Last updated: March, 2020
Are you struggling to build more muscle mass? There comes a point where you simply feel like you can’t add any more meat to your frame.
The vast majority of people find themselves in this situation at some point – especially if you’ve got a “fast metabolism” or you’re a skinny guy by nature. Gaining weight is a more difficult process than losing it, so it can be worth looking into nutritional interventions.
Simply put, you’re not taking in enough calories relative to the amount you’re burning on a day-to-day basis. Protein and carbs are crucial to the muscle-building process, making for the best calorie-source to gain weight as high-quality muscle mass.
So, will a mass gainer or weight gainer change that? What’s the best mass gainer for skinny guys? Is a weight gainer better than a protein powder?
If you are asking yourself any of those questions and you are looking for the best mass gainer on the market, read on and all will become clear.
- Top 5 High-Calorie Mass Gainers (>1000 calories)
- Top 5 Best Lean Mass Gainers (< 650 calories)
- What is a mass gainer?
- What to look for when buying the best mass gainer/ weight gainer?
- Benefits of Mass Gainer
- Frequently asked questions about mass gainers
- Protein powder vs. mass gainer
- How to use mass gainer?
- Are mass gainers a source of quality calories?
- How many servings are there in a mass gainer?
- When to take mass gainer?
- Mass gainer for breakfast?
- Mass gainer before or after workout?
- Mass gainer before bed?
- Mass gainer on rest days?
- Mass gainer for lactose intolerant?
- Mass gainer with water or milk?
- Does mass gainer work?
- Does mass gainer make you fat?
- How long should I take mass gainer?
- Can I take weight gainer without working out?
- Final Thoughts
Top 5 High-Calorie Mass Gainers (>1000 calories)
These products are for you if you want to put on serious size and don’t have a problem with a calorie-heavy mass-gainer shake. This means you’re going to be taking in more calories than normal, so this might not suit you if you’re a smaller human or you struggle with body fat.
The supplements in this list are best fitted for people who don’t have the time to eat more than 3 meals a day or just can’t seem to gain weight.
So, if you’re looking to gain weight fast you may want to look at one of these top 5 mass gainers. Make sure to read until for the very end where we pick our best weight gainer for skinny guys.
These gainers contain 1,200 to 2,000 kcal per serving. Pay attention to the label: one serving usually means 2-4 scoops, not just one! Additionally, if you’re preparing your mass gainer with milk instead of water (a common way of gaining extra weight) you are actually looking at around 1,500 – 2,500 kcal per shake.
1. Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
Unquestionably the most popular product on the market, ON’s Serious Mass is a juggernaut in the mass-gainer market. Each serving will get you 1,250 kcal with 50g of protein and 252g of carbs.
If you are keeping an eye out on your sugar, you should know that Serious Mass contains 20 grams of it per serving. The carb amount on this product is quite high and has its benefits when it comes to rebalancing muscle fuel after a workout and providing the raw materials for muscle growth.
Because of the super-high calorie content, this product will help you gain weight. There’s no way to add 1250 calories to your diet and not see any changes. However, the taste is not up there.
Optimum Nutrition didn’t really nail the taste with neither one of the flavors it seems. There are much better products out there from this point of view.
Another drawback of Serious Mass is the packaging: many users have reported getting punctured or even ripped bags, to the point where the product was practically-useless. This is a serious concern with Serious Mass and ON’s commitment to quality assurance.
The problem with Serious Mass – and many of its competitors – is the reliance on high-GI, refined carbohydrates to add calories. These are often considered “bad” carbs and can really heighten your overall sugar intake – 252g of which can bring real risks.
2. BNS True Mass 1200
Sitting at 1,230 kcal per serving, this weight gainer contains 50g of protein, 222g of carbs and 16 grams of fat.
It’s quite close to ON Serious Mass, the only noticeable difference being that you get slightly fewer carbs and more fat. Given the concerns we’ve raised about low-quality carbs in mass gainers, this is a great change.
