In this article, I will discuss the impact of mass gainers on kidney health.
In a nutshell, Yes. Mass gainers can harm your kidneys, but only if you start taking heavy doses or use them for a long time; otherwise, these supplements are safe when you take adequate small servings for a few months.
But how a product that is safe in short-term can become harmful in the long term, and how are kidneys affected by taking mass gainers?
Keep reading to find the scientific reasons behind this fact;
Is mass gainer safe for the kidney?
Yes, mass gainers are safe for kidneys if you are a healthy person with no history of kidney ailments and don’t overdose on these powders.
Mass gainers are just powdered mixtures of macronutrients containing a lot of calories due to increased nutritional content.
Thus, a gainer shake virtually equals a heavy meal, so you don’t need to worry if taking a shake of mass gainer for some weeks would damage your kidneys. People commonly fear that high-protein consumption through mass gainers and protein powders would cause kidney malfunction.
However, this effect only happens if a person continues such a diet for over a decade because multiple pieces of research have proven that a high-protein diet does not harm kidneys when used correctly and for a moderate duration.
A study conducted in the sports science laboratory of Nova University, USA, concluded that a high-protein diet for one year had no adverse effects on kidney or liver function of resistance-trained men.
Nonetheless, the scenario is different if you have had some renal issues or you have been taking super high-calorie mass gainers for years.
Here is how key ingredients of mass gainers may affect kidney cells and tubules in the long term;
How does mass gainer affect kidneys?
Like most other fitness supplements, mass gainers seem unsuitable for kidney patients unless prescribed by a doctor under special conditions.
They are loaded with calories and macronutrients that need to be filtered in kidney tubules to produce urine. If a person has weakened kidney tissues, this huge intake of proteins and fats would overstress the renal system and possibly worsen their condition disease.
Besides, kidneys can be damaged in healthy persons by using mass gainers for a long time. This potential damage may be attributed to a high concentration of one of three macronutrients (as discussed below).
That is why I do not recommend taking mass gainers for more than 6 months.
Long-term mass gainer consumption is harmful to kidneys due to the presence of the following elements;
Carbohydrates make the most of the nutritional content of the mass gainers because they are the quickest means to get calories.
But taking a high-carb diet for a long time is associated with many health problems like fat build-up, cardiovascular issues, and a negative effect on kidney functions.
A 14-years study shows that high carb intake increases the risk of chronic kidney disease in non-diabetic persons.
Researchers speculate that increased carbohydrate concentration in blood disturbs metabolic functions and leads to lipid production.
In turn, fats can damage the kidney through oxidative stress or physical obstruction of tiny filtration vessels.
After carbs, fats are the calorie-boosting ingredient of the mass gainers, but a high-fat diet would not only supply extra calories for bulking but also lead to a lot of complications when you continue relying upon it for long periods of time.
A 2020 journal reports that high-fat intake can lead to renal injury because small fat molecules from blood start accumulating the kidney tubules and block them physically.
Not only this, but these lipogenic precursors induce the production of fats in kidney tissues, creating oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage. This condition leads to glomerular (filtration unit of kidneys) injuries and death of kidney cells.
Hence, even if you use a gainer for a short time, I recommend choosing a mass gainer with a moderate calorie count that is enough to create an energy surplus but does not put your kidneys at risk of severe kidney ailments.
High Protein amounts
Though short-term usage is safe long-term usage of a high-protein diet can lead to a decline in kidney function.
Mass gainers are loaded with proteins to promote muscle growth. Resultantly, many amino derivatives are produced by protein metabolism in the body.
Also, creatine is additionally added to these to enhance their athletic value, which increases the creatinine level in blood plasma.
Over time, creatinine and other amino derivatives gradually start accumulating in kidneys, forming stones and obstructing renal tubules.
Moreover, amino products are usually toxic and must be excreted via urine to save the body from their lethal effects.
When you eat more protein, more amino by-products are produced in your body, and your kidneys must work harder to remove them from the blood.
This additional load can slowly strain the tissues, leading to a decline in efficiency. Even if your renal cells keep working normally, it will result in a constant state of renal hyperfiltration (increased filtration in kidney vessels).
A Korean community study from 2001-2014 confirms that people who ate high-protein meals regularly for over a decade suffered more from renal hyperfiltration, a leading cause of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
Creatine in the mass gainers can also lead to renal dysfunction; if you do not drink enough water to dilute the amino acid bulk, you are dumping it into your body or have some underlying kidney-related problem.
This Journal reports some case studies of young weight-lifters between 20 and 25 who experienced renal dysfunction after using creatine.
One of them had only used creatine for a few weeks, but it turned out that he was not drinking enough water as required during protein supplementation. So, his renal functions were fully recovered after adequate hydration.
The other person presented a relatively severe case, and it took him about 1 month to recover because he had an 8-year history of rare kidney disease, FSGS (Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis).
Mass gainer kidney failure – What are the odds?
Yes, using mass gainers for an excessively long time can potentially lead to kidney failure.
As we discussed in the above section that long-term intake of either a high-carb, high-fat, or high-protein diet could lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD), and CKD is nothing but a starting point of kidney failure.
Kidney tissues start losing their functionality in CKD, and if the condition prevails, the whole organ stops working.
I have also seen some mass gainer users report quitting these shakes after issues like kidney pain or burning urine.
Their physicians related these symptoms with mass gainer usage and indicated a suspicion of possible kidney failure if they continued the supplementation.
Obesity/CVD risk can also lead to renal impairment
Taking a mass gainer for a long time will likely start accumulating fat mass due to the high concentration of carbs and fats. Plus, the lipid ratio in your blood is likely to be increased.
Both conditions are risk factors for obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. In turn, heart problems and being overweight negatively impact kidney function.
High blood pressure can also damage tiny filtration tubules of the kidney, leading to a decline in excretion efficiency or internal wounds.
Does mass gainer cause kidney stones?
Yes, mass gainers can cause kidney stones when used in larger quantities.
A high proportion of creatine and other proteins increase the blood level of creatinine and amino derivatives which may lead to stone formation in kidney tubules.
A significant portion of the protein content of gainers usually comes from whey protein which is the likely cause of kidney stones by a user.
Can whey cause kidney damage?
Whey protein can cause kidney damage only if taken continuously for many years or used in bulk quantities.
It is harmless but rather beneficial for health and fitness when used in small recommended servings, but if you start taking multiple high-concentration doses, you would likely get your body systems in trouble.
Such overdosing overstresses the renal tissues as kidneys have to do additional work to filter out all amino derivatives from the blood because they are toxic. It may also result in kidney stone formation.
Is Serious Mass bad for your kidneys?
Yes, Serious Mass can damage kidneys if you overdose on it.
Serious mass is a highly calorie-rich product offering 252 grams of carbs, 4.5 grams of fats, and 4 grams of proteins. Plus, it contains many minerals, including calcium and phosphates.
Hence, if you overconsume it, there is a risk of;
- Fat accumulation in kidney tissue
- Stone formation due to high levels of creatinine and minerals
- Chronic kidney disease, if used in long-term
Mass gainers are a quick way to upgrade your calorie and nutrient intake. But, you should never over-consume a gainer or continue dosage for several years.
Scientific evidence proves that gainers are safe for kidneys when used according to set guidelines for a short period.
However, if someone continues the supplementation for a long time, say for many years in a row, it would affect their health, damaging vital organs like the kidney and liver.
Kidney tissues are over-stressed when the blood contains a high level of creatinine, fat globules, or glucose.
Hence, if you are taking a gainer to bulk up, take it in the right quantity and for a short time because it won’t take long to gain a good weight with these products.