Mass gaining supplements help you gain weight. Some bodybuilders take mass gainer supplements to increase muscle recovery post-workout. Others take mass gainer supplements because they struggle to gain weight. Young people with a fast metabolism, for example, may not put on weight with a normal diet.
In any case, there are many reasons why consumers would want to gain weight. A mass gainer supplement can help users to gain weight, normally through the use of natural and organic ingredients, many of which are already found within the body.
With so many mass gainer supplements to choose from, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. We’re here to help. Our guide on the top mass gainers in 2020 will consolidate all relevant research, complete with a full frequently asked questions list to keep readers informed about mass gainer supplement information.
Best Mass Gainer Supplements of 2020
Our list of the best mass gainer supplements in 2020 will help consumers learn everything about mass gainers, including a full frequently asked questions section about mass gainer supplements.
Here are the best mass gainer supplements of 2020.
- 1 Best Mass Gainer Supplements of 2020
- 1.1 Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
- 1.2 BSN Syntha-6
- 1.3 Dymatize Super Mass Gainer Protein Powder
- 1.4 Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer
- 1.5 Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Gainer
- 1.6 BSN True Mass
- 1.7 Chocolate Less Naked Mass
- 1.8 Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
- 1.9 MuscleTech Mass Tech
- 1.10 Muscle Milk Gainer
- 1.11 Mutant Mass
- 1.12 JYM Supplement Science Mass
- 1.13 Weider Mega Mass 4000
- 1.14 MuscleMeds Carnivor Mass Anabolic Beef Protein Gainer
- 1.15 Universal Nutrition Real Gains
- 1.16 Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- 1.17 Maximum Human Performance (MHP) Up Your Mass XXXL
- 1.18 Legion Atlas Weight Gainer
- 1.19 Rivalus Clean Gainer
- 1.20 Labrada Muscle Mass Gainer
- 1.21 Champion Performance Heavyweight Gainer 900
- 1.22 Body Fortress Mass Gainer
- 1.23 MusclePharm Combat XL
- 1.24 MuscleTech Mass Tech Extreme 2000
- 2 How We Ranked
- 3 Who Should Take a Mass Gainer Supplement?
- 4 Benefits of Mass Gainer Supplements
- 5 FAQs About Mass Gainer Supplements
- 5.1 Q: What is a mass gainer supplement?
- 5.2 Q: Are mass gainer supplements safe?
- 5.3 Q: Why do some people want to gain weight?
- 5.4 Q: What’s the point of a mass gainer supplement?
- 5.5 Q: What’s the difference between a mass gainer supplement and a protein powder?
- 5.6 Q: Should you take a mass gainer supplement with creatine?
- 5.7 Q: Are mass gainers vegan?
- 5.8 Q: How long should you take a mass gainer for?
- 5.9 Q: How long will it take before I see the results of a mass gainer?
- 5.10 Q: Why do mass gainers contain multiple sources of protein?
- 5.11 Q: Should you take a mass gainer supplement before or after a workout?
- 5.12 Q: Why are mass gainer dosages so ridiculously large?
- 5.13 Q: Should you take mass gainers only on workout days?
- 5.14 Q: Will a mass gainer make you fat?
- 5.15 Q: Can women take mass gainers?
- 6 Final Word
Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
Optimum Nutrition’s Serious Mass is at the top of virtually every list of “best mass gainer supplements”, and for good reason. The protein powder comes in a bucket or bag. The first thing you’ll notice is the serving size: each serving consists of two heaping scoops for 334g of total formula.
If you take the recommended serving size, you’ll get 1250 calories, 50g of protein, 253g of carbs, and significant amounts of virtually every major vitamin and mineral. The formula also contains significant amounts of creatine (1g), L-glutamine (500mg), glutamine peptides (500mg) and other ingredients.
It’s a high-powered formula for those who want to gain serious mass. If you take the full 334g serving size, you’re virtually guaranteed to gain weight quickly. Of course, many people will be happy to take a quarter or half serving to enjoy similar mass gainer results.
There are three Optimum Nutrition mass gainer supplements, including Serious Mass, Pro Gainer, and Gold Standard Gainer. If you’re debating which Optimum Nutrition mass gainer supplement to use, then Serious Mass is the one with the most calories and lowest protein content (1250 calories, 50g of protein per serving). There are also more carbs (254g) than either of the two competing options.
BSN’s Syntha-6 is one of the most popular and best-known protein powders on the market. It also has a powerful enough macronutrient profile to be considered a mass gainer, even if it’s not necessarily advertised as one. With an average rating of 4.6 stars on Amazon and 1,200+ reviews, Syntha-6 has a well-deserved reputation for helping all types of people achieve their mass gaining goals.
