Weight gaining powders can really help when you're trying to add pounds or build muscles, and you simply can't consume enough calories and protein to get results. Just keep in mind that you won't gain lean mass by using supplements alone. It's also essential to follow a resistance-training regimen and make sure your regular daily diet provides balanced nutrition. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, be aware that weight gainers contain whey, milk and egg protein.
Best Weight Gaining Powders
When experts at Body Builder Science rated weight gaining powders, they put Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer at the top of the list. A beverage made from mixing one scoop of Pro Gainer with 16 ounces of water has 650 calories and 60 grams of protein. Pro Gainer is also fortified with 23 vitamins and minerals, but since they're not mega doses, you won't have to worry about excessive consumption of nutrients on top of a well-balanced diet.
Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass took second place, while Dymatize Nutrition Super Mass is the third-rated weight gainer. Between these brands, you'll find a range of calories, carbohydrates, nutrients and other active ingredients, which highlights the most important tip about buying weight gainers; know what you need and choose the product that best fits your precise requirements. Consult a registered dietitian if you're not sure about your goals or the calories and nutrients you'll need to get there.
Calories in Weight Gainers
While Pro Gainer has 650 calories per serving, Serious Mass delivers 1,250 calories and a serving of Super Mass contains 1,300 calories. Serving sizes differ, however, so be sure to check the mixing directions when you compare labels. Many weight gainers, such as Pro Gainer, give instructions to mix the powder with 16 ounces of water. But a serving of Serious Mass is made from 24 ounces of water, and Super Mass calls for 32 ounces. The larger portions explain why they have more calories per serving. If you're not up for drinking 3 or 4 cups at one time, you won't get the amount of calories reported on the label. Don't forget that you'll get more calories and protein if you use milk instead of water. For example, the calories in Super Mass go up to 1,900 when you use milk.
While proteins and fats in these products contribute calories, the biggest percentage of total calories comes from carbohydrates. The primary carb is a starch obtained from rice, potatoes and corn called maltodextrin. The ingredients may list waxy maize, which is a starch that comes from waxy corn. Some weight gainers have a small amount of carbs from oats, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. All of the brands except Dymatize Super Mass also get some calories from medium-chain triglycerides, which are fats that the body can easily digest and use for energy.
Amount and Type of Protein in Mass Gainers
With 60 grams of protein per serving, the top choice -- Pro Gainer -- has more protein than the other brands, but they're not far behind, with 50 or 52 grams of protein in a serving. According to the supplement facts labels, 60 grams of protein provide 120 percent of the daily value and 50 grams equal 100 percent. While the daily value is based on an average adult who consumes 2,000 calories daily, you can still use it as a general guideline to estimate the amount you'll get, in addition to the protein obtained through the foods you eat.
All three brands of weight gaining powders get the biggest proportion of protein from whey. Some contain multiple types of whey, such as whey protein isolate, whey concentrate and hydrolyzed whey. The list of ingredients also includes casein, and egg and milk proteins, but each product has different combinations of proteins, so you'll need to compare labels on any brands you're considering. While whey, casein, egg and milk represent high-quality proteins, whey protein isolate contains a higher concentration of branched chain amino acids, which are vital for building muscles because they stimulate protein synthesis.
Other Ingredients in Weight Gaining Supplements
Weight gainers contain a variety of ingredients that you may -- or may not -- want, depending on your reason for using the product. If you're engaged in athletic activities, Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass and Dymatize Super Mass may be at the top of your list because they contain creatine. The body naturally produces creatine from amino acids, and you'll get it from eating beef, poultry and fish, but taking supplemental creatine may improve performance during intense activities, because it gives muscles an energy boost.
If you don't need supplemental vitamins and minerals, then you may want to look for other weight gainers that have similar calories, carbs and protein as the top three, but aren't fortified. Two other nutrients to watch for are sodium and potassium. If you use a weight gainer to replace electrolytes after a workout, you may want both nutrients. You're sure to get sodium from the top three. Pro Gainer doesn't contain potassium, but you'll get it from Serious Mass and Super Mass. On the other hand, if you're trying to limit sodium intake, compare other brands and choose the one with the smallest amount.
