T Nation

The Hardgainer

Guys…I was just thinking the other day about something while stuggling with my cardio. We often think of the “hardgainer” as an often taller, slender person; often with low bodyfat percentages; and an obvious racing metabolism. However, there are a LOT of people who may not have a lot of problem putting on WEIGHT (in the form of fat and water), but STILL have a struggle with putting on lean body mass. So…1)In the most important sense, aren’t they a “hardgainer” too? 2) Wouldn’t their approach to diet and training be the same as the “skinny hard gainer” with the exception of perhaps more thermogenics, cardio and lesser maintenance calories? 3) How many of you think that you may be a “fat hardgainer”? (I really think that I’m a “Fat Hardgainer”!).Your thoughts…(P.S. Chris Shugart…it would be GREAT to hear your thoughts! Is it STILL your diet stupid???)

I admit that I’m a Fat Hardgainer. I’ve tried to add lean mass and keep bf down but it hasn’t worked. These guys that say they can add 15# of muscle in a few months without much fat have got it lucky. I gain at about 3-to-1 fat-to-muscle ratio. That really sucks.

I’m no expert, but I’m thinking that it would be a hormone imbalance along with diet. The classic hardgainer has the metabolism that’s holding them back. What you describe is a tendency to put on fat instead of muscle. Possibly an estrogen problem? Might be worth looking into.

I am the poster child for the fat hardgainer. It seems I have to put forth four times the effort to get half the results. Partly this is due to my joint problems, but it still pisses me off when I see guys who have the most horrible form on the planet with these massive upper bodies and lifting massive weights, when I struggle for modest gain. I’m not exactly jealous, but I’m pretty darned close!

Yes, there is such a thing as a “fat hardgainer”. It is incorrect to characterize
all “hard gainers” as being skinny with a
fast metabolism. And it is disasterous for
a “fat hard gainer” to use the same approach
as a “skinny hard gainer.” IMHO, each person
has a certain “anabolic rate” (exlcuding drug
use). One can improve this “anabolic rate”
through recovery techniques. However, one must
match both training volume/frequency and calorie into with this “anabolic rate”. So
for example, if a “fat hard gainer” eats a
coloric surplus greater than needed to satisfy
his “anabolic rate” surplus calories beyond
this will only turn to fat. I realize that
many people will disagree with me here saying
that eating more can increase one’s anabolic
rate. And to a limited extent, that is true.
But beyond that it’s just going to fat. Both
a skinny hard gainer and a fat hard gainer
need to really focus on recovery and not
over training. The differance is that the skinny hard gainer has a faster metabolism
and thus has to eat more calories to match
the anabolic rate. The fat hard gainer has
a lower caloric need to match that anabolic

Another fat hardgainer in the house. Since I started lifting, I’ve had problems putting on LBM without getting too fat. People that eat like shit and workout like fools, get bigger and stronger than me faster. I’ve accepted it at this point. So far I’ve never had a doctor who’s willing to test me for T and free-T levels, so I’m not sure about them, but I’ve always suspected that I have either low T or high E. It really sucks, because if normal people ate and exercised that way I did, they’d be jacked. I’ll never give up though.

Bill or Brock, what is recommended to lower natural estrogen levels? I was thinking either nolvadex or arimidex.

I hear what you’re saying. Just this weekend I was looking back over my past records and measurements to assess results and plan the next strategy. Amongst all the tangled excel spreadsheets with colorful graphs of various variables emerged the frustrating realization that somehow lean mass barely changed, so all I was mostly doing was changing fat mass. The most drastic changes in lean mass occurred when going the wrong way (down) during the lean-down cycle. Well, I’m thinking that somehow I haven’t quite tapped into the right combo that gets the elite “John Berardi results”. I think I need to get to at least 6% and then go massive eating like crazy, but stop at 12% at most. I’ve also concluded that I need to think more long term (I mean long!), and keep fine-tuning. And, just maybe the magic Mag-10 will rescue me from this water-treading cycle.

Here is another thought I had…could it be that you have sought the writings of the most knowledgeable experts in the field of weight training, have intelligently and consistently developed a plan with clear goals and stuck to it, have trained with the proper modes, intensity and volume to elicit maximal growth day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, have strived to eat for muscular growth more than haphazardly, have kept stress in check, have gotten adequate sleep consistently and then have spent enough years mastering all of these maxims to exhaust all natural ability to grow?

I’m just scared to eat to much-i was fat in HS and it was the worst thing-now that my body fat is 10% or so i’m going to start bulking on monday but i’m scared to death about getting fat-iwant 15lbs more of muscle and will see what happends

Mufasa…SKINNY FAT…huummm… You basically just described my entire
family! I started training at the ripe young age of 13 and have been going
at it for some 20 odd years. I’m now “OLD-YOUNG!” Even with AAALLL
the knowledge I’ve have acquired over the years, I still haven’t quite been
able to get my BF under 10% without the threat of losing SIGNIFICANT
amounts of hard fought muscle! So, for me it has always been a balancing
act between cuts and size.

Question: Does YOUR whole body follow one genetic prototype? Or are you
like me? My legs appear to follow the genetic lineage of Frank Zane, while
my lats and upper back are in line with a drug-free Dorian Yates! SADLY
though, the rest of my gene pool would seem to have been drawn from
the same waters as Eric Cartman’s! :frowning: “Bad genes PISS ME OFF!” :frowning:
A member of the S/F support group, Joey Z.

