Learning how to go from scrawny to muscular is something that I myself had to do. I spent many years around the gym without direction and didn’t have anything to show for it. That is until I finally was able to sort myself out and get to the bottom of why I wasn’t building muscle.
This article is going to provide a step by step guide on how to go from scrawny to muscular. If you follow this guide as intended, you absolutely will gain muscle. I know, because I myself did this and millions of scrawny people across the globe have also done it.
For a little bit of context about my past situation, I was very scrawny. As a high schooler, when I finally had the courage to weigh myself, I was 135lbs. And that was at a height of 6’ 1”. For those that don’t know, that is what most people would consider scrawny.
In fact, my fellow high school students let me know how scrawny I was on a daily basis. Back then, I didn’t even know if it was possible to go from a scrawny guy to building any sort of muscle. I really wish I knew it was possible back then.
Oh well, you live and you learn. It wouldn’t be until I turned 25 years old that I finally decided that would be the year that I really stepped up and figured this whole muscle building thing out.
Within one year of me figuring it out, I built over 20 pounds of muscle. Then another 20 in year 2. With increased confidence and more muscle, I think that it is no surprise that I met my future wife on year 3 of my journey.
Step 1 – Understanding muscle building expectations
You heard me mention in the introduction that I built over 20 pounds of muscle in the first year. That is pretty standard for a beginner. In fact, you can build more muscle than that in a year. But we must temper our expectations and learn about what it takes.
It has been proven that an average person can gain .25 – .50 lbs of muscle per week. There are of course people with great genetics that can build muscle faster. But let’s just say the maximum amount of muscle that you can gain in a year is 26lbs. Anything else is probably fat.
26lbs of muscle is a lot! And you will find that if you can stick to these steps, you should get close to that number. Even on the lower end of 13lbs of muscle per year, you will still see massive results.
Step 2 – Learning about maintenance calories
Maintenance calories are something that you will find me harping on in almost every article that I write. Why? Because I believe that understanding your maintenance calories is the key to building muscle.
What are maintenance calories? They are the calories that your body requires to either not lose weight or not gain weight. Just to stay average, that will be your maintenance calorie number.
To learn more in depth about how to calculate your maintenance calories, click here.
I am going to quickly sum it up for you. Yes, you are going to have to count calories. You will soon learn that it is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. In fact, you will learn so much about your body and food in general, that it will be an incredible learning experience for you.
Use an app like MyFitnessPal to track everything with ease. All you have to do to calculate your calories for 2 weeks. Eat what you normally eat. After those 2 weeks, did you lose or gain weight?
If your weight stayed the same, you will want to add up all your calories from that 2 week period, and then divide by the amount of days (14 days). That number will give you your maintenance calories.
If you lost weight, add 500 extra calories per day to that number, and repeat for a week. Keep doing this until you haven’t lost weight for a week. That will be your maintenance calorie number.
You cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit, so getting your maintenance calories right is an important step in your muscle building journey.
Step 3 – Eating at a caloric surplus to gain muscle
Now things are starting to get fun! Eating at a caloric surplus is something that most people don’t find very challenging. But if you are scrawny like I was, you have probably discovered that your maintenance calorie number is high.
For me, it is 3,100. I know some people who have a maintenance calorie number of 5,000. So yes, eating at a caloric surplus now becomes a little bit difficult. I know for me, I was trying to eat at the best macronutrient ratio for muscle gain.
It turns out, eating at a caloric surplus is more important than your macronutrient goal. This is partially the reason that I created my own 1,000 calorie protein shake recipe.
So how do you know that you are eating at a caloric surplus? Take your maintenance calorie number and add 500 extra calories per day. Since my maintenance calories are 3,100 calories per day, my daily caloric surplus will be 3,600 calories per day.
It is important to note that sometimes this 500 calorie over formula does not work. You might have to eat 1,000 calories per day over maintenance. Every single person in the world has a different metabolism. There might be similarities, but it is up to you to test and tinker with your diet.
Remember, if you are not gaining at least a half pound per week, you should be eating more. I always encourage people to weigh themselves every week at the same time. This will give you the most accurate number for yourself.
My favorite time to weigh myself is on Sunday mornings, after waking up, and after urinating. Do this before you eat or drink anything for best results.
Step 4 – Working out to go from scrawny to muscular
The first three steps were all about nutrition. Why? Because nutrition is 90% of the process. Nutrition determines whether you are going to lose weight or gain weight. Weight training ensures that if you are gaining weight, your body is converting those extra calories into muscle.
If it is weight gain you are after, by all means, eat at a caloric surplus and you will still gain weight. If you want to know how to go from scrawny to muscular, then you must put it all together.
Before I actually started building muscle, I worked out at least 5 days per week. Sometimes 7 days per week. I thought that if I could just workout more, I would build muscle faster. I found that I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t building any muscle.
Once I realized that I wasn’t eating enough, I switched my mind completely. I started focusing on eating at a caloric surplus, and only weight training 3 days per week. This was an incredible decision. It gave my muscles time to rest and repair.
My early days consisted of doing a plan similar to our beginner bodybuilding routine for mass. This worked for many months.
That is until I realized that I could be doing more. I ended up creating my own workout plan, and my results shot through the roof. That exact workout plan is called 3 Day Overload, and it is available exclusively in our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). We also have other FREE workout plans in there to get you started.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it is necessary to workout if you want to build muscle.
Step 5 – Being consistent in the process
If you have read this far, you now have no excuse to not go from scrawny to muscular. You now have the knowledge that you need to get started. But what about being consistent? After 2-3 months of doing this, you will probably find yourself slacking a bit.
This is normal, but this is also the time when you need to find it within yourself to double down and go through the motions. Once you get out of this lull, you will find yourself even more motivated with more muscle.
You aren’t going to build muscle overnight. If you read step 1, you know that building muscle takes a ton of time. In fact, it will take at least a year to build 24 pounds of muscle.
Most people will claim that they can’t wait that long to build muscle. Well, you can either wait that long or don’t build muscle. This isn’t just a passive waiting either. You are working out this whole time and dialing in your diet.
Main Point: How to go from scrawny to muscular
You have now just learned the 5 step process for how to go from scrawny to muscular. It wasn’t that bad, right? I used to be overwhelmed with all the information that the fitness industry hits you with.
Ultimately, I can now block it out, because I know exactly what works. Understand your expectations, and don’t go thinking that you are going to build 100 pounds of muscle in your first year. It’s not going to happen, and it will lead you to giving up.
Once you calculate your maintenance calories, then you can start eating at a caloric surplus. Eating at a caloric surplus is the most important thing you can do for building muscle. Next is weight training.
Now, combine a caloric surplus with weight training, and you have yourself a winning combination. Just don’t forget to stick with it for a while. Even when your initial motivation wears off, step up and do it anyway.
I wish you the best of luck in your progress. The information in this article is everything that you need to become a beast. Don’t be swayed by all the overwhelming information out there. Stick to a plan and adjust accordingly.