Most weight gainer products on the market are advertised and sold this way because of naivety on the part of the buyer. A common weight gaining product such as Muscle Juice is a good example. It is generally composed of cheap whey protein concentrate (high in fats and sugars), a large amount of high GI carbs from corn sugar such as dextrose or maltodextrin and the cheap gimmicky fat MCT (medium chain triglycerides). These cheap ingredients all give added calories to the mix and make it look impressive on the label. The problem is that these are mostly empty calories and simply don't add weight on like real food or a superior protein MRP (meal replacement powder) would. Because of the high GI carbs included in these formulas, an insulin spike is produced, which would be ideal post workout, but when consumed throughout the day can begin to start insulin sensitivity issues and fat storage. When you look at it from this point of view, combined with gainers are usually more expensive, you start to understand why they shouldn't be used.
Whey protein concentrate (WPC), although a decent source of protein, is not ideal for everyone. As I mentioned, it is very high in fats and sugars, especially lactose, and for anyone who has trouble with dairy, that is a problem. Oh the other hand, it does have some microfactions that are good for the immune system. Will Brink does a good job of explaining the differences in his article The Whey it is.
The next problematic ingredient we commonly find in weight gainers is maltodextrin. Although it is classified as a complex carb, it does not act this way in the body. Again, consuming maltodextrin around the workout window (before/during/after) would be suitable because it a high GI carb, but all throughout the day as recommended by using a weight gainer product can lead to insulin sensitivity and unwanted fat storage.
The last common ingredient is MCTs as a source of fat. Although MCTs were once generally touted as being beneficial because they were used as an energy source, they have been almost entirely debunked. When combining MCTs as a fat with a high GI carbohydrate it is almost certainly going to end up being stored as fat and not used. A much better source would be from a good fat that is high in omega 3s and 9s like olive, flax, or fish oil.
A much better method is to simply blend up your own healthy gainer which quality ingredients you pick that give you more better calories overall and is still within anyones budget.
Pogue's Shake Receipe
This is my own personal shake recipe that I use all the time. It tastes great and you can tweak it yourself based on your own personal tastes and add/subtract calories as needed. Mix the following into a blender for a rich smoothie:
- 3 cups of ice
- 1 cup of 2% milk (122 cals, 5g fat, 11g carbs, 8g protein)
- 1 banana (105 cals, 0g fat, 27g carbs, 1g protein)
- 2 cups of frozen strawberries (92 cals, 1g fat, 22g carbs, 2g protein)
- 1 cup of fat free plain yogurt (70 cals, 0g fat, 14g carbs, 4g protein)
- 2 tblspoons of Naturally More peanut butter (169 cals, 11g fat, 8g carbs, 10g protein)
- 1 tblspoon of olive oil (119 cals, 13g fat, 0 carbs, 0 protein)
- 1 teaspoon of creatine
- 1 scoop of Gaspari Myofusion (147 cals, 3g fat, 5g carbs, 25g protein)
That comes to a total of 814 calories, 33g of fat, 82g of carbs, and 50g of protein. That is great for a weight gainer and includes good carbs and good fats. Note that the numbers come from About.com's Calorie Count. Obviously you can substitute Myofusion for the protein powder of your choice, including plain protein powder with no additives. I choose Myofusion because it tastes good and Gaspari was nice enough to send me a free sample awhile back. My other preference for protein is Optimum 100% Egg Protein. Because I'm lactose intolerant and prefer non-dairy sources of protein, but although Myofusion does have WPC in it, they include lactase enzymes for digestion, so there is no problem. I use Naturally More brand peanut butter which includes extra protein from flax seeds and contains good healthy fats along with fiber. Obviously the creatine is optional, but if you are a trying to gain weight, it is highly beneficial and bulk powder is very cheap and blends easily. I use Cheap Supplements Creatine Monohydrate.