Chris; any thoughts? Between your articles and commentaries, you always seem to have great insights related to diet, body composition, etc…

I think it has to do partially with being fat before. For example, if you were a fat kid or fat teen then those fat cells are still there, always will be unless you get lipo. So after those fat cells are already there, you can only shrink or enlarge them. I think many “fat hardgainers” go on a bulking cycle and along with muscle gains comes rapid fat gains- all those previously shrunken fat cells are just waiting to balloon back up. Just a theory.

Someone who has this problem (and I do to an extent) much be very careful with mass phases. They are probably better off eating just above maintenance and keeping the diet clean. I think many people see “mass phase” as an excuse to eat way too much of the wrong kinds of foods. Then they go on an excessively extreme diet (the Fat Fast comes to mind) to make up for it. Instead I’d suggest using the Massive Eating guidelines and eating just above maintenance, then dieting in a slow and sane manner. The “fat hardgainer” may also want to add a little cardio while bulking and even use something like T2 or T3 (Bill Roberts style) to control bodyfat.

What is the Bill Roberts method for T2 use?

Mufasa, don’t you think that so called “fat hardgainer” is in fact - insuline insensitive person (maybe with slow metabolic rate - those two things seem to go together)? Anyway, where is the application form for this virtous club?

Actually, Bill was talking about T3, the thyroid drug. He’s written before about using very tiny amounts for long periods of time with no problems. A search should provide details.

I don’t know, Sasa…maybe JB can comment on this one. I really do think that there may be a LOT of “Fat Hardgainers” out there who may be insulin sensitive with “low” metabolic rates. It would be interesting to know…

I seem to follow what Chris Shugart says as I was a fat kid and fat teen. I lost 85 pounds over the last 2 years and got down to 154 and pretty lean and muscular.I am only 5’7 though. I could see my top 4 abs and my bottome two abs were visible but not cut. But I still couldn’t get rid of all the fat on my obliques and lower stomach. Since then I have gone on a bulking phase using massive eating. I started out eating only 3400 calories(and not the 3800 recommended) to see what would happen. I gained about 10 pounds but a lot of it was fat as my waist has jumped up almost 2 inches. Recently I scaled it down to 3000 calories to slow down the fat gain. It definitely makes it hard to achieve your ideal body when you have this problem. The only thing you can do is to keep trying.

Agree, Jason…keep trying…AND BE METICULOUS AND CAREFUL!After a life long stuggle with this weight thing, there is no question in my mind WHATSOVER that our bodies can develop an efficiency at storing fat above and beyond our “genetic programing”. This doesn’t mean that there is no hope at becoming “mean and lean”. What it does mean is that 1)The attempts can be difficult and 2)As I mentioned earlier…we have to pay MUCH more meticulous attention to our diets, supplementation and cardio. Not impossible…but always a struggle.

Hey all, this is a good topic. I hate to rub it in but it is one Ive never had to deal with personally. Im a hypermetabolic machine (due in part to genetics and in part to intense training and eating). However the literature supports a few explanations for why some people may have a greater propensity to put on fat than others…

1) Failure to respond thermogenically to a meal...obese people DO NOT have the characteristic rise in metabolic rate with feeding. Now, you may be saying, "well, Im not obese"...but remember, if you are an easy fat gainer...without exercise and good nutrition, you might be.

  1. Muscle insulin insensitivity…overweight individuals tend to have muscles that dont take up nutrients well and they hypersecrete insulin to try to clear the blood. Their fat cells, however do a nice job of taking care of blood glucose clearance with all that insulin. This, however, has never been differentated as causal or effect. Therefore insulin insensitivity may not cause fat gain…it may in fact be a result of fat gain. Either way, if you can improve insulin sensitivity you can minimize fat gains or improve body comp.

These are just a few thoughts. Anyway, I agree that there a few types of trainees...

  1. Gain more muscle than fat 2) Gain more fat than muscle 3) Gain both in proportion 4) Gain neither very easily.

I’d say, of all those who have done very well with diet and nutrition and have been training consistently for years (all you guys that train off and on or have been only training for a few months cannot posibly know which you are), the most common is the person who has a hard time gaining both. Next comes the person who gains fat first. Then the person who gains both. Then the person who gains muscle easily and no fat. I’m the person who has a hard time gaining both. So what can you do about it? You’ve gotta learn your body and figure out how to eat and train within the framework of your genetics. It takes years of discipline, dedication, and patience to do this. There is no substitute for putting in your time.

One suggestion for those on this topic is to try to mimic the body's thermogenic response to meals with short acting thermogenic supplements. These, taken with meals, may be a good bet. Just as long as you are sure to keep taking lots of good omega 3 fats to keep your insulin sensitivity high.

As usual John makes a great piont describing
the four “gainer types”. But one thing worth
adding to that is I think your “gainer type”
can change over time - depending on various
factors including training age. The first
two years I was training, I gained muscle
faster than fat. The next several years, I
gained muscle and fat at equal rates.
The past two years the tendecy has been to
gain fat faster than muscle - like my body
doesn’t “want” to hold any more muscle, so
whenever I eat a major kcal surplus it
converts more to fat than muscle. So perhaps,
for good or bad, your “gainer type” may change
over time?