How to Find the Best Protein Powder For Weight Gain

When you think of a bodybuilder, the image that comes in mind is of a well-built man, wide chested with bulging biceps and six-pack abs. More like Arnold Schwarzenneger rather than Bruce Lee, though both of them are known for their muscled physique.

Women, on the other hand, want lean, toned figures with graceful six-pack abs. This brings us to different requirements in the supplements we chose to help build our muscles.

We all know that protein is required for muscle building. While women look for protein powders that help with weight loss and build lean muscle, most men are looking for protein powders for weight gain. They want more than just muscle. They want muscle mass! The bigger the muscles, the better.

Can Ectomorphs Use Protein Powders for Weight Gain and Muscle Building?

David Laid, before and after gaining weight & muscle

In the image above, we can see David Laid, who started his fitness journey from being a frail, 90-pound emaciated teenager to the stunning physique he built up in a period of 6 years. For any lanky youngster, that sure looks like a dream come true. But wishing obviously is not enough to build a body like that. It takes years of hard work, dedication and eating the right balance of foods and supplements to gain weight and muscle size.

There are some people who seem to get away with eating as much as they want to and still remain slim. While most of us, who are struggling to lose weight, see these characters as being immensely lucky, these skinny types have a tough time if they are into bodybuilding. They often have to take weight gaining protein powders to help them build muscle mass.

There are three different kinds of body types. They are ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph (1). Each has its own typical characteristics and ectomorphs are generally skinny, lean people with a high metabolic rate (2). These fragile, lightly muscled, flat-chested, delicate body types are extremely resistant to weight gain.

To build an attractive muscular body, more than their workouts, their diet is of extreme importance. This requires the right balance of nutrients, especially the protein needed for building muscles. But ectomorphs usually have a tough time eating enough food to reach their high -calorie intake targets.

Along with a high carbohydrate diet with plenty of fats and protein, they may need to take weight gaining supplements to reach their goals. Protein-based mass gainers are often the best choice to get those extra calories.

Drinking your calories is one of the best ways to reach your nutrition goals rather than trying to force down massive quantities of food. Mass gainers with creatine monohydrate and protein powders can be made into tasty pre-workout/post-workout shakes.

The right protein powder will ensure good quality protein, quality carbs, and good fats like MCT. When combined with the right exercise program, this helps them gain weight in the form of muscle mass and not body fat.

The Importance of Protein In Building Muscle Mass

Protein is the building block of your muscle and an adequate amount of protein intake ensures maintenance of muscle mass. It also promotes muscle growth during strength training.

Numerous studies have shown that eating plenty of protein helps increase muscle mass and strength (3, 4, 5). Also, an increase in dietary protein favorably affects muscle and strength during resistance training. For untrained individuals, the consumption of supplemental protein likely has no impact on the lean muscle mass and muscle strength in the initial weeks of resistance training.

But, as the duration, frequency, and volume of the resistance training increases, protein supplementation can potentially promote muscle hypertrophy and enhance gains in muscle strength in both trained and untrained individuals.

During weight loss, high protein intake can help prevent muscle loss. A modest increase in protein intake has been shown to help with weight maintenance.

How Much Protein Should I Consume On A Muscle Building Plan

Muscles are dynamic and are constantly broken down and rebuilt. The formula for muscle growth is very simple. You gain muscle when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is more than the rate of muscle protein breakdown. To activate this workout so that you can put the demand for new muscle creation, and then supply your body with enough muscle binding nutrients to meet that demand.

Therefore, provide extra support before and after your workout and enough fuel to minimize muscle breakdown while at rest.

Studies have confirmed that higher protein intake helps build muscle and strength (6). Also, people who have successfully built their muscles would want to hold on to it and would need to increase their protein intake whilst losing body fat.

Studies related to muscle mass, look at the daily grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or 2.2 grams of protein per kg (7).

Others have estimated it to 1.6 grams per kg. Several pieces of research have different conclusions while determining the optimal amount (8).

