything with the Alpo Experiment? According to that post, he only has 4 more days.

  • http://jbzero.blogspot.com JB

    Great stuff Tony,

    Skinny guys need to take a lesson from the fat guys: food is not 'just food' food is a means to my goals. I need to manipulate my food to meet my goals.

    It's not always easy, it's not always fun, this is why the number of people in this world who are awesome is very limited.

    I am interested to see what the next article in the series is as in my experience this is about 80% of the battle.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Will: NICE shake recipe – I'll definitely be throwing that around at the facility.

  • http://www.SupersoldierProgram.com Stephane

    “I want to make people destroy the back of their pants when they look at me”

    I love it!

  • http://unblob.blogspot.com/ Cort the Sport

    BEST quote in there: “Battles are won on the gym floor. Wars are won in the kitchen.” AMEN!

    I'm a triathlete and can't believe how slow that community has been to come around to fueling for performance. That's part of what allows me to blow past my competitors…well that and year-round strength training under the guidance of an awesome WNBF Pro bodybuilder. Strength training is another area that triathletes don't get. It's not swim/bike/run. It's eat/lift/swim/bike/run.

    Love the blog!!

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Marshall Roy” LOVE the Hobbit reference. Very cool.

    Back in like, 2004, in a matter of 10 months, I took my body from 180-210 lbs – and stayed pretty lean to boot. Literally ate my tail off. Especially on lower body days.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Cort the Sport: funny you should chime in. I had a conversation with an ultra-runner we just started training a few weeks ago, and he said that on a GOOD day, he's taking in roughly 1400 kcals per day. I just about shit myself

  • Barath

    @Tony Something eating 1400 kcal's a day probably ain't human :)

  • James

    Will,

    You BEAST!!!

  • axe71

    Hi Tony, what's your stand on Intermittent Fasting? Or Warrior diet?

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @axe71: I don't have any personal experience with either diet, but have spoken to a few friends who have tried them, and so long as they fit your lifestyle and schedule, there's definitely a lot of efficacy. Nia Shanks wrote a REALLY awesome post on intermittent fasting over her blog not too long ago.

    Offhand, though, I don't think it would fit my needs. I'm coaching ALL day, and I'd rip someone's head off if I hadn't eaten in 12 hours.

  • http://beheavy.wordpress.com/ Dana

    I'd love to see a post for women that reminds us not to be afraid to EAT! I've ramped up my training lately and have to remember to eat, and eat some more and keep eating. Keeping a jar of almond butter at my desk helps.

  • http://www.ilovefetacheese.com ilovefetacheese

    MA, WHERES the MEATLOAF!! Best.part.ever.

  • Mike P

    Heavy cream … delicious and 450 calories per half cup

  • Chri

    What's your feeling on “hard gainers?” I've been training a guy for 2 years and he's put on 28 pounds while maintaining 7% body fat but he wants more and is getting frustrated. I send him links to yours and other trainers stuff but he's not getting it. He keeps a food journal and eats as much as the state of Delaware, so either he's lying or is a freak. Thoughts?

  • Todd Bumgardner

    I killed a bear, Tony (by headbutting it with my fist). Any tips on preparation?

  • Peter

    Shit… so my options are slow gains in size or force-feeding? Both suck.

  • Sal

    Does this apply to girls as well? I'm fairly new to strength training and I train for power lifting 3 days a week. Im also pretty skinny, genetics gave me super long legs and a fast metabolism (5'10″ 135lbs), which is normally something most girls would kill for but I'm finding that it's not helping me put on muscle very easily

  • http://motherfitness.com Kellie Davis

    Guys always gasp when I tell them I eat 6-8 whole pastured eggs a day, plus at least a pound of flesh. It makes an incredible difference. And it's not just adding calories, but quality calories. Packing in a 9 oz grass-fed filet with a yam and some brussel sprouts equates to a lot more muscle than 2 items off the Dollar Menu even though the calories are the same… but not many people get that, I guess.

    As a former skinny girl, I can clearly vouch for the magic of food. It's pure genius, this whole eating thing.

  • http://www.dominicmunnelly.ie Dominic Munnelly

    Totally agree and only thing i would add is the use of digestive enzymes to meals as I find it helps those that are unused to the extra calories breakdown their food a little better so they do not give the excuse that they are too full to eat again.

    great piece and enjoyed your interview on the fit cast

  • nock

    I no I'm late on this post but great post Tony.

  • Will Levy

    I'll second the digestive enzymes Dominic. Great tip, it really does make a difference when you're eating such huge volumes of food.

  • http://www.dominicmunnelly.ie Dominic Munnelly

    cheers Will and even a low cost version like apple cider vinegar can help

  • Zach

    yeah, what's the word on Pickles and the Alpo Challenge?

  • Rod

    Tony,

    This was indeed a very great article…my homeboy is nearly 6″0ft tall and 148 lbs, this will come handy to him…I think you should also mention the fact ectomorphs should limit the times they workout…I see way too many skinny guys pounding away on these dumbbells for 1hr 1/2 going on 2, then jumping on the treadmill thinking they're actually accomplishing something.

    Looking forward to next article

    Rod

  • Pingback: Random Crap (the Labor Day Edition) | Hey Joob!

  • Pingback: Two-minute breakfast for mass | MarshallRoy.com | Strength & Conditioning

  • Billy Ocean

    That is my problem, I don’t eat enough. I would like a few tricks on how I can eat like I should eat to gain size, but yet not be inconvienced in so doing. Any ideas?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Try to consume more nutrient dense foods like nuts throughout the day. Also, sometimes it helps to DRINK your calories rather than eat them. So, I often find that telling guys to make 1-2 super shakes per day works well.

      Again, it’s not like you HAVE to go overboard and crush an additional 1000 calories right off the bat. Start with +250 or something. And then work your way up.