Home Gain Muscle The Best Mass Gainer Supplements: Top Picks for Lean Muscle – BarBend

The Best Mass Gainer Supplements: Top Picks for Lean Muscle – BarBend

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If you’ve ever had difficulty gaining muscle, you probably know that, well, nobody thinks “struggling to eat enough” is a valid complaint.

But it is! Gaining weight deliberately and methodically can be as much of a challenge as losing weight — indeed, there’s a lot more work to do when you’re eating an extraordinary number of calories. This isn’t to say that going low calorie is without issues, but the actual labor of preparing thousands and thousands of calories can be mind boggling for the athlete looking to pack on muscle.

So for many of us, it was only a matter of time until we start looking to mass gainer supplements. They may seem strange at first glance, sure — can you really just drink hundreds and hundreds of calories without any ill effects? — but we’ve taken a close look at some of the biggest hitters in the industry, and we’ve landed on some solid options.

All Natural

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. Use the code BARBEND10 for 10% off!

Carbs From Whole Foods

Legion Atlas

Legion Atlas

Free of artificial ingredients and packed with micronutrients, Legion’s mass gainer stands out from the crowd. Use the code BARBEND10 to save 10%!

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Super Nutritious

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

Very inexpensive and full of vitamins and minerals, Serious Mass can fill nutritional needs and calorie goals.

Doesn’t expire

Highest in Carbs

Less Naked Mass

Less Naked Mass

A very high carb mass gainer ideal for folks who are wary of artificial ingredients.

Nature’s Mass Gainer

Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder

Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder

As a source of super high quality protein and nutrients, plus a mass-friendly 1:4 ratio of protein to carbs, this could be a hit with those looking for more “natural” alternatives.

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Fast and Slow Digesting

Jym Mass

Jym Mass

Jym Mass has a big focus on digestion speed, so there’s an innovative blend of fast, medium, and slow digesting sources of both protein and carbs.

Doesn’t expire

Probiotics for Recovery

Bodybuilding.com Signature Mass Gainer

Bodybuilding.com Signature Mass Gainer

The mass gainer from Bodybuilding.com is super inexpensive and contains an unusual type of patented probiotic bacteria that may help with exercise recovery.

Doesn’t expire

The Pros and Cons of Mass Gainers

So can you add a bunch of liquid, powdery calories to your diet without any issues?

The useful thing about mass gainers is that, typically, they make it really easy to add a ton of not-all-that-filling calories to your diet.

The main issue with mass gainers, as biochemist Trevor Kashey, PhD told us in our full article on the pros and cons of mass gainers, is that it’s very easy to overestimate your calorie requirements when you make that decision to add mass.

“Gaining muscle comes down to protein plus calories plus progressive overload. On paper there are no downsides,” he says. “In reality, very few people measure their calories accurately (…) if the idea is to gain weight, it’s fine. If the idea is to gain muscle then it can be misleading.”

snatch setup free

In short, provided you’re meeting your intake of micronutrients, it’s not a huge deal with respect to body composition whether you make up a sizable number of your calories from mass gainers. The rub is that you need to have a very good idea of how many calories you should be consuming in order to gain the kind of mass you want.

We won’t pretend that everybody wants to only gain raw muscle — plenty of strength athletes just want to make weight and be strong, body fat be damned — but certainly the goal of gaining muscle with minimal body fat is very common. Most experts agree that 0.2 to 0.5 pounds of muscle per week is about as fast as you can hope to gain. Work out your calorie and macro needs based on your height, weight, body fat, and activity level (dietitians and sports nutritionists are great for helping with this) and use mass gainers judiciously.

If you do, these can be seriously useful weapons in your arsenal.

[Read more on nutrition for muscle gain: 10 tips for intelligent bulking.]

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer bright

1) Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

10% off

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. Use the code BARBEND10 for 10% off!

MoreLess

Cost: ~60 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio; 1:2
Pros: All natural, good source of fiber
Cons: A little pricy, not high in vitamins or minerals

The actual calorie and macronutrient content of mass gainers vary wildly and there’s a lot of debate as to whether or not a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs is best, or if you should go as high as 1:4 or 1:5. Most of the industry leaders hew closer to 1:2 and Transparent Labs has gone that route while having a lot of extra benefits up its sleeve.

