In part 3 of my series on buying protein supplements we will examine the 8 reasons why most gainers on the market suck and everything that is wrong with weight gainers.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 The Problem with weight gainers
- 0.2 1) Not enough protein in Gainers!
- 0.3 2) The protein is usually cheap and toxic!
- 0.4 3) Too many carbs!
- 0.5 4) Most of the carbs are sugars!
- 0.6 5) Full of aspartame and fillers!
- 0.7 6) Proprietary blend crap
- 0.8 7) Too much overall fat!
- 0.9 8) Expensive
- 1 Who are weight gainers for?
- 2 Closing thoughts
The Problem with weight gainers
The last category of proteins is the famous weight gainers or gainers. The idea behind this product is that it allows the user to gain weight faster. Of course the most common (and usually untrue) statement is that it will help you gain MUSCLE without fat.
And so you see advertisements in bodybuilding magazines of how person X (or famous bodybuilder X) went from fat to super ripped and big by only using this gainer.
Do people still believe that crap? Yes, they sure do.
Here is the thing you need to know: Magazines make money from the sales of these supplements. Also the models in those ads are 99% of the time anabolic steroid users. Plus they spend 3 hours per day in the gym lifting weights. This means that they can eat dirt and still build muscle.
This does not apply to the average non-steroid lifter who works out 3 times per week for an hour per session. Most of the times, people who use gainers do gain weight but in the form of fat. The only exception is people who either make their own gainer or choose a gainer that has a specific macronutrient ratio that fits their diet.
Personally, I believe that weight gainers are perhaps the most overhyped product in the protein market today for a number of reasons that I will reveal below.
1) Not enough protein in Gainers!
In gainers, the main ingredient is carbs which leaves protein as the second ‘best’. The amount of protein in gainers is usually 50gr per 250-300 gr of gainer dose. You can get 50gr of protein from 2 30gr scoops of normal protein powder.
So if you have higher protein needs, gainers are not for you and they can be very expensive for that use.
Remember that gainers have around ⅕ of the protein that normal protein powders have.
2) The protein is usually cheap and toxic!
Cheap protein is usually of very low quality (and vice versa).
Most commercial weight gainers tend to use the cheapest forms of protein such as calcium caseinate (which is toxic as I explained in a previous section), or soy which is the worst kind of protein as it can cause hormonal imbalances by increasing the ratio of estrogen over testosterone.
Yes, sometimes you might be able to find a gainer that uses a decent blend of egg, casein and whey protein but there aren’t a lot of them in the market (and they won’t be cheap either).
3) Too many carbs!
Gainers are known for their ridiculous amount of carbs. Carbs are not always the enemy. The problem comes from the fact that they use different forms of carbs and sugars.
If you’re tracking macronutrients, remember to always take into consideration the amount of carbs listed on your gainer so as not to throw off your macronutrients ratio.
4) Most of the carbs are sugars!
Some gainers tend to use waxy maize or oats (which are slow absorbing) and a mix of sugars. These sugars can be fructose (bad), sucrose (bad) or dextrose (possibly GMO) or maltodextrin (possibly GMO) or a combination of all of the above in quantities you have no control over.
Like I said, the carbs are not the enemy but only under one condition: that you know when and how to ingest them properly. Ideally these gainers should be consumed mostly after a workout because of the sugars they contain and they are not fit for consumption during other hours of the day.
5) Full of aspartame and fillers!
2 things that make gainers dangerous are the artificial sweeteners and also the fillers they contain. I have explained their dangers in this article.
It is very common to have both aspartame and sucralose in the same gainer along with other flavor enhancers.
It is also very common to have colors in the mix. Some might be natural but most of the time they are toxic and dangerous such as red beet color (a.k.a red40 used mostly in strawberry taste) which is carcinogenic.
As far as fillers are concerned, I have seen other stuff like silicon dioxide, rice flour and even salt as a flavor enhancement.