222g of carbs is more than enough to replenish the glycogen stores into the muscles even after a super intense workout. Just like the Serious Mass, many of the carbs are coming from Maltodextrin which can be a challenge for those with diabetes concerns – or if it’s used incorrectly.
Overall, True Mass does its job and provides the calories and macronutrient balance to put it ahead of Serious Mass.
You can mix it with water or milk, but it will get chunky and thick either way you do it. The taste is a little bit funny as well – perhaps predictably – so keep that in mind before buying.
3. Dymatize Super Mass Gainer
This one will be around 1,300 kcal if you mix it with water and almost 1,900 if you use skimmed milk.
All these calories are coming from 2 scoops: 52g of protein, 254g of carbohydrates and 10g fats. This means a similar macro profile to Serious Mass with a few extra calories (due in large part to the added fat content).
Additionally, this weight gainer contains 1,5 grams of creatine per serving which we find a little bit odd. This is a stand-alone supplement, but it provides an additional boost to your ability to build muscle, repair after training, and even boosts the absorption of the carbs in this product.
Super Mass Gainer is fairly hard to mix and, when you do manage to mix it, it’s very thick. This is predictable but can be a real challenge to choke it down.
The taste is not really what you would expect either. No wonder several users reported that they have a hard time drinking these shakes. On the other hand, what did you expect from a 1300 calorie drink?
4. Naked Mass
Naked Mass is the weight gainer with the lowest fat content. A serving (which is 4 scoops) contains just 2.5 grams of fat. This leaves more room for carbs and protein – so we have 252g of carbohydrate and 50g of protein. This adds up to 1,250 kcal, which is right in the middle.
Naked Mass try to position themselves as a healthier product with fewer shady ingredients. First off it is super low on sodium and sugars when compared to the competition – that alone is already a big advantage.
Then, they are also a little bit more careful about the types of carbohydrates they are using. Therefore, instead of wheat-based simple carbs, you get gluten-free organic tapioca Maltodextrin which is a lower-GI, unprocessed carb complex. If you are looking for a healthier mass gainer alternative this could be on your shortlist.
The only substantial downside is the taste which is not any better than any of the products reviewed above – but it’s also not worse.
5. MuscleTech Mass Tech Extreme 2000
From a nutritional value point of view, this is hands-down the best mass gainer for skinny guys. Mass Tech Extreme is the highest calorie mass gainer on our top 5 list. The reason for this is that a serving contains 6 scoops – 499g. That is a lot of powder to drink in one sitting, so good luck.
This massive serving has 1,830 calories that are coming from 63g of protein, 384g of carbs and just 5g of fat. These numbers are outrageous -many people don’t eat this much through the entire day!
Which leads us to the major problem of this product – it will fill you up really fast and you will most likely have a hard time drinking this gargantuan shake. But if you do, you are very likely to notice weight gain right away. A boost of almost 2,000 calories is definitely going to show!
The ingredients list doesn’t really show any sign of worry aside from the sheer size of the carb load you’re going to see in this product. There’s also a concern that this amount of protein is going to be too much for a single serving, as you can only absorb 0.4-0.55g of protein per kilo of bodyweight.
Tasting is the same old issue as in all weight gainer products, so we’re not concerned.
Top 5 Best Lean Mass Gainers (< 650 calories)
Moving on to more manageable amounts of powder and calories, in this section we have included our top 5 best lean mass gainers. These are also a good choice if you’re looking to create a moderate surplus or rely on primarily-dietary changes.
These are weight gainers which will put you in a mild caloric surplus with the purpose of helping you gain lean muscle mass rather than just gaining maximum mass. The macro split on these products will be significantly different as well and the actual quantity of powder you need to drink is more manageable and overall carb intake is lower.
1. Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer
This supplement is one of the highest in caloric content – 650 calories coming from 60g of protein, 85g of carbs and 8g of fat. That’s a good split right there: the high protein content will help muscle repair and growth, while the carb content is decent enough to fuel your workouts.
Looking at the label, unfortunately, we see Maltodextrin popping up again at the top of the list. So, if you have a problem with consuming highly processed carbs you might want to keep looking for a different product.
