Before we begin, this is not an attempt to sell empty promises or the latest ‘SUPER’ mass gaining product that will solve all of your muscle building woes.
If your goal is to gain muscle and strength then as a fundamental rule you MUST increase your daily calories above maintenance levels in order to provide your body with enough protein, carbohydrate and fat to build new muscle tissue. Once you have been sticking to a complete Nutrition Plan and gradually increasing your daily calories over time but you begin finding it difficult to prepare more and more food each day, it might be time to consider using a Weight Gainer Protein Supplement.
Essentially Mass & Weight Gainers provided a convenient and cost effective way to add additional calories from protein, carbohydrates and fat when you are serious about increasing your body weight and muscle size.
Here are the Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Mass Gainers.
- Mass Gainers Aren’t For Everyone
- There Is NO Magic In A Name
- Understand What You’re Getting
- Pick The Right Product For Your Needs
- Is The Cost Worth It
#1 Mass Gainers Aren’t For Everyone
Mass & Weight Gainers are produced, packaged and sold in the same way as most other supplements, but in reality they are simply a convenient way of consuming more calories.
Therefore before deciding if purchasing a weight gainer is a sensible investment, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and ensure there are no obvious gaps in your diet and nutritional regime. Can your truthfully say it’s impossible to prepare and fit in another meal in your diet, increase your portion sizes or substitute in some calorie dense snacks throughout the day such as nuts, seeds or whole milk? If the answer is yes, then a weight gaining supplement is likely a great option, otherwise try making some small nutritional changes first then re-assess if a gainer protein is for you.
You NEED to be in a caloric surplus to put on size, whether that comes from whole food or a combination of whole food and mass gainer shakes is personal preference. If you find yourself needing to meet extreme daily calorie requirements and the scale still won’t budge adding 2-3 servings of a weight gainer shake per day can help you to easily and effectively exceed those requirements.
#2 There is NO Magic In A Name
Rapid Weight Gain Catalyst, The GAINinator, Super Anabolic Mass… Regardless of the creative name, eye catching packaging or supplement claims devised by some marketing ‘genius’, these are nothing more than distractions from what is actually contained in the product. Now, we are not saying all Mass & Weight Gainers are simply empty promises, but you do need to be a little consumer savvy when choosing the right product that will give you the results you are after.
The real ‘magic’ comes down to the nutritional breakdown of the product and how that fits into your overall nutrition plan and caloric needs. Whenever you are looking to part with your hard earned money skip the temptation to purchase the product with the most appealing packaging or name and go straight to the products nutritional panel and list of ingredients. This brings us to the next point…
#3 Understand What You’re Getting
The first step in choosing a Mass Gainer should be to consider how many calories are contained in a full serving of the product and the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fat that make up those calories. Ideally you want a product that contains 40g-50g of protein per serve comprised of whey isolate, whey protein concentrate, casein or a blend of all three to help with maximizing muscle protein synthesis and nitrogen balance.
Fats are certainly helpful when looking to support increases in body weight, especially considering every 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories they are a given addition to any Weight Gainer Supplement. The amount of fat can vary greatly from product to product and it’s important to choose appropriately for your needs and the times of day you are planning on using the product. Stick to products that use blends of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) and saturated fats that are essential for the body’s hormone production. Increasing your intake of these healthy fats aids in supporting increased testosterone production resulting in greater gains in strength and ultimately more lean muscle.
Typically most Mass Gainers are filled with a high percentage of carbohydrates to match daily caloric needs and provide the fuel and energy that supports training and recovery from workouts. A conservative Weight Gainer will typically contain a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates, but some products go way beyond this pushing beyond a 1:5 ratio, so if a single serve contains 50 grams of protein the carbohydrate content may well be above 250 grams of carbs! Depending on your sensitivity to sugars and the times of day you plan on consuming you shakes, it would be wise to choose products that contain specific carbohydrate types that will work for you not against you, more on that next.
#4 Pick The Right Product For Your Needs
Certainly all Mass Gainers will work provided they are in fact allowing you to meet your daily caloric needs, however certain products will be more optimal than others depending on your individual body type, dietary needs and how you plan on incorporating a Weight Gainer into your overall nutritional plan.
Using a Mass Gainer as a high calorie post-workout shake is generally the first place to start, providing an influx of carbohydrates (glycogen) and protein to support growth and recovery following training. During the post-workout window we ideally want a quick digesting protein source such as a whey isolate or concentrateconcentrate combined with a simple carbohydrate source and as little fat as possible. Look for Weight Gainers containing dextrose, maltodextrin or a combination of these, both are absorbed directly through the gut and significantly increase blood sugar levels allowing the release of insulin one of the most anabolic hormones.
In comparison supplying your body an abundance of these simple sugars and spikes in insulin whilst pushing paper at work or lying around at home is not in the best interest of your body composition goals. If you plan on using Mass Gainers throughout the day in addition to your meals there are a couple of guidelines that will still help you put on size without overdoing it and adding too much unwanted bodyfat. Look for products that contain less sugar, have a moderate carbohydrate content closer to a 1:1 ratio of carbs to protein and use complex sources from Brown Rice or Oat Flour that are less likely to raise blood sugar throughout the day. In addition choose products that have a higher total percentage of EFA’s, MCT’s and saturated fats, these will help slow digestion much like a whole food meal and provide the materials responsible for hormone production.
