Does Mass Gainer Work? [And How Exactly?]
Does Mass Gainer Work for Building Muscle?
Mass gainers have been a staple among nutritional supplements for decades, but they haven't always been the healthiest option for weight gain and muscle growth. Thankfully, the tide has shifted in recent years, and mass gainers now tend to be higher-quality options for active gym-goers looking to bulk up.
The question is, how do mass gainer supplements actually work? Are they truly effective for gaining weight and building muscle without excessive fat gain?
Yes, mass gainers are work. They provide a substantial amount of readily digestible calories, primarily derived from protein and starchy carbohydrates—optimal for muscle growth. By keeping the fat content low, they reduce the chance of those particular calories transforming into body fat.
This article will further explore the benefits and potential drawbacks of mass gainers, what ingredients you'll find in these supplements, and how to use a mass gainer for optimal results.
What is in mass gainer?
Mass gainers are designed to help increase calorie and nutrient intake in a convenient powder form that mixes easily in water/milk. Mass gainers generally contain a blend of protein sources, which often include whey protein concentrate, along with simple and complex carbs, quality fats, vitamins, and minerals to support healthy weight gain and muscle growth (1).
Most mass gainers are (significantly) higher in carbs compared to whey protein. (Some mass gainers have up to 100 g of carbs per serving!) Typically, the carbs in mass gainer formulas provide an easily digestible source of energy for high-intensity workouts and muscle recovery.
"What does mass gainer do?"
Mass gainers can provide worthy benefits whether you're an avid gym-goer or an athlete that wants to pack on lean muscle mass. Here are the three main ways a mass gainer works:
1. Increases Calorie Intake
Most muscle mass gainers are rich in calories (i.e. they're calorie-dense), ranging anywhere from 500 to 2,000 calories or more per serving. This is beneficial for someone who wants to gain weight and build muscle mass but struggles to consume ample calories through their normal diet alone.
2. Enhances Exercise Performance and Improves Muscle Growth
When combined with resistance training, muscle mass gainers support muscle growth and recovery by stimulating muscle protein synthesis, replenishing muscle glycogen, and providing quick- and long-acting sources of energy (1).
3. Convenient and Comprehensive Source of Nutrition
Lastly, muscle-mass gainers classify as a "complete meal" in a convenient powder form. In addition to an abundant profile of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, mass gainers often provide vitamins and minerals that support other aspects of your overall health and well-being.
Difference Between Mass Gainer and Whey Protein
Mass gainers frequently get confused with whey protein powders. While similar in some ways, they are distinct supplements.
The main commonality is that mass gainers often contain whey protein as an ingredient, but whey protein powders rarely have added carbohydrates or fats. As such, whey protein supplements are much lower in calories, carbs, and fats per serving compared to mass gainers.
Protein is an essential macronutrient comprised of amino acids, which are the "building blocks" of muscle proteins. Whey protein is a complete protein source—derived from dairy milk—containing all nine essential amino acids to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (2, 3).
Intuitively, a mass gainer is the better option to help you gain weight, whereas whey protein is a good choice for increasing protein intake (while limiting calorie intake).
What's the Best Way to Use Mass Gainers?
For supporting healthy weight gain and muscle growth, here’s how we recommend using a mass gainer:
1. Determine Your Energy Needs
First, you’ll need to determine your daily caloric needs. This can be done easily by using a basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculator or consulting with a nutritionist.
2. Mix Your Mass Gainer in a Blender (Bottle)
Now, you’ll want to follow the serving size recommended on the label of the mass gainer you're using. Like any other supplement, consuming more than the suggested serving size can lead to unpleasant side effects; in the case of overdoing it with mass gainers, undesirable weight gain and gastrointestinal discomfort may occur.
Depending on your taste preferences, you can mix your mass gainer with water, milk, or fruit juice. If you’re looking to add a few extra calories to your mass gainer shake, whole milk is a great option.
Alternatively, try mixing your mass gainer with semi-solid foods, like oatmeal or yogurt, for a calorie-rich, protein-packed meal.
3. When to Take Mass Gainer
It's ideal to take a mass gainer either an hour or two before training or shortly after your workout. However, you can also use mass gainers as a meal replacement to help meet your daily calorie/macronutrient intake goals.
Do Mass Gainers Cause Excess Fat Gain?
Mass gainers are very calorie-dense supplements; thus, they can lead to excessive body fat gain if your total calorie intake greatly exceeds your maintenance calorie requirements.
To prevent unwanted fat gain, it’s prudent to monitor your daily calorie intake and track your body composition (or, at the very least, bodyweight fluctuations). Doing so allows you to assess your progress quantitatively and fine-tune your macronutrient/calorie intake according to your goals.
Finding A Mass Gainer That Fits Your Lifestyle
Mass gainers supply a surplus of calories, carbs, protein, and fat to help you gain muscle mass in a healthy manner. Finding a mass gainer that fits your lifestyle means selecting a product that aligns with your fitness goals and nutritional needs. The ingredients, calories, macronutrient content, cost, flavor, and brand reputation are all important considerations when choosing a mass gainer.
Pay special attention to the ingredients when you're perusing the supplement aisles for a quality mass gainer powder. Most mass gainers do "work" in the sense that they are exceptionally calorie-dense, which can be beneficial for individuals that struggle to eat enough through whole foods alone. Unfortunately, there are still quite a few cookie-cutter mass gainers loaded with cheap ingredients like corn-based maltodextrin and vegetable oil.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer contains only natural, real-food ingredients to help you gain weight without overloading the body with the junk you're likely to find in other mass gainers on the market.
The effectiveness of mass gainers will vary from one person to the next and may depend on many factors, including age, sex, genetics, training program, and goals. We recommend this Powerbuilding Program if your goal is to pack on lean muscle and gain weight.