The taste and flavor are way better than the high-calorie mass gainers we reviewed above. It mixes very well with water or milk – it is not super thick either, so you can even throw a banana in there if you want some extra calories.
2. BSN True Mass
True Mass will give you slightly more calories per serving but less protein. Each serving has 700 calories which are made of just 46g of protein, 90g of carbs and 17g of fat. Even though the split is not bad, we would’ve liked to see a little bit more protein in there.
On the other hand, the carbs are coming from more healthy sources when compared to most of the competition, so that’s a major thumbs up. It’s an effective weight gainer and it will work well for skinny guys who are looking to put on some size, but there are a couple of downsides to it as we’re going to see.
The taste is not nearly as good as Optimum Nutrition’s Pro Gainer, with a very artificial flavor. On top of that, they seem to have used extra sugar in a failed attempt to try to make it taste better.
3. Universal Nutrition Real Gains
We really like the nutritional information on this one. Per serving, you will get 53 grams of protein, 84 grams of carbs and just 6 grams of fat. All this adds up to 602 calories. Given the high protein content, if you want to put on lean muscle this one should on your short list.
The ingredients quality is pretty average, you get some Maltodextrin in there and some added sugar. So even though it seems to be just a little bit cleaner, it is definitely not all natural. The taste and flavor seem to be better than most weight gainers. It mixes well with pretty much any kind of liquid and it doesn’t get too thick.
Most users have reported weight gain, so if you keep good track of your calories it will work. After all, it’s all about calories in.
4. Muscle Milk Gainer
This is one of the best low-sugar mass gainers you can get your hands on. One serving contains only 5g of sugar – but more on that later on.
Speaking of servings, you will get 650 calories coming from just 32g of protein, 110g of carbs and 9g of fat. As you can see, it is fairly low on protein and very high in carbs. This works well if you have a hard time eating enough carbs on a day to day basis. But you will definitely need to supplement with a protein powder as well or get plenty from your diet.
Unfortunately, Maltodextrin is at the top of the ingredients list with this product as well. No wonder though: those 110 grams of carbs have to come from somewhere. Health-wise we would say this product is below average as it contains a lot of highly processed nutrients with an overall lack of protein.
The taste and flavour are about average, not better nor worse than main of the competition.
5. CytoSport CytoGainer
Last on our best lean mass gainer list, we have a product manufactured in the USA. First of all, look at the macros split of this one: 54 grams of protein, 74 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat. That’s the perfect lean mass gaining split right there. Plenty of protein to help muscle growth, enough carbs to get you going in the gym and just enough fat. All that sums up to 560 calories per serving.
So, in terms of effectiveness, there is no doubt that this product works really well if you are following a strict training regimen.
The ingredients are pretty much average, but only the fact that the protein to carb ratio is higher makes the product a bit healthier as the Maltodextrin content will be lower.
The taste and flavour are pretty decent if you are patient enough to properly mix it in your beverage – though it responds best to blending. Definitely better than most similar products.
What is a mass gainer?
Before we start though, let’s get one thing out of the way. As the name suggests, mass gainers or weight gainers are supplements which are packed with outrageous amounts of calories and are supposed to help you build more muscle mass. Or at least this is how most of the sales pitches sound.
Basically, a mass gainer is simply food in a powder-like form. A mass gainer shake can easily replace a meal. It will get you plenty of macronutrients and some of the products even contain some micronutrients as well.
Pay attention though, sometimes these supplements include highly processed ingredients. But if you watch the label carefully you can spot them a mile away and stay away from them.
What to look for when buying the best mass gainer/ weight gainer?
Formulation / Ingredients
One thing that we need to make clear right from the very start is that most weight gainer or mass gainer supplements are quite similar. The main difference between one brand or another is the quality of the ingredients that make up the powder. This will determine the effectiveness, the taste, water solubility, and of course the cost.
Ideally, you want to choose a weight gainer which is high in complex carbs, low on sugar, low on sodium and contains less processed ingredients (such as Maltodextrin and Dextrose). These last two ingredients tend to pop up a lot in this kind of product, unfortunately.
