Everyone takes them but actually only some of us really need them. Yes, we’re talking about mass gainers, and if you’re confused, we’re talking about people with normal metabolisms and people with high metabolisms, the later being the group that stands to benefit the most from a calorie dense protein powder.
Don’t Waste Your Money on Filler
This blog is all about helping the skinny learn to become un-skinny, which is done primarily through a combination of yes you guessed it, proper exercise and nutrition.
We go deep into all types of moves you can do to build a bigger chest, build a bigger INNER chest, or even how to build a thicker neck, which in our opinion is one quick way to look less like a lanky-ass toothpick.
Bluntly speaking, building muscle as a skinny guy with a high metabolism, while possible, can be ridiculously difficult.
It isn’t impossible, but requires a unique approach to training and diet that most Youtube fitness gurus fail to share, because most of them are either predominantly endomorphic, mesomorphic or just on a shit ton of gear.
Do I Need a High Calorie Gainer?
You can spend all day on Youtube soaking up all the newest moves from your favorite fitness celebrity, and if you don’t have one, maybe you can check out this compilation of Kai Greene training videos. Point is though, even with a killer in-the-gym routine, without appropriate nutrition support, you’ll just end up burning a ton of extra calories and sweating a lot without any gains to show for it.
This is where diet comes into play. First of all, that saying you’re sick of hearing, about whole foods being the best source for your nutrients, well it is true. Whole foods are the a good option for getting a “majority” of your macros, but it’s not always convenient and it definitely isn’t always cheap.
If you’re like us then you can’t afford cooking whole, fresh, organic foods every meal every day of the weak, or you just don’t have the time, which is probably the case because if you aren’t a Youtube fitness celebrity who the hell has time to fit in 2 hours of training plus 3 hours of meal prep a day? Give us a break!
When budget and time become barriers to achieving your goal of bulking up and adding some serious mass, it’s time to look into the dazzling and confusing world of supplementation. There are protein powders mixed with other sorts of health fats and calories that are formulated specifically to provide both the protein and caloric requirements a hungry ectomorphic body needs to actually build some muscle for a change.
Top 7 Gainers That Are “All Killer & No Filler”
Below are the top 7 weight gainer powders currently available. You don’t HAVE to buy any type of supplement, bulking powders included, you can easily make your own by buying the ingredients separately and mixing them in your blender bottle.
For example, since we’re ectomorphic as fuck and our body burns 100 calories just in blinking our eyelids, we mix in some walnut and black sesame powder into every protein shake we make, simply to hit our daily macros.
Also, keep in mind that weight-gain supplements come in all types. There are those super high in calories and extra fats if you are super skinny and have a super high metabolism. There are also leaner products designed for those who have more medium to medium/fast metabolisms and don’t want too many excess calories.
In fact, if you’re looking to do a mini bulk or a lean bulk, check out our guide here for some more ideas.
The list below presents options that cover all those bases.
Things To Consider When Comparing Brands
If you don’t feel like mixing up your own blends, then these are the best there are. Use caution when looking at other brands, there are tons of snake oil bulk powders out there that are more air than they are actual food. A few things to make sure to look into (on the ingredient label) when shopping for something to help you gain weight.
- Make sure it has some f*cking protein in it. If it aint’ got at least 20grams per serving then what’s the point?
- Make sure it isn’t 100% maltodextrin. That sh*t is cheap as f*ck and is the crappiest calorie that barely counts as a calorie.
- Look for a health serving of calories in addition to the protein content.
- Look for added healthy fats and oils, as these help facilitate mass building.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s dig into what’s rocking and what we’d be happy to spend our money on!
#7 GAT Radical Mass Review
GAT, which stands for “German American Technologies” is a pretty reputable supplement brand that’s been around forever. Some of their products are pretty dope, like their Nitraflex preworkout, which is pretty much on par with O.N’s Gold Preworkout.
They also have the perennial favorite PMP, which is loaded up with a bunch of sweet ingredients, although some of them are blends so you don’t know how much of each you’re getting. Still, the company has a pretty solid track record and if you look up ANY of their products you’ll see them consistently reviewed higher than your Joe Shmuck brands.
What’s the Deal
Well Radical Mass is a pretty cool name isn’t it? Seriously though, besides a dope name there’s a reason Radical Mass made this list. First off, it’s got a pretty transparent ingredient label, breaking down each micronutrient individually, stating the precise amount in the product and the daily percentages.
