Meal Plans for Hard Gainers

Article by James Collier BSc (Hons) - Moderator and Contributor to Muscletalk as an Expert in Nutrition

I have had loads of requests for example meal plans from people new to bodybuilding, and the typical hard gainer type physique, both of whom wish to gain weight. When I refer to gaining weight I mean quality weight, i.e. lean muscle mass and minimal body fat.

I have totalled up protein levels, but this is really only from the high biological value (HBV) protein foods, and not from the carbohydrate foods, so protein intake will actually be higher, than the amounts I have noted. I have not totalled up calorie levels, because I do not encourage bodybuilders to count calories; there is no need, if you are not gaining weight sufficiently, just increase your portion size.

I have written them to suit a male bodybuilder, but they may be easily adapted for women, by merely reducing portion sizes, as women have lower energy and protein requirements. These plans suit anyone who wants to pack on quality muscle efficiently. Plan 1 gives an example of a regimen to gain weight whilst on a fairly tight budget, whereas Plan 2 gives an example of a regimen to gain weight if you have a little more money at your disposal.


Plan 1: Example menu plan for someone wishing to gain quality weight on a budget.

TimeFoodProtein
Wake 7:30 am  
7:301 scoop whey protein20g
 
8:00 breakfastlarge bowl wholewheat breakfast cereal with 1/3 pint skimmed milk + sugar15g
 2 slices wholemeal bread toasted + olive oil spread22g
 ½ portion weight gain drink with water and multidextrose powder 
 100ml orange juice + 1 tblsp olive oil 
 
10:30sandwich (wholemeal bread + olive oil spread + filling)25g
 fruit 
 
12:30tuna (95g) + 1 tblsp natural yoghurt27g
 ½ small chicken breast (60g)18g
 4 slices wholemeal bread + olive oil spread 
 salad 
 low fat yoghurt7g
 
15:00sandwich (wholemeal bread + olive oil spread + filling)25g
 drink of skimmed milk - 1/3 pint7g
 fruit 
 
17:00½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk and multidextrose powder27g
TRAIN  
18:30
(after training)
2 scoops whey protein40g
 
19:30mackerel (95g)20g
 ½ small chicken breast (60g)18g
 either 2 medium jacket potatoes 
 or 200g boiled brown rice 
 or 350g boiled wholewheat pasta 
 vegetables 
 low fat yoghurt7g
 
22:00large bowl wholewheat breakfast cereal with 1/3 pint skimmed milk + sugar15g
 
23:301 scoop whey protein in skimmed milk25g
23:30 - BED  
Total Protein   320g

Plan 2: Example menu plan for someone wishing to gain quality weight with more money at their disposal.

TimeFoodProtein
Wake 7:30 am  
7:301 scoop whey protein20g
 
8:00 breakfastlarge bowl wholewheat breakfast cereal with 1/3 pint skimmed milk + sugar15g
 2 slices wholemeal bread toasted + olive oil spread22g
 ½ portion weight gain drink with water and multidextrose powder 
 100ml orange juice + 1 tblsp olive oil 
 
10:30½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk27g
 fruit 
 
12:30tuna (95g) + 1 tblsp natural yoghurt27g
 ½ small chicken breast (60g)18g
 4 slices wholemeal bread + olive oil spread 
 salad 
 low fat yoghurt7g
 
15:00Full portion MRP* made in half water + half skimmed milk48g
 fruit 
 
17:00½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk and multidextrose powder27g
TRAIN  
18:30
(after training)
2 scoops whey protein40g
 
19:30mackerel (95g)20g
 ½ small chicken breast (60g)18g
 either 2 medium jacket potatoes 
 or 200g boiled brown rice 
 or 350g boiled wholewheat pasta 
 vegetables 
 low fat yoghurt7g
 
22:00½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk25g
 
23:301 scoop whey protein in skimmed milk25g
23:30 - BED  
Total Protein   346g

*MRP stands for meal replacement powder.

Both plans are very high protein but are also contain varied quality protein sources, distributed regularly throughout the day. Plan 2 contains more weight gain powder and includes an MRP, which I omitted in Plan 1 due to expense. I did, however, feel it was important to include some whey protein and weight gain drinks and multidextrose powder.

In addition to this the bodybuilder should drink plenty of fluid, especially water frequently throughout the day. He or she may enjoy a couple of cups of tea or coffee, but not at the expense of more nutritious drinks.

IMPORTANT - remember both plans are merely a guide and must not be stuck to rigidly. Vary your food choices daily, using your nutrition knowledge and imagination. Have different sandwich fillings. Including some junk food occasionally will do no harm, in fact will add variety to your regimen, and also valuable calories. Remember to eat a balanced healthy diet, which is reasonably low in fat and high in fruit and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.

I hope these plans help - if there are any questions or points on the above or any other nutritional questions or comments, please post in the 'Nutrition' forums of MuscleTalk. Please DO NOT email me.