When you first think about it, it looks simple: for gaining weight you need something with a ton of calories. Well, it's a little more complex than that.
I recently had a client who wanted to bulk up, so he wanted to know how to choose mass gainers to help him get muscle mass.
I researched the available supplements and what the scientific studies say, and here's what I found out.
6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Mass Gainer
Working out at the gym and getting enough calories you need from food isn’t enough to gain weight and increase muscle mass.
Sometimes you need additional help in the form of mass gainers. They can provide you with extra calories from clean sources.
A mass gainer is a weight gainer supplement to your regular diet, and it will give you extra carbs, proteins, and even fat, to build muscle.
But, not all mass gainers are equal.
There are considerable differences in the amount of calories, protein, and carbs mass gainers can have.
You want to gain muscles, not weight. For this, you’ll need a lot of protein.
Moreover, the protein you take needs to have all the essential nutrients and amino acids that the body can’t synthesize independently.
Here’s everything you should know before choosing a weight gainer.
1. Carb-to-Protein Ratio
If you want to add more muscles, your mass gainer must have the correct carbohydrate to protein ratio. The ideal formula is 3:1 carb to protein ratio.
You want complex carbohydrates because they take longer to digest, which gives you more energy for the workout.
You also want to have both fast-release and slow-medium release proteins, such as:
- Whey proteins
- Calcium caseinate
Slow-release proteins, such as micellar casein and calcium caseinate, help lean muscle maintenance.
They also help prevent muscle breakdown between meals and at nighttime.
Fast-release proteins need a shorter time to digest and are more effective for creating new muscles and repairing muscles immediately post-workout.
Pro tip: If you’re too full from your protein shake that you can’t eat your meal, chances are you’re having too many calories, and you should try a smaller shake.
2. Digestive Enzymes
If you’re prone to bloating, choose a mass gainer that contains digestive enzymes.
They will support the digestion process, so you won’t feel any discomfort after taking the weight gainer.
Moreover, digestive enzymes can help you better absorb nutrients and give your body the fuel it needs for an intense workout session.
3. Sugar Content
One of the easiest ways of adding calories to a weight gainer is to add sugar.
However, the best mass gainer will give you calories from clean sources, such as proteins and complex carbs.
This means there won’t be any added sugars or artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
All of these will only hurt your performance in the long run.
Pro tip: Choose mass gainers that have 6g of sugar per serving at most.
4. Fat Content
Fats are calorie-dense — twice or more dense than protein and carbs.
The best weight gainers will have 1 to 2 g of saturated fat per serving.
If the mass gainer has more than 5g of fat calories per serving, stay away from it.
Best mass gainers will have:
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's)
You want to choose healthy fats because they help you lose weight, which will prevent body fat storage. (1)
If you consume too many calories you’ll end up gaining fat, not muscles, so a correct daily calorie intake is key to adding mass,
Mass gainers vary in the amount of calories, so check the nutritional information to determine how many calories you’ll have per serving.
Note: To avoid calorie surplus, you should compare the calories you get from food with the calories you get from the weight gainer.
“It’s important to realize that muscle gains don’t happen overnight. If you force yourself to have tons of protein at every meal in an effort to gain muscle quickly, you may actually gain fat.” - Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD
Pro tip: Find a mass gainer with oats, such as oat powder. Oats are slowly digested and will keep your insulin level steadier compared to other carbs.
When you’re trying to bulk up, you can enjoy food such as:
- Chocolate fudge
- Chocolate milkshake
- Strawberry milkshake
- Chocolate peanut butter
- Vanilla ice cream
- Other good ideas for muscle growth include complete protein, milk protein concentrate, essential fatty acids. (2)
Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein
You should also be able to distinguish between protein supplements to choose the right mass gainer for you.
Weight gainers are usually a carbohydrate blend of protein sources, which means that amino acids are being steadily released into your bloodstream and not digested quickly.
The first ingredient should be a sort of whey protein:
- Whey protein isolate
- Whey protein concentrate
- Hydrolyzed whey protein
You can also get a whey protein blend to help you with muscle recovery and achieve the needed calorie count. We've covered the entire topic in our post on the differences between mass gainers and whey proteins.
How Do You Choose a Mass Gainer?
Adding significant muscle mass to your body can be more challenging than you think.
This is because it's difficult to get the high-quality protein source necessary to gain muscle.
To make sure the weight gainer you're using is right for you, read the label carefully. Ensure the supplement has the right amount of carbs, fats, and protein and that they're in the correct ratio for your needs.
Have you used a mass gainer before? Let me know your experience in the comments below.