Illustration showing a skinny woman who can't gain weight.

The Skinny on Why You’re Skinny: Why It’s So Hard for Some Women to Gain Weight

In an era obsessed with getting smaller, we bananas, hardgainers, ectomorphs, string beans, or whatever you want to call our naturally skinny body type—we’re outliers. When it comes to fitness, at best we’ll find ourselves slotted into a footnote: “Oh yeah, and if you’re naturally skinny—must be nice—you’ve got a fast metabolism and stuff so, ya know, just eat more.”

Of all the issues skinny women run into, perhaps the most prevalent is find it hard to eat enough calories to gain weight. The common advice we get is, “Just eat more.” And that advice totally sucks. It might work fine for most people, but the fact that we aren’t most people is precisely why we’re being given that advice in the first place, and also why that advice is so naive. For most people, eating lots of food is second nature. If you tell the average woman to “just eat more,” she’d be able to. Hell, she’d probably even like it (until she got fat).

What most people don’t realize is that telling naturally skinny women to eat more is as silly as us telling an overweight person, “Just eat less—duh!” That won’t solve any problems. In fact, if you go around telling people to “Just eat less,” you may even get in a fight. (And if you plan on getting into fights, it might help to build some muscle first.)

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve realized there’s a lot more at play here than how much you eat. And you’re right. So what’s going on here? Why is it so hard for you to gain weight? And what can you do about it?

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Illustration showing a variety of female bodies, ranging from thin to muscular.

Survey Results: The Most Attractive Female Body Composition (Muscle, Fat & Proportions)

We’ve been getting requests to conduct research on female attractiveness for over ten years now. And we’ve finally done it! We surveyed 1,072 men, asking them to rate varying amounts of muscle and body fat, as well as which proportions they preferred and what muscles they found most attractive. We also surveyed 394 women, asking them how much muscle they wanted to build, their ideal body-fat percentage, and what muscles they wanted to emphasize in their training. Finally, we surveyed women who are attracted to women.

Unlike with male bodies, where men and women preferred different physiques, men and women tended to agree on which female bodies they were drawn to. All the groups we surveyed voted for the same degrees of muscularity and leanness and preferred the same proportions. There was also a wide range of bodies that were considered attractive, with most body types preferred by at least a small percentage of people.

In this article, we answer a few questions:

  • How muscular is the most attractive female body?
  • What’s the most atttractive female body-fat percentage?
  • What muscles and proportions do men find most attractive?
  • Do men prefer thicker thighs?
  • Do men prefer bigger butts?
  • Do men prefer thinner women?
  • How do men feel about cosmetic surgery?
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Illustration of a skinny women doing goblet squats to build muscle.

Beginner Muscle & Strength Workout for Women

We’ve given you a fair bit of information about why building muscle is so great, and also about why it can be so hard for naturally skinny women. At this point you might be thinking, okay, yeah, this sounds great—I want more curves, more muscle, and more strength—but how do I actually get started?

In this post, we’ll teach you how to start lifting weights, either at home or at a gym, and then give you a routine you can follow for the first few weeks. If you pair this with a good muscle-building diet, you can start building muscle right now.

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Illustration of a birth control pill.

How Do Birth Control Pills Affect Muscle Growth?

A new study found that women who weren’t taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives) gained 60% more muscle than those who did. The study also found that the women taking contraceptives lost slightly less fat, though those findings didn’t reach statistical significance.

Birth control pills are one of the most popular contraceptives, with one study showing that 80% of sexually active women have taken them at least once. This is something, then, that could affect most women, especially at ages when they’re most eager to build muscle.

This is the latest of several studies looking at how birth control pills affect muscle and fat gain, but the sample size was fairly large, and the findings are fairly dramatic. Let’s take a look.

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Illustration of a woman doing barbell back squats to gain muscle and strength.

How to Gain Muscle Size & Strength With Squats

Squats are the bulking lift. They’re absolutely amazing for bulking up our quads and glutes, and they stimulate more overall muscle mass than any other lift, with the possible exception of the deadlift. But there are many different squat variations, each with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

For powerlifters, the low-bar squat rules. It uses a smaller range of motion, it has great leverage, and our back strength won’t ever hold us back. If our goal is to squat as much weight as possible, low-bar squats are best.

For athletes, high-bar squats are popular. The range of motion is a little larger, it still allows for fairly heavy loading, and it does a great job of bulking up our lower bodies. For sprinters, footballers, and rugby players, it’s a great squat variation.

For men, front squats are usually best. They’re harder on the upper back muscles, which helps to build thicker torsos and better posture.

But what if you’re a skinny gal who’s trying to get bigger, stronger, healthier, and better looking?

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The Best Muscle-Building & Weight-Gain Supplements for Women

There are only a few supplements that are good for helping women build muscle and gain weight. They’re well-researched, affordable, healthy, and safe, too. But good luck finding them amongst the thousands of ineffective supplements lining the shelves. Especially since most of those supplements are marketed towards men who are trying to get jacked or women who are trying to get thinner.

