How I gained 18 lbs in 30 days

I had been skinny my whole life. I later found out they call people like me “Hard Gainers.”

My Sophomore year of high school, I was 5 feet tall and weighed less than 140 lbs.  I hit a huge growth spurt during my Junior year, and by the time the year was done I was close to 6 feet tall…and I probably weighed 150 lbs.

Looking to bulk up, I began hitting up the gym three times a week.  When I got to college, I enjoyed the All-You-Can-Eat freshman meal plan, worked out 3-4 days a week, and failed to put on more than 5 lbs.  After four years of college, many different workout plans, and eating the right stuff (or so I thought), I had managed to get all the way up to 160 lbs! Woohoo.  I was still skinny as a rail.

After college, I moved out to San Diego, and really got serious about trying to build lean muscle.  I figured if I was going to spend all this time in the gym, I should be getting results out of it!  I had a new workout plan, a new diet, and a new outlook on life.  I very quickly learned that 80% of my problem revolved around the diet.

I simply wasn’t eating enough…all the protein shakes in the world couldn’t help me, because my metabolism burned through that protein before it could be used to build muscle.  Because I was so active (running, surfing, basketball) my body never had enough nutrients to bulk up.  Well, I made a conscious effort to change my entire routine, and within 30 days, I managed to put on 18 lbs!  (Now, I DO NOT recommend putting on weight this fast, it’s not healthy).

A good portion of the weight I put on was fat, meaning not all 18 pounds were 100% lean muscle.  I would have certainly rather gained all muscle, but it’s practically inevitable when trying to put on big amounts of weight in a short amount of time that some of the weight gained will be fat, which is okay.  After four years in college of struggling to gain any weight, I was more than okay with a few pounds of fat along with muscle in this short time span.

Before:

August 28, 2006 - Me Before Hitting The gym

August 28, 2006 – Me Before Hitting The gym – 162 lbs

After:

September 28, 2006 - AFTER - 180 lbs.

September 28, 2006 – AFTER – 180 lbs.

For those of you looking to kick start your body into crazy growth, I’ll detail exactly what I did for a routine and diet.  Please remember, the reason I can eat so much and only add muscle is because I’m one of those lucky (or unlucky) people blessed with the metabolism of a cheetah.  This was accomplished three years ago, and since then I’ve become more knowledgeable.  This is just a “diary” of sorts to what I did exactly to go from 162 lbs to 180 lbs in 30 days.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I would recommend a healthier approach.

So, keep reading at your own risk for my exact diet and exercise routine. 

Please note: this is one of the first articles I wrote for Nerd Fitness, and I would recommend a healthier diet and exercise routine to any future clients. 

Please check out this article or the Rebel Strength Guide if you have any interest in putting on weight the right way.

Diet

I am a picky eater.  I don’t like eggs. I don’t like fish.  This means my options for protein are severely limited, as these two sources are the best in the business.  Because protein is the building block of muscle gain, it is an absolute necessity.  I knew  I needed to eat at least 30 grams of protein every 3 hours.  I ate 6 times a day, so I had at least 180 grams of protein every day.  Yeah, this is a lot of protein.  It works.

However, all the protein in the world won’t help a skinny man unless he eats complex carbs and healthy fats for energy.  Without these things, the body will break down the protein for energy…and no muscle will get built.

Here is my normal routine.  I didn’t change much, because I’m a creature of habit.  The more of a routine you can get on, the better your body can process it, the more efficient you will be.  Also note, I was working a job 5 days a week where I had to be at the office at 6:30AM, hence the early start time.  For the rest of you, just adjust the time to whenever you wake up.  NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST!

