Putting on weight when you’re “hardgainer busy dad” often feels like pushing a rock uphill.
As if that’s not enough, most people laugh at your problem and discard it. For them, eating whatever you want without gaining weight is a lucid dream. So they project their reality onto you, giving you remarks that just get in your nerves.
“You’re so lucky you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight.”
“I wish I had your problem.”
Which gets more and more in your nerves.
But, the reality is that as a dad you prioritise your family and work over your own goals and desires, which leaves yourself last.
Sometimes you’re so busy that skipping meals seems like the only way to get things done.
Sure you try to eat more during dinner or in the weekend, but this only gives you the false idea that you’re eating enough.
As a result, even if you’re crushing it with training, you have very little to show for it. We see it all the time. Most HBDs who jump in our program fall way too short on calories and protein.
Which results in you losing weight and muscle, slowly forming that skinny-fat physique.
All this throws a wrench in your self-confidence.
We get this all the time in our DDP coaching program.
Hard-gainer dads jump in our program wanting to gain weight. They are often frustrated and disappointed at themselves because they aren’t getting results despite their hard efforts.
They can’t seem to crack the code. They want to escape this vicious cycle, but they don’t know how.
But, once they regain control of their goals, their newfound confidence bleeds into all other areas of their life.
If this rings a bell, keep reading.
The 10 commandments of bulking for hardgainer busy dads
Gaining weight and muscle is no easy feat. Especially if you’re a Hardgainer dad juggling a ton of responsibilities and a hectic schedule.
But achieving results requires working within your means.
And this starts with a strategy that’s tailored for you.
Here are our 10 commandments:
- Plan your meals to take the guesswork out of the process
- Eat till 110% full
- Drink your calories
- Eat more frequently and get your snack game on
- Stop eating “diet-food” and go dense
- Go easy on cardio (and add some more resistance training)
- Struggling to eat a lot? Gradually increase your food intake
- Eat some “junk” food
- Sleep like a baby
- Be more consistent
I know. You might be wondering what these all mean.
So let’s dive deeper into each commandment.
1. Plan your meals
Just like losing weight, gaining weight requires a structured approach.
It’s not enough to just eat more. You need to know what you’re eating, how much of it, and when. Otherwise you’re just walking around blindfolded.
You have to make sure you’re eating enough to grow. And it all starts by planning out your meals and snacks along with their portions.
What you don’t plan, you miss.
So make sure that you plan out exactly what you should be eating daily beforehand.
Create 1-2 options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks that are quick-to-prepare and help you stick to your portions and goals, and be more flexible with your dinner.
2. Eat till 110% full
Most hardgainers stop eating once they’re full.
But if you’re serious about gaining, you need to push past that.
Start by eating just a little more than usual. This practice will progressively stretch your stomach’s capacity, helping you increase your food intake over time.
More food leads to more calories.
And more calories leads to more weight gain.
All for a 10% increase in effort.
3. Drink your calories (less water, more liquid calories)
The more time you take to eat your food, the more time your brain has to secrete the hormone leptin that signifies fullness. Drinking your calories bypasses that.
It’s much quicker to do, so you can have much more calories.
Not only that, but drinking your calories reduces the time it takes to digest your food, making you feel hungry quicker.
AND it’s much easier to do throughout the day as it can seamlessly blend with any activity.
So swap out some water for milk, Arian, Kefir, or juice, and add a weight gain smoothie to your daily nutrition.
You can add in whatever you like. We like to add milk, greek yogurt, honey, peanut butter, oats, and a banana but adjust the portions to your own needs.
4. Eat more frequently (and get your snack game on)
Most hardgainer dads try to fit all their calories in 2-3 meals. They are so busy they have no time or energy to eat or prepare so many meals.
This works to their benefit when dieting.
But if you’re trying to gain weight you must go the opposite direction.
You have to spread your food intake in more meals and get your snack game up. There are endless options for get your snack on.
Sandwiches, wraps, shakes high-calorie protein or cereal bars, or brittle.
