Skinny Guy Trying to Build Muscle

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    Sep 17, 2013 6:50 PM GMT
    I'm about 6'1 and have always been in the 140-155 lbs range. I've been a vegetarian my entire life, and was wondering what would be the best way to start to build muscle. Should I start by just lifting small weights and working my way up? I'm trying to get a more balanced diet as well.

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
  • Hunkymonkey

    Posts: 215

    Sep 17, 2013 7:27 PM GMT
    Eat, eat, eat. It's about calories, spread evenly through your waking hours. I try to eat every 2.5 - 3 hours. When you train to add muscle mass, you must take in more calories than you expend. Make sure you get protein - at least 40% of your diet. As for training, there are a lot of good beginner routines. The best for you are ones that emphasize compound movements (ones the involve more than a single muscle group) that put you in the gym 3 to 4 times a week, doing each body part once in the week. You won't be able to lift heavy at first, so don't worry about it. Focus on conditioning your body so it can get stronger and handle heavier weights. Don't overtrain and stay in the gym too long. Don't do too many exercises per body part. Always keep a log of your exercises: sets, reps, weights. Ultimately, the key is consistency. You are at the prime age to put your body on the path to results. Your hormones are high and that will put on the muscle if you do the right things from the start and keep at it. A Mr. Olympia (I forget which) once said, it doesn't take a year or five years to build a good body. It takes fifteen.

    This is a good beginner's template:
    Chest: decline press, incline press, flyes
    Back: wide grip pulldowns (overhand grip) or chinups (underhand grip), rowing, narrow grip pulldowns (underhand grip), rear delt flyes
    Shoulders: military press, lateral dumbbell raises (aka flyes), front dumbbell raises.
    Legs: squats, hack squats, leg extensions, leg curls, standing calves, seated calves
    Biceps: barbell curls or preacher curls, concentration curls, reverse grip barbell curls
    Triceps: cable pushdowns, reverse grip cable pulldowns
    abs: lower abs first, then upper abs.
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    Sep 18, 2013 12:09 AM GMT
    As a fellow tall guy (6'2") who weighted 140lbs 5 years ago, I came from an even deeper hole (no pun intended). I agree with HunkyMonkey. You will need to eat quality foods generously and consistently. Below is my list of difficulties you may encounter during your journey:

    - Meal schedule: logistics, price, socialization and motivation are key factors for your growth. You'll have to have a schedule for buying the quality foods (because junk food is more convenient to buy); the price (supplements and natural foods can be expensive); how to deal with people eating junk food around you and demotivating you since they'll claim "but I'm not seeing any results"

    - Visible results: you are tall AND ectomorph. It takes a shitload of mass to show any noticeable results for your height. Learn how to deal with people saying it's not working for you. Learn to measure your fat ratio and weight so you can track a progress that the mirror may take much longer to show.

    - Patience: again... you are tall AND ectomorph. You will grow very fast in the first year, still fast in the second and third year, slower in the fourth year and barely anything in the fifth year onwards. After the 5th year you may take a whole year to gain what it took just a few months during your first year. This is the point where most start using steroids: because it's tough having to wait 10 more years after 5 years of investment have passed already, especially if your sex and love life depend on it. Shorter guys won't have to wait as much as you for results and may demotivate you along the way saying you're doing it wrong.
  • MrPapo317

    Posts: 515

    Sep 18, 2013 12:49 AM GMT
    being ecto is overrated, but i eat about every 3 hours and 2 protein shakes a day.
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    Sep 18, 2013 12:57 AM GMT
    StrongLifts 5x5 is the best beginner program.

    Try gaining no more than 20 pounds in about 3-6 months. Eat 6 meals a day focusing on lean meats (beef, chicken and fish) complex carbs (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice) and good fats like olive oil.

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    Sep 18, 2013 9:53 AM GMT
    Eat protein!

    If you do any aerobic exercise, you will have to cut back or stop.

    As an ectomorph, that was the only way I was able to gain weight.

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    Sep 18, 2013 12:46 PM GMT
    Aristoshark saidAnd remember that some of us think you ectomorphs are crazy hot just as you are.

    If only the ones I find attractive agreed...
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    Sep 18, 2013 1:46 PM GMT
    I was a vegetarian for 5 years, eating only healthy food (absolutely no junk food), and could not gain weight. But I think it would have worked if I had consumed lots of healthy fat. I am no longer a vegetarian, but consume around 150g of olive oil per day. You can put extra virgin olive oil on just about everything. And you can eat coconut oil, coconut milk (with full fat contact, great for smoothies and curried dished), nuts seeds, and avocado.
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    Sep 18, 2013 5:26 PM GMT
    Study every thing on this. In particular, read up on sacroplasmic hypertrophy.

