The Evolution of a Hardgainer

By Brandon Cook

a picture of how men have evolved from lean to fat

(The devolution of modern man thanks to Mickey D’s)

Now I know what I’m about to say in this blog post is somewhat
debatable, at least according to those people who believe the Earth is
flat, only 2,000 years old, and is still the center of the universe!
However, I’m going to say it anyway.

Modern scientists estimate the age of the universe to be over 15
billion years old. The Earth itself is over 4 billion years old, while
Modern man, as a species evolved a little over 200,000 years ago.

There I said it… yes I believe in evolution, it just seems to make
sense. Yet, I still consider myself to be a spiritual person and believe
in God… maybe not your God, but a higher intelligence none-the-less.

Now before you close the browser because you think I’m about to get all controversial on you; calm down, take a deep breath and open your mind to what evolution can teach a hardgainer, like yourself, about building muscle and getting the body and life you’ve always dreamed of.

Survival of the Fittest (Understanding Your Primal Purpose)

If there is one goal or purpose that every species on the planet has in common on a primal, fundamental level- it is the ability to SURVIVE and to pass on its genes to the next generation. Humans are no exception.

Your body is an organism that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and during that time the human body has become quite accomplished at doing so (surviving that is.) Muscle mass and strength definitely have a role in our survival but it’s not as big of a role as one may think. In fact, the human body has little need or desire to build muscle mass beyond the demands of what it needs to survive in its specific environment.

Did you get that? That last sentence is crucial to understand if you ever hope to pack any mass onto your ectomorphic frame. It’s so important that if you simply grasped this truth alone you’d be well on your way to an awesome, muscular physique. Don’t worry; I’ll repeat it in a slightly different way:

THE BUILD UP OF MUSCULAR MASS IS A NATURAL RESPONSE TO THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH YOUR MUSCLES HAVE BEEN PLACED.

Let me explain!

Muscle is a calorically expensive tissue to maintain for the body. It requires a constant influx of calories to sustain and even more calories in order to increase in muscular size. The body doesn’t care how beautiful and sexy muscle is (only you do.) It only knows that muscle is costly, requiring lots of energy that could be used for more important matters… like keeping your skinny butt alive!

You know the cliché, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Well this
applies directly to lean muscle mass. If your body has little need for
excess muscle, it will break it down and use it as fuel so that it can
be a more efficient survival machine.

This is especially important to consider for us hardgainers.

Remember, a hardgainer’s metabolism is so fast that the body gobbles
up calories at a higher than normal level. This forces our body to
sacrifice our muscle tissue in the process to meet any caloric deficit
caused by a lack of food intake. This is one of the reasons why you are
so skinny!

Now here is what you need to know. If the demands on the body are
such that the body feels that what it needs to survive IS more muscle,
then by all means it will expend the energy necessary to build and
maintain it. However, it will do so only if certain conditions are met
first. We’ll get to those in a minute.

The key principle to grasp at this point is that you must convince
the body that its survival is at stake and that the only way for it to
survive is to build more muscle. You must create an environment that
DEMANDS the need for more muscle.

You will do this by gradually lifting heavier and heavier weights in a
few basic exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell rows,
pull-ups, dips, and overhead presses.

Notice I didn’t say barbell curls or triceps kickbacks, or any of the
other isolation exercises you see most people doing in the gym. That is
because isolation exercises that involve only one joint do not put
enough demand on the body to threaten its very survival. Not like
compound exercises do. Compound exercises use several joints and
stimulate multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Did I mention that they are a lot harder?

That’s why most people would prefer to do tons of isolation exercises
even though they are practically doing nothing for them and they look
the same month after month. Don’t get me wrong, isolation exercises have
their place, but not for skinny guys trying to build a solid, muscular foundation.

In fact, with just two of the hardest compound exercises on that list
(the squat and the deadlift) you can stimulate over 70% of your body’s
musculature and kick in the survival response, which will stimulate your
body to produce more muscle all over your body. Throw in a couple sets
of bench presses and barbell rows and you’ve just hit your entire body
hard.

