Even the best weight gainers won't replace hard work in the gym, but they can at least make it a little bit easier to add more calories to your diet. The best mass gainer – as it is sometimes also called – might be able to help you build muscle and gain weight faster, even if you aren't a "hard-gainer". If you are, then certainly.
A weight gainer is a type of protein powder – read more about these in our best protein powders guide – that contains a high amount of calories, carbs, and protein and is low in sugar and fat. The number of calories per serving and even serving sizes vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some products contain less than 400 kcal per serving, while others can have as much as 1,250 kcal, so it's always a good idea to read the label before you buy.
Another excellent way to add more calories (and protein) to your diet is to have protein bars or snacks occasionally. The best protein bars aren't only tasty but contain less sugar than traditional chocolate bars, making them the ideal post-workout snack. Please note: all protein supplements and snacks should be used as part of a healthy, balanced diet; definitely not as the only source of macronutrients.
Best weight gainers to buy right now
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The Huel Black Edition won in the 'Best Protein Powder or Snack' category at the T3 Awards 2021! It may not be a mass gainer supplement per se – Huel calls their powder a "nutritionally complete meal" nowadays – but in reality, it can help you bulk up and stay healthy.
A serving of Huel Black Edition (90 grams) is 400 calories and contains 40 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbs and 18 grams of fat. The powder is also jam-packed with minerals and vitamins: according to Huel, the Black Edition contains "ideal amounts of all the 27 essential vitamins and minerals."
It's made with naturally gluten-free tapioca starch, uses all-natural sweeteners and flavours, and contains green tea extract, a source of polyphenols, a natural antioxidant. One issue with mass gainers containing a lot of carbs and protein is that both of those macros can spike insulin levels (albeit not in the same way). When you are on a diet that massively reduces the intake of one macronutrient, it can create an imbalance in the body.
Sometimes, this can be a good thing – the keto diet is said to have certain health benefits – but in other cases, like when people restrict their fat intake because they want to build muscle, this can cause a variety of issues. The Huel Black Edition functions as a mass gainer that contains a healthy balance of carbs, protein and fat – so you can gain weight and stay fit at the same time.
Read our full Huel Black Edition review
Our brain is funny and tends not to take calories that come in a liquid form into account, meaning if you want to sneak in some extra calories into your diet, you should drink calorific drinks. And if you want a healthy drink that's really calorific, try the Naked Mass weight gainer.
This meal replacement mix contains a staggering 1,250 calories and a whopping 50 grams of protein in each 321-gram serving. Better still, there is hardly any fat or sugar in the mix, although we recommend taking at least some dietary fats if you plan to bulk up and stay healthy.
Like all other 'Naked' products, the Naked Mass powder is GMO, soy, gluten, and hormone-free and has no rBGH or rBST. The Naked Mass is cold processed with no acid and bleaching involved: no need to spoil such a fine powder with synthetic processing methods. If you are a hard gainer boy or girl, try the Naked Mass, it's probably a better option than having yet another portion of rice and chicken for breakfast.
Maximuscle's Progain produces a surprisingly thin shake which makes it all the easier to drink, so if you find it hard to stomach thick, hard-to-swallow mass gainers, this is your best option.
Of course, this weight gainer mix has more going for it than its easy drinkability. The Progain powder mixes easily and has a moderate calorie content (500 cal/120 g serving). It also has a balanced macro profile; carbs and protein content aren't over-the-top, making it more likely that your body can process them.
It's not a perfect concoction, though: the mix contains whey protein, so the Maximuscle Progain is certainly not vegan, and it wouldn't hurt if it were a bit more flavoursome. The tested vanilla option didn't caress our tastebuds too much, although we must add that the vanilla pods were visible in the shake, which fills us with confidence that the mix contains real vanilla.
For the best results, we recommend mixing the Progain with almond or coconut milk; those gave us the best results and made the end product taste richer. If you find it hard to consume a shake to gain weight, mix the Progain with water – you'll find it much easier to drink.
Optimum Nutrition recommends taking its Serious Mass weight gainer "between meals, after exercises or before bed." Now, we don't think many people like to go to bed with a full stomach, but even just one portion of the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass will fill you right up. If you wish to take this supplement before bedtime, have half a portion only, that's still over 600 calories.
Even if you consume 3600 calories a day, which would imply that you are hitting the gym 4-5 days a week, having a serving of Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass would still cover one-third of your calorie intake. The Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass contains no added sugar, but it does contain 24 vitamins and minerals per serving. Better still, it comes in many different flavours, so you won't get bored too soon.
For whatever reason, The Protein Works recommends 1-3 servings a day of its Total Mass Matrix Extreme weight gainer. Three servings of this product contain a whopping 3000 calories, and we'd recommend covering that many calories from various sources, not just three shaker-fulls of weight-gainer powder mixed with water.
