Are you tired of the your star-crossed skinny physique? If you are, then your are not alone. In fact, many skinny guys want to pack on muscle. If this sounds like you, then you have come to the right place. Because today I will be answering the question “how can I gain muscle fast?”
To gain muscle fast, you need to combine a weigh training programme with a diet plan. Weight training volume should be optimised for muscle growth. And your diet plan should provide a caloric surplus, as well as a high protein intake. This provides the stimulus required to build muscle fast.
2 years ago, I too was a skinny guy weighing in at 130 pounds. Nowadays, I’m weighing in at around 165 pounds with 12% body fat. Therefore, I know your struggles.
But I also know you can turn things around, just like I did!
So let’s jump right in (and get some muscle on that skinny frame)!
- How Can I Gain Muscle Fast?
- Requirement #1: Regular And Intense Resistance Training To Promote Muscle Growth
- Requirement #2: A Positive Calorie Balance And High Protein Diet To Fuel Muscle Growth
- Requirement #3: Getting Sufficient Rest To Facilitate The Muscle Repair Process
- 14 Practical Tips To Gain Muscle Fast
- Nutrition Tips To Gain Muscle Fast
- Training Tips To Gain Muscle Fast
- How Fast Can You Expect To Gain Muscle?
- My Gain Muscle Fast Troubleshooter
How Can I Gain Muscle Fast?
In theory, gaining muscle fast is not a hard objective to accomplish.
In fact, as Adrian Guščia from Primer Magazine explains, there are really only 3 requirements to gaining muscle fast (if you want a really oversimplified view on the matter):
- Performing regular and intense resistance training.
- Eating a positive calorie balance.
- Getting sufficient rest.
As a result of satisfying all 3 of these requirements, you will gain muscle quickly.
Allow me to explain further how these 3 requirements build muscle.
Requirement #1: Regular And Intense Resistance Training To Promote Muscle Growth
Firstly, gaining muscle fast requires regular and intense resistance training to promote muscle growth. And I stress the words regular and intense!
So what constitutes as regular and intense resistance training?
In terms of number of training days, Stephen Bergeron from Built Lean recommends 2-4 workouts per week. And I think this is a good target to aim for skinny dudes who are new to weight lifting.
However, in my personal opinion, you should aim to increase to 3-6 workouts per week once your body has adapted to your weight training programme.
In terms of weight, Mark Barroso from Celucor recommends lifting at 50-75% of your 1 rep max for any specified exercise. If you are a skinny guy who is just beginning your training regime, then go for the lower end of that spectrum.
In terms of set number, Shane and Michael from Outlift suggest anywhere between 8-25 sets per muscle per week. Furthermore, Mike Dewar from Fitbod recommends 5-15 reps per set for muscular hypertrophy (growth_.
That’s a lot of numbers I have just thrown at you! So what would I recommend?
For a skinny newbie, I would always recommend around 12 sets (per muscle per week), with 8 reps per set, at 70% of 1 rep max, spread over 2 to 4 training days (increase to 3 to 6 workouts once you have adapted).
This is how I began my lifting journey, and I know it works! If this is combined with a suitable diet, you should be able to quickly gain muscle.
Check out my guide to learn how much weight you should be lifting as a beginner!
Why Regular Resistance Training Allows You To Gain Muscle Fast?
So why does regular and intense resistance training build muscle quickly?
As Dr Michael Karns from University Hospital explains, this kind of physical exertion causes micro-damage to your muscle fibres. And as a result, the body instigates a repair response to heal the damaged muscle fibres.
Furthermore, when this process is repeated over and again (through regular resistance training), muscle mass will accumulate. And this leads to you gaining muscle.
Therefore, to build muscle quickly, you need to challenge your muscles with the workloads I described above!
However, muscle mass accumulation will only happen if you provide your body the right nutritional environment.
And this brings me to to the second requirement to gaining muscle fast.
Requirement #2: A Positive Calorie Balance And High Protein Diet To Fuel Muscle Growth
The second requirement for gaining muscle fast, is to be in a positive calorie balance with high-protein to drive muscle growth.
So what do I mean by positive calorie balance?
A positive calorie balance simply means that you are eating more calories than you are burning. And this is also called a caloric surplus.
And how do you know if you are in a caloric surplus?