6:00 AM (Meal 1)

Two cups of 1% Milk (200 calories, 24g carbs, 16g of protein)

4 Scoops of Muscle Milk Collegiate Edition ( 580 calories per serving, 40g of protein, 89 grams of carbs…it’s not the best thing for you, however, when you need INSANE amounts of calories very quickly and cheaply, you have to do what you can)

9:00 AM (Meal 2)

Met-RX Big 100 Colossal Bar – Super Cookie Crunch (420 calories, 32 grams of protein, 43 grams of carbs. It’s the calories, protein, and carbs that I needed).  Working my job didn’t give me access to a kitchen, and I couldn’t take lengthy breaks, so I had to find ways to eat a lot of calories quickly and easily.

12:00 PM (Meal 3)

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce (Angel Hair Pasta, Prego Sauce, A LOT of Ground Beef – calories, protein, carbs…sensing a trend here?)

3:00 PM (Meal 4)

Two peanut butter sandwiches on wheat bread (decent amount of calories and carbs, 20 grams of protein)

4:30 PM -Workout, Surf, or Relax, depending on the day

6:00 PM (Meal 5)

Two cups of 1% Milk

4 Scoops of Muscle Milk Collegiate Edition ( 580 calories per serving, 40g of protein, 89 grams of carbs) Tons of carbs and protein again, IMMEDIATELY following my workout. This is when you need it the most…your muscles are destroyed, and they need to be rebuilt.  Your body is tired, it needs to be refueled.  The carbs will refuel the body, the protein will rebuild the muscles.  Everybody is happy!

9:00 PM (Meal 6)

Two 90% lean ground beef hamburgers cooked on the George Foreman Grill, and a BIG glass of milk.  Protein and carbs before bed.  When you sleep, your body isn’t expending energy, so it can use those nutrients to just build muscle.  Note, if you eat like I did, and don’t work out, you WILL get fat.  When you constantly exercise, your body will need all the nutrients it can get to get bigger and stronger.

As you can see, I drink a LOT of whole milk.

I’d say the most important meals are Breakfast (you spent all night using the previous night’s meal to rebuild muscle…breakfast will get the body started on the same path.  Plus, at this point you won’t have eaten for 7 hours), the post workout meal (this is when your muscles are broke down and desparate for nutrients), and right before bed (when you sleep, it’s prime muscle building time!)

Workout

This workout is not for a beginner.  In fact, looking back on my routine, I think it was far too complex and could have been done much easier (just concentrating on presses, squats, deadlifts, pull ups, and chin ups).  Now, if you are going to attempt a workout like this, I fully recommend training with a partner, or having a personal trainer to help you out.  You build the most lean muscle and are most efficient when you are taking each exercise  to the verge of muscular exhaustion (where your muscles literally cannot do one more thing).  Obviously, attempting this with squats, dead lifts, and bench presses is EXTREMELY dangerous unless you have somebody to spot you, help you complete the final rep. etc.

Secondly, I did a LOT of Supersets.  A superset is a time saving device in many cases, and in my cases, it was used to develop my muscles more completely.  Here is wikipedia’s explanation on supersets.  When you read my exercise log, look at each exercise, and see what it’s superset with.  For example, I superset a normal bench press exercise with push ups on an exercise ball.  This means, I will do a set of bench press, followed IMMEDIATELY by 10 push ups on an exercise ball.  Because you’re already worn out, and doing this exercise on a ball, it will be difficult to stay in balance…you’ll feel a lot of twitching in your chest as you try to do those push ups.  This is because your chest has to use every little tiny stablizer muscle to stay in balance.  These exercises will solidify each muscle, and help promote strong healthy growth.  After the 10 pushups, I would wait approximately 2-3 minutes between restarting the “circuit” with the next set of bench presses.  In those 2-3 minutes, I highly recommend stretching the muscle you are working out. What else are you gonna do, sit there for 3 minutes anyways right?  Stretch out those muscles.

Looking back, with a few years of fitness experience under my belt, I’d simplify this routine considerably, chopping out some of the supersets as they seem like overkill and my muscles were getting beyond overworked I think.  Still, I’ve reproduced the exact routine I followed for those 30 days just to show you what I did exactly to get the results I did.

