Back when I first moved to Los Angeles for college I remember being immediately swept up into the heavy gym culture that reigned over the city, marveling at the popular muscular aesthetics that seemingly everyone was able to attain. This was no normal muscular gym physique I was used to seeing, and having lived in New York and the San Francisco bay area prior to moving to LA, this body type stood out to me as a goal to work toward. Of course I later found out that many of these bodies I found motivating and inspiring had been enhanced (at least partially) by steroid use, however I still had gym acquaintances and friends who were able to attain this impressive level of serious mass naturally – primarily using diligent eating practices, a regular workout schedule, and more eating.
Trying to Gain Mass as a Skinny Kid
My gym efforts turned to gaining mass in the most effective and driven means necessary, or at least what I thought was effective at the time. I would lift super heavy with low reps. I ate high-protein foods and took muscle gainer supplements. I sometimes trained twice a day. I even stopped doing cardio altogether.
Months went by cycling through these workout routines and eating processes, experimenting and trying new things as they came along. I definitely started to see more definition in my muscles, abdomen, and legs, however I was not making the type of muscle gains I was hoping for. After all my efforts, the time I spent buying what I thought was the right foods, lifting how I was taught to lift by other “big” guys, I was just not seeing results. It really made no sense to me. Why?
I had always been skinny with a naturally high metabolism, which made it easy to keep off unwanted fat, but difficult to make real mass gains. As I read more and more online, I realized I was not alone in this predicament.
So what’s the real reason I was not seeing any improvements in muscle gain? What plan could I set in place that could help?
I Wasn’t Gaining Muscle Mass Because…
I wasn’t taking in enough calories. Plain and simple. As much as I would do my best to scarf down lean chicken, tons of vegetables, and what I thought was a lot of other good stuff, it simply wasn’t enough to put me over the edge in caloric intake to make a difference. This probably sounds like a broken record, but the fact remains – a caloric surplus is necessary to gain weight, whether this be muscle mass, fat, or otherwise. For most people, the issue is that they are not consuming the right kind of extra calories to gain weight, or eating unhealthy foods with tons of trans fats that don’t translate into muscle mass, but fat instead.
Changing my eating habits in order to gain weight fast and efficiently was really difficult to do. I felt like I was constantly eating and overeating, which feels stupidly uncomfortable if you aren’t already familiar with the feeling. Not only was it uncomfortable, but it was expensive. I was meal-prepping for only 5 days using almost $60 to prepare only lunch and dinner for those 5 days. All the while I was taking my normal whey protein powder supplement after workouts and in the mornings before school or work.
For me, this was not a sustainable model for gaining mass. Most importantly, it was uncomfortable consuming that much food at once. There’s no way those types of eating habits are good for the body. But I was still determined to gain serious mass that competed on the same level of those guys I would see at my Hollywood gym. But how? Was there a sustainable, less expensive, healthier way to effectively gain mass?
In Walks…Mass Gainer Protein
I honestly felt stupid when I realized that this product existed and that I had been spending so much time and effort trying to gain mass without it. Of course there would be a product on the market that helps people gain weight! My workout partner at the time revealed this “secret” to me as an efficient way of taking in extra calories that doesn’t require constantly eating a ton of food. He pointed out that the purpose of these weight gainer proteins was not to act as a meal replacement, but simply a snack between meals that would help add the extra calories needed to put the body into a caloric surplus.
Having taken creatine, glutamine, and different protein products for years, I knew right off the bat that not all are created equal, and some help you achieve your goal of gaining muscle mass in healthier ways. After experimenting with numerous different mass gainer products (and finally starting to see the desired effects I was hoping for) I landed on one mass protein that I found to the the most effective, the best tasting, the most cost-efficient, and still extremely healthy – Optimum Nutrition’s Serious Mass. But in order to explain why I think it’s the best mass gainer out there, I should first explain how weight gain proteins work.
What Is Mass Gainer Protein?