That said, Total Mass Matrix Extreme is a great mass gainer mix with a good balance of carbs and protein. What it also has, though, is relatively high sugar content, so be mindful of that when introducing it into your diet. Other than that, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Total Mass Matrix Extreme, if for nothing else, for all the great flavours, which include Tiramisu, Cinnamon Cereal Milk and White Choc Peanut Sundae.
The Bulk Powders Vegan Mass Gainer is not only vegan and therefore 100% animal cruelty-free, but it also contains no gluten – the oats used to bump up the carb numbers are gluten-free – it is also soya and lactose-free, so it caters for people with a range dietary restrictions. As well as being high in fibre and low in sugar, this mass gainer powder contains no artificial sweeteners, colourings or flavourings either.
On the downside, the Bulk Powders Vegan Mass Gainer has fewer calories and protein than other weight gainers on this list. The blend used in this supplement is a combination of pea protein isolate, brown rice protein, pumpkin seed protein, flaxseed powder and quinoa flour. One can say it is a very healthy mix of ingredients.
You can count on the USN Muscle Fuel Anabolic tasting good, although it is at least partially due to the amount of added sugar this product contains. In fact, one-third of the carbs found in the USN Muscle Fuel Anabolic come from sugars. It is not ideal, but just to put it in context, a 36-gram bar of Mars contains 20 grams of sugar, so you are definitely better off with the USN Muscle Fuel Anabolic.
USN states that the Muscle Food Anabolic "should not be used by persons under the age of 18 years, nor should it be used for weight loss." Also, "It is only for bodybuilders and athletes or individuals on a mass gaining plan." So now you know. If you are trying to lose weight, don't take weight gainers. In case it wasn't clear.
Given the moderate calorie content, the USN Muscle Fuel Anabolic can be used as a post-workout drink. 500+ calories is still a decent amount, so please be mindful of that and should you have a smaller frame, take only a half portion at a time.
The MyProtein Weight Gainer Blend can most certainly be used post-workout, given the moderate amount of calories this protein powder contains. Even better, it is super low on sugar, so you don't have to worry about going over your daily limit, either.
Since the MyProtein Weight Gainer Blend is low on carbs – compared to the rest of the entries on this list – it represents a good balance between regular protein powders and weight gainers. If you would like to immerse yourself into the world of weight gainers gently, definitely go with this one.
Given the very low sugar content, this weight gainer is the best for mixing with other ingredients, like peanut butter or milk, although we don't recommend using more than 500 ml of it. The MyProtein website suggests adding "3 1/3 large scoops (100g) [of MyProtein Weight Gainer Blend] to 500-1000 ml of water or milk", but for us, one litre of milk sounds a bit excessive, so either take it with 500 ml of milk (maximum) or a litre of water, if you want a very thin shake.
How to choose the best weight gainer for you
Here are a few things to check before you buy your first (next?) bag of weight gainer.
If you are lactose intolerant, you might want to go for the vegan varieties; they are least likely to contain lactose, although always read the label before you buy. It is also beneficial to check what other supplements have been included in the mix, apart from oats and protein.
For example, if the weight gainer contains creatine, you don't have to take creatine monohydrate supplements separately. The same goes for BCAAs: if there is any leucine or glutamine included in the mix, there is no need for you to buy additional BCAA tablets as long as you take the weight gainer, of course.
Which mass gainer is best for weight gain?
The mass gainer that is best for weight gain right now is Naked Nutrition's Naked Mass (retailer link). It's not only super healthy, but each mega serving contains huge amounts of calories and carbs, making it at least a little bit easier to put on weight for people who can't stomach another portion of chicken and rice. Adding just one serving of Naked Mass can add as much as 1,250 calories to your diet per day. Now that's adding mass like a pro.
How do I use weight gainers?
Before you start guzzling down weight gainers and three servings of protein powder a day, we would recommend evaluating your current diet first. The easiest way to go about it is to use a food logging app such as MyFitnessPal to analyse the macronutrient composition of your diet. This will save you from having to log food and calculate macros manually.
These apps have plenty of food items already added to their huge library; all you have to do is scan the barcodes with your phone's camera and tell the app how much you ate. The app will then calculate the macronutrient (carb, fat and protein) percentages, as well as other useful stats, like how much sugar, salt and fibre you have consumed.
Once you get into the habit of logging, you can set goals for your daily intake: let's say you want to cover your daily energy needs with 65% carbs, 25% protein and 20% fats. The app will tell you how many grams of carbs, protein and fat this translates to.
This is where weight gainers come into play: when you see you're under your protein and carb goal, you can consider adding a serving of weight gainers to your daily intake to help you boost your daily macro numbers.
It might sound a bit confusing, but it really isn't all that difficult in real life. You need to be a bit more mindful of your diet, but you should be anyway if you aim to gain lean muscle mass effectively.
For the best results, use the recommended serving size if you want clean gains. We highly recommend mixing weight gainers with good old tap water. You could potentially use milk/milk substitute should you want to, but 500 ml of milk will add an extra 200 calories and add 25 grams of sugar to your diet. It is just unnecessary.