Like other supplements on this list, BSN Syntha-6 is available in a tub or loose package. However you buy Syntha-6, each massive 47g scoop will contain 22g of protein, 200 calories, and significant amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
The protein in Syntha-6 is a protein matrix consisting of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, calcium caseinate, micellar casein, milk protein isolate, egg albumen, and glutamine peptides. There’s also MCT powder in the formula. If you want a well-rounded balance of protein without the hefty calorie count of a traditional mass gainer formula, then Syntha-6 is one of the best options on this list.
Dymatize Super Mass Gainer Protein Powder
Dymatize’s Super Mass Gainer protein powder offers 1310 calories, 52g of protein, and 10.7g of BCAAs in each solid serving. However, if you take the recommended serving size, then there are only 8 servings per container, so don’t let the low price tag fool you. It offers similar power to Optimum Nutrition’s Serious Mass supplement, although Serious Mass remains the top-listed mass gainer supplement for a reason.
We appreciate the great flavor options with Super Mass Gainer: Cookies & Cream, Gourmet Vanilla, and Rich Chocolate are all available. You can also order Super Mass Gainer in 6lb or 12lb containers to maximize bulk savings.
Like other protein powders on our list, Super Mass Gainer contains a blend of fast, medium, and slow-absorbing protein. That means your body will absorb as much protein as possible instead of struggling to process 52g of protein in one sitting.
Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer
Optimum Nutrition makes three flagship mass gainer protein powders, including Pro Gainer, Serious Mass, and Gold Standard Gainer (all three made this list).
Pro Gainer has more protein than either of its two ON competitors, offering 60g of protein, 85g of carbohydrates, and 659 calories in each serving. You get more protein but fewer calories with Pro Gainer, which may or may not help your fitness goals.
Four unique flavors are available, including Banana Cream Pie, Double Rich Chocolate, Strawberry Cream, and Vanilla Custard. As with other Optimum Nutrition supplements, Pro Gainer gets its protein from a variety of sources, including whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate, egg albumin, hydrolyzed whey peptides, and glutamine peptides.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Gainer
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Gainer is the “Goldilocks” between ON Serious Mass and ON Pro Gainer. There are 760 calories, 55g of protein, 1125g of carbs, and 10g of fat in each serving. That places it right in the middle of its two competing supplements in all four categories.
Like Pro Gainer and Serious Mass, Gold Standard Gainer contains a blend of multiple proteins from multiple sources, including whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, and hydrolyzed whey protein isolate. That means your body gets fast, medium, and slow-absorbing protein for maximum value.
Gold Standard Gainer comes in three flavors, including Colossal Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla Ice Cream. 5lb and 10lb bags are both available for $50 to $100 (the 5-pound bag gives you 11 servings, with two scoops or 203g in each serving). Ultimately, Optimum Nutrition dominates the mass gainer supplement space with three great options: Serious Mass, Pro Gainer, and Gold Standard Gainer are all great choices.
BSN True Mass
BSN makes the well-known Syntha-6 protein powder, but they also make a ‘true’ mass gaining protein powder called, True Mass. True Mass comes with 46g of protein, 17g of fat, 90g of carbs, and 704 calories in each three scoop (165g) serving. There are 16 servings in each $50 container, putting the price on par with other mass gainer supplements on this list.
As with the Optimum Nutrition mass gainers, BSN True Mass contains a protein matrix consisting of a slow, medium, and fast-absorbing proteins. There’s whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate, soy lecithin, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, micellar casein, hydrolyzed whey protein, egg whites, and glutamine peptides in each serving).
Just like with the Optimum Nutrition mass gainer supplements, True Mass has higher levels of maltodextrin than you would normally like to see in a protein powder: 33% of the formula consists of maltodextrin, which appears to be less maltodextrin than the ON options.
Chocolate Less Naked Mass
Chocolate’s Less Naked Mass is the first “all-natural weight gainer protein powder” on this list. All of the supplements listed above contain at least some artificial ingredients. Each serving of Less Naked Mass includes 1,360 calories, 50g of protein, 11.6g of BCAAs, and 251g of complex carbs.
The biggest advantage of Less Naked Mass is the clean list of ingredients. The formula consists of five ingredients, including organic maltodextrin, naked whey, naked casein, organic coconut sugar, and raw organic cacao powder. That’s a surprisingly small list of ingredients for a mass gainer supplement. The maltodextrin, by the way, comes from tapioca.
The only real drawback of Less Naked Mass is the price tag: at $65 for 11 servings, it’s more expensive than most other options on this list. Of course, many people are willing to pay a premium for natural, high-quality ingredients.
Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
Muscle Feast Whole Oat is a protein powder designed to help you gain muscle mass quickly. Muscle Feast may not be the best-known supplement maker on this list. However, it competes with Optimum Nutrition and BSN by offering great value ($30 for 90 servings) and a simple list of ingredients.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Muscle Feast has no other ingredient except for whole oat powder. That’s all this supplement is. That’s why it’s so affordable. You mix it with water or milk. One-third of a cup of powder is equal to an entire bowl of oatmeal. You can also cook with it by replacing flour.
As far as the ingredient profile goes, Whole Oat Powder doesn’t have the protein content to compete with the big players above. Each serving (one scoop or 40g) contains 3g of total fat, 27g of carbs, 7g of protein, and 142 calories. You don’t get nearly the same amount of protein or other macronutrients as the other powders but that’s a lot of calories for each small scoop.
MuscleTech Mass Tech
MuscleTech Mass Tech markets itself as a “scientifically superior mass gainer”. Made by well-known supplement company MuscleTech, Mass-Tech offers 7 pounds of formula (approximately 14 large servings) for around $36. Each five scoop, 233g serving consists of 830 calories, 6g of fat, 132g of carbs, and 63g of protein. You also get 10.4g of L-glutamine, 3.0g of creatine, 6.5g of L-leucine, and even a couple of digestive enzymes (papain and amylase).
Overall, MuscleTech Mass-Tech is a huge formula available at a reasonable rate for those seeking to gain weight. The main drawback is that its first listed ingredient is the multi-phase carb complex (consisting of glucose polymers, quinoa, oat bran, and buckwheat), but that’s what you expect when comparing mass gainers. There are also certain artificial flavors and sweeteners added. However, all of this info is transparently listed on the label.
Overall, if you’re willing to compromise on ingredient quality and want a powerful, effective mass gainer supplement, then MuscleTech Mass Tech may be the right choice for you.
Muscle Milk Gainer
Muscle Milk is another distinctive, well-known supplement manufacturer. They’ve added some power to their traditional protein shake formula to create their popular Gainer supplement. Three traditional flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and cookies and cream) are available, and each 14 serving container is priced at $33.
Each four scoop serving (162g) has 650 calories, 9g of fat, 110g of carbs, and 32g of protein. You also get 35% of your Daily Value (DV) of dozens of vitamins and minerals, something we don’t see with most other mass gainers listed here.
Muscle Milk Gainer dosages seem low compared to the competitors above. However, the serving size is also smaller, many other supplements listed here have serving sizes of 300g or more. Muscle Milk Gainer uses a more reasonable 162g serving size. The main drawback of Muscle Milk Gainer is that the first listed ingredient is maltodextrin.
At first glance, you might think Mutant Mass is a package of radioactive waste. The distinctive packaging is covered with flashy colors and radioactive warning symbols.
Each high-powered serving of Mutant Mass includes 1,100 calories, 56g of protein, 26.1g of EEAs, and 12.2g of BCAAs, putting it near the top of this list in terms of macro levels. Mutant Mass is also priced at a very reasonable $36 for 24 servings (four scoops or 280g per serving).
As with other mass gainer supplements listed here, maltodextrin is the first listed supplement, while a protein blend is a second-listed supplement. There are natural and artificial flavors and sucralose to minimize the sugar content. There are also natural ingredients like MCT oil and avocado oil to deliver fats. While some people claim the formula is too sweet, others like the flavor.
JYM Supplement Science Mass
JYM makes a popular mass gainer protein powder with 30g of protein, 34g of carbs, 300 calories, and 4.5g of fiber in each serving. It’s surprisingly affordable at $52 for 30 servings. That’s a much better value than the other supplements towards the top of this list.
So what’s the catch with JYM’s mass gainer? Well, the supplement has dismal ratings of 3.7 out of 5 on Amazon. Customers complain about the taste and thickness of the powder. It doesn’t taste good and it doesn’t mix well.
Despite these drawbacks, JYM Supplement Science has made a great mass gainer supplement where the first listed ingredient is protein blend (not maltodextrin). The protein matrix includes whey protein isolate, micellar casein, milk protein isolate, and egg protein.
Weider Mega Mass 4000
Weider Mega Mass 4000 is a dependable mass gainer supplement available at a slightly higher price than its competitors.
Each 2-pound tub of Mega Mass is priced at around $25 for 9 servings (4 scoops or 100g per serving). That’s a smaller serving size than any other supplement on this list, although Mega Mass 4000’s protein content is still reasonable at 26g per serving. There’s also 400 calories, 6g of total fat, and 60g of carbs in each serving.
