I see it all the time: skinny guys carrying around tupperware filled with rice and chicken; and sometimes with rice only, and other times just vegetables in an attempt to bulk up and gain some muscle. Despite hitting the gym regularly and sticking to their strict diet, they can’t seem to gain any weight.
I’m constantly bombarded with questions on what foods to eat to build muscle. When the answer is as simple as EAT MORE FOOD, people continue to be dumbfounded. Although eating clean foods is a healthy habit, it’s a terrible way to gain weight and build muscle.
As a former scrawny guy myself, I will explain why eating clean doesn’t work for the skinny guy, and I will reveal my strategy to bulking up along with my top 5 favorite foods that will help you pack on muscle.
Why Clean Foods Don’t Work
The problem with clean foods like lean chicken, vegetables, and rice, is that these foods are naturally very dense and low in calories. To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn (there’s more to it than that, but that’s a subject that will require an entire article of its own).
By the time you’ve filled up on a huge bowl of chicken and brocolli, you will not have consumed enough calories to gain weight. Even if you tried stuffing more of this food into your mouth, it still wouldn’t be enough to make a difference.
So, what foods should you eat to gain weight?
Big Boys Eat Big Foods
Despite what you read in magazines and on the internet, the main source of food you should consume to build muscle is from fast food and all-you-can-eat restaurants. Fast food and all-you-can-eat restaurants are awesome because their food is high in calories, and it’s easy to eat a lot of. If you want to get big, you have to eat big. Chicken breast, lettuce, and rice just isn’t going to cut it. Granted, the foods I am recommending aren’t the healthiest foods to eat, but they work! With that being said, this is not intended to be a lifestyle diet or a long-term diet. This way of eating is designed to put on weight fast. It’s like a last resort for skinny trainees who can’t seem to gain weight no matter what they do.
Of course, once you’ve reached your desired bodyweight, you should transition to a cleaner diet to maintain your muscle mass while leaning out, and to detox the accumulated fast food toxins from your system.
The method I am describing is referred to as dirty bulking. The purpose of dirty bulking is to facilitate the consumption of surplus calories by using light high-calorie meals. In other words, by eating high-calorie foods that are digested quickly, you are able to eat more frequently, providing your body with enough energy to build muscle. This usually involves eating processed food, food that is covered in oil and marinades, and foods that are high in carbs.
What to Expect
If you’re one of those scrawny dudes who are obsessed with their six-packs, you better mentally brace yourself because your precious abs will soon be replaced by a beautiful layer of fat. Very few people have the genetics, dietary-anal-retentive habits, or the “supplements” to help them stay lean year-round while gaining muscle mass. For the rest of us normal folks, we must understand that in order to gain weight, we must GAIN WEIGHT, and one of the places you’ll notice that weight gain is around your stomach; I call this the Power Belly.
Dirty bulking may sound like a fun way to put on muscle at first, but trust me, the novelty of this diet gets old very quickly. Throughout this diet, you should expect to feel bloated and most of the time you will be. Your belly will tend to stick out a little bit. This diet is not fun as you’ll be stuffing your face very often. Eating will become a chore; force-feeding yourself when you’re not hungry will take a lot of mental strength. The extra work your digestive system has to do will draw blood from other areas of your body, like your brain, which will result in the attainment of the meat-head mentality. Don’t worry, this is a good thing.
On the bright side, you can expect your performance in the gym to improve. You’ll find yourself lifting heavier weights more easily. There are multiple reasons for this–the main one being that the increase in bodyweight will improve your leverages allowing you to lift heavier weights, which results in more muscle gains. The stronger you become, the more muscle you will build–to a certain extent, but for the skinny gym newbie, strength gains will definitely correlate with muscle gains.
The second reason is that the over-consumption of calories converts to a surplus supply of energy for your muscles and nervous system to use for lifting at the gym. Some of my best workouts have been fueled by Big Macs, cheeseburgers and pizza, resulting in personal records and muscle gains! The body is a very intelligent machine; even if you feed it garbage, it will make the most of it!
Many people will bash on this diet claiming that the majority of the weight gained will be fat. It is true that you will gain fat along the way, but you’ll also gain a substantial amount of muscle. In fact, the amount of muscle you gain on this diet will always outweigh the small amount of fat you gain along the way. Besides, the fat you gain on this diet can be quickly trimmed off, compared to the many years it has taken to build the muscle. All it takes is a few adjustments in your diet and training regimen.
As legendary strength coach, Bill Starr says:
I will say that for gaining muscle, caloric excess must be present. More people, particularly bodybuilders, go wrong here. If caloric excess is present and training stinks, you will get fatter. The few guys who have come back with no weight gain got very strong and gained no net weight – guess what – they were already fairly lean (i.e. no excess in their diet otherwise they’d have been fatter) and they didn’t gain fat or muscle (no caloric excess during training). There’s nothing any program can do if you won’t eat. For the purposes of gaining muscle or getting big and strong it’s better to eat McDonalds and KFC all day long than not eat enough Zen clean ultra pure food which might be healthier but if not enough there’s simply nothing to use to grow. So caloric excess is a requirement, you don’t need to eat like a slob but it will work infinitely better than not eating enough healthy food for this purpose. Lots of people have gotten big and strong on diets that were bad, if you choose to eat squeaky clean, kudos to you but it is not critical to putting on muscle (it might be critical to a long high quality life though).
