Question: Marc, I’ve been told that I need a LOT of calories to gain weight. I’m having a bit of an issue eating so much food. My trainer recommended a weight gainer. But are weight gainers bad for you? What’s your take on weight gainers for people who need those extra calories?
Answer: The quick answer is “A weight gainer isn’t bad for you” than any other type of protein powder. It all depends on the types of protein, the quality of the calories and how you end up using it. If you search around on the Internet, you’d think you found the worst possible thing to take when trying to put on muscle!
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For Example: If Jon needs 2500 calories a day to maintain his weight and he is desperate to put on extra mass, he’s going to need a surplus of calories in order to do so. Packing on mass (weight) while on a low calorie diet, cutting plan or low carb is the surefire way to end up going nowhere. That being said.. having too many calories, constantly is a fast way to pack on fat.
Use a Weight Gainer as a Tool
It’s the easy way to add calories to your diet to get those extra surplus calories you need to gain weight. That’s awesome right? Keep reading…
Going with the example, Jon needs an extra 500 calories. He can and should get them from food but he takes the easy way (my opinion) and uses a weight gainer shake. Doing this consistently, he’s going to add weight. As long as it’s not excessive in calorie intake and he’s stimulating muscle thru hard weight training, he’s going to build muscle and put on weight. The trick becomes minimizing the fat gains.
If you stay in a surplus too long, you put on fat. Hence, the ever popular Zig-Zag nutrition method that addresses the issue of prolonged calorie surplus or deficits. Stay in a calorie surplus too long, you get fat. Stay in a calorie deficit too long, you stop burning as much fat. One program that simplifies this is The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program. It dives it Zig-Zag nutrition in detail.
A weight gainer is nothing more than an easy way to add more calories to your daily needs to put on weight. Used properly, you can eat regular meals but add extra calories and easily be in a surplus. Which is great for optimal muscle building. Used improperly, it’s a very fast way to get fat. There’s nothing inherently “bad” about it. Any more than eating healthy bodybuilding meals packed with calories in excess. That is just as bad.
The REAL issues when it comes to weight gainers is the quality of the proteins and if the product is loaded with sugar. In which case, it’s really not ideal. You get a lot of calories from low quality sources.
- The Pros of a Weight Gainer:
- Quick calories
- Cheap calories
- The Cons of a Weight Gainer:
- Too many calories can put you far beyond your surplus
- Cheap ingredients
- Encourages lazy eating habits
The debate about real foods vs. liquid foods rages on even today. If you need 3500 calories to put on weight and you are eating 2500 in real foods, another 1000 may seem to daunting. Maybe you need well beyond 4000 with your activities and eating real foods is darn near impossible? Those liquid calories are going to work in those situations. If you went to the Antarctic and were burning 10,000 calories a day, then a weight gainer (or candy bar) would be irrelevant at that point and necessary for survival!
Calories In vs. Calories Out is another popular debate but the end result is, if you burn more calories than you take in, you are not going to put on weight. If you are very active, eat 6 meals a day and barely hit 3500 but need 6000 to gain weight, then a weight gainer may be for you. You must evaluate your situation and make the appropriate choice. It’s not a good idea for everybody who wants to add some pounds to start using a weight gainer.
Keep in mind that if you do not develop proper nutrition habits, then the minute you stop “drinking” those extra calories, you effectively put yourself on a calorie deficit and you will see yourself dropping weight quickly.
In the example above, if you need 3500 to gain weight and you drink an extra 1000 calories a day, you’ll put on the weight. Then you decide not to keep using the weight gainer and quick. Adding in 1000 calories of extra real food is going to be tough but if you don’t do it, you are back to 2500 calories a day, and you’ll lose weight as you are not able to maintain the higher calories.
Keep all those points in mind when deciding if a weight gainer is right for you. If you need thousands of extra calories a day given your situation, it may be an appropriate tool. If you just need an extra 500, you can do that thru a few higher calorie food options.
My own personal opinion is that a weight gainer is rarely necessary. There are thousands of bodybuilding meals that have higher calories or weight gain shakes you can make at home that are cheaper and healthier for you. You control the ingredients and it acts as a weight gainer but it’s healthier in the long run vs. using supplemental powders.