It’s got 740 calories per serving with 53 grams of protein and 109 grams of carbs with 8 grams of fiber and 15 grams of sugar, plus there are 12 grams of fat. That’s more fat and fiber than you typically see in products like this, and with sought after, all natural ingredients like grass-fed whey concentrate, coconut milk powder, and MCT oils, this is considerably more robust than some of the competing maltodextrin-plus-whey products on the market.

2) Legion Atlas

Get discount!

Legion Atlas

Doesn’t expire

Free of artificial ingredients and packed with micronutrients, Legion’s mass gainer stands out from the crowd. Use the code BARBEND10 to save 10%!

MoreLess

Cost: ~85 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:1.3
Pros: Full of vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients
Cons: Pricy, relatively low in calories

Still looking for an alternative to those maltodextrin-plus-whey mass gainers? Legion Atlas has some pretty remarkable ideas.

A big emphasis with Atlas is the digestion rate: instead of whey and simple carbs it offers a combination of whey and casein (casein digests far more slowly) and much of the carbohydrate count comes from potato starch and oat flour. This “real food” angle will definitely satisfy a lot of athletes who prefer more “natural” sounding ingredients lists, plus it provides a lot of resistant starch, which is associated with a range of health benefits like improved insulin sensitivity.(1)(2)

It didn’t take the number one spot because a two-scoop serving only delivers 370 calories, however it’s jam packed with vitamins and minerals and there are even added digestive enzymes and probiotic bacteria — which may minimize indigestion and help you absorb all those calories you’re pounding.

3) Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

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Very inexpensive and full of vitamins and minerals, Serious Mass can fill nutritional needs and calorie goals.

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Price: ~30 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:5
Pros: Inexpensive, nutritious
Cons: Very high carb, high in maltodextrin

As perhaps the leading sports supplement company on the market — they sell the most popular whey on Earth, after all — we were keen to see what ON brought to the table. They’ve got two products (the other is “Pro Mass”) but what drew our eye with Serious Mass was the remarkable amount of added micronutrients.

You’re unlikely to experience nutrient deficiencies with Serious Mass as part of your diet, as one 1,250-calorie serving contains 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of most vitamins and minerals, plus 50 percent of your daily Vitamin D, which is important for testosterone but very easy to miss in the standard American diet.(3)

It does have a 1:5 ratio of protein to carbs with practically all of the carbohydrates coming from maltodextrin, which some may not love, but this is still an interesting addition to the industry.

oatmeal

4) Muscle Feast’s Oatmeal Powder

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Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder

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As a source of super high quality protein and nutrients, plus a mass-friendly 1:4 ratio of protein to carbs, this could be a hit with those looking for more “natural” alternatives.

MoreLess

Price: ~25 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:4
Pros: All natural, very nutritious
Cons: Filling, bland taste

OK, hear us out: there are a ton of people online who will tell you that there’s no need to buy mass gainers when you can just blend up oatmeal shakes and ditch all those weird filler ingredients… and Muscle Feast has come out with a product that has done just that.

This is just powdered oatmeal and it has a pretty muscle mass-friendly macro split: 450 calories delivers roughly 21 grams of protein, 81 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of fat with 12 grams of fiber (about half your daily intake).

A lot of people don’t know that oats deliver an extremely high quality protein — not quite as high as whey, but it has a more complete amino acid profile than rice and is rich in essential amino acids to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It’s got a great protein to carb ratio for mass. It’s jam packed with phytonutrients and healthful forms of carbohydrates like beta-glucan, which may help with immunity and lower the risk of heart disease.(4)(5)

The only real downside when used as a mass gainer is the flavor is a tad dull and all that fiber might be a bit filling, even when powdered into flour. But hey, it saves on prep time and it’s certainly all natural.

Less Naked Mass

5) Less Naked Mass

Less Naked Mass

A very high carb mass gainer ideal for folks who are wary of artificial ingredients.

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Price: ~45 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:5
Pros: All natural, inexpensive
Cons: Very high carb, has added sugar

Maybe you’re wary of artificial ingredients, or soy, or gum, or conventionally raised dairy. Less Naked Mass may have the product for you. They’re best known for their rigid adherence to “natural” whey: it’s grass fed, it’s made without acids, without heat, without bleach, without growth hormone.

