If you’ve taken the time to sit down and read this article, I am going to hinder a guess that you are 1 of 2 types of hard gainers.
- You eat a tonne of measurable calories but still find muscle growth difficult
- You feel like you eat a tonne of calories but still find muscle growth difficult
Now, while these 2 scenarios may seem alike, they are inherently quite different.
On the first hand, you have a person who tracks caloric intake and is making a conscious effort to eat enough protein, carbs and fats by measuring their intake on a daily basis. This person understands that weight gain requires a sufficient amount of calories and that muscle gain requires the right balance of protein, carbs and fats.
Moving to the second person and here we find someone who eats based upon how they feel, then pleads ignorance when they don’t understand why they are not gaining weight.
In essence, their approach is a guess.
If I had a dollar for every time a client or a customer from scenario 2 came to me, I'd be a rich man.
You see, the person in scenario number 2 is simply not taking the time to understand nutrition and 99 times out of 100, they are undereating despite feeling like they are eating a tonne.
It's too easy for a subjective feeling of fullness to prevent correct caloric consumption.
Gaining muscle is not an easy process and it takes a concerted effort to achieve it!
So if you are the person in scenario number 2, it’s time to step up your game and take some control of what you eat. Then once you understand your daily requirements, come back here and read the below information on what is important to look for in a weight gainer if you are still struggling to put on the muscle you would like.
This brings us to the 4 key factors that require consideration when choosing a mass gainer.
In order for us to gain muscle efficiently, the body must be provided with a sufficient amount of calories to allow for additional energy intake being used to build new tissue. Choosing a weight gainer to assist in your daily caloric intake is the first consideration and it should be utilised to fortify a diet that suits your psychological, physiological and social life.
If you are someone who is time-poor, using a high-calorie gainer of more than 800kcal per shake may be the best option for you. Whereas if you are someone with a large appetite who simply just wants a little more dietary simplicity, aiming for a 300-500kcal shake may be a smarter choice.
Not sure how many calories you need, check this article out: How Many Calories Do I Need
So first and foremost, choose a gainer based on its calories and where that fits within your dietary food intake as this is a primary determinant in your ability to grow muscle tissue.
Outside of caloric intake, the next important thing to look at in a weight gainer is both the protein content in grams but also the protein quality.
First and foremost it is important to understand “How Much Protein You Need”, so give that article a read also.
Once you determine how much protein you need, build yourself a diet that you will both enjoy in regards to palatability and also in the quality of food sources.
Lean meats, eggs and fish are the 3 primary protein sources of choice for muscle gain.
From here you can then factor in how much protein in your diet you need in order to achieve your daily requirements and this is what will separate one weight gainer from another.
A 60kg male, only requires 120-150g of protein per day, so using a weight gainer with 50g of protein per serve is going to be overkill, regardless of the calories. We want to get protein from a variety of sources, including meats and shake options, so aim to have up to 2 serves of a protein powder and get the rest of your protein from the sources mentioned above.
Finally, look at the protein sources in the ingredients panel. Whey protein has been proven time and time again to be the most anabolic protein source in supplemental form so try and get a protein powder that is made predominantly with either Whey Protein Isolate or Whey Protein Concentrate. Having trace amounts of egg albumin, milk protein or caseins is also fine, however, they should not be the dominant source.
The carbohydrate content of a weight gainer is going to be one of the deciding factors on which product to choose. While we only need a specified amount of proteins and fats to achieve the goal of health and muscle recovery, carbohydrate intake can essentially rise and fall as much as the individual prefers/requires.
The safest ratio of protein to carbs to aim for in a weight gainer that will minimise fat gain will be a 50/50 split, however, your results may or may not be slower as the calories in these shakes are generally lower. Traditionally, the most effective split to aim for is a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein, so look for something in that realm.
If the protein is too high per serve in order for you to achieve this, don’t worry, the simplest and arguably more cost-effective way to get the right weight gainer is to purchase a 50/50 and then add your own additional carbs like GlycoLoad by Genetix Nutrition.
In regards to carbohydrate type, realistically all carbohydrates will be converted into glucose once consumed so the type of carbohydrate in your weight gainer is less important when you consider the fact that it will not be your dominant carbohydrate source. Choose a weight gainer with a carbohydrate that is predictably good for your digestion and doesn’t make you crash in energy. One of the most consistent performing carbs will be maltodextrin, so aim for something utilising this as its dominant carb source as it will provide low gastric stress and a moderate release of energy for most people.
Finally, we have fats.
Fats are an essential nutrient that we require and the dominant amount of your dietary fat intake should be coming from non-processed foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, egg yolks, yoghurt and things like coconut, macadamia or extra virgin olive oil.
For this reason, I prefer weight gainers to be low in fats as they traditionally do not contain high-quality sources and instead rely on cheaper filler ingredients to bulk the calories up. Obviously, there are some products that do have high-quality fats but they are few and far between.
Choose a low-fat weight gainer and add your own coconut oil instead.
Muscle gain is about controlling caloric intake, ensuring protein is sufficient and that you are training to the best of your ability.
Ensuring your weight gainer is designed to support these factors is critically important and it should always be used to supplement your diet as opposed to replacing it.
Aim for 1-3 serves of a weight gainer per day in the range of 300-800kcal per shake and ensure you are tracking your total daily caloric and macronutrient intake for best results.
Remember… the best diet and supplement protocol for you is the one you can maintain and adhere to the most consistently!