Mass gainer supplements are powdered carbohydrate + protein blends. They are a fast and convenient way to add extra dietary calories for people who do not have the time or ability to consume target calorie intakes.  It is important to read product nutrition labels as some mass gainer supplements can be high in sugars, cholesterol, and sodium.

Gaining muscle mass requires vigorous resistance training and serious nutrition. This means eating the right amount of calories —  and the right kind of calories.  

If your goal is hypertrophy (gaining lean muscle mass) then you will need to eat a surplus of calories above your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure — the amount of food energy you require to maintain your current size) in addition to weight training. You can calculate your TDEE here.

For hypertrophy (also colloquially known as “bulking”) you will need to roughly consume your TDEE + 30% in calories. This number will vary from person to person but most will find that this equates to eating 600 – 1000 Cal above your TDEE every day.

Trouble getting calories? Solution: Use a mass / weight gainer

Getting a high amount of calories from food alone can be difficult for some. Maybe you are naturally skinny with a blazingly fast metabolism, or maybe you have a busy schedule that does not have room for eating all the time.

A mass / weight gainer supplement can assist you in consuming the daily amount of calories you need to gain muscle mass. These supplements are essentially a mix of protein (usually whey) and carbohydrates — packaged in a powder flavored form. Mass gainers are usually taken every day to supplement daily food intake.

Mass gainers can easily be mixed with water, milk, or juice so you can conveniently drink your extra calories — removing the chore of all that laborious eating. A single serving of mass / weight gainer can add an easy 700+ calories to your daily intake, making it easier for you to get BIG.

Best Mass Gainer Supplements Comparison Chart (2015)

PictureMass GainerCalories / ServingProtein CarbsFatExtrasRatingCost / oz
Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass, Chocolate, 12 Pound125050 g250 g5 gCreatine, glutamine40.24
Optimum Nutrition Pro Complex Gainer, Double Chocolate, 10.16 Pound65060 g85 g8 g 25 vitamins and minerals4.50.45
BSN True-Mass, Strawberry Milkshake, 5.82 Pound71050 g90 g17 gBCAA, fiber40.51
Universal Nutrition Real Gains, Chocolate Ice Cream, 10.6-Pounds60253 g84 g6 gFlaxseed oil, fiber4.50.35
CytoSport Cyto Gainer Protein Drink Mix, Chocolate Malt, 6 Pound56054 g74 g5 gCreatine, Glutamine40.42
Dymatize Nutrition Super Mass Gainer, Gourmet Vanilla, 12-Pounds128052 g252 g10 gCreatine, Amino Acids, Zytrix40.23
Body Fortress Super Mass Gainer, Chocolate, 2.25 Pounds63047 g97 g6 gVitamins, Minerals40.31
Muscletech Mass Tech Powder - Strawberry Milkshake, 5-pound86053 g155 g3 gBCAAs40.5
Dymatize Nutrition Elite Mass Gainer, Double Chocolate, 6-Pound60055 g77 g6 gGlutamine, Zytrix4.50.48

What to look for in a Mass Gainer

Here are some factors that you will want to consider when choosing a mass gainer for your nutrition plan.

  • Composition: Calories come from protein, carbs, and fat. Ideally, you want a gainer supplement that has a fairly balanced macronutrient breakdown that fits in with the rest of your diet. Look for a weight gainer with low fat, since fat targets are generally easy to hit through food alone (oils, red meat, peanut butter).
  • Carb to protein ratio: The optimal ratio here depends on how much protein and carbs you are already getting from your diet. For most people who only need an extra ~600 calories from mass gainers, a weight gainer carb-to-protein ratio of 2:1 should be sufficient. For those who rely on their weight gainer for a larger percentage of their calories, a higher carb-to-protein ratio may be required.
  • Beware of the bad stuff: Some mass gainers having shockingly high amounts of sugars, cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium. Make sure you read the nutrition labels before buying.
  • Extra supplements / vitamins: Some gainers include glutamine (a branched chain amino acid), creatine (a scientifically proven supplement), or other extra additives to aid you in your muscle building. These can be very beneficial and removes the need to buy supplements separately.
  • Flavors: Weight gainers kinda have a bad reputation of having horrible chalky taste. Although taste preference will vary from person to person, look for a highly rated gainer supplement — usually it means it will have somewhat decent taste. If you can’t stand the taste you can always mix your gainer supplement with something else like chocolate powder, or make a smoothie with it. Just beware of the calories you add.
  • Mixability: Look for a gainer that mixes into your beverage of choice easily with a spoon of shaker. The gainer will taste better and will be more convenient to have on the go since you won’t need a blender to mix it.
  • Value: If you are serious about getting big you are going to go through many bags of mass gainer powder. Look for a product that has good value (i.e not the cheapest!), because you will be buying a lot of it! Buying a large bag from Amazon.com is usually the best way to go, most 10 lb bags go for about $40-$70

Do Mass Gainers Really Work?

Yes, if taken in addition to a balanced high calorie diet whilst undergoing a vigorous resistance training program.

There is nothing magical about mass gainers. They do not provide any nutritional advantage over a well balanced caloric intake from food alone. Mass gainers are merely a convenient way of getting extra calories for those who struggle or lack the time to get these calories from food. But for some, this convenience can be crucial to their muscle building goals.

Are Weight Gainers Bad for You?