Dirty Bulking The Right Way
I recommend increasing your fast food intake gradually and systematically, just as you would with your training. You must give your body and digestive system time to adapt to the increased caloric intake; dump too much in there too soon, and your body won’t know what to do with it, besides storing it as fat.
This diet is not an excuse for you to pig out on your favorite junk foods. Please use common sense when eating this way. There is always a point of diminishing returns. The body can only gain muscle at a certain rate no matter how much you eat, so if you eat more than the body needs, the rest of the food will be stored as fat. With that being said, if you find yourself getting too fat too fast, you should obviously cut back on the food a little bit; if you find yourself not gaining enough weight, eat more. You should aim to gain 1-2 pounds a week. Use your scale and your mirror as a means of tracking your gains. You should also take a topless picture of yourself every week to keep a visual record of your progress.
An example meal progression:
Each day for one week, replace one of your clean meals with one of the fast foods listed below. The second weak, replace yet, another clean meal with more fast food. Keep going like this until you find yourself eating fast food all the time. If you’re REALLY skinny, do not replace any meals at all–just keep adding fast food to your existing diet on a weekly basis.
I recommend 4-6 meals per day–and I’m not talking about small meals here. A lot of people who do the six-meal-a-day thing eat six smaller meals spread out throughout the day. For those of us who want to get buff, all of our meals must be large, so instead of splitting 3 larger meals into 6 smaller meals, we will consume 6 larger meals. See the difference? That difference is what will lead to gains.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should focus on protein-heavy meals. You’ll notice that the foods I list below contain a lot of meat. The body does need a lot of calories, but the bulk of those calories should consist of protein, which the body will use to synthesize into new muscle tissue.
Does this really work?
I would not be suggesting this method if I hadn’t already successfully tried it myself. It may be argued that dirty bulking will result in excessive fat gain, to which I would reply that those who have gotten too fat on this diet clearly lacked self-control and used it as a license to overindulge themselves to the point of obesity.
Refer to my before/after photos below:
It took me 1-2 years to reach the peak of my dirty bulk, going from a scrawny 165 lbs to a buff 220 lbs. After that, I got stuck in a forever bulking cycle for another few years before I finally decided to cut down to a lean 170 lbs, which took me under a year. For those of you who are still afraid of losing their abs, just put into perspective that it took me 24 months to gain weight, and only 12 months to get lean. As stated previously, it takes more time to build muscle than it does to burn fat. Through dirty bulking, you will gain muscle and fat, but the fat can be quickly dieted off.
Notice that even though there is only a 5-pound difference between my before and after photo, there is a huge visual difference in my physique. At 165 lbs, I must have been around 15% bodyfat. After my dirty bulk, I was above 20% bodyfat. After cutting down to 170 lbs, I was below 10% bodyfat. By the end of the three phases, not only was I leaner than my before picture, but I also put on a noticeable amount of muscle; so even though my bodyweight was back down to my previous one, my physique looked a lot more impressive.
Now that I have cleared any doubt you may have had regarding the effectiveness of dirty bulking, I give you my top 5 foods for building muscle:
MY TOP 5 BULKING FOODS
Preferably with multiple patties per burger. In some places like McDonalds, for just a few extra cents, you can add patties to your burgers. For one meal, aim for 2-3 burgers, 2-4 patties per burger. You may want to start off with one double cheese burger on your first week, and gradually add patties and sandwiches each proceeding week. This is a great way to pack on the calories and protein. Try adding a fried egg in there and some bacon for extra calories, fat and protein. If there’s lettuce or tomato in the burger, toss it out and replace it with another meat patty.
Tip: Buy 10 to 15 double cheese burgers from a fast food restaurant of your choice. Keep them in a bag and eat them all throughout the day.
Preferably a meat-lovers pizza with extra cheese–and extra meat. Your pizza should be thick and juicy; none of that thin slice crap you get from most pizzerias.
Tip: Buy 1-2 EXTRA LARGE meat-lovers pizzas (with extra cheese and extra meat). Pack all the slices into Tupperware containers. Carry them around with you and eat them all throughout the day.
Eat preferably at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. Don’t fill up too much on the rice-heavy sushi that most people like to eat. Instead, fill up on sashimi (the salmon and beef variety). I find raw meat is easier to eat than cooked, and because of it’s raw state, I can eat more of it in one sitting than if it were cooked.
Tip: Bring some Tupperware containers in a backpack. Stealthily cram in as much sushi as you can into the containers when the waiters aren’t looking. You now have an entire day’s worth of muscle-building food, and depending on how much Tupperware you’ve brought, perhaps a week’s worth of food.
