The best mass gainer
Sometimes, no matter how much work you do at the gym, you just can't seem to build the muscle you want. If you need some help adding lean muscle, a mass gainer can certainly do the trick. These powders are used as supplements to your regular diet to provide extra carbs and proteins -- and sometimes fat -- to help you build muscle. You only have to mix the mass gainer with the liquid of your choice and drink it to receive the proper dose of nutrients necessary to encourage lean muscle gain.
Take a look at our shopping guide for all the tips you need to choose the best mass gainer for your fitness routine. We've also included some specific product recommendations, including our top pick, the Muscle Pharm Combat XL Mass Gainer, which is available in eight different flavors and multiple sizes.
Considerations when choosing mass gainers
When you're trying to add mass, consuming enough calories is obviously key. But if you add too many calories to your diet, you can end up putting on fat -- not muscle. There's some variation among mass gainers in terms of calories, too. So you have to be careful about the formula you choose.
Check the nutritional information for any mass gainer you're considering to determine the calories per serving. Compare it with how many calories you usually receive from food, and be sure that the gainer's calories won't put you over your desired daily caloric intake.
If your goal is adding lean muscle, a mass gainer must have the right carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Ideally, any formula you consider should have a 3:1 complex carb-to-protein ratio.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, so they can give you enough energy to accomplish a workout. You'll also want both slow- and fast-release proteins because those that require more time to digest can help with lean muscle maintenance, while those that are quicker to digest are effective for post-workout muscle repair.
If you choose a mass gainer that contains fat, it's important to ensure that they're all healthy fats. The best formulas have just one to two grams of saturated fat per serving, but you should stay away from any mass gainers with more than five grams per serving.
To avoid fat gain, you don't want a mass gainer with too much added sugar. Avoid any formulas that contain more than six grams per serving.
Some mass gainers feature other nutrients that can help you when you're working out and looking to put on lean muscle. Nutrients you may want to look for include:
Amino acids, which are effective for encouraging muscle growth and repair.
Digestive enzymes, which can help you better absorb nutrients and prevent bloating.
Electrolytes, which prevent dehydration.
Mass gainers are available in a variety of flavors, which can make them more appealing to drink. Some flavors you can choose from include:
Chocolate peanut butter
Cookies and cream
Mass gainers usually cost between $13 and $45. Lower-quality formulas generally range from $13 to $21. Mid-range formulas typically cost between $21 and $32. The highest-quality formulas can range from $32 to $45.
Q. Do mass gainers have side effects?
A. A mass gainer can sometimes cause stomach issues, including cramping and diarrhea. If you don't pay attention to the calories per serving and the nutrient ratios, you can also end up gaining fat instead of muscle. Introduce a muscle gainer to your diet slowly to see how your body reacts to it.
Q. Should I take a mass gainer every day?
A. It depends on your diet and fitness goals. Some people take it one to two times per day, while others take it every other day. You might start with once per day or every other day to see how your body responds and determine if you need to adjust the frequency.
Mass gainers we recommend
Best of the best: Muscle Pharm Combat XL Mass Gainer
Our take: An outstanding mass gainer that delivers results, and offers plenty of options in terms of size and flavor.
What we like: Available in eight different flavors, including unique options like triple berry. Comes in large bottles for a home supply and smaller containers that are more portable. Offers 50 grams of protein and more than 250 carbs per serving.
What we dislike: Can add mass quickly, which users aren't always expecting.
Best bang for your buck: Body Fortress Whey Protein
Our take: An effective mass gainer in a smaller container that contains plenty of protein and other muscle-building nutrients.
What we like: Mixes well with water and milk. Can also be mixed into recipes. Includes more branched amino acids than other formulas. Available in seven flavors, including chocolate peanut butter, and cookies and cream.
What we dislike: Can remain chunky when mixed with liquids, so a blender may be needed.
Choice 3: Muscletech Mass Tech Gainer
Our take: An extremely large supply of mass gainer at a reasonable price point.
What we like: Provides more than seven pounds of powder, so a container can last a while. Mixes well with skim milk. Can be taken between meals or after workouts. Available in four flavors.
What we dislike: Powder is fairly thick, so you'll see the best results mixing with a blender.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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