Weight gainer shakes are popular among the bodybuilding and weightlifting communities. They're a convenient, cost-effective way of consuming extra calories and protein if you're looking to build muscle and gain weight. However, when consumed in excess, or as part of an unbalanced, high-calorie diet, drinking weight gain shakes may contribute to increased fat storage.
Weight Gainer Shakes
Unlike regular protein shakes, which contain almost solely protein, weight gainer shakes contain a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, which gives them a higher calorie content. The idea behind consuming weight gainers is to boost your daily calorie intake, giving your body extra fuel to build muscle tissue. The proteins help with muscle growth, the carbohydrates provide energy, and the fats provide essential fatty acids. While the ingredients differ between brands, the protein usually comes from a whey or casein powder, the carbohydrates from a type of sugar such as dextrose, maltodextrin or waxy maize starch, and the fats from polyunsaturated oils. Sweeteners and thickeners are added for taste and consistency.
No singular food consumed alone can make you put on fat, as whether you gain weight or not is dependent on your entire diet. To put on fat, you must consume more calories than you burn. USDA guidelines state that for maintaining weight, adults aged 19 to 50 should eat between 1,800 and 2,400 (females) and 2,000 to 3,000 (males) calories per day, depending on activity level. Therefore, if you're eating more than your recommended allowance you'll put on fat. As some weight gainers can contain over 600 calories per serving, drinking these on top of your normal diet could mean overconsuming calories; the excess will manifest in your body as fat.
To save on costs and boost the calories, some weight gainers are made with added sugars and use poor quality carbohydrate sources. This sugar may lead to fat gain. When you consume any type of food, your body releases a hormone called insulin to shuttle the nutrients around your body, but the insulin release is far bigger with carbohydrates, particularly sugary ones like those in weight gainers. According to the Mayo Clinic, high insulin levels result in higher blood glucose levels, and an excess of blood glucose is stored as body fat. So higher sugar weight gainers may well lead to fat gain, particularly if you're eating above your calorie allowance.
Weight Gain Shakes as Part of Your Diet
Weight gain shakes alone won't make you gain fat, but if they're not balanced with the rest of your diet, you could be in trouble. To fit a weight gain shake into your daily menu, work out how many calories you're consuming from food, and then see if you have enough left over for a shake as well. If weight loss is your goal, then you may want to skip the weight gain shakes and stick to regular, lower calorie whey or casein protein shakes that don't contain high amounts of carbs and fats. Alternatively, you could make your own shake containing protein powder, milk, fruit and healthy fats from nut butters, olive oil or coconut. This way you can control the calorie content as well as the quality of the ingredients.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.