Mass gaining supplements are very popular with bodybuilders because they offer maximal recovery from intense workouts, and help provide enough calories to gain muscle. Common protein sources include whey, casein, soy and/or plant based proteins. There are no “standard” fat sources per say, but many companies prefer flax. The carbohydrates almost always come from either dextrose, maltodextrin or waxy maize (or some sort of combination of the three).
Best Mass Gainer
1. Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer offers one of the purest, and most effective, muscle-building and weight-gaining formulas available.
Packed with everything you need to increase your lean muscle mass, Transparent Labs Mass Gainer provides 53 grams of protein (derived from 100% Grass-Fed Whey Concentrate), 750 calories, and 109 grams of clean, natural, and effective carbohydrate sources per serving. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. MHP Up Your Mass XXXL
MHP’s new UYM XXXL 1350 is a nutrient-dense weight gainer loaded with 1350 muscle-building calories to create the perfect metabolic and hormonal environment for maximum results. Each serving provides 50g of fast-acting and sustained release protein to help you build muscle mass, increase strength and boost recovery.
This highly advanced protein matrix of Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, and Hydrolyzed Whey Protein, plus slow-digesting proteins, Micellar Casein, and Milk Protein, provides both fast and long-term nitrogen retention benefits. Mass load complex carbs deliver 250g of complex carbs (Micronparticulated Maltodextrin, Sweet Potato, Oat Fiber, and Quinoa) and functional fats such as MCTs, EFAs, and CLA.
3. Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
With 1,250 calories per serving and 50 grams of protein for muscle recovery support, this powder makes the ideal post-workout and between meals shake for sizing up your goals. Serious Mass provides you with the tools you need to pack on the pounds and help you develop the physique you’ve always wanted.
Per serving it contains 1250 calories, including 50g of protein, over 250 grams of carbohydrates and 25 vitamins and minerals.
4. Legion Athletics Atlas
Atlas is a weight gainer supplement that provides a high-quality blend of whey isolate and casein proteins, nutritious food-based carbohydrates and fats, and 26 micronutrients, enzymes, and probiotics that help you feel and perform your best.
Atlas is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and contains no chemical dyes, cheap fillers, or other unnecessary junk.
5. Isopure Mass
Isopure Mass is fully loaded: 86 grams of carbs, 600 calories and 53 grams of 100% pure whey protein isolate. All while being lactose and gluten-free, and tasty, too—not too sweet, not too thick. But most importantly, it’s easy to drink. It will help gain brawn without feeling bulky.
Isopure Mass has 4.9 grams of naturally occurring L-Glutamine and 11.5 g naturally occurring BCAA’s per serving. The microfiltration process used to create Isopure is so complete that it is the only completely clear whey protein when it is dissolved in water.
6. Rivalus Clean Gainer
With a killer combo of full-spectrum proteins, eight energizing carb sources, and essential fats, Rivalus Clean Gainer is high-octane nutrition (over 560 calories worth) that fuels the intense needs of world-class athletes as well as those who aspire to be.
Factor in the fact that it contains no banned substances, and it’s a big winner.
7. BSN True-Mass
The formula behind True-Mass features an approximately 2-to-1 ratio of workout-fueling carbohydrates to muscle-building protein, with 90 grams of carbs per serving and 50 grams of protein at 700 calories.
Plus, they’ve included 6g of dietary fiber per serving and Medium Chain Triglycerides to round out the nutritional value of each shake and complement the legendary great taste from BSN. Used post-workout, between meals and/or before bed, True-Mass can fuel your recovery from heavy training while providing the nutrients your body needs to keep on building.
8. Naked Mass
Naked Mass has combined Naked Whey, Naked Casein, and organic tapioca maltodextrin to deliver the optimal ratio of clean source multi-phase protein and complex carbohydrates to gain and maintain lean mass.
Instead of using inferior wheat-based maltodextrins, Naked Mass’s maltodextrin comes from organic tapioca which is naturally gluten-free. Naked Nutrition is committed to shortening the steps between our farms and you.
9. Dymatize Super Mass Gainer
Super Mass Gainer is a high-quality mass and size gainer that is loaded with enough protein, BCAAs, calories, and other nutrients to help even the hardest gainers pack on mass and size. Unlike many other mass gainers out there, Super Mass Gainer also tastes delicious and has amazing mixability.
