Top 14 Muscle Building Foods for Skinny Hardgainers

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As a naturally skinny person with freaky fast metabolism, you have a slightly different dietary requirements compared to other people.

Yes you are supposed to “eat more”, but there’s a lot of confusion about what you’re supposed to eat.

In order to build muscle and gain weight without getting unwanted fat gain, you need to get a good balance of the macro nutrients (protein, carbs and healthy fats) and enough calories from a wide range of food groups. Think about getting both quantity and quality.

Below is a partial list of healthy, nutritious foods you should be eating more of, but I also touch on why they are good for you. So if you really want to bulk up and increase your chances of gaining lean muscle weight, make sure to include these on your next trip to the supermarket:

1. Organic, Grass-Fed, Free-Range Meats

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Grass-fed, organic beef is nutritionally superior to grain-fed beef.

It’s been shown that compared to grain-fed meats, grass-fed meats contain more :

  • protein
  • vitamin B12 – (needed for building proteins in the body, red blood cells, and normal function of nervous tissue)
  • heme iron – (for function and synthesis of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen through the circulatory system to all tissues of the body)
  • zinc – essential for health, growth and repair
  • creatine – good for muscular power and cell volume
  • carnosine – great for cellular buffering, antioxidant effects, longevity
  • omega-3 – important for brain memory and performance

Grain-fed animals are nutritionally deficient and are normally raised under poor conditions so the animals themselves are unhealthy, sick, and full of stress hormones. These hormones could wreak havoc on your own hormonal balance which is linked to a whole host of health issues, so I strongly advice for you to be more conscious and picky when it comes to the quality and origins of the meat you eat.

2. Wild Fish

Again, you may notice that I recommend wild fish, not farmed fish. Why? For example, farm-raised salmon is deficient in omega-3 because it’s corn/grain fed.  Farm-raised fish are also normally doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides.

Wild salmon, on the other hand, is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and contains 20g of protein per 100g serving. Wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon.

3. Whole, Organic, Free-Range Eggs

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The yolk is the most nutrient-dense part of the egg.

One egg contains about 6 grams of high quality protein. Actually, eggs are known as complete protein source because they contain all eight essential amino acids needed for optimal muscle recovery, as well as valuable minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, vitamins A, E and K, vitamin B12, riboflavin and folic acid.

And don’t be afraid of the egg yolk!  The yolk has been unfairly villainized (yes that’s a word now cos I just used it), but it’s actually the part of the egg containing the most nutrients. It’s jammed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like omega 3s, B-vitamins, trace minerals, vitamin A, folate, choline, lutein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, and B12, panthothenic acid, vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as ALL of the essential fatty acids (EFAs).

For a protein-packed breakfast omelette, I use fresh spinach leaves and cottage cheese (do it if you’re OK with dairy) as filling before folding up the omelette (I use coconut oil for cooking). Then I serve it with some boiled kidney beans and fresh mixed greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil. (By the way, for best results, eat your breakfast within an hour upon arising).

4. Healthy Oils

At the moment I only use organic virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil because most other vegetable oils are genetically modified (so yep, ditch the corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola oils lurking in your pantry).

While it’s true that Coconut oil is high in saturated fats, it’s the natural kind, not the hydrogenated kind of saturated fat, and it actually provides health benefits like:

  • improved cardiovascular health
  • improved thyroid function
  • stronger immune system

Nearly half of the fat in coconut oil is a rare type of fat called lauric acid, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.

Coconut oil is also nature’s richest source of medium-chain fatty acids, which the body can immediately burn for energy. It’s like getting carbohydrates but without the insulin spike (read: high energy without the fat gain)!

Extra-virgin olive oil, on the other hand is the best monounsaturated fat. Use it for your salad dressings. However, don’t cook with olive oil because subjecting it to high heat makes olive oil susceptible to oxidative damage.  Use coconut oil for cooking.

5. Kefir Yoghurt

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Kefir is filled with friendly micro-organisms that help balance your inner ecosystem
and it is an excellent nourishment for people who want to gain muscle mass.

Kefir is a cultured drink (like a yoghurt)  that cleanses the intestines, provides beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins, minerals, and complete proteins.  Kefir can help relieve intestinal disorders, promote bowel movement, reduce flatulence and create a healthier digestive system.