Mass gainer protein or “gainer” as it’s commonly referred to by avid fitness consumers usually contains as many grams of protein as normal protein powder has, but also packs in tons of carbohydrates, nutrients, sugars, starches, amino acids, and other good stuff to fold in the extra calories. In most cases, just one serving of a weight gainer could contain over 1,000 calories, which is equivalent to more than a full meal. You can imagine that consuming these simply as “snacks” throughout the day would pack in the extra calories necessary to put the body into a caloric surplus.
Back when I was eating a ton of lean proteins, brown rice, veggies, and other healthy calories, although I felt full all the time, I was probably only consuming close to 3,000 calories every day. Given that I was walking miles to and from my classes on school days, burning tons of calories during my workouts, and having a fast metabolism, I was probably burning more calories than I was consuming, making it impossible to create a surplus. However, mass gainers are designed to change this game entirely. Not only do they pack thousands of calories into their servings that can be taken via liquid form (protein shakes), you don’t feel entirely full after consuming them. Plus, most of them taste great.
Many mass gainers also contain a particular form of the dietary fat macronutrient that helps keep you lean during the gaining process. This is important because in consuming all of these extra calories, it is important that they are high-quality in order to help you gain muscle mass, not fat. Having this right form of dietary fat is also easier on the body, making the mass gaining process healthier.
What Should a Mass Gainer Contain?
Weight gain protein products are pretty similar across the fitness industry – they all generally contain the same ingredients, or different versions of the same substances. The real question that comes into play is how much of these necessary substances are contained in my mass gainer of choice? Knowing the impact of these different ingredients on the body will help you understand what kind of gainer you need to meet your individual fitness goals.
For me, I needed a gainer that was both high-protein and in quality calories. My goal was to build muscle as quickly and efficiently as possible. I also needed a gainer that tasted good and was easy to consume without that uncomfortable “full” feeling. Finally, I needed a gainer that helped my muscles recover from extreme workouts.
Along with the extra calories and nutrients that are packed into weight gain proteins, great mass gainers should contain the following ingredients to help your body gain weight in the healthiest, most effective way possible. I will later use these measures to explain why Serious Mass by Optimum Nutrition is the best gainer out there.
High Protein Content
When I was first learning about the different types of mass gainers, I found it strange that there were some that contained a lower amount of protein content per serving than my non-mass gainer protein supplements. As you probably already know, strength training (when done correctly) creates little mini tears in the muscle fibers, requiring materials like amino acids to patch up the damaged areas. Guess where those amino acids come from? According to Men’s Health, when you ingest protein, enzymes in the stomach break down the protein and convert it into chains of amino acids. The harder you train, the more of these amino acids you need to heal the muscles through recovery.
Bodybuilding.com has a fun recommended protein intake calculator that estimates how much protein your body needs based on your age, height, gender, current weight, and desired goal. For me, my target daily protein intake according to this tool is 200 grams per day. Although we do ingest a lot of protein through the foods we eat, I am still doubtful that I would be able to take in even close to 200 grams every day if my gainer or protein didn’t have a high enough content. That’s why, per serving, I seek out about 50 grams of protein for gainers.
If you are reading this and looking for a mass gainer, chances are that you’ve already heard of creatine, so I’ll try not to bore you. Creatine is also an amino acid that can be found in muscles throughout the body and in the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, people also consume creatine whenever they indulge in red meat or seafood. As you probably already know, it is an extremely effective ingredient that improves athletic performance and muscle mass through its conversion into phosphocreatine. There are a few things to be mindful about when taking creatine, such as drinking plenty of water to avoid cramps or the dehydration that creatine is known to contribute to.
When taking creatine you must first “load” your muscles by taking upwards of 20 grams per day for 5-7 days, after which you could just maintain optimal levels by taking between 3-5 grams per day. Most people miss the loading phase altogether when taking creatine, while others don’t even know that it’s in the supplements they’re taking, and that’s ok. Again, how you administer these supplements will depend on your goals. If you are already trying to gain mass, you probably already know how to take creatine the right way.
That being said, most mass gainers are not going to contain a “loading” amount in every serving – that would be ridiculous and unhealthy. However, mass gainers should contain at least a few grams to help with daily maintenance.
