Recently I had a client who wanted to bulk up. He did everything by the book. He started weight-training and eating to achieve his desired body weight.
Then he came to me complaining that he's feeling bloated all the time and wanted to know can anything be done about it.
I've spent countless hours searching for all available information on how mass gainers cause bloating and what can be done about it.
If you're in the same situation, here's some advice that can hopefully help you stop feeling bloated.
How Do Mass Gainers Cause Bloating?
People who are taking a mass gainer can experience varying degrees of gastrointestinal upset, such as:
This happens because to gain weight you need to eat more than you spend.
But, just having a calorie surplus isn’t enough if you can’t eat a meal for another five to six hours.
Amount of Calories
Some of the weight gainers out there have huge amounts of calories, and your body will struggle to handle it, especially until it gets used to a large calorie intake.
Having 1000 carbs in one meal or protein powder shake will be a challenge.
If your body is struggling and you’re constantly bloated, it’s a sign that you should let your body adjust and take smaller portions for a while.
Often, there isn’t one specific cause of stomach problems, but the reasons can be varied, such as lactose intolerance or the protein shake volume
You should always check the ingredients of the mass gainer you’re taking.
What can happen is that some brands use less processed and cheaper ingredients.
While this won’t endanger the process of gaining weight, some of these ingredients can have a high lactose concentration.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you want to avoid weight gainers that have a:
- Milk powder
- Milk protein concentrate
- HIgh concentration of whey protein
If you see these, especially the first two, on the list of ingredients, it’s a sign that the product has a high amount of lactose.
Be careful with whey proteins, as it has enough lactose to make lactose intolerant people feel bloated.
The solution for this is to use whey isolate because isolate is more refined, has less lactose, and more protein per gram.
"The problem is that not all whey protein is created equal. Some are made from concentrates, which are high in lactose. I recommend whey protein isolate because it has less lactose, which your body might digest more easily." - Sameer Islam, MD
Time of Consumption
Another good tip is not to have whey immediately after a workout, but wait between 15 minutes to half an hour and drink it sip by sip.
If you’re drinking whey with milk, switch to water instead.
Some people feel bloated because the protein supplement and carb ingredients, such as casein and fructose, move through your digestive tract more slowly and get digested slowly too, which can also make you feel bloated.
If the weight gainer you’re taking has ingredients that are slowly digested, chances are you’ll feel bloated, especially at the beginning, until you get used to it.
A good option here is to use more stomach-friendly ingredients, such as waxy maize starch.
How to Avoid Feeling Bloated When Taking a Mass Gainer?
Switch Up Your Supplement
Are you feeling tired after you finish the prescribed amount of protein supplement per serving?
This happens because when you consume a huge amount of calories, your body will draw blood from other areas to cope with the amount of food it has to digest.
This makes a significant impact on the way you’re feeling.
For example, if you’re feeling sleepy after your mass gainers or protein shakes, it’s a sign that you should try something different.
If commercial mass gainers disagree with you, a good idea is to make your own. Start with a high-quality protein, and add your source of carbs.
See the best mass gainer supplements on the market.
Eat Less Calories
If you aren’t used to eating a considerable amount of calories, you’ll likely feel bloated, especially if you’re taking a mass gainer that requires a large serving size (over 300g).
This amount of powder dissolved into a lot of liquid will be very heavy.
What you want to do, especially if you’re just starting, is get your body used to a high-calorie intake.
Don’t chuck all high-calorie foods at once.
You don’t want an excessive amount, but enough carbs that won’t make you feel tired, sleepy, and bloated after being consumed.
It’s a good idea to go for a partial serve instead of a full serving.
Take a couple of days to build your way up. You can also split one serve into smaller portions and have it throughout the day.
Don’t worry about fewer calories meaning less gain.
You want to feel good while you’re building muscle, so it’s alright to take the process at your own pace.
And, by eating fewer calories in a single meal, you’ll have more energy because the body won’t have to deal with a lot of food at once.
The benefits of eating fewer calories include:
- Less bloating
- Not feeling tired
- Fewer chances of storing fat
Avoid Sugar Alcohol
Sugar alcohol is neither sugar nor alcohol, but carbohydrates. It’s called sugar alcohol because it looks a little bit like sugar and alcohol.
It’s usually found in chewing gum, plants, protein bars, and lots of processed foods.
“If you abuse it or overconsume it or increase your exposure to it, your likelihood of having adverse effects on your digestion goes up." - Roger Clemens, adjunct professor at the University of Southern California's International Center for Regulatory Science
Don’t mistake it for artificial sweeteners. It has different caloric content. While artificial sweeteners are sugar-free, sugar alcohols have 0.2 to 2.7 calories per gram. (1)
Watch out for weight gainers with sugar alcohol because it’s nearly indigestible.
