Are Mass Gainers Good for Bodybuilding
It is common practice for those aspiring to increase muscle mass, such as bodybuilders, to employ a hyper-caloric, overfeeding diet during their so-called “off-season” between competitions, a practice referred to as “bulking.” Back in the early 90’s, like many lifters working out to gain mass, I would consume Joe Weider’s Mega Mass 10,000 which at the time used to come on the 10 lb. dog size bags. Each scoop which was more like a shovel than a scoop contained over 2,000 calories per scoop. Back then, weight gain supplements made sense, which order for muscles to grow, you needed extra calories. Makes sense, you are not going to look like “The Rock” by eating the amount of calories that an average person would consume, in order to gain muscle, you need lots of calories…but how much?
Researchers published an interesting article titled. “Daily Overfeeding from Protein and/or Carbohydrate Supplementation for Eight Weeks in Conjunction with Resistance Training Does not Improve Body Composition and Muscle Strength or Increase Markers Indicative of Muscle Protein Synthesis and Myogenesis in Resistance-Trained Males.” The researchers found that taking weight gainer supplements with lots of calories may not be necessary. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of eight weeks (56 days) of heavy resistance training combined with the oral ingestion of a weight gainer supplement. The specific aims of the study was to determine to what extent daily overfeeding from protein and/or carbohydrate supplementation for eight weeks in conjunction with resistance training affected resistance training adaptations (body composition, muscle strength, and total muscle protein content), serum growth factors (IGF-1 and GH), and compared to isoenergetic carbohydrate in resistance-trained men.
Carbohydrate compared to Protein/Carbohydrate Overfeeding
In a randomized, double-blind, parallel design, resistance-trained males participated in a four-day/week heavy resistance training program for eight weeks in conjunction with daily overfeeding of either protein and/or carbohydrate supplement. In the weight gainer supplement group, the total daily caloric load was also 1,248 kcals but consisted of 94 g, 196 g, and 22 g of protein, carbohydrate/maltodextrose, and fat, respectively. Both supplements were iso-energetic in dose and identical in color and texture. For both supplements, half of the total daily dosage (156 g) was mixed with 15 oz of water and ingested 30 minutes before each exercise session and a half mixed with 15 oz of water and ingested within 30 minutes following each exercise session.
At the end of the study, both groups consumed approximately 2500 calories per day through food alone. The addition of the supplements increased daily energy intake to approximately 3750 calories per day. In the study, subjects were ingesting two, 47-gram doses of protein separated by approximately three hours.
At the end of the study, the researchers failed to see any superior increases in muscle strength and muscle mass despite the extra calories from a weight gainer and extra protein. This study indicates that the daily caloric excess from consuming 5.5 times the recommended dietary allowance for protein had no apparent effect on greater increases in muscle mass or strength. The researchers suspected that the increased protein intake failed to elicit an anabolic/ergogenic effect in response to resistance training, this is most likely due to the “muscle full effect” in which an excessive protein/amino acid load simply overwhelms the muscle in a manner that does not augment increases in muscle mass. Previous research has reported that protein synthesis is maximized anywhere from 20-30 grams of protein per day. The current study had the subjects consuming 47 grams of protein every three hours which clearly was more than what the body needs for muscle growth. The researchers concluded that daily overfeeding with protein and/or carbohydrate resulted in significant increases in total body mass and fat mass, without a corresponding increase in fat-free mass.
If you’re a football player, strongman, teenager with a fast metabolism, or any athlete that needs to pack on extra weight, then a weight gainer can be a useful supplement, but for bodybuilders looking to increase lean muscle mass without extra fat mass, than a good whey protein drink is all that is needed.
Mike Spillane, Darryn S. Willoughby. Daily Overfeeding from Protein and/or Carbohydrate Supplementation for Eight Weeks in Conjunction with Resistance Training Does not Improve Body Composition and Muscle Strength or Increase Markers Indicative of Muscle Protein Synthesis and Myogenesis in Resistance-Trained Males. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Volume:(15), Pages:17-25