How To Use Mass Gainers Properly For Optimal Muscle Growth

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 16, 2024
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As a Health & Performance Coach, my role is to guide you in achieving your ideal body composition. Mass gainers can be a strategic tool in this journey, especially when paired with a tailored workout regimen.

Each person's body is unique, with distinct weight and mass goals, which can make determining the right quantity of mass gainer to consume somewhat challenging.

The process begins with a comprehensive assessment of your caloric needs. This crucial step forms the foundation for any personalized nutrition strategy, allowing us to pinpoint the precise caloric intake necessary to reach your goals.

I'm here to demystify how mass gainers work in conjunction with your body's physiology and to develop a plan that aligns with your specific objectives. Let's dive in together.

Quick Summary

  • To effectively use mass gainers for muscle growth, ensure you calculate your maintenance calories and consume the supplement post-workout.
  • Mass gainers provide a high-calorie mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to support muscle repair and growth.
  • On average, mass gainers can add around 500-1000 calories to your daily intake, which is critical for those struggling to meet caloric needs through food alone.
  • Personally, I find that combining mass gainers with a balanced diet and solid workout plan is the best approach for sustainable muscle growth.

Calculating Your Maintenance Calories

Fit man writing notes

In my early days of training, I learned quickly that understanding my caloric needs was the bedrock of effective mass gain.

I remember how I used to guess my intake and ended up not seeing the results I wanted. It wasn't until I sat down with a nutrition calculator that I found my sweet spot.

It's a game-changer, and I encourage you to do the same to avoid the trial and error that I went through.

This will be the level you need just to maintain your current weight.

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.

From my experience, incorporating a mass gainer into my routine was like adding fuel to my workout's fire. The high protein, carbs, and fats were exactly what my body craved to repair and build after intense sessions. I could literally feel the difference in my energy levels and recovery times.

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

A lean muscular man at the gym

For the most part, people just want to get rid of some body fat and build muscle mass to look a bit more athletic.

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

A person working out

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?

A muscular man drinking mass gainer

I've found the perfect timing for taking mass gainers is right after my gym session. This wasn't something I knew from the start; I had to experiment a bit. Initially, I tried it as a pre-workout, but it didn't sit well. Post-workout, however, it's like a recovery elixir for my muscles.

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.

You can also watch this video to learn more tips on when it's best to take mass gainers.


Avoiding Side Effects

A man scooping protein powder and coffee beans on the side

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. So, keep a close eye on caffeine and monitor your reaction to it.

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Customization of Mass Gainer Shakes

Enhancing mass gainer shakes with creative ingredients can make your bulking journey more enjoyable and nutritious. Here are some ideas:

  1. Banana Peanut Butter Bliss: Blend a ripe banana, a spoon of natural peanut butter, and a dash of honey with your mass gainer for a creamy, flavorful shake. Bananas provide potassium and fiber, while peanut butter adds healthy fats and extra protein.
  2. Berry Blast: Mix in a handful of mixed berries, like blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, for a fruity twist. Berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins.
  3. Almond Joy: Add a handful of almonds and a teaspoon of cocoa powder to your shake. Almonds offer healthy fats and protein, while cocoa powder lends a chocolatey kick.
  4. Chia Power: Sprinkle chia seeds into your shake for added fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds absorb liquid, creating a thicker consistency.
  5. Oatmeal Cookie: Blend in some rolled oats, a pinch of cinnamon, and a touch of vanilla extract to mimic the flavors of oatmeal cookies. Oats provide fiber and long-lasting energy.
  6. Tropical Paradise: Include pineapple, coconut milk, and a squeeze of lime for a tropical vibe. Pineapple adds vitamin C and a sweet tang, while coconut milk offers creaminess and a hint of the tropics.

Experiment with these ingredients to create your customized mass gainer shakes, tailor-made for your taste and nutritional needs.

Mass Gainers with Whole Foods

I quickly realized that mass gainers alone weren't enough for sustainable growth. By pairing them with a diet rich in whole foods, I not only felt healthier but also saw better gains. It's a balance I swear by and one that I encourage you to find as well.

Whole foods, rich in micronutrients, offer vital vitamins and minerals that supplements might lack. Opt for nutrient-dense options like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to balance your diet.

Use mass gainers as a convenient supplement to meet calorie and protein needs, but prioritize whole foods to ensure you get a broader spectrum of nutrients and avoid excessive reliance on supplements.


How many scoops of mass gainer should I take per day?

You should take 2 scoops of mass gainer per day. New users should however start with 1-scoop half serving.

How much water should I drink while taking mass gainer?

You should drink 3.8 liters of water while taking mass gainer. This should be taken throught the day.

If you’ve had some success with these supplements, then we’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page.

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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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2 thoughts on “How to Use Mass Gainer Properly Without Gaining a Lot of Fat

  1. I’d love to see some weight gainer before after pictures. I’ve been thinking about using them since the start of my journey in bodybuilding.

  2. To those who have experience with mass gainers, what is the best time to take weight gainers based on your experience?

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