    Gaining weight is a function of calories, unless you're sick.

    You should likely go get a differential CBC, a fasting lipid panel, a CMP, a thyroid, and a free testosterone test, just to make sure you are inbounds.

    If you eat, you'll gain. It's that very simple.

    For folks like you, training for muscular hypertrophy with low reps and heavy weights will be counter productive to your goals. Lighter weights, 8 to 25 reps, and lots of calories are what you need.

    Anyone can gain weight.

    Study everything you can on nutrition, and everything you can on lifting. and this site are good places to start.

    If you don't eat enough, though, or don't train for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, you just aren't going to get bigger and heavier. You have to be anabolic, hydrated, and continually recover and stimulate.

    As the poster above mentioned, poly and mono fats (you can research this on your own) will not just add good calories, but are also essential in any heart healthy diet.

    A low fat diet is not usually good for you. A Mediterranean diet is probably the best choice for both gains and cardiovascular health.

    Too much red meat should be avoided. It contains a protein called TMAO that accelerates heart disease, as well as being high in saturated fat.
  • Hunkymonkey

    Posts: 215

    Sep 18, 2013 7:29 PM GMT
    MrPapo317 saidbeing ecto is overrated, but i eat about every 3 hours and 2 protein shakes a day.


    Olive oil is a great source of calories and it doesn't spike your blood sugar (and then insulin) like carbs. I put it in every protein shake. And I agree with Chuckie about red meat. Chicken, fish, pork, rabbit are all good. I can't place where I read it, but it sticks in my mind that turkey is lacking one amino acid and you have to find it in foods like bread or rice. Maybe you can find that info via the google. I wasn't able to.

    Also, make sure you are taking l-leucine. Of the three BCAAs, it is the most important one, especially for men over 40. It helps turn on the anabolic process that synthesizes muscle from protein. I take about 5 gr per protein shake. If you are using BCAAs, buy one that has a 2:1:1 ratio, where 2 is the value for l-leucine.
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    Sep 18, 2013 9:05 PM GMT
    First of all, ignore the guy here who said take steroids. I hope he was kidding.

    Just eat right and lift lift lift. You're only 19, when you get into your twenties you'll fill out...and you'll fill out more if you stay lifting. What you already have going for you is your muscle tone and low body fat. You already look good, with a little more definition you'll look awesome.

    And remember, it takes time and commitment. It's not going to happen overnight.

  • Destinharbor

    Posts: 4341

    Sep 18, 2013 9:23 PM GMT
    Seriously, man, don't push it. You'll end up one of those skinny guys with a gut. Just eat lots of clean protein and continue to work out. I was just about like you until 35, then wham! I actually kept a scale in the bathroom to check every day to make sure I didn't LOSE weight. Then all of a sudden the metabolism shifted. You can't fight your genetic code and by the way, you look great! Though gym time is always good. Stay away from a lot of cardio and stick with the strength work.
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    Sep 18, 2013 11:37 PM GMT
    RIGuy60 saidFirst of all, ignore the guy here who said take steroids. I hope he was kidding.

    I hope you retract yourself and quote the part where I tell him to use steroids. Throughout the whole text I urged him to have patience and mentioned that many of those who lose it end up using steroids.
  • gamble

    Posts: 48

    Sep 19, 2013 7:30 AM GMT
    Ok, so I'm not exactly a bodybuilder myself, but I have been pretty skinny all my life and despite years of (off-and-on) working out and trying to gain weight have finally started making gains this last year so maybe my experience will be useful. For a naturally skinny guy it really is mostly about eating enough food so that's the bulk of my advice.

    1) Get a calorie counting app:
    I use LoseIt! but there are many. Until I took a comprehensive survey of how many calories I was eating on a daily basis, I had no idea what my intake was, and because I'd never had to worry about calories before I really didn't have a good intuition for how many calories or grams of protein are in common foods. Use it for a few days without altering your diet and then use it as a guide to make sure that you're gaining enough at every meal and throughout the day. It will train you to feel a certain amount of fullness and you'll start to notice when you don't have food in your belly. After a while you probably won't need it anymore and (pardon the pun) rely on your gut. As a vegetarian, I'm sure you're used to combining grains and pulses, just make sure you're getting enough of it all and lay in on the higher-protein foods like egg, cheese, milk, whole-grains, peanut butter, and tempeh as well as good fats like flax, olive oil, and avocado.

