If you are looking for the best protein powder for gaining weight, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we look at the top five protein-based supplements that will help any hardgainer climb up the scale. We consider both weight gainers and protein powders. Safety is always my priority when recommending supplements to my viewers. As such, an emphasis will be placed on ingredients and potential side effects.
While most people want to shed weight, many are in fact trying to do the opposite. Some people have such a fast metabolism that no matter how much they eat, their weight remains the same. Furthermore, they face a lack of helpful information on the internet.
With almost all health-related resources geared towards weight loss, skinny people can feel like second-class citizens. But the truth is that almost everyone would rather be underweight than overweight. In any case, many safe and effective options are available to help you bulk up. As a hardgainer, I understand too well the struggle of trying to gain weight.
If you fit in this category, protein powders can be an excellent tool when consumed correctly. And lucky for you, protein powders and weight gainers are considered some of the safest products in the supplement industry! The issue is that many weight gainers are ineffective, overpriced, or downright dangerous. Realizing this, I decided to research and test as many supplements as possible. I filtered out the bad ones and compiled a list of the five best weight gainers for skinny athletes.
This article tells you everything you need to know about gaining weight with protein based supplements and dispels any concerns you may have.
Top 5 Protein Powders for Weight Gain
1. Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer
Most Effective Best Tasting
This is a staple among hardgainers. I’m a hardgainer, and I credit a lot of my gains to this amazing product. The Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer is a high-protein formula that delivers substantial calories in each scoop. There are 15 different flavors (including double chocolate, vanilla custard, strawberry, banana cream, and cookies & cream) available in 5- or 10-lb bags, containing 14 and 28 servings, respectively.
Let’s begin with the basics. Each scoop contains 660 calories, 60 grams of protein, 85 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fat, and <7 grams of sugar. For a mass gainer, the macronutrient content is perfectly balanced although I would prefer a 1:2 protein-to-carb ratio. The protein blend consists of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate, egg albumin, hydrolyzed whey peptides, and glutamine peptides, all of which have a high BV value (biological value, a measure of protein quality. More on this later).
Having a low sugar content is also great. Unsafe weight gainers are loaded with fats and sugars to increase the calorie content. Doesn’t this go against the idea of healthy eating? High amounts of sugar can result in unhealthy insulin spikes which will make you feel dizzy and signal the body to store fat.
You also get 31 essential vitamins and minerals. If this seems like a lot, remember that the nutrient needs of active individuals are not the same as those of inactive ones.
Most of the flavors taste simply amazing, and customers seem to especially enjoy the vanilla and the double chocolate. You can mix in things like cinnamon and ice cream to shake up the flavor although it’s really not necessary. Of all the weight gainers I’ve tried, this one mixes up best.
As for the cost, this is one of the better priced weight gainers. At about $2.85/serving, you really can’t go wrong. As a rule of thumb, a well-priced weight gainer should cost around $3.00/serving, and for a whey protein supplement, the cost is about $0.75/serving.
In terms of effectiveness, Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer is in a league of its own. No weight gainer has produced as many satisfied customers. It’s quite heartwarming to read the testimonials for this product. Most notable was a review from a customer who had been terminally ill. He lost almost 100 pounds and tried many different products for many years to no avail. After trying this product, he was able to get back to a healthy weight within a few months. I myself have experienced this effectiveness and never felt more satisfied with a supplement. If you are serious about gaining weight, give this product a go, and you will not be disappointed
The only fault I found with the Optimum Pro Gainer is that the main ingredient is wheat-based maltodextrin, a high GI carbohydrate filler. It is excellent for spiking your insulin high enough to put you into an anabolic state, but there are better whole-food carb sources that can be used. Being that this is a mass gainer, it’s fairly acceptable. You will see many companies using this ingredient as it is cheap and easy to produce.
The bottom line: Optimum Nutrition really delivers with this product. It is reliable, tasty, inexpensive, and most importantly, it is a weight gainer with absolutely no side effects.
- Most effective supplement on our list!
- High calorie and protein content: 660 calories and 60 g of protein
- Low sugar and fat content: Less than 7 g sugar and 8 g fat
- 26 vitamins and minerals
- Inexpensive (approximately $2.85 per serving)
- 15 great flavors to choose from; mixes easily
- No side effects reported by customers
- Main ingredient is maltodextrin which has a high glycemic index
- The provided scoop measures up to ~120 g. Much less than the advertised 160 g. Measure out your servings with a scale or use 1 and a quarter scoops.
