Some people use supplements to lose weight. For others, weight gain is the goal.
Usually, the desire to gain weight is tied to certain athletic goals. Athletes may want to gain weight to increase muscle mass, improve athletic performance, or hit a PR (personal record) at the gym.
When someone struggles to gain weight, they may use supplements called mass gainers. Being a dense source of calories from carbs, fat, and protein, mass gainers can help people gain weight without having to eat tons of whole food.
Unfortunately, like many supplements, there are plenty of low-quality mass gainers on the market. So, it's important to do your research before purchasing supplements online or in stores.
Below, we dive further into what mass gainers are, ingredients you should look for (and avoid), and the best mass gainers you can buy.
Please note: The following post is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. If you struggle with gaining weight, speak to a registered dietitian or doctor about the best diet plan for you.
Mass gainers are high-protein, high-calorie powders used to gain weight. Most mass gainers contain a balance of all three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Mass gainers typically pack 500-1,000 calories per serving.
While many people exercise to lose weight, some people are training to build muscle mass or enter a bodybuilding competition. To do this, they must increase their calorie intake and eat more calories than they burn.
However, a rigorous workout routine or high metabolism can make gaining weight difficult. During these times, people use mass gainer powder supplements to promote weight gain and muscle growth.
These supplements offer a few advantages over high-calorie food sources. First, drinking a mass gainer shake as a meal replacement is far easier (and more convenient) than cooking 4-6 meals per day. Second, high-quality mass gainers contain a proper balance of carbs, protein, and fat.
Gaining weight with a poor diet (think ice cream, candy, and fried food) is easy. However, if you're committed to a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular fitness routine, gaining weight can prove difficult. The best mass gainers help people add lean muscle mass, rather than simply gaining body fat through a poor diet. Obviously, being overly fat is not the goal for most gym-goers.
Fact: To build muscle, you must be in a calorie surplus (i.e., consuming more calories than you burn).
Muscle building requires a metabolic process called protein synthesis, which uses amino acids (from protein) to create new muscle proteins. Here's how it works: When you workout, you break down tiny fibers in your muscles. When these fibers fuse themselves back together, they grow stronger and larger — but they need protein to do that.
Therefore, many people argue that protein intake is the most important factor in gaining muscle — but this isn't necessarily true. To add mass, you need to eat more than you burn on a daily basis. Your body needs energy (calories) to workout, and when no excess energy is available, your body won’t have enough “fuel” for muscle protein synthesis. Worse yet, the body can break down muscle mass for energy when calories are limited in the diet.
In fact, research shows that maintaining a calorie surplus will have an anabolic (muscle growth) effect, even without resistance training. For most athletes and bodybuilders, the goal of weight gainer supplements is to add muscle while minimizing fat gain. These supplements provide extra calories with a balance between all three macros, promoting muscle gain, not fat gain.
Mass gainer supplements offer so much more than calorie content. The best supplements offer high-quality protein, carbs, fat, and other nutrients. When looking for a mass gainer, look for these five things:
Research conducted by the NIH shows whey protein is the most effective protein source to promote muscle gain. (Casein was shown to be the second-most effective.) Whey also contains all three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, valine, and isoleucine, which help with protein synthesis.
If you're looking to add lean mass, look for a supplement with at least 40 grams of protein per serving, preferably from whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.
Note: If you are vegan, you can use a plant-based protein powder. However, animal-based protein sources tend to be more effective because they contain all nine essential amino acids in the proper human muscle ratio.
Unfortunately, many supplements on the market use artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols to make the product taste better.
When looking for a mass gainer, look for one using a natural sweetener, such as stevia or monk fruit. These sweeteners contain zero calories and zero grams of carbs, yet are sweeter than sugar (which helps with the taste).
Consuming carbohydrates is essential for repairing muscles after exercise, replenishing glycogen levels, and fueling up for workouts. That being said, the quality of your carbs matters.
Choose a mass gainer with complex carbs (oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes), which are slower digesting than simple carbs (sugar, white rice, white flour, and white potatoes). Since these supplements come in powder form, look for complex carbohydrate ingredients like tapioca maltodextrin, oat flour, or sweet potato flour on the label.
Consuming high-quality fats, like MCTs, is essential to gaining lean muscle mass. Found in foods like coconut oil, MCTs are metabolized differently than other fats. After ingestion, MCTs go straight to your liver to be metabolized for energy. Because of this, they are less likely to contribute to fat gain.
Look for mass gainers that are gluten-free, non-GMO, free of food dyes and artificial coloring, and free of artificial preservatives.
When we set out to create our mass gainer, we emphasized the above five criteria.
Rather than fuel up on empty calories, we wanted to fuel up on complex carbs, high-quality protein, natural calorie-free sweeteners, and no junk. In other words, we wanted to create a product we would use ourselves.
Transparent Labs ProteinSeries Mass Gainer is one of the most trusted and serious mass weight-gainers on the market. Containing 750 calories, 53 grams of protein, 109 grams of carbs, and 13 grams of fat, it can help you gain lean muscle mass.
On the label, you'll find it checks the box on each of the five criteria above:
If you struggle to gain weight, you may need to supplement with a mass gainer. Mass gainers are high-protein, high-calorie supplements that fuel muscle growth.
While many bodybuilders use mass gainers during their bulking phase, many everyday athletes use them to build lean muscle mass. In order to gain muscle, you must be in a calorie surplus — which mass gainer supplements make much easier.
Unfortunately, there are many supplements on the market that come with ineffective, unnecessary ingredients. When purchasing a product, look for one with high-quality sources of protein, fat, and carbs, and one that is free of gluten, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is one of the most trusted muscle gainer supplements on the market, and comes in two delicious flavors. Try it today to start packing on lean muscle mass.