Mass gainers can cause muscle growth – but can mass gainers cause diabetes?
This is one of the main worries that some hard gainers are asking about and we wanted to clear it up today. We’ll be discussing how mass gainers affect your health and if a high-calorie supplement is something you need to be worried about.
We’ll also discuss the most important questions around this topic and what you might find in a mass gainer supplement to support growth – or, more worryingly, that could harm your health.
What’s in a Mass Gainers?
Mass gainer supplements are, at their core, a blend of carbohydrate and protein powder. They’re a powder supplement you mix into a mass gainer shake, which makes for a fast and easy source of calories on the go.
Mass gainers are popular supplements among bodybuilders and athletes and it’s important to get lots of calories into the diet.
They’re also super convenient after a workout, where they’re going to replenish the calories you spent, the carbs you’ve depleted, and the protein necessary to repair and grow muscles.
These are the core ingredients for muscle growth, which is why mass gainer is so popular and has helped so many skinny guys get bigger. Remember that this does, usually, lack other important things you’d get from food: vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other small nutrients.
A mass gainer is best used as a simple carb-and-protein powder and should be treated like that.
Just like any mixed nutrient source, you want lots of protein and a level of carbs that makes sense for your diet, intake, and health. Super mass gainers are very high in calories and carbs and are often way “over the top” for your needs.
Can Mass Gainers Cause Diabetes?
No – mass gainer will not cause diabetes by itself. It may, however, be part of a diabetes-risk diet if overused or combined with an unbalanced diet.
A mass gainer can only cause diabetes when it’s part of a diet that is too high in calories and sugars, in particular. It’s not a cause of diabetes by itself and mass gainer alone won’t cause insulin resistance.
You need to make sure that your total diet is well balanced with your needs and offers a reasonable calorie intake. You should also be sure that the high-calorie content for your mass gainer is not just a ton of sugar.
Some lower-quality mass gainer products are just a large amount of sugar and simple starches, with very low protein, which is riskier for pre-diabetes and metabolic damage.
High-quality mass gainers and metabolic health
A mass gainer is riskier for diabetes if it has any of the following:
- A super high-calorie content – like the 1350 calories of Dymatize super mass gainer
- Very high carbohydrate content – especially sugars or simple starches
- Low protein content, anything above 4:1 (carbs: protein) could be a concern
If you reverse these 3 criteria for diabetes risk in a mass gainer, you get a very high-quality product. It would be moderate calorie intake (around 500-750 per serving), moderate carbohydrate content – and from complex sources, and finally a high protein content.
Protein is the most important nutrient for a mass gainer, just like in any other food. It slows down the digestion and release of energy into the bloodstream and maintains consistent digestion and metabolism after eating. This reduces the negative effects on insulin function of many foods.
Some mass gainers that are designed well will trade off a lower calorie content to focus more on protein content.
The two that stick out are Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer and Universal Real Gains. These are high in protein and moderate in calorie content – making them perfect to add to any diet.
Performance Boosters In Mass Gainer: What Should You Look For?
Remember that more calories do not equal better muscle gains. Getting the best results from mass gainer comes from quality, protein content, and added secondary ingredients that can support your health and results.
There are many different beneficial compounds, but here are a few of our favorites:
- Creatine: This is a powerful pseudovitamin that helps you keep cells – especially muscle – hydrated and energized. It’s a simple addition that saves you taking creatine separately and is clinically proven to be perfect with carbs to boost muscle performance and recovery
- Electrolytes: These are the most important chemicals in the muscles that help them do their job. They’re also lost during exercise. Replenishing electrolytes – like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium – can drastically improve muscle recovery and growth
- Vitamins: Vitamins are the health-supporting basics in food that make some foods healthy (like green veg) and some foods unhealthy (like hot dogs). More vitamins is typically a good thing and mass gainer with vitamin fortification are much better for your health
- Muscle support: Other compounds like carnitine, beta-alanine, citrulline, and other well-known supplement ingredients can be very helpful. They’ll generally improve your muscular response and typically have good health benefits alongside recovery and growth
If you can get any of these in your supplement, you’re going to have a better time. These are important nutrients for supporting muscle health and your overall metabolic response to exercise.
They’re not essentials – but they offer extra value you might not get otherwise!
Mass Gainers and Diabetes – FAQs
Will mass gainers cause insulin resistance?
No – a good mass gainer product won’t cause insulin resistance. It can be a problem for metabolism if you use too much or as part of a diet that involves overeating.
Some low-quality products still use tons of sugar, but the average good mass gainer uses complex carbs in a mix to support health while you gain muscle mass.
This is why it’s important to focus on the quality of a mass gainer, and specifically:
- The ratio of protein to carbs (more protein is always better)
- The type of carbohydrates that it contains (starches are better than sugars)
Then you need to make sure that your whole diet is balanced and doesn’t over-rely on mass gainers or simple carbs. This means getting more carbs from whole grains, beans, and legumes, fibrous vegetables, and eating more protein overall.
Mass gainers won’t cause insulin resistance by itself, but it can be a problem if your diet is unbalanced. Take a step back and make sure mass gainer fits into your diet in a way that makes sense!
Is mass gainer full of sugar?
