How to Gain 15-20 Pounds of Muscle over the Course of the Summer

By David Lawrence (C.S.C.S)
People like exacts. We don’t want, “here’s what it kinda looks like” or “take a look at this template.” We want to know what to do and how to do it. When it comes to putting on muscle and fast there are few who know what to do and even fewer who have done it. In this article I will tell you exactly how I have helped multiple athletes put on 2 plus pounds of muscle a week; training with me over the course of the summer.
First, let me start by saying that there is a myth that still circulates among high schools and colleges today and that’s the idea that in order to get big you have to first get fat. This is called the “bulk up period” in bodybuilding circles and it has trickled down to athletes. A popular diet in order to gain weight now is the “Peanut Butter and Jelly Diet” or “drinking X glasses of chocolate milk” to put on solid muscle. Both of these ideas are just plain stupid and the coaches and trainers who propagate this, have zero success getting their athletes to put on muscle and don’t have a clue when it comes to nutrition. When I get an athlete, I would rather work with a guy or girl who is leaner, because they can gain lean muscle faster. Here’s why.
  1. Leaner clients are more insulin sensitive.  You can feed the body with more post workout carbohydrates without them getting fat.  They can also tolerate more total carbohydrates throughout the day; thus you can give them a wider range of foods to choose from making it easier to put on weight.
  2. Because they are more insulin sensitive, you can give them higher calorically dense foods.  Increasing calories without putting on fat is another key to overall body composition and athletic performance.
  3. Leaner clients usually have higher amounts of testosterone and are better hormonally than fatter clients.  Because of this they will usually put on good weight faster.
  4. Leaner clients only have to do one thing when they train and that’s putting on muscle.  When you have a client who needs to lose a certain amount of body fat you need to worry about getting rid of the fat first, then be concerned with adding muscle. 
Now that we have talked about a few misconceptions of putting on muscle, let’s talk about how to actually do it. I will take Ryan Ivey (a hockey defensemen) a typically “hard gainer” as our example. Ryan came to me weighing just over 170 pounds in the middle of the summer and six weeks later he went back to training camp at 186 pounds plus. Ryan gained 16 pounds of muscle in six weeks following exactly what we outlined for him to do. Previously he hadn’t been able to gain any weight in the last 2 years. What changed?
First, I had Ryan do a food log. This is where he wrote down everything he ate for a few days and reported it back to me. What I found is that he ate the typical teenager diet which consisted of frosted fruit loops and protein shakes spread throughout the day. When I asked him, “do you ever eat any real food?” He said that previous coaches and trainers told him to take in lots of shakes and various candy bars because, “this is the best way to put on serious muscle mass!” What they didn’t understand was why Ryan wasn’t gaining any weight. In fact, when you total all the sugar consumed throughout the day, which was about 500 grams (around 13 cokes) you have to wonder how in the world this kid didn’t keel over and die from hyperglycemia. After making fun of him for a few minutes and calling him names like, “squeak scolari” and “Borat Sagdiyev” we got down to business!
In order to gain weight and fast you have to do a few things. The most important is to eat double your bodyweight in protein. Ryan was 170 pounds, so he was required to eat at least 350 grams of protein per day. The next step is spreading out the protein dose throughout the day between 6 to 8 meals or “feedings”. Finally, 2 days a week, and never on a training day, he was told to double is overall caloric intake. Yes, he was to double his calories.
Here was Ryan’s schedule (Training Day)
  1. You wake up at 6:30 and eat breakfast, Poliquin Meat and Nuts (meal 1)
  2. You can go back to sleep if you wish, then you eat breakfast at 8:30 again Meat, Nuts, Berries (meal 2)
  3. You train at 10:00 am (while you train you take Branch Chain Amnio Acids) (meal 3)
  4. At 11:02 you have protein shake 40 grams of protein, 100 grams of carbs (meal 4)
  5. At 12:15 you eat lunch (meal 5) which will be stir fry, salad, meat, veggies ect.
  6. At 3:00 you eat a snack (meal 6) dried fruit, berries, nuts, food bar, or another full meal.
  7. At 6:00 you eat dinner (meal 7) looks a lot like lunch except with an emphasis to add carbs like sweet potatoes, rice, ect.
  8. At 8:30-9pm you eat desert which is Almond Butter mixed with protein powder and heavy whipping cream.  (tastes amazing and its high in protein and smart fats) *This can be replaced with another meal or you can use other variations to the desert.
As you can see, Ryan our “hard gainer” who told me he ate a lot……..didn’t really know what a lot of food was. The Key to gaining solid weight and fast is to A. Strength train in the morning and B. eat at least two solid meals before you train, and C. Double your protein intake throughout the day.
This is also a very similar program that I put Jaycob Megna on. Jaycob is a 6’ 6” defenseman at the University of Nebraska Omaha and was recently drafted by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Two years ago when Jaycob hired me he weighed 178 pounds. 14 weeks later, we were able to increase his weight to 213 pounds and while doing that he actually improved his speed and vertical jump. This is because the weight he gained was muscle and not fat.
An additional key to the nutritional program is to add a wide variety of foods. For instance; instead of eating eggs or beef every morning for breakfast, try switching to fish, deer, or bison. This will help you enjoy your food more and give you nutrients from different sources, which in my opinion is a big part of being successful in gaining weight. Also, vary your fruits and vegetables and expose yourself to food choices that different to what you think you like. You may be surprised that you really enjoy foods like avocados, spinach, and various nuts that you have not previously eaten.
Putting on a lot of muscle is very easy to do. Most people don’t really know how to do it or are looking for the “easy way”. By having a solid, structured plan and sticking to it, you can accomplish your goals and improve your athletic potential very rapidly. For more information about the very best sports performance and personal training in the State of Michigan check out Also for more specific information on “gaining muscle mass” click the link to Many of Coach Poliquin’s valuable insights to gaining muscle and fast are in this downloadable mp3.