What you do in the gym is important. However, as the old maxim goes, muscles are not made there. Of course, you stimulate them there, without which there would be no adaptation, no growth and no strength gains.
However, to finish the maxim: gains are made in the kitchen. Or, more accurately, they are created in your rest time, fuelled by your nutritional intake. You can make pretty decent fitness gains with sub-standard training and a perfect diet. You will make barely any with perfect training and a bad diet.
Though, of course, you should be aiming for perfect training and perfect diet.
Basically, the destruction or creation of your gains hinges almost completely on your nutritional intake. Though this mostly means the food you eat, there is substantial room for supplementation in any athlete’s nutritional intake.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at one such style of supplement with a roundup of some of the best mass gainers on today’s market.
Mass gainers are calorically dense supplements that most often come in the form of powders and are intended to be used in shakes. Whereas you will mostly see protein powders, which will try to eliminate as much fat as possible from their formulas, mass gainers will contain plenty of carbohydrates and often fats.
This is because they are designed to get as many calories as possible, via as many grams of macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein, collectively) into your body. They are, unsurprisingly, designed for people looking to gain weight.
More specifically, they are designed for people looking to gain weight fast, who otherwise struggle to gain weight, or who otherwise struggle to take in sufficient calories from diet alone to achieve their goals.
This most often includes those with ectomorphic body types – they are naturally skinny, with slender frames and low muscle mass, characterised by an inability to put weight on either as fat or muscle. If this applies to you, you will most likely need to use mass gainers during any bulking phase as a way to force your body into growth.
Mass gainers can also be of benefit to mesomorphs (naturally muscular, athletic types) during bulking phases. Mesomorphs will tend to put weight on as muscle and burn excess energy training, so the extra calories will be put to good use. Mass gainers will then make their cutting cycle easier as, instead of completely overhauling their diet, they can simply switch to a lean protein powder and find a ready-made caloric deficit to help them shift the weight.
Endomorphs should typically stay clear of mass gainers, unless they are training for any kind of extreme sport. Endomorphs find it easy enough to put on muscle but will also struggle to keep body fat levels down: a mass gainer will generally go to their waist and spike their body fat, rather than increasing their lean, muscular weight.
There is a plethora of mass gainer supplements available for budding athletes… a quite dizzying amount, actually. However, we’ve taken a look at some of the best rated options out there and have come up with six options that we think are the best of the best.
Top 6 Mass Gainers
Of course, there will be a subjective element to all of the below. As a form of shake powder, taste, texture and overall enjoyability are important and individual. However, all of the below are palatable, even if not quite to some people’s taste.
In addition, we have taken a good look at the objective side of things – cost, nutritional content, efficacy, and reputability of brands. Each of these six scores highly for all.
MyProtein Extreme Gainer
You get an impressive 35g of protein per serving, alongside 62g of carbs and 7.8g of fat (one serving is about three and a half scoops). In addition, you get 5g of creatine per serving, which is pretty much all you would need per day, mitigating the need to spend extra on a separate creatine supplement, and more than 10 vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system up even as you trash it in the gym.
That nutritional profile is genuinely brilliant. Though it’s not an incredible amount of carbs and protein per serving, it is still far more than a regular protein shake would deliver and the inclusion of creatine and Vitamins A, E, C and B6, Folic Acid and Magnesium more than makes up for this. Additionally, if you really do need more carbs and protein, simply have another shake. Choosing shake powders is more about ratios than absolute quantities in this way. The well-proportioned macronutrient breakdown in Extreme Gainer will actually make managing your intake incredibly easy, which is the point, after all.
There are also options for you to take your own personal taste into consideration. Extreme Gainer comes in six different flavours (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla… all the usual suspects) which all taste nice, on a par with their straight whey protein powders. Mixing with water will give you a smoother consistency but mixing with whole milk or cream will help you to pile in more calories from fat if needed.
MyProtein generally represent good value for money in all their products. Even if you end up buying Extreme Gainer at its normal price, you’ll be getting a lot for not much. However, do check out their offers and deals – MyProtein generally have a couple running at any one time and the savings can add up to quite a bit.
Both on value for money and their stellar formula, MyProtein easily top this list with their Extreme Gainer.
Bulk Powders Informed Mass
As with MyProtein’s offering, Bulk Powders have not included crazy, inflated numbers in their formula- there is no day’s-worth of calories per shake here. Rather, they have gone for a sustainable, long term option that will comfortably supplement a hard gainer’s diet without making up for a poor nutrition plan. There is also very little sugar and sweetener content, as one would expect of Bulk Powders, meaning that it can indeed be taken long term without ill effects.
This isn’t to say that Informed Mass is for the light hearted. It certainly isn’t simply a bulked-up protein powder formula. You get a full 566 calories per serving, comprised of 45g of protein, 49.8g of carbs (with fewer than 3g of sugar) and 6.7g of fat. Once more, you get 5g of creatine, as with MyProtein’s Extreme Gainer.
There are three decent flavours to choose from – Strawberries and Cream in particularly nice, though Rocky Road is a close second – so you shouldn’t get bored. The price is incredibly reasonable and you can buy in varying sizes, usually with a cheeky offer or two in place for extra economy.
The Protein Works – Total Mass Matrix Extreme
The Protein Works are another standard favourite of mine- I often have a stash of their strawberry flavoured whey concentrate in the cupboard. Relatively new to the scene, they have grown at a rapid pace, making something of a name for themselves. This is largely down to their flavours, which are superb.
