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Mass gainer and whey protein are both supplements that can be beneficial to add to your diet if you have a goal of building more muscle mass. This is why many of my nutrition clients are wondering if they should be taking mass gainer and whey together.
While you can take mass gainer and whey protein powder together to meet higher calorie and protein requirements, you may not need to because mass gainer itself is typically high enough in protein without the addition of whey. Therefore, mixing both supplements together is likely unnecessary and would be costly.
To help you use these supplements effectively to build muscle, I’ll dive into the differences between each product, which would be better based on your goals, and my top tips if you do decide to combine them.
- Mass gainer is higher in calories and contains all 3 macros (protein, carb, and fat), making it a better option for those who want to gain weight or use it as a meal replacement.
- Whey protein is lower in calories and is better for those who want to boost their protein intake but don’t need much assistance in meeting their calorie goals.
- Mixing mass gainer and whey protein together isn’t the best option because you can only absorb so much protein at one time. It may be more productive to take them at separate times throughout the day.
Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein: What Are the Differences?
One of the most notable differences between a mass gainer and a whey protein supplement is their calorie content.
Whey protein powder is considered to have a fairly low number of calories, whereas mass gainer supplements contain considerably more calories per serving.
Whey protein powders typically contain anywhere from 100-150 calories per serving, whereas mass gainer supplements can have a calorie count of anywhere from 500-1500 calories per serving.
Another notable difference between a mass gainer and whey protein is the macronutrient breakdown of each supplement with whey being more of a single macro food, whereas mass gainer is more of a mixed macro food.
Whey protein powder is going to be very high in protein, while being quite low in carbohydrates and fats, oftentimes containing almost none.
On the other hand, a mass gainer will contain all three macronutrients, but has the highest percentage of carbohydrates, followed by protein, and lastly fat.
For this reason, whey protein powder would not be considered to be a meal replacement since it is quite low-calorie and only really contains protein. It would need to be paired with additional carbs and fats to be considered a meal (i.e protein smoothie).
Mass gainer supplements can be used as a meal replacement on their own because they are higher in calories and have a decent amount of each macronutrient.
The table below illustrates the differences in both calories and macros between a typical mass gainer and a whey protein supplement. Keep in mind that these values will vary depending on the brand of supplement that you choose.
|MASS GAINER (per serving)||790 calories||53 grams||114 grams||17 grams||14 grams|
|WHEY PROTEIN (per serving)||120 calories||27 grams||0 grams||0 grams||0 grams|
The other major difference between a mass gainer and a whey protein supplement is the intended use of the supplement, which is influenced by their calorie and macro differences.
Whey protein powder is used primarily to boost protein intake in your diet to help you maintain lean muscle mass.
It is ideal for those who are dieting and trying to keep their calorie intake low while keeping their protein intake high. However, it is typically not used for weight gain purposes because it is low in calories.
Mass gainer supplements are intended to be used as a tool to help you add mass (which you likely guessed based on the name). They are helpful for those who struggle to consume enough calories from whole foods to get to their goal.
These are generally individuals who are bulking to build muscle mass or those who have a fast metabolism and struggle to simply maintain their weight.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Mass Gainer
- Mass gainers contain a higher number of calories which can contribute to increased muscle. The body requires a calorie surplus (more calories than it takes to maintain weight) to put on muscle, so a mass gainer supplement can be a great tool to ensure you are consuming enough calories to encourage muscle growth.
- Mass gainers can serve as a meal replacement if you are on the go. Since mass gainers are calorie dense and contain all 3 macronutrients, you could use it as a meal replacement when you don’t have the time to eat a meal to help meet your calorie and macro goals for the day.
- The ratio of carbs to protein in most mass gainer supplements is perfect for a pre or post-workout meal. Mass gainers are typically very high in carbohydrates which are the body’s preferred source of fuel. In addition, the high protein content of mass gainers helps to repair and rebuild muscle after your workout.
- Mass gainer supplements could cause digestive issues in certain individuals. The calorie density of mass gainers can make them difficult to digest, in addition to ingredients like artificial sweeteners which are known to cause gas, bloating, and discomfort for certain people.
- Mass gainers can result in unwanted fat gain. If you are taking a mass gainer without paying attention to your calorie intake, you could end up with a larger calorie surplus than planned, causing you to gain more fat than muscle.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Whey Protein
- Whey protein contains a higher amount of protein. The majority of whey protein supplements contain between 20-30 grams of protein per serving, which is extremely helpful for satiety, muscle retention, and muscle growth.
- Whey protein is low in calories which makes it beneficial in a cutting phase. Since high-protein diets are commonly followed during a calorie deficit or cutting phase to protect muscle mass, whey protein supplements can be a great tool to help you hit your protein goals without exceeding your calorie targets.
- Whey protein supplements require minimal prep time. Unlike many protein sources such as meat, poultry, and fish, whey protein shakes take little to no prep time, which can make them a great source of protein if you are short on time and need to hit your protein requirements for the day.
- Whey protein supplements could cause digestive issues for certain people. Digestive upset could be caused by the lactose found in whey supplements for those that are lactose intolerant. They could also be caused by added ingredients in certain whey supplements like artificial sweeteners.
