Are Weight Gainer Supplements Harmful?


question-icon-newI would really like to gain some weight and get bigger. Ideally, I’d like to pack on about 20 pounds of muscle. I train with weights 3-4 days per week and I’m going to start taking a popular weight gainer supplement that I purchased at my local vitamin store. It’s a huge 5 pound container of powder and I’m supposed to drink it 2-3 times per day. However, I don’t really know that much about nutritional supplements and whether they are good for you. I would like to know if using weight gainers to build muscle mass is going to be harmful to me? Is there anything I need to be aware of before I start drinking these super high calorie weight gainer shakes?

answer-icon-newThe main issue with weight gainers is the high level of “empty calories” that some of these products contain. Empty calories basically means calories that come from solid fats and added sugars along with a bunch of fillers that do not provide your body with the quality nutrients it really needs. Most weight gainers have extremely high levels of refined sugars which cause massive spikes to your insulin levels and will make you gain unwanted body fat versus lean muscle tissue. Even though you might gain weight and bulk up while drinking these weight gainer shakes, the majority of that weight will be accumulated body fat versus lean muscle tissue.

It’s very important to look at the ingredients and read the label on your weight gainer supplement since many of them vary widely with the type of protein, carbs and fats they include in them. Look for protein sources coming from whey and egg protein versus soy protein. Many of these supplements will pump up their fat content in order to get the calories high enough per serving to be considered a true weight gainer, so make sure these are “good fats” coming from Omega-3 sources which help your body and brain in many ways.

Instead of resorting to buying weight gainer supplements which can be expensive, your best option is to focus on eating real food and take advantage of consuming quality nutrients that will help you build lean muscle mass. I highly recommend focusing on eating nutrient dense whole foods that include lean protein sources (chicken breast, egg whites, lean red meat), clean carbohydrates (oatmeal, brown rice, yams, veggies) and healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, peanut butter).

weight-gainers-back-rowIf you don’t have the time to cook and prepare all of your meals, then your best option is to choose a dedicated whey protein powder versus an all-in-one weight gainer supplement. This way you can make a high calorie protein shake with the best ingredients and take it with you to school or to work. Choose a quality protein source like whey which is fast acting and gets to your muscles quickly. You can also mix in nutrient dense whole foods and blend everything up into a delicious muscle building smoothie! Choosing a whey protein powder over a weight gainer supplement has several benefits. First off, you get a much higher quality protein source when buying a dedicated whey protein powder versus an all-in-one weight gainer product. Most of the time weight gainers use cheap proteins in them to increase the profit margin for the companies that are selling them. A whey protein powder provides the actual protein as the main ingredient with very little fat and carbs added to it as opposed to all of the other filler ingredients that weight gainer products have packed inside them like refined sugars and low quality fats.

When making a homemade high protein weight gainer shake, it’s super easy to pump up the calories by adding healthy fats like nuts (almonds, walnuts), all natural peanut butter and flaxseed oil. You can easily increase the total calories by 500-600 with just a few handfuls of nuts or a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter and they both taste amazing. Remember to add healthy carbs from fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, bananas and mangos. Try freezing your fruit for 24 hours before adding them to your blender which is great for adding extra thickness to your smoothie like a milkshake. Another healthy and tasty carb source to add to your weight gainer smoothie is oatmeal. Choose an all natural source with no added sugars and try to pick the “quick oats” style which are smaller oats than the old fashioned style and are much easier to blend. Remember to also add the most important ingredient which is whey protein powder and shoot for 30-50 grams of protein per shake to help support and rebuild muscle tissue.

High Protein Weight Gainer Smoothie Recipe:

  • 2 scoops of whey protein powder
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 cup of oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil
  • 2 cups of milk

Another very important tip is to increase your meals to at least 5 per day and keep your caloric levels high by snacking on quality foods throughout the day. Take a big bag of nuts (almonds, walnuts) or a box of your favorite protein bars with you to school or work so you can have a clean source of calories that are easily accessible to you all day long. By keeping your calories high with nutrient dense whole foods and eating every 2.5 to 3 hours throughout the day, you will supply your muscles with the important macronutrients they need to grow bigger and stronger.

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  1. Those are all great tips! I’m a personal trainer and I’m pretty shredded at 5’8″ and about 170 pounds with a body fat under 10%. However, I find it hard to gain weight, mainly because I’m super active and really don’t eat as much food as I need to (fast metabolism). I’ve tried to bulk up to 180 pounds but it was SO HARD! I sort of got there but it was hard to maintain eating that much and I was doing roughly 3 shakes a day (each roughly 1,200 calories), while eating regular meals. The weight gainers I was taking tasted good, but I know it has a lot of empty calories, fillers and junk as well. So my plan is to eat like you mentioned above, get a good quality whey powder and add my own things like nuts and oats to get cleaner calories.

  2. Great article! Mass gainers are indeed useful for skinny guys but are a little over budget. The homemade gainer recipe looks great. You can add more items to increase calories and nutrients like almond butter, raw oats, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, strawberries and other nutrient dense foods.

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