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The Best Ectomorph Diet For Gaining Muscle And Becoming More Confident

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

ectomorph diet

An ectomorph diet plan that will get you results has to factor in the traits of an ectomorph.

Ectomorphs are:

  • Naturally skinny and have trouble gaining weight.
  • May be skinny fat where they have thin arms and legs but hold excess body fat in their midsection.
  • Have fast metabolisms.
  • Usually have higher NEAT levels (Non exercise activity thermogenesis) due to constantly moving, fidgeting, etc.

Sound like you?

Whether your goal is to start packing on size quickly or add muscle while minimizing fat gain, this ectomorph diet guide will give you the answers you need.

Broken down by category, today you will learn about:

The Key To A Successful Ectomorph Diet Is Calorie Intake

When building your ectomorph diet, a basic understanding of what makes the scale move is important to know.

In order to overcome your skinny genetics, the most important factor is that you are in a calorie surplus.  You can follow all the additional steps in the rest of the article, but without a calorie surplus, your weight will stay the same.

Ectomorph diet calorie surplus
Calorie Maintenace Hardgainer
ectomorph calorie deficit

I am shocked when I read other ectomorph diet articles and there is no mention of even being in a calorie surplus if you are trying to gain weight!

So that’s why I say it over and over:


If you are trying to gain weight, you need to be in a calorie surplus.


How do you find your calorie surplus? 


Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 16 - 20.  For most people, eating in that range will put you into a calorie surplus. This is the first and most important step in your ectomorph diet to gain weight.


You'll want to learn how to use a food tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal, to ensure you are hitting your daily numbers. Try tracking for 3 - 4 weeks, along with weighing yourself everyday to monitor your progress.

If you are seeing changes, great!  If the scale hasn’t moved, either bump up your calories or be real with yourself and determine if you are accurately tracking everything.

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

The Role Of Macronutrients In An Ectomorph Diet

Now that you understand that you need to eat in a calorie surplus, let’s break down where those calories come from.

You calculated your calorie surplus numbers and downloaded a food tracking app right?

Ok, good.  Let's continue.

The three macronutrients that make up your calorie goal are proteins, fats, and carbs. 


Ectomorph Protein Intake

When it comes to the three macronutrients listed above, the most important one to an ectomorph is protein.

If you are eating in a calorie surplus, you will gain weight, either in the form of fat or muscle.

You want it to be muscle and the only way to make that happen will be to eat enough protein and lift weights (we will get to that later).

The amount of protein needed to build muscle can be anywhere between 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, all the way up to 1.2 grams.

Where should your protein come from?

Ectomorph diet protein sources
how much protein should an ectomorph eat?

The Role Of Carbohydrates In An Ectomorph Diet

When it comes to gaining weight, it doesn’t matter the make up of carbs or fats as long as your calories put you in a surplus.

But for an ectomorph diet plan, your calories are going to be higher than you are used to eating, and you need strategies in place in order to hit that target.

Ectomorphs can handle carbs better than most body types, so you need to use that to your advantage.

Because carbs are not as filling as proteins or fats, consuming extra carbohydrates during the first half of your day to get more calories in is an effective technique when it comes to ectomorph food choices.

Here are some carbohydrate sources that will benefit you.

Ectomorph diet carb sources

Fats Are Your Friend

The last macronutrient is fat. Fat is your friend.

Why you may ask?

Well, if we break down the 3 macronutrients by calories per gram you will see why.

1 gram of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories. On the other hand, 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. 1 gram of fat calories is double that of protein or carbs!

If you are struggling to eat more calories, an easy way to increase them is to add more foods high in fat since a little goes a long way with them.

Now remember, protein and fats fill you up more than carbs, so if you load up on a lot of fat you risk getting full very easily.

Be smart about your fat intake, and make sure the fat is coming from a quality source.

Great fat sources include:

Ectomorph diet fat sources

The Role Of Micronutrients In An Ectomorph Diet

Although calories and protein are the kings for your transformation, you can’t forget about your micronutrients, aka your vitamins and minerals.

This is another way of me saying, eat your fruits and vegetables!

Ectomorphs often focus so much on calorie intake that they toss aside fruits and vegetables since they are lower in calories.

Yes, that should be your priority, but the added benefits of eating fruits and vegetables cannot be overlooked.

Having a well versed diet with a variety of vegetables and fruits will help improve your digestive health, make your skin clearer, and give you more energy.

Try and eat 3 - 6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  You could probably do well with even more, but you don't want to load up too much on these lower calorie foods.

If you are not a fan of vegetables, try having a better relationship with these foods besides for their taste.

macros for weight loss eating more vegetables

What Supplements Should An Ectomorph Use?


If I could build a pyramid of the most important factors for an ectomorph diet, supplements would make up the smallest percentage of that pyramid.

Unfortunately, people try and make it one of the biggest, thinking that supplements are the key to their body transformation.

