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The 7 Best Hardgainer Diet Tips To Start Gaining Weight Today

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES. PN - L1

hardgainer diet

Consuming enough calories is a challenge for the average hardgainer diet.

Do you feel like you can eat everything in sight and still not gain a single pound?

Late night bowls of cereal? No problem.

Order 2 burgers instead of 1?  That ain’t no thing.

Eating mounds and mounds of rice making you think you should invest in a bigger rice cooker? Oh ya, we’ve been there.

Here’s the thing.

The only way for a diet for hardgainers to be effective is to be in a calorie surplus.  To start gaining weight you need to be consuming more calories and today I am going to teach you 7 ways you can add more calories to your hardgainer diet.

  1. Pick One Meal To Be The "Big One".
  2. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals.
  3. Drink A Homemade Mass Gainer Shake Every Day.
  4. GOMAD? More Liquid Calories.
  5. Don't Always Eat "Clean".
  6. Eat Your Fats.
  7. Have High Calorie Meals Readily Available.
  8. Calories Needed For Your Hardgainer Diet.


hardgainer diet - must be in a calorie deficit to gain weight

Choosing Your Meal Frequently For A Hardgainer Meal Plan

#1 Pick One Meal To Be The “Big One”

In a perfect world you would know what you are going to eat at every meal and how many calories, proteins, carbs, and fats it has, but let's face it, that does not happen all the time, if ever.

When you have a calorie target that seems daunting, you need to have a plan to knock those calories out.

Try this technique. 

Pick one meal that you know is going to be the “big one” for your hardgainer diet. This is going to the meal that has the most calories and is going to take a large chunk out of your daily calories. 

If you are a morning person, eat it at breakfast, if you're a night person, use it at dinner.

Try for the meal to be close to or over 1000 calories.   Eating 1000 calories at breakfast and knowing you just ate possibly 1/3rd of your calories in one sitting makes the rest of the day attainable. 

If you want to eat at night, don't stress out about eating so much during the day because you know you will be getting over 1000 calories at night.

For your viewing pleasure, here's me taking down my "big one" on a recent vacation.

cheat meal picture!

#2 Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Does 1000 calories for a single meal sound crazy?

Well, this next tip is for you.

Do you remember the time when everyone was saying you need to be eating small meals all throughout the day to “keep your metabolism revving?”

Guess who started that trend?

It was bodybuilders.

Big, buff bodybuilders who had to consume thousands of calories a day.

For those men and woman who needed four, five, six thousand calories a day, it’s going to be hard to get that in from the normal 2-4 meals that most people consume.

That’s where the smaller, more frequent meals came from.  Just in their case, these smaller meals still have hundred of calories.

So that’s what you can do too.

If you need 3000 - 4000 calories a day to gain weight, your hardgainer diet can consist of 4-7 meals that are roughly 400-600 calories.

meal frequency tips for a hardgainer diet

Hardgainer Diet Tips Using Drinks

#3 Drink A Homemade Mass Gainer Shake Every Day

See how I said homemade?  Ditch the mass gainers with awful ingredients that will leave you clearing rooms with your nasty farts.

Making a high calorie, delicious protein shake each day at home is easy and should be used regularly. 

Depending on what you want to add to your shake, hitting anywhere between 750 - 1000 calories in one shake is a possibility.

Need a quick recipe?  Blend these ingredients together and you have a shake that is 945 calories with 67 grams of protein! Boooooom, easy calories.

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 scoops protein powder
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 banana
  • Ice
  • Handful of spinach (you won't taste it, I swear!)

Check out 8 additional supplements for hardgainers to help pack on size.

#4 GOMAD? Ok, Maybe Not That Much, But Still, More Liquid Calories


Have you ever heard of GOMAD?

GOMAD means Gallon Of Milk A Day.  This is a hardgainer diet weight gain technique that some people have adopted.

How do I feel about it?  Sounds like a trip to the bathroom for me…

But this fact is true.

Adding liquid calories to your meals is a GREAT, EASY way to get more calories.

A gallon of milk a day is excessive in my opinion, but adding a full glass of milk to 2 of your meals can get you an additional 520 calories a day. 

Can’t drink milk? Sucks to be you.

Or sucks to be us, because I don’t do a lot of dairy either.

Try out Lactaid.  It’s high in calories and tastes just like milk.

Hardgainer Foods To Help With Weight Gain

#5 Don't Always Eat "Clean" When Building Your Hardgainer Diet

This is one I have suffered from in the past. 

I always wanted to gain weight and do it in a very healthy way, but lemme tell ya, it is NOT easy. 

Eating tons of vegetables and good carbohydrates can fill you up fast and makes it difficult to hit your calories.

It’s ok for you to have flexibility with your hardgainer diet if it will help you hit your calorie goal.

