When it comes to building a lean and muscular physique, the first step should almost always be to build a decent foundation of muscle. This is what sets you apart from the rest of the population.
It is also what allows you to become more “toned” and “defined” -- by giving you something to show off under your skin.
Now, the kicker is that building muscle can be a little easier said than done. In fact, to do it effectively, you need to make sure your training is on point and that your diet provides your body everything it needs to build new muscle tissue.
In our experience, most people tick the training box pretty well, but fall down on diet -- which is exactly where mass gainers offer you the most benefit.
What is a mass gainer?
As their name so aptly suggests, a mass gainer is a type of supplement designed to help you build muscle.
Most common mass gainer supplements mange this by including ingredients that do two very specific things:
- Increase your daily protein intake
- Increase your daily calorie intake
When it comes to building an appreciable amount of muscle, protein is essential. With this in mind, if you are not eating enough protein to match your training demands, then you are leaving gains on the table.
A recent meta-analysis that combines the results of 49 studies found that the minimal protein intake to maximise muscle growth when people perform resistance training is 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, per day .
Note that this is the minimum to optimise muscle growth.
Further research has shown that going as high as 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight may have additional benefits when it comes to muscle retention .
So, using a real world example -- if you currently weigh 70kgs, you should be eating between 112 and 154 grams of protein daily.
Now, the important thing to consider here is that protein is only one side of the equation -- with the other being calorie intake.
While protein is needed to physically build muscle tissue, the process of building muscle also requires energy to support it. If you are trying to build muscle in an energy deficit, then you are at a handicap because you do not have enough energy available to physiologically build muscle -- even if your protein intake is high.
With this in mind, if your goal is building a significant amount of muscle, you want to aim for a calorie surplus (i.e. above maintenance calories) of between 300 and 500 calories per day .
Although this is not a huge amount, research would suggest it is a great starting point to provide your body with the energy it needs to build a good amount of muscle without causing excess fat accumulation.
Mass Gainer Benefits
Putting the above information into context, it should become apparent that mass gainers can offer you some significant benefits if your goal is to get as jacked as possible.
1. Greater Muscle Growth
As I have already alluded to, mass gainers offer some benefits when it comes to muscle growth.
In short, lifting weights in the gym places significant stress on your body. This stress acts as a stimulus, telling your body that it needs to grow bigger and stronger to better tolerate that same stress in the future.
It is this process that drives muscle growth.
Now, the kicker is that for muscle growth to occur, you need to have adequate energy and protein available -- otherwise your gains stay on the table.
With this in mind, mass gainers provide everything you need to build an appreciable amount of muscle and take your physique to the next level.
2. Enhanced Recovery
Our second point builds upon the first quite nicely.
Both protein and energy are integral when it comes to the repair of damaged muscle tissue. Most of us consider this from the perspective of muscle growth, but it is important to recognise it also impacts recovery after training.
With this in mind, mass gainers offer a great way to speed up recovery between training sessions, leading to less muscle soreness and better gym performance on subsequent gym sessions.
Over the long term this can have huge implications for your progress, leading to lasting increases in size and strength.
3. Better Gym Performance
While a large portion of the energy found in mass gainers contribute to muscle growth, the excess energy availability associated with their consumption can also increase the amount of energy you have available to support your training.
This means better performance in the gym on a set-per-set basis.
While simply having more energy during your training sessions is a nice bonus, the compounding effect of training better every session is likely to improve muscle growth and strength development to a significant degree.
What to look for in a Mass Gainer
There are so many different mass gainers on the market -- and like with any supplement, some are much better than others.
With this in mind, if you want a high-quality mass gainer to support the results of your training, then they should include some of the following ingredients.
1. Whey Protein
When it comes to protein powder, whey is king. It is fast digesting, very easily absorbed, and has an extremely high protein content on a percentage basis.
As a result, it is the perfect option to support the results of your training and boost muscle growth.
While we prefer whey protein isolate because it tends to be suitable for everyone (even those with sensitive stomachs) and is the fastest absorbed protein powder on the market, whey protein concentrate is also a great choice.
2. Rice Powder
Rice powder is a form of refined carbohydrate derived from rice. With this in mind, it offers the perfect way to increase calorie intake to support your training and recovery.
As a bonus, because rice powder is derived from natural ingredients (i.e. rice), it also contains a number of important vitamins and minerals that can boost health and function.
This makes it a much better option that some of the cheaper carb powders you see in certain supplements.
3. Waxy Maize Powder
As you may have guessed, waxy maize starch is a starch-based carbohydrate powder.
Interestingly, despite being carbohydrate based, waxy maize powder actually has a higher molecular weight compared to other carb powders like maltodextrin or dextrose. As a result, it is absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream.
This makes it a great ingredient that expedites the recovery process post-workout.
4. Sweet potato powder
Much like rice power and waxy maize powder, sweet potato powder is another source of carbohydrates.
However, where it differs from the other two is in the fact that it is very low GI. This means that it is absorbed into your bloodstream at a slower rate, ensuring a sustained release of energy into your body.
As a bonus, it is also full to the brim with fibre, which can have a positive effect in your digestive system.
5. MCT oil powder
MCT Oil powder is an interesting supplement that is composed entirely of highly concentrated medium-chain triglycerides -- which are a specific type of fat metabolized for energy in your body.
While very few mass gaining supplements include MCT oil powder, there are a couple of very good reasons as to why they should.
Firstly, MCTs are used for energy by the body after consumption. This means that if your mass gainer includes a MCT oil based supplement, it will use that for energy while “saving” the carbohydrates and protein for recovery and muscle growth.
Secondly, there is some evidence to suggest that MCT oil supplements can improve exercise performance . This means that it can help you get more out of your workout while simultaneously boosting results.
Mass gaining supplements offer a great way to facilitate muscle growth and enhance recovery. Just make sure you choose a high quality option that contains at least a couple (if not all…) of the ingredients listed in this article to ensure you are getting the most bang-for-your-buck.
- Morton, Robert W., et al. "A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults." British journal of sports medicine 52.6 (2018): 376-384.
- Stokes, Tanner, et al. "Recent perspectives regarding the role of dietary protein for the promotion of muscle hypertrophy with resistance exercise training." Nutrients 10.2 (2018): 180.
- Slater, Gary John, et al. "Is an energy surplus required to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy associated with resistance training." Frontiers in nutrition 6 (2019): 131.
- Gomes, Rodrigo Vitasovic, and Marcelo Saldanha Aoki. "Does medium chain triglyceride play an ergogenic role in endurance exercise performance?." Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte 9.3 (2003): 162-168.