- Whey protein supplements are not a good substitute for a meal. Although they contain a high amount of protein, most whey protein supplements contain a very low amount of carbs and fat. Therefore, trying to use it as a meal replacement will likely leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
Is It Safe To Take Mass Gainer and Whey Protein Together?
While it is not necessarily unsafe to take mass gainer and whey protein together, the amount of protein that you are taking in as a result of mixing the supplements is likely more than the body can absorb at one time if taken together.
This particular study illustrated that the ideal amount of protein to eat per meal is around 20-25 grams to maximize muscle protein synthesis (the precursor to muscle growth).
Similarly, this study concluded that 30 grams of protein was the optimal amount per meal for building muscle, and eating in excess of this results in the protein going to waste (not contributing to building muscle).
Therefore, if you are combining a serving of mass gainer with a protein content of 53 grams, with a whey protein powder that has 27 grams, you will be consuming a whopping 80 grams of protein.
While you can do this, research has shown that there is no added benefit to consuming excess amounts of protein in one sitting for muscle growth.
Instead, research suggests that distributing your protein intake throughout the day is better for increasing muscle retention and growth.
Based on the information above, it would actually be more beneficial for you to take your mass gainer and whey protein powder supplement at separate meals throughout your day.
For example, you could have a whey protein powder mixed into your oatmeal for breakfast, and save your mass gainer shake for your post-workout meal.
Mass Gainer or Whey Protein: Which One Should You Take If You Want To Gain Weight?
If your primary goal is to gain weight then your number one priority needs to be eating in a consistent calorie surplus, which you could achieve with either supplement.
If your calorie needs are extremely high and you are having a difficult time meeting them with whole foods, then I would recommend utilizing a mass gainer supplement to help you hit your goal.
For example, if an individual with a calorie surplus of 3500 calories has a difficult time eating more than 2500 calories in a day, then they could consume a mass gainer that contains 1000 calories to help them hit their calorie target.
On the other hand, if you can easily hit your calorie target with whole foods, then utilizing a whey protein powder would be sufficient to help meet your protein goals but may not even be necessary if you’re able to do that with whole foods.
For example, an individual with a calorie surplus of 2200 calories per day could eat 2050 calories per day from whole foods, and consume a whey protein shake that contains 150 calories to hit their calorie target.
- For a more specific recommendation for hard-gainers, check out my article: Mass Gainer or Whey Protein For Skinny Guys: Which Is Best?
5 Tips for Combining Mass Gainer and Whey Protein
If you still want to try combining your mass gainer and whey protein supplement, keep these 5 things in mind:
1. Stay within your calorie and macronutrient targets. Combining your mass gainer and whey protein supplement could result in you exceeding your daily calorie and protein goals. To avoid this, plan your meals and track your mass gainer/ whey mixture in your daily food log.
2. Make sure you are prioritizing whole foods first. It is completely fine to use mass gainer and whey protein supplements to meet your nutrition goals as long as they are not making up the majority of your calorie intake. I recommend keeping the calories you are getting from supplements to 20% or less of your total intake, so that the remaining 80% can be from whole foods.
3. Take each supplement at separate times in the day. Instead of combining the two supplements together, you could try using your whey protein supplement as a snack, and taking your mass gainer as a post-workout meal. This will be best if you find that combining the two powders causes digestive issues.
4. Consume the mixture well before you train to avoid digestive issues in your workout. A mass gainer/whey protein mixture will create an extremely calorie and protein-dense shake, which will likely take a long time to digest. Give yourself at least 3 hours before you train to avoid it sitting heavy in your stomach.
5. Stick with similar flavors of mass gainer and whey protein. If you are mixing different flavors of mass gainer and whey protein, you could create a concoction that tastes terrible and is difficult to drink. To avoid this, try sticking with similar flavors of each supplement (e.g. vanilla flavored mass gainer and vanilla-flavored whey protein).
When Is the Best Time To Take Mass Gainer?
While you can take a mass gainer at any time of the day, the best time to take it is in the hours before or after your workout.
This is because the carbs in the mass gainer provide fuel for your workout, and the protein will help to rebuild and repair muscle that has been broken down during your training session.
When Is the Best Time To Take Whey Protein?
Similar to a mass gainer supplement whey protein can be taken at any time of the day, however, the best time to take it is after you train.
This is because taking a fast-absorbing protein like whey after you train will immediately supply the muscles you just worked with amino acids that are needed to rebuild and grow.
Best Mass Gainer and Whey Protein To Take Together
If you want to combine your mass gainer and whey protein supplement, I recommend the brands listed below:
MY PROTEIN WEIGHT GAINER BLEND
I recommend this mass gainer if you are blending it with a whey protein since it has a lower protein content compared to many other mass gainers on the market (27 grams per serving compared to the average 53 grams).
In addition, this particular mass gainer is unflavoured which means that you can mix it with any flavor of protein powder without having to worry about competing flavors ruining the taste of your shake. The unflavoured version also has very minimal ingredients and no artificial sweeteners added.
TRANSPARENT LABS WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE
I recommend this Transparent Labs whey protein because it has quality ingredients, uses 100% grass-fed whey protein, and contains no artificial coloring, preservatives or sweeteners. This particular whey protein is a cinnamon toast crunch flavor, which would taste great when mixed with the unflavoured mass gainer above.
About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.