Mass gainers can indeed be really useful for gaining muscle and even minimizing fat gain, so what’s the best mass gainer on the market? 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.
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? We’ve taken a close look at some of the biggest hitters in the industry, and we’ve landed on some solid options.
Best Mass Gainers
- Best Overall Mass Gainer — Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Best Whole Food Mass Gainer — Legion Atlas
- Most Nutritious Mass Gainer — Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
- Highest Carb Mass Gainer — Less Naked Mass
- Best All Natural Mass Gainer — Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
- Best Tasting Mass Gainer — Jym Mass
- Most Easily Digested — Jacked Factory Ultra Clean Mass Gainer
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns or before beginning any new workout regimen.
[Related: The Real Pros and Cons of Mass Gainers]
To take the top spot, we wanted a product that’s simple, effective, and tasty. It’s surprisingly hard to find a mass gainer with all three qualities, but Transparent Labs has pulled it off. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:2.
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 lean closer to 1:2 and Transparent Labs has gone that route while having a lot of extra benefits up its sleeve.
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!
It’s got 740 calories per serving with 53 grams of protein, 109 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 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.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Anyone who wants all natural supplements that are naturally flavored and sweetened.
- People who prefer grass-fed whey.
- Folks who prefer a dose of fiber with their mass gainer.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Those who want a lot of vitamins and minerals with their mass gainer.
- Athletes who need ease in with a lower calorie-per-serving mass gainer.
Transparent Labs’ Mass Gainer is simple, effective, and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. But it digests well, provides fiber, it’s tasty, and it’s a good source of calories. Additionally, the price tag is pretty on par for the market, so it’s a reasonable deal all around for 15 servings per tub.
Best Best Whole Food Mass Gainer
Most people define “all natural” as a product that’s free from artificial flavors and sweeteners, but Legion’s ethos is to take “all natural” to the next level. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:1.3. Still looking for an alternative to those maltodextrin-plus-whey mass gainers? Legion Atlas has some pretty remarkable ideas.
Free of artificial ingredients and packed with micronutrients, Legion's mass gainer stands out from the crowd. Use the code BARBEND10 to save 10%!
A big emphasis with Legion 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.
Who Should Buy Legion Atlas
- Those who prefer sources of naturally occurring micronutrients and phytonutrients.
- People who like whole food-based products — most of the carbs come from potato starch and oat flour.
- Anyone with an interest in gut health will be happy with the fiber, probiotic bacteria, enzymes, and resistant starch present in this product.
- Athletes who like to minimize artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Atlas
- Those who want to save money.
- Anyone who prioritizes flavor.
- People who want a lot of calories with mass gainers — this has just 370 per two-scoop serving.
Legion has cornered the market for all natural supplements with science-backed claims. If whole foods, gut health, and micronutrients what you seek in a mass gainer, it’s hard to go past Legion. The main downsides are the price tag and the lack of flavor. If neither of those are deterrents, then you may have found the pick for you.
Most Nutritious Mass Gainer
Want a little more with your mass gainer than just protein and carbs? We’ve found one that has a whole suite of vitamins and minerals included. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:5.
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 Optimum Nutrition 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.
Very inexpensive and full of vitamins and minerals, Serious Mass can fill nutritional needs and calorie goals.
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.
Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
- Anyone working on a budget.
- Folks who want a heavy dose of over a dozen nutrients in addition to the macros from their mass gainers.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
- Those who need a closer protein-to-carb ratio (or a lower carb count).
- Anyone who doesn’t enjoy the taste of of maltodextrin or artificial flavors or sweeteners.
Our first stop when looking for effective supplements is Optimum Nutrition and this tasty, nutritious, and inexpensive supplement is a worthy addition to their product line. The carb count is on the higher end of the market when compared to other options, but that will only deter those actively avoiding that. Otherwise, this high calorie mass gainer is likely to help you toward your goal of adding mass.
Highest Carb Mass Gainer
If you’re on a mass gaining diet, you may have been surprised at how hard it can be to meet your carbohydrate requirements. Really high-calorie diets often require at least 3 or 4 grams of carbs for every gram of protein consumed. Since many like to put the majority of their carbs post workout, this could be a perfect fit. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:5.
