For the majority of skinny people, it can be a frustrating struggle to build muscle, gain weight, and/or bulk up. It feels like, no matter what you do or eat, the needle on the scale just won’t go up. This post explains how to stop being skinny.
Generally speaking, a person can stop being skinny by combining a nutritious diet plan with heavy resistance training. The diet plan should be high in calories and protein. The workout program should focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscles in a single movement.
Being skinny sucks. I know because I use to be a skinny guy myself!
But once I cracked the code to gain weight, I managed to put on over 40lbs in 1 year.
Below, I share 11 of my best tips for fellow skinny peeps to gain muscle and bulk up.
The General Consensus On How To Stop Being Skinny
We are all different in terms of our personal genetics and lifestyle choices.
These factors affect how our body’s gain weight and builds muscle.
This makes the journey to bulking up and transforming a skinny physique slightly different and unique from person to person.
With that said, there IS an overall consensus on how to stop being skinny.
To find out how the general population bulked up, I sampled the following forum threads which asked:
- Reddit – how not to be skinny?
- Reddit – skinny guy tired of being skinny.
- Quora – how can one stop being skinny?
My study included a total of 46 responses from ex-skinny guys, fitness enthusiasts, personal trainers, and coaches.
And here are the compiled results:
The majority 46% of respondents cited an effective bulking diet being the most essential way for a person to stop being skinny and gain weight.
This was closely followed by 39% of respondents who cited an intense weight training program being the most important way to bulk up through muscle gains.
Furthermore, 9% of respondents highlighted the importance of remaining disciplined and consistent in your journey to build muscle and bulk up.
Finally, the remaining 6% of respondents advised on various miscellaneous tips including:
- Finding a gym body for motivation.
- Tracking your daily calories and protein intake.
- Getting adequate sleep on a regular basis.
Next, I’ll give you 11 cherry-picked tips on how to eat and train your way to a more athletic physique as a skinny guy.
My tips are based on the above research and my own 10-year personal bulking experience (where I failed and succeeded along the way).
1) Identify The Reason Why You Are Skinny
Long-term undereating and a lack of physical activity is the most common reason why a person is skinny. These factors combined can affect metabolism and cause muscle atrophy, resulting in a thin physique. Illness and genetic disorders can also explain why someone stays skinny.
You can also check out this Ex-Skinny Guy’s views on how to stop being skinny, build muscle, gain weight, and bulk up!
It’s impossible to find a solution to a problem you don’t know about
So it’s a good idea to find the root cause as to why you are skinny!
Based on research and personal experience, I can say that poor lifestyle choice is the most prevalent reason why skinny people stay skinny. Examples include:
- Not eating enough food on a daily basis.
- Infrequent and inconsitent meal times.
- Lack of protein.
- Working long hours in physically-demanding jobs (and not replacing expended calories).
- Too much stress and not enough sleep.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Excessive cardio and endurance activities.
For a lot of skinny men and women, it’s often a combination of the factors described above.
This denies your body of the fuel, energy, and stimulus it requires to maintain muscle mass (or store fat).
As a result, your body weight decreases, and your muscles can waste away in a process called atrophy.
Now, some skinny men and women DO actually have genetic disorders that can prevent them from gaining weight.
For example, disorders related to the thyroid are not uncommon, can affect your metabolism, and cause you to stay skinny.
But the majority of skinny people remain skinny due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Don’t confuse this with bad genetics!
It’s a good idea to get a physician’s opinion.
2) Increase Calories To Go From Skinny To Normal Weight
Skinny people can get to a normal weight by slowly increasing daily calorie consumption. This should be done over the course of 1-3 months until the individual can consistently consume a caloric surplus. A mild 5 to 10% caloric surplus is recommended to gain weight at a healthy rate.
The process of overeating to gain weight is commonly referred to as “Bulking“.
But before you start bulking, you should first establish a bodyweight target to aim for.
You can use a BMI chart to quickly get a ballpark figure for your ideal weight based on your height.
Now, use a spreadsheet to log how many calories you eat every day to give you a quantitative baseline to start from.
This is important because skinny people often overestimate their daily calorie consumption.
Next, you should determine your target bulking calories (i.e. how many calories you need to eat every day to put on weight).
To do this:
- Use this TDEE calculator to get your maintenance calories (how much you need to eat to maintain your current body weight).
