There are many people who say that they no matter how hard they try, they just cannot lose any body fat or lose weight. On the other hand, there are many people to say that they eat ALL THE TIME but just can’t gain any weight. They blame genetics. They say that they are just an ectomorph (hard-gainer) or an endomorph (easy-gainer). While I do believe that genetics certainly comes into play for some people, the fact is that many people are just very bad judges of how many calories they are actually eating.
We all know now (or should) that in order to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn (through metabolism and activity). In order to lose weight, you need to consume less calories than you burn in a day. That is it.. in terms of just weight. In order to direct whether those calories go towards adding fat or adding muscle (or losing fat or muscle), you need to adjust your training and types of foods you are consuming, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Hard-gainers usually claim that they eat like a pig, junk food and all, and they just can’t seem to gain any weight at all. One reason for this might be that some ectomorphs are very active. If they are in school, they might be in sports, or they might just run or be involved in recreational activities. All of these things burns calories, so if you want to gain weight, you have to take in even more calories (duh?). Also, it has been shown that exercise, resistance or aerobic, might decrease hunger (1). This would mean that active individuals might feel full often and attribute that to thinking that they must be eating a lot of food.
If you are not gaining weight like you want to, eat more. It really boils down to the energy balance equation: If energy in > energy out, you gain weight. As a tip, I would not try to gain all this weight with junk food and empty calories. Make sure you have your protein requirement met (at least 1g/lbs of bodyweight) and fill the rest of the calories in with carbs and fat. If you want a rough value for your maintenance calories, you can use a calculator like the one here: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm#
Remember that this is only a rough estimate; you would be much better off just counting how many calories you take in for a few days and figure out what your maintenance caloric intake is that way. You will probably be surprised that you aren’t eating as much as you think or are burning more than you realize. Remember, eat more!
Easy-gainers usually claim that they eat very little and are very carful with their diet, but just can’t seem to lose weight. One reason for this is that they over-estimate the amount of exercise that they actually do or have no idea how many calories they are actually consuming. I think it would be best for you guys to do the same thing I told the ectomorphs to do: Count your calories for a few days to figure out how many calories you averagely consume. If you are too lazy to do that, then use a calculator: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm#
One common misconception is that cardio burns off TONS of calories. Also, the latest trend is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and some people are under the misconception that just doing 10-15 mins of HIIT per day will have them shredding body fat. First, short sessions of HIIT doesn’t burn more calories than normal, long steady-state cardio, even if you include EPOC: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. The way most people to HIIT is a joke, and even if done correctly doesn’t burn many calories. One reason to perform HIIT is to increase the production of catecholamines if followed by steady-state cardio, but that is for another time.
Your main focus should be on your diet. Start eating less, and start eating foods that will fill you up and keep you full (nutrient dense, low calorie, low GI foods). High GI foods have been shown to increase hunger (2). Also remember to keep your protein intake at least at 1g/lbs of body weight.
It is up to you what kind of diet you actually want to go on in order to gain weight or lose weight, but if you seem to be making no progress in either direction, try adjusting your caloric intake. Most people are very bad at actually knowing how many calories they are taking in per day unless they have counted there calories for a significant amount of time.
1. Influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY in healthy males. http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/296/1/R29
David R. Broom,1 Rachel L. Batterham, James A. King, and David J. Stensel
2. High-glycemic Index Foods, Hunger, and Obesity: Is There a Connection?
Susan B. Roberts Ph.D. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121455263/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0