Believe it or not, not all of our clients are interested in losing weight. A large majority of them are interested in building muscle and gaining mass for longevity, health, athletic performance, or aesthetics. 

If you’re struggling to build muscle or adding mass, the root of the issue may be due to a variety of reasons, the following are the biggest struggles hard gainers often face:

  • Not sleeping enough.
  • Not eating enough quality foods and not timing meals properly.
  • Exercising too much or performing a workout routine that doesn’t promote gains.
  • Stress and lack of recovery.


You might shrug off sleep, many do, but in reality it is the key to building strength, muscle and gaining mass. 

Sleep is highly underrated in the fitness industry and is the most powerful tool you can control. Your body recovers as you sleep, your muscle tissue heals during this time and adds more mass to the muscle tissue which leads to more mass.

If you’re not sleeping, you’re shortening the amount of time your muscles can heal. If you don’t spend much time in bed, it also means you’re awake for more hours throughout the day and burning a high number of calories creating a bigger challenge for building muscle. 

Here are 3 simple things you can do to improve your sleep quality:

  1. Hard gainers often need at least 8-9 hours of sleep! Go to bed earlier or wake up later each day to get your time in.
  1. Take a melatonin supplement before bed.
  1. Read a book for 30 minutes in bed. Reading quiets the mind and can help lull you to sleep, creating a more restful night in bed.


A misconception is that you only need to eat more calories to gain weight. This can work in theory, but can lead to unhealthy weight gain and less than ideal body composition. 

To build muscle you’ll need to take in more calories than you’re burning throughout the day BUT the quality of the food matters A LOT. 

The timing of your meals also plays a huge role in building muscle. The goal is to set up meals to properly fuel your workouts to gain the most out of each session and to help you recover and repair muscle tissue.

Here three simple tips you can implement to gain weight:

  1. Eat a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat with each meal. Protein sources include; chicken, fish, beef, or pork. Carbohydrate sources include; sweet potatoes, rice, and fruits.  Fat sources include; avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil.
  1. Add more carbohydrates with each meal. An extra sweet potato, cup of rice, banana or an apple at each meal can help add some extra calories and help you recover better.
  1. Eat your highest amount of carbohydrates after your workout, including a source of protein. Whey protein and a banana within 30 minutes of your workout and a full meal within 90 minutes can improve your nutrient timing and aid in gaining mass.


If you’re wanting to gain muscle mass your exercise regimen and routine are highly important. Many factors go into what you’re doing, but simply, cut the cardio, replace it with high intensity interval training and lift weights frequently. 

For many of our clients, this is where they need the most help. It’s the hardest place to know where to start, because everybody is different. 

In most scenarios our clients need to add muscle first and add strength second. The reps, sets, rest time, and the amount of interval training is all dependent on the individual.

How to get on the gain train:

  1. Lift weights. Start with basic exercises, the squat, deadlift, shoulder press and pull-up.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps, 3 days per week, for 60-90 days. 
  • After 90 days add an extra day per week, increase your number of sets to 4 and decrease the number of reps to 6-12. 
  • After 60-90 days, increase your lifting days to 5 per week, increase your number of sets to 5 and decrease the number of reps to 1-5.
  • Say NO to cardio! If you’re consistently performing steady, long workouts (20 min or longer, running, elliptical, rowing) you’re going to have a hard time gaining mass. Cut the cardio in half,  remove it completely or turn it into high intensity interval training.
  • High intensity interval training. Sprint really hard for 10 – 90 seconds, rest until you’re fully recovered and repeat 3-10 times. Vary what you do each day, add weight lifting, body weight movements and running to your intervals.


The SECRET weapon for building muscle mass is managing your stress and recovery. Stress will hold you back from achieving your goals, no matter what the goal may be. 

We all have stress; work, kids, and busy schedules are our biggest stressor, however, you need to work, you can’t give away your kids and sometimes a busy schedule cannot be avoided. 

To gain weight you need to recover from your week and your workouts. To build muscle, the muscle tears down and rebuilds itself through recovery. If you continue to workout day after day, the muscle will continue to break down and eventually deteriorate. 

Here are 3 simple ways to manage stress and aid in recovery.

  1. Journal every morning. Pick a quote or passage. 
  • Write down what speaks to you. 
  • How can you apply it to your day? 
  • Write down one thing you’ll commit to for the day. For example, if your goal is to gain muscle, write down…’I commit to eating a sweet potato with every meal.’
  1. Take 10 deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed.
  1. Take 2-3 days off per week from your workouts. On those days choose to walk, bike or play.

With sufficient sleep, a proper amount of calories, quality foods, nutrition timing, the right exercise regimen and reduced stress, you’ll start gaining healthy weight and begin building the body you’ve always wanted!

The right plan and coach may be a necessity for you to live the healthier, stronger, and leaner life you’ve always wanted. At Lincoln Nutrition & Fitness, we offer you both nutrition and fitness coaching, from personal training to group CrossFit classes we have the keys to help you reach your goals! 

Our personal trainers and group coaches value lifting weights, and using multi-jointed, functional exercises performed at high intensity. You don’t have to guess what to do! 

To find the perfect nutrition and workout routine for you, schedule a free consultation with one of our coaches here! →  I’M READY TO MEET WITH A COACH!

COACH PHIL KNIEP – Owner & CEO of Lincoln Nutrition & Fitness

Precision Nutrition L1 Coach

CrossFit Level 3 Trainer

Endurance Certified

Mobility Certified

Scaling Certified

3x CrossFit Games Qualifier

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