6) Proprietary blend crap
The supplement industry has figured out a very smart way to incorporate cheap ingredients in gainers, without having them questioned.
For reasons of simplicity (and less ingredients to talk about) I will use the example of a NO supplement that contains arginine, ornithine, creatine and taurine. Company X uses the term Proprietary blend, to list the above ingredients on the label and only quote the total amount of them instead of revealing how much of which nutrient they actually added.
In the current example, let’s say the blend is 3gr per dose and the supplement is supposedly a NO or GH product. Its label would look something like this:
Proprietary blend: 3gr
- Creatine ________**
- Taurine ________**
- Ornithine ________**
- Arginine ________**
The minimum amount required for any kind of reaction from Arginine is around 1-1.5gr. Which leaves the remaining 2-1.5gr to be divided among the rest of the ingredients. But take a moment to think about it. Arginine is more expensive than the ultra cheap creatine and Taurine. So we could assume that the amounts look something like this:
- Creatine 1.5gr
- Taurine 1gr
- Ornithine 0.5gr
- Arginine 0.5gr
By having these amounts, the company will benefit greatly by selling you a very expensive protein for a NO supplement. And with the power of marketing, proper copy and a bit of placebo effect, they are able to pass this along as a miraculous supplement.
Now I don’t know about you, but I refuse to pay 30-50$ for a product that I can put together on my own by buying the ingredients separately at a cheaper price and end up with a product that will last me 3-4 times longer than the original overpriced one.
I will be preparing a very detailed guide with all the custom supplements that I personally create and use that includes NO supplements, pre and post workout formulas, adaptogen mixes and testosterone boosters. So you might want to subscribe to my website to stay tuned for that.
Note: To be fair to the decent supplement makers out there, proprietary blend is often used to protect intellectual property or the secret dose of a supplement, especially when it comes to herbal supplements or testosterone boosters.
So not everyone who uses this term is a fraud. However, bear in mind that some herbs or ingredients in supplements formulas can be very strong for some people (example: Rhodiola). If that is the case, you might want to proceed with caution.
7) Too much overall fat!
Another common way to increase weight and lower costs (thus make more money), is to add more fat sources to the gainer.
While the fat content is not the problem in itself and while most of the times they tend to add some decent forms of fat like MCTs, the problem arises from 2 facts:
- a) You have no control over the fat content which tends to go overboard when you consume big amounts of gainers.
Just think about it: you cannot properly organize your fat content. Your calculations over your daily intake of saturated and unsaturated fat can be severely hindered and out of control and so will be your overall macronutrient ratios.
- b) Usually when you are on a high carb diet, you need to stay high in protein and low in fat in order to gain muscle and not fat.
Of course, a high carb, high protein and high fat diet is not a problem for steroid users but it can make non-users fatter in no time.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of gainers is paying a huge amount of money for carbs. You could buy the ingredients separately and put together your own gainer for the fraction of the original cost.
Who are weight gainers for?
So the question remains: Are all weight gainers useless? Yes and no. It all depends on who is going to use it.
Weight gainers are great for:
- Anabolic steroid users,
- People who do not get fat easily (great insulin sensitivity),
- People who are genetically gifted and can eat anything,
- Really thin people who just started lifting,
- Athletes with high caloric demands.
Weight gainers are not for:
- People who are already overweight,
- People who put on fat easily (insulin and leptin resistant),
- People who want to boost their caloric intake but want a specific macronutrient,
- People who want to lose fat and weight,
- People with very precise diets.
This concludes part 3 of my complete buyer’s guide to protein supplements. We covered everything that is wrong with weight gainers and what to look out for. In the next part, I will explain what to look for when buying a good protein supplement.
Did you ever have problems while using a gainer? What happened and what did you do about it? Let the readers know by leaving a comment below. Until next time, stay strong, healthy and free!
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share buttons below and show your support to this blog.
Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!
by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200