- Add 5% to 10% to get your surplus calorie target (multiply your maintenance calories by 1.05 or 1.10 respectively).
This is considered a mild surplus and termed a “lean bulk”.
Lean bulking may feel uncomfortable at first, but definitely manageable as a skinny guy/girl.
Now you can slowly start eating more food to reach your target calories and begin bulking up to your target weight.
I recommend starting slow and gradually increasing your food intake.
It’s often difficult for a chronically skinny man/woman to start consuming copious amounts of food.
It gets you bloated and uncomfortable.
Increase your food intake gradually day-by-day or week-by-week.
For example, you could add 100 cal each day to your total daily calorie intake.
3) Eat At Least 4 Meals Per Day To Increase Calorie Intake
The average skinny person looking to bulk up should eat a minimum of 4 meals, and ideally 5-6 meals, per day. Higher meal frequencies benefit a skinny person by allowing the individual to consume more calories without feeling overly bloated, satiated, and full.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s easier to spread 2500 calories (just an example) over 5 meals, than it is to cram it all into 3 meals.
To determine how many calories should be in each meal, simply divide your total daily calorie target by however many meals you are trying to eat per day.
For example, 2500 calories divided by 5 meals = 500 cal per meal.
My 2 top tips?
- Don’t skip breakfast! It’s important to refuel your body ASAP after 8 hours of fasting (i.e. sleeping) and an opportune moment to cram in 500 or so calories with an oat-based blended smoothie.
- If you’re following a resistance training program, then a pre- and post-workout meal are also essential. It’ll give your body the energy it needs to train hard and recover fast.
Don’t beat yourself too much about not being able to eat 4+ meals per day straight away.
It’s normal to find it uncomfortable in the beginning.
You should instead build up to it:
Start with your usual 3 meals per day, then increase to 4 meals after 2 weeks, and so on.
Your stomach will naturally stretch, making it much easier to eat more food.
If you’ve never bulked before, then you may be interested in my other article which explains how long it takes for a skinny person to gain weight.
4) Eat At Least 0.4g Protein Per Pound Of Bodyweight
A high protein diet is good for skinny guys looking to gain weight through lean muscle mass. Skinny adults who live a sedentary lifestyle should aim for 0.4 grams per pound of body weight per day. Those who are resistance training should aim for a minimum of 1 gram.
You can check out Jeremy Ethier’s video for inspiration on how to up your protein intake and stop being skinny!
For example, a 140lb skinny guy should consume 56-140g of protein per day (depending on exercise level).
This is in line with Mayo Clinic’s recommendation:
“The recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for the average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight”Mayo Clinic
Note- these are minimum recommendations.
If you’re lifting weights and doing intense exercise (which you should be as a skinny guy looking to build muscle and stop being skinny), then you should bump up your protein intake (as per the above recommendations).
That’s because intense training damages your muscles.
You need to give it the raw materials (protein) to maintain, repair, and rebuild itself into a stronger and bigger muscle.
Healthy lean mass weight gain!
I also recommend a clean protein powder for those who are struggling to eat enough protein.
I use the MyProtein Impact Whey (find the cheapest price here). Each serving contains 21g of dairy protein.
A good plant alternative is the MyVegan Pea Protein (find the cheapest price here).
Warning- use these as they were intended, supplements. They shouldn’t replace real food!
You might also be interested in my other post for an example meal plan for skinny guys to get 140g protein per day.
5) Eat Calorie-Dense Foods To Bulk Up Fast
Skinny guys can eat more calories by including calorie-dense foods in their diet. Calorie-dense foods are ingredients that contain a high number of calories in a small volume of mass. This can help skinny people to eat more food without feeling uncomfortably full and satiated.
If you want to stop being skinny, build muscle, or generally gain weight, then calorie-dense foods are your best friend.
They give you more bang for your buck.
Here are good examples of the most calorie-dense foods you can eat like a skinny guy looking to bulk up:
|Calorie-Dense Food||Typical Calories|
|Fatty meats||520 cal per 100g|
|Oily fish||210 cal per 100g|
|Nuts and seeds||580 cal per 100g|
|Peanut butter||600 cal per 100g|
|Olive Oil||900 per 100ml|
|Milk||45 cal per 100ml|
|Cheese||400 cal per 100g|
|Weight gainer shakes||1000 cal per serving|
This selection also gives you all the important macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) you need to put on healthy weight.