- Sweet whey protein and milk protein isolate
- 177g of carbohydrates (19g sugar, 1g fiber) from maltodextrin and waxy maize, 6g of fat (3g saturated), and a calorie total of just under 1,000 at exactly 960
- Made in United States
They’ve added all sorts of vitamins (A, C, D, E, B6 anyone?) and minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, chromium, sodium). It’s good having some of the benefits offered by real food in your gainer.
Additionally, unlike many cheaper competitors out there, GAT does not depend 100% on maltodextrin for it’s carb source. Sure it’s in there, and that’s to be expected, it’s cheap after all, but they also did the courtesy of including waxy maize starch, which is a better carb source.
There is a nice blend of proteins, derived from whey concentrate, sweet whey protein and milk isolate.
For healthy fats there ain’t much but they’ve thrown in some soybean oil to at least say they tried. Hey, can’t have everything at number 7 spot. If you want more fats it’s pretty easy to get those in delicious cheat foods anyways.
960 decent, but mostly maltodextrin calories, 50g of protein which is a necessity and 10 grams of BCAA, with a total of 177g of carbs for 18 servings per 10lb bag.
Why We Like It
It’s a brand we trust, it’s a fair price and it’s got vitamin and mineral support which is nice when stressing your body through a bulk. If they wanted to improve we’d ask for more servings per back and some more health calorie sources outside of maltodextrin.
#6 Universal Nutrition Real Gains Overview
Universal is the most “old school” supplement brand on this list. They market to the extremely hardcore, most commonly “non-natty” crowd.
- 600+ calories per serving makes the perfect mass gainer supplement for athletes looking to pack mass on to make weight, or bulk for the off season.
- Easily digestible formula made with fiber and inulin to make the most of every Real Gains mass gainer shake.
- Delicious flavor in every serving will leave you craving your next weight gainer Real Gains shake. Easily mixable in water or any beverage of your choice.
- Provides both fast and slow digesting carbs and proteins to feed your muscles and keep your body growing.
- Real Gains provides healthy fats from MCTs and EFAs for a very nutrient dense shake.
While they were dominant for a few years they’ve fallen behind slightly in recent years while other companies have progressively upped their games. “Real Gains” is billed as a “clean gainer”, that is, it’s not dripping in excess calories that may just get turned into fat.
This means this is a perfect mass builder for those looking to do a clean bulk vs a dirty bulk.
Universal is a reliable brand and was founded by Brad Rowe in 1977 in New Jersey, an NPC athlete himself. The brand is heavy on the golden age of bodybuilding, which we can respect as the physiques of the 70’s were insane.
If your 60 year old dad would have used a supplement, it probably would be Universal Nutrition. Real Gains is their go-to “clean” mass gainer.
What’s the Deal
Well, at #6 Real Gains makes the list for a few reasons. One is the clear dosages in the ingredient profile list.
You get some vitamins, although not as many as the above mentioned Radical Mass, in addition to a sexy amino acid profile and a nice mix of whey concentrate, micellar casein, and whey isolates, which we love. More bioavailability the better we say!
Again, nothing too spectacular here in terms of healthy fats, there’s a bit of flaxseed oil added but we don’t know how much. The primary calorie source is once again maltodextrin.
52 grams of protein per serving, weighing in at under 600 calories per serving, a nice blend of concentrate, isolate and casein proteins and some added fiber (nobody likes getting the sh*ts). It’s also relatively low in sugar and mixes well.
Why We Like It
52 grams of protein per serving gets our respect. We also like you get a full 30+ servings per 10lb container, which blows some other brands out of the water.
#5 Rivalus Clean Gainer Protein Review
Rivalus is the newcomer to this party, it hasn’t been out there that long and you probably have never heard of it. It’s been making people talk though, partly because of it’s Home Depot orange branding and partly through stellar reviews it’s receiving on sites like Bodybuilding and Amazon.
- 560 calories
- 30 g dairy protein blend.
- 90 g eight-source complex carb blend. Just 8 g of sugar.
- Essential fats from flax, avocado and sunflower.
- Instantized to mix up quickly, fully and easily. No banned substances - safe for sport.
If you’re worried about gaining excess belly fat during your bulk or you want to bulk as clean as possible, this is probably for you as it’s billed as probably the leanest gainer on the market.
This company is all about transparency and honesty, and that is super appealing to bodybuilders that have been dealing out cash for shady, “proprietary” blends for years to companies happy to “amino spike” their supplements just to make a few extra bucks.
Rivalus is different. Seriously! They make sure no banned substances ever make it into their products, they’re manufactured right here in the United States (not sourced from overseas like other brands) and they submit all their supplements to independent third party testing to guarantee no b.s in terms of what you’re getting.
