In the mid 1990’s, the “old school” days for those of us who started out as eager young bodybuilders during that time, weight gainer products fell into two categories: homemade - six whole eggs, a banana, yoghurt, and a cup of milk in a blender – or were cheap products full of empty calories and cheap proteins that simply made you fat. Today weight gainer products are scientifically engineered supplements- and most have no empty calories. The days of simply using simple carbohydrates as a cheap “filler” are over. Let’s be clear, when we say “weight gainer” we are talking about not just gaining any kind of weight, but gaining the only kind of weight that matters: rock hard muscle. Weight gainers are important for all bodybuilders, regardless of body type, because they facilitate in three things, namely:
- Build muscle
- Prevent Muscle loss
- Speed up Exercise Recovery
The general rule of thumb for anyone wanting to gain quality muscle mass is consuming at least two grams of protein for every kilogram of your body weight, and 3-4 grams of carbohydrates for every kilogram of body weight. For example, if an athlete weighed 80kg, their daily intake would compose of at least 160g protein and 240g grams of carbohydrates. However, we can further break down into planning your intake according to body type. Choosing a weight gainer based on your body type and natural tendencies are critical. Weight gain-muscle gain- doesn’t come from just increased calories – but fat gain does. Muscle growth comes from slight and precise calorie increases in the required nutrients. Anyone can get fat, but muscle growth depends on how your body uses nutrients- and how you feed it. With this in mind, there are some general recommendations when choosing a weight gainer for your body type. Our body types can be listed in three categories, namely ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorphs
Weight Gainers for the Ectopmorph
If you’re an ectomorph, you’re the typical hardgainer. You have high metabolism and tend to burn fats and proteins as fuel, and probably need to consume extra protein just to maintain existing muscle mass. You are best choosing a weight gainer that is higher in calories per serving than other weight gainers. Ideally these calories should be coming from carbohydrates, proteins and fats- in this order.
Weight Gainers for the Mesomorph
With your increased muscle mass and increased tendency to store protein as muscle tissue, your are best choosing a weight gainer that has a relatively moderate range of calories per serving, while being higher in protein, moderate in fats, and low in carbohydrates. As a fat burner and protein storer, your metabolism derives most of your energy from fats. For this body type, excess carbohydrates will be stored as fat.
Weight Gainers for Endomorphs
Your metabolism uses glucose as its primary fuel source and stores excess fat as body fat with a secondary tendency to store ingested proteins as muscle tissue. Your are best choosing a quality weight gainer that is relatively lower in calories, but is higher in protein, moderate in fats, and in low in carbohydrates. Most weight gainers are products that are derived from high sources of milk, meaning it is not good for those that are lactose intolerant. However, there are products that cater for their needs. Soy protein is a particularly good choice for those people who are lactose intolerant. Whey isolate is also an option, as isolates contain only 1% lactose while whey concentrates typically contain between 5-6% lactose. To gain quality lean mass, there is still nothing that beats whole meals. However, due to our ever changing – and busier- lifestyles, meal replacement shakes are a quick and convenient way to provide fuel to our bodies. Consuming every 2-3 hours between meals is an excellent way to keep our muscle growth inhibitors well replenished. To even further add more caloric value to our weight gainers, skim milk instead of water can be used as the mixer. There is also the argument of between whether downing a shake or eating a whole meal is the most efficient way of making the most of our post-workout sessions. Numerous studies have in fact proved that the former is the better option, as the liquid is more readily and quicker absorbed by the body.
Biolo G, et al. Physiologic Hyperinsulinemia Stimulates Protein Synthesis and enhances transport of Selected Amino Acids in Human Skeletal Tissue. J clin Invest 1995; 95811
Acheson KJ, et al. Glycogen Storage Capacity and De Novo Lipogenesis during Massive carbohydrate overfeeding in Man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988; 48:240