As a bonus, a lot of calorie-dense foods are sweet, appetizing, and can be blended into a homemade weight gainer shake that packs calories, protein, carbs, and fats.
Shakes, smoothies, and liquid calories, in general, are easy to drink and taste delicious.
I’m talking about ingredients like fruits, peanut butter, milk, and protein powders.
Add some oats and olive oil for a serious dose of calories (you won’t be able to taste it)!
6) Reduce Cardio Activities To Stop Being Skinny
Cardiovascular activities such as running and cycling are generally not good for skinny people who are looking to gain weight or muscle. Excessive cardio can burn essential calories that would otherwise be used by the body to store fat or build muscle.
Doing moderate levels of cardio is ok.
Running once or twice a week will certainly benefit your general health and shouldn’t get in the way of your bulking goals too much.
But I wouldn’t do any more than this as a beginner.
The only exception to the rule is if you’re 100% able to replenish all the energy you burn from your runs.
Doing so allows your body to maintain its weight despite the calories expended on your runs.
For example, I spent 4 months training for a half marathon last year.
And this was on top of my then-current strength training program.
Yet I was still able to maintain my muscle mass because I ENSURED that I ate enough calories and protein.
Some cardio exercises that use explosive movements can also actually be beneficial for muscle growth.
Examples include kickboxing, HIIT workouts, sprints, and uphill cycles.
But generally speaking, you should ditch the endurance cardio for weight lifting if you want to stop being skinny and gain weight.
7) Beginners Can Do Bodyweight Training To Stop Being Skinny
Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be skinny or skinny-fat (low muscle mass but a visible belly), resistance training is the only way you will pack on lean mass.
Yup, you gotta workout if you want to stop being skinny!
Bodyweight calisthenics exercises are a good route to go for beginners.
It’s safe, effective, and requires little (if any) money to start.
Here are some popular bodyweight exercises to build muscle, gain muscle weight, and start bulking up as a skinny guy:
|Bodyweight Exercise||Muscles Worked||Recommended Sets x Reps|
|Push-Ups||Chest, shoulders, arms, abs||4 sets x 10 repetitions|
|Plank||Full-body||3 sets x 20 seconds|
|Squat||Legs||4 sets x 12 repetitions|
|Lunge||Legs||4 sets x 12 repetitions|
|Crunches and sit-ups||Abs||3 sets x 15 repetitions|
|Pull-up (assisted)||Back, arms, core||4 sets x 8 repetitions|
|Chin-up (assisted)||Back, arms, core||4 sets x 8 repetitions|
|Chest dips (assisted)||Chest, shoulders, arms||4 sets x 8 repetitions|
Speaking from experience, the last 3 movements (pull-ups, chin-ups, and chest dips) are essential for skinny guys to build a ripped torso.
It can be hard to give your back muscles a challenging enough growth stimulus without doing pull-up-type movements.
So if you can afford it, then a pull-up apparatus will be hugely beneficial.
As a beginner, I also used these Undersun resistance bands (find the cheapest price here) to provide assistance.
Simply wrap one end around the bar and the other end around your bum.
Once you’ve built some strength, you can remove the bands altogether.
You can also check out my other post for a complete guide on how to gain muscle at home for skinny guys (with no equipment)
8) Try The 100-Pushups-A-Day Challenge To Gain Muscle
This is a good beginner’s challenge to start with if you want to stop being skinny.
Spend an entire month doing 100 pushups a day, every day.
It doesn’t have to be 100 consecutive pushups.
Space them out into 10 sets of 10 repetitions throughout the day.
It’ll be difficult as a skinny beginner, but definitely doable.
Here’s the mini-transformation my two skinny cousins achieved by partaking in this challenge:
Whilst it wasn’t a complete skinny-muscular transformation, you can see they gained some muscle mass and definition in the chest, arms, and upper torso in general.
It’s also worth noting that they don’t eat the best diet in the world (lots of junk with not much protein).
If you eat a nutritious and protein-rich diet (as described at the start of this post), then you can expect to build even more muscle.
For more training tips, you can go to my guide for skinny guys to get buff and build muscle.