Kefir contains:

  •  minerals and essential amino acids – help the body with healing and maintenance functions.
  •  Tryptophan – an essential amino acid well-known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system.
  •  calcium and magnesium – healthy nervous system
  •  phosphorus – helps utilize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.
  •  Vitamin B12, B1,Biotin – regulates the kidneys, liver and nervous system, relieve skin disorders, boost energy and promote longevity.
  • Vitamin K.

Kefir contains probiotic bacteria that helps improve your gastrointestinal health.

I make my own kefir at home. You can make it with cow, goat or sheep, coconut, or rice milk. I eat it with frozen mixed berries, cinnamon, & mixed seeds. Have a go and buy a kefir home kit from your local health food shop or from Amazon.

6. Gluten-Free Grains

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye—and many people are intolerant/allergic to it without knowing it, so I advocate a gluten-free diet (but don’t buy gluten-free packaged products either, because these often contains even more harmful ingredients).

Go for these grains:

  • Organic Brown Rice provides you longer-lasting energy throughout the day and during workouts. It also boosts your Growth Hormone (GH) level which is important for lean muscle growth, fat loss and strength gain.
  • Buckwheat
  • Teff
  • Wild rice
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa (although there’s some debate going about quinoa being healthy due to its sapponin content)
  • Millet

7. Non-Dairy Milks

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Most plant-based milk are cholesterol-free and contains healthy unsaturated fats, which is a benefit that most dairy milk cannot offer.

I don’t recommend dairy products because nowadays they tend to contain hormones that wreak havoc on our bodies and cause allergic reactions. (In fact, if you suffer from constant runny nose or skin conditions, chances are you may be intolerant to dairy or some other food that you consume regularly). If you can get your hands on raw milk from grass-fed, organic, free-range cows, then that’s kosher.

If you can’t live without milk, here are healthy substitutes (always check the sugar content before you buy ready-made ones):

  • Coconut milk
  • Almond milk (you can make this at home)
  • Rice milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Oat milk (from gluten-free oats)

8. Raw Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are great sources of good fats. They also contain protein, certain B-vitamins, vitamin E, and many minerals. Walnut are high in Omega 3s. Almonds are a great source of phytochemicals and contain calcium.

But there are certain issues surrounding nuts. Peanuts, for example, have high levels of omega-6 (which is inflammatory), have the highest concentration of aflatoxins, and are among the most heavily sprayed with pesticides. (Aflatoxins are dangerous toxin that has been shown to have carcinogenic, mutagenic and immunosuppressive properties.) For this reason I tend to avoid peanuts altogether.

9. Vegetables and Greens

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People who eat fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet have reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Vegetables are rich in fiber along with vitamins, minerals, and other substances that may help protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.

Here is a list of the most nutrient-dense vegetables.


10. Fruits

Fruits is the best fast food. Always have some in your bag whenever you leave the house to prevent you from resorting to crap food when you are out. They’re great for snacks and pre/post workout smoothies.

Here is a list of the most nutrient-dense fruits.

11. Drink Plenty of Liquid

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Liquids help dissolve minerals and other nutrients to make them accessible to the body.

If you don’t have the habit of eating a high volume of veggies and fruits and you don’t particularly make an effort to drink plenty of water often, you’ll really struggle to reach your weight gain goals.

Think about it:

  • 70 to 80% of your muscles are made up of water (the rest is made up mainly of protein).
  • Your body will take much longer to repair itself if it’s dehydrated.
  • Drinking enough water helps you work out with more intensity and energy, which in turn help you build bigger muscles, faster.

I used to be guilty of this crime myself until I moved to Asia. It was particularly hot there and it forced me to drink 3 liters of water a day and I noticed that my skin became clearer than usual, I had more energy, my digestion eased up, I was able to train harder and last longer, and best of all, my muscles appeared more plump.

A good guideline is to drink 3/4 to one ounce of liquid for every pound of your body weight. You may need more during hot summer days or when you are more physically active than usual.

