How Many Calories Should A Hardgainer Eat


How many calories should a hardgainer eat? It’s not just calories in versus calories out, that’s for sure. A hardgainer is more than just someone who struggles to put on muscle. A hard gainer is a person who has an extremely difficult time gaining weight for any reason. If you’re one of these people, you’re not alone, and I’m going to tell you exactly how many calories you should eat as a hardgainer.

How To Eat For Maximum Muscle Growth

You are what you eat, so you better eat big to get big. Learn how with this complete guide to muscle-building nutrition.

Hardgainer Nutrition: How To Eat For Maximum Muscle Growth

You’re reading this because you want the answer. You want to know the “secret,” the final word on gaining real weight. Well listen up, because I’m only going to say it once: There is no secret. There is no magic pill that’s going to put real meat on your bones.

Like everything else in life worth having, it takes good old-fashioned hard work and dedication. Yeah, I know you didn’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. So if you’re looking for a quick fix answer, just pick up a muscle mag or read a supplement ad. But if you’re tired of the bu!!sh!t and want the straight facts, keep reading.

If you want to gain weight, you have to approach meals with the same intensity as you approach training. Just how important are your meals during a gain? Let me put it to you this way. I’d rather miss a day of training than miss a single meal. You have to get in this frame of mind. You also have to realize that when it comes to bodybuilding nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, there are no hard and fast rules. Yeah, I’m going to give you a guideline complete with numbers, but as a serious bodybuilder, you need to apply them to your own situation.

Listen, I’m not going to lie to you. Gaining weight is work, just like dieting is. It’s hard. It takes discipline, just like training. But don’t get discouraged. Keep at it and at the end of the tunnel, you’ll have a massive physique.

Hardgainer Nutrition: How To Eat For Maximum Muscle Growth


First things first: Sit down with pad and pen, and write down a schedule for a meal plan that you will never deviate from. Be sure to write it down. If you do, you’ll be less likely to fall off the wagon. Aim for six meals every single day. This works out to a meal every 2-to-3 hours. Let’s say you sleep 9 hours every day, like me. This means you have 15 waking hours to squeeze in 6 meals. This means you eat every 2-1/2 hours from the moment you get up in the morning.

Machine’s Before-Bed Mass Meal

  • 10 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole oats
  • 1 piece of fruit

Like I said before, once you write your schedule down, never deviate. Why? Because, your body is begging for regimentation. It needs it. When you’re training hard, you’re body will come to depend on the nutrients at that same time every day. For example, if you eat everyday at 11 a.m., but you miss that meal, your body will start to cannibalize your hard-earned muscles.

So your first meal should come right when you wake up. Your last meal can come right before you go to bed. Now, some so-called “experts” will tell you not to eat before you go to bed. I say screw them. As long as you don’t eat pasta or candy before bedtime, you’ll be fine. Remember, during the time you sleep, your body is essentially starving. So feed it. Oatmeal with protein is what I eat. More specifically, I take in 10 egg whites, a cup of whole oats, and a piece of fruit.


Now that you understand the importance of timing, let’s talk about calories. Nine calories per pound of body weight is what I call a “loser’s diet.” Nine calories is the top-end of the pyramid when you’re trying to shed fat. On a cut, you would begin with 9 calories per pound as your baseline for 2-to-4 weeks, and then lower the calories incrementally after that time. 15 calories per pound is the starting baseline for a moderate “gainer’s diet.” Start with 15 calories per pound and after 2-to-4 weeks, gradually increase your calories. So for example, a 200-pound guy will start with 3000 calories, then adjust accordingly.

In my experience, most people don’t have any common sense. The “more is better” mentality runs rampant. People want shortcuts, immediate results. Not in this sport. You need time to succeed, to find out what works and what doesn’t. People always ask me, “How do you get 22-inch guns?” Take your Flintstone vitamins. For most of these guys, if I told them the truth, they wouldn’t want big arms anymore.

So if you’re that 200-pound guy, you have to resist the urge to start with 4000 calories all at once. Whether you’re gaining or cutting, don’t use shock tactics. Never blast your body with huge calorie increases or decreases. It’s so hard to earn just one pound of quality muscle, why screw around with a shock diet that will make you lose half of that pound?

Let’s say you go from eating 200 grams of protein per day to 400 g. How is your body going to be able to metabolize it? It’ll probably crap half of it out. Plus, it’ll be so hard eating so much so soon, you’ll probably quit after two weeks. Remember, take your time. It’s all about increments. Start slow, and build on it gradually.


Many people who strive to gain weight believe that enjoying large amounts of fast food & fizzy drinks is the perfect way to increase their calorie intake. However, gaining weight too quickly can result in excessive fat storage and have a negative effect on your health.

So, in order to avoid feeling lethargic and bloated, you need to be very careful about the foods you eat. Here is a list of good-quality foods that are rich in good fats and protein.


Lean meat and fish are the best protein sources that contain all essential amino acids your muscles need in order to recover and grow. Vegans should also make sure to consume enough plant-based proteins, especially plant products that are complete proteins, i.e. those that contain all nine essential amino acids, such as quinoa and soybeans.


Oily fish like salmon and sardines should be consumed at least twice a week. Besides being a great source of protein, salmon is also rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids.