So in this article, we’ll go over the best muscle-building supplements for women who are eager to get bigger and stronger. We only recommend a few supplements, and most of them have dietary alternatives. None are mandatory, some are helpful.

There are a few other supplements that might be somewhat helpful. We haven’t covered all muscle-building supplements here, but feel free to ask us about any supplements you’re curious about in the comments.

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Illustration of a skinny woman eating a muscle-building diet even though she's full and miserable.

Muscle-Building Diet Guide—for Skinny Women Who Want to GAIN Weight

In this article, we’re going to talk about a muscle-building diet designed for naturally skinny women who are trying to gain weight. Make no mistake, this isn’t a weight-loss diet. It’s not even a diet for the average woman who wants to become leaner and stronger. This is a bulking diet, a diet that will help you gain weight. Lean weight, yes, but the scale will still move up.

Muscle-building nutrition can be overwhelming at first, especially for beginners. How much should you eat? Which foods are healthy? Should you avoid carbs or sugar? Why are ketogenic and vegetarian both so popular despite being seemingly contradictory? Will intermittent fasting help you build muscle more leanly?

But nutrition can also be pretty simple if you focus on the fundamentals. There are just two factors that make the difference between gaining nothing or gaining 0.25–0.75 pounds of muscle every week. But there are hundreds of things that make the oh-so-small difference between gaining 0.25 and 0.26 pounds of muscle. So let’s focus on the big stuff first, master it, and then worry about the small fries later.

This article is for beginners. It’s for women who haven’t quite figured out how to gain weight yet. And it will help you gain weight consistently on the scale every single week. Keep in mind that building muscle becomes harder and harder as you become more and more advanced, so we recommend learning the advanced stuff eventually. But there’s plenty of time for that later, once you’re already building muscle.

Right now, though, you just need to worry about the two most important factors: calories and protein. And, ideally, getting most of those calories from unprocessed whole foods.

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Illustration of women with different body-fat percentages.

The Most Attractive Female Body to Men (And Probably Everyone Else, Too)

I figure there’s no sense denying that physical attraction plays a role in our relationships, especially at first. Whether that’s right or wrong, there’s no real avoiding it. The research clearly shows that whether or not people say they value physical attractiveness, they still base their actions on it. Even the people who truly believe they don’t care about physical attractiveness still care about it just as much as everyone else, they just don’t admit it (study, study).

Most studies show both men and women place a great deal of importance on physical attractiveness. We’ve written a companion article on male attractiveness, and that’s just as true there. That isn’t to say that physical attractiveness is all that matters, but it’s one of several factors that can have an impact on your life.

Some of our research comes from a survey we conducted. We’ll cite the other research as it comes up. Some of it might surprise you. Most people guess incorrectly about quite a lot of it.

On that note, this article is long. I’ll understand if you don’t want to read the whole thing, so here’s a quick and simple trick to make yourself instantly sexier: have a drink. It will boost your attractiveness (to yourself) by 50%. This is called the reverse beer goggles effect, aka, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beer Holder. (study) Best of all, you don’t even need to have a real drink – the placebo effect is more than enough – you only have to think you’re having a real drink. (The placebo group also experienced the benefit.)

If you’re looking for a more wholesome and longer-lasting aesthetic improvement, or perhaps an improvement that other people will notice too, don’t worry – that’s what the rest of this article is all about.

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Before and after photo showing a woman building bigger hips.

How to Get Bigger Hips Naturally to Improve Your Waist-To-Hip Ratio

If you’re a naturally skinny woman with naturally narrower hips, you might be wondering: is it even possible to get bigger hips? What’s all this talk about the waist-to-hip ratio? What’s the most attractive ratio? How can I improve my ratio naturally?

These are questions we get a lot. So inside this article, we’ll be talking about why so many women want to have wide hips with a small waist, what we can’t change, what we can change, and some action steps you can take today to quickly start adding inches to your hip measurement to immediately start improving your waist-to-hip ratio.

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How Much Muscle Can Women Build? And How Fast?

So you start lifting weights. How much muscle can you expect to gain in your first few months? How much weight should you be adding to the bar each week? And how big and strong can you become during your first year? What are good lifetime goals? Or maybe you’ve been lifting for a while and you’re wondering how strong you should be by this point.

Most women are trying to get toned, lose some fat, you know the deal. They don’t want to get too bulky. That might suit their goals just fine, but it’s going to make it almost impossible for them to gain much muscle and strength.

…But what if you’re willing to gain weight? What if you want “bulky” hips? What if you want to become strong? That changes things. We can do better. Much better. In fact, I have a feeling you’re going to be pretty amazed about what you can do even in just your first year of lifting.

So, to figure out how much muscle and strength you can expect to gain, let’s break the question down into two parts:

1. How much muscle can a naturally thin woman expect to gain?

2. How much strength can she expect to gain? 

Let’s dig into the science.

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