And guys, by “liquid” I don’t mean beer, and no, your daily caffeine fix doesn’t count either. Drink:

  • Herbal Teas (hot or iced) – I especially like Green tea. Yogi tea is one of my favorite brands.
  • Distilled or filtered water
  • Fresh coconut water
  • Fresh home-made smoothies from fruits and veggies
  • Raw vegetable juices (i.e., NOT packaged fruit juices)
  • Home made Lemonade (no refined sugar, please. Use Stevia instead)
  • Minted lemon water with organic raw apple cider vinegar (in a 1-liter pitcher, throw in sliced rounds of one unwaxed lemon, 2 tablespoon of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, and a few sprigs of mint leaves. Store in the fridge every night and resolve to drink all of it by the end of the following day).

12. Local/Exotic Vegetables, Fruits, Meats and Fish

I thought this is worth mentioning because sometimes the food we eat the least of are foods local to us. Find out where to best source your local produce from and help boost your local economy. Check out your local weekend Farmer’s Markets and hunt for the best organic produce.

I also travel a lot and whenever I do, I always hunt for exotic, interesting, nutritious, local food. The more unfamiliar it is to me, the better (I’m adventurous like that).

When I lived in the Philippines, I feasted on fresh young coconuts, camote tops (leaves of sweet potato plant), guavas, papaya, kangkong (water spinach or “morning glory”), ampalaya (bitter gourd), malunggay (moringa) and a variety of local seafood.

When I was in India, I stuffed my face with a lot of curry and became familiar with a broader range of herbs and spices to help increase my appetite.

When I lived in Japan, I drank the best green teas and devoured kelp, nori, dulse, red rice, strange-looking mushrooms, pickled vegetables, and the freshest sushi and highest quality sashimi I could afford.

13. Superfoods

If you live a very busy lifestyle or you’re a kitchen idiot, I highly recommend you get superfoods as your natural supplements. The top ones I highly recommend are:

Protein powder – I’ve done the research and trust me when I say this: the best one out there in terms of health and nutrition is Sunwarrior Protein powder.

Sunwarrior Warrior Blend – is made from pea, cranberry and hemp protein.  I love it because it’s raw and has a complete amino acid profile, is exceptionally high in Glutamine, Arginine, Lysine, Luecine, and BCAAs (branch chain amino acids). A scoop contains 17 g of protein.

Super greens like Sunwarrior Ormus Greens. It’s made from probiotic greens grown on high altitude volcanic rich soil and contains alfalfa, wheat grass, barley grass, oat grass, peppermint, spinach, parsley, stevia and yucca.

Fish oil – Reduces inflammation (joints/skin), lowers body fat and increases testosterone levels. You need 9000mg EPA/DHA per day. Since you’ll probably struggle to get that from eating fatty fish, I recommend fish oil supplements.

Other supplements I use and recommend are Wheat grass powderSpirulina powder and Chlorella.

14. Herbs and Spices

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Most herbs and spices provide anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefits, balance blood sugars, improve circulation and cardiovascular health.

Do you struggle to eat enough calories? That’s probably why you find it hard to put on weight. To help increase your appetite, use herbs and spices known to stimulate appetite, such as:

  • Mustard – adding mustard to your food increases the flow of saliva and digestive juices
  • Turmeric is commonly used in traditional Indian medicine to stimulate the appetite and as a digestive aid.
  • Ginger  is used to stimulate the appetite and reduce abdominal cramps.
  • Parsley is said to boost appetite and to be good for rheumatism.

Other appetite-inducing herbs and spices include:

  • Cayenne or red pepper
  • chili
  • Ginseng
  • Garlic
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Fennel


It goes without saying that in order to gain muscle weight as effectively and efficiently as possible, you need to make sure you are consuming enough calories from high quality, nutrient-dense sources. It’s not rare for me to see skinny guys at the gym who had been training for a long time, but with no visible signs of making any progress in terms of their muscle-building goals. When I chat to them about their diet and nutrition routines, it’s almost always a case of them not really making any conscious efforts to eat according to their body’s unique requirements.

Lots of you struggle to get proper muscle-building nutrition, and that’s why, whenever some skinny guy (or gal) complains to me about their lack of weight gain, their diet and nutrition is always the first thing I investigate.

Now you know what specific foods should be in your grocery shopping cart. Get rid of the excuses, buy these foods, learn some quick and easy recipes involving them and get munching!



Founder & Fitness Nerd

Founder of Muscle4Hardgainers. Loves to experiment and teach others the best ways to reach their physical goals.

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