4. KOREAN BBQ
Just like the sushi restaurant, make sure you go to a Korean joint with an all-you-can-eat option. The marinades contain extra calories your body can use to build muscle, and it makes the meat extra tasty so you’ll be able to eat more of it.
Tip: Avoid getting meats with the bones still attached. Order boneless meats only. The meats with bones take longer to eat because you have to remove the bone, which can be time-consuming, and more importantly, energy-consuming–you do not want to burn any extra calories when bulking. Also, if you plan on eating a lot, you’ll not want to distract yourself with bone removal.
Preferably, make your own home-made nachos, as most restaurants are stingy with their cheese and meat. If you can find a good place that makes nice cheesy nachos, go for it. Otherwise, follow my advice: Grab a large, new fresh bag of tortilla chips, spread a layer of chips on a plate. Next, COVER the chips with a generous amount of grated cheese. Literally make sure you do not see any chip; it should look like the entire plate is covered in Cheese. Every chip should have a good amount of cheese on it–NO CHIP LEFT BEHIND! Next, add a layer of cooked ground beef on top. The ground beef doesn’t have to cover the entire plate, but make sure it’s evenly distributed amongst the chips. Next, make another layer of chips over the beef, and repeat. Continue to add layers of chips, cheese and beef until the bag of chips is completely empty. Now, crack open a few eggs and put them on the top layer. Place this monster in a microwave or oven and let it heat up until all of the cheese has melted.
Tip: For each layer, make sure multiple chips do not excessively overlap each other. Overlapping chips will result in some of them not having any cheese. Arranging the template of the chips may take time and practice, but it’s totally worth the effort. Instead of ground beef, you can get some McDonalds burger patties and grind them up in a blender.
If the above tips aren’t enough for you to gain weight, here are few extra tips to help you out:
ALWAYS ORDER COMBOS:
When ordering at fast food restaurants, always order trios/combos. In fact, you’ll also want to order extra items on top of that.
NEVER DENY DESERT:
When eating out, always ask for the desert menu. Order 1 or 2 of each item for yourself. If milkshakes are available, make sure you order one of those too, but save it for last. If the restaurant allows it, bring a zip-lock bag of protein powder with you and ask them to add that to your milkshake. After you’ve downed all of the desert items, wash it all down with the protein/milkshake.
EAT AN ENTIRE KFC FAMILY MEAL:
This is more of a confidence booster than anything else; to know that you’ve eaten a meal prepared for an entire family will make you feel like the king of the world. Plus, all that protein equals more gains.
AVOID SIPPING ON LIQUIDS (OTHER THAN PROTEIN SHAKES AND/OR OILS):
Ever wonder why waiters continue to re-fill your glass of water? Ever wonder why they offer you something to drink? It’s because consuming liquids during your meal will cause the food in your stomach to absorb it like a sponge, causing it to expand and thus making you feel full. This is the waiter’s attempt at preventing people like us from eating all of their food–especially at all-you-can-eat establishments. Unless you’re sipping on a protein shake or a bottle of oil during your meal, do not sip on anything.
Water is very important, so make sure you drink enough of it between meals.
BONUS: 3 Ways to Sneak in Extra Calories
Preferably olive oil just because it tastes so good. Regardless of what you’re eating, drench your food with oil. Not only will it make your food taste better, but due to its liquid form, you won’t realize how many extra calories you’re consuming.
Preferably peanut-based candies like M&M’s. Keep a few packets of these in your pockets and snack on them throughout the day. They’re a great source of calories and the peanuts contain some protein. Sure, you can always snack on nuts, cashews and such, but anything not covered in chocolate is not high enough in calories.
3. PROTEIN POWDERS:
As mentioned above, sip on protein shakes throughout each meal. And then, chug another protein shake afterwards to wash it all down. It is preferable that you sip on a whey shake. Casein and blends tend to be thick, and will fill you up faster. A scoop of whey will be as thin as water, having a minimal effect on your satiety. It also helps to keep some spare protein powder around with you, either in a ziplock bag or a small tub, so if you ever eat at a restaurant that serves milk shakes, you can ask them to add a scoop of protein to it. Same thing applies to getting coffee or hot chocolate at a coffee shop. Always add protein powder to your beverages!
LIFT BIG, EAT BIG, GET BIG
In order to optimize the allocation of the nutrients to your muscles and to minimize fat gain, you must train correctly in order to stimulate muscle growth throughout the entire body. Skinny gym newbies should perform the main compound lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, military press, rows, chin-ups, dips) consistently for several years, focusing on getting stronger at these movements.
I recommend the following programs to get you started (research each one and pick the one that suits your schedule):
Whichever training program you choose, make sure you remain consistent with it for a long time.
If the above foods and tips do not help you gain muscle weight within a few months, it could be due to some of the following reasons:
You’re not eating enough.
You’re not training properly.
You’re not eating enough.
You’re not getting enough sleep.
You’re not eating enough.
You’re not eating enough.
You’re not eating enough.
If you haven’t yet applied the methods described above, don’t you dare complain why you can’t gain any weight.