As with many other mass gainer supplements, Mega Mass uses maltodextrin as its first listed ingredient, while a protein blend with soy protein, whey protein concentrate, sodium concentrate, egg albumin, milk protein isolate, and whey protein isolate is the second listed ingredient). There are natural and artificial flavors and sucralose inside the formula.
MuscleMeds Carnivor Mass Anabolic Beef Protein Gainer
MuscleMeds Carnivor Mass uses hydrolyzed beef protein isolate and 5g of creatine to provide your body with the fuel it needs to gain weight and build muscle. Priced at $46 for a 6-pound container with 14 servings (196g or four scoops per serving), Carnivor Mass has 710 calories, 125g of carbs, and 50g of protein in each serving.
MuscleMeds has cleverly called its carb matrix “iSPIKE Technology” because it “amplifies insulin release”. As with other mass gainers, it’s just a bunch of carbs like maltodextrin. There’s also just one protein source: hydrolyzed beef protein isolate. It’s crafty marketing, but it’s ultimately similar to most other mass gainers listed here.
Overall, MuscleMeds is pricier than most other options on this list and makes a big deal out of its use of beef protein isolate instead of traditional protein sources. It’s available in chocolate fudge, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry, and vanilla caramel flavor options.
Universal Nutrition Real Gains
Universal Nutrition’s Real Gains weight gainer supplement is priced at $48 for a 10.6-pound bag with about 31 servings (3.5 scoops or 155g per serving) in each bag. Each serving has 602 calories, 6g of fat, 84g of carbs, and 53g of protein, which makes Real Gains comparable to most of the higher-ranked options on this list.
Maltodextrin is the first listed ingredient for its ability to provide cheap carbs. A protein complex is the second listed ingredient, and Real Gains uses three different types of protein to ensure maximum absorption (ultra filtrated whey protein concentrate, micellar casein, and whey protein isolate).
The formula also provides healthy fats from MCTs and EFAs to round out its nutrient profile. As with virtually every mass gainer supplement on this list, Real Gains uses artificial flavors and sucralose. However, there are also natural flavoring compounds, like Dutch-processed cocoa.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is one of the most expensive mass gainer supplements you can buy online today, and we don’t think the high price is justified. Each two-scoop (200g) serving of Transparent Labs Mass Gainer has 53g of protein, 12g of fat, and 109g of carbs, which makes it similar to other options on this list for macros.
However, one thing we appreciate about Mass Gainer is that it uses better ingredients: the formula has 100% grass-fed whey protein concentrate, for example, along with organic tapioca, oat, and sweet potato carb sources. Coconut milk powder, MCT, and creatine round out the formula. We also appreciate the fact that the formula is sweetened with stevia and monk fruit instead of artificial sweeteners.
The only real drawback of Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is its price tag, which doesn’t seem unreasonable when you look at the ingredients. Each bag is priced at $65 for 15 servings (200g or two scoops per serving).
Maximum Human Performance (MHP) Up Your Mass XXXL
Maximum Human Performance makes a dramatically-named Up Your Mass XXXL mass gainer supplement. There’s 50g of protein, 1350 calories, 11g of BCAAs, and a handful of other helpful ingredients in each serving. Oh, and there’s also 250g of carbs, more than any other mass gainer supplement on this list.
The price is significantly higher than many competitors: each eight serving, 6-pound tub of Up Your Mass is priced at $40, making this one of the priciest options on this list (and least dense formulas). However, if you want carbs over everything else, then MHP Up Your Mass XXXL may be the right choice for you.
Legion Atlas Weight Gainer
Legion Atlas Weight Gainer isn’t the best-known mass gainer supplement sold online today, although it does offer some unique advantages over its competition. First, it’s one of the few that specifically advertises itself as a “healthy weight gainer” because it uses lactose-free protein powder with no junk fillers. It also uses ingredients like oat flour, coconut flour, and flaxseed to increase its carb load.
Each serving (two scoops or 120g per serving) has 370 calories, 6g of fat, 51g of carbs, and 38g of protein. That’s a significant protein load with surprisingly few calories and carbs. There are also significant levels of vitamins and nutrients. There are even two probiotics included for added digestion support.
Overall, Legion Atlas Weight Gainer won’t give you the insane levels of carbs and calories compared to other options on this list. However, if you’re looking for a great source of protein with minimal artificial ingredients, then the Legion Atlas Weight Gainer may be the right choice for you.
Rivalus Clean Gainer
Rivalus markets its popular mass gainer supplement as a “Clean Gainer” because of its use of “clean carbohydrates” like maltodextrin. The formula is sweetened with fructose, blueberry powder, and monk fruit extract. There are also MCTs, flax seed powder avocado powder, and other potentially beneficial ingredients.