Super Mass Gainer is a powerhouse combination of 10.9 grams of BCAAs with 5.2 grams of Leucine. Super Mass Gainer also has a blend of vitamins and minerals to aid in balanced nutrition.
10. MuscleTech Mass Tech
Mass-Tech supplies the macronutrients and muscle building ingredients you need to help you gain mass, size and strength! Whether you’re stuck in a frustrating growth plateau or you just have a hard time putting on size. Mass-Tech has all the muscle building power you need to pack on slabs of new mass.
How We Rank
When looking at mass gainers, there were many factors to consider to weed out the worst from the best. The first, and arguably the most important requirement was calorie content.
Since calories are a key component to weight gain, it was imperative that any mass gainer worth their weight packed in serious calories. Our minimum requirement was 500 per serving. However, we ranked supplements like ON Serious Mass and UPM 1350 high because they provided more than 1000 calories per serving.
The second thing we looked at was the quality of the ingredients. While popular, products like Mutant Mass, contained simple sugars with no nutritional value, like maltodextrin, as their first ingredient, effectively eliminating them from rankings. Other brands that didn’t make the list used cheap fats like canola oil and creamers or a variety of other fillers and chemicals that you can’t even pronounce.
The third thing we looked at was micronutrient and vitamin additions. Most products lack sufficient amounts of the vital micronutrients your body needs to look, feel, and perform its best, so it was fairly easy to find the best of the best after this round. One of our top picks Atlas contains 21 different important micronutrients that many people are deficient in; especially active individuals.
The last thing we looked at was mixability and taste. While the taste wasn’t normally an issue, mixability was. We wanted a product that didn’t clump and feel like you were drinking expired milk.
After all that, we came up with our top mass gainers list you see above.
1. Mass gainers can help build muscle faster. This benefit is probably the most obvious one and is the most common reason why people take mass gainers.
A 2013 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that “no further beneficial actions of carbohydrates, irrespective of GI, are evident concerning muscle hypertrophy when a protein supplement that maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis is ingested” (1).
But just because a protein and carbohydrate supplement does not perform better than a protein supplement, does not mean that the protein and carbohydrate supplement will perform worse. In fact, most mass gainers contain much more protein per serving than a normal whey protein shake – which could help increase protein synthesis.
A 2007 study found that minimal protein (10g) combined with carbohydrates was enough to stimulate protein synthesis, while a typical mass gainer will contain up to 50g of whey protein per serving (2).
Mass gainers that contain creatine can be even more effective at increasing muscle hypertrophy. A 2007 study in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise found that “supplementation with creatine, protein, and carbs was more effective than the carbs and protein combination (3)”.
2. Mass gainers can help enhance recovery from exercise. Muscle glycogen is an essential fuel for intense exercise, whether the exercise is of an aerobic or anaerobic nature. Glycogen synthesis is a relatively slow process, and therefore the restoration of muscle glycogen requires special considerations when there is limited time between training sessions or competition. (4)
Increasing the speed at which muscle glycogen is recovered after exercise could be very helpful for anyone looking to gain mass. Particularly athletes or bodybuilders who are looking to gain size while still competing at a high level during training.
A 2002 study found that a supplement that contained both carbohydrates and protein increased muscle glycogen recovery post-exercise significantly more than control (just carbohydrate drink) (5).
A similar study by Berardi, Price, Noreen, & Lemon (2006) found that a carbohydrate and protein supplement was more effective at enhancing muscle glycogen recovery than a typical carbohydrate drink (6).
A 1992 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology compared a protein shake (40.7g of protein), a carbohydrate drink (112g of carbs), and a protein-carbohydrate blend (40.7g of protein and 112g of carbohydrates), in their effects on muscle glycogen recovery (7).
The study found that the protein and carbohydrate blend produced the best results.
A 2004 study by Saunders, Kane, & Todd looked at the effect of a carbohydrate and protein beverage on cycling endurance and muscle damage (8).
The study found that adding protein to a high carbohydrate drink was more effective at improving time to fatigue and reducing muscle damage. The study was unsure whether this was due to the drink containing higher calories or whether it was the effect of the protein.
A study in 2007 investigated the effects of a carbohydrate and protein supplement on resistance exercise performance and on muscle damage (9).
The study found no difference in performance, but a significant reduction in muscle damage when taking a protein and carbohydrate supplement.