All of the testing and quality control is quite respectable and we applaud Rivalus for helping clean up the industry.
What’s the Deal
Ok, Clean Gainer is just what it says it is, it is a gainer designed to provide your body the protein and calorie stores it needs to bulk without excess fat. If you’re skin and bones like some hardcore ectomorphs, you may not care, and that’s fine, go try something with more calories. However if you are lean bulking then this is probably perfect for you.
What we got here? We got protein from diversified sources including whey concentrate, isolate, milk protein isolate, and micellar casein. That’s some nice diversity.
What makes Clean Gainer stand out though is that it manages to pack in all types of healthy carbs and fats while still coming in under 600 calories per serving.
How do they do this? Well, they don’t stuff it with too much maltodextrin. Instead you also get a bunch of organic quinoa (yeah seriously), blueberry powder (yup), ginger powder (whaaaat?), monk fruit (um ok?), organic rice bran (hello old friend) and oat fiber (goodbye squirts). Is that a crazy and health AF sounding ingredient list or what?!
Rivalus ain’t lying when they say this is lean. Each serving comes in at just 560 calories, includes 4 types of protein (mentioned above) and a ton of healthy fats (flax seed powder, avocado powder, and sunflower powder) and a fair 30 grams of protein per serving. A 10 pound tub fits in a solid 33 serving which is very respectable
Why We Like It
It’s got an ingredient list straight out of Martha Stewarts garden. Seriously, and look for yourself, those are at the TOP of the list, so they are in high quantities. This is truly a healthy, LEAN, gainer that’s making waves and earning mad respect on the streets judging by their reviews on online retailers.
#4 Cellucor Cor-Performance Gainer Overview
Ah, what would a top 7 list be without Cellucor. This is another gold standard within the industry, sponsoring some of the biggest bodybuilders and consistently ranking at the top of lists, whether it’s proteins or preworkouts, Cellucor always returns a good showing and is thus one of our favorites.
- Build strength & muscle mass: the COR-Performance gainer has a specially created 'gainer proprietary blend' with two strength and muscle building ingredients: Creatine monohydrate and BCAAs
- Superior formula: COR-Performance gainer provides high quality protein, carbohydrates and fat. The inclusion of all these macronutrients optimizes the body's environment to pack on lean muscle
- Amazing taste: Cellucor is known for products that offer amazing flavor and taste. The COR-Performance gainer reflects our commitment to a satisfying experience with Cellucor products
- All Cellucor sales are guaranteed to provide results! that is why we extend a 30-day, full money-back guarantee when you decide to make that investment
Even though we’re not huge fans of C4, especially with amazing alternatives like Betancourts B Nox, we do respect the brand, and their protein blends are now their key products.
Cellucor’s Cor-Performance is another “lean gainer”, meaning it isn’t packing excessive calories just for the sake of calories.
Again, maybe you want all you can get, and in that case you can look at other brands or you can just mix in a couple scoops of peanut butter with your shakes to hit your dirty bulk caloric needs.
However if lean and clean mass building is your thing then Cor-Performance Gainer is your new best friend.
What’s the Deal
You got yourself one hell of a solid lean gainer here, gluten free (if you care about stuff like that), and a super biodiverse protein blend, this is a very solid contender. You get whey protein concentrate, isolate, milk isolate, micellar casein, egg white albumin and whey hydro-isolate. That’s 6 f*cking different types of protein!
You’re also getting some decent carb sources, as besides the mandatory maltodextrin, Cellucor throws in some sweet potato powder and sunflower lechtin to keep things healthy and a little bit fatty, although we recommend you be supplementing with other healthy oils (fish, flax) outside of your gainers.
Per two scoops you get a whopping 60 grams of protein (they can fit it in because they don’t have to worry about excessive calories taking up too much space), 5 grams of added creatine, added BCAAs, and 80 grams of carbs and added digestive enzymes.
Why We Like It
We like it for three reasons. First, we like the brand, they’ve earned their quality reputation amongst the hardcore.
Second, we like the insane diversity in protein sources.
Third, we like they add extra BCAAs and creatine on top of everything to make sure you’re growing as much as humanly possible during your clean bulk.
#3 Muscletech Mass-Tech Extreme 2000 Review
Ahh Muscletech. Yet another industry standby. A proud American brand that went through some difficulties in the early 2000’s for excessive use of “proprietary blends”. In Muscletech’s defense however, pretty much EVERYONE was doing proprietary blends back then.
