Without a doubt, the toughest part about building a world class physique is nutrition. Countless disciples of the iron invest their blood, sweat and tears, day after day in the gym- sometimes even much longer, and have little to show for all their efforts.
What gives? Oftentimes, it boils down to diet, plain and simple. Living in the internet age, information overload is very real, with experts coming at you from every single angle imaginable. The remedy for this problem? Keeping it simple.
50-75 years ago bodybuilding was in its infancy, and there wasn’t a contentious amount of information circulating. This is why going back to basics is so necessary, and effective. Know what the one thing is that can be considered the good old bread and butter of a world class physique?
High quality calories, obtained from a weight gainer.
Weight Gainers Vs Protein Shakes Vs Meal Replacement Shakes
These three terms are sometimes used interchangeably (and incorrectly), since they can be considered fundamentally different.
Protein shakes supply primarily lean protein of different varieties, such as whey, casein, soy and more. While extremely popular, they are not the best choice for helping you meet calorie requirements.
Meal replacement, as the name implies, are usually substituted for whole meals, being better suited for weight loss than weight gain, although they often fail at this too. The premise behind them is that you are able to reduce calories consumed at any sitting with a controlled “liquid meal”, but since the body doesn’t readily experience the same degree of satiety from liquids as it does solid food[i], it is not uncommon to still eat in addition to having your meal replacement, leading to a bad outcome.
Meal replacement shakes contain all 3 macronutrient groups, as well as accessory vitamins and minerals, but not necessarily in the proportion that supports your body goals.
Weight gainers have come a long way from 2 decades ago. Back then, they consisted of high protein, but also staggering amounts of sugar and fat, which would definitely add mass to your frame, but no necessarily lean muscle.
Most of the reputable brands available today use high quality slower digesting carbohydrates, are virtually devoid of fast acting sugars, utilize healthier fats and also include a range of protein powder types to allow for variable absorption speeds.
They may also come with digestive enzymes to boost absorption, and can make it exponentially easier to add high quality muscle to your frame.
With that in mind, here are the main reasons to use weight gainers to help you meet your muscle and strength goals.
Timing Specific Variants Available
It’s not news that your nutrient requirements change depending on the time of day, and you can be forgiven if you become overwhelmed with remembering when to take what. Weight gainers have evolved a lot, and continue to do so to meet the needs of high performance athletes everywhere.
For instance, there are weight gainers designed for general daily usage which contain the cookie-cutter essentials, carbs, proteins and a touch of healthy fat; and then there are others that may be best suited for specific times of the day, such as those enhanced with Creatine and best suited for peri-workout nutrition.
Differing Calorie Loads
Can everyone benefit from a weight gainer? Absolutely. However, there is no one universal weight gainer that is best suited for everyone. For instance, if you ae classified as an endomorph, you likely have a propensity for storing fat easily, in such a case, you may not require one that contains an immense amount of carbohydrates, or opt for one that contains more fat and less carbs as a trade-off.
Alternately, a hard gainer (ectomorph), burns through calories extremely fast, and can likely guzzle down a 1000 calories plus serving like water off a duck’s back.
It is still important to bear in mind the fact that excessive calories beyond what is necessary to stimulate muscle growth will inevitably still lead to fat accumulation, regardless of if the product is marketed as a mass gainer or otherwise.
Eating can be a chore when trying to gain weight, no doubt about that. This is even more difficult if you are traditionally a light eater, but are desperately trying to enhance your strength and musculature. In such a scenario, weight gainers are invaluable aides.
Liquid calories do not stimulate our satiety pathways to the same extent as solid food does[ii], which means that for someone who finds it difficult to consume enough calories, you can easily meet your quota this way.
Just be careful- if you already meet your caloric goals or come near to it, weight gainers can push you past your budget and spill over into fat gain.
In order to hasten the process of recovery and recuperation, you need to ensure that sufficient building blocks are made available to muscles, especially during the post-workout interval. This means sufficient protein, and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores[iii].
Weight gainers are second to none when it comes to overall protein density, and the inclusion of carbohydrates assist with insulin stimulation to further ensure shuttling of key nutrients into muscle cells at this time.
Failure to consume enough calories at the post-workout window will slow down recovery as the body scampers for nutrition, and may inadvertently flag a state of scarce resources. Today, many weight gainers are also fortified with l-glutamine and l-leucine to support optimal recovery rates.
How Much Weight Gainer Do I Need?
The exact amount of weight gainer you need to consume daily varies based on your current bodyweight, athletic status, propensity to gain fat and of course, your goal. In general, one to two servings of weight gainer per day is usually sufficient to help you meet your caloric and macronutrient goals, but the key is to find one that supplies clean calories.
This means limited sugar and relatively low fat content, but with moderate to high protein content. Strive for approximately 2 g of protein consumption per kg of bodyweight.
Weight gainers, while indispensable in your quest for muscle, should not be used as a crutch for a poor diet. You cannot out-supplement bad habits if you’ve never fostered healthy eating habits, and are likely to burn a hole in your pocket trying to keep up.
Weight gainers can make the difference in helping you see the gains you deserve, but like everything else in life, moderation and common sense is key.
[i] Almiron-Roig, Eva & Chen, Y & Drewnowski, A. (2003). Liquid calories and the failure of satiety: How good is the evidence?. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 4. 201-12. 10.1046/j.1467-789X.2003.00112.x.
[ii] Tieken SM, Leidy HJ, Stull AJ, Mattes RD, Schuster RA, Campbell WW. Effects of solid versus liquid meal-replacement products of similar energy content on hunger, satiety, and appetite-regulating hormones in older adults. Horm Metab Res. 2007;39(5):389–394. doi:10.1055/s-2007-976545
[iii] Beck KL, Thomson JS, Swift RJ, von Hurst PR. Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery. Open Access J Sports Med. 2015;6:259–267. Published 2015 Aug 11. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S33605