Within a society devoutly obsessed with weight loss, working towards a goal of acquiring pounds is an act of rebellion. There are a ton of reasons folks may be trying to gain weight on purpose, though, like the pursuit of a deadlift PR or recovery from an illness. Consuming more calories than are burned can be tricky for some, which is where mass gainers can help.
Mass gainer supplements are essentially protein bars on steroids. Steve McCarthy, a personal trainer and writer over at MuscleBustle.com, explains that these high-calorie, high-protein powders “provide an easy and convenient way to increase calorie and nutrient intake without having to prepare a lot of food.” While not having to cook a bunch of food is convenient, mass gainers can only do so much and shouldn’t replace a well-balanced diet.
Mass gainer supplements are just that, supplements, which means they’re not regulated by the FDA and very few are third-party lab tested for ingredient quality and purity. To help make sure the user will be okay, Ronald Smith, a registered dietitian and owner of EatDrinkBinge.com recommends starting with a smaller serving size to begin with as “This will help to prevent side effects such as bloating or stomach discomfort.” Nobody can work out when they’re feeling too full to move.
No supplement should be a replacement for real, whole foods and a well-rounded diet. That’s true of all supplements, but it bears repeating for mass gainers because they could easily replace a full day’s meal plan, but definitely shouldn’t.
The Best Mass Gainers: At a Glance
Frequently Asked Questions About Mass Gainers
What Are Mass Gainer Supplements?
Mass gainer supplements are essentially entire meals in liquid form. They’re designed to give a huge hit of calories quickly and are meant to be taken when people want to pack on weight, often while weightlifting. They can be great for those who do extreme events like ultra marathons or triathlons as well.
How Do Mass Gainer Supplements Work?
Mass gainers are very high-density caloric drinks or powders mixed with water or milk. They’re rich in whey or pea protein and include other ingredients like oats or even avocado for carbohydrates and healthy fats. They also tend to have a good mix of vitamins and BCAAs too, which can save some hassle and money when looking at other supplements.
Can You Use Mass Gainer Supplements To Replace A Meal?
McCarthy states that “ Mass gainer supplements are best consumed before or after a workout to provide the necessary nutrients for muscle growth and repair.” Smith said the same too, explaining that, “Mass gainers can be consumed at any time of the day, but it is best to take them around your workout. This will help to provide the necessary nutrients and energy to support your workout and muscle recovery.”
Are There Downsides To Using Mass Gainer Supplements?
The biggest risk is linked to the whole point of the supplements, which is the overconsumption of calories. As McCarthy says, “consuming too many calories, even from healthy sources, can lead to weight gain and other health problems.” While overconsumption is the aim of bulking up, things should generally be done gradually.
Optimum Nutrition Mass Weight Gainer
Optimum Nutrition third-party tests their supplements for banned substances and their Serious Mass gainer, while made with some artificial ingredients for flavor, has relatively few junky ingredients for the product category. Each serving has 1,250 calories, 50 grams of protein and 252-254 grams of carbohydrates for workout fuel. It also comes in dessert flavors like banana and chocolate.
NAKED Chocolate Mass Weight Gainer
Some people want to know exactly what’s going into their bodies, and that’s what NAKED does best. This mass gainer uses gluten-free organic tapioca for the extra calories, which is a little cleaner than some other options. It also only has three ingredients in it, making it great for those who want exact records of what they’re eating. Each serving also has 50 grams of protein and 1,250 calories, putting it on par with SPY’s top pick.
Dymatize Super Mass Gainer Protein Powder
The Dymatize mass gainer mixes easily, tastes nice, and packs in more than 50 grams of protein per serving. It also includes 10.7 grams of BCAAs for supporting muscle growth and has a mix of 17 different vitamins and minerals too. It’s also cheaper than many of the options on this list while also coming from a trustworthy brand. If budget is a large factor in the ultimate decision, this is a great choice without compromising.
MuscleMeds Carnivor Mass Diet Supplement
Whey protein doesn’t jive with everyone. A lot of those people tend to be vegan, but for those who consume animal protein this mass gainer is made using 100% beef protein isolate. It’s got fewer calories than a lot of the other options on this list, 700, but, not surprisingly, still packs a monstrous protein hit per serving of 50 grams.
Naked Vegan Mass Gainer Protein Powder
This mass gainer is free of a lot of things, but most importantly, it’s completely whey-free. This gainer uses pea and rice protein mixed with organic maltodextrin for a high-calorie, high-carb, high-protein drink that’s also completely vegan. It has 248 grams of complex carbs per serving, 10.3 grams of BCAAs, and is free of most allergens to boot.
Rivalus Clean Gainer
Clean eating is a bit of a muddled term at this point, but you can take it to mean no banned substances, at least here. Not only that, but this mass gainer is a lot lower in calories than other options, which will make it a lot easier to deal with for those who can’t stomach over 1k calories at once.
The Bottom Line About Mass Gainers
Mass gainers are a niche but useful supplement for those trying to put on weight in a short amount of time, or struggle to consume enough calories each day for one reason or another. Also, both Smith and McCarty recommended speaking to a healthcare professional who knows your circumstances before taking any supplement, and SPY echoes that.
It is worth noting that many of the options here have what is considered to be too much protein per serving. The human body can only absorb around 25 grams of protein in a single sitting, which means that the excess protein in some of these mass gainers could be processed adversely by the body. It’s not likely to do harm, as excess protein tends to be passed through urine without issue.