You will notice that there’s a pretty wide range you can choose from.
Mass gainer powders range from just 500 kcal to 2,000 kcal per serving. But if you take a closer look at the product information sheet, you will see that this really wide range does not actually represent a better caloric density when you consider serving size/number.
It simply comes from more grams of powder per serving. Some vendors advertise one serving as being 2 scoops, some 4 or even 6 scoops. These aren’t small scoops like the ones you use for your creatine. No, these are big-ass scoops containing up to 100 grams of powder.
The takeaway point here is to look at the caloric density rather than just at the caloric content per serving. That can be misleading and seriously affects the value-for-money of any product.
The main goal of weight gainer is to provide plenty of calories.
It makes perfect sense to be rich in both carbs and protein. It’s perfectly OK to see carbs as the top macro on the list, but there should be at least half as much protein in there in any mass gainer.
If you are using a high-calorie mass gainer, the split is going to be significantly different with the carbs going as high as 250 or even 300 grams while the proteins are at 50 grams or so.
Many weight gainers are very high in carbs simply because carbs are cheaper and offer a lower production cost. The best weight gainer for you is the one with the higher protein content. These are higher quality calories and will support muscular development better.
Micronutrients & fiber
In addition to carbs, protein, and fats, some weight gainers will include some vitamins, minerals, fiber and BCAAs. Ideally, you want to have one of those in your cart rather than a mass gainer which is full of useless, low-quality calories and doesn’t provide any additional, healthy micronutrients.
A balanced diet should include plenty of dietary fiber, lots of fruits and vegetables and so should a mass gainer. After all, you will be using these products in the same way as an extra or replacement meal, so you want it to be just as nutritious.
Taste & flavor
Almost all mass gainers taste pretty bad.
That is the blunt truth. Opting for one which has a tolerable to pleasant taste with good flavor reviews is pretty important. You don’t want to drink a gallon of thick, nasty liquid each day. Making the right choice on your mass gainer is going to make a big change to your overall experience with weight-gain.
Better products will be more expensive.
There is no such thing as cheap protein, so you can’t really expect mass gainers to be cheap either. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for.
Not everyone has the money to go for the most expensive products, but don’t race to get the cheapest product on the market. This will only mean worse taste and worse nutritional value.
If you can’t afford a mid-priced mass gainer, you might be better off with just food or you can try making your own mass gainer shakes at home.
Benefits of Mass Gainer
There’s no argument: using weight gainers is beneficial, especially if you are underweight or maybe you have a healthy weight, but you just want to get more muscular
In this section, we are going to outline some of the most important benefits for which you should consider including a mass gainer supplement to your diet.
1. Meet your caloric needs
People who are engaged in high-intensity physical activities will need to meet a much higher caloric intake to keep up with their lifestyle. It could be a sport or simply a day job which involved a lot of physical activity, but recovery is one of the best reasons to supplement a mass gainer alongside your existing diet.
If you need 4,000 calories a day, for example, you will definitely benefit from using a mass gainer.
2. Gain weight
Underweight people who have a hard time catching up with their high metabolic rate are another will also benefit from using a mass gainer.
Gaining weight requires a caloric surplus and when you don’t seem to be able to get it from your food alone, having 1 or 2 weight gainer shakes a day is something you may want to consider.
3. Great post-workout boost
After your training, protein synthesis is heightened and replacing damaged muscle/lost carbohydrates is key to maximizing recovery and growth.
Having a big post-workout meal will be beneficial for muscle growth and mass gainer is no exception to that rule.
The best mass gainer shake is very rich in calories, protein, and carbs, making it a perfect choice for post-workout nutrition.
4. Replenish glycogen stores
Glycogen is the fuel used by the muscles during many physical activities.
This means that pretty much any weight lifting activity will rely on the glycogen inside the muscles either directly or indirectly. Carbs are broken down by the body and used to store the glycogen in the muscles. This is then used to produce ATP – the high-energy fuel used by muscles for high-effort exercise.
All mass gainers are very rich in carbs, which will help replenish glycogen stores inside the muscles. It will make your workouts better and carbs are directly involved in growth processes. This means more muscle growth.