- Scientifically superior formula builds more size and strength
- 100% whey protein - zero inferior protein sources
- Ultimate mass gainer formula with proven muscle building ingredients
Only in the last few years has there been a big push by companies to be more transparent in their ingredient listings, and you have to applaud Muscletech for also jumping on that shit.
Muscltech these days are all about clearer labelling and study-backed science. They had a huge study done by the University of Tampa to support the anabolic claims of their Clear Muscle product for example.
What’s the Deal
Well, Mass-Tech Extreme 2000 could definitely win an award for coolest holographic label and most terminator sounding name.
Good job marketing, you caught our eye haha. This is a gainer for those who are looking to add some SERIOUS weight, that is, it is NOT for people looking to lean bulk.
No, Muscletech wheels out the big guns with their Extreme 2000. First, it only comes in a massive 22 pound tub. Second, each serving has a whopping 1,830 calories! That’s more than double some of the other leaner options on this list. Like we said, Muscletech is not f*cking around here..
1,830 calories per serving. 22 pound tub with only 20 servings (because each serving is 6 scoops!), 63 grams of protein per massive serving, 400 grams of carbs, added BCAAs, added 10 grams of creatine, and 20 vitamins and minerals.
Why We Like It
This stuff bars no holds.. it is an all out unashamed mass gainer and we love it for staying true to itself being completely outrageous.
#2 O.N Pro Gainer Overview
Surprise surprise, Optimum Nutrition again at the top of a list. Well, there’s a reason it’s one of the most talked about and relied upon supplement companies. They don’t have the most flashy branding or the most cutting edge technology, but they do what works and they do it well.
- High-Quality Proteins: Pro Gainer is comprised of high biological value proteins, which means they are easily digested and absorbed so they provide a full complement of amino acids to support the rebuilding process. Each serving of Pro Gainer provides a 60-gram dose of premium muscle-building protein made from 7 unique sources.
- Complex Carbohydrates & Lipids: Carbohydrates and lipids (fats and oils) provide sustained energy that help prevent proteins from being burned as fuel. Each serving of Pro Gainer provides 85 grams of carbohydrates and 4-5 grams of fiber with only 5 grams of sugar. In addition Pro Gainer supplies medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and other energy-dense lipids.
- Micronutrients: Various vitamins and essential minerals are utilized during the growth process. Without these micronutrients your body cannot effectively process proteins, carbohydrates, or fats. Each serving of Pro Gainer provides 26 vitamins and essential minerals.
- Calories: To gain just one extra pound, you need to consume approximately 3,500 calories-above and beyond what you normally consume through foods, beverages, and supplements. Pro Gainer provides over 600 calories per serving. By adding just one serving to your daily routine, you can begin to experience an increase in lean mass within the first week.
- Mixes Effortlessly with a Blender, Shaker, or Spoon
Well, we take that back. O.N’s Serious Mass is pretty much rubbish.. just a bunch of nasty sticky maltodextrin and a tiny bit of protein. It’s not on this list for a reason. Pro Gainer on the other hand is what a REAL gainer should be like.
Pro Gainer has been around for a while now as part of O.N’s “PRO” line, which is a step above their regular line.
While we are fine with the regular gold standard protein and don’t see the reason to purchase the PRO protein powder, since the cheaper Gold Standard already has whey isolate as it’s primary protein source, we definitely like the PRO gainer here more than the regular gainer, as it seems they’ve put something in it besides just maltodextrin! (Yes, we really hate Serious Mass that much..)
What’s the Deal
O.N’s Pro Gainer is a nice healthy lean mass builder. At just 650 calories per serving, it’s one of the leanest on the list, but it doesn’t skip in protein with 60 grams per serving, and it’s form a variety of sources including whey, casein and egg.
Actually, there are variations of all those proteins, so the actual total of types of protein in this are 7 types. Yeah, that’s of protein diversity.
Also included are a nice blend of complex carbohydrates and lipids, which help with muscle synthesis. There are also 26 minerals and vitamins added, all while skimping on sugars. Overall it’s a very well rounded lean gainer with a lot of cool ingredients.
It’s not the cheapest sure, but it’s a mega-reliable brand and one of the most highly consumer reviewed gainers on the market.
650 lean calories, 7 grams of sugar, 7 different types of protein, high protein to carb ratio, nice additions of medium chain triglycerides, sunflower oil and all that.
Why We Like It
For the longest time it was one of the best, most well-rounded lean gainers on the market. IF we had the cash we’d go for Pro Gainer in a heartbeat, and if we were looking to save we’d go for one of the above mentioned brands… since if you have 3 or 4 you’re cool with you’re bound to get one on sale.
The point is, this is what we always got if we could afford it because it was well, the gold standard in lean gainers. However, it seems that Pro Gainer has finally lost it’s throne, and to another O.N product at that!
#1 O.N Gold Standard Gainer Review
This is the newest gainer on the market, and it has been making waves ever since it dropped just a couple months ago. O.N has multiple levels of each of it’s supplements, starting with the most basic variant and ending with the most premium variant. In their mass gainer segment this “Gold Standard Gainer” is pretty much king of the hill.
- 55 grams of protein-primarily from isolate sources
- 770 calories from quality ingredients
- 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins
- 112g of carbs with oat, pea and potato
- 11g of fats from flaxseed, chia and mcts
With insane new flavors like Cinnamon Bun, and insane new ingredients like super diverse healthy fats, all while packing in 55 grams of protein per serving at under 800 calories total you have one hell of a medium-lean gainer.
This is in a sweet spot between the super calorie-rich fatty gainers and the super lean ones. There’s also amazing carb sources to boot.
What’s the Deal
Well, first off it is brand new, so expect the latest and greatest in gainer tech. Seriously, O.N has been able to watch the pack and pick out what they think are the most beneficial additions and put them in this here Gold Standard Gainer.
That includes a lean whey protein concentrate and isolate blend, a carb blend utilizing oat flour, pea starch, and potato starch, in addition to healthy fats from MCTs, creamer (containing sunflower oil), and some other weird things like flaxseed protein and milled chia seed.
This not only adds a bunch of superfoods to this mix (although we’ll still probably add matcha powder ourselves), but also totals in with 6 grams of fiber per serving to help fight the squirts.
55 grams of protein per serving, 23 servings per 10 pound bag, 760 calories, 2:1 ratio of health carbs (see above), 110 grams of carbs from really solid complex sources, and a nice mix of 11 flaxseed, chia and MCT fats to lube your muscle building processes.
Why We Like It
The only other lean gainer with more cool sh*t in it is the Rivalus Clean Gainer. Seriously, getting complex carbs over just maltodextrin into your gainer is the new bar by which all supplement companies will be held now.
Total calorie, fat, and sugar counts can vary depending on your goals or preference for dirty or clean bulking. In the end, O.N has really put together a dandy of a product here and it is very fitting of the Gold Standard title.
***Note, there isn’t that much disparity between the products listed here. Depending on your personal goals and brand preferences, this list could easily be changed. We love all the brands, that’s why we included them and only ranked them more out of fun than anything else. We’d be happy to guzzle down ANY of the above products in a heartbeat. ***
Best Time To Drink Your Calorie-Rich Shake
Science has shown that when it comes to protein, timing isn’t so big of a deal. So you don’t have to take it immediately following your workout, just as long as you’re hitting like 70-80% of your bodyweight in grams of protein, you’ll make gains.
Gainers on the other hand are designed to help you not just build muscle but add overall mass to your frame. This means timing is something that must come into consideration. To avoid your body burning any fat or energy reserves, when bulking, try to never let yourself get hungry.
This means eating 4-8 meals throughout the day. When meals aren’t readily available you can supplement with a mass gainer.
Besides in between whole food meals, the best time to take your gainer is right away in the morning, because the body has essentially been in a fasted state for 8+ hours and is in desperate need of replenishment.
The second time you need to be taking your shake will be right before you go to bed to help provide a little reserve of protein and nutrients for your body to use while your sleeping and unable to provide it with the building blocks it needs to repair the days damage done at the gym.
Great Things to Add to your Shakes to “Up” the Nutrition Level
Feel free to get creative with your gainer shakes, as you’re essentially trying to emulate a high calorie, protein rich and healthy fat-dense meal in a cup. We like adding matcha powder to our shakes because it’s pretty much the most anti-oxidant rich powder you can get, and it’s also pretty cheap.
Other great foods to add to your shakes to up their potency include bananas, peanut butter, other nut butters, whole milk, dark chocolate powder, honey, pretty much anything whole and also containing nutrients. Avoid sugar and maltodextrin, as most powders already have plenty of that sh*t.
Don’t forget, you need extra calories to gain weight, especially if you are sporting the ecotomorphic body type. Ectomomorphs burn through calories faster than anyone else and thus need to be regularly eating protein-dense, high-calorie food throughout the day to avoid falling into a catabolic state!
That’s about it. If you have a particularly tasty bulking shake recipe you want to share we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, if we missed a brand that you feel should be included in the list let us know too, we would like to try it for ourselves!
Last update on 2018-06-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API