Here at Oatein, we’re all about fuelling workouts with tasty protein snacks, but we want to remind everyone that being ‘skinny’ is fine. There’s a lot of search interest via Google around building muscle when skinny, but remember that all body types are different.
With that said, gaining mass when you have low body fat and struggle to put on any size can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Let’s take a look at some of the science behind gaining mass and then how you can put it into practice and pack on some size…
The science of ‘skinny’
Being ‘skinny’ simply means having low body fat and often, low muscle mass. This alone can be caused by a number of factors. The main one to bear in mind is the balance between calories burned at rest versus calories in. Your body burns a certain amount of calories every day without having to do anything - and for some people, especially younger males (who tend to have higher metabolisms) this can lead to a feeling of never being able to put on weight.
You may also have a certain body type that doesn’t lend itself to gaining weight,
Testosterone is a hormone that helps put your body in an anabolic state (which is the state you need to be in for muscles to repair after training, larger than before). For some people who feel they are too ‘skinny’, generating more testosterone can help increase the body’s anabolism.
But ultimately, the main issue is the one we touched on at first - that your body is likely burning more calories than you’re consuming. Paired with either a lack of, or poorly-designed, workout routine, you will struggle to gain mass.
Protein synthesis is the process by which the body builds muscle. When you do resistance exercises, muscle fibres break down and are then reknit larger than they were before - but this process requires plenty of abundant protein, an ‘anabolic’ hormone state and finally, carbohydrate energy to help your body fuel the process.
How to build muscle when skinny
The good news is that you can build muscle when skinny and see the results faster than some people, who may first have to lose body fat before they can see muscle definition. The bad news is that it will take some effort to build muscle. Here are the steps to follow to make sure you pack on size:
1. Increase your general calories and your quality protein intake
Calories are the name of the game here - we’re not talking too much about specific nutrients but instead the overall caloric intake you have on a day-to-day basis. Increasing this can be tough if you’re not feeling hungry, so experiment with ‘hacks’ like protein shakes and calorie-dense foods like nuts and dates.
As your calories go up, so too should your protein intake. Try to aim for around 2.2g per kg of bodyweight. Our Hype Protein bar is ideal for this as it’ll help you power through workouts thanks to its carb content, then help muscles repair thanks to 20g of protein.
Some old-school hacks include ‘GOMAD’, or ‘Gallon of Milk A Day’ - but we wouldn’t recommend chugging down all the dairy you can find. Instead, recognise that you need to up your calories and find ways to do it that include wholegrain carbohydrates for fuel and protein for muscle growth.
Remember, some foods will leave you feeling bloated or ‘fuller’ so try to avoid them once you know which impact you. There are plenty of apps online which help you work out how many calories you’ll need to hit a certain weight goal, so use one if you’d like to plan things out. Ultimately, your main focus is on realising that the main thing that matters is increasing your total caloric intake past your metabolic rate.
2. Lift heavy weights
For a workout plan for skinny guys to build muscle fast, look into traditional powerlifting style routines such as Stronglifts. Hitting the gym and lifting weights is the best way to force your body into its muscle-rebuilding cycle because weighted resistance training stresses the muscles more than anything else.
Compound lifts also involve more muscle groups in a single lift, which causes more central nervous system stress and makes the body produce more testosterone. As you get stronger, increase the amount of weight. Staying at the same ‘comfortable’ weight limit will lead to your muscles becoming accustomed to it rather than breaking down and repairing.
3. Get more rest, do less cardio
Consider your lifestyle and identify cardio-based activities you might not even know you do. If you’ve got an active job, for example, you might be burning way more calories than the average person. Try to cut down on cardio or up your caloric intake to reflect this activity. If you’ve started hitting the treadmill during your gym sessions, cut down on that as you focus on building size.
Finally, make sure you get more rest. Sleep is an essential part of muscle growth and hormone secretion. You should be aiming for around 8 hours every night and if you’re failing to hit that level, you might find it harder to build muscle than people around you.
Realistically, there’s hope for anyone who is skinny and wants to build muscle. It might feel intimidating, but provided you have no medical conditions there is no reason you can’t begin to build quality muscle mass by eating more, lifting heavy, getting rest and packing plenty of protein into your diet.