Some mass gainers are high in sugar, but particularly low-quality mass gainer products. The better products on the market use multiple starch sources to better replicate real food and keep your metabolism healthy.
For example, Optimum Nutrition typically uses a combination of potato starch and pea starch.
This kind of blend is far better than simple maltodextrin or dextrose, which are very simple and break down into sugar quickly in the body, dumping lots of carbs into the bloodstream early on.
More complex starches and protein and less simple starch and sugar are key to quality. Use these factors to choose the best mass gainer for bulking up.
What are the side effects of mass gainer?
Mass gainer side effects are typically digestive – things like becoming bloated, gassy, or even experiencing some cramping. These are usually due to the sheer speed of absorbing so many calories and the digestive burden of up to 1300 calories in such a short space of time.
Other mass gainer side effects depend on the product as most of them are associated with over-consuming and/or the digestive effects of the mass gainer.
These include things like bloating, cramping, changes to stool quality and timing, and the possibility of indigestion.
Some people experience other forms of personal, rarer side effects like changes to insulin response when using very high-calorie or very high-sugar products. These are worth avoiding, as they’re needlessly risky – better products with more protein and fewer calories are far superior.
Very low-quality products may be higher in heavy metals and other contaminants. This is one more reason why you should focus on quality for a mass gainer and avoid products that have a poor reputation – and specifically choose cGMP or 3rd party tested products for peace of mind.
Is mass gainer harmful to health?
No – mass gainer is not harmful to health by itself.
The only time mass gainer is harmful to health is if you’re using it improperly, either taking in too many excess calories or using a low-quality product that contains an excessive amount of sugar, low protein, or contaminants like heavy metals.
You can use a mass gainer to support healthy weight gain. For example, you can add a single serving of a lean mass gainer like ON Pro Gainer with a healthy, balanced diet to turn it into a healthy and effective weight gain diet.
It’s about finding the balance between real food and mass gainer – and not overdoing it.
Does mass gainer damage your kidneys?
No – a high-quality mass gainer supplement will not damage your kidneys. Damage to kidneys through food supplements is typically the result of heavy metal contaminants or poor filtration during the manufacturing process – and is not a problem for most good products or brands.
These issues are why you need to check on the status, reputation, and process that your supplement company uses.
3rd party tested products like those by Transparent Labs – for example – can also provide a certificate of testing for both heavy metals and bacterial contaminants like E. Coli.
You should never take a supplement that causes damage to your internal, vital organs. Most mass gainers simply won’t do this, but it’s worth investing in a good product that supports health directly and has some form of assurance.
Is weight gainer safe?
Yes – weight gainer supplements and mass gainer shakes are safe.
They can easily be used to excess, which is unhealthy, but they’re not harmful to the body by themselves and should be treated as a food supplement.
You don’t hurt yourself by eating a potato. But you might hurt yourself if you eat 10 for every meal. The use of mass gainer should reflect the use of any other food – moderated, balanced with the rest of the diet, and used for a specific purpose (gaining weight for skinny guys, usually).
A weight gainer is safe, you just have to be smart using it. The caveat is that some low-quality ‘bargain bin’ brands will not produce high-quality products.
Contaminants like heavy metals and unwanted bacteria are far more common in low-price no-name brands and should be treated with caution – as these can be harmful to the body. Shop for quality and brand reputation with mass gainer supplements!
Can mass gainers replace meals?
No – mass gainers should not replace your 3 square meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). However, it can be used to replace smaller ‘snack’ meals, or as a post-workout meal, as an alternative to support better muscle growth and recovery.
You should not replace meals with mass gainers as they lack the important vitamins and minerals required to get the best from your diet.
However, using it as a snack or instead of a low-calorie food – like replacing a protein shake or small meal after a workout – can help you recover and build more muscle mass.
Just remember that it’s a supplement: you still need to work on your diet and the real food you eat every day is still the most important factor for your health, performance, and quality of life. Mass gainer shouldn’t be a crutch for a bad diet, but an added bonus for a healthy one!
Is mass gainer bad for your liver?
No – mass gainer supplements are not bad for your liver unless you’re buying very low-quality products with lead or other heavy metals in them. Any good product from a good company will be safe and healthy for the liver.
The liver is the chemical plant of the body and heavy metals can really harm the function of this organ.
However, with good mass gainers, you will only be getting simple nutrients: protein, carbs, some fats, vitamins, minerals, and maybe some performance-support supplements. These are all completely fine for the liver.
Make sure you read the ingredient labels for your mass gainer supplements and try to buy brands that have an FDA certificate of good manufacturing practices (cGMP) or 3rd party testing like LabDoor, which confirms that they’re not tainted or contaminated!
Mass gainer supplements won’t cause diabetes – but they can be a part of a diet that does. You just need to use them in a role that makes sense for your body, your diet, and your weight gain goals.
Mass gainer supplements have been misunderstood by a lot of people and they’re actually very versatile and can be powerful for supporting your goals. They’re obviously great for gaining weight but they’re also a way to support a better overall diet if you use them properly.
Get a lean mass gainer and be sure to use a high-quality product to avoid some of the less healthy pitfalls that come with cheap fluff-filled supplements.
Focus on quality in your carb choices and high protein content, and you’re 90% of the way there. Added performance-enhancing ingredients can be a solid bonus if – you can find them.