This doesn’t mean to eat like an a-hole and eat Taco Bell three times a day to get 4000 calories.

You will feel lousy and your performance in the gym will suffer.

It does mean to be smart about how you get your calories from different types of foods.

When it comes to eating foods that are not as healthy for you, consume them later in the day. 

There is no difference for the time of day in regards to gaining weight, but consider this…

If you eat a 2000 calorie breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon, eggs, biscuits, tons of syrup and butter, you are going to be STUFFED.

Stuffed for many, many hours. 

Stuffed to the point where you might not hit your remaining calories because you overdid it early in the morning.

So try for the opposite.

Be smart and eat well throughout the day, targeting your lean proteins, veggies, carbs, etc.

Then at night, go get your big meal that will pack on the calories and help you hit your calorie goal.

A good rule of thumb is to try and follow the 80/20 rule. 

Check it out below.

Hardgainer Diet - Don't always eat clean. 80/20 rule

#6 Eat Your Fats

Did you know that 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories, whereas 1 gram of protein or carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories.

That’s more than double! 

You get a big "bang for your buck" when you consume fats.

This does not mean you should start eating ONLY foods high in fat.

The most important thing when gaining weigh is calories.  You have to be in a calorie surplus.

The next most important tool is hitting your protein goal.

When paired with a proper workout program, that protein will help make your weight gain muscle.

What are the best hardgainer foods to eat that have fat?  Shoot for your diet to contain:

    • Nuts
    • Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, etc)
    • Avocados
    • Salmon
    • Cheeses
    • Whole eggs
    • Oils, such as olive and avocado
    • High quality butter

#7 Have High Calorie Meals Readily Available

Having a few go to meals that can be readily available to cook or warm up will help when you are behind on your calories for the day. 

These should be meals that are high in calories, that you enjoy, and are easy to make.

Pick a day out of the week to be your meal prep day and take 2 - 3 hours to prepare a variety of items that will help you reach your calorie goal.

One of my go to’s?  Spaghetti with meat sauce.  Easy, delicious, and high calories.  That is just what I am looking for.

Some other hardgainer food recommendations would be:

    • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
    • Frozen waffles with banana and peanut butter
    • High calorie soups
    • Bagels with cream cheese
    • Tacos
    • Rice Bowls
    • Cereal

The picture below is an example of what a quick meal prep looks like for me.  I have my high calorie meal ready (spaghetti), along with a variety of proteins, carbs, and vegetables.

Find what works for you.

If you need more meal ideas, check out these articles:

The Best Female Weight Gain Meal Plan

Gain Weight And Muscle With This Bulking Meal Plan For Skinny Guys

hardgainer meal plan

Calories Needed For Your Hardgainer Diet

At the end of the day, don't stress it so much.

I hear it way too often of “this is impossible”, “I can’t eat that much”, “I am going to be skinny forever”. 

All of these statements are not true, and it really comes down to believing you can do it.

Using these tips, you are going to want to pair them with eating enough calories and protein so you can build muscle from your workouts.  The guide below will walk you through how to calculate that information.

The Essential Ectomorph Body Type Weight Gain Guide [Nutrition & Workouts Included]

Additionally, you're going to want to pair your hardgainer diet with an effective hardgainer workout program.  Grab your free workout program here:

Hardgainer Workout Program & Detailed Guide


Do Hardgainers Need More Protein?

In order to build muscle and pack on weight, hardgainers do not need to eat more protein than the average person trying to achieve the same goal.

Eating at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight up to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight will be adequate protein consumption for a hardgainer diet.

Should Hardgainers Eat A Lot Of Carbs?

Yes hardgainer diets should consist of a large amount of carbs.

Since carbohydrates don't fill you up as much as protein or fats, eating a lot of them will allow you to eat those extra calories you need to gain weight and muscle.

As long as your protein requirements are met, you can play around with how many carbs you want to eat to get to your calorie target.  

What Should Hardgainers Eat?

Hardgainer diets should consist of main unprocessed foods, such as lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy carbs like rice, potatoes, and oatmeal, and healthy fats such as olive oil, nut butter, seeds, & avocados.

Mix in your favorite foods from time to time to allow flexibility and to make your journey more enjoyable.

For sample meal recommendations, check out:

Gain Weight And Muscle With This Bulking Meal Plan For Skinny Guys

The Best Female Weight Gain Meal Plan 

Hardgainer Diet Tips Recap

A hardgainer diet requires you to consume more calories than you are used to eating.  This can be tough for many hardgainers that don't have the appetite to increase their calories.

These are the 7 best hardgainer diet tips to help you increase your calories:

  • Pick one meal to be the "big one"
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Drink a homemade mass gainer shake
  • Drink more liquid calories
  • Don't always eat "clean"
  • Eat more fats
  • Have high calorie meals readily available