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How to Gain Weight and Increase Muscle Mass for Naturally Thin Skinny People

Michael gained 35 pounds of muscle cycling to beaches over the summer once a week, in addition to his strength training routine.

My legs are muscular now.

My legs are muscular now.

How to Gain Weight If You're Naturally Thin

Lots of people want to be thinner, but there is such as thing as being too thin. Skinny people are usually weaker because they have less muscle, and they're also prone to developing osteoporosis. Underweight people are also more likely to have low bone density.

When I was younger, people often made comments about me being too thin. If you are naturally thin, you may want to put on some more weight to improve your look, your strength, and/or your health. However, putting on weight can be difficult.

I tried and failed to increase my weight for years. The exercise routines I did to bulk up did not work. Then I changed some of my habits and gained a lot of weight by building muscle.

Instead of being too skinny, now I am lean and muscular. I get more positive comments on my body and I am more confident. Another advantage is that I do not get cold as easily as I did when I was thin.

If you want to gain weight, then try what I did.

Building Muscle Mass With Exercise

Exercising did not do much for me because I could not bulk up. My muscles did not seem to get any bigger from exercising. After working out for 4 months, I still looked skinny and weak.

Then I started going for long bike rides and increasing my distance and stamina. After biking to a beach, I noticed my calf muscles were a lot bigger and they were really hard. It was easy to see and feel the difference. The reason I was able to change my legs so much was that I exceeded my limits. I increased the distance I could bike, and then I increased it again and again.

After spending a lot of time lifting weights and doing bodyweight exercises, my arm muscles gradually became bigger. The trick was to compete against myself.

You can't just do the same exercises over and over.

To make your muscles bigger, you need to continue to do more. Intense cardio is good for lean, hard muscle, and weightlifting is good for larger muscles. I recommend doing both. You do not want to just go through the motions because it will not help you build muscle. The exercises should challenge you.

Don't just work out every day and let the exercise get easier. Build muscle mass by competing against yourself and exceeding your limits. Increase your strength and endurance every week. My longest elliptical workout lasted 3 hours.

I started with a 20-minute workout and tried to go longer or harder every week.

I started with a 20-minute workout and tried to go longer or harder every week.

Gaining Mass With Healthy Food

If you want to gain weight, then you should be eating more. People said I should eat more food, but after I started exercising like an athlete, the same people said I should eat less food. Not only do I eat a lot for my size but I eat more than people that are significantly bigger than me.

How much should you eat?

I do not overeat. Overeating is eating more food than your body needs. A person that biked 30 miles will need more food than a person that spent the day watching TV. If you need more food, then eat more.

What types of food are best?

You could try gaining weight by eating specific foods, but I did not need to. Most of the food I eat is healthy. I just eat a wide variety of foods and try not to eat very much junk. When I eat, I do not eat to gain weight—I eat to provide my body with the things it needs.

Consuming junk food is not a good way to gain weight because it does not provide your body with nutrients. Avoid fast food and junk food that makes you feel tired. An easy way to reduce your junk food cravings is to work out and have an active lifestyle. Biking increases my cravings for healthy food.

My Diet

While attempting to lose weight or gain muscle I stay on the "eat what you want diet". Eat what you want and stop when you are full. The diet works well when you reduce stress, avoid boredom, eat slowly and exercise regularly. You need to have an active lifestyle.

If I want a banana I eat a banana. When I want ice cream I eat ice cream. I am not a nutritionist but I don't think people should ignore food cravings or muscle pain. The idea is to change your habits to change your food cravings. My diet has worked every time so far and I am in my 40s.

What Is "Skinny Fat" and How Do I Lose It?

When I don't exercise enough, I become "skinny fat." My arms and legs become skinnier while my waist gets bigger. To keep the fat off, I need to exercise like an athlete. . . but to exercise like an athlete I need to eat a lot of food.

Even naturally skinny people can have some extra belly fat. While I am not considered overweight or fat, I have been working on flattening my belly. You can lose the extra fat while gaining muscle by eating when you are hungry and increasing regular exercise.

