Weight Gainers: Do Extra Calories From Weight Gainers Build Muscle?

Weight Gainers: Do Extra Calories From Weight Gainers Build Muscle?

Weight gainers, if the supplement companies are to be believed, are the answer to all your body building struggles! After all, if you’re not making gains in the gym it’s because you’re not taking in enough calories, correct?

Not necessarily.

If you read my body building for beginners article, you’ll know that maintaining adequate caloric intake is only one of the many factors upon which successful muscle growth is dependent. If, for instance, you are overtraining, not getting enough rest or training poorly, the extra calories of a weight gainer aren’t going to do anything but make you fat.

That’s issue number one — most “hard gainers” aren’t really “hard gainers”. They are just normal guys and gals who are missing one or more critical factor in the chain of events that lead to successful muscle growth.

Since weight gainers are specifically about calories, let’s talk about that for a moment. Sure, weight training — and especially the period of recuperation the body requires after a weight training session, requires additional calories.

For that reason, most body builders make it a mainstay of their programs to eat small meals every couple of hours to ensure the body receives an adequate flow of nutrients to ensure muscle growth.

But the sort of calories a “weight gainer” delivers?

Calories (and Carbs!)

Take, for instance, TwinLab’s Gainers Fuel 1000, which delivers 690 calories per serving. It’s comprised of 31 grams of protein, 141 grams of carbs and one gram of fat.

The carbs are a major concern, as they come from low quality sources like maltodextrin (hydrolyzed corn starch), fructose and dextrose.

That’s the equivalent of a whopping 36 teaspoons of sugar in total, and a ratio of about 18% protein to 82% carbs.

Optimal nutrient ratios vary from 40/40/20 (40% carbs, 40% protein, 20% fat) to 30/40/30 (30% carbs, 40% protein, 30% fat). A nutrient ratio like the one in Gainers Fuel leads to an overstimulation of insulin, which ultimately results in one thing…

The deposition of bodyfat!

In fact, there are two factors in a meal that inevitably lead to fat deposition — high caloric content (one serving of an average weight gainer, for instance), and a high carb/sugar content that triggers an excessive insulin response.

I’m not picking on Gainers Fuel (which, incidentally, has now been discontinued and replaced with Gainers Fuel Pro). Most supplement companies do manufacture and retail a weight gainer, which are generally very similar to this product.

Some of the more popular products include Weider’s Giant Mega Mass, Ultimate Nutrition’s Muscle Juice, AllMax’s QuickMass, Optimum’s Serious Mass, Muscle Tech’s Mass Tech, BSN’s True Mass, Gaspari’s RealMass, CytoSport’s CytoGainer — to name a few!

When training for muscle mass with minimal fat gain, a good rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight by 15, and consume those calories in 5-8 small meals over the course of the day (which vastly decreases the chances those calories will end up occupying space on your waistline). If you weigh 200 lbs. for instance, you’ll want to consume a minimum of 3000 calories (7 small meals of 430 calories).

As far as calories go, most weight gainers simply deliver more calories than you can use at one time. Sure, training requires additional calories, but the body has only one option for too many calories… fat deposition!

Can a weight gainer play a role in the nutritional supplementation of individuals who have an incredibly difficult time gaining weight because of a incredibly fast metabolism?

Well, obviously those of you with a fast metabolism need to consume more calories in order to grow. A weight gainer certainly provides you with the ability to do this conveniently. That’s the benefit they do provide. However, if you must experiment with a gainer, please reduce the dosage down to between a half and a quarter of the recommend serving, depending on your product. For example…

A half serving of Prolab’s N-Large II provides you with 300 calories… an acceptable amount. On the other hand, a half serving of TwinLab’s Super Gainers Fuel Pro still provides a whopping 930 calories. A quarter serving would be more appropriate here.

“Do It Yourself” (DIY) Alternatives

Secondly, as far as “bang for the buck” goes, you can do much better than a weight gainer. Unfortunately, most are little more than a few grams of average quality protein coupled with a pile of cheap sugars and a sprinkling of multivitamins.

If it’s cheap calories you want (and you don’t mind getting fat), you can build your own weight gainer easily enough (a couple of scoops of a high quality whey protein, a banana, 2 cups of 2% milk and two tablespoons of corn syrup will deliver you 90% of the “benefits”, for a third of the cost).

If you’re looking for a smart way to add some additional calories to your diet, I’d recommend avoiding weight gainers, and instead supplement with a high quality Omega 3-6-9 fatty acid blend, like Udo’s Ultimate Oil (check out florahealth.com if you can’t find it locally).

Remember… fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for carbs or proteins, so keep it in mind when you calculate your requirements.

Nonetheless, weight gainers tend to sell well, if nothing more than for the fact that they are convenient; no messing around protein powders, bananas, friendly fats and corn syrup… just scoop, stir, and serve.

Using a Commercial Product

If you do decide you want to experiment with a conventional “weight gainer” (choose the higher end products like BSN’s True-Mass or Gaspari’s RealMass—they tend to be better formulated than low cost options like Ultimate Nutrition’s Muscle Juice, for instance) I’d recommend cutting the serving size (and the calories) down significantly—anywhere from a half to a third of the recommended dosage. Not only will your purchase last much longer, you reduce the risk of depositing all those extra calories on your waist line.

Pros and Cons of Commercial Weight Gainers
  • Convenient.
  • Wide range of products to choose from.
  • Taste good.
  • May be helpful for hardgainers.
  • Many products are too high in calories/carbs for most average people.
  • Can easily lead to fat gains.
  • Not needed for most people to gain muscle.
  • DIY alternatives are cheaper and healthier.

Author: Paul

Paul Crane is the founder of UltimateFatBurner.com. His passions include supplements, working out, motorcycles, guitars... and of course, his German Shepherd dogs.

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