What is Hardgaining?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Hardgaining is bodybuilding for those who have trouble gaining muscle mass. Many hardgainers build some muscle and then reach a plateau where they cannot gain any more. Many hardgaining experts stress that protein supplements, a healthy diet, enough sleep, and the right bodybuilding workouts for body type help make hardgaining successful.

Understanding body type is important in hardgaining. There are three main types of body builds. Mesomorphs are those with muscular builds and usually have no trouble gaining strength and muscle. The other two body types, endomorphs and ectomorphs are more likely to need hardgaining to build muscle mass.

Endomorphs have rounded bodies with large trunks and thick thighs. Endomorphs have more fat accumulation than the other two body types. Some experts advise endomorphs to rest less during hardgaining workouts to burn the maximum amount of calories. They also tend to advise cardiovascular workouts for hardgaining endomorphs to increase metabolism.

Ectomorphs have slim builds and are the least muscular body type. Many ectomorphs are hardgainers. Bodybuilding champion Darrem Charles is an example of an ectomorph who increased strength and muscle mass through hardgaining.


In addition to body type, genetic factors can also determine who will be a hardgainer. Testosterone production, thyroid sensitivity, and adrenaline are just some of the many genetic factors that can influence the creation and maintenance of strength and muscle mass. Many experts on hardgaining stress that while body type and genetic factors are important in bodybuilding, most hardgainers have the potential to gain strength and muscle with the proper workout, proper amount of rest, and the proper amount of nutrition needed for each individual bodybuilder.

Protein supplements are often considered crucial in hardgaining. Egg, soy, and whey protein powders are the most commonly used protein supplements in bodybuilding. There are many variations in protein supplements such as low calorie/low carbohydrate and high calorie/low fat and sugar types. Some endomorphs use low calorie/low carbohydrate formulas in hardgaining as these protein powders are often used to lose fat without losing muscle mass. Some ectomorphs use the high calorie/low fat and sugar versions in hardgaining as these protein supplements are usually designed to aid in gaining muscle mass.

Whey protein supplements are popular in hardgaining as whey contains all of the amino acids the body needs to both build and maintain muscle mass. Whey protein is extracted from milk when cheese is made. Soy protein supplements are often a good alternative in hardgaining for those who are lactose intolerant and cannot use the whey supplements. Soy protein powder is frequently used in hardgaining both as a flour substitute when cooking and as a meat substitute nutrition wise. Egg protein powders are used by some hardgainers in a shake form and replace the old, and unsafe, bodybuilding practice of drinking many raw eggs.


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