The need to improve their workout performance and look more muscular is urging many people to try out dietary supplements that promise faster results.
Among popular bodybuilding supplements, mass gainers are more helpful for those trying to bulk up. While protein supplements help stimulate muscle repair and recovery, mass gainers are high-calorie supplements that boost energy levels and offer a combination of ingredients that promote your muscle size.
If you are struggling to get that muscular body staring at you from the pages of fitness magazines, then mass gainers need to be a crucial part of your diet. Mass gainers are often referred to as weight gainers due to the high calories they contain. If not used in combination with a proper workout routine and a balanced diet plan, you may simply end up being fatter rather than muscular.
What is a Mass Gainer?
Mass gainers are supplements that give you protein, carbohydrates and little fat that is intended to help you add muscle mass in your body. It is a high-calorie protein powder designed to increase your daily calories.
Mass gainers constitute the muscle-building enhancers such as BCAAs (Branched-chain amino acids)s, creatine, glutamine, and different vitamins. One serving of mass gainer can provide you with energy between 350 to 1200 calories. The amount of protein in each serving varies from 15 to 65 grams.
Some mass gainers are also a rich source of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals and provide sufficient fiber to balance the cholesterol level and digestion.
The 5 Most Important Ingredients in Mass Gainers
There are different mass gainers that are available in the market. Even though they vary in precise ingredients, they are powders that are high in protein, higher in carbohydrate and low in fat.
The combination of protein and carbohydrate in a mass gainer is a perfect blend suited to furnish your body with essential nutrients that are needed to accelerate recovery, promote protein synthesis and anabolism.
The only real constant in a mass gainer is that they are high in calories and protein. Whey protein is most common in all of them, though plenty also contains a blend of casein, egg white, milk protein isolate and different other forms of protein.
In 2016, The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition published a 12-week study. It was specifically to examine the effects of post-workout consumption of protein (30 gms of whey protein), carbohydrates (34.5 grams of maltodextrin) and their combinations ( 30 gms of protein+34.5 grams of maltodextrin) on strength indicators muscle mass and fat percentage (1).
The result showed a decrease in fat mass in all three groups, along with an increase in muscle mass and strength. Since the mass gainers have similar combinations, the effect would have been the same.
Studies also suggested that protein supplementation improved performance and recovery in resistance and endurance training. Mass gainers with similar protein supplementation may have the same effect (2).
Summary: This systematic analysis indicates that protein by way of mass gainer supplement may increase muscle mass and performance.
Digestive enzymes are vital constituents of a mass gainer to promote the metabolic process. They work with other chemicals like stomach acid and bile to break down food into molecules for their use. These enzymes support you during intensive workouts and in the achievement of your mass muscle goal (3).
Enzymes support the health of your gut.
3 main enzymes help in the process of digestion. They are:
- Amylases that break down carbs forming simple sugars
- Protease that breaks down proteins into peptides resulting in amino acids
- Lipases used in the breaking down of fat forming a glycerol molecule and 3 fatty acids
Enzymes break the complex food into simpler forms that are then processed by the liver and pancreas to generate energy. Only after the process of breaking down food into molecules that energy can be generated by the liver and pancreas. Enzymes are also necessary for the repair of tissues, prevent the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and maintain the immune system in the body.
Certain enzymes are involved in the release of energy for muscular contractions (4).
Summary: Enzymes are needed for the breakdown of food into molecules making them building blocks at a much faster speed. Enzymes also support the speed, force, and power of muscular contractions.
The body produces creatine from amino acids. It is a well-recognized compound among athletes and bodybuilders. Creatine gets converted into phosphocreatine and is stored in muscles (5).
It is used as a fuel during intensive workouts. It builds lean mass. Creatine helps in boosting performance by increasing its availability in intramuscular concentrations that results in improved training outcomes.