A study on rats found that a post-exercise carbohydrate and protein supplement could increase skeletal muscle glycogen levels (10).
A study in 2000 in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a combination of essential amino acids and carbohydrates was able to increase protein synthesis after a workout (11).
Of course, whey protein alone is incredibly effective at enhancing recovery from exercise. A 2010 study looked at the effect of a proprietary protein supplement on recovery following a resistance workout (12).
Subjects took 42g of protein pre and post-exercise or a placebo. The study found that protein “consumed before and after a resistance training session significantly contributes to improvements in exercise recovery 24 and 48h post-exercise”.
A similar study in 2008 found that a post-exercise protein meal (100g) increased recovery of force and power over 48 hours “suggesting potential for protein as an ergogenic aid during the DOMS period” (13).
Amino acids, which whey protein contains and are also added to many mass gainers, are also excellent for reducing muscle damage. A 2003 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning found that taking an amino acid supplement before a workout could attenuate the reduction of strength and power that occurs due to fatigue (14).
A similar study in 2006 in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism found that amino acid supplementation before training and as part of recovery from training led to a reduction in muscle damage, and a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness (15).
A 2010 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that whey protein helped improve recovery in untrained males who performed unilateral eccentric contraction-based resistance exercise (16).
So, therefore, it requires the best recovery methods.
Remember that there are often many other ingredients present in a mass gaining supplement. Creatine, for example, may not be particularly effective at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness or recovery, but it can replenish creatine levels in the body after a workout and therefore allow you to train hard again in the next session (20, 21).
Overall, a protein and carbohydrate supplement (i.e. almost all mass gainers) seems to be more effective at improving recovery from intense exercise than a protein shake alone. This means that taking a mass gainer can allow you to recover quicker, and keep exercise intensity high throughout your training.
3. Mass gainers can improve exercise performance. Mass gainers are often thought of as a fantastic supplement for building muscle, but can they actually improve performance?
A study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism (2003) examined the effect of a protein and carbohydrate supplement on aerobic performance. The study found that “the addition of protein to a carbohydrate supplement enhanced aerobic endurance performance above that which occurred with carbohydrate alone” (22).
While you might not think of aerobic exercise as useful for someone looking to build mass, you should remember that a poor aerobic capacity can affect weight training.
A 2001 study looked into the effect of whey protein and creatine on muscle mass and bench press performance (23).
The study found that combining whey protein and creatine led to significantly improved bench press results compared to just protein or a placebo.
A 2014 study looked at the effects of a pre and post-workout protein and carbohydrate supplement, it found that protein and carbs “provide benefits during a certain sport-specific performance in trained CrossFit athletes” (24).
A 2007 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that a combination of carbohydrates and protein was more effective than carbohydrate-only supplements for improving cycling performance (25).
The study specifically looked at performance-enhancing gels, which are different from mass gaining supplements, but the science behind their reasoning is still the same.
Another study on cyclists also found that a combination of carbohydrates and protein were effective at increasing time to fatigue during a workout (26).
A 1998 study by Mittleman, Ricci, & Bailey looked at the effects of amino acids on exercise performance during heat stress (27).
The study found that amino acid supplements can “prolong moderate exercise performance in the heat”.
A 2003 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism found that a protein and carbohydrate supplement “enhanced aerobic performance” (28).
A well-known study in 2009 looked at the effects of chocolate milk consumption on exercise (performance and recovery) (29).
Chocolate milk is a combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, just like a mass gaining supplement.
Looking at the available evidence, it seems likely that a mass gaining supplement would help improve exercise performance when compared to a carbohydrate-only supplement, or nothing. Mass gaining supplements that contain creatine are even more effective at this.
4. Mass gainers can improve protein balance. Protein balance is an important aspect of recovery and muscle growth. To maintain the muscle you need to be synthesizing enough protein. To gain muscle you need to have a positive protein balance (consuming more than you are using). Exercise can create a negative protein balance, by using up a lot of protein (30).
Supplementing with protein shakes is a common way to create a positive protein balance.
A study on endurance exercise in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a combination of protein and carbohydrates was more effective than a carbohydrate-only supplement at increasing whole-body net protein balance (31).
Another study in 2004 examined the effect of a protein and carbohydrate supplement on ultra-endurance competitors (32).
The study found that the protein and carbohydrate supplement was effective at increasing net protein balance at rest and during exercise.
