There’s no avoiding it. Nothing sinks the goal of gaining muscle faster than not eating enough. To put on mass, you need to consume a calorie surplus so that you can fuel the growth of new muscle tissue.
Finding those extra calories can be difficult, especially if you’ve been bulking for a while and have quite a high-calorie requirement each day. That’s why many people choose to drink those extra calories, using a mass gainer to make up the difference.
But the choice to use a mass gainer can bring its own questions. Questions like whether those extra calories are going to put on unwanted weight and make you fatter. In this article, we’ll answer the question – Does mass gainer make you fat?
What Is a Mass Gainer
Mass gainers are nutritional supplements that are designed, like the name suggests, to help you pack on serious mass in a short amount of time.
A mass gainer is going to be high in protein, similar to a protein powder, but it differs by having a much higher carbohydrate content, and sometimes also higher fat content.
Related – Mass gainer or whey protein for size
A mass gainer can have over 1000 calories per serving, significantly higher than the 200 calories per serving average expected from most reputable protein powder brands. These extra calories are what help you put on the mass you’re looking for.
It also means that you have to be careful that you don’t overuse a mass gainer, as it’s very easy to go over daily macro and calorie limits when you’re drinking that many liquid calories.
Does Mass Gainer Make You Fat
A common side effect of supplementing with mass gainers is that you are more likely to put on excess body fat due to a higher overall calorie consumption each day. Mass gainers can contain 1000 calories or more per serving and the excess calories can lead to unwanted fat gain.
Consuming extra calories will always make you gain weight, so it stands that regularly using a mass gainer will also make you gain weight, and likely also fat. This will however depend on how often you drink one, and what you’re doing in terms of training alongside taking a mass gainer supplement.
The literal purpose of a mass gainer is to make you gain weight though. It’s right there in the name. However, it’s worth noting that mass gainers shouldn’t be confused with weight gainers. The intention of a mass gainer is for the performance-related benefit so the term mass is used to mean muscle mass – not fat!
At least that’s what the branding and marketing message states, as an impartial person though, the effect of a mass gainer will depend on other factors such as diet, overall calorie intake, and your training regime.
Mass gainers have very high-calorie content, are backed up with large amounts of proteins and carbs, and are explicitly designed to give your body precisely what it needs to build more muscle. Unfortunately, depending on how you take it this could also translate to body fat!
How Many Calories Are in a Serving of Mass Gainer?
Every brand of mass gainer is different, so there’s no definite answer to how many calories are in a serving.
The industry standard seems to sit somewhere between 500 and 1000 calories per serving, with some brands pushing that number as high as 1500 calories per single serving.
Does Gaining Fat Actually Matter?
The answer depends on how much fat you gain.
If you’re bulking, even if you eat absolutely clean and stick rigorously to your exercise program, it’s nearly impossible to put on pure muscle with no fat gain.
Related – What is a lean bulk and how to do it
Studies show that no matter your training style and diet, it’s almost certain that you will gain fat alongside muscle when consuming a calorie surplus and bulking.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Firstly, it’s generally accepted that to build an optimal amount of muscle, some fat gain should be expected. This is what’s commonly known as bulking and cutting cycles.
Second, because it’s simpler to gain fat and muscle together, you’re better off worrying about how many calories you’re putting into your body and how hard you’re working out, rather than whether you’ve put on a pound or two of extra fat that can be lost at a later time.
But this doesn’t mean that you can pile on the donuts in an excessive dirty bulk.
Even when bulking, it’s important to stick to your macros and calorie goals, so that even when you’re putting on a little more fat, there’s no excessive weight gain.
This is usually the thing people struggle with the most as you want to gain weight quickly but muscle can only grow at a certain rate (roughly 1lb – 2lbs per month for beginners)
How Many Calories Do You Need to Eat to Gain Weight
To gain any sort of weight, you need to be in a caloric surplus. i.e. you need to be eating more calories than you’re burning, on a day-to-day basis.
Step 1: Calculate your maintenance calorie level.