5. Blend of minerals, vitamins & fibers
Even though most people look at mass gainers only from a calorie-density and macronutrient point of view, there is more to them than just that. Well, at least to the good products.
Besides the carbs, proteins, and fats, many of the weight gainer supplements out there are packed with healthy micronutrients as well as dietary fiber to help with digestion and metabolism.
If you get a mass-gainer with additional nutritional support, you’re not only getting a boost of calories, but also more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
6. It’s convenient
A mass gainer can be a convenient food-alternative to help you fill in your macros and calories.
This is especially true in instances where you find yourself short on time and can’t prepare your food for the day – or maybe you’re traveling, and cooking doesn’t fit your schedule.
In these situations, a quality mass gainer can be the perfect solution for anyone who wants to stay on top of their diet – something that might be impossible otherwise.
Frequently asked questions about mass gainers
Whenever the words “mass gainer” or “weight gainer” get tossed around, a lot of question pop up. We’re going to briefly answer some of the most common down below.
Protein powder vs. mass gainer
These are two totally different products so you can’t really substitute one with the other.
If your main goal is to get in more calories and get much bigger then a mass gainer will suit you better.
Protein powders are very low in caloric content – you will get in just around 100 kcal per serving which is just a tiny fraction of what a weight gainer will supply. Protein powders are used simply to fill up your protein needs and that’s pretty much it. Yes, that will help you maintain or grow your muscle mass, but it will not help you grow as much as a mass gainer would.
How to use mass gainer?
All mass gainer supplements come with detailed instructions on how they’re used.
The best option is to check the instructions provided by the vendor and follow those, but there are some rules of thumb to keep in mind.
Generally speaking, you can mix the powder with water or milk – plant or animal. You want to try and keep it as thin as possible for the sake of taste, so consider drinking more volume of liquid rather than just a single shake – more often is better than just more powder.
Are mass gainers a source of quality calories?
This is a pretty important question.
Some are, some aren’t: you can check for yourself by looking at the label, but we’ve covered some of this in the reviews above.
You want your calories to come from clean whey or casein proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
Signs of low-quality calories include too much sugar and simple or highly-processed carbs. After all, a calorie is not just a calorie when it comes to health, even if they count equally towards fat loss/muscle gain.
How many servings are there in a mass gainer?
The thing about mass gainers is that the scoops are really large and most of the times the servings are 2-4 scoops. This adds up to 300-400 grams of powder per serving. That is a huge amount of powder and you’ll burn through kilos of powder very quickly.
Even though the weight gainer supplement packs are huge, so are the servings.
The average mass gainer supplement will contain around 16 servings so, if you take just one serving per day, that’s about two weeks’ worth of product. Don’t let the big bag fool you.
When to take mass gainer?
It doesn’t really make such a big difference, but if you want to be very strict with it, the best time to drink your mass gainer shake will be post-workout.
Your body undergoes into an anabolic state post workout and you are going to get more bang for your buck during that time. That anabolic state will last for several hours, though, so you don’t need to choke on your weight gainer in the locker room.
Alternatively, you can simply drink your weight gainer between meals or when you don’t have the appetite to eat real food. The versatility is one of the biggest selling points.
Mass gainer for breakfast?
If you have a full day ahead of you and don’t know when you‘ll have time to eat – why not?
Mass gainer before or after workout?
Definitely not before your workout!
These shakes are enormous, and most people will feel bloated after drinking it. Unless you want to kill your entire workout, don’t have your mass gainer before training.
As mentioned above, you will benefit from the advantages of the increased protein synthesis post-workout and you are more likely to optimize your recovery and muscular development this way.
Mass gainer before bed?
It is definitely not a bad idea, especially if you have a super-fast metabolism and a low body fat. We know that insulin level drops when we don’t eat anything for more than a few hours. When insulin level drops the body picks up that signal and knows that you are running low on energy.
Knowing that it can go after stored body fat or muscle mass as a source of energy. Getting in enough calories before bed will prevent that. Make sure that you take mass gainer at least 1 hour before bed.