    2) Cook in bulk:
    Never, ever, ever cook just enough of something for one meal. This is useful advice for anybody who doesn't want to be eating out all of the time, but it's especially useful for someone trying to gain weight. If you're on a meal plan in college USE IT. Having access of tons of ready-made food in an all-you-can-eat-ish scenario is definitely to your advantage.

    3) Weight gaining shakes:
    I'm a little sketched out by store bought weight gainers - many of them are full of sugars, empty calories, or just a long list of chemicals I don't want to sort through - so I just buy protein powder that has a simple, short ingredients list and get into the habit of making homemade shakes in the morning to have throughout the day. They taste way better and are certainly better for you. One that I make often is (per serving):

    3/4 cup of milk
    1 banana
    2 tbsp peanut butter
    1 scoop protein powder
    1/4 cup whole oats ground in a coffee mill
    (1 tbsp of flax oil)
    (1 tbsp probiotic)

    4) Don't get overwhelmed:
    Think of fitness and nutrition like learning a language. The amount of information (and misinformation) available to you when you're starting to work out can be daunting, but the important thing is to be moving in the right direction. You'll never learn a language if you try to wait until your grammar is perfect to try to speak, and similarly it's impossible to learn a new language without going through a period where you look/sound like an idiot. Just pick a workout plan that looks sensible and start lifting regularly - you can learn more as you go. Having said that, it's important that you don't injure yourself and maintain proper form so...

    5) Make a gym buddy:
    I always assumed that I would be too wimpy, uninformed, or unadvanced to be a good gym buddy to anybody until I got better at it, but that was pretty silly. If you're a fun enough person to hang out with for an hour that's all most people are really looking for, and many people enjoy being able to pay forward all of the information that other people gave them along the way. Find one at your gym, though other friends, or online, pick someone who knows more than you and has a reasonably comparable physiology/metabolism. Just take any non-trainer's advice with a grain of salt and err on the side of caution.

    Give it time:
    It's a slow process for everyone, and also consider that everyone's metabolism slows with age. The guys who bulk up easily when they're 19 are going to have to work harder to keep weight off when they get older whereas you'll be settling into a good range for the kind of body you want.
  • Hunkymonkey

    Posts: 215

    Sep 19, 2013 10:57 AM GMT
    Regarding protein, buy high quality. On the one hand, WPI (whey protein isolate0 is the highest quality. WPI must be a minimum of 90% protein. WPC (whey protein concentrate), on the other hand, can range from 35% to 85% protein and you never really know what percentage you are getting. It isn't in the interest of protein companies to put that on the label. Most blends use both. On the other hand, WPI has immunoglobulins stripped out during the filtration process, while they do remain in WPC. Personally, I use WPI. the thing to know about WPI and WPC is that they run through your digestive system in about 90 minutes. At bed time, a protein with casein is a good choice, as it breaks down slowly (around 6 hours) while you sleep. For that, I like cottage cheese. Bear in mind that dairy, like milk, has carbs, which in your case, is not a bad thing.
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    Sep 11, 2014 5:55 AM GMT
    Shit, I should be eating better lol.
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Sep 11, 2014 6:00 AM GMT
    At 20 and a classic ectomorph you might have to wait til your metabolism slows. No worries keep hitting the gym. If you want it bad enough muscle will come. Beats the shit outta short and fat!
  • vhotti26

    Posts: 287

    Sep 11, 2014 3:49 PM GMT
    JimiB saidStrongLifts 5x5 is the best beginner program.

    Try gaining no more than 20 pounds in about 3-6 months. Eat 6 meals a day focusing on lean meats (beef, chicken and fish) complex carbs (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice) and good fats like olive oil.


    Couldn't agree more, Stronglifts or Rippletits 5x5 is a great program to start with.
    Don't start with any kind of bodybuilding program or body part splits, they will stall you quickly and kill your motivation.

    You need a decent strength base first. 5x5 programs do that for you, but only if you are consequent, don't quit; and most importantly eat properly!
    From my experience there isn't anything like ectomorphism or stuff like that. I used to think my entire teen years that I was an ectomorph, when in reality I just wasn't eating right.

    And now for the most important piece of advice that you will ever get:

    If you go in the gym, don't compare yourself to others. Put on the blinds. Focus on yourself. You are not in the gym to lift more than the guy next to you, you are in the gym to lift more than you yourself lifted the last time you were there. This is all there is to it. Fuck the others, you are in a battle with yourself. Don't let others fool you into putting too much weight on the bar. See anyone with a similar body/stature lift more? Don't copy him. Chances are his form is terrible and he is going to stall quickly.

    Go to the gym, start with the bar only and add a small amount of weight every time you go. This may seem underwhelming at first, but it's a sure fire way to success.