Some studies show that slightly higher than 1.6 -2.2 grams per kg of bodyweight seems to be a reasonable estimate (9).

Whole Foods Vs. Protein Powder

High protein foods

An average healthy person can meet his protein demands with a balanced, diverse diet. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, soy, nuts, and whole-grain provide this protein. Whole food also provides you with other important nutrients along with protein. You consume a variety of other micronutrients and fiber from a full meal.

But, when you are trying to gain the extra muscle mass and gain healthy weight and you are finding it difficult to consume the extra grams, protein powders provide you with that extra protein that meets your requirement. However, it contains fewer nutrients than whole foods.

The 7 Best Types of Protein Powders

If you are vegan and do not wish to consume whey protein, have no worries, there are many different types of protein powders available in the market. To ensure you get all the essential amino acids, you can choose a protein powder that focuses only on one type of protein such as soy or a combination of protein powders.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is the most commonly used protein and it comes from milk.

Whey is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and digests easily. One of the BCAAs is leucine, which is very important in promoting muscle growth. It also helps to recover after resistance and endurance exercise (10). These amino acids upon digestion help in muscle protein synthesis (11).

Studies have shown that whey protein helps build new muscles, maintain muscle mass, help in recovery from heavy exercise, and promote muscle strength (12).

Whey concentrates and isolates are very effective after a workout (13).

Summary: Whey proteins come from milk and are packed with BCAA like leucine which digests easily in the body. They stimulate muscle growth by boosting anabolic hormones and promote protein synthesis.

Casein Protein

Casein is also a protein found in milk, just like whey. But, casein is digested and absorbed in the body slower than whey (14, 15). It forms a gel with the stomach acid and slows down stomach emptying. This process delays the absorption of amino acids in your bloodstream (16).

As a result of this, there is a gradual exposure of these amino acids to your muscles, reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown. This makes it the perfect source of amino acids for your muscles during the night to build new lean muscle mass during sleep while your body is in its recovery phase after vigorous training (17).

Summary: Casein is a milk protein that is a very good source of amino acids that digest slowly. This factor makes it the right choice for recovering muscle wear and tear after a workout.

Egg Protein

Eggs pack a tremendous amount of high-quality protein. Amongst all the food, eggs score highest in PDCAAS, which is the protein-digestibility-corrected amino acid score. It measures a protein’s quality and digestibility (18, 19).

Egg protein powders are made from egg white, which contains all the nine essential amino acids that your body is incapable of making itself.

Summary: Egg proteins contain high quality easily digestible amino acids that fuel protein synthesis.

Brown Rice Protein

Protein powders made of brown rice contain all the essential amino acids but due to its low amount of lysine, it is considered inferior to whey protein.

An eight-week study where 48 grams of rice or whey protein was consumed daily by the participants, showed similar positive changes in body composition, muscle strength, and recovery. However, more research in this field is needed (20).

Summary: Brown rice protein contains all the essential amino acids and is proved to be a very effective pre-workout protein.

Pea Protein

Amongst vegetarians, vegans, and people who are allergic to dairy or eggs, pre-protein powder has become very popular. Made of yellow split pea, which is a very high fiber legume, it has all but one essential amino acid. Pea protein is also very rich in BCAAs.

In a 12 week study, 161 men were given 50 grams of pea-protein daily. They were doing resistance training and at the end of the study, experienced an increase in muscle thickness similar to the ones who consumed whey protein regularly (21).

Summary: Pea proteins are the right choice for vegetarians and vegans and people with lactose tolerance. It is very rich in BCAAs.

Hemp Protein

This plant-based supplement is gaining popularity day by day. Hemp is rich in omega-3-fatty acids which are very beneficial and have several essential amino-acids  (22). However, it is not considered a complete protein due to the low levels of amino acid, lysine, and leucine.

It is a well-digested plant protein.

Summary: Help proteins are plant-based and very rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Even though they don’t have all the essential amino acids, they have been proved to be beneficial for muscle growth.