Maybe you’re wary of artificial ingredients, or soy, or gum, or conventionally raised dairy. Less Naked Mass may be 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.
A very high carb mass gainer ideal for folks who are wary of artificial ingredients.
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 (BCAAs and EAAs) 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.
Who Should Buy Less Naked Mass
- People who want all natural ingredients.
- Those looking for an inexpensive product on a per-calorie basis.
- Anyone looking for an extremely caloric mass gainer.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Less Naked Mass
- Those who want to avoid added coconut sugar.
- Folks who don’t want a massive increase in carbohydrate intake.
- People who want nutrients added into their mass gainer.
Plenty of mass gainers are just sugar and generic whey. While many people are happy with that, we like the way Naked Mass took a more elevated approach to the formula.
Best All Natural Mass Gainer
If you frequent bodybuilding message boards, it’s not uncommon to find people who deride the idea of mass gainers, asking, “Why buy powder when you can make oatmeal shakes and ditch all those weird filler ingredients?” As it happens, Muscle Feast has done just that. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:4.
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.
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.
Who Should Buy Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
- Anyone who wants an ultra simple one-ingredient mass gainer.
- Folks who don’t like the idea of “processed” foods or artificial ingredients.
- Athletes who want a lot of naturally occurring micronutrients in their supplements.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
- Those not yet accustomed to consuming large amounts of fiber.
- Anyone who can’t stand a bland mass gainer.
Muscle Feast’s product is simple, and not for those who like complex shakes. It’s just oats, after all. You might want to consider mixing this with milk or with cocoa powder, or powdered peanut butter (or all three!). Oats are phenomenally healthy and it just makes sense to have a quick-to-mix oat shake post workout, especially if you’re trying to get more whole foods in your diet.
Best Tasting Mass Gainer
There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing supplements that actually taste good when you eat them. If that’s your goal then you’re in luck, as this mass gainer isn’t just delicious, it’s one of the best designed on the market. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:1.
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.
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.
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.
Who Should Buy Jym Mass
- People who don’t want piles of maltodextrin as their main carb source.
- Anyone who wants a mass gainer that’s relatively slow digesting and minimizes insulin spikes.
- Those with a sweet tooth — available flavors include Apple Fritter, Chocolate Mousse, and Tahitian Vanilla.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Jym Mass
- Those looking to get a thousand-plus calories and a lot of carbs in a serving.
- Athletes buying mass gainers on a strict budget.
- Anyone who wants to minimize artificial flavors and sweeteners and/or soy lecithin.
At the BarBend office, Jym’s products — be it pre workouts or whey protein — always run out first. If taste is your priority, or if you want a mass gainer that doesn’t empty out of your stomach as fast as possible, this is the pick.
Most Easily Digested
This mass gainer is manufactured entirely with whole-food sources and in a cGMP certified facility in the USA — a nice pick for those who want to buy American-made products. It is also worth pointing out the reasonable price tag compared to the rest of the competitive options on the market. It has a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:2.
This mass gainer is manufactured in the USA in a cGMP certified facility and contains no added sugar. Each two-scoop serving provides 380 calories and 36 grams of protein.
The caloric value is on the lower end of the market per serving at 380 calories for every two scoops. There are no dyes or fillers incorporated in the ingredient list which includes pea starch, non-GMO tapioca maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate and isolate, sweet potato powder, and MCT oil.
Who Should Buy Jacked Factory Authentic Mass
- Those who want an easily digested mass gainer.
- Athletes trying to keep their sugar intake low.
- People who would like more calcium in their diet.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory Authentic Mass
- Anyone who needs more than 400 calories per serving.
- Those who are working with a tighter budget.
Although this mass gainer does provide 20 servings per bag, those servings contain significantly less servings than other competitive options. Although the caloric intake will vary from athlete to athlete based on how many calories they need within their macro breakdown
How We Decided Our Picks
Mass gainers are a particularly tricky area of supplementation, as the consumer’s desires can be surprisingly varied: are they looking to save money on calories, add to their nutrient intake, find a tasty way to gain mass? We tried a lot — a lot — of mass gainers and tried to weigh the following criteria when assessing their worth.
