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Mass gainers have been proven safe for prolonged use, and are optimal for individuals who have a difficult time putting on weight or eating enough calories in a day to reach their goals.
If you’re one of these people looking to use mass gainer, I’ll share my top recommendations on how to implement it into your routine so that you’re optimizing your results, while avoiding some of the typical negative side effects that people get from mass gainer (unwarranted fat gain, upset stomachs, etc.)
- A mass gainer can be an effective supplement to help you put on more mass, particularly when paired with a consistent strength training routine.
- A mass gainer is not for everyone but can be very beneficial to individuals who struggle to put on weight (i.e. hard gainers).
- When looking for a mass gainer, it is best to look for supplements that use a quality carb source, have an adequate amount of protein, contain minimal unnecessary fillers or harmful ingredients, and is third-party tested.
What Does Mass Gainer Do?
A mass gainer is a supplement that is composed of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that is meant to provide extra calories to help you gain weight. Typically, most mass gainers are high in protein and carbohydrates while being relatively low in fat.
It is important to note that while mass gainer supplements can be beneficial, they are not necessary if you want to put on weight. In fact, a calorie surplus can be achieved through consuming whole foods alone, particularly ones that are higher in calories.
However, there are certain instances where a mass gainer can come in handy, such as when you need to get in a high number of calories, but your busy schedule does not allow you to stop and cook or eat throughout the day.
Mass gainer supplements are most effective when they are used on a consistent basis. While they can provide a great contribution to a calorie surplus, it is important to make sure that you are still getting in calories from real food as well.
It should also be noted that consuming a mass gainer alone will not result in added muscle mass, and should be combined with a proper resistance training routine. Later on in the article, I will go into more detail about what types of workouts are best when paired with a mass gainer.
- Related Article: 15 Cheap Carbs For Bulking – That Are Still Good For You
Who Is Mass Gainer For?
Mass gainer supplements can be incredibly beneficial to certain individuals, and highly unnecessary to others.
The majority of people likely do not need to use a mass gainer even if they are in a muscle-building phase, since most people can easily get enough calories with food alone
For example, you can check out our 6000-calorie meal plan for more about how to increase your calories without mass gainer.
However, certain individuals, such as those who struggle to put on weight, or “hard gainers”, could benefit from adding in a daily mass gainer supplement into their routine since it is a very easy and efficient way to consume a large number of calories at one time.
This is most typically seen in young males who wish to put on more muscle but can’t seem to eat enough calories in a day to get into a surplus (check out our article on 15 Tips When Struggling To Eat Enough Calories if that’s you).
However, a mass gainer can be for anyone with a very fast metabolism who needs to increase their calorie intake but cannot do so through their food intake alone.
For example, a young male trying to put on muscle might need to be eating around 4000 calories per day to reach his goal, but might feel like it’s difficult to eat more that 3200 calories per day. In this case, he could add in one mass gainer shake per day that contained 700 calories to easily put him to his daily calorie target.
Is Mass Gainer Safe?
For most healthy individuals, mass gainers are a completely safe supplement to consume on both a regular and a long-term basis. Currently, there is no evidence to indicate that mass gainer supplements pose any threats to the average person’s health.
With that said, it is important to remember that mass gainer supplements are not subject to any sort of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that these supplements are not screened for safety or effectiveness before they are put on the market.
For this reason, it is a really good idea to know what to look for when shopping for a mass gainer supplement, which I discuss in the section below.
In addition to this, consuming a mass gainer supplement may not be right for everyone, and could result in potential side effects such as:
- Unwanted excess weight gain (i.e. fat gain)
- Digestive issues such as bloating, gas, or IBS symptoms
- Blood sugar dysregulation (particularly for those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes)
Note: This is one of the reasons why I wrote another article talking about how to make your own mass gainer at home, which avoids some of these issues.
It is important to determine whether a mass gainer supplement is truly necessary before you start consuming it on a consistent basis. It is also important to make sure that you are listening to your body and not only monitoring how you feel and how your body is responding to the supplement.
For example, if you start taking a mass gainer supplement during a muscle building phase, but begin to notice a concerning and steady increase in body fat, it might mean that the mass gainer is creating a surplus that is too large. In this case, you might need less of the supplement, or perhaps might not need it at all.
What To Look For in a Mass Gainer
Here are a few things that you should look out for when shopping for a mass gainer supplement:
A Quality Carbohydrate Source
Many mass gainer supplements on the market utilize cheaper carbohydrates in their formulas, such as maltodextrin or dextrose.
While these ingredients will provide a sufficient amount of carbs, they are quite low in essential nutrients, are extremely processed, and can cause negative side effects such as gastrointestinal upset (nausea, gas, diarrhea.). As a result, they can have a negative long-term effective on gut bacteria, which increases your risk for ailments like inflammatory bowel disease.
These types of carbohydrates are also quite high on the Glycemic Index, meaning that they will spike your blood sugar much more quickly in comparison to complex carbohydrates such as oats or quinoa.
Try to opt for mass gainers that have carbohydrate-rich ingredients such as oat, quinoa, sweet potato, or brown rice powder, since these are less processed and derived from whole foods, making it less likely for you to experience the negative side effects noted above.
- Related Article: How To Gain Weight Without Eating Sugar
Minimal Fillers and Unnecessary Ingredients
When looking for a mass gainer, it is worthwhile to pay attention to any unnecessary ingredients or fillers that could be hiding in the supplement, since this can also affect how well you digest it, and how it makes you feel.