Monday (Chest and Biceps)

  • 1) 5 Min Treadmill Warm up – jumping jacks, other exercises to get the body warmed up.
  • 2) Bench Press – 1 warm up set, 3 sets – 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps – increasing weight by 10 lbs each time.  Aim for exhaution on each set.
  • Superset the Bench Press with pushups (3 sets of 10 reps) on an exercise ball – up and down slowly (works your stablizer muscles)
  • 3) Barbell bicep curl – 1 warm up set, 3 sets (10, 8, 6) – increasing weight
  • Superset with Dumbell hammer curls standing on one leg (3 sets of 10 reps, light weight) – again, for stability.
  • 4) Incline Bench – Dumbell Press (3 sets, 10, 10, to exhaustion) – same weight for the first 2 sets, 80% weight on third set, go until you can’t do anymore.
  • Superset Incline Bench dumbell presses with dumbell flys on an exercise ball.
  • 5) Incline Dumbell Bicep Curl 3 Sets (12, 10, 8 )
  • Superset with one legged rope curl (3 sets of 10)
  • 6) Core Exercises (v-sit ups, superman extensions, side planks, etc.) and STRETCH, especially the two muscle groups you just worked out…they’re all broken down and contracted…stretching them out will allow them to breathe, and get started more quickly on the road to recovery (and increased size).

Tuesday (Shoulders and Legs)

  • 1) 5 Min Treadmill Warm-up
  • 2) Squats – 1 Warm Up set, 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • Supset the squats with 1-leg Romanian dead lift with dumbell.  Hold the weight in the same hand as the leg that’s still on the ground (right hand, right foot on ground).  Do one side, then other – left hand, left foot on ground
  • 3)Shoulder press – Dumbells (1 warm up set, 3 sets of 10, 8, 6)
  • Superset with side lateral dumbell raises (3 sets of 10), do this on one foot
  • 4) Lunges – Dumbells on each side 3 sets of 12, 8, 6 reps
  • Superset with one-legged body weight squats.  I never knew how hard you could work yourself without weights until these exercises…BRUTAL.
  • 5) Front shoulder dumbell raises (3 sets 10, 8, 6 reps)
  • Superset with back shoulder raises 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Stretch, v sit ups, supermans, leg raises.

Wednesday – Surf, Run, REST

Thursday – Back and Triceps

  • 1) 5 Min Treadmill Warm Up
  • 2) Deadlift – 1 warm-up set, 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • 3) Close grip bench press – 1 warm-up set, 3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
  • Superset with Dumbell skull crushers on an exercise ball
  • 4) Wide grip Pull-ups (overhand grip – palms facing away)
  • 7) Rope pulley tricep pull downs 3 sets, 1 leg (10, 10, 10)
  • Stretch and Core Exercises

Friday- Surf, Run, RELAX

Saturday – OFF

Sunday – OFF

So there you have it.  This is the routine I followed religiously for 30 straight days, and I put on 18 lbs.  Its not for the inexperienced, and I had a spotter at ALL times.  Having somebody spot you, allowing you to safely work each muscle to exhaustion will create the most size gain.  My bench press increased by 30 lbs, my squat by 50lbs, and my deadlift by 30lbs.

Looking back, it was a typical bodybuilder-style workout, and due to the volume of calories i was consuming, it’s no surprise I put on all of this weight.  These days, I eat much cleaner, train much simpler, and still have success.

Check out this article or the Rebel Strength Guide if you have any interest in putting on weight the right way.

-Steve

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  • http://www.buildingmuscle.org/ Pete Owen

    Hi Steve,

    That’s a nice transformation for 30 days of sweat and heavy iron!

    I’m glad you included your diet in detail and emphasized how important it is in building mass – it’s difficult for most trainee’s new to the ‘sport’ to grasp just how important nutrition is for muscle growth.