We appreciate the fact that Rivalus uses cocoa and other natural flavors. However, the formula still includes fructose, sucrose, and natural and artificial flavors just like most other mass gainer options on this list.
In terms of macros, Rivalus Clean Gainer has 560 calories in each two-scoop (136g) serving, 90g carbs, and 30g of protein. That’s a hefty calorie load and decent protein blend, although it’s not quite the same power as other mass gainers on this list.
Labrada Muscle Mass Gainer
Lee Labrada is a bodybuilding champion, and you would be forgiven for thinking that a product endorsed by someone who really understands the importance of mass gainers in the muscle building process would have a little more substance to it. Unfortunately, the Labrada Muscle Mass Gainer is pretty much a copy and paste of tons of other mass gainer products on the market.
It includes 50 grams of protein, vitamins, and a good bit of sugar, which is about the bare minimum for a mass gainer to actually do its job. It doesn’t provide any minerals, vitamins, or other supplements that help to stimulate muscle mass or benefit the muscle building process in any way. It’s definitely better than nothing, and it isn’t like it’s dangerous to use, but there are better products out there.
Champion Performance Heavyweight Gainer 900
Champion Performance provides some good ingredients in its Heavyweight Gainer 900, but there are a few vital ingredients that it just doesn’t hit on properly. The sugar content in this product is way too high, and the protein content isn’t high enough. It does include some good vitamins and minerals, but it needs to balance its formula a little better if it wants to improve its ranking.
Body Fortress Mass Gainer
Body Fortress has the right idea for how to make their Mass Gainer put in some work, but unfortunately, it still doesn’t work quite as hard as some of the better options on the market. It has a better protein content than the options above, but still not as much as many better alternatives.
Just as the protein content could be higher, the sugar content could also be lower. It’s lower here than in the options above, but other, better products keep it even lower. It doesn’t do much for you when it comes to vitamins and minerals, and it’s not at efficient in terms of calories as it really could be. It’s certainly not a bad product, but it isn’t the best out there either.
MusclePharm Combat XL
MusclePharm Combat XL is a mass gainer that is really heavy in carbohydrates. Over 60% of its entire weight is accounted for in carbohydrates. The protein content is pretty good, too, at about 50 grams per serving.
Each serving carries about 17 grams of sugar, which is respectable, but it could be lowered by balancing it with more vitamins, minerals, or fiber. The blend is pretty basic and it’s lacking in terms of extra benefits, but if you want something simple and straightforward it definitely fits that bill.
MuscleTech Mass Tech Extreme 2000
MuscleTech seems to have named their Mass Tech Extreme 2000 product pretty literally and when added to a glass of milk it does deliver on the 2,000 calories promised. Mass gainers with this high of a calorie content usually have more sugar in them than this one does, and at only 17 grams in a 1,900 calorie dose, it’s pretty respectably low. Mass tech uses whey as their protein source, which most users and scientists agree is the highest-quality source of protein available for these products.
How We Ranked
Mass gainer supplements varied widely based on several different factors. Our editorial team took all of the following into consideration before collecting the rankings above:
The three macronutrients include carbs, proteins, and fats. All protein powders emphasize high protein content, although mass gainers also emphasize high carb and fat content. Macronutrient profiles played a crucial role in our rankings.
You’re taking a mass gainer to gain mass. The mass gainers above varied widely by calorie count. Some had just 300 calories per serving, while others had over 1,200. We know not everyone is trying to pad their calorie counts, so we featured a range of supplements with different levels.
It’s not all about bigger numbers. Ratios are crucial for mass gainer supplements. If you want to add lean muscle, then a mass gainer should have a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. The ratio of carbs to protein in most mass gainers listed above was between 1:3 and 1:5.
Some mass gainers pack their formulas with cheap maltodextrin. Others use organic oats to increase carb count.
Protein quality varied widely between supplements. The best mass gainers use a range of different proteins that absorb slow, medium and fast within your body. Some of the cheaper mass gainers use just one or two sources of low-quality protein.
Other Active Ingredients
Some mass gainers contained ingredients like creatine to build mass. Others included digestive enzymes or even herbal extracts.
Some mass gainers have ridiculously large serving sizes that mask a low nutritional density. Nobody wants to stuff ten scoops of powder into a shaker cup to get the same nutrient profile as a two-scoop supplement.
Artificial ingredients were shockingly common in the mass gainer supplements above. There were plenty of artificial flavors and preservatives in almost every mass gainer supplement. We appreciated the few supplements that used mostly natural ingredients.
Thickness and Mixability
Thickness and mixability are especially important for mass gainer supplements because you’re cramming so much formula into each shake. When a powder isn’t mixable, it makes everything more difficult.
