Let me get started with saying that for most people, mass gainers are going to be completely unnecessary. You have to be planning for pretty serious muscle mass gains to need a helping hand with your calorie intake.
If you just need an extra 200 or 300 calories over your maintenance level, then your diet should be able to cover that.
But if you are struggling with eating large enough volumes of food to cover all the carbs and protein you need for training and muscle growth, then mass gainers are going to be your best friend.
But before you just pull some off the shelf at your gym, use the following information we've carefully gathered to plan your required intake and timing properly.
Calculating Your Maintenance Calories
OK, let’s start with the basics and making sure that you set yourself up on a sound foundation.
What I mean by that is if you don’t find out your caloric need, then there is a good chance that you’ll take too much or too little mass gainer.
So, with the help of a maintenance calorie calculator, you can enter your gender, age, height, and weight to work out how much energy you need to take in each day.
This will be the level you need just to maintain your current weight.
Related: 5 Hacks on How to Count Calories
What Does Mass Gainer Do To Your Body?
A mass gainer helps provide your body with large volumes of protein, carbs, and fat to maximize your calorie intake. It’s these nutrients that are needed for your workout plan to provide the best results.
Now, before you jump ahead and just add a few hundred calories to your maintenance level and start piling up the scoops of a mass gaining supplement, take the time to figure out what your actual goals are.
1. Lean Mass
For the most part, people just want to get rid of some body fat and build muscle mass to look a bit more athletic. (1)
Basically, you want a bit more of a ripped appearance but not necessarily to the extent that you would block a door.
If this is your goal, then you will need to plan 4 workouts per week, with a strong focus on weight training. And on the days that you’re training, you should start off by taking about 200 to 300 kcal more than your calculated base level.
2. Maximum Bulking
This is the type of goal that a bodybuilder will set, where basically you want to take muscle building to the extreme. For professionals in the higher weight categories, this can translate into more than 3 hours of high-intensity exercise every day with thousands of extra calories needed.
However, even for an amateur, supporting daily workouts can quickly require 600 kcal or more per day.
Recommended: Difference Between Mass Gainer and Whey Protein
Working Out Your Extra Calories
OK, so we’ve worked out your maintenance energy intake, and you understand how your goals will impact your complete nutrition needs.
So, how do you work out how many extra calories to take through mass gainers?
Unless you work with a dietician and personal trainer, you will need to use a rule of thumb, but there are some simple steps you can take.
If you just want to build some muscles and get rid of body fat, then start with an extra 200 kcal daily. Carefully monitor your weight gain and BMI to make sure you’re targeting the growth of muscles and not fat gain.
If you’re losing some pounds, then you definitely need to up your mass gainers, and if you’re piling on some flabby stuff, then you either need to reduce your intake or train more.
For more serious bulking where you will be training at least once a day, then your starting point should be an extra 500 kcal per day, and the process for fine-tuning it would be the same.
Recommended: 3 Homemade Mass Gainer Shake Recipes
When Should You Take Mass Gainer?
You should take mass gainer products after your trip to the gym and avoid looking at it as some sort of pre-workout supplement.
At the same time, while mass gainers do contain some amino acids, you shouldn’t look at it as a replacement of a post-workout protein shake either.
Personally, I recommend taking a protein supplement once you finish your cool-down, and then mix up the mass gainer when you get home, but still within an hour of the gym.
This way, you can ensure that you have all the nutrition to help repair muscle damage and build new fibers, while not overloading your stomach with a massive protein intake which can cause cramping.
You can also watch this video to learn more tips on when it's best to take mass gainers.
Avoiding Side Effects
Even when you eat a lot of food, there’s usually a lot of volume and fiber involved, so all the nutrients don’t hit your digestive system at the same time.
But with these types of supplements, you’ll be getting a large serving of macronutrients in a very concentrated form.
Some health side effects can happen, but there are ways to reduce the chances.
1. Gradually Increase The Amount
When you first start taking them, aim for smaller doses. You can even split your calculated intake over two smaller shakes with plenty of water. Also try to avoid mixing it with milk, as that can make things tougher to digest and cause bloating in your stomach.
That way, you give your stomach a chance to adapt to the new diet.
2. Limit Overlapping Ingredients With Other Supplements
You’ll still need your whey protein shakes and possibly creatine as well to help with your muscle performance and recovery. But sometimes these supplements have significantly overlapping ingredients.
I always suggest comparing the labels of the products you take to see if you could end up with a very large dose of one particular ingredient that could have some not so pleasant results for your health.
Whey protein and carbohydrates do not have any side effects, though together combined with creatine they could potentially cause gastrointestinal issues.
- Peter Tzemis Nutritionist
3. Be Careful With Stimulants
Stimulants are more common in pre-workouts and fat burners to trigger higher metabolic rates, better muscle activity, and mental performance. There are some mass gainers that will also add some in as well.
And if you’re a fan of coffee, then you can quickly end up jittery and struggling with sleep. (2) So, keep a close eye on caffeine and monitor your reaction to it.
Related: Do Mass Gainers Cause Acne?
Mass Gainers: The Bottom Line
No matter what your muscle-building goals are, there are certain supplements that will work absolute wonders for you.
Beyond your average protein intake, a mass gainer will make it a lot easier for you to get a healthy dose of all the macros you need.
With the above information, you should now be able to adjust your calories to your goals and workout routine, allowing you to achieve more in less time.
If you’ve had some success with these supplements, then we’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page.
- NSCA, Sport Performance and Body Composition, retrieved from https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/kinetic-select/sport-performance-and-body-composition/
- Robbie Gonzalez, What Are Caffeine Jitters – And How Do You Get Rid Of Them?, retrieved from https://io9.gizmodo.com/what-are-caffeine-jitters-and-how-do-you-get-rid-of-t-1652272515