In order to know for sure, you will have to determine your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
Once you have determined your TDEE, you can count your calories to make sure you are consuming more calories than your TDEE.
Now, you may be asking how many extra calories you should consume?
Emmie Satrazemis from Trifecta Nutrition recommends adding 5-10% to your TDEE in order to build lean muscle.
In other words, if your TDEE is 2500 calories, then you should aim to consume 2625-2750 calories every day.
As a skinny guy, I personally think this is a good target to aim for. I have tried both lean bulks (10% calorie surplus) and dirty bulks (20+% calorie surplus).
And I can honestly say the dirty bulks lead to a lot of extra fat, with very little noticeable muscle benefits.
Why Does A Caloric Surplus Allow You To Gain Muscle Fast?
So why does a caloric surplus allow you to quickly gain muscle?
As I described earlier, resistance training causes damage and repair in your muscles. And when this repeatedly happens, your muscle becomes larger.
However, I didn’t mention that this process is also energy intensive. In other words, the muscle repair process requires energy!
And as Maggie Morgan from Fitbod explains, the calories which we consume will provide the fuel for muscle growth!
If you were to deny your body of calories, it would simply break down your muscle for fuel!
And this is no good if you are skinny and want to gain muscle fast!
Therefore, you should consume a caloric surplus to receive the maximal hypertrophy returns from your resistance training!
Requirement #3: Getting Sufficient Rest To Facilitate The Muscle Repair Process
The third and final requirement for gaining muscle fast is to allow yourself sufficient rest to facilitate the muscle repair process.
After all, if you don’t give your muscles the time to rebuild, they simply won’t become bigger!
So what do I mean by sufficient rest?
In this context, rest can come in 3 forms:
- Resting in between sets.
- Resting in between workouts.
- Getting enough sleep!
In terms of how much rest time you should allow yourself before moving on to the next set, Chris Beardsley from Medium recommends 3 minutes, which favours hypertrophy.
I personally only rest for 2 minutes now. But as a skinny novice, I can completely advocate for a 3 minute rest, as it allows your muscles to fully recover before being pushed again!
When it comes to resting between workouts, Jody Braverman from Livestrong recommends giving each muscle group at least 48 hours to recuperate.
And I can vouch for this also. During my skinny days, I often needed 2 (and sometimes even 3) days before I felt my muscle ready to be hit by another workout.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of sleep!
As David from Sports Lab explains, good quality sleep enhances the muscle rebuilding process. Furthermore, sleeping also promotes the release of muscle-building hormones such as Human Growth Factor!
14 Practical Tips To Gain Muscle Fast
So far, I have explained the theory behind gaining muscle fast. Essentially, all you need to do is workout 2-4 days per week, eat a 5-10% caloric surplus, and ensure you get enough rest.
But for many skinny dudes who don’t have any training experience, the hard part is learning how to apply the theory to their daily nutrition and workout plan!
I will now share with you 14 nutrition and training tips to help you quickly eat and train your way to larger muscles!
Nutrition Tips To Gain Muscle Fast
#1: Consume Your Protein!
As you probably know, consuming a high protein diet is super important for muscle development. And it is particularly important for skinny dudes who have a natural tendency to eat less.
But how much protein should you consume every day?
The specific numbers can vary across the internet.
However, you will notice that they all tend to hover around 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This equates to around 30-40% of your calorie intake.
This is a number I have used for 2 years now, and it works!
So if you are a 130 pound guy, aim to eat around 195g of protein everyday. This will be enough for you to see muscle gains.
Consuming this amount of protein can be challenging at the start, and my best advice is to find high protein foods that you enjoy. Then plan your meals around these foods.
Also, don’t limit yourself to the steaks and chicken breast!
Other good sources of protein include nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish and shellfish, and soy produce.
Heck, even potatoes have protein!
#2: Protein Before Bed!
In addition to consuming protein throughout the day, you should also try to consume protein just before bed.
As Edward Cooper from Menshealth explains, eating protein before hitting the sack serves to improve muscle synthesis over night.
Furthermore, when it comes to consuming protein before bed, don’t consume any old protein. Consume casein!
Casein is a slow-digesting protein which will supply your muscles with a steady source of protein throughout the night.
And this is important since a lot of the muscle repair process happens during sleep!
I like to consume 20g of casein 1 hour before I go to bed.