Taste and Flavor Options
Once again, with mass gainers, you’re taking so much formula in each serving. You want that formula to taste good. We taste-tested our mass gainer supplements and analyzed the flavor options available.
Who Should Take a Mass Gainer Supplement?
The people who take mass gainer supplements typically want to gain weight. But that’s a simplification.
Some people take a lean mass gainer supplement because they want to gain lean muscle mass. They’ve been working out for months and have hit a plateau. Their size isn’t increasing as noticeably as it once was, and they want to take things to the next level.
Other people want to gain weight regardless of whether it’s lean muscle mass or not. Many young people, for example, struggle to gain weight with a normal diet because they have a fast metabolism. They eat lots and work out, but they continue to stay skinny. Some people call them “hard gainers” because gaining weight is hard.
Mass gainer supplements can also be useful for their specially formulated fats and nutrient profiles. Some of the better-quality mass gainers are like a complete meal in each serving. If you live an on-the-go lifestyle and want to stay energized throughout the day without making a full meal, then a nutrient-dense mass gainer supplement can be the ultimate meal replacement.
There are also medical reasons to use mass gainer. If you have recently experienced muscle atrophy as a result of a medical condition, for example, then you may take a mass gainer to regain some of that lost weight. We recommend talking to a medical professional before using mass gainers for these purposes.
Other reasons to use mass gainer supplements are to increase recovery after a workout, get adequate creatine content, and boost strength gains, among other benefits.
Benefits of Mass Gainer Supplements
Mass gainers seem like they should work as advertised: they have high levels of calories, fats, carbs, and protein. But do studies back up mass gainers? Are mass gainers scientifically proven to build lean muscle mass more quickly than traditional protein powders?
Let’s dive into some of the research on mass gainer supplements.
First, it’s no secret that protein powders can help your body build muscle faster. This 2007 study found that even a small amount of protein (10g) combined with carbohydrates was enough to stimulate protein synthesis. The mass gainers above all contained between 30 and 60g of protein per serving.
We also know that ingredients like creatine have a proven ability to build muscle. This 2007 study published in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, for example, found that “supplementation with creatine, protein, and carbs was more effective than the carbs and protein combination.” Approximately half of the mass gainer supplements above contained creatine, with some using dosages as high as 6g. If you want to gain mass, then you need a mass gainer supplement with creatine.
Significant research has also shown that mass gainers can enhance recovery from exercise. Your body uses muscle glycogen for all types of intense exercise, including cardio exercise and weightlifting, among other forms of exercise. It takes your body a significant amount of time to replenish its muscle glycogen stores. This 2002 study showed that taking carbs and protein after a workout could significantly increase your body’s production of muscle glycogen, which means shorter recovery times and more efficient recovery.
This study from 2006 replicated those effects, showing that a combination of carbohydrates and protein was more effective at enhancing muscle glycogen recovery compared to a typical carbohydrate drink.
What about the effects of taking high levels of protein and carbs? Can you enhance the benefits of protein shakes simply by raising the macronutrient content?
This study from 1992 compared the effects of three different shakes on muscle performance. One shake had 40.7g of protein, one shake had 112g of carbs, and the third shake had 112g of carbs and 40.7g of protein. Researchers found that the blend of protein and carbohydrates produced the best recovery results. In other words, taking carbohydrates and protein together was more effective than taking either separately.
Similar studies have analyzed the effects of carbohydrate and protein shakes on cycling endurance and muscle damage. This 2004 study, for example, found that adding protein to a high-carbohydrate drink was more effective at improving time to fatigue and reducing muscle damage. However, researchers were unsure whether these benefits were linked to the high-calorie content or high protein content of the beverages.
Some of the mass gainers above contain amino acids. Many of our top-rated supplements, for example, contained 10g or more of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) or essential amino acids (EAAs). This study from 2000 reinforced the importance of amino acids, showing that a combination of essential amino acids and carbohydrates significantly boosted protein synthesis after a workout.
Some mass gainers also advertise their ability to improve workout performance. Is this a proven benefit of mass gainer supplements?
Well, this study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism in 2003 found that a protein and carbohydrate combination could enhance aerobic endurance performance more than simply taking carbohydrates. That means participants taking a combination of protein and carbs could last longer than participants taking just carbs.
Aerobic exercise isn’t necessarily indicative of muscle performance, however, which is why we look at this study from 2001 next. This study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism analyzed the effects of whey protein and creatine on muscle mass and bench press performance. Researchers found that a combination of creatine and whey protein significantly improved bench press results compared to just protein or a placebo.
Other studies have shown that a combination of carbs and protein can benefit CrossFit athletes or improve cycling performance in multiple ways. These effects are particularly powerful in endurance workouts, like long-distance cycling events, because participants increased their time to fatigue during workouts.