9) Lifting Weights Is The Best Way To Stop Being Skinny
It is not bad, but recommended, for a skinny person to work out if they want to gain muscle. Beginners should start with bodyweight training to build a foundation of strength, before progressing onto free weights or resistance bands. This ensures smooth progression and minimal risk of injury.
Bodyweight exercises are great.
But in my opinion, they can get boring pretty quickly.
Additionally, you’ll have to increase the reps (by a lot). Alternatively, you can apply creative methods like pause-reps and time-under-tension training. But all this leads to longer workouts.
I prefer to use free weights instead. They offer a more challenging stimulus, and this results in a more efficient workout.
Free weights include:
These can all be found in a commercial gym.
If you prefer to train at home, then you can invest in a simple dumbbell and bench setup like this one:
It’s an affordable but effective setup that doesn’t require much space at home.
Focus on these 5 big compound lifts:
|Compound Lift||Muscles Worked|
|Bench press||Chest, arms, and shoulders|
|Bent-over row||Back and arms|
|Overhead shoulder press||Shoulders, upper chest, and arms|
|Squat||Legs and glutes|
You can also do isolation-type lifts to define specific muscles (e.g. dumbbell curls for the biceps).
But if you want to stop being skinny fast, then focus on the compound movements which work multiple muscles in a single movement.
It can also be tempting to focus on the mirror muscles and neglect the legs. This is not recommended since your leg muscles are around twice as large as the upper body muscles.
For more training tips, you can check out my gym guide for skinny guy’s here.
10) Progressive Overload Regularly To Stop Being Skinny
Here’s how beginners should start lifting weights to build muscle and bulk up:
- Aim for 10-15 total sets per muscle group per week.
- This equtes to around 3-5 sets per muscle group per workout (depending on training frequency).
- Do 8-12 reps per sets.
- Use a weight that challenges you for those 8-12 reps.
You know you’ve found the ideal weight when you feel fatigued by the last few reps of a set.
But you shouldn’t just stay lifting the same weight indefinitely.
Instead, you should apply progressive overload.
This is most commonly done by adding weight (just a small increase is fine).
I recommend adding 5lbs to upper body exercises or 10lbs to lower body exercises every 1-2 weeks (or whenever your body feels ready to take the increased weight).
Overload keeps your muscles challenged as they become stronger.
Applying progressive overload is a surefire way to stop being skinny.
What if you’re just looking to put on SOME muscle, develop tone, and not looking bulk up TOO much?
You should still overload. You’ll eventually plateau, and at this point, it’s fine to remain lifting the same weight.
You won’t get bulky from just lifting heavy weights.
Getting a bulky physique requires a consistent and long-term calorie surplus too.
So if you want to just tone up, eat your maintenance calories, and forget about the surplus.
You can go to my other post to find out how much weight you should start lifting as a skinny person.
11) Limit Yourself To 3 Intense Workouts Per Week
A skinny beginner should perform a maximum of 3 intense workouts per week with at least 24 hours of rest between workouts. This minimizes the risk of overtraining and injury. Once the body has adapted to a 3-day training week, then the individual can slowly add more workouts.
It can be tempting for a beginner to lift weights 7 days a week in a bid to build muscle fast.
I’ve been that sucker in the past.
Don’t make my mistake.
Muscles need rest to repair, grow, and get stronger.
Therefore overtraining is a surefire way to limit muscle growth. And this will not benefit anyone who wants to stop being skinny.
I recommend finding a 3-day full-body training split. Many workout programs can be found on Youtube and Google. Or you can find an example here in step 5) of my guide to building your first 10lbs of muscle.
There’s a caveat to this to my 3-day training rule.
Your workouts should be intense enough to fatigue your muscles.
This shouldn’t be a problem if you apply my progressive overload training tips above (point 10).
I’ve explained how to stop being skinny by eating to bulk up and building muscle to gain a healthy weight.
The first thing you should do is determine why you are so skinny.
For most people, it’s because they simply aren’t eating enough calories and protein. Follow tips 2) to 5) to up your nutrient intake.
If you’re looking to gain healthy weight through lean muscle mass, and not just put on body fat, then you can follow tips 6) to 11) to build muscle quickly and effectively.
All these tips apply to both men and women, so give it a go!
Will you be trying to transform your skinny body?
Let me know in the comments!
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)