Mass gainer on rest days?
Ideally, you want to try to get as many calories as you can from food, rather than a supplement. Considering that your caloric need is not as high on your rest days, you would be better off with just food. However, if you are not able to meet your caloric needs for your rest days either, then a mass gainer shake is recommended.
Maybe use half of serving instead of a full serving, depending on how many calories you need to get in from your supplement.
Mass gainer for lactose intolerant?
People with lactose intolerance can still drink weight gainer shakes depending on the product and the source of protein.
Our advice is to either acquire sample products and try them yourself or simply opt for a vegan mass-gainer product. These exist on the market and are effectively very similar to the regular dairy-based products.
There are plenty of lactose intolerant users who use mass gainers with no issues, so chances are you can too – whichever method you choose.
Mass gainer with water or milk?
This will depend on personal preference. If you are a milk person and you want to add even more calories to your shake, you can definitely use milk.
On the other hand, mass gainers are usually really thick and relatively hard to mix. Using milk instead of water will make your shake even thicker and harder to blend. You will probably need to use larger amounts of milk and an electric blender to get the right consistency.
You can also use water to reduce the lactose content of your shake – especially important if you’re not familiar with high-dairy products or you have digestive problems with them.
Does mass gainer work?
It sure does if you know how to use it.
However, if you actually take the time and go through what people have to say about weight gainers, you will notice that there are quite a few who are saying that they don’t see any results. It is fair to ask if these products are a scam or not.
Gaining or losing weight is simply about calories in versus calories out. So as long as you are meeting your daily caloric needs, any mass gainer product will work. Period. But you need to be 100% sure you are doing it right. Before questioning the product, make sure you have all these things in check:
- You know exactly how many calories you need to gain weight
- You know exactly how many calories you eat
- You meet your caloric needs every day (not just some days)
- You are in a caloric surplus
The reason that these people don’t see results is likely because the rest of their diet is not well-balanced or suitable for the goal of weight gain. Remember: mass-gainers will not magically make you grow, they simply contribute to the calorie-surplus process.
Does mass gainer make you fat?
It can make you fat if you overuse it.
Just as too much food makes you fat, too much mass gainer can get you fat as well. There is one easy way to make sure that the weight you gain by using these types of products is actually the kind of weight you want (muscle mass). Here’s what you need to do.
Evaluate your caloric needs and plan your diet (meals + supplements) so that you achieve a mild caloric surplus of roughly 10% above your maintenance level. For most people that means just about 300-400 kcal surplus.
Those specific numbers provide a starting point for weight gain and ensure that you’re heading in the right direction. If you find that you’re not gaining weight or you’re gaining too much weight – specifically as fat – reduce your intake. It’s really that simple.
How long should I take mass gainer?
It depends on where you are and where you want to go, when it comes to your weight.
Theoretically speaking you need to take it at least until you reach your desired weight. Ideally, you want to gain weight at a rate of no more than 2 pounds per month. This way you minimize fat gain while building adequate muscle.
You know your target goal, so do the math and be willing to take a break from the weight-gain process every so often.
Can I take weight gainer without working out?
Most of the times sedentary people need weight gainers only if they are severely underweight. If that is your care, the best course of action would be to consult a physician and get a professional opinion on whether you should use a weight gainer supplement or not.
For those of you who are still a little bit confused about which mass gainer to pick, please allow us to make some suggestions.
If you are in a severe caloric deficit on a day by day basis, you want to look at a high-calorie mass gainer. Our top pick from this category is the Naked Mass supplement. It will give you 1,250 caloric boost per serving. It is full of nutritious, healthy macros which will support muscle growth and enhance athletic performance.
On the other hand, if you plan on following a lean bulk diet and you just need to take a few hundreds more calories from supplementation, our recommendation is the BNS True Mass. A serving will get you around 700 extra calories, a good amount of protein and high-quality complex carbs.
Just as mentioned in the very beginning of this guide, the number one thing to look at is the quality of the calories, and that is exactly how we made our selection.
Last update on 2020-03-31 UTC -5 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API - Details