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Building Up Muscle

I can’t gain muscle?

I’ve done a lot of articles on weight loss recently, probably because the majority of people I talk to want to ask questions about weight loss. But there are many out there in the shame shadows who consider themselves “skinny guys” and even though it’s less talked about it’s just as frustrating for this group of people as it is for people trying to lose weight, in some cases more frustrating!

When you hear someone say I eat all the time but can’t gain weight they usually get derision from their peers about how lucky they are, this circles round so now the skinny guy has to smile and pretend he is happy and keeps his secret hope to change to himself.

On a side note if you are a skinny guy and happy then good for you. I’m not saying you should feel bad in any way it’s your body be happy in it. But this article is for the guys I’ve spoken to in CIA like code about wanting to change because truth be told they feel less than in their current body shape.

I have to be honest; we are mainly talking about men here (not in every single case) but in the majority. Don’t worry girls you are still miles ahead than guys in the feeling unhappy in your body syndrome so don’t start getting mad. But us guys are catching up with you. From manscaping to six packs to perfected beards, we are panicking all the time now. Even really scruffy guys probably spent three hours in the mirror trying to get that scruffy look just right.

But lets put our cards on the table, I grew up with three sisters and have lots of female friends, and a guy having a brilliant sense of humor is all well and good but I’ve heard many female conversations over wine and “it’s what’s inside a mans heart that counts” is not the WHOLE story of what you find attractive and us guys aren’t stupid we know that.

A lot of this comes from our perceptions of what’s shoved down our throats in the media, but whether we know this or not we are still all effected by it.

Robyn Lawley has just made history as being the first ever plus sized model in the SI swimsuit issue and if you look at the pictures of her it’s terrifying to see what the media think is plus sized!

Thankfully (and this is where women’s FITNESS based magazines) not celebrity magazines with a diet thrown in on page 10 have benefited the female cause. Women these days are becoming much more aware about the vast benefits of strength training and lifting heavy weights (not to become the incredible hulk and grow a beard as some women fear) but to become lean and toned and clearly very fit and healthy. Far more so than women starving themselves doing 3 hours of cardio a day and eating tree bark and mung beans.

Sorry I diverse, back to the guys. The same is true for men. How many women’s magazine front covers show a picture of a really pasty, skinny, ribs showing white guy in Speedo’s with the caption “worlds top ten kind and giving men” None!

They all say things like:

“Top ten Celebrity six packs” or “from celebrity HUNK to celebrity JUNK”

A large proportion of personal trainers clients are female so you have to read these celebrity magazines to see what crazy ass starvation diet or horribly inefficient workout is being offered to people week after week………. Or at least that’s my excuse; I also need to know what the Kardashians are up too.

Men over this past ten years or so have fallen hard and fast into this same media trap that has imprisoned women for decades. We have become far more acutely aware of the images of huge muscled guys with six packs, usually drinking a diet coke or holding a bottle of “fat burner” pills looking like they are having the time of their lives. Next to that picture is some poor skinny guy or fat guy looking miserable, in hospital like lighting as the “before shot” of any advert promoting the male body image and the drink or pill that’s going to save us.

They can’t make it more clear, skinny guy or fat guy is bad and unattractive, muscular guy is good and very attractive. Read and watch these images day after day and it’s impossible not to start judging ourselves very harshly. The problem is some guys no matter what they do can’t seem to change their situation.

Well, this article is for you!

I’m not saying by the way that you should buy into all of this nonsense you see about the right body, if you’re happy great. But for whatever “shallow” reason gets you started (and some annoying do gooder will say just love yourself) the end result is not what you expect it’s way better. I say shallow because when I was overweight I was desperate to get into shape and not for one second did I start training for any noble reasons of competing in triathlons for charity, feeling and actually being healthy, having a resting heart rate of 55 and all the other amazing and wonderful effects of eating well an exercising.

I wanted to be in shape to look good, I didn’t even care if it meant I got unhealthier to do it. Yes it is important to look at your insides to make yourself happy, but you can do both you know, and having a really healthy, fit body, like it or not makes you feel better.

It turns out I learnt that being in shape is a natural by product of eating well and exercising but I didn’t care about that then I just wanted to fit well in my clothes!

So I don’t care why you want to get in shape, and you don’t have to get in shape because the world thinks you should. I can promise you though, if Fitness and Healthy eating are a consistent part of your life it does change you for the better in too many ways to list now but not just your outsides change, it helps your feeling of well being tremendously when your body’s working properly.

Luckily the answer is simple, it’s going to require some effort and change of eating on your part but I promise you’ll see it’s not complicated.