    Pete

  • http://www.buildingmuscle.org Pete Owen

    Hi Steve,

    That’s a nice transformation for 30 days of sweat and heavy iron!

    I’m glad you included your diet in detail and emphasized how important it is in building mass – it’s difficult for most trainee’s new to the ‘sport’ to grasp just how important nutrition is for muscle growth.

    Pete

  • http://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve

    Hey Pete,

    Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, it took me 4 years to realize how important eating properly is to getting healthy/gaining weight/losing weight. If you eat the right way, you can get away with just a few hours in the gym each week.

    -Steve

  • http://www.nerdfitness.com Steve

    Hey Pete,

    Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, it took me 4 years to realize how important eating properly is to getting healthy/gaining weight/losing weight. If you eat the right way, you can get away with just a few hours in the gym each week.

    -Steve

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  • Clint

    Your site is great , very informative. So many of the people that I have helped train think it’s all about what you do in the gym. They don’t see how important the diet is. You can workout like a beast but if you eat junk food your body has to rebuild from garbage fuel. So you end up being a strong fat guy. Your site is a great change from all the other stuff out there.I love the fact that you get to the point right away with know BS. I look forward to reading more.

  • Clint

    Your site is great , very informative. So many of the people that I have helped train think it’s all about what you do in the gym. They don’t see how important the diet is. You can workout like a beast but if you eat junk food your body has to rebuild from garbage fuel. So you end up being a strong fat guy. Your site is a great change from all the other stuff out there.I love the fact that you get to the point right away with know BS. I look forward to reading more.

  • http://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve

    Hey Clint, thanks for the kind words. Very true. Diet is at least 80% of the battle, if not more. Yeah, it’s really unfortunate how much BS is out there in the world of fitness and ‘miracle cures.’ It takes a good diet, strong work ethic, and time!

    -Steve

  • http://www.nerdfitness.com Steve

    Hey Clint, thanks for the kind words. Very true. Diet is at least 80% of the battle, if not more. Yeah, it’s really unfortunate how much BS is out there in the world of fitness and ‘miracle cures.’ It takes a good diet, strong work ethic, and time!

    -Steve

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  • Joe

    This article is misleading. There is no way your 18 pound gain was all 100% lean muscle. In fact based on your high calorie diet and your before and after photos I would say a significant amount of that is fat.

    You look arms look bigger but chest and abs look the same covered by more body fat.

    If your going to post this kind of info you need to measure your body fat percentage before and after to help calculate the total amount of lean muscle mass gained.

    I would say based on the photos and info provided you put on 5-7 pounds of muscle and about 11-13 pounds of water, glycogen and fat. Hardly a gain of 18 pounds of muscle.

    Given all the milk you drank I am not surprised you gained “mass”.

    This article fails.

  • Joe

    This article is misleading. There is no way your 18 pound gain was all 100% lean muscle. In fact based on your high calorie diet and your before and after photos I would say a significant amount of that is fat.

    You look arms look bigger but chest and abs look the same covered by more body fat.

    If your going to post this kind of info you need to measure your body fat percentage before and after to help calculate the total amount of lean muscle mass gained.

    I would say based on the photos and info provided you put on 5-7 pounds of muscle and about 11-13 pounds of water, glycogen and fat. Hardly a gain of 18 pounds of muscle.

    Given all the milk you drank I am not surprised you gained “mass”.

    This article fails.

  • http://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve

    Hey Joe,

    Tried to email this to you as well, but you didn’t put down a real email address so I can’t reach you.

    Thanks for the comment on my 18 lbs of muscle in 30 days article on Nerd Fitness; and your criticisms of the title are well-founded. I was trying to draw some attention to the amount of weight I gained in the 30 days, especially considering I put on almost 0 pounds of weight through four years of college while exercising every day and drinking protein shakes. You are absolutely correct in that all the weight gained wasn’t lean muscle, and your comment has made me decide to re-write this article so it’s less misleading. The last thing I want to do is mislead readers. It was exciting to step on the scale and see such a dramatic change in such a short period of time, and I figure there are thousands of other guys like me who struggle to gain weight.