Good sources of casein include casein shakes, cottage cheese, and milk. As a bonus, these foods are usually easy to ingest, and they wont leave you bloated!
#3: Don’t Forget Your Fats!
Now, fats receive a lot of bad press. But they are essential to build muscle!
As Gord Kerr from Livestrong explains, fats have an important role in muscle-building vitamin absorption, hormone production, and energy supply.
And as a skinny guy, you have a lot of room to eat more fats!
Also, don’t worry about getting fat. Your training programme should burn off all the fat you consume (if you are working out properly!)
I recommend 0.4g per pound of bodyweight. This will equate to roughly 20% of your total calorie intake, and it’s also a figure used by many bodybuilders.
Finally, I would also recommend opting for healthy fats over saturated fats, since they tend to be less satiating.
In other words, healthy fats tend to make you feel less full, which is important to help you consume more calories!
My favourite sources of healthy fats include avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
#4: Eat Enough Complex Carbs!
As a skinny guy, you need to eat enough complex carbs! This is because, unlike our bigger peers, our bodies do not have much body fat to fuel our workouts.
And as Danica Benninghoven from Livestrong explains, this means we need to consume complex carbs to give us the energy to hit the weights hard!
Additionally, carbohydrates will also fuel muscle recovery after a workout.
I would recommend around 2.5g of complex carbs per pound of bodyweight. And this equates to around 40% of your total calorie intake.
Good sources of complex carbs include wholegrains, potatoes, and legumes.
#5: Fibre Is Your Friend!
Most people know to eat more fibre. But did you know that fibre will help you build muscle faster?
Andra Picincu from Healthy Eating explains that dietary fibre slows down the absorption of nutrients such as carbohydrates into the blood stream. And this will help your body gain the most from the foods you eat.
I would advise consuming around 10% of your total calorie intake from dietary fibre.
I personally do not like to overfill my belly with fibre, as it’s also very satiating, and prevents me from eating the other important nutrients described above.
#6: Breakfast Is Important!
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And you better heed those words if you want to gain muscle fast!
As Jonathon Wells from Mens Journal explains, consuming a high-protein breakfast will speed up muscle recovery and promote the muscle-building process.
And this makes a lot of sense, since you have essentially fasted the body for the entire duration of your sleep.
Therefore you need to supply your muscles with nourishment as soon as you wake up!
I recommend a breakfast packed with carbohydrates as well as protein. This will serve to resupply your body with muscle-building energy as your day begins.
Now, skinny dudes can often have limited appetite, especially at breakfast. I was the same!
So I would like to introduce to you my muscle-building Calorie Grenade. It’s basically oats mixed with soy milk and whey protein powder.
The Calorie Grenade packs a serious nutritional punch (full of carbs and protein), and the liquid consistency makes it easier to ingest than most other breakfasts!
#7: Multiple Meals A Day Are Equally Important!
OK i’m not going to sugar coat things here. Consuming a caloric surplus can be hard. Especially for skinny guys who have never eaten this way before.
As a skinny guy, you may find yourself uncomfortably bloated from consuming large meals.
I found the technique of spreading calories over multiple low calorie meals works wonders.
For example, instead of consuming 3 x 900 calorie meals (man I feel full just thinking about that!), spread your calories over 6 x 450 calorie meals.
Not only does this make calories easier to stomach, but it will also provide a more stable nutrient supply to fuel muscle growth throughout the day!
For those who lead busy lifestyles, meal preps are essential to ensure that you hit your multi-meal quota.
I like to dedicate a cooking day over the weekend to make quick-access, pre-batched meals to consume throughout the week!
#8: Make Two Of Those Meals A Pre-/Post-Workout
Two of your daily meals should come in the form of a pre- and post-workout meal.
These are simply nutritious meals which are consumed shortly before and after a workout.
As Lonnie from In Shape explains, the pre- and post-workout meals will fuel your workout, as well as assist muscle recovery and muscle building.
As a skinny guy, I love my pre and post-workouts. Not only do they allow me to work harder, but it also means I don’t feel as uncomfortably full throughout the day.
This is because the calories are quickly burned up from the workout itself.
I would recommend a high protein and carbohydrate meal for both pre- and post-workout!
If you lead a busy lifestyle, again, meal preps are your friend!
#9: Cook Your Way To Bigger Muscles
My final nutrition tip to gain muscle fast is to cook your own meals.
