As you begin your muscle building journey, in your quest to make progress as quickly as possible, you may come across something called a ‘weight gainer’.
These, as their name suggests, are designed to help you gain weight by providing you with a higher calorie intake.
Weight gainers can range anywhere from 250 calories all the way up to 1000 calories or more. If you’re someone who struggles to take in enough calories, this might seem like the perfection solution.
But is it?
Let’s go over some of the need-to-know facts about weight gainers in this review so you can make an informed decision if they are right for you.
What Are Weight Gainers?
As just noted, weight gainers are a product designed to help you gain weight. Think supercharged protein powder, more or less.
Both are available in powdered form that you mix with water or your choice of beverage and can drink throughout the day.
The big difference is in the calorie and macronutrient count.
While the average protein powder contains around 100-130 calories per scoop, you’ll be looking at around 250-1000+ calories per serving when it comes to weight gainers.
Most weight gainers will be in and around the 400-600 calorie per serving mark, however you can find some that are very high in calories for the ‘hardgainers’ out there, as they call them.
Weight gainers typically do have a blend of protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fats, so it isn’t just protein you’re taking in with this product.
This makes the more of a meal replacement powder, however they can be treated very similar to a protein powder.
The best weight gainers out on the market also contain lower amounts of sugar, so that’s always something to be on the lookout for.
When you review a weight gainer online or in the supplement store, sugar should be one of the key features you look for.
Who Are Weight Gainers Best Suited For?
So who are weight gainers best suited for? As you might imagine, they’re suited for those who want to gain weight.
This however, needs more of an explanation. Don’t let yourself believe that just because you want to build muscle, you should automatically take one of these.
Not everyone with the goal of building muscle needs a weight gainer. Most will do okay eating regular food and using a plain protein powder.
Who weight gain powders really tend to help are those who are either too busy to cook multiple meals per day, or those who are naturally thin and who have the ectomorph body type.
This is described as someone who really struggles to gain any weight at all - muscle or fat.
This type of person has a metabolism that usually catches up to them when they do start eating more calories and as such, they can’t seem to ever gain weight.
By using a weight gainer, they’ll really increase their total, hopefully providing enough of a calorie boost they can see optimal results.
Weight gainers may also be used by athletes who are expending a very high amount of energy on a day to day basis and need the extra calorie support.
If you are burning up hundreds of calories each day training, it can be hard to fit that many calories in through food alone.
As weight gainers are liquid calories, which generally are not as filling as solid food calories, this makes it easier to get your intake up.
There are certain people who should not use weight gainers, however. Those who tend to put on body fat easily will not be served well from these products.
As they are so calorie dense, these individuals will be more prone to gaining excess fat weight if used regularly.
Likewise, those who are not training hard multiple times per week likely do not need weight gainers as well.
Most beginners should refrain from using a weight gainer until they have 3 months of consistent training under their belt.
Then, if they are training four or more times per week, they can begin adding the weight gainer on days that they hit the gym.
Recreational weight lifters will simply get enough nutrition in through food alone, there’s no reason to turn to liquid calories coming from a weight gainer.
A good rule of thumb is that if your daily calorie needs are higher than 3000 per day, looking into a weight gainer is a smart move.
At this point, eating more than 3000 calories per day from whole food sources can be hard to stomach, which is where the weight gainer comes in helpful.
Types Of Weight Gainers
So what types of weight gainers can you buy? If you take a look online or at your local supplement store, you’ll see plenty of options to review.
Lower In Fat
There are weight gainers that are lower in fat, containing mostly carbohydrates and protein.
These are good to use immediately following your workout period when you want to keep your fat intake lower.
Lower In Carbs
Then there are weight gainers that are lower in carbs but higher in fat and protein.
These are better to use later on in the day when you are less active and need fewer carbohydrates.
You can also find lactose free weight gainers out on the market for those who may be sensitive to the sugar found in milk products.
While standard whey protein does tend to have less lactose than milk, if you are very sensitive, going with a lactose free product may be necessary.
How To Use Weight Gainers
Now that you have a better idea of the type of weight gainers out there, how do you go about using them?
Generally speaking, one serving of a weight gainer will be enough for most people. This will, however, depend on the calorie content of the weight gainer and how fast your individual metabolism is.