A 2009 study by Kumar, Atherton, & Smith in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a combination of protein and carbohydrates was effective at restoring a net protein balance after fasted training (33).
If you are looking to build muscle, or at the very least maintain muscle then you need to increase protein intake after a workout (34).
Mass gainers appear to be very effective at restoring net protein balance – though many of the studies mentioned were comparing a protein and carbohydrate supplement to a carb only supplement. It would have been interesting to see a comparison to a protein-only supplement.
5. Mass gainers can provide healthy nutrition on the go. Mass gainer supplements aren’t necessary if you can get enough calories from food, but some people consider them a convenient addition to a busy lifestyle. Mass gainers provide an easy and delicious way to consume the calories you need so that you support your muscle-building efforts.
Make sure to choose a high-quality mass gainer though, so you aren’t consuming junk on a daily basis.
1. Mass gainers containing creatine can cause gastrointestinal distress – though this can be prevented by managing your dosage.
2. Mass gainers can cause cramping. This can occur when the person taking a creatine infused mass gainer doesn’t increase their water intake (35).
Whey protein and carbohydrates do not have any side effects, though together combined with creatine they could potentially cause gastrointestinal issues.
3. Mass gainers can cause body fat gain. Many people taking mass gainers tend to assume that all the excess calories will automatically turn into muscle. But they will also turn into adipose tissue (unless the person taking it is burning more calories than they are consuming).
Creatine and whey protein are two of the most commonly tested supplements around. Thanks to common misconceptions surrounding both, the public has often believed them to cause kidney issues. Examine.com explains this issue quite well (36):
“Kidney damage (from anything) will cause high levels of creatinine in the blood, and creatine can also increase blood creatinine levels in a manner that is not due to damaging the kidneys. This results in a false positive when trying to diagnose kidney damage when the subject also supplements creatine and does not signify any actual damage to the kidneys”.
4. Mass gainers may play a role in diabetes development. Most mass gainers are filled with high glycemic index carbs. As reported in the scientific journal Diabetes Care, high intakes of high glycemic index foods over long periods of time are associated with the development of insulin resistance, the classic precursor to metabolic syndrome and type two diabetes (37).
5. Mass gainers can cause constipation. Mass gainers may cause constipation due to their high-calorie content and low fiber volume. Research consistently demonstrates that low fiber intake is a risk factor for chronic constipation, and mass gainers are perhaps the epitome of a high calorie, low fiber food (38).
Creatine can be taken in doses up to around 0.3g per kg of body weight during a loading phase, but this could cause the side effects mentioned above (39).
Many studies have found that long term, taking a lower dose is just effective. This would be 0.03g per kg.
Protein intake per day can be anywhere from 1.1-3.1g/kg (lean body mass) per day. There is no upper limit to how much protein can be taken in one meal, so it doesn’t particularly matter how much whey protein you take in a meal or per day.
The recommended dosage for a mass gainer does not depend on health reasons, it comes down to what your weight gain goals are. Take too much and you will start to gain body fat, take too little and you will fail to build enough muscle.
Are mass gainers safe? Mass gainers and protein powders are both commonplace in many a bodybuilder’s supplement arsenal. When used as part of a healthy, balanced diet, they can each be used to help support recovery and aid with muscle building and weight gain.
Do mass gainers only add muscle? No. In combination with a good diet and exercise routine, they can help expedite muscle growth. However, they can also lead to fat gain if used irresponsibly.
What’s the difference between mass gainers and whey protein? Mass gainers contain more calories than regular whey protein. Mass gainers contain larger amounts of carbohydrates and fats to boost your calorie intake.
Can you take a mass gainer with creatine? Yes, the two supplements compliment each other.
Are mass gainer’s vegan? Usually not, but they can be if specified.
Can I overdose on a mass gainer? It is virtually impossible to overdose on a mass gaining supplement. Even if you did, the only consequence would be an upset stomach and maybe some temporary digestive distress.
Do I need to take a mass gainer every day? It depends on your caloric needs as an individual to build muscle. Some people need it twice a day while others can get away with consuming it every other day.
How long will it take before I notice results with a mass gainer? If you use a mass gainer properly and put in the work in the gym, you should start seeing results within the first week or two. One of the great things about muscle building is you get immediate feedback in the way of weight and strength gain. That is, you know you have your diet and training dialed in when you see a steady, weekly increase in both your body weight and whole-body strength. These are the primary indicators that you’re gaining muscle (even if you can’t see it yet in the mirror).