This may sound obvious to many muscle veterans, but I know what it’s like to be a newbie on the scene.
When I first began taking my muscle building seriously, I was often still eating store-bought food.
However, I quickly realised the benefits of eating home-cooked foods for my muscle building endeavours.
Home-cooking allows you to more effectively meal prep, more accurately track your calories and macros, and allows you to include more whole-foods in your diet (which are more nutritious than processed foods).
The major downside is that it is time consuming. However, with careful planning, even the busiest of skinny dudes can meal prep their home-cooked foods!
Training Tips To Gain Muscle Fast
#10: Increase Training Volume To Gain Muscle Fast!
Training volume simply refers to the total amount of weight you are lifting every week fr a given exercise. Its calculated by multiplying sets X reps X weight.
As Tom MacCormick from Breaking Muscle explains, training volume is proportional to muscle growth. In other words, increasing training volume will also increase muscle growth!
Earlier, I recommend beginners to start at around 12 sets (per muscle per week), with 8 reps per set, at 60% of 1 rep max, spread over 2 to 4 training days.
However, if this is too easy, or becomes too easy, you should increase the training volume. This can be done by increasing weight, sets, and reps.
This is called progressive overload, and overloading is an an effective way to increase training volume!
But please note that if you decide to increase set number, stay within 20 sets per muscle group per week. Similarly, if you decide to increase rep number, stay within the 5-15 rep range.
This will ensure you are maximising your muscle gain returns!
#11: Lift Heavy To Gain Muscle Fast!
Lifting heavier weights is probably my favourite ways to overload and increase training volume.
As a skinny beginner, you will find that you can make fast gains in muscle strength and size (assuming you optimise your training volume and nutrition as discussed in this post).
As Mike Matthews from Legion Athletics notes, these are called newbie gains, and they are amazing!
But be sure to keep challenging yourself by adding more weight. This will keep your muscles growing.
Additionally, increasing weight-load also has the benefit of increasing training volume without increasing your time spent at the gym!
And that means more time to do other things in life!
If you find that you are unable to increase the weight, don’t panic. Stick with it, concentrate on lifting with good form, and your body will eventually adapt.
Also, you don’t have to add significant weight. Even a tiny 5 pound increase in your bench press is overloading!
And that will contribute to increasing your muscle size!
#12: Don’t Overwork Your Muscle!
As newbie, it can be very easy to overtrain. Weight training is new, it’s exciting, and you just wanna work out every day to get those gains!
I get it. I have been in that honeymoon period too!
But as Justin Robinson from Ace Fitness explains, after a certain point, increasing your workout volume can actually do you more harm than good. And this is called overtraining.
There are two main causes for overtraining- over exercising with inusufficient rest and under consuming on nutrition.
And when you overtrain, your muscles are unable to perform at their maximum capacity. Consequently, this will negatively impact your efforts to gain muscle fast.
Therefore, you should stick to an optimised training volume (as described in tip #10) and ensure you are consuming a caloric surplus in order to avoid overtraining!
#13: Focus On The Eccentric Phase!
An eccentric contraction is one where the muscle produces force whilst it elongates. Thus, in most exercises, the eccentric phase is the lowering phase.
For example, the eccentric phase of a barbell squat would be when you lower the barbell towards the ground.
In contrast, concentric contractions produce force as the muscle shortens.
Dr John Rusin notes- multiple studies have actually shown that eccentric contractions can be 20-60% more effective at inducing muscular hypertrophy, compared to concentric contractions.
Dr Rusin attributes this to the stretching nature of eccentric contractions, which are thought to promote micro-damage formation.
Furthermore, eccentric contraction require less energy to perform, compared to concentric contractions.
Therefore, this makes eccentric contractions a great way for skinny dudes to induce muscular hypertrophy without excessively fatiguing your muscles!
The simplest way to focus the eccentric phase is to simply exaggerate the lowering of a weight. In other words, lower it in a slow and controlled manner!
Other ways include Dr Rusin’s 2 to 1 and 2 movement techniques!
#14: Include Creatine To Gain Muscle Fast!
Creatine is an organic compound which the body uses for energy utilisation in your muscles.
Creatine is found naturally in the human body, and obtained from food sources such as red meat and fish. It is mainly stored in the muscle tissue.
