Whey protein is a very popular supplement among bodybuilders for enhancing muscle strength. But for those who are looking to build muscle size, mass gainers may be a better choice.
Do you want to be a lean, but muscled guy or a man with large, bulging muscles and a wide chest? To build muscle, you need the right ratio of nutrients, especially amino acids. To build size, you need to take in more calories than you burn.
Supplements are essential for reaching your athletic goals. Whey protein supplements are usually taken for burning fat while building muscle while mass gainers are for adding fat while building muscle.
Should you take whey or mass gainers? Or do you need to take both? To make the right decision, you should first understand the significant differences between mass gainers and whey proteins, their effectiveness. So read on!
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a valuable supplement if you are aiming to maximize your recovery or adaptation to resistance exercise. It is a complete protein containing high levels of the essential and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) (1).
Whey protein is the byproduct of cheesemaking or milk processing; it is a collection of proteins seen in whey. When you add a coagulant to the milk, it curdles, separating the whey. It is that water-soluble part of the milk. Whey protein supplements are available in powder form with various levels of processing.
Whey protein is a high-quality protein that can be absorbed quickly from your body, helping you to reach your daily intake of proteins. It offers excellent benefits to athletes and bodybuilders to increase endurance and stamina. Whey protein improves body composition and helps in maintaining and gaining muscle mass in athletes (2).
Athletes having Ideal weight are encouraged to consume whey protein to maintain or gain muscle mass. It increases muscle recovery post-workout and helps stimulate protein synthesis. It also increases your endurance and stamina by fueling up your muscles.
Summary: Whey protein is a byproduct of milk processing, which contains high levels of the essential and branched-chain amino acids. Whey protein supplement helps you build muscle mass, increase endurance, and stamina.
What are Mass Gainers?
Mass gainers are supplements that contain proteins, carbohydrates, and also fats to add muscle mass to your body. These supplements are intended to increase your daily intake of calories to promote weight gain. Mass gainers are supplements designed to help you gain weight as well as build muscles.
In mass gainers, protein powder is usually a mix of whey, casein, BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), creatine, and glutamine. It is a calorie-dense formula made by combining slow and fast-acting proteins.
They can provide around 350 to 1200 calories per serving. When combined with rigorous workout and the right nutrition, mass gainers can help you build your physique that you always wanted to have.
Summary: Mass gainers are calorie-dense supplements that contain protein along with carbohydrates and fats. They can help you gain weight and build muscles.
Whey Protein Vs Mass Gainers
Both whey protein and mass gainers are great supplements carrying many benefits. But choosing one among them depends on your requirements.
To gain weight, you need to consume extra calories along with a high carbohydrate and high protein diet. When you are unable to meet this requirement only through diet, you can add some supplements to your diet.
In whey protein, carbohydrates and fats are kept bare minimum, whereas mass gainers are calorie-dense formulas with protein and carbs at a ratio of 1:3. This high proportion of carb and fats in mass gainers can help you attain the desired weight gain.
Whey protein can benefit bodybuilders and athletes by fueling up muscles and increasing stamina and endurance. It increases your energy and can help you meet your daily protein intake.
It is an all-rounder that keeps you healthy, helps you burn fat, and also helps you build muscle mass. A 2011 study has revealed that whey protein benefits in maintaining and gaining muscle mass in athletes (3).
Fundamentals to consider before opting between whey protein powder and mass gainers:
If you are skinny and finding it hard to gain weight, then you should consider mass gainers. They are packed with high calories and macronutrients that can help you achieve those extra calories. Whey contains around 100-150 calories/serving, while mass gainers provide 1250-1500 calories per serving. With high calories, they help you gain weight quickly.
Mass gainers help you achieve healthy weight gain to build muscles and strength. With macro and micronutrients, mass gainers also aid in recovery during muscle growth.
Whey protein helps in fat loss while preserving your lean muscle mass (4). Hence using mass gainers in addition to a balanced diet is ideal for gaining healthy weight.
Summary: When your focus is on gaining weight, mass gainers with high calories and micro and macronutrients are the right choice.
Most of the mass gainers contain carbs, which can cause unwanted storage of fat. On the contrary, whey protein is a pure protein that acts as a fuel for your body. Mass Gainer contains 22 to 35% protein, but whey protein is more than 60% protein.
If your goal is to build muscles and improve your endurance, then choose whey. But, if you are also struggling to achieve weight gain and are looking for a balanced nutritional supplement, mass gainers can be a great option.
Whey protein can effectively increase muscle mass when consumed before or after the workout. It increases the release of hormones causing muscle growth, such as insulin (5).
Summary: Whey can help you to build muscles and increase your endurance. It is the right choice for muscle building.
If speed and endurance is your goal, then you should avoid mass gainers. The carbs and fats present in mass gainers may not have a positive impact on your athletic performance.