    I wish I had kept body fat percentages and took more statistics during these 30 days. However, it happened years ago, before I even considered starting a fitness website and before I considered becoming a personal trainer. In future weight gaining efforts, I”ll make sure to document far more aspects of my physique and diet for a more scientific result. Now that I’ve done more reading and research and studied more when it comes to fitness and gaining weight, my future plans will be done with a healthier vision in mind, which will be reflected in the edited version of my article coming later tonight.

    -Steve

  • http://www.nerdfitness.com Steve

    Hey Joe,

    Tried to email this to you as well, but you didn’t put down a real email address so I can’t reach you.

    Thanks for the comment on my 18 lbs of muscle in 30 days article on Nerd Fitness; and your criticisms of the title are well-founded. I was trying to draw some attention to the amount of weight I gained in the 30 days, especially considering I put on almost 0 pounds of weight through four years of college while exercising every day and drinking protein shakes. You are absolutely correct in that all the weight gained wasn’t lean muscle, and your comment has made me decide to re-write this article so it’s less misleading. The last thing I want to do is mislead readers. It was exciting to step on the scale and see such a dramatic change in such a short period of time, and I figure there are thousands of other guys like me who struggle to gain weight.

    I wish I had kept body fat percentages and took more statistics during these 30 days. However, it happened years ago, before I even considered starting a fitness website and before I considered becoming a personal trainer. In future weight gaining efforts, I”ll make sure to document far more aspects of my physique and diet for a more scientific result. Now that I’ve done more reading and research and studied more when it comes to fitness and gaining weight, my future plans will be done with a healthier vision in mind, which will be reflected in the edited version of my article coming later tonight.

    -Steve

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  • Mizunohadouken

    Did you experience any stomach pains, constipation, or gassiness eating that much? I’m currently in a bulk phase and eating as much food as I am tends to hurt sometimes =P

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Hmm, first few weeks were definitely tough – make sure you’re eating enough vegetables! low on calories, but high on fiber…your bowels will thank me :)

    -steve

  • Ray

    Hi,
    I see that you have written how much your bench press, squat, and deadlift increased by the end of the 30 days, but can you tell me your starting bench press, squat, and deadlift?

    Thanks

  • Ray

    Hi,
    I see that you have written how much your bench press, squat, and deadlift increased by the end of the 30 days, but can you tell me your starting bench press, squat, and deadlift?

    Thanks

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    hey Ray!

    To be honest with you, I can’t remember how much my lifts improved.  I believe it was 20lbs for bench, 40 lbs for squat and 40 lbs for DL, though I wasn’t tracking my workouts way back then so I’m not sure.  It was my first time ever doing proper barbell training along with eating properly so my gains were probably above average.

  • http://www.fitterhappierproductive.com Darren Beattie

    My two cents, as I see you are planning on doing this again. 

