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? — but 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 Gainer Overall – Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Best All Natural Mass Gainer – Legion Atlas
Most Nutritious Mass Gainer – Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
Highest Carb Mass Gainer – Less Naked Mass
Best Whole Food Mass Gainer – Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
Best Tasting Mass Gainer – Jym Mass
Best Mass Gainer Overall: Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
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.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer Highlights
Cost: ~60 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 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 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.
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!
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 Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Those who want a lot of vitamins and minerals with their mass gainer.
Transparent Labs’ product 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.
Best All Natural Mass Gainer: Legion Atlas
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.
Legion Atlas Highlights
Cost: ~85 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:1.3
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.
Free of artificial ingredients and packed with micronutrients, Legion's mass gainer stands out from the crowd. Use the code BARBEND10 to save 10%!
Who Should Buy Legion Atlas
- Those who prefer everything that passes their lips to be a source 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
- If you want to save money on your mass gainers, you should know Atlas is one of the pricier options on the market.
- There are no artificial sweeteners here, but it’s a pretty… “natural” tasting product. If flavor is your priority, you might not love this.
- People who want a lot of calories with mass gainers; this has just 370 per scoop.
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.
Most Nutritious Mass Gainer: Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
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.
Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass Highlights
Price: ~30 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 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 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.
Very inexpensive and full of vitamins and minerals, Serious Mass can fill nutritional needs and calorie goals.
Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
- Penny pinchers; Optimum Nutrition is an enormous company and their economy of scale means they can make very reasonably priced products.
- Folks who want more than macros from their mass gainers: you get a day’s worth of dozens of nutrients here.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
- The 1:5 ratio of protein to carbs may be a bit too unbalanced for athletes who aren’t looking for a very high carb count.
- If you’re no fan of maltodextrin or artificial flavors or sweeteners, this isn’t for you.
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.
Highest Carb Mass Gainer: Less Naked Mass
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. And since many like to put thee majority of their carbs post workout, this could be a perfect fit.
Less Naked Mass Highlights
Price: ~45 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:5
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.
A very high carb mass gainer ideal for folks who are wary of artificial ingredients.
Who Should Buy Less Naked Mass
- People who want all natural ingredients: the whey is grass fed, there are no artificial flavors or sweeteners, there’s no soy, and the whey is even made without acid or bleach.
- Penny pinchers; this is a pretty inexpensive product on a per-calorie basis.
- Serious mass gainers: 251 grams of carbs and 50 grams of protein in one sitting is no joke.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Less Naked Mass
- If you’re looking to avoid sugar, this product has addd coconut sugar.
- If you want 25 grams of protein without 125 grams of carbs — which is understandable — this might not be for you.
- If you prefer mass gainers that also provide a lot of micronutrients, this isn’t the one.
Plenty of mass gainers are just sugar and generic whey, and while many people are happy with that, we like the way Naked Mass took a more elevated approach to the formula.
Best Whole Food Mass Gainer: Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
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?” As it happens, Muscle Feast has done just that.
Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder Highlights
Price: ~25 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 1:4
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.
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.
Who Should Buy Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
- Anyone who wants an ultra simple mass gainer; this has just one ingredient.
- 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 Should Buy Muscle Feast Whole Oat Powder
- With about 15 grams or half a day’s worth of fiber in 450 calories, people who don’t consume much fiber might find this rather filling.
- It’s bland, so it’s not for those who like scrumptious 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: Jym Mass
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.
Jym Mass Highlights
Cost: ~75 cents per 100 calories
Protein to carb ratio: 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.
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.
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.
Who Should Buy Jym Mass
- People who don’t want piles of maltodextrin as their main carb source; Jym Mass contains pea starch, oat fiber, isomaltulose, and other uncommon carbs.
- On that note, anyone who wants a mass gainer that’s relatively slow digesting and minimizes insulin spikes; the protein and carb sources all digest at different speeds.
- Those with a sweet tooth: this might be the best tasting mass gainer on the market, available in innovative, surprisingly creamy flavors like Apple Fritter, Chocolate Mousse, and Tahitian Vanilla.
Who Should Buy Jym Mass
- Those looking to get a thousand-plus calories and a lot of carbs in a serving; one serving is 270 calories and the protein to carb ratio is 1:1.
- Penny pinchers; Jym tends to produce relatively pricy supplements.
- Anyone who wants to minimize artificial flavors and sweeteners and/or soy lecithin.
At the BarBend office, Jym’s products — be it pre workouts, whey protein, or anything else — 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, we like it 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, 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.”
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.]
How We Decide the Best
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, well, they’re 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, and 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 but hey, 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, but it doesn’t necessarily make it the “best” pick. But it might make it the best pick for you.
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.
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 0.25 o 0.5 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. To get a good idea as to your calories for bulking, check out our macros calculator.
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.
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.
Get a Lot of Sleep
Half of the classic bodybuilding movie Pumping Iron is Arnold Schwarzenegger taking naps. Sleep helps the body produce testosterone and growth hormone and reduce catabolic hormones like cortisol. It’s an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
Talk to a Doctor
Before you make any big changes to your diet or exercise regimen, speak to a physician to make sure you’re ready.
If you’ve read this far, you know that 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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