Mass gainers are also prized for their ability to improve protein balance. Protein balance is an overlooked part of sports nutrition: when you exercise a lot, your muscles need protein to recover. This can throw your body’s protein balance into disarray. This study on endurance exercise published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a combination of protein and carbs was more effective for increasing whole-body net protein balance compared to a carbohydrate-only supplement.
This study echoed those results by giving participants a protein and carbohydrate shake after fasted training. Participants given this combination protein/carb shake restored their net protein balance more quickly than participants just given a carbohydrate or protein shake.
However, it’s not conclusive that simply stacking carbs and protein will lead to more lean muscle growth. Is a 60g protein shake better for you than a 20g protein shake?
This 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that increasing protein and carbs past a certain point had no impact on muscle growth beyond that of normal protein powder. After analyzing the effects of a mass gainer versus a traditional protein powder, researchers concluded that “no further beneficial actions of carbohydrates, irrespective of GI, are evident concerning muscle hypertrophy when a protein supplement that maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis is ingested.”
Other studies have shown that protein can be very effective when taken at a high dosage. This study from 2010, for example, separated participants into two groups: one group took a shake with 42g of protein after a workout while the other group took a placebo. The participants taking the 42g protein shake significantly improved post-exercise recovery in 24 hours and 48 hours after exercise.
Meanwhile, this study from 2008 analyzed how effective an extremely high protein meal could be. Participants were given a meal with 100g of protein after exercise. Compared to a control group, participants taking the 100g protein meal had increased recovery of force and power over the 48 hours after exercise.
Above all, mass gainers have a proven ability to provide the nutrition on the go. If you’re a busy person and want a whole meal without much effort, for example, then a good mass gainer can provide you with the nutrients you need. There are significant levels of calories, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds your body needs to keep going. Whether you need a good intra-day protein boost or an on-the-go meal for a busy lifestyle, you can depend on a mass gainer supplement to help you get through the day.
Side Effects of Mass Gainer Supplements
Mass gainers, like protein powders, are well-tolerated by most people using the supplement as recommended. However, certain ingredients in mass gainers may lead to certain side effects.
Creatine, for example, may cause gastrointestinal distress. Some people report cramps or bloating when taking significant levels of creatine, for example. If you are new to taking creatine, then you should start with a half dose or quarter dose until you feel more comfortable.
Mass gainers, in general, can also lead to cramping and bloating. Your body may be consuming significantly more calories, nutrients, and fiber than it is used to.
One of the main side effects of a mass gainer supplement is increased body fat percentage. Yes, we all want to gain lean muscle mass, but mass gainer supplements can also cause you to gain body fat. Keep track of your macronutrient intake to ensure you’re on pace to achieve your body weight goals (i.e. burning sufficient calories per day to keep up with your increased caloric intake).
Certain studies have shown that mass gainers can increase the risk of developing diabetes. This study published in Diabetes Care, for example, showed that high glycemic index (GI) foods over a long period could increase the risk of developing type two diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Mass gainers could also cause constipation because they have high levels of calories with relatively low fiber content. You’re consuming an entire meal’s worth of calories with hardly any fiber, for example. High-calorie, low-fiber foods are a recipe for constipation.
One of the best ways to limit the side effects of mass gainers is to increase your water intake. Double your daily water consumption. It will help your body handle ingredients like fiber while limiting bloating and other gastrointestinal issues.
Recommended Dosage of Mass Gainer Supplements
As with most supplements, mass gainer supplements work best when following the recommended dosages. Because mass gainers are so large, you may want to start with 1/4 or 1/2 doses until your body gets accustomed to the additional fiber, fat, and carb content.
It’s also important to be aware of specific ingredient dosages in mass gainer supplements. Creatine, for example, can be taken in doses of around 0.3g per kg of body weight during a loading phase. When taking creatine for maintenance (i.e. maintaining your current weight), a lower dose of 0.03g per kg is effective.
Protein, meanwhile, can be taken in doses of 1.1 to 3.1g per kg per day. Move towards the higher end of this range when increasing lean body mass or the lower end of the range when maintaining current weight.
Above all, consider your weight goals when calculating your dosage of a mass gainer supplement. Are you trying to gain a significant amount of weight as quickly as possible? Are you trying to slowly add lean muscle mass? Are you trying to maintain your current weight while burning fat and building muscle? Answer these questions to calculate the optimum mass gainer dosage.
FAQs About Mass Gainer Supplements
This section will help cut through the hype and dispel rumors by answering some of the most commonly asked questions about mass gainer supplements.
Q: What is a mass gainer supplement?