This is because the can’t completely absorb and metabolize it. Instead, sugar alcohols go to the large intestine, where the gut bacteria metabolize them and release hydrogen gas. This leads to gas, feeling bloated, stomach pain, and even diarrhea.
Drink High Fiber Shakes to Gain Weight and Muscle Mass
If you’re not used to a high fiber diet, protein powders and fiber shakes with many calories will cause gas and bloating.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking protein shakes that have fiber, especially because fiber has many health benefits, such as:
- Helps you lose body fat
- Reduces blood sugar spike after a high-carb meal
- Helps maintain bowel health
- Lowers cholesterol levels (2)
What you can do until you get used to a high fiber intake is have a quarter of the serving dose on the first day, then a half-serving dose the following day, and so on, until you gradually come to a full protein shakes serving in about a week.
If your body adjusts to the fiber, you’ll be able to avoid feeling discomfort and reap the fiber benefits.
Also, check how many calories are in the shake. Unless it’s a mass gainer, you want to have fewer calories to avoid fat gain that will turn into fat and not muscles.
Some good protein shake examples to avoid feeling bloated are:
- Protein shakes with pineapple juice — blend pineapple with water and whey protein in a blender, and have it within half an hour of your workout. Pineapple has a bromelain enzyme which is excellent if you have digestion problems.
- Protein shakes with yogurt/curd and banana — Mix yogurt, banana, and whey powder in a blender and drink it after a workout. Yogurt has active bacteria, which help with digestion, and bananas are rich in sugars which is good for post-workout.
People feel bloated after having whey protein because they can’t digest it properly or are lactose intolerant.
The shakes above can help with better digestion and preventing bloating.
Track Diet and Calorie Consumption
Another thing that causes bloating is calorie surplus.
Many people forget to add the total amount of caloric intake they take on a daily basis, which includes food plus mass gainer carbs.
For example, you need 4000 calories a day, and you’re already getting 3500 from the food you eat.
Then, you have three weight-gaining drinks of 300 calories each, which brings you above your total needed amount.
Instead, to avoid gastrointestinal issues, you can lower the amount of shakes you have.
For example, instead of each shake being 300 calories, you can lower it to 100, and you’ll end up with your target goal.
Think about from what source you want to get your caloric intake, food, or mass gainers.
For example, if you’re getting most of the carbs you need from foods, you are better off taking a whey protein shake instead of a mass gainer.
To sum up, if you’re feeling bloated, your stomach is telling you to be as precise as possible with your daily caloric totals.
How to Make and Drink Mass Gainers Correctly
It matters how you blend and drink your mass gainer for better muscle gains and to prevent bloating.
If you blend your shake in a blender and gulp it down in a matter of seconds, you’ll get bloated because the air traps the bubbles.
The longer you blend the shake, the more air goes into it, which means you’ll ingest more air.
Instead, what you should do is make your shake super-smooth.
Don’t overdo the blending.
You can also open the blender lid after the blending is done and let the shaker sit for about 5 minutes.
This will give air bubbles enough time to escape, and you’ll avoid air making you feel bloated.
Or, if you don’t want to wait, stir the shake with a spoon after you blend it.
Also, you want to slow down and not gulp your shake. Sip it slowly and not in one go.
How to Digest Food Easier While Taking Mass Gainers
You can do several things to digest food more efficiently and avoid being bloated when taking a weight gainer.
- Be careful with low carb and fad diets, such as a ketogenic diet — When you start the keto diet, you’ll go through something called the keto flu, where the body tries to adapt to getting energy from fat, and you can lose fat instead of gain it. (3)
- Intermittent fasting — Will result in weight loss, not weight gain. If you still want to try intermittent fasting, you can try having more calories, especially pre-workouts. (4)
- Choose easy-to-digest food — For example, instead of a steak, eat ground meat because it’s easier to chew and digest and won’t make you feel bloated. If you don’t have problems digesting dairy products, use whey powder instead of protein powder.
- Be careful with adding fat and carbs — Instead of brown rice, choose white rice if you want to add carbs. Use olive oil for your salad to get enough calories.
- Use foods that improve digestion — Bananas, onions, yogurt, cottage cheese, greek yogurt.
Do You Struggle With Feeling Bloated Because of Mass Gainers?
For best results, it's always recommended to use weight gainers as indicated on the label. However, if that doesn't work for you, find a regime that does.
Try using the mass gainer at different times of day, and don't use more than the prescribed amount. If that doesn't help, try some of the ideas I've mentioned above.
Have you experienced being bloated when using weight gainers?
If you decide to try some of the ideas I've mentioned here, let me know your results in the comments below.