Three Conditions for Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth)

There are three basic conditions that must be met before your body
will expend the energy to undergo muscle synthesis, which is also know
as muscular hypertrophy. We just discussed the first one, but let’s take
a closer look at all three together:

1. You MUST create a physical stimulus effect on the body that will
be perceived as a threat to its very survival… without (and this is
important) actually killing yourself.

2. You MUST create an internal anabolic environment that provides
your body with all of the water, macro- and micronutrients that it needs
to synthesize muscle tissue.

3. You MUST create an external anabolic environment that allows the
bodily systems (muscles, nervous system, skeletal system, etc.) just
enough time to recover from the physical stimulus that was utilized.

In simpler words you must lift some heavy a$$ weights, stuff your
face with some quality food and water, and get enough rest and sleep to
recover before repeating the process. Simple huh?

Well not so fast there buddy, here’s the catch… every body is unique.
Each person will have to determine for him or herself what is the right
amount of stimulus? What is the right amount of food? What is the right
amount of rest?

This is the reason why some workouts will work for some people and
not others. This is the reason why some people can train six days a week
and others require only two or three days. This is why certain diets
may work for you, but not for others. This is why people on steroids and
with great genetics cannot help you achieve your goals if you’re
training naturally. What works for them, will most likely not work for
you. You’re different. You’re unique. Never forget that.

Even though everybody is unique, certain somatotypes (link to last
blog) have been established to classify people into three distinct
categories. From these categories we can determine where we fit into the
puzzle and what training, nutrition, and recovery methods will be most
suitable for our specific body type.

This is why if you are an ectomorph you would do best to find a trainer who knows and understands the principles of ectomorphic training, preferably someone who is an ectomorph
himself. That way you can get on the fast track to getting huge by
using the principles that work best for your particular genetics.

Look at it this way; if you’re an ectomorph… you’re definitely on the right website!

With that being said let’s dive a little deeper into how you can meet the second condition for muscle growth.

Feeding the Beast (The Hardgainer’s Biggest Dilemma)

Once you have stimulated your muscles through heavy weight training using compound exercises; a couple things have happened.

• You have drained your body of its energy (glycogen) stores,
• You have damaged the muscle fibers causing microscopic tears in them, and
• You have stressed your joints, ligaments, and nervous system to the max.

After you drag your tired butt out of the gym… your body is in shock
and broken down and going into repair mode. You’re probably getting a
little hungry by this time, which is your body’s way of saying… “I need
energy to repair these systems.” Even if you’re not hungry, you’d be
quite wise to eat a mix of protein and carbohydrates at this time. The
food and nutrients you eat throughout the day and especially after your
workouts will be the ultimate determinant of whether you gain muscle,
lose fat, or look the same.

Why is nutrition so vitally important to gaining muscle?

To answer this let’s use a metaphor. For instance, let’s say your
house was in a hurricane. The roof blew off and was damaged badly and is
in dire need of repairs. Just like you can’t rebuild your house without
the necessary building supplies of wood, bricks, mortar, nails,
shingles, etc., your body cannot rebuild itself without the proper
nutrients. With me so far? Good!

Let’s also say that you decide to add a screen porch onto your house
as well, since you would like to have a bigger, better house than you
had before. Well, in that case, you’re going to need even more building
supplies to make that happen. This is all pretty straight forward.

Well, your body is the same way. If you want to repair your muscles,
and then grow even bigger, better muscles; your body is going to have to
have a surplus of calories (building materials) at its disposal. If you
don’t supply the correct amount of building materials to make this
happen, don’t be surprised when your house and screen porch doesn’t look
the way you want it to.

That’s just reality. You can whine and complain all you want, but you cannot build something out of nothing.

