Mass Gainer vs Real Food: Can it Replace Meals?

January 9, 2024 |

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As the popularity of mass gainers continues to grow, more and more people are asking whether or not they can replace real food meals altogether.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what mass gainers are, how they work, and whether or not they can be used as a meal replacement.

And I’ll also help you choose the more nutrient-rich and safe option among the two. Moreover, I will also recommend some best foods and supplements for enhancing muscle gains.

As summary, you can easily mix and drink the calculated calories in mass gainers. While on the other, real foods are more healthful and pose a lower risk of causing long-term metabolic side effects. You shouldn’t substitute one for another.

So, your preference determines the winner between mass gainers vs. real foods.

However, real foods are more nutritious. In contrast, mass gainers are a more convenient option.

Let’s discuss it all in detail.

Can Mass Gainers Replace Meals?

No, mass gainers should not replace meals. While they may provide additional calories and nutrients, they are not a substitute for a balanced diet. Mass gainers are designed to be taken in addition to regular meals, not as a replacement for them.

When used in conjunction with a well-rounded diet and training regimen, mass gainers can help you pack on the pounds by providing your body with extra calories and nutrients.

Keep in mind that mass gainers are not a magic bullet for gaining muscle; they simply provide your body with additional calories and nutrients that can help support your muscular tissue growth.

If you don’t have a good diet or workout plan in place, then mass gainers are not going to do much for you.

Mass Gainer vs. Real Food – Which is more nutrient-rich?

Real foods are hands down a complete nutriment. They have non-replicable macro and micronutrient content that you won’t get from mass gainers.

However, if you are looking for a macronutrient-focused meal, then mass gainers will provide you with just that.

These man-made nutrient combos are mostly formulated around the recommended macronutrient ratio for lean muscle gain.

So, what is the recommended macronutrient ratio? According to this review, a body builder’s diet should be composed of 55-60% carbohydrate, 25-30% protein, and 15-20% fat.

Along with the macronutrient ratios, their quantity and type also affect muscle gain. These factors influence muscle protein synthesis, degradation, and energy production.

For this section, I went over the nutritional value of some consumer-ranked mass gainers and compared them with real food.

So, let’s find out which one has a stronger nutrient profile.

  • Carbohydrates

Taking the highest ratio of carbohydrates for muscle gain is important.

The reason is that carbs replenish the glycogen, aka the muscle’s energy storage which fuels your high-intensity workout at the gym.

According to a rough average, mass gainers offer approximately 70–300 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

However, upon close inspection of the nutritional information, you will realize that in almost every other supplement, these ‘loaded carbs’ are merely sugars like fructose, sweeteners, and maltodextrin.

All these are simple and high-glycemic carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates are less satiating, have near to nil nutritional value, and cause sugar spikes which may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

An exception to this rule is ‘Carb10’ based supplements. You can expect to attain clean and sustained energy from this high glycemic carbohydrate blend.

Nonetheless, some mass gainers also have a balanced combination of simple and complex carbs derived from buckwheat, quinoa, oats, etc.

Moving ahead, it is a bit tacky to standardize the carbohydrate content of REAL grains and greens.

But the good part is that organic high-carb foods are predominated by starch and fiber.

Starch and fiber are complex carbohydrates. Therefore, they are digested slowly, pump in streamlined energy, and have a better nutritional profile.

In a nutshell, real food offers a premium carbohydrate content along with other micronutrients than mass gainers

The only drawback is that you need to consume larger portions of food compared to just one or two mass gainer drinks to attain a similar carb content.

  • Protein

Muscle gaining without protein is impossible.

Why so, you ask?

Because bulking exercises speed up the muscle protein synthesis and degradation rates, therefore, the protein you feed on will be actively utilized in muscle growth and maintenance.

One serving of mass gainer may provide you with approximately 20–60 grams of protein. These proteins may be derived from whey isolates, casein, milk, vegetable protein (pea, rice, soy, hemp, etc.), or other sources.

Even so, not all mass gainers offer all nine essential amino acids. However, some might contain Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) because they stimulate protein synthesis.

However, scientific evidence suggests that BCAAs may cause depressive symptoms and other problems due to certain nutrient interactions.

On the other hand, research on Real foods, such as an egg, has declared that it has an ideal proportion of all nine essential amino acids.

  • Healthy fats

To date, the role of fat intake on muscle mass is much less known.

However, a low-fat content is preferred because studies agree that a high-fat diet impairs the capacity to carry out high-intensity exercise.

As a matter of fact, the fat and fatty acid content of real food is healthier than that of mass gainers.

Nonetheless, a mass gainer that is low in fats and has healthy fats or MCTs in it may be considered better than its counterparts.

According to what I have researched, the fat content of mass gainers can be as low as only 1 gram per serving or as high as 20 grams per serving.

Typically, the total fats in mass gainers are contributed by cholesterol, saturated or unsaturated fats, and sometimes by Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT).

Most mass gainers contain around 100 to 200 mg of cholesterol in them- and since 300mg per day is the limit, this cholesterol content is ridiculously high, right?

In addition to this, most of the fat percentage is also taken over by saturated fats.

Ironically, a study on 39 men found that participants who were given Sunflower oil (poly-unsaturated fats) reported weight gain with greater muscle gain than participants who were fed palm oil (saturated fats) to meet their excess caloric needs.

Anyhow, you may look for mass gainers that have healthy fats derived from flaxseed, avocado, and sunflower powders.

Also, fats contributed by MCTs also add some nutrient points to the product because they provide sustained energy to fuel intense workouts and have other health benefits.

On the other hand, real foods offer tons of superior fats like long-chain fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, and essential fatty acids. You can find each one of these good fats in avocado.