Product reviewers have their own rating systems, which means that each reviewer list often recommends different brands. Weight gainers don't have that issue. The same brands are at the top of several different lists. The top five brands share a few similar components, but they also have diverse amounts and different types of ingredients. If you have food allergies, check the label of every product, because many contain milk, soy, egg, wheat or shellfish. Consult your physician before using weight gainers that are high in potassium because large quantities can cause serious side effects.
Top Five Weight Gainers
Weight gainers make it easy to boost calories simply by drinking one beverage, but they're primarily designed to support muscle building in athletes. As a result, they may contain more calories and nutrients than needed for those who aren't engaged in intensive training. Even though the top five are currently similar in more than one review -- remember, recommendations constantly change, as new products are released. In the end, it's best to decide on the calories you need and which ingredients work for your goals, then choose a product to meet your specifications.
Serious Mass by Optimum Nutrition was ranked in first place in one review and fourth place in two other reviews. Another product by Optimum Nutrition, Pro Gainer, is consistently at the top because it ranks either first or second in all three reviews. The remaining products in the top five of two reviews are BSN Tru Mass and Universal Nutrition Real Gains, while Dymatize Super Mass Gainer ranks third, fifth and sixth.
Extreme Calories for Weight Gain
Some weight gainers only have approximately 500 calories, but the products in the top five range from 602 calories to 1,300 calories per serving. Real Gains has 605 calories; Pro Gainer contains 650 calories and Tru Mass supplies 700 calories per serving. The top two gainers for calories are Serious Mass with 1,250 calories and Super Mass Gainer, which gives you 1,300 calories in one serving.
Calories from carbohydrate are supplied by maltodextrin, which is a complex starch extracted from corn, rice and potatoes. The two products with the greatest number of calories contain about 250 grams of carbs, which is 83 percent of the daily value. The three products that have fewer calories supply 84 to 90 grams -- or about 30 percent of the daily value for carbs. Remember, the daily value is based on a diet consisting of 2,000 calories daily. Since you're boosting caloric intake, these carb values fill a smaller percentage of your required carbs.
While four of the five top five weight gainers contain 6 to 8 grams of total fat, one of them -- Tru Mass -- has 17 grams in a serving. The higher quantity comes from medium chain triglycerides, which are rapidly absorbed and metabolized to fuel muscles and organs.
Protein in Weight Gainers
After calories, the next vital ingredient is the quantity and type of protein. All five weight gainers contain about the same quantity of protein. Tru Mass has the least, but it still contains 48 grams, which is 96 percent of the daily value, based on consuming 2,000 calories daily. Pro Gainer has the greatest amount of protein per serving, with 60 grams or 120 percent of the daily value. The remaining three have 50 to 54 grams of total protein in a serving.
The top five products contain mixtures of protein from different sources. They all contain whey protein concentrate; otherwise, each one has varying combinations from as many as six other sources: whey protein isolate, micellar casein, egg albumen, hydrolyzed whey protein, milk protein isolate and calcium caseinate. Pro Gainer and True Mass also contain glutamine peptides. The labels don't show the quantity of each type of protein, but some list the amount of individual amino acids per serving.
Nutrients in Weight Gainers
Four of the weight gainers are fortified with vitamins and minerals, but the amount and type of nutrients varies considerably from one product to the next. Serious Mass has 100 percent or more of the daily value of 17 nutrients, while Super Mass Gainer has about 50 percent to 100 percent of 15 nutrients. By comparison, Real Gains only lists 4 nutrients, ranging from 7 percent to 35 percent of the daily value and Pro Gainer has 20 percent to 50 percent of 22 vitamins and minerals. Tru Mass is not fortified, but it contains calcium, iron and magnesium from other ingredients such as sunflower powder.
Real Gains, Super Mass Gainer and Serious Mass contain 457 milligrams, 1,050 milligrams and 1,560 milligrams of potassium, respectively. Multivitamin-mineral supplements don't contain more than 99 milligrams of potassium per serving, because quantities of potassium over that amount become toxic, reports the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Getting more than 99 milligrams through supplements may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. If blood levels of potassium get too high, you may experience tingling in the hands and feet, muscular weakness or a potentially serious abnormal heart rhythm.
- Body Builder Science: What is the Best Mass Gainer Supplement in 2015?
- Optimum Nutrition: Pro Gainer
- Dymatize: Super Mass Gainer
- Optimum Nutrition: Serious Mass
- Purdue University: Specialty Corn Types
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise
- College of the Canyons: Muscle Builders