If your goal is to gain mass, but you’re naturally very lean then you might need a helping hand. For the purpose of this article, we’ll avoid using the term ‘skinny', as to me, that’s as derogatory as the ‘f’ word (that’s FAT, just to be clear). One of the biggest conundrums is whether you should opt for a whey protein supplement or a mass gainer; I’ll help to answer this, below.
Set Realistic Targets
Gaining muscle mass is often a lengthy feat that requires dedication; it’s a combination of resistance training and nutrition that will help to ensure your success. Realistically, you can expect to achieve maximum gains of 1-2lbs of muscle per month. Don’t feel too disheartened by this, since you will certainly see changes to your strength, flexibility and stamina. Your goal is essentially, a work in progress.
Quality over Quantity
As a lean individual, it can almost seem as if you have hollow legs. No matter what you eat, you don’t seem able to make the progress you want (can you identify?). However, there’s something important to acknowledge here; it can be easy to underestimate your calorific intake. Remember that all calories were not created equal, and thus, you might not be getting an adequate intake of quality macros (protein, carbs and fats) in order to foster a size increase.
Your diet supplies the raw materials to support muscle development, which is why protein is so important – it’s the nutrient central to all growth and repair processes throughout the body. Whilst the importance of diet cannot be stressed enough, for most, meeting your protein requirements is pretty challenging through food alone; this is where supplements come in. They can help you to maintain a positive, muscle-building state – known as hypertrophy.
Mass… or Pass?
Mass gainers are essentially, a protein shake, but they’re also usually high on the carb front to provide a concentrated source of calories. It’s worth noting that they’re not always an automatic solution; overuse can lead to an unwanted increase in body fat, as opposed to muscle. Whilst gainers can certainly help with the ‘hollow leg syndrome’, you might find that once you significantly increase your calorie intake, those legs ain’t so hollow after all. Yes, gaining muscle requires calories, but unless you get your macros spot on, you can sometimes end up tipping the balance unfavourably… and end up with ‘carb belly’.
It’s probably best to use a bit of trial and error, here. More is not always… well – more. You might want to invest in a good quality whey protein supplement (or veggie equivalent) – one that’s lean and low in carbs, plus a mass gainer (or veggie equivalent). That way, you can factor in the gainer gradually and gauge its effects, increasing its frequency/quantity if need be. Whey protein is a staple that can help you avoid putting on too much body fat. Whilst individual requirements can vary, I’d suggest starting with two servings of whey, and one serving of gainer daily (as a rule of thumb), swapping this around as you progress.
Unfortunately, it’s case of being really, really patient! Yes, training can and does have a positive effect on the metabolism, but don’t try to push these boundaries too early on. Avoid the temptation to eat stodge in the belief this will stack up those calories (put down the burger!). In doing so, you’ll receive little in the way of nutritional value – something that isn’t conducive to your training strategy, long-term.
Think of yourself as a sculpture – a fine work of art, if you will (you can’t see me, but I’m winking at you). Such feats are not accomplished overnight. Every day is an opportunity to chisel a morsel here; add definition there. Whilst the process can definitely be tedious, the end result is worthwhile. Always remember the old adage (you know – the one with the tortoise): slowly but surely wins the race. In any case, you’re not racing anyone but yourself, so aim high, but choose not to cut any corners.