What you should aim to do is match the weight gainer to your metabolic level. If you are a pure ectomorph and really struggling to gain weight, you’ll want to look for a weight gainer that has 500+ calories per serving.
If you are someone who is simply active, burning a lot of energy, but who can gain fat if they aren’t careful, then a weight gainer in the 250-400 calorie range is more appropriate.
Take this serving of weight gainer either immediately following your workout period if it’s one lower in dietary fat or at any point during the day when you need a calorie boost.
You can mix your weight gainer with regular low-fat milk (if you are not lactose intolerant), with unsweetened almond milk, or with water if you need something that’s easier to transport.
Or, you might use weight gainers in a recipe of sorts as well. As they are very similar to protein powder, you can simply swap out the weight gainer for most recipes that call for protein powder.
Just do keep in mind that because the macronutrient content of weight gainers is slightly different (you’re also getting carbs and fats, not just protein), this can influence how it bakes up slightly, so you may need to adjust other ingredients.
A process of trial and error will tell you how your weight gainer is responding in the recipe you want to use it.
Other ways to incorporate weight gainers into your day include:
- Mixing it into a bowl of prepared oatmeal
- Stirring it into a bowl of yogurt
- Mixing it with some raw oats and peanut butter to prepare energy-packed protein bites
- Using it along with egg whites and oats to prepare a protein pancake
There are many ways to use a weight gainer in your day beyond simply drinking it in liquid format, so get creative and see what you can come up with.
Side Effects To Be Aware Of
Generally speaking, as weight gainer is quite similar to whey protein powder, you won’t be at risk for any extra symptoms over and beyond what you would with the standard protein powder.
Some people may experience bloating and/or gas when using weight gainer, in part due to the lactose (if not having lactose free weight gainer), as well as simply due to the sheer calorie count.
If you are taking a mass gainer with 600 or more calories for instance, this is a lot to take in all at once and bloating can results.
To avoid this, consider working your way up to this level. Try a weight gainer that has around 250-300 calories, then 450 calories, then the 600 calorie level and beyond.
The other side effect you can experience is fat gain. Remember, your body can only build so much muscle at once.
Any excess calories beyond this point will be converted into body fat. This is why more is not always better.
You shouldn’t go out and find the weight gainer with the highest calorie value thinking it will yield optimal results. Often this will just get you gaining more body fat than you ever wanted.
Apart from these few side effects, most people will tolerate weight gainers very well.
- Are a very easy way to get your calorie intake up
- Will help add more protein to your diet if you’re struggling
- Come in a wide variety of flavors and many brands are very tasty (especially considering they have the added fats for flavor)
- Can help speed recovery from your workout sessions
- Is great for those who are busy and can’t keep up with cooking their normal meals
- May lead to body fat gain if not used carefully enough
- Could cause bloating and/or digestive issue
- Some do contain high amounts of sugar
Best Weight Gainers To Consider
Which are the best weight gainers to use? Let’s give you a brief review of some of the best weight gainers you have to choose from.
Optimum Nutrition: Pro Gainer
Optimum Nutrition (ON) is a brand that many people know and trust, so it should come as no surprise that their weight gainer product ranks up there as one of the better ones.
Pro Gainer will give you 650 calories per one scoop serving, 8 grams of dietary fat, 85 grams of carbs with 7 of those coming from sugar, and 60 grams of protein total.
This makes it a very balanced weight gainer that can be used at any point during the day. You’ll also take in 5 grams of dietary fiber, which will help give you maximum blood glucose control.
This product also contains a nice blend of whey, casein, as well as egg protein, so this will be a good option for those who tend to struggle with having too much whey in their diet plan.
The lactose content will naturally be lower thanks to the additions of casein and egg protein.
This weight gainer also contains medium chain triglycerides, which are a type of fat that serves as an excellent energy source in the body and can help with maintaining optimal body composition and prevent obesity, as noted by a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
BSN is well-known for their great tasting powders with their meal replacement product Syntha-6 being a bit hit for many.
Now, you can get the mass gainer version of syntha-6 with True Mass.