At first, you may lose weight because the fat weight often decreases faster than the muscle weight increases. After most of the extra fat is gone, your body weight will increase as you build muscle. Gaining muscle makes it easier to lose belly fat, and strong ab muscles can make your stomach look flatter. Muscles hold things in place and help you maintain good posture.

Biking long distances is a great way to lose or gain weight because your muscle weight increases while your fat weight decreases. An overweight person would lose weight, while an underweight person may gain 20 pounds. If you are skinny fat, then gaining 20 pounds of muscle can be a good way to flatten your belly.

Why am I losing weight but not gaining muscle?

The fat that you are getting rid of can temporarily hide the fact that your muscles are getting bigger. Increasing your strength and endurance is a good sign that you are, in fact, building muscle, but you just can't see it yet. Losing inches of belly fat while your bodyweight increases or stays the same is also a good sign that it's working.

In the first picture I weighed 120 pounds. In the second I weighed 135 pounds.

In the first picture I weighed 120 pounds. In the second I weighed 135 pounds.

How I Gained Weight and Lost Belly Fat

  • I started doing a weekly elliptical trainer workout.
  • I tried to beat my last workout by increasing my distance and/or speed every time.
  • I ate more food. The exercise routine increased my appetite.
  • When the routine started to feel easy, I switched to cycling outside once a week.
  • I biked longer and farther every time to beat my last bike ride.
  • I increased resistance by sprinting and biking up hills.
  • I stopped trying to do more when there was no longer a reason to improve.

If you are skinny fat, then you may need to build muscle to flatten your belly. If you are too thin or weak, then you may want to build muscle to look and feel better. I gained weight to increase the size of my arms and legs while decreasing the size of my belly. Biking to beaches and eating more food worked for me.

Biking long distances taught me how to quickly lose belly fat by building muscle.

Biking long distances taught me how to quickly lose belly fat by building muscle.

Muscle Gain & Fat Loss Plateaus

A weight loss or muscle building plateau is a lack of progress. You are not pushing yourself hard enough or you are too good at an exercise. With cycling I need to keep increasing the distance or intensity to change my body. Eventually I get to a point where adding an extra hour to my bike ride does not change the way I look or feel.

While doing elliptical workouts I changed my weekly workout into a daily workout but I did not notice a difference until I switched to jumping rope. Get really good at an exercise. Then switch to something else.

You build more muscle and lose more fat while you are getting better at an exercise. Going from a 20 minute workout to a 60 minute workout changed my body more than when I went from 2 hours to 3. The only reason for me to train so I can bike or run for 3 hours is so I can bike 38 miles to a provincial park with some of the best beaches in Canada.

Gain muscle or lose fat with an exercise routine that works. When it stops working it is time to start a new workout routine. Pay attention to your progress. You may need to switch to a totally different exercise. Exercising more or attempting to increase the intensity of the workouts does not always help you build a noticeable amount of muscle.

Reasons to Switch Exercises

  1. Increasing the intensity or duration of the workout does not give you the results you want.
  2. You can't improve anymore.
  3. You don't feel a sense of accomplishment and your routine is boring.
  4. You want to train different muscles.
  5. You are not stronger, leaner or healthier after 4 weeks.

Exercises that Helped Me Build Muscle

The best workout for quick results was biking to the beach.

medicine ball leg raises

wrist rolls

cycling up hills

weighted calf raises

push ups and finger push ups

intense elliptical workouts

weight step-ups

pull ups & chin ups

cardio boxing

jumping rope

weight lifting

hiking up large hills

The exercises that work the best allow you to improve over and over again. You can keep increasing the intensity or duration of the exercise for months. When doing cardio do it as a strength and endurance workout.

Have nearly impossible goals. For a push up workout you could work towards doing push ups with your legs in the air. Even if the goal proves to be impossible you can still get in the best shape of your life. My first nearly impossible goal was to bike 38 miles.

Doing wrist rolls to bulk up my forearms.

Doing wrist rolls to bulk up my forearms.

