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How to Gain Weight Naturally as a Hardgainer

Trying to gain weight naturally as a hardgainer can be an absolute nightmare. If you’ve tried to gain weight with a fast metabolism and consistently struggled, then you’re in the right place!

This article is going to focus on the nutrition side of being a hardgainer and the problems hardgainers run into when it comes to their eating.

What most consider to be a true hardgainer are those of an ectomorphic body type. People of this somatotype, or body type, have extremely high metabolisms. In addition to this, some other characteristics of an ectomorph include:

    • Hard time gaining muscle (especially in the arms and chest)
    • Hard time gaining weight
    • Earlier to mature than others
  • Long and skinny

A lot of people have characteristics of other body types as well which include the mesomorphic body type and endomorphic body type.  A true hardgainer though is typically predominantly ectomorphic.

I can personally relate to this and have always had a hard time putting on weight! When putting to practice the information within this article though, even I’ve been able to add on the pounds!

Techniques For Natural Weight Gain as a Hardgainer

Besides just stuffing your face, there are tricks for boosting weight gain. In theory, you’ll need to add about 500 to 1,000 calories to your maintenance calorie intake.

Your maintenance calorie intake is the number of calories you need to eat a day to maintain your current weight. This calorie number takes into account all energy burning factors.

To find this calorie number, I recommend using the Mifflin-St Jeor equation as it’s usually quite accurate. If slight modifications in calorie numbers are needed, then they can be made.

With this prerequisite in place, I encourage you to read my “Hardgainer Disclaimer” (Like the clever name?) before moving onto the natural weight gain techniques below.

Hardgainer Disclaimer

I would hate to tell someone that their genetics can or will strongly hinder their progress but unfortunately this could be the case. Although it’s not a deal breaker, there are some people that can only put on a limited number of pounds no matter how much they eat.

There’s actually been a few landmark studies proving this (bouchard 1990)(Sims 1976). One involved 200 prisoners with no family history of obesity. The prisoners volunteered to eat as much as possible and the goal was to gain 20 to 25 percent above their normal weight (about 30 to 40 pounds).

For over six months the prisoners ate greatly and exercised minimally. Only 20 of the 200 prisoners could gain the weight. An example of one of the prisoners that had a hard time was a 132-pound prisoner who tried to to add 12 pounds in 30 weeks but couldn’t gain any weight!

This study however isn’t saying that you can’t build muscle. We can all build muscle with proper training and hard work. This is turn is a great way to add weight for the true hard gainer that can’t put on very much fat.

Technique 1: Choosing Calorie Dense Foods

Hardgainers need to be a master of reading food labels to gain weight naturally.
Become a master of reading food labels.

Calories are everything. At the end of the day, your weight gain is going to come down to whether or not you consumed enough calories. Your daily macro percentage (carbs, fat, and protein) won’t affect weight gain although it can make the process easier.

Just remember, calories first.

Reading food labels and learning the calorie count in certain foods allows you to make educated choices on the foods you choose to eat.

With that being said though, higher calorie foods have higher fat content. For health reasons and to ensure optimal results it’s important to pay attention to where you’re getting your fats from. Some healthy fat options include: avocado, oily fish, peanut butter, walnuts, almonds, and olive oil.

When considering drink options on a natural weight gain diet, juices, milk, and protein shakes make great calorie boosting options!

Technique 2: Eat Frequently

Eating frequently can be very helpful for someone that just doesn’t have the appetite to eat large quantities of food at once. Even if appetite isn’t a problem for you, eating frequently ensures that you are getting your necessary calories.

Eating five meals a day with three being large and two being smaller should be adequate. It can also be helpful to set reminders or alarms in your phone reminding you to eat.

It’s all too easy to forget to eat . . . especially if you’re busy!

Technique 3: Meal Prep

Meal prep can make the process to gain weight naturally much smoother!
Meal prep can make the process to gain weight naturally much smoother!

Meal prep can be an absolute lifesaver!

It’s convenient, cheap, easy, and portable!

For me, the best benefit of meal prep is the convenience and portability. I have a great, already cooked meal and I can take it anywhere with me. This way I don’t have to go to long without eating!

If you want to take this a step further, you can also label each meal with the calorie and macronutrient breakdown of the meals for easy tracking!

If you’re ready to put a bit more work into your natural weight gain journey, then meal prep is a great option!

A common practice among meal preppers is to cook all their meals for the week on one day of the week. A lot of people choose Sunday, but choose whatever day works best for you! Overall, this practice just helps you find a routine so it’s more manageable.

Technique 4: Calorie Tracking

For best results, I would recommend tracking your daily calorie intake. Tracking macros won’t be necessary, but you should be within a ballpark.

To make tracking your calories easier, there are apps that do a great job of it! A personal favorite of mine is the Myfitnesspal app.

Myfitnesspal has a huge database of foods so that when you eat something, you can find it in their database and track it instantly. Even greater, the macros are tracked for you as well!