Most Mass Gainers are formulated with a broad consumer base in mind and may not cater to specific dietary needs such as milk, lactose and gluten intolerance or those seeking natural or plant based alternatives. The easy option is to throw in the towel and admit defeat when it comes to putting on size surely it’s just not possible for a gluten intolerant vegan… Right? Sorry this just isn’t correct and with a little know how you can create your own customised Mass Gainer to suit all your specific dietary requirements, simply pick your ingredients, blend and enjoy!
Start With A Protein Base
Select a high quality product that will support muscle growth and recovery, we would recommend using a minimum of 40g-50g of protein . If possible use protein powders that are high in Leucine, this amino acid is most responsible for helping to switch on muscle protein synthesis. Some examples are:
- Whey Protein
- Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate (GF, LF,SF)
- Soy Protein (LF,V)
- Beef Protein (LF)
- Rice / Brown Rice Protein (GF, LF, V)
Add Some Healthy Fats
Fats are very calorie dense and are essential for anyone wanting to add substantial size to their frame. Adding a variety of milks, oils, nuts or seeds not only adds valuable calories but with the right combination adds delicious texture and flavour. NOTE: If your using your shake for the Post-Workout Window keep fats to a minimum to ensure your shake digests as quickly as possible to help spike the anabolic hormone insulin. Some examples of fats are:
- Coconut / Almond Milk
- CLA Powder
- MCT’s / Coconut Oil
- Flax Seed Oil
- Macadamia / Peanut Oils
- Flax / Hemp / Chia Seeds
Top Up With Carbs
The final piece in your custom mass gain puzzle, carbohydrates provide the energy to power through heavy training and replenish glycogen stores when needed. Again for an anabolic stimulating shake choose fast digesting, high glycemic index (GI) carb sources such as dextrose, maltodextrin or waxy maize. For meal replacement shakes use complex carbs with lower GI from oats, rice or fruit to keep insulin levels lower throughout the day. Here is our top list of carbs:
- Dextrose (High GI)
- Maltodextrin (High GI)
- Waxy Maize (High GI)
- Fruit: Watermelon,Dates, Pineapple (Medium GI)
- Quick Oatmeal / Oatmeal Powder (Low GI)
- Brown Rice Flour (Low GI)
- Fruit: Strawberries, Blueberries, Banana (Low GI)
Is The Cost Worth It?
Ok, now you have a good understanding of how Mass Gainers should be incorporated into your nutritional plan and how to decide on the most appropriate product for your needs, it is now time to ‘whey’ up the cost (pun intended). We have established that for gaining size increasing daily caloric consumption is the key, so let’s crunch the numbers on the cost of supplementing with a Mass Gainer compared to both a custom made gainer shake and whole food meal.
The following calculations will be based off a shake/meal within a fair range of 60 grams of Protein, 80 grams of Carbohydrates and 15 grams of Fat (P:60, C:80, F:15) = 695 Calories
Mass Gainer Supplement
The following table outlines the macronutrient breakdown and costs of some popular Mass Gainer Supplements.
Take note that the macronutrient breakdown and total calories are specific to each product and the total cost is reflective of a shake containing between 550-750 calories, although not exact it gives a reasonable comparison to our Baseline of (P:60, C:80, F:15) = 695 Calories.
Custom Gainer Shake
- 2 Scoops Whey Protein: $2.50
- 100 Grams Oatmeal: $0.20
- 500 Millilitres Skim Milk: $0.70
- 20 Grams Peanut Butter: $0.20
Total Price Per Shake: $3.60
Whole Food Meal
- 200 Grams Chicken Breast (Cooked) $4.00
- 200 Grams Brown Rice $3.00
- 100 Grams Vegetables $0.50
- 20 Grams Almonds $0.50
Total Price Per Meal: $8.00
Certainly getting our nutritional needs from whole food meals is a critical component in a healthy lifestyle, we would certainly not recommend replacing all meals with Mass Gainers or custom shakes. However preparing upwards of 4-5 meals per day is often difficult to implement, time consuming, impractical for most people’s daily lifestyels and not to mention expensive at a cost of $8.00 per meal.
Both the Mass Gainer Supplement and custom gainer shake offer easier, more cost effective but equally effective means of obtaining the additional calories required to support extreme caloric needs. For convenience sake Mass Gainer supplements provide an effective on-the-go option for meeting caloric needs, certainly adding 2-3 serves of a high quality Mass Gainer within the range of $4.50-$7.50 per serve will be far more cost effective than the cost and time involved with preparing an additional 2-3 meals per day, not to mention less intrusive from a lifestyle point of view.
For those wanting the best value for their money at $3.60 per shake, the flexibility of having complete control over the exact ingredients and quantities the custom gainer shake is by far the best option. There is still a considerable amount of preparation required, shopping for each ingredient, measuring quantities, blending ingredients and storing in refrigerated containers which may seem too time consuming for some.
The choice is really up to you as to which option will best suit your budget, lifestyle and dietary needs, but there is certainly no doubt that a high quality Mass Gainer has it’s place when trying to reach extreme caloric requirements.