A 2017 study revealed that consuming 25 g of whey protein in the morning after exercise contributed to maintaining a more excellent whole-body protein balance over the 24 h exercise recovery period (6). The study also revealed that there was enhanced exercise performance after an intense period of resistance exercise.
Summary: Taking mass gainers may not be viable for athletic performance. Whey protein is more suitable as it enhances athletic performance by increasing endurance and stamina.
Along with helping you grow muscles, whey protein carries many health benefits too. Whey protein gets absorbed quickly and has high nutritional value. According to studies, whey protein improves blood pressure, vascular functions, and reduces critical markers of inflammation (7).
Whey protein can effectively regulate blood sugar levels and can be used as a supplementary therapy for type2 diabetes (8). Mass gainers provide high protein content, which helps in muscle repair and growth. Along with carbohydrates, mass gainers act as your body’s primary energy source to help fuel recovery.
Summary: Overall, we can say whey protein not just helps to boost your protein intake; it also carries powerful health benefits.
There are many who aim for a shredded body i.e., having strong and well-developed muscles but very little body fat, then whey protein is the right choice for you. The unique combinations of all the essential amino acids including BCAAs will work towards that goal.
However, these people should stay out of mass gainers which have very high calories. Those extra calories along with increasing your muscle mass will also add on to the body fat, which isn’t the goal here. In the case of whey, with its 90 percent protein and literally zero carbs and fats, whey protein isolate is recommended.
Summary: People who want a lean physique, should go for a whey protein supplement instead of mass gainers. The latter can cause unwanted weight gain which can be kept on the bay with whey supplements.
Effect on Metabolic Disorders
Whey contains bioactive peptides called lactokinins that have shown to help people suffering from high blood pressure to lower it.
Whey can also reduce the risk of diabetes by stimulating the hormone, insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Whey slows down gastric emptying and stimulates certain hormones such as incretins that reduce post-prandial blood glucose. This is the level of glucose in the blood after a meal.
Mass gainers on the other hand with its high calories can work against people with diabetes and high blood pressure.
Summary: Whey proteins are better at regulating blood sugar levels and blood pressure in comparison to mass gainers who work against these factors.
Whey Protein vs Mass Gainers: Who is the Winner?
When the two are compared, whey protein seems to win the battle because it is healthier and has very low fats and carbohydrates that are the culprits who can lead to body fat.
As discussed earlier, whey has amino acids that boost anabolic hormones in the body. This process helps increase muscle protein synthesis leading to muscle gain. Even if there is a weight gain, it is because of the gain in muscles.
However, if you are a teenager who is extremely underweight or a person with a genetic history of lower body weight, mass gainers are the winner for you. These are the people who just can’t gain weight even with good and healthy food.
They can definitely gain by combining strength training with a diet that is rich in carbohydrates, and proteins. This will not only help increase their muscle but also body fat. Mass gainers are the only answer.
Summary: The winner is decided depending on your goal. If you are an ectomorph who needs to gain weight as well as muscle mass, mass gainers are the right choice for you. But, if you want a lean yet muscular body or an athlete, protein supplements such as whey should be the one you select.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take whey protein and mass gainer together?
Taking mass gainer and whey protein together doesn’t bring any special benefits, in fact, it may turn expensive for your budget. Taking any one of them is enough to meet your goals.
Mass gainers already contain proteins along with carbs and some amount of fat, whereas whey consists of pure protein. However, if you consume both mass gainers and whey, you will increase your protein intake.
I am skinny, I want to gain weight: What should I choose?
To gain weight, you need to eat more calories daily than you are burning. If you are having trouble gaining weight, that means you are not consuming enough calories.
If you are unable to gain weight through diet, mass gainers can help you. Eat high-calorie foods and drink mass gainer shakes before and after the workout. You will get the needed results. Mass Gainers can help you gain weight faster than whey protein.
What are the side effects of mass gainers?
Mass gainers are considered safe and have minor side effects. You may experience allergic reactions and gastrointestinal disturbances due to some of its ingredients.
Some people also experienced dehydration and diarrhea. By not following regular exercise and a healthy diet, with mass gainers, you may end up gaining fat.
The Final Words
Whey protein or mass gainer? Your choice ultimately depends on your bodybuilding goals.
If you want to gain weight and workout accordingly to achieve body bulk, opt for mass gainers. A mass gainer is meant to enhance calorie intake and promote growth and strength.
Mass gainers have added carbs, fats, and micronutrients, so you tend to gain weight quickly. But, whey is ideal, if your goal is to build lean muscle mass. Whey protein is a complete protein that provides all the essential amino acids needed for building muscle.
One important thing to keep in mind is that these supplements can bring results only when combined with hard work and dedication. Otherwise, there is no benefit in taking a bodybuilding supplement, be it mass gainers or whey protein.