Cost Per Calorie
If we’re looking at a protein powder, we’ll judge the value based on cents per gram of protein, but mass gainers are more about the calories. The options we’ve covered vary from 25 to 85 cents per 100 calories, and yes, how much value the product is actually offering depends on the rest of these categories.
Protein to Carb Ratio
This one’s individual. Some want a hit of protein and carbs after a workout, some want a hit of protein and a lot of carbs after a workout. Ratios vary from 1:1 to 1:5. We put the ratio up the top of each pick so you know what you’re looking at.
The research overwhelmingly indicates that the amount of artificial sweeteners and flavors you’ll find in a serving or two of a whey supplement most likely have a negative effect on your body. If you’d rather not chance it, we indicated whether or not a mass gainer contains these ingredients.
That’s vitamins and minerals. Some prefer a hit of nutrients with their mass gainers, for others, it’s not a priority. That’s why we have a category for the most nutritious. It doesn’t necessarily make it the “best” pick, but it might make it the best pick for you.
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 is that it’s very easy to overestimate your calorie requirements when you make that decision to add mass. Biochemist Trevor Kashey, PhD told BarBend:
“Gaining muscle comes down to protein plus calories plus progressive overload. On paper there are no downsides. 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.”
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. Certainly the goal of gaining muscle with minimal body fat is very common. Most experts agree that a fifth to a half of a pound 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]
4 Steps To Take Before Buying a Mass Gainer
This is one of the most easily misunderstood and misused categories of supplements, so read on before clicking the “buy” button.
1. Watch Your Calories Closely
A lot of people think “I want to gain mass so I’ll drink a mass gainer.” OK, but what kind of calorie surplus is it putting you into? Experts tend to agree that you’re unlikely to gain more than a quarter to half a percent of your body mass in muscle per week. That’s maybe an extra 200 calories over your daily calorie burn — any more than that and it probably won’t be the kind of bulk you want to gain.
2. Pair Your Diet With the Right Workouts
If you want to gain muscle mass, jogging a few times a week likely won’t produce the physique you’re after. Heavy compound lifts and plenty of higher-rep hypertrophy focused workouts are the order of the day. Find a well planned, properly periodized program to accompany you on your muscle building journey.
3. Don’t Forget Your Micronutrients
People tend to get in a frenzy for more and more calories, no matter where they come from. This is called a “dirty bulk” — plenty of ice cream, forget the broccoli because it’s too filling. Your vitamins and minerals, though, are fundamental to your muscle gain plan: magnesium in veggies helps with recovery, Vitamin D helps with hormonal health, and so on. Hit your recommended daily intake of all your nutrients.
4. Get a Lot of Sleep
Half of the classic bodybuilding movie Pumping Iron is Arnold Schwarzenegger taking naps. Sleep helps the body produce testosterone, growth hormone, and reduce catabolic hormones like cortisol. It’s an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
Strategically using the best 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the best mass gainer supplement?
Legion Atlas is a superior mass gainer because in addition to a good ratio of protein to carbs, it contains a wide variety of vitamins and phytonutrients. Much of carb content is from oat flour and potato (as opposed to straight sugar), it has no artificial ingredients, and it delivers a lot of ingredients to smooth digestion as well, like probiotic bacteria and digestive enzymes.
Do mass gainers make you fat?
If you’re sticking to your calorie goal, exercising right, getting the right amount of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat), and you’re not falling short in your daily doses of vitamins and minerals, then mass gainers can help you to add muscle and minimize fat gain. Simply adding a lot of calories without monitoring your intake isn’t the right way to go about muscle gain, but if your calories are dialed in then mass gainers alone won’t cause issues. Most people have trouble gaining mass without gaining any fat, but if you gain fat, it won’t be because of the supplements. (It’ll be because your calories and total energy expenditure aren’t perfectly synced.)
Do mass gainers have side effects?
The main potential side effect of mass gainers is digestive issues: bloating, gassiness, and other signs of an upset stomach. This isn’t to say mass gainers will cause these issues when used responsibly, rather that haphazardly consuming a lot more calories than the body is used to can tax the digestive system. To minimize these issues, only eat an average of 200 calories over your daily calorie burn, eat the right amount of fiber, and consider supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics.
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