Each protein molecule is made up of twenty amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, and without these, the body is not going to be able to add, or even hold on to muscle mass. This is why consuming enough protein is vitally important.
So calories intake and protein consumption seem to be the two areas where hardgainers need to pay particular attention, in order to reach their goals. With that in mind, the suggested foods will be both high in calories, and protein.
Whole eggs are a fantastic food. The yolk has been demonised for years, but finally, the medical profession and the general public appear to be realising that the yolk contains many important vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, and does not have an adverse effect on cholesterol levels. One large whole egg delivers around 90 calories, and 8g of protein, depending on the size. They're a great option for breakfast for those who can't stomach meat or fish first thing in the morning, and don't want to resort to having a protein shake.
Eggs are also extremely versatile. They can be boiled, poached, fried, scrambled, cooked as an omelette with added vegetables, cheese or meat, added to salads and used to bump up the protein content of any other meal. They're the ideal food for a hardgainer.
Many bodybuilders opt for chicken or turkey over red meat, but they're missing a trick. Whilst beef and chicken both contain around 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, depending on the cut, 90% lean beef provides roughly 165 calories, compared to 110 in the same amount of chicken. For a hardgainer, this is a no contest - beef wins every time. Beef is also a brilliant source of iron, B vitamins, and zinc.
If you can, choose grass fed and free range red meat, as opposed to meat from factory farmed animals. Cows are designed to live off grass, and not the corn that they're fed in the factory farms. They are also allowed to grow at their natural rate, and not pumped full of chemicals, meaning they're much healthier. You'll notice a huge difference in taste and nutritional quality in a free range beef.
Another staple in a bodybuilding diet is tuna. Again, I'm curious as to why it crops up so often, as it is a low calorie food. 100 grams of tuna delivers 120 calories, and 27 grams of protein. The same amount of salmon has 200 calories, and 25 grams of protein Whilst protein is very slightly lower, 25 grams per hundred is still a reasonable amount, and as we've established - calories also play a significant role in muscle growth, so salmon trumps tuna.
Salmon and other oily fish like mackerel, sardines, anchovies, trout and herring also provide a large amount of essential fats, known as omega 3 fats. Consuming a high amount of omega 3 is believed to reduce a person's risk of heart disease, boost the immune system, and help relieve joint and muscle pain.
Whilst not technically a food, whole milk provides lots of good quality protein, as well as some saturated fat, which is important for regulating hormones within the body, particularly testosterone, which plays a vital role in muscle growth. The reason I've included it here is because whole milk is calorie dense, and easy to drink. 100 millilitres of whole milk will give you 68 calories and 3.4 grams of protein. Whilst this doesn't sound like a lot, it is very easy to have a glass of milk alongside each meal, as well as a couple of pints throughout the day. Without even noticing it, you can consume an extra 68 grams of protein and 1360 calories, and still have enough of an appetite for all your food.
As with beef, if you're able to - look for milk from grass fed cows, or at least organically reared ones.
These are definitely my top four high protein foods for hardgainers. By simply adding these into your diet, or swapping them in in place of leaner proteins, you can easily add an extra few hundred calories to your daily intake, and watch your muscle mass sky rocket.