This product contains 710 calories per 3-scoop serving and provides you with 17 grams of dietary fat, 90 grams of carbohydrates - 15 of those from sugar and 6 grams from fiber, as well as 50 grams of protein.
This is a higher fat product, so a great option later on in the day.
Use it at a time other than the post-workout period.
It also contains 12 grams of BCAA’s, which studies suggest are powerful in supporting anabolism and muscle recovery in the body.
MusclePharm Combat XL Mass Gainer
MusclePharm is another very well known brand out there and has a mass gainer comparable to their regular combat powder protein powder.
Their mass gainer however comes in at 1270 calories per 4 scoop serving and delivers 7 grams of fat, 50 grams of protein, and 252 grams of carbs, with only 17 of those carbs being sugar.
The low fat nature of this power makes it a great option for taking immediately following a workout session.
It’s also gluten-free, so excellent for those using a gluten free diet plan.
MuscleMeds Carnivore Mass
If you are really watching your sugar and carb count in your quest for lean muscle mass, you’ll want to consider Carnivor Mass by MuscleMeds.
This protein powder is not made from whey, but instead, from beef, so is free of lactose and is overall, a very pure product.
With 0 grams of sugar, it’s one that will keep insulin levels stable, preventing unwanted body fat gain.
This one is also lighter in calories at 690 calories per serving, providing 50 grams of protein and 119 grams of carbs.
With only 3 grams of fat, it’s also one that’s a good choice following a workout session.
Cystosport is a name that’s been around for a while and is a company who makes protein powders as well as weight gainers.
Their Cytogainer is a weight gainer that contains a lower overall calorie level at just 280 calories per two scoop serving.
Do keep in mind however that this product has two scoops per serving, whereas most products have 4, therefore you are taking less product per serving.
You’ll take in 2.5 grams of fat per serving, 37 grams of carbs, 5 of which are sugar, and 27 grams of protein.
It’s a good option for those who want something a little lighter and who are more concerned about body fat gain.
If you go with any one of these options as your weight gainer of choice, you can feel confident you are making an informed and wise decision.
Remember that with many of these, if the calorie content is a little too high for you but you trust the brand and like the flavors it comes in, you can simply opt to take fewer scoops per serving.
This will cut down the calorie count, making it more reasonable for your body.
FAQ About Weight Gainer Supplements
Still have questions? Here are some of the common questions regarding weight gainers.
Is taking a weight gainer better than having real food?
Real food will always be better than any supplement you will ever use.
This said, for those who struggle to meet their calorie intake with real food alone, liquid calories will be very helpful and that is where the weight gainer fits into the picture.
If you can reach your calorie requirement needs with whole foods, do that instead.
Can I use a weight gainer before my workout session?
While you can, you may notice you feel bloated and/or sluggish during the workout if you use the weight gainer prior to hitting the gym.
For best results, try using it after the workout or at another point during the day.
Couldn't I just use multiple scoops of protein powder instead?
Remember that a weight gainer has a nice even mix of protein, carbs, and fats.
Protein powder tends to be strictly protein, so you aren’t getting this balance.
Couldn't I just create my own weight gainer?
You can and many people do.
You can mix protein powder with blended oat flour, fruit, nut butter, and so forth, making a high calorie smoothie.
This takes time and energy however and many people like the ready-to-go format that the weight gainer brings.
It’s a highly convenient way to get your calorie needs met.
Should I take my weight gainer with food?
While you can do this, do remember that weight gainers are very calorie dense and taking it with food may cause even more bloating to occur.
Your best bet is to take it at a different time than when you are having your meal.
Is it a good idea to take weight gainers on days I don't train in the gym?
You can if it helps you reach your calorie intake needs.
Remember that your calorie intake may not be as high on non-training days, so adjust your intake accordingly.
You may decide to only take half the serving size on non-training days as an easy way to achieve better calorie control.
So there you have the main points to know and remember regarding weight gainers. When used wisely, they can be a great addition to a muscle building program.
Do be sure though that you have a good grasp over basic weight training principles and nutrition first though.
Some beginners fall into the trap of thinking they can pack on muscle quickly by simply using a weight gainer product. This is not the case however.
You need to also be applying the stress to your body that a proper training program brings. When you do that, then you will see the results you are hoping for.