Now here’s the hardgainer’s biggest dilemma. Someone who has an ectomorph body type has a super fast, rapid metabolism.
They can typically eat, and eat, and eat and never gain weight. “Oh
you’re so lucky” is what they commonly hear from most people, but to the
hardgainer… They don’t feel so lucky. In fact it feels more like a curse, especially if they’re goal is to get huge.

When you have a hyper-metabolism your body is burning calories left
and right. It’s like you’ve supplied plenty of building materials for
your house, but in the middle of the night thieves are creeping onto the
scene and ganking your precious building supplies. “Bad thieves”, you
yell, but they don’t care about you or your dream house. And to make
matters worse the cops ain’t coming either. (insert smiley face)

Thus, for the ectomorph “feeding the beast” is a rather daunting
chore, plan on eating more food than you’ve ever eaten before in your
life. To determine your basic caloric requirement multiply your
bodyweight times a factor of 20. For example if you weigh 150lbs,
multiply that by 20 and you’ll get 3,000. Thus, you’ve determined that
you need to eat at least 3,000 calories a day. This is a fairly
simplistic method of approach to this, but it is a good starting point
and you can adjust the amount of calories based on your results or lack
thereof.

Here are a few nutrition tips to get you started in the right direction:

1. Eat 6 meals a day (eat a meal every 3 hours)
2. Eat protein and carbohydrates at every meal
3. Make sure you include healthy fats like olive oil, flax seeds, fish oils, etc.
4. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (the more the merrier)
5. Get at least 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day
6. Drink at least a gallon of water each day
7. Take a daily multi-vitamin
8. Drink 2-3 cups of green tea daily

The best approach to quality nutrition
is to use natural, organic whole foods whenever possible. However, it
can be difficult to use whole foods for every meal and that’s were some
people choose to use supplements like meal replacements, protein
powders, and nutrition bars. This is fine, to an extent. Yet please
remember that supplements can never replace whole foods, so you’ll want
real food to make up the largest majority of your calories. Whole foods
are more bioavailable, contain more vitamins, nutrients, phytochemicals,
antioxidants and all of the great stuff that your body needs to grow
bigger and stronger.

When I refer to whole foods, I’m referring to foods that have been
around for thousands of years and typically stuff that grows in the
ground, on top of the ground, or lives on the land, or in the ocean.
Remember, anything that is man made is practically stripped of most of
its nutrients due to processing, pasteurizing, and other manufacturing
methods. This includes most (if not all) fast foods, T.V. dinners, stuff
in boxes, cans, and all the fancy packaging you find lining the shelves
of the supermarkets. The makers of these products don’t care about your
health, only about your money. Nature knows exactly what the body needs
and doesn’t have a profit motive, so she is a better choice 99% of the
time!

Become more conscious of what you put in your body, after all your
life depends on it. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables of all kinds
(a wide variety is very important), whole grain bread, pasta and other
grains, chicken breasts, turkey, salmon, tuna and other fish, lean beef,
nuts, seeds, beans, brown rice, cheese, milk, yogurt, olive oil, eggs,
etc.

The thing I’ve learned is that the closer your diet resembles the
diet of a caveman or cave woman, the better off you’ll be. These are the
foods that humans have evolved and survived on for thousands of years.
Also, make sure to buy organic and natural foods whenever possible. It’s
not only what you eat, but what your food ate and/or how it was grown
and processed.

If you have trouble getting in your daily allotment of fruits and
vegetables, consider buying a juicer and making fresh, natural juices at
home (and NO, pre-packaged juices do not count.) It can get a little
expensive buying all of the produce, but it is well worth it. You can
make great tasting blends of fruits and vegetables that will provide
your body with all of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that it is
craving. I even came up with a super testosterone boosting juice that
blends, garlic, brussell sprouts, purple cabbage, broccoli, carrot,
tomato, apple and half a lemon. Sounds nasty, but it actually tastes
quite good.

Continue to read, learn, and educate yourself about what it means to
eat optimally and maintain quality nutrition. Alas, if you don’t feed
the beast… you cannot grow!