As great as this app is, the only drawback I find is that the generality of some of the foods in their database can lead to a slightly inaccurate calorie and macro count at the end of the day. Overall this app does a great job though!

If you’re old fashioned, a pen and notebook, or even the notes in your phone are a good place to track your calories. This is actually the method I prefer because I like to know my exact calorie count!

Either method is fine though and I’m probably just a bit uptight about it!

For those of you that choose not to track, you can still find success! Just be self-aware of what you’re eating and employ the other techniques listed in this article. Also, as a hardgainer trying to gain weight naturally, show no mercy when comes to your eating!!

Defining Your Goals to Gain Weight Naturally

With the natural weight gain techniques in place, let’s now further think about why we want to put on weight.

Are you trying to gain as much weight as possible in any way you can?

Are you trying to gain lean mass to be more muscular?

Are you trying to gain functional weight for your sport?

There could be plenty of motives as to why you’re trying to gain weight naturally. Chances are some of you already know your motive and it might help define what type of weight you want to put on.

Whether you do or don’t know your goal though, you need to figure out if your main goal is to gain fat mass, muscle mass, even gain water weight, or a combination of the few.

Knowing this will keep your focus strong on the right goal. Below I have put together common scenarios as to why people want to put on weight. Along with that I’ve given you the main weight gain goal along with the macronutrient breakdown.

Goal: Gaining Lean Mass and Minimizing Fat Gain

A hardgainer is well suited for a lean bulk
Weight gain can most definitely be achieved with a lean bulk.

I decided to start here because is all about building your ideal physique! This may not line up with your goals, but don’t fret, more common hardgainer goals are listed later in the article!

Essentially, this goal is just a lean bulk. If you’re goal is to add muscle mass and gain weight naturally while maintaining a year round, lean, powerful, and proportioned physique, then this section will explain what you need to do.

Calories: Calories will need to be set about 250 calories over your maintenance calorie number.


Protein: 20%

Carbohydrates: 55%

Fats: 25%

Goal: Gaining Fat Weight

With this goal we won’t be focusing on gaining muscle weight. This is strictly for adding a few pounds of fat weight for whatever your motive may be!

Calories: Calories will need to be set about 500 to 1,000 calories above your maintenance calorie number.


Protein: 15%

Carbohydrates: 55%

Fats: 30%

Goal: Gaining Fat and Muscle Weight

Someone with this goal is trying to gain as much weight as possible! They want overall size whether it be to improve their self image or maybe create functional mass for their sport.

Calories: Calories will need to be set about 500 to 1,000 calories above your maintenance calorie number.


Protein: 20%

Carbohydrates: 55%

Fat: 25%

There’s an additional resource that can be helpful for gaining weight for this specific goal. What I’m talking about is creatine.

Besides other benefits of creatine, it will saturate your muscles with water. This adds weight quite quickly and also gives you a larger appearance.

Although this sounds great, there are drawbacks to using creatine so make sure that it lines up with your goals first. If you need help with making that decision, read the article I wrote on supplementation.

Translating Your Macro Percentage to Grams

Learn how to calculate macros to gain weight naturally.
Calculating macros actually isn’t as confusing as this woman makes it to be.

You have the percentages above, but you’re probably wondering how to actually put them to use.

The first step is to find your calorie number based on your goal using the Mifflin-St Jeor equation provided above.

Next, you’ll need know the calorie breakdown for each gram of the three macronutrients:

Protein: 4kcal

Carbohydrates: 4kcal

Fats: 9kcal

With this information we can find out how many grams per macronutrient we need.

Let’s look at an example for a 150 pound guy who is looking to put on fat and muscle:

Calorie Goal: 2,500

Macronutrient Percentages:

    • Protein: 20%
    • Carbohydrates: 55%
  • Fats: 25%

2,500  x .2 =   500 kcal

500 kcal/4  = 125g

Protein  = 125g

2,500  x .55 =  1,375 kcal

1,375 kcal/4  = 343.75g

Carbohydrates: 345g

(Rounded to the nearest multiple of five)

2,500  x .25 =  625 kcal

625 kcal/9  = 69.4g

Fats: 70g

The Hardgainer Struggle Made Easier

There’s no way around your genetics and there’s no way around hard work. There are things to ease the process to gain weight naturally though.

Follow the techniques given above and define your goal. This will make a world of difference and hopefully give you the edge you need for great weight gain as a hardgainer.

Oh, and remember, show no mercy when it comes to your eating! You’re a hardgainer, it’s a blessing and a curse!


    1. Sims, E. 1976. Experimental obesity, dietary induced thermogenesis, and their clinical implications. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 5:377-395
  1. Bouchard, C. 1990. Heredity and the path to overweight and obesity. Med Sci Sports Exerc 23(3):285-291

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About Brennen Elboeck

I'm Brennen, the founder of I want to give hundreds of thousands of people science based, practical physique and life transforming information! To never miss a post or what's new make sure to sign up for our newsletter above!

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1 comment

  1. I have been practising home to gain weight many days but there has not been any improvement. I am studying your article and it is good. From next week I will exercise according to this routine.

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