    Food looks pretty good overall, though timing the meals around workouts may be one thought. Meaning have that weight-gainer type solution and liquid calories immediately following workouts, you need carbohydrates just as much as protein especially when trying to pack on weight, and simple carbs are best in that window.Workout Suggestion — Skip more the  the accessory work and go directly to total body days (don’t break it up into body parts like that) and reduce the volume overall in each workout, but you’ll get more repetitive stimulation and consequently more mass. You may like the work of Chad Waterbury or Alwyn Cosgrove for this actually.Example:Monday (Heavy Day – Pseudo-Strength Day)
    1) 5-10 Minutes Foam Rolling, Activation, Technique Work and Dynamic Warm-Up
    A1) Deadlift Variation – 4 x 6
    A2) Bench Press – 4 x 6B1) Barbell Reverse Lunge – 4 x 6 a leg
    B2) Weighted Chin-Up – 4 x 6
    C1) Accessory you need work on 3 x 8-12 reps (Rotator Cuff Work here for example…)
    C2) Rotational Core Work 3 x 8-12 reps – Chops and Lifts (Sledgehammer Work maybe…)  
    Wednesday (Medium Day – Hypertrophy)A1) Squats – 3-4 x 8
    A2) DB Rows – 3-4 x 8
    B1) Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (or Bulgarian Deadlift) – 3-4 x 8 a leg
    B2) Shoulder Press – 3-4 x 8
    C1) Work on a Weakness, maybe it’s a fly variation or something – 3 x 8
    C2) Anterior Core Work (Roll-Outs or Body Saws) – 3 x 8
    Friday – Light Day (Fatigue Resistance and Endurance Day)
    A1) Max Pistol Squats 3 sets of AMRAP
    A2) Max Pull-Ups 3 sets of AMRAP (or Inverted Body Rows with 3 second pause at top)B1) Glute Ham Lowers or GRD 3 sets of 6-10 (depends on experience)B2) Max Feet Elevated Push-Ups 3 sets of AMRAP (3 second pause at bottom)C1) Again pick an accessory movement you need to work on (facepulls are a good one for instance)C2) Lateral Core – Side Plank Wall Slides 3 x 10 a sidePractice gymnastics stuff on off days and never to failure. Just some thoughts for you… 

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  • Liam Beeby

    what did you have with the burgers? vegetables, salad, bun? im looking to do something like this soon, just wanting to know for the tracking of calories for the first week

  • cmo25cent

    Bro congrats to you and your success. I’ve put on 27lbs in a month and a half and its mostly muscle

  • jorge l

    I have a newb question. I’ve never weight lifted before but I’m going to try this workout. You don’t complete all sets at one time do you? I’m assuming you do one set then move on to another exercise and cycle through them. Is this correct? For example after you do one set of bench presses you move on to the superset of push ups then the barbell bicep curl etc. etc. is this right or wrong? Thanks to anyone who answers.

  • Haden

    Completely impossible, without the use of AAS or HGH. Plus it doesn’t even look like you made a change in size. All of these things are bullshit.

  • Ben

    The human body is limited to a maximum of less than 1/2 a lb of muscle per week, or 22-23 lbs per year. If you gained 18 lbs in 30 days, (which btw, you do NOT look like you did, that looks like about 6 pounds…) you put on 2 lbs of muscle and 16 lbs of fat. Goober.

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  • Benjamin Lee

    I’m Super Keen to try this workout =D

  • BestplaniveEverseen

    Hi Steve, I just decided to comment to tell you how incredibly helpful your guide is. It is exactly what I needed. It took me forever to find a indepth guide with diet too that wasn’t just promoting a bunch of bullsh*t products. Thank You

  • nowaczykv

    I started 12 days ago at 160# today Im 168.5 and very similar diet. Im 5ft 10″ how tall are you? My goal by Feb 1st is 185-190 that’s all I want and then simply workout to define specific muscles and by summer look great for 43 yrs old.

  • Haider

    Hey cmo25cent , how do you gain that much of weight so fast ? Wow I’m impressed !

  • Marina

    Hmm, what about gaining mostly fat? I’m naturally skinny and I mostly just want to gain fat (some muscle probably good, too, though).

  • Jo

    Dude! You were in no way skinny in the before picture! Plus you look the same after putting on the extra weight.

  • http://www.MarkDanielAdamczyk.om/ Mark Daniel Adamczyk

    Thanks for the post! I am going to try it for 30 days.

  • Alex

    Hi Steve! So I’m planning to put on weight (I’m aiming to gain something like 20 pounds) in relatively short period of time. Actually I’m strict paleo, so I know I will be eating right stuff to do it (though it’s second day and it’s ridiculously hard). I am just wondering, do you know whether there are any health consequences of putting that much weight in a short period of time? I’m not sure whether or not it is entirely “safe”.
    Thanks,
    Alex