They couldn’t be more wrong.  When it comes to supplements, most of them don’t do anything or are just loaded with lousy ingredients, like the weight gainer I took in college. Whoops.

For an ectomorph diet plan, 3 supplements that might help on your journey are:

  • Protein powder
  • Creatine
  • Caffeine 
  • Daily - multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D

Protein Powder

One of the most popular supplements for ectomorphs, and pretty much anyone in the fitness industry, is protein powder.

Under consuming protein is a problem for a lot of people when they first start out changing their ectomorph diet, and protein powder is a great way to combat that.

Ideally you would get your protein from all natural sources like red meats, chicken, seafood, dairy, etc, but if you have trouble doing that, start adding a whey protein (or vegan if you are lactose intolerant) to your diet.

For a clean protein powder with high quality ingredients, check out Legion Athletics.  You can use the code VBAFitness for 20% off your first order.


Creatine is one of the most studied supplements, and has been deemed one of the safest to take.

In a 2019 study, found here, states that “creatine supplementation during the complex training protocol applied in this study could increase maximal muscular strength after 4 weeks of training and reduce the muscle damage caused by the complex training bout”

You can think of creatine as a supplement that can give you that extra little boost during your workout.  So maybe you can normally push through 6 reps on your squat, but having extra creatine in your system might give you that extra push to get to 7.


This one is just a given right!?

If you are like me, caffeine is a staple just to start the day.  There is nothing like a nice cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

It’s not just used for the morning though.  Caffeine can be a great supplement to take before you workout to give you the energy for your workout.

Whether it’s a pre workout supplement, a cup of tea, or just coffee, find out what your tolerance is to caffeine, consult your doctor if needed, and add it into your diet if you want.


Daily Supplements

You'll also want to have supplements that you take daily to improve your overall health.  You can think of these as the items that are filling in the gaps from what your diet is missing.

Remember this.

Supplements don't replace a poor diet or lifestyle.  You'll still need to eat a diet full of lean protein, healthy carbs & fats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, exercise multiple times per week, and get good sleep.

My favorite daily supplements include:

  • Fish oil
  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin D

If you want 20% off your first order of Legion Supplements, click the link here and use the code VBAFitness at checkout.

ectomorph supplements to take daily

How Many Meals Should An Ectomorph Eat A Day?

Meal timing and frequency is irrelevant for muscle and weight gain if you are in a calorie surplus.  Find an eating strategy that allows you to be consistent and is realistic to follow.  Anywhere between 2 - 6 meals is totally fine based on what you prefer.

ectomorph diet meal frequency

It always comes back to your calorie surplus.  Once you got that locked in your brain, use these strategies to help you get to that calorie surplus:

  • Decide what type of eater you are.  Can you handle a big meal or will that leave you full for hours?  If you can handle larger meals, try for 3 high calorie meals a day.  If these meals leave you stuffed and bloated, try to break down your meals into 5 - 6 throughout the day.


  • When you have a high calorie goal, it’s nice to get a chunk of those calories earlier in the day.  Don’t skip breakfast and/or a morning snack.  You’ll be playing catch up the whole day if you do that.


  • Have extra carbs in your earlier meals. Carbohydrates don’t fill you up as much as fats, so meals consisting of carbs and proteins will allow you to eat again in the next 2-4 hours.


  • Figure out how much protein you need at each meal to hit your goal.  If you are trying to get 150 grams per day and are eating 3 meals,  try for each meal to have 40 grams and then you can have a shake for 30 grams to finish the day.


  • There is nothing wrong with eating late at night, it will not be stored as fat.  If you are short on calories, make sure to eat them before you go bed.

Setting Up Your Ectomorph Meal Plan

By now you should have an idea of how many calories you need to be eating, how much protein to consume, and roughly how many meals a day to feel your best.

To make your journey more enjoyable and not so strict, use these tips I use with my online clients to build an ectomorph diet plan.

  • When you find your calorie goal, instead of hitting that exact number, give yourself a range to hit each day.  A 100 - 200 calorie range will suffice.


  • Do the same thing with your protein.  Give yourself a 10 - 20 gram buffer each way.


  • If you know you tend to eat more on certain days, split up your calories and give yourself more on certain days and less on others.  Most people eat more on weekends so you could give yourself 300 - 400 more calories on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and have less Monday - Thursday.


Example Of Macro Calculations For An Ectomorph Diet Plan

Example time!  What name should we use today? Let's go with Jasper since that's my cat's name and he is currently sitting right here.

Jasper is trying to gain weight and currently weighs 153 pounds.  To find his calorie surplus number, we are going to multiply his weight by 16 - 20.

We will go right in the middle and start with 18 so 153 times 18 equals 2754.


As we just discussed, to not be so strict, instead of trying to hit 2754 eat day, let's give a calorie range of 2700 - 2800.


Next up is protein.  Multiplying his weight anywhere between 0.8 - 1.2 will be a great area for muscle growth, so to make it easy let's go with this ectomorph eating 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.  153 grams of protein will be his target.