It is also known to promote post-exercise recovery and prevent injury. A number of benefits have been identified for its clinical use. A short or long-term supplementation of this compound has also been evaluated for its toleration and safety measures (6).
Summary: Studies have shown that creatine not only provides enhanced performance in training but also has the potential to deliver benefits as a supplement for recovery from injury, providing energy for heavy training bouts. The nutrient also serves as a probable supplement throughout the lifespan.
The intake of carbs is directly related to gaining weight. Lean muscle weight can be increased with prescribed amounts of carbohydrates. They are the chief sources of energy for the body. The best recovery of muscles happens with the right amounts of carbohydrate consumption.
The carbohydrates in mass gainers are mostly from maltodextrin. More carbohydrate results in more production of glycogen. This will maintain insulin sensitivity and there is less chance of body fat accumulation. The intensity and volume of training will increase the potential of muscle gain because of carbs.
The recommendations for carbohydrate intake should be specified according to the user’s training needs. Carbohydrate foods along with other nutritious foods that contain protein will benefit muscle recovery (7), (8).
Many manufacturers use carbs that are sourced from wheat, rice, tapioca, and corn. The maltodextrin components of these foods are used. Sugar is low and gluten is absent in rice and tapioca. As a fact mass gainers are not viewed with a lens for micronutrients but seen as a high dietary calorie supplement (9).
Summary: The intake of a mass gainer containing carbohydrates, helps to promote effective recovery. Along with proteins, contained in the mass gainer, the nutrients allow for quick access to muscle glycogen.
Other Important Nutritional Content
The best mass gainer will contain high-quality nutrients like creatine, betaine, glutamine, and MCT oil.
Creatine is influential in raising your level of performance during an intense workout. It also provides a phosphocreatine store for your body (10).
Betaine assists in increasing the size of your muscle mass, while glutamine reduces muscle breakdown and supports muscle gain. MCT oils promote fat burning (thermogenesis) and improve your workout outcomes (11).
How Mass Gainers Benefit Bodybuilders
There are certain main uses and benefits of mass gainers, which are the following:
Dietary supplementation accompanied by high-intensity training will raise the strength and increase muscle mass.
Data from authorized sources was used for a review that was posted in 2018. It was conducted to determine the effects of protein supplements in adding to muscle mass and strength (12).
49 studies that had 1863 participants showed that protein supplementation made significant changes in one-repetition maximum strength, muscle size, and fat-free mass during resistance exercise training (RET).
An increase in protein intake beyond 1.62 grams per kg of body weight per day did not cause additional gains in fat-free mass and resistance training. The trial demonstrated that protein supplementation increases muscle size and muscle strength during prolonged resistance exercise training in healthy adults.
Summary: Training increases the effects of protein supplementation while undertaking resistance exercise training. No further gains in fat-free mass occur for protein intake higher than 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Gain In Weight
Gaining weight can be a tough task and more difficult than most people perceive. Weight gainers are formulated to deliver huge amounts of macro and micronutrients (13).
Proteins, carbs and fat are the macronutrients in a mass gainer that will keep you away from unhealthy snacking.
Macronutrients provide the body with energy (calories) and store proteins as a back-up especially for recovery from exercise. It supports the building up of muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones and blood plasma.
The amounts will be higher than the calorie content in the snack or meal. Consuming a mass gainer as a nourishing drink is more practical than preparing a well-thought-out meal. Micronutrients in mass gainers aid in the maintenance of body tissues, development of the nervous system and prevents damage to cell membranes and are needed for many other essential functions.
Summary: Mass gainers support healthy weight gain to benefit in building muscles and strength. Therefore it is packed with macro and micronutrients needed during recovery when muscle growth takes place.
Mass gainers also can be used to gain weight. They are used by some people, especially athletes to manage weight as they have to consume large amounts of calories. It is convenient to use a supplement.