Do this and you won’t have to feel like dying in your larger meals.
5. Focus on calorie-dense foods (and eat less protein and veggies)
Trying to gain weight by eating fillings foods is akin to watering a plant with a dropper.
You can’t hack your way out of being a hardgainer by stuffing your face with lean protein, nonfat and low fat dairy, and veggies.
Eat as much protein and veggies as you need, and then go all in on carbs and fats.
Add olive oil to your foods. Eat nuts (well, yeah). Throw some avocado in your recipes. Eat fattier cuts of meats. Swap veggies portions for carbs. You get the gist.
Small changes over time can pile up to significant results.
6. Less Cardio (…more pull-ups & push-ups!)
Cardio is a double-edged sword when it comes to hardgainers.
Which is why cardio-bunnies rarely possess that rugged and strong physique.
Running miles every day while struggling to gain weight is like trying to put out a fire but pouring gasoline.
If your primary goal is to bulk up, you might want to cut down on cardio or at least keep it moderate.
And here is an expert tip; swap some cardio with some extra sets on your calisthenics, and put those extra calories you just saved up to good use.
7. Gradually increase your calories
Even the fastest motors on the planet can’t jump from 0-100mph in an instant.
Trying to skyrocket your calories from one day to the next doesn’t work. At least for most people. Trying to go too fast from one day to the other is a recipe for disaster. Your brain hates difficult things. Difficulty equals danger. And your brain only cares about keeping you safe.
Instead, ease into it.
Gradually increase your amount of food even if this means going slower. And this may take from weeks up to couple of months.
As you slowly increase your calories, you will hit your sweet spot. That’s when you gain 0.5 – 1% of your total bodyweight per month. Go quicker and you risk gaining a bunch of fat.
If you’re gaining weight at a slower pace, add one or half a portion to your carbs or fats.
Which brings me to the next point.
8. A bit of dirty never hurt nobody
If you’re a hardgainer, you sometimes need a bit of dirty in your life.
This doesn’t mean going all out on junk food, but rather, incorporating some high-calorie, junk foods into your diet can help in your bulking journey.
Embrace your inner Old-School Bodybuilder and munch on some burgers, pizza or your favourite treat once in a while.
9. Sleep like your life depends on it (your muscles do, too)
Sleep is not only the lifeblood of health as research shows chronic sleep deprivation to lead to significantly shorter life spans…
…but it’s also the key to a leaner, stronger physique.
Proper sleep increases your mental, emotional, and physical capacity, skyrockets your energy and significantly reduces stress, which affect every aspect of your life.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease the amount of muscle mass you hold on your body and increase the amount of fat significantly.
10. Be consistent
Most hardgainers aren’t consistent with their food intake.
“I’m eating a lot and not gaining weight,” is the most common thing hardgainers tell me.
While this might be true, and hardgainers may require more food to gain weight than other people, they are also wildly inconsistent with their food intake.
And if you’re a hardgainer, then chances are you are inconsistent.
You may eat A LOT for a few meals or a few days, and you then get tired, bored or forget and eat less.
And because you have such a high calorie maintenance, you drop weight FAST.
So your weight exists in a pendulum.
To be more consistent, you have to have an exact plan laid out before you, so that you can automate your nutrition and take the guesswork, stress and uncertainty out of the process.
Gaining weight as a Hardgainer dad may seem impossible at times.
Lack of time and a ton of responsibilities get in the way, and you’re left picking up the pieces.
But anything worth it requires intentional effort and the right strategies. And as a father on a hectic schedule, you have to be even more cautious and systematic. Otherwise you’ll always start and stop.
Gaining a bit of weight and then losing some because of inconsistency won’t get you where you need to be in the long-run.
Start by putting 1-2 tips into practice every week, and you’ll undoubtedly start packing on weight.
Feeling exhausted from navigating your fitness journey solo? Overwhelmed and uncertain about where to begin? It’s time to step off the Hardgainer’s hamster wheel and join our Dadbod Demolition Project program.