Ectomorph /ˈektəˌmôrf/ n. – any dude who tries to “eat big and lift big” but ends up looking more like Napoleon Dynamite and less like Thor. See also: manorexic.
In a world that keeps getting fatter, it’s not easy being an ectomorph. When everyone around you can’t seem to keep the weight off, you have trouble keeping weight on. Your girlfriend looks at you with envy because you can pound a cheeseburger and fries without adding an inch to your waist, but the same fate seems to curse you when trying to add an inch to your arms. The fact is, ectomorphs have trouble adding fat AND muscle. Commonly referred to in the gym as “hard-gainers,” they are thyroid dominant, their sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, and Oprah would do anything for their carb tolerance and metabolic rate. Their natural state is skinny and lightly muscled, which is perfectly fine if you’re into that sort of thing. But often, ectomorphs were bullied in the third grade and would absolutely LOVE to add some lean muscle to their frame. That’s when things get tricky.
If you are an ectomorph and you are trying to add lean mass, you need to lift heavy and hard. No question about it, lifting is a must. But in addition to a quality, well balanced resistance routine, you’re gonna need to take some of the nutrition rules that apply to weight-loss and turn them on their head.
Bandana Rule #1 – Take Advantage of Carbs
A much higher percentage of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates. The nice thing about carbs is that we can eat butt-loads of them without getting full. Use that to your advantage by eating a generous serving of carbs at every meal. Starchy, unprocessed, whole grain carbs will help you feel and look your best (opt for sweet potatoes over white bread, whole grains over frosted flakes.) Drink simple carbs during your workout (you’ll feel energized and have more to give, especially towards the end of a grueling workout.) But HEADS-UP: don’t get in the habit of drinking simple carbs all day. Outside of your workout window (from the start of your workout until about an hour after), keep your carbs unprocessed, starchy, and whole to look and feel your best.
Bandana Rule #2 – Double down on the drinks
Also have a post workout protein shake. That’s right, in addition to a carb drink during the workout, you should have a protein shake immediately after your workout. Post workout protein does wonders for recovery and allows your hard work in the gym to pay off. Adding some carbs to your shake (berries, honey, almond milk, powder) is a way to sneak in some extra calories and make your shake delightfully effective and delicious.
Bandana Rule #3 – Watch to the Scale
Push your calorie intake until you start gaining mass. You want to do the exact opposite of someone trying to lose weight. Add about 500 calories to your diet and see if your weight starts to increase. If it doesn’t, try reducing your non-resistance exercise (any cardio-based exercise). Still no weight-gain? Add another 500 calories to your diet. Repeat until the scale starts to move.
Bandana Rule #4 – Eat often
You need to eat every two to three hours. Because your metabolic rate is so fast, you need to constantly be fueling your engine. If you want to get bigger, eating needs to become your job. That might mean you need to eat when you’re not hungry. Not everyone understands this, but gaining quality weight for an ectomorph isn’t easy work. You need to stay dedicated and focused upon quality calorie consumption.
Bandana Rule #5 – don’t go hogwild on garbage
Don’t allow ectomorphia to be an excuse to eat crap. Fruits and vegetables are still important. Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are in these foods that are absolutely essential for you to grow and be healthy. Protein is also still essential. Like all good eaters, you should be eating protein with every meal. That means eggs for breakfast, mid-morning nuts (which are mostly fat, but contain protein), chicken for lunch, a post workout protein shake, and steak for dinner. Mmm. Manhood. Just because you can afford to eat garbage without gaining weight doesn’t mean you should. Healthy nutrition choices still make for a healthy body.
Ultimately, getting hulked is not an easy task for the ectomorph, especially consider that most of the information out there is about weight loss. But you need to understand your body and tweak your nutrition accordingly: it’ll make all the difference when going from she-man to Heman.
*Something like this article was originally published on Men’sFitness.com on Jan 10th, 2012.
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