Just as creatine is a huge game-changer when it comes to supplying the muscles with far more energy storage than they would normally contain, glutamine is incredibly important to help the muscles recover after lifting. As mentioned above, the muscles experience mini tears every time they undergo a hard workout, and as they grow to recover the body experiences muscle gain. According to WebMD, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, and are naturally produced in the muscles. It is even known to help the body with digestive support and gut function. Finally, this amino acid is known to boost the immune system and prevent the muscles from being catabolized (eaten/used for body energy). Glutamine is arguably just as important as protein itself in initiating muscle synthesis.
The reason glutamine is such an important ingredient in mass gainers is because it dramatically reduces the amount of time it takes the body to recover from a hard workout. Assuming that you are doing all you can in the gym – lifting heavy, low reps, little rest, you need all the help you can get when it comes to muscle recovery. According to bodybuilding.com, real bodybuilders should be ingesting 10-15 grams each day, dispersed in 5-gram servings throughout the day. Although one serving of mass gainer probably won’t contain a full 15 grams, it is imperative that it contains at least a few grams of glutamine to help with muscle recovery.
High Quality Calorie Count Per Serving
This probably seems like a more obvious point, but the amount of calories you are taking in when consuming your weight gainer is really what’s going to move the needle. So, how much should you aim for per serving? If you normally consume 2,500 calories in food each day and need 4,000 to make the type of gains you are seeking, how many mass gainer calories do you need?
Just for reference, let’s say that a “normal” protein supplement contains 22 grams of protein per serving at 200 calories. Even if you are taking two servings per protein shake, you are only putting yourself at 400 calories with 44 grams of protein. If you were relying on this protein to push your 2,500 caloric intake to 4,000 calories, you would need almost 8 servings to reach your goal.
Mass gainers, on the other hand, usually offer single-serving caloric counts at 1,000+ calories. This is usually through a carbohydrate blend that delivers more nutrients, fats, and other substances to the muscles.
Also…It Should Taste Good
Just as I rejected the notion that I had to fee miserably full every time I tried to stuff my face with foods I didn’t want at moments I was not hungry, I also think that gainer protein shouldn’t taste miserable. If you’re drinking it several times a day, it should be a flavor and texture you enjoy, not something you want to immediately barf up. Also, since it is NOT intended to be a meal replacement method, it shouldn’t leave you immensely full afterward, so you can still ingest more calories by real food later on.
What Does Serious Mass Contain?
As I mentioned before, I had to bounce around between many different gainers before landing on serious mass as my favorite. Some of them had the perfect amount of protein and glutamine, but were missing sizeable amounts of creatine. Others had the ideal mix of the important ingredients I mentioned above, but left me feeling full and gross after consuming. Although I knew that all gainers would give me a “full” feeling to varying degrees, I was determined to find one that didn’t make me want to barf afterward. After a hard, tedious workout, who wants to reward themselves by feeling nauseas? I certainly don’t.
There are a number of reasons I think Serious Mass is the best, most of which I will review in detail below. But to give you some background, Optimum Nutrition as a brand is one of the most trusted names in whey protein in the fitness industry and beyond. You might have heard of their regular protein product called Gold Standard. It is truly a class standard and rightfully named as such. This brand consistently receives some of the highest reviews among their products across different supplement categories in the fitness industry, with Serious Mass as one of these high-quality products.
Above I outlined the important ingredients for you that I think all effective mass gainers should contain. Here is why Serious Mass offers the perfect weight gainer solution.
Protein – 50 Grams Per Serving
As mentioned above, I place high importance on a high protein count in any mass gainer. Again, assuming you are kicking ass in the gym, lifting heavy and frequently maxing out, performing low reps and giving yourself little rest between sets, you are going to need this much protein to supply your muscles with a means of recovery. Gold Standard’s regular whey protein powder (make by the same company as Serious Mass) offers 24 grams of protein per serving, just for reference. This means that each time you are consuming Serious Mass, you are (on average) taking in twice as much protein as you would with a normal protein supplement. This will help support your body and muscles to make the gains you are hoping to see.
