Weight-Gaining Protein Powders to Help You Put on the Lbs
The AskMen editorial team thoroughly researches & reviews the best gear, services and staples for life. AskMen may get paid if you click a link in this article and buy a product or service.
Product photos from retailer sites.
Whether you actually need a mass gainer is a complicated question. If you are an ectomorph (someone who is typically lean with smaller joints, has a fast metabolism, and has a hard time gaining weight) trying to bulk up a bit and you can eat fast food at every meal and never gain a pound, then a mass gainer might be what you need. However, if you are sensitive to certain micronutrients, specifically carbohydrates, a better plan of attack might be to go the DIY route and make your own mass gainer mix – more on this below.
RELATED: The Best Protein Powders You Can Buy
Many mass gainers on the market are loaded with calories – which is likely what you’re looking for. Nevertheless, since a lot of them can be loaded with carbohydrates and fat sources that aren’t ideal for your bod, you want to shop carefully and be sure to scan the nutrient and ingredient lists. “A good weight gainer needs to have a higher amount of carbs, medium amount of protein, and lower level of fats,” says Alex Carneiro, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Optimum Nutrition Ambassador.
If you’re set on buying a tub of a pre-made mass gainer, below are some of the best options on the market.
Reasons to Use a Weight Gainer
- Gain weight by consuming more calories: The main reason any person is looking to use a weight or mass gain protein powder is because they are having trouble eating enough to actually put on pounds. Adding a weight gainer can help you meet the requirements for daily calories – that might otherwise seem out of reach. “I owe my transformation to weight gainers. As a younger adult, it was incredibly challenging for me to consume the necessary amount of calories to reach my ideal weight. Between work, school, and traveling weight gainers tremendously helped me reach my goals more efficiently due to the higher amount of calories packed in them,” says Carneiro.
- Improve muscle growth and recovery: Mass gainers also include L-glutamine, an amino acid that aids in muscle growth and muscle recovery. Glutamine increases leucine which helps lower muscle fatigue and increases growth hormone levels. The glutamine in a weight gainer can also help boost your immune system and even play a role in increasing the number of calories burned during exercise. That means you can still pack on lean muscle and not just gain body weight.
You should consult with your doctor or a nutritionist before adding a mass gainer supplement or powder to your diet to ensure that it is the proper course of action and that sure your struggles to put on weight are not stemming from something else.
Best Mass Gainers for Skinny Guys
Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
Each serving of Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass will yield you 1,250 calories when using water. The bulk of the calories come from carbohydrates (which sit at a heavy 252 grams) and 50 grams of protein. ON states that each bag also contains 25 vitamins and minerals, plus creatine and glutamine to help aid in proper recovery, with no sugar added. Use this powder pre-workout, post-workout, or even as a meal replacement in addition to your whole food meals.
In addition to being Carneiro’s go-to pick, thanks to its convenience and quality ingredients, this mass gainer protein powder has a 4.5 out of 5-star rating on Amazon and that’s based on more than 39,000 reviews.
Promising review: “Firstly, if you are looking for a protein powder that will help you gain LEAN mass, then stop reading right now and look elsewhere. This protein powder is for people like myself who have trouble gaining weight and want to put on some muscle/mass. You also need to make sure you are actually working out, if not you’ll just gain fat. This stuff is a miracle for skinny guys like me, I’ve gained 5 -10 lbs in the last few months and that’s A LOT for me and has never happened before. The taste is also the best I’ve ever had, the chocolate is my personal favorite.” – Jesse
$59.84 at Amazon.com
Best for Adding Quality Size
Dymatize Super Mass Gainer
You want size? You’re going to need to up your calorie intake. One serving, or two and a half scoops of this mass gainer powder, provides as many as 1,280 calories and 52 grams of whey protein to gain bulk and build muscle. Gluten-free and available in three different flavors including, vanilla, cookies and cream, and rich chocolate, it can be added to smoothies or shook up with milk or water. The 10.7 grams of BCAAs, a 245-gram carb count, and 17 vitamins and minerals don’t hurt either.
Promising review: “I gained 30 pounds of muscle in 3 months lifting weights and drinking two shakes every day even on my off training days. This is an excellent mass gainer. I’d recommend it to anyone trying to gain weight or mass.” – Paul Raffa
$49.99 at Amazon.com
Use as a Natural Weight Gainer
Less Naked Mass
In an industry full of mass gainers that have a laundry list for their ingredients, Less Naked Mass is a clean and natural option to consider. It’s GMO-free, growth hormone-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. It is also made without artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. It’s just five ingredients for 1,360 calories, 251 grams of carbohydrates, and 50 grams of protein. You can also use this mass gainer to make cookies or protein bars if you prefer to eat your extra calories rather than drink them as a shake.
Promising review: “I just started lifting weights about 3 months ago. And was taking some protein powder from another brand. It contained a good amount of protein but its calorie content wasn’t that great. I was also trying to eat higher-calorie healthy foods to help me gain. This product has the best of both worlds, high protein and the calories I need. I need 4300 calories per day and this product will get me over the hump. It’s always hard for tall slim guys to build muscle. This product has it all.” – Amazon customer
$64.99 at Amazon.com
RELATED: Best-Tasting Protein Powders
Best for Fueling Workout Recovery
At 700 calories per serving, this formula is a great middle-ground in the mass gainer market, since the higher options tend to be over 1,000 and the lower in the 500 range. It offers an approximate 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein, making it ideal for athletes to fuel up before workouts and support lean muscle growth. The True-Mass protein formula is designed to help support recovery from hard training sessions while adding the caloric support you need for weight gain.