2. NAKED MASS – Natural Weight Gainer Protein Powder
Naked Mass is a great mass gainer without side effects. When ranking the top five weight gainers, I considered a range of metrics, such as cost, effectiveness, taste, mixability, and safety of ingredients. Optimum Nutrition took the prize for most effective, but for safety, Naked Mass definitely wins. Here’s why.
The makers of Naked Mass understand that customers seeking these supplements are very health conscious. And for good reason. With the rise of dangerous supplements, unethical marketing, and straight-up false labeling, one cannot help but feel wary. The best way to dispel concerns is to keep the ingredients easily identifiable and low in number.
Naked Mass, as suggested by the name, is simple, effective, and made from only three ingredients — Naked Whey, Naked Casein and organic maltodextrin. In the previous review, I expressed my concerns about wheat-based maltodextrin. Unlike Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer, the maltodextrin in Naked Mass is organic and made from gluten-free tapioca. This makes for a cleaner source of complex carbohydrates.
All ingredients are GMO-free, growth-hormone-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, which customers appreciate, and I appreciate that the company took the time to test for heavy metals—the results were excellent. The levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury all tested at less than 2 MCG, which is a negligible, safe amount.
Each scoop has less than five grams of sugar, which is excellent considering the great taste.
Let’s look at the macronutrients.
In each scoop, you get 50 g protein, 252 g carbs, 1,250 calories, and 11.5 g BCAAs. The macronutrient ratio is excellent and will help you bulk up fast. While you only get 11 servings (compared to 14 with the Optimum), each serving is very high in calories and carbs. I would even suggest taking half a serving and mixing in a scoop of whey protein, which doubles the number of servings. The type of protein used has a high biological value and is made from the milk of grass-fed cows.
Naked Mass costs about twice as much per serving as the Pro Gainer (click below to get an updated price). Considering it contains twice as many calories and is a healthier option, the price is excellent. It comes in three flavors — chocolate, unflavored, and vanilla. Many customers preferred the unflavored version as the taste can be modified to their liking.
The main complaint with this product is that some find it difficult to digest. This is rare, however, and more than 80% of customers have no issue. I didn’t experience this and even found it the easiest on the list to digest.
- Healthiest supplement on our list!
- Great nutritional content: 50 g protein, 252 g carbs, 1,250 calories, 11.5 g BCAAs per serving
- Healthy and simple: Made from only three ingredients (Naked Whey, Naked Casein and maltodextrin); all the ingredients are organic, GMO-free, growth-hormone-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.
- No artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors
- Excellent price
- Tastes great: Comes in three flavors — chocolate, unflavored, and vanilla. Many customers preferred the unflavored version as the taste can be modified to their liking.
- No side effects reported.
- A few customers (less than 5%) complained that it is not easily digestible.
3. Dymatize Elite Mass Hi-Protein Muscle Gainer
If you want the most effective weight gainer, go with Optimum Nutrition’s Pro Gainer.
If you want the healthiest weight gainer, go with Naked Mass.
But if you are looking for the best priced weight gainer, go with Dymatize Elite Mass. Of course, all weight gainers reviewed have zero side effects and contain no dangerous ingredients.
Dymatize Elite Mass comes in a 10-lb pound bag with two flavors to choose from (double chocolate and vanilla milkshake). It costs about the same as Naked Mass (click below for an updated price), but you get a whopping 30 servings!
Each serving contains 600 calories, 54 g protein, 72 g carbohydrates, 11.5 g BCAAs, and 1 g creatine. This is the first weight gainer on our list that uses a high-quality carbohydrate and avoids maltodextrin! The addition of creatine is great although not necessary and should be left to the consumer’s discretion. The protein consists of whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, and micellar casein: all great sources of protein and gluten-free as well. Very little lactose is used, and a few customers claimed they felt less bloated because of this.
Dynamize also contains “Zytrix technology,” a complex of digestive enzymes used to enhance digestion of high-calorie diets.
All in all, this is a great product and very cost effective, but don’t expect it to taste as good as the previous two weight gainers. Do expect excellent weight gains. Customers reported around 5-lb increases per month!
4. NAKED WHEY 5-LB 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder
This product delivers a level of quality and care unseen in the supplement industry. The makers of Naked Whey understand that customers seeking these supplements are very health conscious, and for good reason — with the rise of dangerous supplements, unethical marketing, and straight-up false labeling, one cannot help but feel wary.
The best way to dispel concerns is to keep the ingredients easily identifiable and low in number. Naked Whey, as suggested by the name, is simple, effective, and made from only one key ingredient — 100% Grass-Fed Pure Whey Protein. All other ingredients are GMO-free, growth-hormone-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free. Each scoop contains 25 g protein, less than 3 g carbs, 2 g fat, and 120 calories. This is a level of perfection only achieved by Optimum and Naked.
5. BSN TRUE-MASS Weight Gainer
BSN is a company that puts a lot of effort into researching and testing its products scientifically. The result is some of the best bodybuilding supplements available, and True-Mass is no exception. It is priced similarly to Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer and tastes just as good. The difference is that you get a few more calories, two extra servings, and a better carb to protein ratio (2:1).
Each serving contains 700 calories, 45 g protein, 90 g carbs, and 10 g naturally occurring BCAAs. You also get 18 g MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) fats to round out the nutritional value.
Overall, this is a an effective, side-effect-free weight gainer that is a good alternative to Optimum if you want a more well-rounded macronutrient content.
Are protein-powder-based supplements bad for you?
As already alluded to in this article, no. Weight gainer shakes are not bad for you. In fact, weight gainers are some of the safest supplements in the industry and have no side effects. It is fat burners and hormone boosters that you need to be a little wary of.
There are, however, many brands of weight gainers that are unsafe and even dangerous. Here is the problem:
The FDA leaves the testing of dietary supplements up to the manufacturer (1). You are supposed to trust the manufacturers to inform you that their products won’t make you grow a third eye. Even the labeling is left up to them!
This is why I decided to write this article. All weight gainers on this list are effective and safe. All ingredients have been thoroughly examined and researched.
What are the side effects of weight gainers?
Weight gainers are safe to consume, but some users have reported various side effects. This is especially true for weight gainers that contain creatine. While these reports are likely influenced by external factors (such as preexisting medical conditions or lifestyle choices), I believe they are worth mentioning.
The side effects of weight gainer supplements include, but are not limited to, fat gain, allergic reactions, cramping, and gastrointestinal problems.
- Fat gain: No surprise, right? Don’t assume that all of the weight will be stored in the form of muscle tissue. If you are not following a strict exercise regimen and burning more calories than you consume, a lot of the weight gain will be stored in the form of adipose tissue.
- Allergic reactions: This risk applies to all supplements but may be higher in weight gainers as they contain two common allergens — soy and milk. If you are allergic to either of these, consult with your doctor. Signs you may be allergic include vomiting, shortness of breath, wheezing, and hives.
- Cramping: cramping occurs when consuming too much creatine and not enough water. Drink half a liter of water for each five grams of creatine.
- GI complications: This includes bloating, heartburn, and constipation. If you experience any of these symptoms, lower your dosage and consult a doctor.
How to take a weight gainer for best results
There isn’t much to it. Variation in weight gainer usage comes from 1) when it is consumed 2) how it is mixed and 3) how much is consumed.
When to take a weight gainer:
There are two beneficial times to take your weight gainer — as soon as you wake up, and right after a workout. In the morning, your body is low in key nutrients needed to build muscle. A good way to replenish them is to drink a shake because the nutrients will be absorbed fast. Post-workout is another great option as nutrient needs, as well as rate of nutrient absorption, will be high. If you do not wish to drink a shake in the morning and are not working out that day, you may drink a shake at any time.
How to take a weight gainer:
Mix the powder in a shaker bottle or blender, with milk or water. Mix it with milk if you want extra nutrients (a cup of milk contains 120 calories, 8 g protein, and 5 g fat) and with water if you prefer quicker absorption. You want a shake to be absorbed quickly after a workout. In general, water is the best solvent for stomach absorption.
How much to take:
This depends on your macronutrient needs. Start with the label recommendation. Monitor your progress weekly and adjust.
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