The main bone of contention when regarding the health value of mass gainers rests on the carb source inside most weight gainer supplements: maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin is a flavorless polysaccharide carb that mimics dextrose (a type of sugar). While there is nothing inherently bad about maltodextrin, it does have a high glycemic index, which means that these calories get digested and injected into the bloodstream very quickly. This is no problem if you consume your weight gainer shake right after your workout, as the calories are used up in your recovery. However, taking a large amount of maltodextrin when there is no immediate need for the calories may lead to some unwanted fat gains.

Other things to check before buying a mass gainer supplement include: cholesterol, sodium, and sugars.

Can I make my own Weight Gainer?

Sure! 

You just need to combine a protein supplement (Whey Protein Concentrate works well) and mix it with some sort of complex carbohydrate source that can be powdered or blended well. These complex carbs could be:

  • Oat flour/blended oats
  • Potato flour
  • Rice flour
  • maltodextrin

I recommend using oat flour if you can find it, though blending oats in your blender or coffee grinder can work too. Oats are complex carbs and have a fair amount of fiber (4g / 100 g).

The only problem with going down the homemade route is the fact that a lot of these carbohydrates don’t mix so well in shakes. In these situations I would recommend diluting your homemade weight gainer with a higher volume of your beverage to avoid an overly chunky shake.

BOTTOMLINE: You can make your own weight gainer, just add carbs to a protein shake. But if you want something not so chalk/chunky, buy a weight gainer.

Top 3 Recommended Best Weight Gainer Supplements

1. Optimum Nutrition: Pro Complex Gainer

ON Pro complex gainer supplement

 Nutrition Breakdown

  • Calories per serving: 650
    • 85 g carb
    • 60 g protein
    • 8 g fat
  • Other
    • 20% DV Cholesterol
    • 20% DV Saturated Fat
    • 6 g sugar

The ON Pro Gainer Complex is a premium mass gainer supplement for those who want a balanced high-quality product.

Many mass gainer supplements on the market today are pumped full of excess carbohydrates, sugars, and alarmingly high levels of cholesterol or saturated fats. The ON Pro Gainer complex stands out from the rest because it contains a high percentage of protein while keeping bad things like cholesterol and saturated fats to a minimum, which is important if you are planning to take this supplement everyday.

The ON Pro Gainer Complex also contains a large number of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which dispels the need to take additional multivitamins. It mixes quite well with any beverage and comes in a variety of flavors.

Pricewise, this ON mass gainer is a little on the pricey side, but I believe that if you are planning on consuming this product everyday, it is well-worth the investment to buy something of higher quality during your bulking phase.

2. Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

ON Serious Mass Gainer is AWESOME!

Nutrition Breakdown

  • Calories per serving: 1250
    •  252 g carb
    • 50 g protein
    • 3.5 g fat
  • Other
    • 27% DV cholesterol
    • 10% DV saturated fat
    • 23 g sugar
  • Bonus
    • Creatine Monohydrate
    • Vitamins and Minerals

ON Serious Mass is by far the most popular mass gainer supplement on the market today — and with good reason. For those who need add a lot of calories to their daily intake, say no more, ON serious mass delivers with an absolutely massive 1250 calories per serving.

The carb-to-protein ratio is about 5:1 which is quite high, so make sure to adjust your remaining food calorie breakdown accordingly. Amazingly, the ON Serious Mass only has 3.5 g of fat per serving, making it one of the lowest fat weight gainers on the market. It is also fairly low in cholesterol and saturated fats.

High mixability and universally liked taste makes consuming these calories a pleasure instead of a chalky / chunky hassle.  ON Serious mass also has added creatine monohydrate, which is a muscle building supplement that has robust scientific evidence for bodybuilding. On top of that, this supplement has nearly all your daily requirements for micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)

While chocolate is the standard, ON Serious Mass gainer comes in variety of other flavors such as vanilla, banana, and strawberry.

At about $47 for a 12 pound bag on Amazon.com, this is one of cheapest and fastest ways you can get a quality 1250 calories into your body.

3. Dymatize Nutrition Super Mass Gainer

Dymatize Nutrition Mass Gainer

Nutritional Breakdown

  • Calories per serving: 1280
    • 252 g carbs
    • 52 g protein
    • 10 g fat
  • Other
    • 12% DV cholesterol
    • 15% DV saturated fat
    • 19 g sugar
  • Bonus
    • Creatine added
    • Zytrix digestive enzyme 

The Dymatize Nutrition Super Mass Gainer is a supplement designed for someone who needs a huge boost in daily caloric intake — without taking on too much fat, sugar, or cholesterol. Coming in at a whopping 1280 calories per serving (2 massive scoops ~ 338 g) this mass gainer makes achieving caloric targets a breeze. If you are significantly underweight and want to gain weight fast, or have an extremely busy schedule that limits time for cooking and eating, then this supplement could be for you.

The Super Mass gainer also has a couple extra additives: Creatine monohydrate, a supplement with a lot of scientifically proven benefits for bodybuilding, and an enzyme blend that claims to help with the digestion of this massive meal-in-liquid-form. The carb-to-protein ratio is about 5:1, which is quite high, so remember to adjust your remaining calories accordingly (higher protein).

Mixability of this mass gainer is mediocre if only using a spoon so a shaker cup or a blender is highly recommended.

At about $42 for a massive 12 lb bag on Amazon.com, it is one of the most cost-effective (and convenient) ways to add over 1000+ calories to your daily total.

Summary

In addition to a balanced diet and intense resistance training, mass gainer supplements can help achieve your muscle mass gaining goals. Choose wisely, and choose quality! Also remember not to overdo it, otherwise you will have a lot of extra unwanted fat that you will have to work off later at the end of your bulking phase. 

Make sure you also read our mega-guide on the best pre workout supplement if you want to maximize your performance in the gym!