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Weight Gain Powders for Building Muscle Mass

Weight gain powders are an effective way of adding lots of calories and protein to your diet conveniently and inexpensively in the hope of building muscle fast. But get it wrong and its a fast track route to frustration, getting fat, or worse still, to poor health.

However you can avoid the risks with a little bit of knowledge, and get all the muscle gain, weight gain and strength gains without the negative side effects you may have heard in forums and magazines. To do this you simply need to keep 4 critical factors in mind:

1. Finding the Right Mass Gain Powder Supplement

There are 3 important factors to consider when choosing a mass gain supplement, and although there are some products that will work for most people, there really is no one mass gainer that is best for everyone:

  1. The ratio of protein calories to total calories
  2. The balance of simple to complex carbohydrates
  3. The types of protein used

To calculate protein calories, multiply the grams of protein per serving by 4. Most weight gains fall between the ratios of 1:1 and 1:6 with Applied Nutrition Critical Mass being around 1:4

If you are young, carry little body fat, have a slim frame, are very active or struggle to gain weight, then you want to aim at products towards the high ratio levels (ie 1:3 to 1:6) and if you're older, struggle to lose fat, gain weight reasonably easily aim for a product with a 1:1 to 1:3 ratio.

Similarly, if you really enjoy eating carbohydrates, then choose a weight gain with less carbs than you might otherwise choose.

The second factor, balance of simple to complex carbohydrates is important if you will be using more than one serving a day or have a slim frame but maybe carry a little fat. Products based around oats, activated barley and waxy maize starch are all complex carbs. Fructose, Dextrose, Glucose (and glucose polymers) are all simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbs will add to product price but result in less body fat storage if you use large servings or multiple servings per day.

The final factor, types of protein used, are less important but still play a factor if you don't tend to eat a good mix of red meat, chicken and fish. Whey isolate, egg isolate and casein isolate will all add the best balance of amino acids with the least amounts of fats and sugars.

2. Getting your Diet Right For Muscle Building

There is much written on this site and others on diet so I'll keep this very simple and easy to put into practice.. To gain a pound of muscle you need extra calories in the form of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Typically you need about 3,000 calories more than you burn.

I want to start by dispelling some common myths that have no bearing in science and may have shaped how you eat your meals:

Firstly, you can absorb more than 30g of protein at a meal, a lot more. In fact you can eat your whole daily amount of protein at a single meal if thats how you're used to eating your meals. If you currently eat 6 protein meals a day though, and you want to reduce that to 3, then do it slowly or your digestive system wont do you any favours!

Secondly, there is no measurable difference between eating your daily calories in 3 meals or 6 meals.

With that out of the way, here's how you should plan your 'eating to gain weight' program:

  • Eat the same sized meals at the same time each day, they don't need to be the same meals, just time and quantity to create consistency. Dont leave it to luck that you will eat enough!
  • Try and keep to basic, unprocessed, foods where possible. Eat potatoes, boiled rice, pasta, grains, and cereals rather than pastries, fries, or fried rice. Similarly grilled or roasted meats, chicken and fish rather than burgers, sausage, bacon or tinned meats.
  • Avoid snacks that are high in sugar, fats or both such as chocolate, crisps, cakes etc,
  • Aim to eat 2 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables every day.
  • Aim for 3/4 to 1 1/4g of protein perpound of bodyweight. Get essentail fats from oily fish and nuts.
  • Be as consistent as possible, 7 days a week, but have 1 day where you have one or two cheat meals.

Monitor your bodyweight every day and average it out over the last 7 days. If you gained no weight add 500 calories to your daily diet each day for the next 7 days.

3. Using a Weight Gain Supplement Properly

When using a weight gainer, they are best mixed with water except when used immediately before bed. Using them mixed in water allows for faster emptying of the stomach, less feeling of bloating, and a feeling of being able to eat again more quickly.

Mixed in water, most weight gains (excepting those high in casein) will leave the stomach quicjly enough that you can eat a solid food meal between 90 and 120 minutes later. This compares to a solid food meal where typically a gap beyween meals of 3-4 hours is required for stomach emptying.

This lends itself to alternate solid food meals with liquid (weight gain) meals as this allows you to eat up to 6 meals in a day and still get 8 hours sleep.

For those who eat and drink fewer meals per day this is not really an issue.

An alternative way of using weight gain liquid meals is to add them to the end of your solid food meal. This approach tends to favour the person who eats and drinks 4 or fewer meals per day.

On this plan you would eat a meal and take a serving of weight gain with one or more of your meals. This provides a simple way of increasing calories in a controlled fashion. If you are currently taking a weight gain with one meal per day and don't gain any weight over a week, you simply add a serving to a second meal and if necessary a third and a fourth.

There are a few reasons I've seen that cause people fail to gain weight using a mass building supplement, and these include:

  • They add a weight gain but drop calories from their regular diet, resulting in no real increase in calories. Typically they may drop snacks they used to eat, take smaller normal meals or even skip a meal all to ether.
  • Inconsistent eating. They may eat well one day but then under eat the next, again resulting in no real increase in calories over the week.
  • Using a weight gain as a standalone meal, but not using enough powder. To get a positive reaction, a meal needs to be a minimum of 500 calories even for a slim built individual. Ideally a minimum of 700 calories per meal is required.

4. Training for Muscle Mass Building

Training provides the stimulus for muscle growth whilst your diet provides the building materials for this muscle growth. Both are needed, neglect one and progress will stop dead in its tracts. No amount of weight gain supplements will build big muscles on a body that is insufficiently stimulated by the right sort of exercise program.

In its most basic form, the training required to generate muscle growth is progressive resistance training. Resistance training as you know is putting you muscle under stress by providing a resistance to the muscle contraction, or in its most popular form, good old weight training.

When picking exercises for mass gain keep big basic lifts as the core of your workout. That means squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, weighted chins and de-emphasize small isolation exercises where the potential to progress is limited.

However, progressive is the part most people struggle with. Progressive training occurs when you put more stress on a muscle at your current training session than you did in your previous one. This is usually called 'Progressive Overload' Here are a few ways you can achieve progressive overload:

  • Increase the weight at each workout, whilst keeping the reps and sets constant.
  • Increase the reps performed in each set, whilst keeping the sets and weight constant.
  • Increase the number of sets performed whilst keeping the rep count and the weight used constant.
  • Decrease rest time between sets, but keeping sets, reps and weights constant.
  • A combination of some or all of the above.

The simplest option for your general gym user, and the one I've always personally used, is the first, that is to increase the weight at each workout whilst keeping everything else as constant between workouts as possible.

To achieve this increase in weights at each workout you need to focus on 2 key points:

  • Increase the weight the smallest possible amount. Use micro weights or magnetic add on weights which are available is weights of 100g steps. I've even used washers from hardware stores.
  • Keep the set count low enough so that you can focus on getting stronger. Its hard to focus on using more weight at each workout if you're doing 10 sets of bench press. Much easier if you do a couple of warm up sets and then 1-3 all out sets.


So there you have it! buying a high quality weight gain powder like Applied Nutrition Critical Mass is just the first step in gaining muscle mass, but by following these 4 simple steps, and bearing in mind where you can or mustn't break these steps, you should be able to make rapid, consistent gains in muscle size and strength.

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