Those who drastically restrict food or fluid diets may experience negative results that include loss of lean tissue, hormonal changes and not up to the mark performance. The other extreme is also unhealthy as excess food ingestion can raise body fat levels and the individual may become susceptible to ailments.
Adequate carbohydrate (60%-65% >5 g/kg) and protein (15%, 1.2-1.8g/kg) and a low fat intake (20%-25%) is appropriate for either weight loss or gain (14).
Summary: Mass gainers provide a lot of calories which when ingested helps in gaining weight. It is far more convenient and easier to consume as compared to a diet with a similar nutrient balance.
Faster Muscle Recovery
The high quantity of carbohydrates found in mass gainers is beneficial after an intensive workout. Glycogen gets restored and the protein in them works on the recovery of muscles and its growth.
Certain types of exercises like resistance exercise training keep the window for recovery and protein synthesis open for 48 hours after training; an opportune time to use the right diet or supplement for health gains.
Recent scientific evidence points out that protein intake before, during and after exercise can increase recovery, immunity and lean body mass (15).
It has been proved that those who are engaged in intensive training need more dietary protein than others. The protein content can vary between 1.4 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Summary: Consuming supplements that contain amino acids post-exercise promotes recovery and immunity apart from the growth of lean body mass. A mass gainer is a convenient supplement that serves timely and sufficient intake of these essential nutrients.
Who Benefits From A Mass Gainer?
The people who benefit the most from Mass Gainers are the following:-
Weight Lifters and Bodybuilders
Bodybuilders who are looking to put on muscle mass, for them mass gainers will be advantageous. They contain huge amounts of protein, carbs, amino acids and all nutrients that are required for building muscles.
The ‘bulking’ phase requires a lot more calories than what a natural diet can bring up quickly. This phase may require the consumption of 3000 plus calories with 100 grams of protein to be taken each day. A single product that meets these needs is most convenient.
People With High Metabolisms
If you have a high metabolic rate then it must be difficult for you to gain and maintain weight. If this is the case, you should consider including a mass gain supplement to your daily diet intake. These supplements deliver all the nutrition and calorie count that is needed without having to eat higher quantities the whole day long.
Most sports require participants to be moderately muscled. Athletes can benefit from high protein content found in mass gainers. The net protein balance (NPB) from mass gainers, aid in recovery and protein synthesis for muscle growth. It also helps improve their endurance, reduces fatigue, increases performance and strengthens the muscles and bones in general.
People Who Cannot eat Much
If you are among those people who cannot eat more and you get just enough calories to get on with your daily routine, then a mass gainer will be useful to you. Instead of going through a tiresome process of preparing meals every 2 to 3 hours, it is most convenient to use a mass gainer to help you build those muscles (accompanied with exercises).
The Recommended Dosage For a Mass Gainer
Mass gainers supplements can be taken any time through the day. Different types of supplements are available in the market. It is necessary to follow the directions given for each type. The recommended dosage of the main constituents that make up a mass gainer are:-
- Carbs between 60 to 65% that are more than 5 grams per kg of body weight
- proteins at 15% that amounts to 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kg body weight
- low-fat consumption of 20 to 25 percent
The above valuation is sufficient for an athlete for either a weight loss or gain pursuit (16).
The best estimation is to find out the amounts of these compounds that are beneficial to you and determine the appropriate dose for the mass gainer.
Unless you have been advised by your doctor you should not exceed the given dosage at any point in time. These supplements should be taken between meals as you are consuming your natural diets as well.
This will help in raising your level of consumption without feeling too full or bloated as you continue to get energy the whole day.
Supplementation after workouts is vital as the body craves for nourishment. If you do not heed to this craving, your body will enter a catabolic phase where complex molecules are broken down into smaller ones and get stored. A protein shake or mass builder supplementary diet will help avoid catabolism (17).
Some people consume mass gainers like a protein drink before bed. It helps to keep their body fed with nutrients even as they are resting. While it may work for some, it is good to remember that high-calorie content will result in fat accumulation. The precise number can be worked out with a dietitian.
