21 Oct How Protein Shakes for Weight Gain Can Support Your Health
Protein shakes are often associated either with packing on muscle or losing weight. However, many people use protein shakes for weight gain or simply to stay healthy.
Maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge if you have a very fast metabolism, you’re slightly older, you’ve been ill, or if you simply have trouble getting enough calories. Protein shakes for weight gain, otherwise known as mass gainer supplements, can boost your caloric and protein intake and promote health.
Let’s explore some of the reasons you might choose to use protein shakes for weight gain, and how to choose the right protein supplement for you. We’ll also share some ideas on how to make a delicious and nutritious protein shake in your own kitchen.
Why You May Need to Gain Weight
While the percentage of people in the Western world who need to gain weight is small, it’s a very real problem for people who struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. And it’s not just an aesthetic issue. Being underweight can lead to problems like nutritional deficiencies, infertility, osteoporosis, and a weakened immune system, among other things.
Some groups who might benefit from using protein shakes for weight gain include:
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength — this is known as sarcopenia. This increases the risk of falling and of breaking a bone. It’s also harder to build muscle as you get older. It’s therefore critically important to maintain a healthy weight and look after the muscle mass you have.
People Recovering From Illness
People who have been ill and not able to eat well for some time can find themselves losing weight and overall strength. Getting back to full strength as quickly as possible then becomes a priority.
Building muscle mass and maintaining it is important for bodybuilders, especially when involved in competitions. As such, sports nutrition plays a big role.
Anyone With a High Metabolism
People with a high metabolism burn through calories very quickly and need to top up regularly in order to maintain a healthy weight. The rate at which you burn through calories depends on genetics, lifestyle, metabolism and body type.
Why You Need Protein
Protein is one of the three critical macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and fats — that we need to maintain optimal health. Protein has many different functions, but it’s especially important when it comes to muscle growth.
When you consume protein, whether that’s from whole foods or protein supplements, your digestive system breaks it down into amino acids. Three of these amino acids, known as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), are critical for muscle protein synthesis — the process your body uses to build muscle.
Your body doesn’t store protein (unlike carbs and fats), so depending on factors like your age, lifestyle, and level of activity, you need a certain amount of protein every day to build and maintain your lean muscle mass. If you don’t get enough, you start to lose muscle mass and strength.
- An adult who is moderately active needs at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day.
- Older adults who are starting to lose muscle mass need at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram.
- Athletes and bodybuilders need at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram to support their high levels of activity.
How Protein Shakes for Weight Gain Can Help
The formula for weight gain is simple: Eat more calories than you use up, and the extra is stored in your body.
Opinions vary, but as a rule of thumb for safe weight gain, you should aim to boost your calorie intake by about 500 extra calories a day.
These calories should come from high-quality protein sources — not junk food, which is full of empty calories and completely devoid of nutrition. Good whole food sources of high-quality protein include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy, for example. Or if your diet is plant-based, you can get your protein from soy, quinoa, hemp, chia seeds, or amaranth.
As well as protein, you also need healthy carbohydrates and fats, plus plenty of fruit and vegetables to ensure you’re getting all the nutrition your body needs.
The challenge here is that while you want to make sure your protein intake is high enough to build muscle as you gain weight, protein quickly fills you up. It takes a while to digest, which means that you may not want to eat more whole food protein anytime soon.
This is where protein shakes for weight gain can really help.
Weight Gainer Protein Shakes
When it comes to weight gainer protein shakes, you essentially have two choices. You can buy a ready-made weight gainer protein shake, or you can buy a protein powder supplement and add other ingredients yourself to increase the calories.
Note that you’re not just looking for a nutrition shake, which is simply high in calories. The protein component is very important here as it gives you those extra calories as well as helping you build muscle.
Also, do not forget the importance of exercise when you’re adding calories. You need to combine your protein supplement with some form of resistance training to make sure you’re building muscle rather than fat.
Some protein powders you may want to consider are:
Whey Protein Powder
This is a very high-quality source of protein and is also quickly available to your body. Look for whey protein concentrate rather than whey protein isolate as the concentrate is higher in calories. Make sure you choose a superior-quality product like Kaged Muscle Clean Meal, which contains Ingredient Optimized ioWhey Protein, for the most benefit in your weight gain journey.
Casein Protein Powder
This is a slow-release form of protein that is often taken before bed to support muscle building while you sleep.
Note that both whey and casein are dairy-based, so if you have lactose intolerance, you may end up with digestive issues like bloating, cramps, or gas. In that case, your best bet is to turn to a plant-based protein like pea protein.
Pea Protein Powder
This option is ideal for vegans. While plant-based protein is often considered lower quality than animal-based protein, the latest technology has changed that. Ingredient Optimized ioPea Protein has been proven to be just as effective as whey protein.
Important note: If you have any other health issues, and especially if you have reduced kidney function, consult a dietitian or other healthcare professional before adding any supplements to your healthcare routine. The last thing you need is to struggle with possible side effects that may counteract your healthy intentions.
What to Look For in a Protein Powder Supplement for Weight Gain
Whether you’re looking at a ready-to-drink protein shake for weight gain or a protein powder that you plan to make into your own protein shake, keep these factors in mind:
- What are the calories per serving size? Read the nutrition facts label to find out.
- If you just want to boost your calories substantially, then focus on those numbers. If you want to build muscle though, confirm that the protein powder has a protein content of at least 70%.
- What other helpful minerals does it contain? For example, does it have calcium, iron, magnesium, or zinc?
- Is it free of added sugar and artificial sweeteners? Natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit are fine.
- Is it gluten-free? This is particularly important if you have gluten sensitivity or intolerance.
- Is it free of other unnecessary additives or fillers?
- Is it third-party tested to verify effectiveness?
It’s worth noting that protein powder blends also sometimes include other supplements like creatine or glutamine to help with muscle building.
How to Make Your Own Protein Shake for Weight Gain
If you prefer to make your own weight gainer shake, the formula is quite simple. All you need are a blender and good-quality ingredients. It’s not just about the extra calories though — for weight gain, the key is to use ingredients that are healthy, full of nutrients, and high calorie.
Step 1: Choose a liquid base, such as:
- Whole milk
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Ice cream (check the sugar content)
- Ice (if you like your smoothie cold)
Step 2: Add a scoop or two of a muscle-building protein source, such as:
- Whey protein powder
- Pea protein powder
- Hemp seeds
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Any other nut butter
- Whole nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts)
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Step 3: Add some healthy fats:
- Coconut oil
- Ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil
Step 4: Add extra flavor and nutrients from fruit and/or vegetables, such as:
- Swiss chard
Step 5: Add any extra flavors you want (bonus if they’re also nutritious):
- Cocoa powder or raw cacao
Once you have all your ingredients in the blender, close the lid and blend until it reaches the consistency you like. You may need to add a bit more liquid if it’s too thick.
You’re only limited by your imagination, and if you do run out of inspiration, there are many protein shake recipes online to get your creative juices flowing again.
Remember that to gain weight, you can’t simply use a protein shake as a meal replacement. You need to eat regular high-quality meals and then add protein shakes as snacks or have them pre- or post-workout.
A Weight Gain Shake Could Improve the Quality of Your Life
If you need to gain weight for any reason and are struggling to consume enough calories from whole foods, it’s worth considering protein shakes for weight gain. A high-quality protein shake can help you build muscle mass and strength and prevent muscle loss, keeping you feeling strong and healthy your whole life through.