Creatine can also be obtained from supplements, with creatine monohydrate being the most studied and popular form of creatine.
So what does creatine do?
Rudy Mawer from Healthline explains that creatine is mainly used by the body to facilitate energy utilisation in the muscles. In other words, it helps your muscles to produce more energy.
Rudy further explains that the average muscle stores ~120 mmol/kg, and creatine supplements can increase this to ~140-150mmol/kg.
Furthermore, the increased creatine concentrations will help your muscles to work harder during intense training. And this will help stimulate your muscle for growth.
But is creatine safe to use?
Joseph Nordqvist from Medical News Today explains that the research suggests creatine use is safe and beneficial for sports performance.
Furthermore, the ISSN has classified creatine as safe to use. Indeed, many professional athletes use creatine supplements.
I have personally been using creatine for 2 years now with no adverse effects. And it has definitely allowed me to push harder (with more reps and power) before fatiguing.
That being said, research into the long-term effects and side-effects of creatine use are ongoing, and it is strongly advised that you use creatine in moderation, with physicians guidance.
How Fast Can You Expect To Gain Muscle?
So far, I have explored the techniques and methods which allow you to gain muscle fast.
But how fast exactly can you expect to gain muscle?
This is a common question which many skinny newbies are dying to find out before they have even begun (I was the same!).
So I will now share what the online literature says about the rate of muscle gain you can expect, and my own personal experience on the matter.
What The Literature Says About Gaining Muscle Fast
And 2.2 pounds of lean muscle per month is considered to be on the high-end of the muscle gain spectrum. It will require an optimised nutrition plan and intense resistance training 4 days per week.(3)
A more realistic reflection for the average newbie, would be gaining anywhere between 1 to 2.2 pounds of muscle per month.
And this is a great achievement in itself.
Furthermore, as a newbie, you can expect these gains to continue for months, gaining around 15 to 25 pounds of lean muscle by the end of your first year training (again assuming dedicated training and nutrition).(4)
Now, you may also hear about muscle gaining stories which champion muscle-building rates of up to 10 pounds or more per month.
But as Wannabebig from Bodybuilding explains- though it may possible to gain this kind of weight from a bulking and training programme, the majority of the weight will be from excess body fat and water.
My Personal Muscle Gain Experience
In my opinion, aiming for anywhere between 1 to 2.2 pounds of lean muscle per month is completely achievable for a skinny guy who has just begun lifting.
I actually gained around 7 pounds per month during the early days of my lifting journey. And this was the result of lifting 5 to 6 days per week with a massive 30% caloric surplus.
However, as Wannabebig correctly points out, a lot of this was fat.
I actually developed a slight belly!
That being said, as a guy who was fed up of my skinny frame, I actually quite liked the fact that I was bulking up, even though a lot of it was fat.
Alternatively, If you would rather keep the fat away, I would suggest sticking to a milder 10% caloric surplus.
This will allow you to build around 15 to 25 pounds of lean muscle within a year. And this will produce a highly visible difference that people will begin noticing about you!
My Gain Muscle Fast Troubleshooter
So you have begun your weight lifting journey to gain muscle.
But disaster strikes.
You find yourself not building any significant muscle mass.
What do you do?!
I have created a troubleshooting flow diagram for you. The tips and recommendations are based on my own personal experience, and the sources which I have referred to throughout this post.
Today I have answered the question, “how can i gain muscle fast?”.
I have explained the 3 basic requirements to gaining muscle fast- 1) regular and intense resistance training, 2) a positive calorie balance, and 3) getting sufficient rest.
I have also provided you 14 practical training and nutrition tips to help you satisfy these 3 requirements.
Finally, I have explained how you can expect to gain around 1 to 2.2 pounds of lean muscle per month within your first year of dedicated training. And what to do if you aren’t hitting your muscle-gain targets.
Gaining muscle fast is completely achievable, even if you are currently skinny. However, it does require following a dedicated training and nutrition programme.
Furthermore, those who put in the work, will reap the fruits of their labour afterwards!
I transformed myself from a 130 pound skinny guy to 165 pounds of muscle in 2 years, and I know you can too!
Have my training and nutrition tips benefitted your muscle-gaining goals?
Please let me know in the comments! I would love to inspire other fellow skinny dudes to transform their own bodies!
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Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy, NASM cert in progress)