A: A mass gainer supplement is any nutritional product designed to build mass. Typically, a mass gainer supplement is a protein powder with high levels of carbs, proteins, calories, and fats. However, oat bran powder and similar products can also be considered mass gainers.
Q: Are mass gainer supplements safe?
A: Supplements are generally safe to take when following the recommended dosage. However, we recommend talking to your doctor before taking any supplement, including a mass gainer supplement, especially if you are currently undergoing a medication or treatment plan that might be affected by mass gainer supplements.
Q: Why do some people want to gain weight?
A: Some people take mass gainers to gain lean muscle mass. Others struggle to gain weight (because of a fast metabolism, for example) and want to boost their caloric intake without eating more food. Consumers who do not want to gain weight should avoid mass gainer supplements, obviously.
Q: What’s the point of a mass gainer supplement?
A: As mentioned in the 'benefits' section above, mass gainer supplements are linked to powerful benefits beyond just weight gain. A combination of carbs and protein can lead to significantly faster post-workout recovery. It can also enhance strength gains and lean muscle mass gains. That means more effective workout performance and faster recovery, which can help with muscle-building efforts and improve general mood and quality of life.
Q: What’s the difference between a mass gainer supplement and a protein powder?
A: A traditional protein powder delivers a strong dose of protein (10g to 30g) while minimizing carb and calorie count. A traditional mass gainer, meanwhile, delivers a high dose of protein (30g to 60g) while maximizing calorie and carb counts. Some powders blur the lines between the two categories, however, so it’s important to check the macronutrient profile before you buy.
Q: Should you take a mass gainer supplement with creatine?
A: Creatine is one of the most proven mass gainer ingredients you can use. However, many mass gainers (including many of the ones listed above) already contain sufficient levels of creatine. Check your ingredient profile before supplementing it with more creatine, as too much can have adverse effects.
Q: Are mass gainers vegan?
A: Most mass gainers are not vegan. Every mass gainer supplement above uses animal protein (from whey or eggs, for example) instead of vegetable protein sources. However, you can certainly find vegan protein powders. These powders will generally be clearly marked as vegan or vegetarian by their manufacturer, so keep your eyes peeled and check the nutritional information carefully before use.
Q: How long should you take a mass gainer for?
A: There’s no limit to how long you can take a mass gainer. You can take a mass gainer until you reach your weight gaining goals, for example, or quit when it doesn't seem like a mass gainer is right for you.
Q: How long will it take before I see the results of a mass gainer?
A: You could start seeing results in as little as 2 to 3 weeks. But results will vary with any supplement, and especially with weight gain and loss. Consumers should carefully monitor their progress to make sure they meet their goal.
Q: Why do mass gainers contain multiple sources of protein?
A: Your body might struggle to absorb the 60g of a single protein source in one sitting, which is why most mass gainers contain multiple sources of protein. A good mass gainer supplement will use a fast-acting, medium-acting, and slow-acting source of protein, for example, helping your body maximize absorption.
Q: Should you take a mass gainer supplement before or after a workout?
A: A traditional mass gainer supplement is taken after a workout. Taking a mass gainer supplement before a workout may lead to bloating, and most mass gainers contain no stimulants or other pre-workout ingredients. Generally, mass gainers are taken after a workout.
Q: Why are mass gainer dosages so ridiculously large?
A: Most mass gainer supplements have extremely large serving sizes. Just wait until you see the size of the scooper in some of the supplements above. The serving size is deliberately large so your body can get adequate levels of carbs, calories, and protein. A good mass gainer includes all of these macronutrients in a nutritionally-dense formula with as few fillers as possible.
Q: Should you take mass gainers only on workout days?
A: Mass gainers can be taken on off days or training days. As with any supplement, it depends on your goals. We recommend that users consult their dietitian of doctor to establish a plan for themselves.
Q: Will a mass gainer make you fat?
A: If you’re taking a mass gainer without burning sufficient amounts of calories, then a mass gainer will inevitably cause you to put on weight. A high-quality mass gainer should encourage lean muscle mass growth, although a low-quality mass gainer may just cause you to get fat especially if you’re not working out enough.
Q: Can women take mass gainers?
A: Most of the mass gainer supplements available today contain ingredients that are useful to both men and women. A small number of supplements contain testosterone-boosting ingredients catered to men. Most mass gainer supplements, however, are designed for both men and women seeking to increase lean muscle mass.
Mass gainer supplements are a great way to build lean muscle mass. Some people take mass builder supplements because they have always struggled to gain weight. Others have hit a plateau and just want to take the body to the next level.
Whatever your workout goals may be, a mass gainer supplement may be the right choice for you. As always, we ask that readers consult their physician before beginning the use of any new mass gainer supplement.