When it comes to losing weight with a client I’m a big fan of adding quality food into their lives not taking everything away. Well it’s the same if you can’t gain muscle.

Yes weight training will have an essential part to play but there are three main observations I see on skinny guys:

  1. You rely on cardio as your only means of exercise

Cardio is brilliant for keeping your heart healthy and a million other things and is a great part of a healthy lifestyle, but it is not going to help you put on muscle. Just look at top marathon runners and you wouldn’t say wow what muscular guys!

So if an all cardio plan is already something you do, cut back on the cardio for now (not stop just cut in half) just for a while and engage in a Weight training program. Be careful and seek advice on this. The best way is from a certified trainer. If you truly can’t afford one do some proper research and ask an intelligent friend who already weight trains to help you. You can also send me a message; I’ll always try and help answer your questions =)

Trust me, running into a gym on your own to try and lift as heavy as possible will lead to bad form, bad posture, an inevitably injury and, if you’re curling in the squat rack probably angry looks from the gym rats!

Also bad form will see far fewer results and take much longer to achieve your goals if at all.

  1. Very simply you don’t eat enough to gain muscle!

If you lift heavy weights in the gym you are breaking down you body, the male body produces a lot more testosterone than the female body so if you feed your body properly you WILL gain good muscle if combined with a proper training regime.

What does that mean?

It means if you eat more calories than your body uses it will gain weight. Seems simple?

Well here’s the stumbling block.

  1. A lot (not all) but a lot of skinny men say they eat all day but what are you eating?

I often study bodies and food purchases at coffee shops in the morning (not in a creepy way with a video or anything) but for you reading this it’s a simple experiment you can do yourself to show I’m not crazy but might have a point.

When I see a guy come into starbucks in the morning and he has that “skinny and my body is desperate for vitamins look” 9 times out of 10 he will order some sort of pastry and or muffin for breakfast. Now if you start following them through their day (don’t actually you might be arrested) you will see that these guys do snack all day but on cookies or chips or even granola (if they’re also wearing sandals) and here lays the problem.


Your body needs Carbs YES, Fats MOST definitely and for skinny guys trying to get bigger lots and lots of Protein. YES you do have a higher metabolism than normal people so you are going to have to eat a lot to attain your goal and here’s why that’s tough.

The processed foods, pastry’s, cookies and pop tarts your eating not only aren’t helping you they aren’t very filling and don’t help you gain muscle. Because you have a high metabolism that burns calories like Pac man after a month long fast, you can eat pastry’s or cereal and not gain weight (which is why overweight people hate you) BUT you’re trying to gain muscle so it’s also why you’ve remained skinny.

When you start eating nutritious protein packed natural foods you will become fuller, faster and for longer. At the start eating a lot of the muscle building foods is going to be tough when you’re not used to it, you will feel full a lot and fall into the trap of eating one meal and not having another for most the day…. except cookies of course.

If you’re thinking this isn’t you and you already eat eggs and chicken and fruit for breakfast and only snack on healthy foods then great you’re problem is simple!

You either don’t weight lift or don’t eat enough or most likely both.

So for you guys I say this:

Weight lift 3 x week, eat what you’re eating now but add in 2 protein shakes with coconut water and fruit a day (one after each weight training session as well) and add 3 hand full of nuts a day (walnuts, almonds and pistachios) are good choices. Weigh yourself Monday morning do this for a week including your new weight training program and weigh yourself the next Monday. If you have gone up in weight great, if not add a 3rd shake and another handful of nuts or extra avocado or larger pieces of steak, fish or chicken and do another week.

Keep doing this till you see the scales go up and your strength go up, problem solved.

Now back to the skinny cookie monsters!

If you really want to change your body then food is your answer. Here are some tips that combined with a weight training program is going to see great results.

  1. Keep a log of two days worth of food, be honest it’s not a test!
  1. If you see the majority of your foods are Carbs or processed foods ask yourself what am I prepared to do to reach my goals of muscle growth?

If the answers nothing I love the way I eat too much no problem, but sadly we end the conversation here and you’ll keep enjoying that gust of wind as it blows you over walking your date home.

If the answers yes I’m willing to change a few things then here’s the good news. We’re not going to take all your snacks away, we’re going to start adding food and by adding more of the foods you need to gain muscle you are going to find less NEED to snack on the donuts. Most snacking is a habit; you get in the mindset that you need it.

It is becoming much more accepted, scientifically studied and proven that processed foods and refined sugars are as addictive as drugs and alcohol. So if you feel a cold sweat coming over you at the thought of eggs instead of pastry for breakfast don’t feel bad or weak, it’s perfectly natural but that panic will go once you get moving into your new routine.