For example, some mass gainers might contain high amounts of artificial coloring and/ or artificial sweeteners, which can have a negative impact on the health of your gut.
Alternatively, you can choose a mass gainer supplement that does not use any artificial colorings or sweeteners. This is normally something that a supplement company will boldly list, making it easy for you to decipher whether or not the product is of good quality.
At least 15 Grams of High-Quality Protein Per Scoop
While most mass gainers have a high percentage of carbohydrates, it is also important to make sure that the supplement that you are choosing contains an adequate amount of protein per scoop.
The protein content of your mass gainer is important, since the entire premise around taking a mass gainer is to put on muscle mass, and protein plays an essential role in this process. Protein contains the essential amino acids that act as building blocks to build and repair muscle tissue after a tough workout.
Research shows that consuming around 20-30 grams of protein is an optimal amount that the body can utilize in a post-workout meal.
In addition to this, consuming protein alongside the high number of carbs found in most mass gainers will help to stabilize blood sugar levels and slow down any sudden spikes in insulin that can occur when consuming a large number of carbs.
Third Party Lab Tested
As I mentioned earlier in the article, most health and fitness supplements on the market are not regulated by the FDA. This means that there is potential for harmful substances or unexpected ingredients to make their way into your supplements without your knowledge.
For this reason, I highly recommend shopping for a mass gainer supplement that has been third-party lab tested. This means that the product has been reviewed and tested by an independent and unbiased third-party lab in order to ensure what is in the product correctly matches what is on the label.
Again, this is something that a supplement company will advertise or make known on their website or label, which will make it easy for you to determine quality when searching for a mass gainer product.
Mass Gainer Product Recommendation
1. Transparent Labs Mass Gainer- The Transparent Labs mass gainer is a great option, since this company utilizes high-quality protein sources, and does not contain any artificial coloring or sweetener. In addition to this, Transparent Labs boasts third-party testing on all of its products.
2. Crazy Nutrition Mass Gainer- Another great option is the Mass Gainer by Crazy Nutrition, which contains 50 grams of protein per serving and added digestive enzymes to help support digestion. It is also a gluten-free formula that uses low glycemic carb sources like sweet potato and oat flour, making it a great option for anyone with gluten sensitivity.
4 Steps For Taking Mass Gainer Effectively
1. Calculate your calorie surplus
In order to correctly determine an effective calorie surplus, you will first want to determine how many calories your body burns in a day (i.e. your maintenance calories).
You can do this by calculating your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which can be established through an online calculator like this one here.
Once you have determined your maintenance calories, I recommend starting with a surplus of around 250-500 calories, since this should be enough to give you results without putting on an excess amount of unwanted fat.
For example, if a 200 pound 25-year-old male athlete had a maintenance calorie intake of around 2700 calories, then he could start with a calorie surplus of around 3000 calories per day if he wanted to put on more muscle while also limiting his fat gain.
2. Start with one mass gainer shake per day
Once you have determined your appropriate daily calorie intake, you can start by consuming 1 mass gainer shake per day and fitting that into your calorie budget.
Since the calories in mass gainers can vary from 500-1500 calories per serving, the one that you choose will likely be determined by your daily calorie targets and how many calories per day you want to be consuming in a mass gainer.
I would recommend getting no more than around 15-25% of your daily calories from a mass gainer supplement and getting the rest from whole foods. This will help to ensure you are still getting a healthy amount of nutrients and fiber from foods that can’t be obtained from a supplement.
For example, if the male in the example above included a 700-calorie mass gainer shake into his daily intake, this would equate to about 23% of his total calories, and leave him with about 2300 calories to eat from whole foods.
3. Observe your results after 2-3 weeks of consistency and adjust intake if necessary
If after 2-3 weeks of drinking your daily mass gainer shake and following your calorie surplus you are noticing a healthy increase in weight and added muscle, then you are likely on the right track and consuming the correct number of calories.
On the other hand, if you notice no weight gain at all after taking a mass gainer and following a calorie surplus for 2-3 weeks, it could mean you need to increase your calorie intake a bit, and possibly even increase your mass gainer shake intake.
Similarly, you might need to adjust your calorie intake and/ or reduce your mass gainer shake consumption if you notice a drastic amount of weight gain in a short period of time.
A healthy amount of weight gain to aim for is around 0.5-2 lb per week. If you are within this range of weight gain every week then it is not necessary for you to adjust your calorie intake.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Mass Gainer Should I Take in a Day?
The amount of mass gainer that you should take in a day will depend on your daily calorie target. If you are eating in a calorie surplus and trying to gain mass, I recommend starting with 1 serving of mass gainer per day in order to ensure the rest of your daily calories are coming from whole foods.
Is Mass Gainer Good For Beginners?
A beginner who wants to put on muscle might find taking a mass gainer helpful to reach their daily calorie targets, particularly if they are not accustomed to eating larger amounts of food. On the other hand, a beginner might find it easy to reach your daily calorie target without the use of a mass gainer.
Should You Take Mass Gainer Before or After a Workout?
You can take your mass gainer supplement at any time of the day, however taking it after a workout has increased benefits since your body can utilize the extra calories, carbs, and protein to replenish your muscles that have been depleted during exercise.
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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.