To put on muscles without adding fat is particularly difficult. Sometimes you may have to test slowly and work through to get to the right mass gainer.
The Side Effects Of Mass Gainers
The use of mass gainers is generally considered safe. The downside of mass gainers is mostly mild. They include allergic reactions to ingredients in the product and gastrointestinal disturbances like bloating due to the intake of gluten-rich gainers.
Mass gainers that contain creatine as one of the main ingredients can cause cramping when it is not accompanied by higher water intake (18).
One of the most common fallouts of mass gainer supplements is the accumulation of fat.
These supplements are packed with calories too, that can cause unhealthy weight gain when you don’t exercise sufficiently to build muscles.
Whey protein is safe for adults and children. High doses may lead to side effects like increased bowel movements, cramps, reduced appetite, fatigue, and headaches.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Will Weight Gainers Increase Muscle Mass?
Yes, weight gainers will increase muscle mass. Weight gainers are protein powder with the addition of carbohydrates. They are intended to help people with low body fat who can’t gain weight. They are normally very high in calories and they help in increasing muscle mass simultaneously with weight gain as a whole (19).
How Different is a Mass Gainer From Whey Protein?
Mass gainers are protein supplements. A mass gainer delivers 22 to 35% protein while whey has 60% proteins in them. The calorie content in mass gainers is more than in regular whey. Both can be used for the recovery of muscles and their growth (20).
Which Are The Best Ways To Gain Weight?
The healthy ways to gain weight are:-
- Consume a protein-rich diet that includes eggs, fish and meat. Eat the veggies after eating the protein foods
- Ensure that you have sufficient and quality sleep
- Milk is a good source of calories and essential proteins
- Eat healthy snacks between meals. Do not skip meals and eat more often through the day
- Avoid drinking water before meals as it will occupy the place of food in your stomach
How do I Buy the Right Mass Gainer?
To help you buy the right mass gainer consider the following indicators:
- Protein Quality (whey or casein)
- The right ratio of proteins and carbohydrates
- Meets calorie requirement
- Additional components such as creatine and glutamine
- Your preferred flavor
The appropriate carbohydrates and protein ratio should be 1:3 for athletes and people who take up physical activities like training (21).
Should I Take Mass Gainers Daily?
Yes, if you find it difficult to gain weight then mass gainers will be beneficial if taken daily. This will add an extra 1000 calories to your diet. You can consume the mass gainer supplement between meals. Calorie intake is one of the important factors in muscle building and it varies between individuals. Some need to take it two times a day while others can consume a calorie-rich mass gainer every alternate day.
How to Use a Mass Gainer for Best Results?
Follow the directions given on the label of the mass gainer product. You can consume it after a workout, before meals, at bedtime and in the morning after waking up. Continue to eat healthy natural foods. The intake of a mass gainer along with working out in a gym will definitely show results within 2 weeks of this routine. Thereafter, every week will indicate a marked increase in healthy, weight and strength gain. These are your primary indications that you are building muscles.
The Final Note
Along with your workout routine, the best way to achieve muscle mass is by eating a well- balanced diet that gives all the essential macronutrients and micronutrients. A good diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fat is the key to success.
But, in case you are having difficulties in reaching your goal due to different limitations like high metabolic rate, or the inability to eat much, mass gainer is the right solution for you.
Athletes and bodybuilders will also benefit from the mass gainer as it is formulated to cater to their extra needs. It is a high-calorie protein powder with an aim to provide you with those extra calories that will help in muscle gain and to some extent weight.
Packed with muscle enhancer protein like BCAAs, creatine, glutamines, different vitamins and easily digestible carbohydrates, it is the ultimate solution. It may also contain some micronutrients. It provides excellent assistance to build your muscles. Even though it is absolutely safe to use them, the proper option is to check it with your nutritionist before incorporating it into your life.