Can I drink a mass gainer if I don’t exercise but need or want to gain weight? Absolutely. If you need to gain weight, then you need to eat more calories, and mass gainers are a fantastic supplement for boosting your caloric intake because of how nutritious the formulation is.
Can I use mass gainers as a meal replacement even if I don’t want to gain weight? As you have to consume more energy than you burn to gain weight, simply drinking a mass gainer every day won’t inherently cause weight gain–it’ll just increase your caloric intake and make your diet more nutritious. From there, so long as you maintain a balance between energy intake and output, you won’t gain weight.
Is a mass gainer good for pre- and post-workout nutrition? The most important aspect of pre- and post-workout nutrition is protein, and more specifically, high-quality protein. Thus, most mass gainers fit the bill perfectly. One serving before or after a workout is all that you need.
How do mass gainers help gain weight or muscle? If you want to build muscle and gain weight as quickly as possible, then you need to eat enough calories. If you don’t, you won’t gain anything to speak of. You need to eat enough high-quality protein as well. Research shows that inadequate protein intake can greatly hinder muscle growth and that some forms of protein are more conducive to it than others. When you combine proper caloric and protein intake with effective training, muscle growth is inevitable. That’s why mass gainers with enough protein and calories can help you gain muscle.
What is a mass gainer? A mass gainer is a supplement that provides protein, carbohydrates and possibly fats with the intention of helping to add muscle mass. It is a high-calorie protein powder aimed at increasing your daily calorie intake to promote weight gain.
Is there a difference between a weight gainer and a mass gainer? Essentially, mass gainers and weight gainers are the same things. They both contain protein and carbs to flood the recipient’s body with extra calories and energy.
How many scoops of mass gainer should you use? It really depends on the product you are using as well the calorie requirements you need to hit your goals. It can range anywhere from 1-10 scoops per day.
Does taking a mass gainer to make you put on fat? No, it does not make you put on fat; however, it does make it easier since you are flooding your body with extra, easy to digest calories.
What are the side effects of mass gainer? High doses can cause some side effects such as increased bowel movements, nausea, thirst, bloating, cramps, reduced appetite, tiredness (fatigue), and headache.
Should I take mass gainer on off days? Yes, you can take mass gainer only once in a day on your rest or off-training day. When you should take your mass gainer can depend on the type of supplement you are using for gaining muscles. You can take it as a pre-workout and post-workout supplement is they often contain minimal fat with high amounts of carbohydrates.
Can I take a mass gainer before a workout? Yes, you can take a mass gainer before a workout. However, it may be a large volume and cause you to feel slightly sluggish in the gym if taken immediately before your training session.
Is a mass gainer the same thing as creatine? While both are aimed at serving the same purpose, they are not the same product. Mass gainers are a mix of protein and carbs to add extra calories to your day so you can build muscle and gain weight. Creatine is a molecule that will help you train harder and longer and thus build more muscle by exertion.
Does creatine cause bloating? Usually no. However, during the loading phase, there tends to be an increase in body weight due to an increase in both muscle mass and water intake into your muscles, which may cause bloating.
Does creatine make your face fat? No, it will not make your face fat. Your muscles will hold onto this water, resulting in bloating or puffiness around your arms, legs, or stomach. Your muscles may even appear bigger, even if you’ve just begun your training. In the first week of taking oral creatine, some people gain about 2 to 4.5 pounds, mainly due to water retention.
How much weight will I gain on creatine? The average weight gain reported in research on adults is 1.5-3.5 pounds in the first week of loading with creatine. Part of the rapid weight gain is due to the additional water that creatine holds in the muscle cells.
What does creatine do to a woman’s body? Creatine is the world’s most effective supplement for adding muscle mass. Taking it for as few as 5–7 days has been shown to significantly increase lean body weight and muscle size.
Mass gainers have a lot of benefits: they can help improve sporting and gym performance, recovery from exercise, protein balance, and lead to muscle hypertrophy (provided that you exercise).
There are no real dangerous side effects to taking mass gainers, however, taking them in excess can lead to fat accumulation and all of the health issues that can be associated with being overweight. They are the perfect way to get good protein and carbs and increase your calories when you are trying to build muscle and fuel performance.
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