The Sleeping Dragon (Your Excuse to Be Lazy… Well not exactly!)

It has become almost a cliché in the bodybuilding world that “Your
muscles do not grow while you’re inside the gym, but after you leave the
gym.”

It’s quite true! What you do over the next 24-72 hours after leaving
the gym will be the ultimate determinant of whether your muscles repair
themselves and grow bigger, simply stay the same, or worst of all… get
smaller.

Your intense workout (the first condition for muscle growth) is
nothing but the stimulus that sends a message to your brain “Whoa… that
was tough, we need more muscle in case we ever have to meet that
challenge again.” Your body goes to work repairing the damage and if
you’re lucky overcompensating by building new muscle tissue.

Now, you know from reading this article that your body cannot grow
new muscle unless you give it the quality nutrients (the second
condition for muscle growth) that it needs to make this restructuring
process happen.

Alas, we’ve come to the final piece of the puzzle: your muscles and
they’re correlated systems (i.e. nervous system, joints, ligaments,
etc.) must be allowed to fully recover before you repeat the process by
working out again.

In a sense your muscles become like a sleeping dragon. The last thing
you want to do is disturb a sleeping dragon before it gets its beauty
sleep. “Why?” some idiot always asks. ? Duh, because disturbing a
sleeping dragon is not going to help you accomplish your goals in life.
Disturbing a sleeping dragon is a sure fired way to get burned, and it
is very detrimental to your health and safety.

Well, the same thing applies to your muscles. If your muscles and
other systems do not fully recover before you train them again, you
short-circuit the muscle growth developmental process. Not only have you
stopped your muscles from recovering, repairing, and growing larger,
you’ve also put yourself at risk of overtraining. Overtraining can lead
to burn-out, injury, and even muscle loss.

In other words, like waking a sleeping dragon, working out again
before your body has recovered will not help you accomplish your goals
in life (which I assume is to build muscle). It is also a sure fired way
to burn-out (from overtraining) and it is very detrimental to your
health and safety (by putting you at risk of overuse injury.)

This is especially important for hardgainers and ectomorphs to
understand, because our body type has poor recovery capacity and is
exceptionally prone to overtraining and injury. Therefore, once you have
worked out and hit your muscles with a short dose of high intensity
training, recovering becomes your main mission.

Depending on how well your body recovers from intense training you
will need to allow 48-72 hours before training with weights again. Yes,
some people can train every other day, but it all depends on your
genetics, how intense your workouts are, and the recovery methods you
incorporate into your training.

In case you may be wondering how pro-bodybuilders are able to train
two times a day, six days a week… it all comes back to super genetics
and a small pharmaceutical lab they have going on for them. Anabolic
drugs allow someone to train and recover at super-human speeds. Intense
weight training everyday is suicide for the natural hardgainer.

Here are a couple tips and methods you can use to aid in the recovery
process and guarantee bigger, stronger, better quality muscles:

1. Get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
2. Get a massage, use a foam roller, tennis ball or massage yourself.
3. Use ice and heat therapy on your muscles. Ice is a miracle healer.
4. Take contrast showers. Alternate cold/hot water for several cycles.
5. Use meditation, tai chi, and other healing modalities.
6. Take a mineral bath using Epsom salt or other mineral salts.
7. Get in the hot-tub or sauna.
8. Take a power nap during the day.
9. Limit cardio and other extracurricular activities.
10. Spend time stretching and lengthening those muscles.

Just remember that you are the one that wants to have big, strong,
sexy muscles. Your body could care less. Its goal is your survival. If
you want it to build muscle you have to work with your body and your
genetics, not against them. You have to create a demand for muscle that
the body cannot ignore. Then you have to feed your body so that it has
the nutrients it needs for protein synthesis and cellular restructuring.
After that, you just have to allow your body the time that it needs to
grow, repair, and recover. Now get to it!

To Your Success in Training and in Life,

Brandon Cook

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