Creatine – 1 Gram Per Serving
Many gainers don’t even have creatine content to begin with, so the fact that you are consuming 1 gram of creatine per Serious Mass serving already sets you above the fold. Compare this to BSN supplements who makes an Ultra-Premium Mass Gainer that has 46 grams of protein and other nutrients, but contains no creatine at all. Assuming you are taking Serious Mass 2-3 times per day, you will be taking in about 3 grams of creatine with every serving, which is sufficient for maintaining a creatine load in the muscles. However, it is not enough to go through the “loading” phase, so if you are serious about optimizing your creatine use, you will need to load with a separate creatine supplement.
Glutamine – 500mg L-Glutamine, 500mg Glutamine Peptides Per Serving
Serious Mass contains a combined sum of 1 gram of glutamine ingredients per serving, which is surprisingly another substance that many other mass gainers leave out. I think that for serious muscle mass builders, glutamine intake should be prioritized almost as much as protein itself. If you’re lifting to make gains, you NEED all the help you can get with your muscle synthesis and recovery. If you are considering any other mass gainers, go and check right now to make sure that they have glutamine content. Serious Mass does.
Calories – 1,250 Per Serving
While protein, glutamine, and creatine will all help with the actual muscle synthesis, your caloric count per mass gainer serving is the bottom line in gaining weight. This is the only factor that will make the real difference you are looking for – putting your body into a caloric surplus using the right calories. Serious Mass contains a whopping 1250 calories per serving. Compare this to BSN’s Mass Gainer that only contains 700 calories per serving. Serious Mass is almost double this, and is considered to have one of the highest calorie counts across mass gainers currently on the market.
If you are concerned with fat content in mass gainers, you have every right to be. Although mass gainer protein powders should contain a bit of the right type of fats, any fat in excess is not healthy.
Serious Mass’s Calories from Fat Per Serving: 35
BSN’s Mass Gainer’s Calories from Fat Per Serving: 150
Again, I am just using BSN’s mass gainer as a comparison. You will notice that the fat contents of gainers will vary dramatically across the industry. The bottom line is this – to make big, lean muscle gains, your body will need a high amount of high quality calories. Compared to most other gainers on the market, Serious Mass dramatically outperforms the competition in this category.
In the example we used above, we made the assumption that you are normally taking in 2,500 calories via your food, but your goal is 4,000 each day. If we estimate that a “standard” protein supplement contains about 200 calories per serving, we calculated that you would need almost 8 per day to help you put your body into a caloric surplus.
With Serious Mass however, you would only require 2 daily servings to supply your body with enough quality calories to gain mass. This is a far more cost-efficient and effective way to take in the extra calories you need.
Does Serious Mass Taste Good?
I’m glad you asked! Of all the weight gainers I’ve tried, Serious Mass tastes among the best. However, there are specific flavors that I would recommend and ones that I would not. My personal favorites are:
…that’s it. I don’t like getting fancy when it comes to my supplement flavors, and this is why – if you are consuming this several times a day between meals, chances are you probably will not be hungry the majority of the time you choose to consume them. This makes gulping down flavors like chocolate peanut butter or banana a chore after the third or fourth time (unless you’re really in love with banana or chocolate peanut butter). My advice is this to keep it simple and easy to wash down.
(this is me a few months after starting Serious Mass…not huge yet, but saw significant gains within the first few months of consistent use)
When To Take Serious Mass
Like I mentioned before, I take my gainers between meals, not as meal replacers, but to increase my calorie sum intake throughout the day. In order to stay hungry for big meals and quality food, I never take gainer before eating a meal, but always immediately after before my stomach has settled. I do this so I am no less hungry for important meals, and I realize that it’s easier to gulp down gainer than force broccoli and chicken down your throat. If you have hours between meals you can also consume it as a snack.
Where To Buy Serious Mass
Like most things, I buy all my fitness supplements on Amazon. Serious Mass is no exception to this rule. Since it’s available on Prime, I get mine within 2 days of ordering. This is the fastest and cheapest way to buy.
Buy it now: Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass