Step-by-Step: How to Gain Weight as a Skinny Guy

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Before we get started, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Will, and throughout my teen and early adult years I was scrawny as hell. Everyone around me always asked “You eat so much how are you so skinny?” and I asked myself the same thing. I figured I was just an ectomorph, and for years I just learned to live with it. That was completely unnecessary and honestly, I wish I had done the research and made changes to my habits earlier. My quality of life has drastically changed since implementing these routines, and so will yours, I promise.

The Skinny Guy’s Dilemma

The Challenge of Bulking Up for Skinny Guys

Skinny guys often face a unique set of challenges when trying to gain weight and build muscle mass. These hurdles can include having a high metabolism that burns off calories quickly, a lack of appetite which prevents them from consuming the necessary amount of food, and even genetics that seem to prevent muscle growth. These factors can make the bulking up process feel like an uphill battle, but it is important to remember that with the right approach, it is entirely possible to overcome these obstacles.

Debunking the “Can’t Gain Weight” Myth

One common misconception is the idea that there are people who simply cannot gain weight, no matter what they do. This myth is rooted in the frustration that many skinny guys feel when they see little progress despite their best efforts. However, the truth is that everyone has the potential to gain weight and build muscle. The key lies in understanding your body’s specific needs and tailoring your diet and workout regime to meet them – this might mean consuming more calories, tweaking your workout routine, or even seeking professional guidance.

The Psychological Impact of Being Skinny

Being naturally thin can have significant psychological effects. Society often equates muscularity with attractiveness, success, and power, leaving those who are skinny feeling inadequate or less manly. This impact on self-esteem can be demotivating and hinder progress. However, it’s crucial to remember that everyone’s fitness journey is different. Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are vital components of any transformation.

Finding the Motivation to Transform

The motivation to transform one’s body comes from various sources. It could be a desire to improve health, enhance physical appearance, boost confidence, or even excel in a particular sport. Whatever your motivation, remember that transformation is a process that requires time, effort, and commitment.

Avoiding Common Workout Mistakes

As a skinny guy, you might be tempted to compensate for your size by overworking yourself in the gym. But it is crucial to avoid these common mistakes. Studies show that there is an optimal dose of total sets per week for maximum muscle growth. Overdoing it can actually lead to less muscle and strength gain, or even injury. Similarly, lifting to failure may result in less muscle and strength gains. Instead, stop each set around two reps before failure for maximum effect. To summarise, the journey from being skinny to muscular is filled with challenges. However, with accurate information and a carefully tailored approach, it is entirely possible to overcome these obstacles and achieve a muscular transformation.

Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations

The Importance of Realistic Expectations in Muscle Building

Muscle building, like any other fitness goal, requires patience, perseverance, and a clear understanding of what can be achieved within a given timeframe. It is crucial to set realistic expectations to avoid feeling discouraged or risking injury by over-exerting yourself.
Building muscle is a gradual process that varies from person to person. The rate at which you gain muscle will depend on various factors such as your genetics, diet, workout regimen, and consistency. As a general rule, gaining 1-2 pounds of muscle per month is a reasonable expectation for most people.
Setting unrealistic goals not only leads to disillusionment but could also result in injuries from excessive training. Therefore, the first step towards a successful muscle transformation journey is to set achievable targets.

How to Set Realistic Goals

When setting your muscle building goals, it’s essential to consider both short-term and long-term objectives. Pinpoint your ultimate goal; this might be a certain amount of weight you wish to lift, a specific increase in muscle mass, or a visual physique you admire.
From this ultimate goal, break it down into smaller, more manageable mini-goals. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, often referred to as SMART goals. For example, if your overall objective is to gain 12 pounds of muscle in a year, a mini-goal could be to gain one pound per month.
Celebrating these smaller victories along the way will help keep you motivated and focused on the end goal. Remember, the journey of muscle building is just as important as the destination. So, embrace each step, learn from it, and let it fuel your progress.

Monitoring Your Progress Regularly

Keeping a log of your progress is an effective way to stay motivated and track your growth. This can include taking photos, jotting down your weight, recording your lifting progress, and noting any changes in your body measurements. Tracking these variables over time will provide tangible evidence of your progress and help you adjust your strategy if necessary.

One piece of advice which I wish I had listened to, and I know everyone who has embarked on this journey regrets not doing is – take photos before you start. You’ll hate them. Just take them anyway. Hide them away from yourself for future reference. You’ll be amazed in 6 months time when you look back and see the changes you’ve made.

Remember, however, that progress isn’t always linear. Some weeks you’ll see substantial improvements; other times, you may feel like you’re stagnating. This is a normal part of the muscle-building journey, so don’t be too hard on yourself during these periods. Instead, use them as opportunities to reassess your approach and make necessary adjustments.

Adapting to Changing Circumstances

Life is unpredictable, and there will be times when your routine gets disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances. You may fall sick, get injured, or have personal or professional commitments that prevent you from sticking to your workout schedule. During such times, it’s crucial to be flexible and adapt your goals accordingly. This could mean modifying your workout routine, adjusting your calorie intake, or even taking some time off to rest and recover.
The key is not to view these changes as setbacks but rather as part of the journey. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your muscles. Consistency is critical, and even if there are bumps along the road, staying committed to your goal will ultimately lead to success.

Stay Patient and Persistent

Above all, remember that muscle building requires patience and persistence. It’s a slow process, and results won’t happen overnight. But with a consistent workout plan, a healthy diet, and a positive mindset, you can achieve your muscle-building goals in a safe and sustainable way.
So, keep pushing, stay motivated, and never lose sight of why you started this journey in the first place. With time, dedication, and the right approach, you’ll transform not just your physique, but also your mindset, confidence, and overall well-being.

Nutrition 101 for Bulking Up

The Importance of Counting Calories

A common misconception amongst those embarking on a muscle transformation journey is that they already consume an adequate quantity of food. However, the truth might surprise you. Most skinny guys need around 2500 to 2800 calories just to maintain their current body weight. To gain weight and build muscle, an additional 400 calories per day is recommended, rounding up the total to around 2900 to 3200 calories per day.

Nutrition’s Role in Muscle Building

The building blocks of muscle are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Consuming these macronutrients in the right proportions is crucial for muscle growth. The ideal macronutrient split for increasing lean mass is approximately 50-60% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 20% fats. Think of it as a plate with a portion of protein (like meat), a carb (like brown rice), and healthy fats (like olive oil). Once you’ve determined your BMR and macronutrient ratio, you have two choices – track your macronutrients or build a meal plan. We’ll get onto this in a second, but first let’s take a second to understand these three components.

Understanding Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats


Setting your protein intake based on your body weight is crucial during a bulk. Protein is essential for building and preserving muscle mass. The recommended protein intake for most healthy individuals doing a bulk is 2-2.5g/kg of bodyweight. For someone who weighs 80kg, that would mean 160 – 200g of protein.


Carbohydrates are our body’s primary energy source and used to fuel training sessions. However, too many carbohydrates can lead to fat gain. Your carbohydrate intake should align with your activity level to bulk lean mass with minimal fat gain.


Fats are equally important in a balanced diet for muscle growth. They provide energy, help your body absorb vitamins, and are crucial for hormone production, including testosterone which is vital for muscle growth.

Different Sources of Protein and Their Benefits

Protein can be sourced from a variety of foods. Here are some great options:

  • Meat, Poultry, and Seafood: These include beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, cod, halibut, shrimp, and biltong. These are excellent sources of complete proteins.
  • Seeds and Nuts: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, almonds, cashews, and walnuts not only provide protein but also contain healthy fats and fibre.
  • Whole Grains: Foods like oats, rice, pasta, and quinoa are rich sources of protein and also provide complex carbohydrates.

Check out our ranked list of protein sources by cost.

Remember, when aiming for muscle growth, it’s about more than just eating more; it’s about eating right. The emphasis should be on consuming whole foods and limiting the intake of processed foods which offer little nutrient benefit and can lead to overeating. Alcohol and added sugars should also be avoided as they interfere with muscle building and are typically high in calories. To sum it up, focus on the quality and quantity of your calorie intake, understand the role of macronutrients in muscle building, and choose your protein sources wisely. Armed with these nutritional insights, you’re well on your way to a successful muscle transformation.

Eating Strategies for the Aspiring Muscular Man

Reaching Your Caloric Goals with Whole Foods

As a skinny guy aiming to pack on muscle, your primary focus should be on reaching your caloric goals. Counting calories is an essential part of this journey. However, it’s not just about consuming more calories; it’s about consuming the right kind of calories. Whole foods are your best bet for obtaining the nutrients your body needs to build muscle.
Lean meats such as chicken and turkey are excellent sources of protein, a vital nutrient for muscle growth. Including fatty fish in your diet a few times per week can also contribute to overall calorie intake, pushing you closer to your muscle gain goal. Consuming complex carbohydrates is another crucial aspect of your diet. Aim for two grams of complex carbs per pound of body weight to fuel your workouts and promote muscle recovery.

Tips for Consuming More Calories Without Feeling Overly Stuffed

The idea of consuming more calories might seem daunting, but there are strategies to help you reach your caloric goals without feeling overly stuffed. One way is to eat frequent, smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. This approach not only helps manage hunger and fullness but also ensures a steady supply of nutrients to your body.
Occasional cheat meals can also play a role in your weight gain journey. Enjoying your favourite treats in moderation can provide mental and emotional satisfaction and prevent feelings of deprivation. Remember, balance is key in your diet.

Meal Planning and Prepping for Muscle Gain

Planning and prepping your meals in advance can take the stress out of meeting your nutritional needs. Start by planning your meals around your workouts. Pre-workout meals should provide you with enough energy to power through your exercises while post-workout meals should focus on replenishing your energy stores and promoting muscle growth. For example, a protein shake or lean protein source could be an excellent post-workout meal.
Healthy fats should also be included in your meal plan. Snacks like avocados and shrimp are not only delicious but offer healthy fats that won’t expand your waistline. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and aid digestion.
By implementing these eating strategies, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your physique. Remember, consistency is key to achieving your muscle gain goals. So, stick to your plan, keep track of your progress, and adjust your diet as necessary. Stay disciplined, stay motivated, and you’ll see the results you desire.

Building the Perfect Meal Plan

Speaking from personal experience, unless you have a solid meal plan – you won’t eat the calories. The key here is not leaving anything to chance. If you’re out at work for the day, what’s the odds in you stumbling across a 900 calorie balanced lunch, with 800 calories worth of healthy snacks for before & after? Pretty slim. Oh and when you get home, is there likely to be another 900 calorie meal sat waiting for you to heat up? Nope.

There’s a few different ways to structure meal plans, personally I like to keep it really simple (and as cheap as possible) by eating the same things every day, and having less snacks on a rest day. Does it get boring? Not really. If there’s a meal you begin to get bored of, swap out some ingredients for alternatives.

How Many Meals?

The easiest plans I find to follow are ones that spread the calories across between 4-6 meals. For me, this meant eating smaller meals/snacks every 2-3 hours which is much easier than consuming all of your calories using only breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you struggle to stop work/daily activities this often to eat, consider using a 15-min break during the day to down a protein shake with added ground oats. Another quick alternative is bagels with your choice of filling (peanut butter is a good choice for protein).

High Day, Low Day

This type of meal plan is simple to follow and easy to get down. Your calorie and macro count goes up/down depending on if it’s a training day or not. For example, on a training day I’d consume 3900 calories, while on a rest day I’d be at about 3600. This is useful for a few reasons:

  1. You’ll generally have a higher appetite on a day that you’re training on (if training in the morning) OR
  2. You’ll want to get fuelled up for your training (if training in the afternoon/evening)
  3. Eventually your body adapts and becomes used to high consumption. By fluctuating your intake it’s believed you could help keep your body responsive to the calories for longer, meaning you don’t have to raise your intake so often.

The beauty of this is, you’ll only have two different plans depending on the day & many of the meals could be the same across both days. This makes shopping and bulk cooking much easier than having a different meal each day.

Meals Dependant on Week Day

I don’t advise this. I did this for probably a solid 6 months before switching and it was much more expensive, and I found myself spending 1-2 hours in the kitchen every evening trying to prep next days food. It’s difficult to bulk cook if your plan varies every day of the week. Obviously it’s doable, but be mindful that adding the inconvenience means there’s a higher chance of you not sticking to it.

The Role of Supplements in Muscle Transformation

The journey to muscle transformation is paved with dedication, discipline, and consistency. But for skinny guys, this path might seem a little bit steep and rocky. One of the ways to help smoothen this journey is through the use of supplements. However, the world of supplements can be somewhat confusing and overwhelming. This chapter aims to clear up some of the fog surrounding this topic.

Understanding the Real Value of Muscle-building Supplements

To start off, it’s crucial to understand that supplements are not magic potions that will instantly convert you into an Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike. They are simply aids that, when used correctly in conjunction with proper nutrition and training, can help boost your muscle growth efforts. Essentially, they are like the icing on the cake, with the cake being your diet and workout regimen. They fill nutritional gaps and can potentially give you that extra edge in your transformation journey.

A Closer Look at Protein Powder and Creatine

Protein powder and creatine are arguably the most popular supplements among those looking to gain muscle. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Protein powder, as the name suggests, predominantly provides protein, which is the key nutrient required for muscle repair and growth. It’s a convenient, less filling way to meet your daily protein needs. Especially for skinny guys who may struggle with consuming enough protein through whole foods alone.

Creatine, on the other hand, works by helping your body replenish ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary source of energy for your muscles during weightlifting. This allows you to perform a few more reps in your workouts, stimulating greater muscle growth. Moreover, creatine also enhances muscle protein synthesis and glycogen storage, providing you with more value from the food you eat. However, it’s important to note that the effects of creatine can vary from person to person. Some might notice significant gains, while others may not see any visible results at all.

Mass Gainer or DIY Protein Shake?

Mass gainers are another popular supplement among skinny guys. These products pack in a high amount of calories, protein, and carbs in a single serving, aiding in weight gain. However, they can also be quite expensive and contain added sugars and artificial ingredients. An alternative would be making your own high-calorie shake using protein powder and ground oats. This not only gives you control over what goes into your shake but also tends to be a lot more cost-effective.

Busting the Hype Around Excessive Supplementation

While supplements can be beneficial, there’s a lot of hype and misinformation out there suggesting that you need a cabinet full of them to gain muscle. This is far from the truth. Remember, supplements are just that – supplemental to a balanced diet and consistent training routine. Over-reliance on supplements can lead not only to wastage of money but potentially adverse health effects as well. So, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified nutritionist before starting any supplement regimen.

Remember, muscle transformation is not a sprint, but a marathon. While supplements can support your journey, they aren’t a replacement for hard work, patience, and consistency. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither is a muscular body.

Workout Regimens and Exercises for Muscle Gain

In this crucial chapter, we will delve into the heart of the matter: the actual workout regimens and exercises that will help skinny guys transform into muscular men. We will discover the best movements for all-around growth, demystify the concept of newbie gains, and share practical tips to stay disciplined on this transformative journey.

The Best Movements for All-Around Growth

Building muscle isn’t just about lifting heavy weights; it’s about performing the right exercises that stimulate the most muscle fibres. Compound exercises are your best bet as they engage multiple muscle groups at once, leading to better overall muscle development. Here are some effective exercises:

  • Barbell Deadlift: This is an excellent exercise for improving the functional strength of your lower body muscles.
  • Walking Lunges: Walking lunges target your lower body while also improving your balance and coordination.
  • T-Pushup: A variation of the classic push-up, the T-pushup works your chest, arms, and core.
  • Standing Barbell Press: This compound movement targets your shoulders, upper back, and arms.
  • Close-Grip Chin-Ups: Close-grip chin-ups primarily target your back muscles and biceps.
  • Renegade Row: This challenging exercise works your back, shoulders, and core.
  • Hanging Leg Raises: An effective exercise for targeting your abdominal muscles.
  • Swiss Ball Pass: This exercise works your entire core and helps improve stability.

You’ll want to base your workouts around compound exercises, even more so at the start. As you begin to grow, you’ll be able to start targeting individual muscles which are lagging behind. This is normal.

Training split types

There’s a few different types of training splits, which really come down to personal preference and how often you’d like to train.


This split separates the upper-body exercises by whether you’re “pulling” or “pushing. The pulling exercises primarily target the muscles in your back, biceps, and rear delts, while the pushing exercises focus on the muscles in your chest, shoulders, triceps, and front delts. This split helps ensure balanced development of the upper body muscles and prevents overuse injuries.


Upper/lower split, as the name suggests separates exercises by whether they are upper-body or lower-body movements. This type of workout split is commonly used in resistance training programs to target different muscle groups on different days. The upper/lower split allows for more focus and intensity on specific body regions, as well as the opportunity to work out more frequently throughout the week.

In an upper/lower split, the workouts are typically divided into two categories:

1. Upper-body workouts: These sessions mainly focus on exercises that target the muscles of the chest, back, shoulders, arms, and core. Examples of upper-body exercises include bench press, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, shoulder presses, bicep curls, and tricep dips.

2. Lower-body workouts: These sessions primarily target the muscles of the legs, including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Lower-body exercises may include squats, lunges, deadlifts, leg presses, calf raises, and hamstring curls.

Full body

Full body workouts are indeed designed to target all major muscle groups in the body. This means that they engage multiple muscles and joints in a single session, providing a comprehensive training stimulus. As a result, full body workouts can be an effective option for individuals who have limited time to dedicate to exercise or prefer to train only a few times per week.

While full body workouts can be effective, they may not allow for as much volume or focus on specific muscle groups compared to split routines. Split routines involve targeting different muscle groups on different days, allowing for greater specialisation and volume for each area. Therefore, if your goal is to specifically target certain muscle groups or achieve advanced levels of strength or hypertrophy, a split routine may be more suitable.

Explaining Newbie Gains

As a beginner to weight training, you might notice a rapid increase in strength and size within the first few weeks. This phenomenon, known as ‘newbie gains’, occurs due to the initial response of your untrained muscles to resistance training. Remember, these gains are normal and expected, but they will slow down as your body adapts to the new stimulus. Don’t be disheartened when the pace of progress slows down. Instead, see it as a sign that your body is adapting and getting stronger. It’s important not to overtrain in the pursuit of continuous rapid gains because this could lead to burnout or injury. Always allow sufficient time for recovery and focus on gradual, sustainable progress.

Tips for Staying Disciplined

Consistency and discipline are key to achieving any fitness goal. Here are a few tips on how to stay disciplined during your muscle transformation journey:

  • Set Specific Goals: Having clear, measurable goals can provide motivation and a sense of purpose.
  • Create a Routine: Establish a workout routine that fits into your daily schedule. Consistency is easier when you have a set plan to follow.
  • Nourish Your Body: Eating nutrient-dense foods high in calories will support your muscle-building efforts. Aim for a gram of protein per pound of your body weight every day.
  • Rest and Recover: Getting eight hours of sleep per night is crucial for growth-hormone release. Consider incorporating massages or foam rolling into your routine to enhance recovery.
  • Keep a Progress Log: Documenting your progress can boost motivation and help you see how far you’ve come.

In conclusion, transforming from skinny to muscular requires not only lifting weights but also choosing the right exercises, understanding the process of muscle gain, and maintaining unwavering discipline. As you embark on this journey, remember to listen to your body, nourish it well, and above all, stay consistent.

Getting Started Checklist

Here’s a simple checklist which outlines what you need to get started. Information on each step is available throughout this guide.

Have a goal physique in mind. How big do you want to get? When do you want to achieve this by?
Take your starting weight & some photos. You can keep a log of your weight on your phones notes, or on an excel sheet.
Build a meal plan with your daily routine in mind. You should also consider when you’ll be training at this point, as you’ll likely want to get some food in 1-2 hours before training. For me personally – this isn’t doable as I train too early, it’s not the end of the world if you can’t. I’d suggest laying out your meal plan on an excel spreadsheet (or Google Sheets) with each cell being it’s own ingredient with quantity in grams.
Build a basic workout plan. This doesn’t need to be anything super advanced – honestly just lifting a few times a week will bring your appetite up and you’ll see good newbie progress.
Go shopping. You’ll need to stock up on everything you need to prepare those meals. If you don’t already have them, you’re also going to need: digital scales (for cooking), digital bathroom scales (for weighing yourself), trainers, shorts/joggers, T-shirts and jumpers/hoodies suitable for gym.
Prepare your food. If you work Mon-Fri I’d suggest trying to cook the whole weeks food on a Sunday. This helps keep you organised and prepared for the upcoming week before it starts.
Hit the gym, and keep track of what exercises you’re doing and how much weight your moving for how many reps. Start light, and work your way heavier gradually. The most important thing here is to not injure yourself (it’s easily done). Focus on form and watch videos demonstrating how to do the movements properly.
Stay consistent. You’re going to hit a load of little bumps along the way but unless you keep at it you’ll soon be back to your old self.
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