If you’re an idiot like me you’ve already decided to go extreme and cut every bit of processed food out and go for your goals. I won’t try and stop you because no one could stop me it’s our nature to be extreme, but if that’s the case I’ll warn you people report feeling the effects of the withdrawal of sugar and processed foods much like drugs and alcohol, not nearly as severe but be aware that you might feel some discomfort if you’re suddenly not feeding the sugar monkey all day into your system.

A slower approach is advised, for example. I truly believed once that I could not drink coffee without milk and sugar, now I couldn’t drink coffee with it. Is it because I’m so great?? NO not at all I have just turned one habit into another.

E.g. If your “habit” is to have two sugars then try one sugar for a week then half a sugar the next week etc etc. Same with the Milk just let the coffee become darker over each week till it’s black. This way it’s not such a shock. To be fair I went too straight no sugar espresso and downed them with gritted teeth till I loved them but like I said I’m an idiot!

If you think you have to change YOU to get to your goals you’re doomed to fail. As humans we love habit, it makes us feel safe even if the habits bad for us. All I’m trying to get you to do is start replacing one habit for another.

I’m just as much of a habit person now as I’ve always been, in fact more so, it’s just my new habits I’ve developed make me much happier and stronger than my old ones.

  1. First lets start with assuming you are now going to weight train 3 times a week.

As said before seek professional advice, or an intelligent friend. You can even take a FITNESS based magazine to a gym if you have too, but don’t be afraid to ask a member of staff to show you how to do something properly. That’s what they are there for, they will gladly and willingly help you with a smile because they hope you’ll see what a great guy or girl they are and maybe you’ll become a new client for them as some point down the line.

If you feel embarrassed because you think you look like your new and asking for help is somehow weak or stupid then let me queue you in to the gym world. Anyone asking for help from staff, working hard and trying to learn proper form is seen as a great and smart addition to any gym, new comers are welcome no judgments at all!

On the other hand watching some moron perform some horrible backbreaking, useless maneuver thinking he’s super cool and spends his time showing off is seen as an idiot! These are the people taking up gym equipment using it completely wrong i.e. curling in the squat rack, and getting in peoples way. Please don’t be that guy. I’ve been training for years and years but I still workout with my friend Justin Hagen who’s been training for longer and has incredible knowledge as a trainer and I still go to him for advice. The people who reach their goals are the one’s who don’t think they know it all. I’m where I am today because I asked questions and I sought out the advice and knowledge of people far more advanced than me.

So now you’re weight training lets look at food: 


Eggs, bacon, toast, pure butter, fruit, oatmeal, honey, turkey bacon, steak, yogurt, bagel and salmon. You can mix up however you like but make sure you have a good portion of protein, e.g. 3 eggs or 4 pieces of bacon or 6 ounces of smoked salmon.


Try any fruit or yogurt, Nuts or protein bars (protein bars are quick and just as handy as a cookie) just check the label, you want 20 grams of protein per bar and as few as ingredients as possible. Quest bars are a very good choice. If you take the food with you it keeps things simple. If you have to munch on a cookie don’t freak out this is a walk to your dream not a run.


Sandwiches are simple and quick, any kind you like but homemade taste better and are much more nutrient filled. Chipolete if ones near you, hell have a burger if you fancy (not a McDonalds that’s not food that’s some sort of weird goop, shaped like food and pooped out by Golem) but a good 100% beef burger, especially in the US there’s plenty of good quality burger joints.


Chicken, steak or fish. Potatoes (sweet potatoes are you’re healthier and tastier option) but any potatoes will work and some vegetables any you like. Also rice and quinoa are great Carbs as well.

Bake a sweet potato, throw on some olive oil and cinnamon it’s lovely!

At any time of the day throw in fruits and vegetables. Cold pressed juices are also a good way to get in some nutrients

After any weight lifting session drink 2 scoops of protein blended with frozen tropical fruit, coconut water and honey

An hour before bed drink a scoop of protein shake

Supplements: get a good live Multivitamin and purified fish oil capsules.

Drinks: The more water you drink the better go for a least 8 glasses a day, otherwise enjoy your coffee and teas and cold pressed juices

This is a great start, as time goes on you will need to see what works best for you and refine your choices. All change seems overwhelming at first but you’ll be amazed how quickly it becomes habit

For clients losing weight I like to avoid scales as it’s not the best reflection of how well they are doing, but for people like yourself Weigh yourself each Monday. If you see the scales going up combined with your ability to lift heavier and heavier weights you will know it’s working

Good Luck and feel free to ask any questions!











author: jakedavis