Your caloric maintenance level or total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories that you need to eat and drink each day to maintain your weight, i.e. not gain or lose weight, at your current level of activity.
Maintenance calorie calculators are widely available online tools, our favorite is linked below.
Keep in mind that staying at a maintenance level of calorie intake doesn’t guarantee that your body composition isn’t going to change.
It makes no allowance for macros like protein intake, or the types of workouts you’re doing. It’s possible to stay at a maintenance level and lose muscle, for example.
Step 2: Track your daily intake.
Counting the calories of everything that you’re eating can sometimes feel a little over the top, but nothing will affect your ability to manipulate your body quicker than controlling what you’re putting into it.
As the old adage goes, muscles are made in the kitchen, and what gets measured gets managed.
So if you’re looking to put on good weight, logging your calories in a food diary, then putting that information into an online nutritional database to break down calories and macros, or downloading a diet tracker that does this for you, is a major step that gives you the information you need to start making serious changes.
Related – Tracking macros when bulking
Step 3: Increase daily calorie intake
Once you’re aware of your daily calorie intake, and how that relates to how much you should be eating, it’s time to increase it.
A good starting number is 300 calories over your daily maintenance figure. Hold at this for a few weeks, and see how it affects your weight by tracking your weekly average weight.
Weight will fluctuate naturally each day so recording the weekly average will help you identify whether or not you’re gaining weight and if so, you’ll be able to see the rate of weight gain. As mentioned earlier, 0.5lbs – 1lb per week should be a good guide for beginners.
If you see no noticeable increase on the scale, or in your measurements, then step up your caloric intake by another 150/200 calories per day.
The Advantages of Taking a Mass Gainer
The biggest benefit of drinking a mass gainer is how precise you can be with your calorie intake.
Each portion of mass gainer contains a specific amount of calories, which you can calculate based on serving size and adding any calories from what it’s mixed with (milk, nuts, and berries if you’re making a shake or smoothie, etc.)
This makes it incredibly simple to hit your daily intake goals, especially if you have a busy lifestyle that doesn’t let you fit extra meals around work or family.
A mass gainer is also ideal for emergency calories. A shaker with dry powder can be kept in your car, gym bag, or office, and can be used if something comes up that prevents you from fitting enough calories into your daily routine.
How to Take Mass Gainer Without Getting Fat
Ok, so we’ve mentioned that fat gain can be expected when bulking (when most people will consume surplus calories) and that if you don’t consider your daily calorie intake, you will gain excess body fat when supplementing with mass gainers.
Therefore, it’s worth taking a look at how you can successfully take mass gainer supplements without getting fat.
Firstly, factor a mass gainer into your calorie surplus. If you need to consume 4,000kcal per day (including a surplus), consume 3,500kcal from your typical whole food diet, and then add the 500kcal mass gainer to reach your calorie target.
The reason most people get fat when consuming a mass gainer is that they’ll consume a lot of calories going into a surplus but then also a 500-1000 calorie shake. You can’t optimally utilize these calories and they ultimately end up going to fat stores.
Secondly, you need to be consuming a “good quality” mass gainer.
If your mass gainer is loaded with sugars and poor-quality nutrients, it’s more likely these calories will go towards fat storage because your body won’t be able to optimally use them to facilitate muscle growth.
Finally, take a mass gainer around your workout window.
As mass gainers are so high in calories, the best time to utilize these calories is when your body demands them the most – i.e. before and after a workout.
Mass gainers are excellent if you’re looking to easily add another thousand calories to your daily intake. But you shouldn’t use a mass gainer as a band-aid to try and fix a bad diet and exercise.
Like everything fitness, mass gainers are a tool, and should be used as part of the whole. This is because if you carelessly supplement with a mass gainer it’s more likely that you’ll gain excess body fat due to the high-calorie content of each serving.
To take mass gainers without getting fat, you need to factor the calories from this into your overall daily calorie intake. If you are already consuming a calorie surplus and then adding even more calories from a mass gainer will not lead to more muscle growth!
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