Looking for a meal filled with protein and healthy fat? Whole eggs also supply some saturated fats, which are needed to keep your testosterone levels stable.


If you’re looking for a source of carbs that adds extra calories without making you bloated, opt for oats. Mix them with full-fat milk and some protein powder in the morning, or add them to your post-workout protein shake.


Nuts are high in calories, but they also provide healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats, as well as dietary fiber. Nuts and nut butters are also high in calories. Smear some peanut butter onto Ezekiel bread, celery, bananas, or apples, or enjoy a handful of nuts to add 200 calories to your diet per day.  


In order to build some serious muscle, you need a good source of healthy fat. Coconut and olive oil contain good fats that can be used for cooking food or added to your salads.


While it is true that hard gainers need to focus on consuming plenty of protein, eating steaks every single day of the week is impossible. Enter protein shakes. Not only they are super convenient, but they’re also very tasty. They come in a number of different flavors and most of them contain more than 300 kcal per serving. In addition, protein shakes are also packed with plenty of protein and carbs, which makes them an ideal meal replacement.

If you prefer making your own shakes, make sure to add a proper amount of fat, carbs, and protein. For instance, you can use whey protein, maltodextrin for carbs, and peanut butter as a source of good fats.


Don’t forget to consume lots of fruit and veggies, as minerals and vitamins are crucial for your health. However, consume them along with the energy-dense foods, not instead of them.

We recommend dried fruits as they’re packed with energy. In addition, they’re a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which makes them a perfect pre-workout shack. Moreover, when eaten as a snack, dried fruits don’t make you feel as full as fresh fruit does.

When it comes to veggies, our pick is sweet potatoes because they are packed with carbs. This makes them a great post-workout meal that restores glycogen levels.

Hardgainers Meal

It’s been a long journey from where I started to where I am now..



Although I believed I was eating as much as I possibly could, I was inconsistent with my eating and after actually writing down what I would eat on an average day, it only equated to about half the amount of calories a guy like me should be eating.

If you aren’t measuring it – you aren’t managing it.

It’s basic body composition 101: Calories in vs Calories out.

Consume more calories than you burn each day and you’ll grow, consume less and you won’t. We know how important tracking and measuring your food is for fat-loss, but us guys who struggle to gain muscle seem to ignore this principle for growth.

It wasn’t until I tracked my food and met my intake consistently that I finally started to grow.

It’s not uncommon for us ‘hard-gainers’ to need 4000+ calories per day to gain muscle. Especially with our horse like metabolisms and active lifestyles. So don’t be alarmed by this and don’t complain about how you are ‘sick of eating food’.

(A guy who’s struggling to lose weight on 2000 calories may be a little annoyed to hear you say that.)

Enjoy the privilege and get eating! If you aren’t growing – eat more!

Measure it, Manage it and GROW
Measure it, Manage it and GROW



We all know the importance of eating protein for muscle-gain. But in my experience, most guys put too much emphasis on this and over-estimate how much Protein they need to grow.

Most guys should aim for 2.2g of Protein per kg of bodyweight.I.e. 70kg guy x 2.2g = 155g of Protein.

Some guys are known to take well in excess of this – even up to 3g per KG of bodyweight in a desperate effort to try and grow. BUT, in my experience it’s actually Carbohydrates that will provide the most ‘return on investment’ for guys wanting to grow muscle.

(Technical talk alert) – Carbs convert to glucose – the body’s primary energy source, which will aid in superhuman performance in the gym. Glucose is stored in your muscles (glycogen) to help aid in increased muscle-mass. If your body is using Carbs for energy (which you should now have in abundance), that will spare your protein to help in your recovery – where growth occurs.

If you are over consuming protein, you’re not likely to be getting in as many carbs to fuel your growth.

Aim for only 1.8g of protein per kg of your body-weight and make more room for delicious carbs in your diet to fuel your quest for building muscle.

A full example calorie and macro-split for an 80kg guy looking to grow on 3500 calories could be:

150g Protein (18%),
95g Fats (25%),
510g Carbohydrates (57%)

As you can see, the Carb intake makes up an almost whopping 60% of this individuals intake, while Protein only between 18-20%.

Carbs are essential for growth in ‘hard-gainers’
Carbs are essential for growth in ‘hard-gainers’



As a young bloke slogging it out in the gym with little return, I would also be another guy who ate ‘clean’ every day.

Chicken, broccoli, rice, beef, potato, oats etc.

There’s nothing wrong with these foods but the only problem is – they aren’t very high in calories. And calories are what I needed to grow.I was trying to eat 4500-5000 calories (which isn’t cheap) and eating my ‘clean’ 500 calorie meals was going to mean, I would need to eat 9-10 meals each day.

Once I had gotten passed the idea that ‘gym bro’s’ had to ‘eat clean’ to grow – I started becoming more comfortable with eating higher calorie meals.

High calorie meals would typically be higher in carbs and fats – especially since fats are 9 calories per gram (double the amount of calories of carbs and protein). It was much easier for me to eat 4-5 x 1000 calorie meals each day which were a mix of ‘clean’ and ‘naughty’ foods to help me get my calories in, than to spend most of the day eating chicken & rice.

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