The ingredients list is very simple: organic tapioca maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate, micellar casein, organic coconut sugar, organic cacao powder. The casein means it may release amino acids into the bloodstream over a longer period of time than regular whey and it may make it a bit more filling as well.

One upside could be a downside for you depending on your goals: it has 50 grams of protein for 251 grams of carbs, making for an unusual 1:5 ratio that some may find extreme. But if fitting in enough carbs is your biggest challenge and it doesn’t bother you that there aren’t a whole of micronutrients here, this may be helpful.

weighted pull up

6) Jym Mass

Jym Mass

Doesn’t expire

Jym Mass has a big focus on digestion speed, so there’s an innovative blend of fast, medium, and slow digesting sources of both protein and carbs.

MoreLess

Cost: ~75 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:1
Pros: Blend of fast and slow digesting ingredients
Cons: Pricy, relatively low-calorie

Devised by Dr. Jim Stoppani, exercise physiologist and long-time science editor at Muscle & Fitness, this mass gainer takes a more conservative 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs and uses an innovative blend of whey, casein, and egg white. This is intended to provide enough fast-digesting whey to promote muscle protein synthesis while delivering medium (egg) and slow (casein) digesting protein to keep the effect going as long as possible.

On a similar note, the carbs largely come from a mixture of pea starch, oat fiber, and isomaltulose, which also digest at different rates in order to avoid the crazy high insulin spikes that accompany a big influx of sugar. Even the fat is a thoughtfully designed 1:1:1 ratio of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

We’re not about to say spiking insulin is bad for you or bad for muscle — that’s a conversation for another time — but if a slower digesting gainer is what you’re looking for then Jym Mass can fit the bill.

7) Bodybuilding.com Signature Mass Gainer

Bodybuilding.com Signature Mass Gainer

Doesn’t expire

The mass gainer from Bodybuilding.com is super inexpensive and contains an unusual type of patented probiotic bacteria that may help with exercise recovery.

MoreLess

Cost: ~22 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:2
Pros: Contains probiotics, inexpensive
Cons: High in maltodextrin, low in vitamins

The hook with this product is digestive health. We couldn’t find out exactly how many are in a serving, but it delivers a hit of GanedenBC®, a kind of patented Bacillus coagulans bacterium (yep, you can patent bacteria) that’s stable enough to survive manufacturing processes that can kill other probiotics. Research suggests it may be useful for treating indigestion and could support immunity and recovery from workouts.(6)(7)(8)

Gut bugs aside this has a nice 1:2 ratio of protein to carbs: the protein is made from a blend of whey, casein, and egg white and while most of the carbs come from maltodextrin, about 10 percent come from grains like oat bran and buckwheat to help ever so slightly lower the insulin spike.

lean woman lifting free

Wrapping Up

If you’ve read this far, you know that strategically used mass gainers, when implemented with a good understanding of your calorie and micronutrient needs, can help to reduce the stress of a high calorie diet and get your body to where you want it to be. We won’t say they’re necessary for everyone and anyone who wants to pack on muscle but in a world where everybody has a zillion commitments, we’re all for making muscle a little easier.

References

1. Birt DF, et al. Resistant starch: promise for improving human health. Adv Nutr. 2013 Nov 6;4(6):587-601.
2. Maki KC, et al. Resistant starch from high-amylose maize increases insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese men. J Nutr. 2012 Apr;142(4):717-23.
3. Pilz S, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5.
4. Akramiene D, et al. Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(8):597-606.
5. Sima, P et al. β-glucans and cholesterol (Review). Int J Mol Med. 2018 Apr; 41(4): 1799–1808.
6. Kalman DS, et al. A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel-group dual site trial to evaluate the effects of a Bacillus coagulans-based product on functional intestinal gas symptoms. BMC Gastroenterol. 2009 Nov 18;9:85.
7. Jäger R, et al. Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and increases recovery. PeerJ. 2016 Jul 21;4:e2276.
8. Jensen GS, et al. GanedenBC30 cell wall and metabolites: anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects in vitro. BMC Immunol. 2010 Mar 24;11:15.

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