Are weight gainers good for skinny guys? Do they really help you put on muscle mass quickly?
I used to drink huge glasses of this gainer workout shake. After a workout, I’d mix it with milk, shake it, chug it, put a TV show on, and then flop down onto the couch—nauseous.
The 15-pound bag was so big, it looked like I was storing dog food on the kitchen table. (And I’ll have you know I paid very good money for it.)
I wanted to gain size. And for the longest time, I believed the cliche to fix this problem, which was to “lift heavy, and eat big” and then down some weight gainer shakes.
I was lifting at the athletic centre at the University of Toronto in 2010, getting under 300+ pound barbells and doing two or three reps. Feeling lightheaded, I’d sit on the bench after. I remember sitting for a long, long, long time between sets.
Then at home, I’d have these 1100 calorie MUTANT weight gainer shakes—hoping that it’d help me get rid of being skinny. Another staple at the time was eating a can of tuna with a bunch of boxed macaroni and cheese.
Weight Gainer Shakes: My Experience
And the results?
Lots and lots of fat.
Looking back, it’s pretty clear to see why weight gainer shakes didn’t work for gaining size. Well, at least size from muscle.
These days, one of the first things I ask my clients is what their main goal is.
- “I am currently looking to reduce body fat and get stronger and continue to build muscle”
- “Get to 175lbs @ low body fat %”
- “I’d like to be able to continue adding muscle size, gaining strength, and lowering my bodyfat percentage.”
So I ask them, okay, do you want to prioritize size, strength, or getting lean?
99% of the time, they say size.
And the main frustration they run into is that they get fatter instead of more muscular when trying to “bulk”—just like I did.
It took me a long time to figure out how to fix this problem. And my first success was learning how to gain muscle in a calorie deficit.
The process of building muscle requires ATP, a small molecule that moves energy around the body. Carbohydrates help most with ATP, which is why it’s easier to gain muscle with lots of carbs. It’s also why overdosing on protein powders (as I experimented with) doesn’t lead to more muscle. Eventually, your body just needs more energy on hand to do the actual process of building new muscle.
Carbs Are Carbs—right?
Old Jared used to think carbs were carbs. (Maltodextrin is just like potatoes, right?) Each shake of mass gainer I had, unknowingly, I was causing my balding, tendonitis, low energy levels, and the layering on of stubborn fat. No doubt these shakes were ageing me faster. (Which I didn’t care about when I was 23, but I do now that I’m in my thirties.)
Let’s look at what is inside a typical weight gainer shake:
- Waxy Maize Starch
- Barley Starch
- Sweet Potato
- Rolled Oats
- Whey Concentrate
- Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Micellar Casein Protein
- Milk Protein Concentrate
- Milk Protein Isolate
- Fractionated Coconut Oil
- Flax Seed
- Pumpkin Seed
- Defatted Soybean
- Guar Gum
- Natural & Artificial Flavours
- Cinnamon Extract
- Tart Cherry
When you eat real food, it comes perfectly balanced with minerals and vitamins. So when you eat a potato, you’re also getting potassium, copper, magnesium, many of the B-vitamins like thiamine and niacin, etc. Those things are needed to mobilize the carbohydrates properly in the body. That way your body can actually use them.
When you eat processed foods, you get the energy but few (or none) of the nutrients needed to use it. This causes nutrient burnout that your body is storing. In the science world it’s called high-calorie malnutrition.
Today I know better, and it shows in the results of my clients who simultaneously get leaner while gaining muscle size.
Here’s Other-Jared, who has lost 3.5″ off of his waist while adding 3″ of size onto his shoulders.
He did an amazing job following through with improving his diet and getting his workouts in, despite being on his feet all day with work.
What I always find so cool about these transformations is how much their faces change. This is because we store a lot of unhealthy fat and puffiness in our faces, and when our health improves and we lower our inflammation, it’s noticeable there.
If you’d like help, check out our True Gains program.