Soy Protein

This is a plant-based protein that is perfect for people who are lactose intolerant and do not consume egg protein. Soy protein with its high protein content works at par with whey protein. Soy protein contains all the nine essential amino acids and is similar in protein quality like other animal proteins. It also performs almost as quickly as whey protein in regenerating muscles post-workout (23).

Summary: Soy proteins are high protein content and are at par with whey protein. They work fast and regenerate muscle after a workout.

How Do I Find The Best Protein Powder For Weight Gain?

A lot of factors decide the type of protein you should choose. They are

  • Your metabolism rate
  • Frequency of your workout
  • Your activity level based on your occupation

For the purpose of gaining weight by increasing your muscle mass, your goal should be to consume 100-500 calories above your maintenance level. These extra calories may not seem a lot but if you are coming out of a fat loss phase, you are trying to fit in 1000 calories more for that purpose.

But, to eat that much food, it can prove to be extremely difficult. This is where mass gainer supplements, with high-quality protein, make life easier, especially for the ectomorphs.

The 4 Main Ingredients in A Mass Gainer 

If you are looking for a protein powder for weight gain, then you may find what you are looking for in the category of ‘mass gainers’. These are basically protein powders with added ingredients that help build that bulk you are looking for.

Whatever the type of protein you choose as your base, make sure your mass gainer contains the following vital ingredients as well. Unless you are vegan or lactose intolerant, whey protein is a great choice.

Grass-fed Whey protein

Grass-fed whey protein contains a high level of vitamin A and E, glutathione, and healthy fats like omega-3-fatty many cases, grass-fed protein contains more conjugated linoleic acid (24).

Creatine Monohydrate

Apart from whey protein, creatine monohydrate may be one of the most closely studied supplements in the history of exercise supplements. Creatine is naturally found in animal foods like red meat and seafood.

A person taking creatine monohydrate supplement essentially is increasing the stores of phosphocreatine in the body, which is a form of stored energy cells that helps produce more ATP by the body. The increase in ATP helps athletes to recover quickly from intense exercise and feel more strength and power while working out (25).

A study that was done on creatine monohydrate in the U.S. The National Library of Medicine jotted down nine benefits of creatine monohydrate (26). It was safe, helped prevent injury, has no risks or side effects, clinically most effective form for high-intensity exercise, and along with carbohydrate and protein increases muscular retention of creatine.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Medium Chain triglycerides (MCTs) are known to be packed with health benefits and they have shown to enhance exercise endurance. MCT supplementation increases muscle strength and endurance in humans (27).

As it also helps lowering weight, having this element in a mass gainer ensures low body fat but increased strength.

Therefore, if you are thinking of adding quality muscle mass while averting fat gain, this is the perfect ingredient to put in your protein powder for weight gain.

Quality Carbohydrates

Mass gainers have carbohydrates in different forms. Some are loaded with unnecessary sugars and unhealthy carbohydrates but some have better quality carbs such as oats, fruits, organic tapioca, or sweet potatoes. These are better carbs and do not pack you up with unnecessary sugar. Make sure, there are no additives, sweeteners, or food dyes in your protein powder shakes.

The Final Note

As the name suggests, protein powders are packed with high-quality protein in a concentrated form. But many brands of protein powders do much more than that. They come in different forms and are labeled under different names.  You should choose your protein powder depending on your goals – of weight loss, weight gain and/or muscle building.

The right way to build your coveted physique, is to fuel your body with the foods and supplements that will help you keep lean alongside building muscle. Whatever your diet preferences, there are many types of protein powders to choose from. From whey to soy and hemp or a combination of different varieties of protein, various supplement brands have come out with a multitude of offerings to meet consumer demands.

Protein powders with added high-quality carbohydrates and healthy fats offer you the high-calorie intake required to build larger muscles. This is especially helpful for people who tend to remain thinner despite eating as much as possible. Protein powders for weight gain are the perfect solution for such people who just can’t gain weight.

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