In fact, the Total Mass Matrix Extreme in Silk Chocolate is one of the best tasting shakes on the market. It’s like having a proper milkshake with ice cream and all the frills. Never mind palatability – it’s an absolute treat!
Total Mass Matrix Extreme is the first truly heavy hitter on this list, with each serving coming in at a full 974 calories. This is roughly half what many bodybuilders would expect to eat on a cut per day. These 974 calories are made of 163g of carbs, 54g of protein and 12g of fat. The sugar content is super high at 38g per serving (that, and the highish fat content go a long way to explaining the lovely taste, I suppose!) so beware your blood sugar levels.
Sugar aside, The Protein Works have used good, wholesome, natural products in their ingredients list, with a tri-blend approach to their protein and multiple carb sources. They have also included the by now obligatory 5g of creatine and a generous mix of added vitamins and minerals. One serving of Total Mass Matrix Extreme alongside your regular food intake could honestly be all the supplementation you would need in a day.
It’s far from the cheapest mass gainer on the market, but you get what you pay for: Total Mass Matrix Extreme isn’t messing about. It gives you everything you could possibly want from a mass gainer, in a choice of seven delicious flavours, and its tri-blend of protein and multiple carb sources underscore just how high-quality it is.
If you’ve got the cash and you’re serious about gains, give Total Mass Matrix Extreme some careful consideration.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Gainer
Warning: this isn’t one to go for if you like exciting flavours. You get 3 very basic flavours to choose from (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate) all of which are pretty so-so, with an OK consistency.
Right, now we’ve got out the way, let’s get to the interesting stuff. If you can deal with lower quality flavour, you can get a lot out of trying Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Gainer.
The Gold Standard Gainer isn’t Optimum Nutrition’s most hardcore mass gainer by a long shot- that honour goes to Serious Mass. The Gold Standard Gainer is a lot less calorific than its beefy cousin, at 763 calories compared to a whopping 1250. Out of these 763 calories, you get 55g of protein, 105g of carbs and 12g of fat, with only 10g of sugar content per serving. It’s incredibly well balanced and packs a decent punch in the mid-range.
What sets the Gold Standard Gainer apart is the quality of its ingredients, which earn that Gold Standard badge and then some. Though it’s one of the priciest mass gainers out there, it also has some of the finest ingredients of any offerings we looked at.
If you’re looking for high-quality ingredients in portion sizes that will allow you to properly control your intake, made by a company and brand known for their integrity, look no further. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, you will get some of the best powder going.
Serious Gainz by Bulk Protein
Despite its name, Serious Gainz is one of the more modest mass builders on this list. It’s more of a lean mass builder, so will be helpful for those looking to bulk cleanly, taking in plenty of calories whilst still remaining in control of what they’re taking in and build muscle.
This being said, you still get 468 calories per serving- far from the highest on this list, but still quite a lot. This includes 30g of protein, 81g of carbs and low-fat levels, at just 3.5g per serving. Where some of the other mass builders you may find can be used as extra meals, Serious Gainz is best use in a supplementary capacity- drink it between main meals, or with them. It only takes 500 calories per day above maintenance to put on 1lb (0.5kg) per week. That could easily mean keeping your diet even and simply adding in one portion of Serious Gainz per day.
Serious Gainz is generally very reasonably priced, with large, 5kg tubs setting you back less than most equivalent, competing brands’ products. You get a good choice of 8 flavours, including the likes of white chocolate, red velvet and banana for plenty of variety. It’s actually one of the best tasting shakes on the market.
If you’re looking for a tasty, lower fat content in your mass gainer, a more economical option, or simply a product to help you maintain a modest bulk, look no further.
USN Muscle Fuel Anabolic
USN is one of the biggest fitness supplement and protein powder manufactures in the world. Their products are known for their higher price tags, though this is generally reflective of their quality and reliability- they sit comfortably at the premium end of the market rather than simply being pricey for no reason.
Muscle Fuel Anabolic is consistent with this. USN pitch it as an ‘all in one muscle catalyst’- hence referring to it as anabolic. It’s another pretty modest product with regards caloric impact, delivering 564 calories per serving, and so represents a similar place in your diet as Serious Gainz. It will help you to hit a modest caloric surplus or augment a diet-led caloric surplus, rather than being a one-hit mass gainer.
These 564 calories are made up of 53g of protein, 77g of carbohydrates and 5g of creatine, making it perfect for anybody undergoing a hard weight training routine.
USN deliver Muscle Fuel Anabolic in 8 decent flavours (their chocolate offering is very nice and pretty smooth).
Whether you’re looking to put on as much mass as possible in a short amount of time, to maintain a modest caloric surplus for a lean bulk, whether you’ve got money to burn or are trying to budget a little bit, there will be something here for you.
If you find yourself unable to gain mass easily – possessing something of an ectomorphic body type – go for the big guns. Total Mass Matrix Extreme or Gold Standard Gainer should see you right, no matter how skinny your body wants to stay. If you tend to put fat on easily and need to take things a little easy, go for something like Muscle Fuel Anabolic or Serious Gainz for a more modest bulk.
James is a full time personal trainer and an award winning writer with over 10 years of experience behind him. So far, he has helped hundreds of people with their health and fitness through his career.