This is not an article on “should I take mass gainer supplements?” What I would rather address here is the fact that there are a lot of people that don’t fully understand what these two different supplements actually do.
A lot of that comes from confusing advertisements in the health and fitness industry where both of them are highlighted as critical to build muscles and increase your fitness levels.
While the average athlete looking to get rid of unwanted fat and still gain weight in the form of muscle, may get away with just a whey protein isolate after training, there can be very good reasons to look at using mass gainers as well.
But before you decide on that, let me first clarify what they are and what the difference is.
What Is A Mass Gainer Supplement?
A mass gainer supplement is a sports nutrition powder that aims to provide a large dose of calories in the form of protein, carbs and fats.
It can often be a struggle to eat enough healthy food to get the calorie intake needed to bulk up.
In my experience as a personal trainer, I think this is the number 1 reason why people fail to gain weight in the form of muscles.
Mass gainers (sometimes labeled weight gainers) provide a large volume of condensed macronutrients in each serving. It wouldn’t be uncommon for one 400 ml weight gainer shake to provide 400+ calories.
Basically, you can save yourself from eating a bowl of pasta or several chicken breasts.
One reason I think so many people confuse the supplements in the whey vs mass gainer debate is around the question of when to take mass gainer supplements. They should always be taken after your workout at the gym when your body will be craving nutrition the most.
However, rather than take them immediately after you finish, I recommend that my clients take a protein shake straight after their sports activity, and then wait until they get home to take the mass gainers.
Recommended post: Tips on how to use mass gainers properly
Why more carbs and less fat? That’s the default macro split for gaining muscle: generally, folks go lower carb for weight loss and higher carb for weight gain. (Of course, there are exceptions, but this is a widely used rule of thumb.)
- Nick English, Health Journalist
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is an isolate of milk, and it’s one of the most popular fitness supplements for muscle recovery and mass gain.
Some refer to it as the purest form of protein, and you’ll probably find these products stacked high at your gym or sports store.
The reason it’s so popular is that it does provide the full range of essential amino acids, and it’s easy for your body to digest.
Related post: Whey protein isolate vs. Concentrate
The reason so many athletes choose whey as their most important dietary supplement is that it is so critical for the muscle recovery process. (1)
If you’ve ever forgotten your protein supplement or run out of it, then you’ll probably know how much extra time it’ll take for muscle soreness to stop after your trip to the gym.
No rewards for getting the timing right, as you always want to take it immediately after you finish training. As your muscles start to relax, they will immediately start the process of repairing micro-tears.
Some people even try to start taking it during a cool-down phase, as it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes for your stomach to start absorbing the protein.
Difference Between Mass Gainer And Whey Protein
I’ve often heard people say that it’s just down to a different ingredients list. While there is some truth to that, there are quite a few ingredients that will overlap, especially when it comes to protein.
Pure protein supplements usually have very little, if any, carbs and fats. Their aim is to focus on one thing only, and that is help with the muscle recovery process. Whey protein has also been shown to work with weight loss, which helps to give you a leaner appearance as your muscles grow.
Mass gainers will help to supplement your diet with large amounts of calories mainly through protein and carbs, but you’ll also find some healthy fats as well. If you want to build up some new lean mass in significant amounts, then these are the best options you have.
Can You Take Both?
Yes, you absolutely can, and most high-performance athletes and bodybuilders are very much dependent on taking them both. And that’s what always surprises me in the whey protein vs mass gainer for bulking debate.
You shouldn’t look at them in isolation of each other, but rather that they will complement their effects on a daily basis.
But you should look at it from the perspective of your goals, so I’ve split this section into two main recommendations.
1. Weight Gain And Bodybuilding
If your plan is to consistently put on some weight in the form of lean muscle, then you absolutely should consider taking both types of supplements. What I mean by “consistently” is a plan to bulk up over a period of 3 months or more.
However, you should first try to increase your food intake on a day to day basis. Eat more healthy carbs, protein, and fats, and only when you really find yourself struggling to get all that extra food in, should you add a mass gainer.
Natural and organic food sources will always be better than the concentrated stuff, but at the same time, there are only so many chicken breasts you can eat.
2. Cutting And Weight Loss
Now, if you’re happy with your current muscle size and are looking to add some more definition, then you should definitely not be taking both products. During a cutting phase, you actually want to make sure that you burn away as much fat as possible to bring your BMI to a minimum.
And you won’t achieve that if you’re loading up with calories.
So, if you want to lose fat, then stick with the whey protein and even work on a slightly negative net calorie amount.
You can also watch this video to learn more about mass gainers and whey protein.
Does whey protein increase mass?
Yes, whey protein increases muscle mass by providing your body with the essential nutrients called amino acids. (2) These are the building blocks of new muscle tissue, and you will need a lot of them to repair and create new fibers.
Does whey protein make you stronger?
Yes, whey protein makes you stronger by providing the amino acids needed to build up new muscle fibers. As you bulk up, you will notice that you can work out for longer and with increasingly heavy weights. Essentially, the effect is indirect rather than providing you with more energy.
Is mass gainer better than whey protein?
No, mass gainer isn’t better than whey protein as the two supplements provide completely different support for your body. In fact, if you have some significant bulking goals you want to achieve, then you’ll actually need both types of supplements to succeed.
Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein: Who's the Winner?
So, hopefully, I’ve helped to lift some of the confusion around these two types of supplements, and you should have a much better picture to figure out when you need either or both of them.
Bodybuilder mass gainer products have become a lot more popular, and I can totally see why.
Eating large volumes of food is time-consuming and exhausting, while a simple shake can easily take care of a meal.
- Andra Picincu, Does Whey Protein Help You Recover Faster?, retrieved from https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/whey-protein-recover-faster-7396.html
- Joseph Nordqvist, Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C, What are the benefits and risks of whey protein?, retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263371.php