There's nothing wrong with eating a bit more or less so a range of 145 - 165 will be awesome for Jasper.


Here's a sample ectomorph meal plan day of what his food might look like.
ectomorph diet for muslce gain

I recommend playing around with MyFitnessPal and work on building a couple days of meals that will equal your calorie goal.  This can be called your "perfect day of eating" and something you can reference in the future if you are having difficulty hitting your numbers.

If you want more ectomorph meal plan examples check out:

The Best Female Weight Gain Meal Plan

Gain Weight And Muscle With This Bulking Meal Plan For Me

How Do Cheat Meals Fit Into An Ectomorph Food Plan?


For most people, cheat meals are looked at like a bad thing.

But for an ectomorph diet, they can actually be used to your advantage.


Cheat meals should by no means be the bulk of your ectomorph diet, but if you have trouble getting calories in, adding some meals that are out of your norm can help you reach your goal.


When planning your cheat meals, if possible, make them for later in the day.

If you decide to cheat at breakfast and take down a huge plate of pancakes, eggs, bacon, hash browns, ok now I'm hungry, that will be a huge chuck of calories.  But here is where the problem starts.

Taking down a heavy breakfast like that will leave you full for a big chunk of the day.

I’ve done this in the past, where I eat a 2000 calorie breakfast, and think, “wow I only need 1500 more calories today, that should be easy.”  I’m so full though, that I don’t eat my next meal until dinner and end up not hitting my target!

Instead, eat your normal, healthy foods earlier in the day, and then stock up on your cheats later to reach or surpass your day calorie goal.

Ways To Compliment Your Ectomorph Diet For Best Results

You now understand what you need to do for your ectomorph diet.  But that’s not the whole picture...

To compliment your new ectomorph diet, you have to be lifting weights!

Lifting weights and focusing on getting stronger will send the signal to your body to build muscle.  When you send that signal, your body will realize that you are in a calorie surplus with your diet, and those excess calories will be built into muscle, rather than fat.

If you need a workout program, check out my article The Premier Ectomorph Body Type Guide [Workouts Included].

When it comes to your fitness goals, focus on lifting weights, and try to limit cardio.  If you are constantly running and doing different forms of cardio, you start sending a mixed signal to your body of what it should be doing.  Here are the best cardio options while bulking.

Cardio is great for overall cardiovascular health, and should be implemented sparingly, but don't let it get in the way of your calorie surplus and muscle gain.

Ectomorph Diet Plan Frequently Asked Questions

What Foods Should Ectomorphs Avoid?

The only foods to avoid as an ectomorph are ones that you don't enjoy or that you are allergic too.   

You've learned today that as long as you hit your calories and protein intake, you'll build muscle and gain weight.

That means that you can make any food fit as long as you stay in your daily macro guidelines.

Can Ectomorphs Get A Six Pack?

When you pair an effective ectomorph weight gain diet with a well structured strength training program, there is a good chance that you will get a six pack.

This is because the fact that ectomorphs are naturally skinny so once you get abs, they show right away.

Does An Ectomorph Meal Plan Have To Be The Same Calories Everyday?

No.  In order to get results from an ectomorph meal plan, think of your progress on a week to week or month to month scale.

If you need to eat 3000 calories a day, that is 21,000 calories for the week.  

If you prefer some days to be lower and some days higher (most people want this for the weekend), you can manipulate your calories up or down.  Make sure you still hit your weekly total (21000 in this example) and you'll see results.

Your Ectomorph Diet Plan Review

That was a lot of information.

Are you still with me?

If you need a recap of what you learned, here you go.

The optimal ectomorph diet plan includes:

  • Eating in a calorie surplus.  Multiply your weight by 16 - 20 to give yourself your calorie goal.
  • Eat enough protein so your body will use the excess calories to build muscle.  0.8 - 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is a good range.
  • Carbohydrates and fats don’t affect weight gain directly, but remember that 1 gram of carbs is 4 calories, while 1 gram of fat is 9 calories. Use fats to help you hit your calories if you are struggling to reach your goal.
  • Micronutrients are still important to have in your diet for overall health.  Eat 3-6 servings of vegetables and fruits to feel your best.
  • The best supplements for an ectomorph diet will be protein powder, creatine, and caffeine.  None of these are required, but can help aid your progress if you think you need them.
  • Meal timing and frequency does not affect weight gain.  Audit your eating habits and determine if you are a big meal eater, prefer smaller meals, what time of day you like to eat, etc.  Optimize your diet for your life!
  • Utilize cheat meals to help you hit your daily calorie goal.  Try and use these meals later in the day so you don’t stuff yourself early and struggle the rest of the day.
  • Follow a proper weight lifting routine to allow your excess calories from your surplus to be used for muscle gain.  This will give you the desired look you are after.

I hope this article helped you.  If you have any questions, reach out to me here or leave a comment below.

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