Get the Results You Want

Some people still consider me to be too skinny, but I like being lean and strong. I don't want to have a lot of extra fat. If you think you are too skinny, then you can gain some weight. If you like your body the way it is, then you don't need to gain weight to please other people. The most important thing is that you are healthy and you like your body.

There are lots of overweight people: a healthy, lean person stands out. Most of the people around you are probably trying to lose weight. Keep that in mind while you are trying to increase your body weight.

To get my results, try doing what I did. Choose an exercise like biking, hiking, or rowing and increase your strength and endurance so you can last a long time and travel long distances. Do bodyweight and weight lifting workouts to increase your strength. Become more athletic.

Have fun and do things that make you feel good even if you are the only one doing them. Focus on what you want and do the things you want to do. You should look forward to your weekly workouts. Increasing your muscle mass requires a lot of hard work but it feels like a form of entertainment when you enjoy it.

Competing against yourself is a good way to change your body and it makes exercise fun.

Additional Resources

  • How I Quickly Gained Muscle Riding a Bike
    Cycling can be a great way to build muscle and lose fat. I gained over 35 pounds of muscle while losing fat by biking to beaches in the summer. For me, it worked better for building muscle than lifting weights.
  • Workout Routine to Bulk Up Your Forearms
    When people do arm exercises they usually focus on the tricep and bicep muscles located near the shoulders. To make your skinny forearms bigger, do exercises that work the muscles on your forearm.
  • How to Change Your Body Type to Ectomorph, Mesomorph...
    Learn how you can change your body type to ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph. Some people are naturally thin, some gain muscle easily, and some have trouble losing fat.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Michael H


Michael H (author) from Canada on August 26, 2015:

Always working out can prevent your muscles from getting bigger. Sometimes you need to exercise less. Exercise less and focus on improving every time. Negative training can help.

Aditya Bala on June 05, 2015:

Can anyone suggest me, what should i eat according to my body structure? My height is around 180 CM and weight is only 128 pound around 58 or 59 KG. What should I do?

Shade on August 28, 2014:

I am 5' 10" and weighed 134 pounds and a 31 inch waist. I started doing P90X and after my first time through I dropped to 120 pounds and a 29 inch waist. I am now (1 year later) on my 4rth time through P90X and am back to 130 pounds but still have a 29 inch waist so I assume I have put on 10 pounds of muscle in just over a year. Find something you like to do and that works out all areas of your body and keep at it. I am now liking my body more than I ever have. By the way I am 50 years old.

Michael H (author) from Canada on February 12, 2014:

Weak people should start with easy exercises and work at increasing their strength and endurance. To start you could do push ups on a set of stairs to make it easier, do step ups on a set of stairs or on a chair and go for walks.

mohsin islam on February 12, 2014:

I am so weak my hole body is so thin no hips I am. So what I do?

Max Zvyagintsev from New Zealand on December 28, 2013:

Thanks for a good read Mike. This is exactly what I was looking for!

Michael H (author) from Canada on May 30, 2013:

It is certainly possible to increase your body weight and size at 22. I am a lot older than 22. You are at a good age for it. I think the age limit would be over 60.

sadha nanda on May 30, 2013:

My age is 22 but i look very lean ,is it possible to increase my body at this age(is there any age limit).

Michael H (author) from Canada on April 09, 2013:

Between meals I eat fruit, crackers, yogurt and other foods that make good snacks. After supper I often eat dessert as a snack. I fill up on healthy food at supper and eat my dessert later. It is not like I eat to gain weight. I don't have a special diet. When I snack it is only because I am hungry.

Rich from Gold Coast on April 09, 2013:

I am naturally skinny too yet continue to lose weight (I've lost 10kg in the last 18 months). I want to put an end to the weight loss so I have started exercising more to build muscle using some techniques from your other hubs. You said you eat a lot. What do you eat between meals?

luvhammers on December 07, 2012:

This is great. I am a bit of a hard gainer myself and I find that getting the calories in is quite difficult at times.

jenbeach21 from Orlando, FL on September 16, 2012:

Very informative, thanks!