Promising review: “I use this product mainly because due to stress I have lost a lot of weight, and find it difficult to eat. It helps me to maintain my weight and not lose any further. The taste is great, I add a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream and it’s a treat.” – Incognito
$46.58 at Amazon.com
Best for Easy Drinking
Isopure Mass Protein
Isopure’s 600-calorie formula contains 50 grams of 100 percent pure whey protein isolate. The gluten- and lactose-free blend includes vitamin C, E, and zinc to give the body an extra immune boost and each serving contains 11 grams of BCAAs, and 9 grams of L-glutamine.
Promising review: “Been using this over a year, a great supplement with the best balance of carbs, no sugar and lots of protein in a great shake.” – Kent K
$33.94 at Amazon.com
Best for Vegans
Naked Vegan Mass
Vegans trying to put on some muscle mass, or anyone looking for a mass gainer with a recipe they can actually read, need look no further. This gluten-free option from Naked contains just three ingredients: pea protein powder, organic rice protein powder, and organic maltodextrin (made from gluten-free organic tapioca) – chocolate and vanilla options include coconut sugar and organic cacao and vanilla respectively. Each serving contains 248 grams of complex carbs, 50 grams of protein, 1,230 Calories, and 10.3g of BCAAs.
Promising review: “I brought this gainer because most of the gainers on the market are milk products and I’m very lactose intolerant. I’ll admit I love meat. I live off steak. I was skeptical of anything plant based working for me but I must tell you this stuff is amazing!! Almost a weak I’ve gained ten(10) pounds and the stuff tastes great and I haven’t had any gas or bloating yet.” – Christopher Wood
$59.99 at Amazon.com
Best for High-Quality Calorie Sources
Rivalus Clean Gainer
Not only is Rivalus’ mass gainer powder made in the U.S. from high-quality calorie sources such as organic quinoa, avocado, ginger root, and wild blueberry, but it comes in a variety of unique and fun flavors. The cinnamon toast cereal option includes 30 grams of multi-source proteins and 570 calories.
Promising review: “You can feel the difference with this gainer; there’s no drag or lag. It tastes amazing (just like Cinnamon Toast Crunch), dissolved easily, and I don’t feel the need to take a nap after or at all. I also notice I have more energy throughout the day. I’ve noticed the size gain and love this product.” – Anthoni I
$35.99 at Amazon.com
RELATED: Here’s Why Trainers Are Switching to Cricket Protein Powder
How Do Mass Gainers Work?
Mass gainers are simply calorie-dense meal replacements in a sense. One shake for many people could equate to one or two actual real food meals. They work by increasing the number of macronutrients you consume on a daily basis to help you put on size. When you are in a calorie surplus, you are able to add weight and muscle gain to your frame. If you restrict calories or reach your maintenance number, you’ll either remain the same or lose weight, which is counterproductive to what you are looking to achieve with a mass gainer.
An average protein powder generally has around 100-200 calories per serving. Mass gainers, on the other hand, contain 500 to 1,500 calories per serving. The type of mass gainer you’ll need depends on your goals, preferred macronutrient breakdown, diet and allergy limitations, as well as taste/flavor.
How to Make Your Own Mass Gainer
It’s important to note that the best and most effective way to gain weight and lean muscle mass is through a caloric increase, consuming real food. “A mass gaining powder is not the easy trick to gaining mass, proper real food nutrition, proper training to stimulate muscle mass and proper sleep/recovery is just as important,” says CEO/Founder of True Nutrition Douglas Smith. These supplements are made to account only for what you may not be able to accomplish naturally. It’s totally possible to create a DIY-mass gainer in your own kitchen.
You’ll need some common items: a protein powder, carbohydrate source, and fat source. Creating your own mass gainer allows you to manipulate and control your macronutrient ratios rather than being confined to what’s inside the tub you purchase.
- Start with a protein powder whether you opt for whey protein or a plant-based option will be determined by your dietary restrictions.
- For carbohydrates, you can mix in oats or fruit. For your fats, try including natural nut butters such as almond butter or peanut butter. Smith recommends good fats like olive oil and avocado oil as well.
- In addition to increasing the calorie count, you could swap water for regular milk or plant-based milk for a thicker, more creamy blend.
- Blend it all together, add some ice and you have your own homemade mass gainer.
RELATED: Best Smoothie Recipes for Every Need
When to Take Mass Gainers
Mass gainers should really only be consumed when you can’t take in enough daily calories from whole foods alone. Some people prefer to use them to help fuel their workouts by drinking it pre-workout, some wait until after their cardio or weight training sesh so their working muscles can soak up the nutrients and aid in recovery, and some people actually use a mass gainer shake in between meals (in essence like a snack) to increase their caloric intake for the day.
“One thing to consider is that weight gainers can make some individuals feel very bloated and heavy. So the best time to consume them for optimization benefits would be after an intense workout and/or in between meals to fill in those gaps,” says Carneiro. He adds that one should seek to enhance the results of their mass gainer supplement by complementing it with natural food sources.
P.S. It is advised that if you are going to use a mass gainer, you should consider using a blender instead of a shaker bottle. Due to the thickness, a blender mixes all of the ingredients together much better than a normal shaker would.
Side Effects of Mass Gainers
There are a few side effects that can be associated with the use of mass gainers. Some of these side effects can include bloating, gas, upset stomach, digestive issues, diarrhea, cramping, and even increased body fat.
If you decide to take a weight gainer you can put your regular protein powder on the shelf, as the weight gainer supplement should meet all your protein standards. In addition, most quality mass gainers include creatine, so you can skip that for now, too.
Anyone should speak to their personal doctor before adding supplements to their regime, starting a new exercise program, or nutritional habits. If you are diabetic, it becomes even more important with mass gainers because of the number of carbs and sugars per serving.
You Might Also Dig:
AskMen may get paid if you click a link in this article and buy a product or service. To find out more, please read our complete