How to Identify the Best Protein Powder for Weight Gain
Authored by Trevor Hiltbrand
For health-conscious individuals, weight loss or weight maintenance is usually the primary goal in sight. However, if you’re an athlete or a regular Joe or Jane looking to increase lean muscle mass and shape your dream physique, at some point you’ll need to focus more on building quality muscle and less on burning fat. That’s not to say you can’t pack on muscle while minimizing fat gain, but if the goal is to increase muscle, you have to prioritize calories and training volume over everything else, which will require a different approach to your nutrition, training and supplementation than you may be used to.
The Importance of Protein for Mass Building
One of the key components to any transformation plan (including gaining a lot of muscle mass), is protein consumption. If you want to gain the kind of quality, lean muscle mass that will have people ogling, you have to consume quality protein every single day. When gaining mass is the goal, the amount and type of protein you consume may differ from what you consume while in a fat loss phase.
In a fat loss phase, you will be eating in a caloric deficit so your body can tap into energy reserves and burn excess fat. On a muscle building plan, your body will need slightly more calories than your maintenance level to pack on muscle. However, just because you are eating in a caloric surplus does not mean you have to pack on pounds of fat. In fact, evidence suggests that when in a caloric surplus, more calories from protein results in less fat gained than if those excess calories came from carbohydrates or fats.
For those who are trying to put on quality muscle mass, sometimes more protein may be beneficial, and it’s difficult for anyone to consume enough protein without supplementation. But how much protein do you really need to consume each day to make the gains you want?
How Much Protein Should I Consume on a Muscle Building Plan?
The best way to determine how much protein you need is to figure out how many total calories you need to consume each day to reach your goal, and along with that, what your macronutrient split will look like for your individual caloric needs.
If you want to get a good estimate on the calories and macros that are correct for your specific needs, it’s smart to try out a calorie and macro calculator. Fortunately for you, we have built a calculator at Transparent Labs that you can use for just this purpose. You can check out our calculator here.
No matter what your macros end up being, it’s a good idea to stay on the upper end of the spectrum when it comes to protein consumption. How much protein do you need to consume each day? That will depend on your weight, activity level, and other factors that will be considered when calculating your calories and macros with our calculator.
How do I Know the Best Protein Powder for Weight Gain?
Which protein you choose for your muscle building phase may depend on a lot of factors. Here are a few you may want to consider (all of these are addressed with our macro calculator):
- Do you have a relatively fast metabolism?
- Do you work in an office all day or do you have an active job?
- How many days do you workout each week?
While a protein supplement like Whey Isolate may be perfect for dieting because it is low in carbohydrates, fats and total calories, someone on a journey to gain muscle will be more concerned about getting in plenty of high quality protein, carbohydrates, fats and total calories.
For the sake of this post, we’ll assume that most people who have a goal to build muscle are going to need to consume 100-500 calories above their maintenance level. 100 to 500 additional calories may not seem like a lot, but when you are coming from a fat loss phase (typically 500 calories below maintenance), it’s likely that you’ll be trying to fit in an additional 1,000 calories per day. Yes, you can get in these calories by consuming whole foods, but if you’re like most people, you may find it difficult to eat that much food. This is where supplementation can make life a lot easier.
A group of researchers recently reviewed one study on the effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults. The study evaluated a group of healthy adults between the age of 18 and 50 years old. The study participants were tested on a series of exercises to measure improvement in strength and power. As part of the study, their body composition was also measured to show any changes in muscle mass.
After conducting a thorough analysis of the literature, which included more than 32 articles, the researchers found that for untrained individuals, protein supplementation provides little benefit. However, the higher the training volume (resistance training, aerobic/anaerobic activity), the more protein supplementation played a role in increasing strength gains and muscle hypertrophy.
A muscle building program will naturally require a lot of high volume resistance training, and if you want to recover from all the intense training you’re putting your body through on a daily basis and see your gains in the mirror, you need to get in a sufficient amount of protein (especially pre and post-workout), but you also need the carbs and the fats. This is why if muscle gain is the goal, a high quality mass gainer shake might be what you need to take your gym performance and muscle gains to the next level.
What Ingredients Should a Mass Gainer Shake Have?
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your muscle gaining phase, make sure the mass gainer supplement you choose includes some of these ingredients. These ingredients combined together will create the best protein powder for weight gain:
Grass-Fed Whey Protein
In the last few years there has been a growing interest in grass-fed beef among health-conscious individuals.
A recent review provides commentary on research spanning the last three decades that show grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid composition and antioxidant content of beef. Grass-fed beef, unlike grain-fed beef, also tends to have lower fat content and contains more Vitamin A, Vitamin E and cancer-fighting antioxidants.
If you compare grain-fed whey protein against grass-fed whey protein, the grass-fed protein has several benefits, like a few of those mentioned above. Grass-fed whey protein contains higher levels of Vitamin A and E, glutathione, and it also contains more healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Just omega-3 fatty acids alone have been linked to improving joint health and mental health. In many cases grass-fed protein also contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to decrease inflammation in the body.
For these reasons, grass-fed products, including whey protein, is considered a healthier option compared to their grain-fed counterparts.
Aside from whey protein, creatine monohydrate may be one of the most closely studied supplements in the history of exercise supplements.
Creatine is a naturally occurring non-protein amino acid compound that is most often found in red meat and seafood. When a person supplements with creatine monohydrate, they are essentially increasing the stores of phosphocreatine in the body, which is a form of stored energy cells that helps your body produce more ATP. The increased production of ATP allows an athlete to recover more quickly from intense exercise and experience more strength and power in the gym.
One recent study on creatine monohydrate published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine covered nine different benefits offered by creatine monohydrate. Here are a few of the findings they outlined:
- Creatine monohydrate is the most effective supplement available for improving high-intensity exercise capability and increasing lean body mass
- Creatine monohydrate is safe and may help prevent injury and/or manage specific medical conditions
- In all the studies performed, there is no indication that creatine monohydrate is linked to short-term or long-term health risks
- Creatine monohydrate is one of the most studied and clinically effective forms of creatine for improving response to high-intensity exercise
- Taking creatine monohydrate in conjuction with carbohydrate and/or carbohydrates and protein has been shown to increase muscular retention of creatine (the Transparent Labs Mass Gainer shake has a mix of healthy carbs, fats, protein and creatine monohydrate)
If you want more information on the benefits of creatine, check out the full study linked above.
Medium Chain Triglycerides
A recent study showed that when taken as a supplement, not only can Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) help lower weight and decrease metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity and inflammation, but they have also been shown to enhance exercise endurance. On another interesting note, MCT supplementation may also increase muscle strength and endurance in humans.
A lot of mass gainer shakes on the market will not include an ingredient like MCT’s, but having them in the mix may help keep body fat low while also increasing strength. If you’re trying to add quality muscle mass while minimizing fat gain, MCT’s may be the perfect ingredient in the best protein powder for weight gain.
Quality Carbohydrates (Emphasis on Quality)
A lot of mass gainer shakes are loaded with unnecessary sugars and unhealthy carbohydrates. Sure, you’ll get your calories in by taking the unhealthy approach, but at what cost?
If you want to build a better physique this offseason, try focusing on the quality of the carbohydrates you put into your protein shakes. Consider a shake that includes oats, fruits, or even something like sweet potatoes. Our mass gainer shake at Transparent Labs combines organic tapioca, oat, and sweet potato carbohydrate sources to give you the fuel you need without the dreaded “sugar crash”. Our blend is also sweetened with Stevia and Monk Fruit and includes zero artificial sweeteners, food dyes or harmful additives.
May the Gainz Begin
Hopefully now you have all the information you need to make an informed decision on the best protein powder for weight gain. The key to building a strong physique is to put yourself in a caloric deficit and fuel your body with foods and supplements that will help you stay somewhat lean while building muscle. All that’s left to say is “Let the Gainz begin!”
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