All of these are impossible to occur in a single scoop of powdered supplements.

  • Water

Water is a highly disregarded essential nutrient.

In fact, muscles are mostly made up of protein and water.

Moreover, hydration is extremely important for maintaining exercise performance.

Contrary to this, mass gainers are just dried powders. They also have high protein content, which may cause further dehydration. This makes them lose the nutrient game once more.

In comparison, real foods like cucumber can offer as high as 80% to 95% water along with other macro and micronutrients.

For instance, according to USDA, even a high-protein food such as chicken retains at least 60% of its water content after being cooked.

  • Micronutrients

Vitamins and minerals are essential for both overall health as well as for muscle accretion.

Some but not all mass gainers do have a fair micronutrient profile. But it is either too high above the recommended limits or is too negligible to fulfill the daily requirements.

For most mass gainers, the sodium content remains a cause of concern for kidney disease patients.

On the other hand, real foods are a rich source of micronutrients.

For instance, a bowl of oatmeal will fill your body with essential vitamins and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, sodium, potassium, iron, etc.

Mass gainer vs. Food – Which works best for skinny guys?

Gaining muscle mass with mass gainers seems more practical for skinny guys. However, if you can manage your calorie surplus with real food, that would be a better deal.

But since you are skinny, you will need to consume a greater number of calories for both fat and muscle gain.

Thus, it is understandable why stuffing in a lot of food is a hard task compared to drinking the macros.

So, in the end, it largely depends on how much you can eat without throwing up.

Mass Gainer and Real food – Which is safer?

Mass gainers understandably pose more health risks than real foods.

This is because they are man-made formulations and may contain food additives, fillers, artificial flavors and colors, sugars, and even steroids.

Moreover, these supplements are manufactured in factories. So, if these facilities are not FDA and GMP-registered, batches may get contaminated. This may cause food illnesses, allergies, and other side effects.

Here are some commonly reported side effects caused by mass gainers:

  • Stomach issues

Gastrointestinal disturbance due to mass gainers may be attributed to allergens, food additives, and high protein content.

For instance, food additives like xanthan gum may upset the stomach and cause loose stools and diarrhea.

Moreover, mass gainers containing protein derived from whey, casein, or egg may trigger allergies in dairy or lactose-intolerant individuals. It may cause symptoms like bloating, flatulence, cramping, nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain.

Also, protein is not easily digested, and consuming it in large quantities just overburdens the digestive system. Thus, it may lead to symptoms like irregular bowel movements, constipation, and a feeling of fullness in the stomach.

For instance, whey protein doesn’t suit everyone. Thus, it may cause complaints like bloating and stomach pain.

  • Liver damage

High protein content or steroid presence may induce liver damage in mass gainer consumers.

The liver removes the toxins produced from protein metabolism. Thus, high protein consumption increases the metabolic load on the liver causing liver damage.

A recent study tested 44 men who were taking some supplements. Surprisingly, liver injury was detected in all of them.

The study revealed that manufacturers sneakily added cheap steroids to their products to increase their apparent effectiveness, but instead, it damages the consumer’s health.

  • Kidney damage

Sodium, creatine, and protein in mass gainers overburden kidney function. They also make these supplements unsuitable for individuals with underlying kidney disease.

The reason behind this is that protein metabolism yields a lot of wastes such as urea, uric acid, creatinine, etc. Thus, the kidneys have to do more work to remove them.

A study on student-athletes suggested that consuming less water with high protein diets may cause abnormal kidney function and more concentrated urine.

Some manufacturers also add creatine in their formulation to boost muscle gain. However, it just adds to kidney stress.

Mass gainers are also notorious for their high sodium content. According to the CDC, this mineral raises blood pressure which causes kidney damage.

Moreover, it may interfere with the kidney function to eliminate water and even cause kidney stones.

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Some mass gainers over-dose you with some nutrients like sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fats, which are detrimental to heart health.

Like sugar, sodium is also added to enhance the taste of mass gainers.

And as mentioned above, sodium messes with your blood pressure. This may increase your risk of heart disease and even stroke.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cholesterol can form hard deposits inside arteries and narrow them down. This may cause complications like atherosclerosis or even heart attack.

Additionally, saturated fat may increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, reinforcing the risk of heart disease.

  • Increased diabetes risk

Mass gainers are loaded with sweeteners and simple carbs. Thus, you should avoid them if you have diabetes or are predisposed to it.

Research has found that both natural and artificial sweeteners like sucrose and sucralose may imbalance the gut microbiota. This may result in the development of metabolic diseases like diabetes as a result of mass gainer intake.

Moreover, high glycemic carbs such as maltodextrin may cause sugar spikes and reduce insulin sensitivity. Insulin is basically regulating your blood glucose levels. Hence, it may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What is the best mass gainer on the market?

Although it has already been proved that we can’t replace real food with mere nutrient supplements, our busy schedules have made ready-made products the need of the day.

In that case, the need is to find a mass gainer with maximum nutritional benefits and minimum side effects.

And here it is;

Crazy Nutrition’s Mass Gainer

Mass gainers by Crazy Nutrition

The Crazy nutrition mass gainer is a blend of high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats.

It has low glycemic carbohydrates that are sourced from Carb10, oats, and sweet potatoes.

These carbs prevent sugar crashes and add pre-biotics and various vitamins and minerals to the product.

The protein in the supplement is derived from grass-fed whey. Thus, crazy nutrition would not cause gluten allergies and has a higher and more complete amino acid profile.

This mass gainer also has omega-3 fatty acids and creatine that will help you last longer at the gym by increasing muscle endurance.

Moreover, the five digestive enzymes in its digeZyme blend aid protein, fat, and carb digestion. Additionally, the dietary fiber prevents gastrointestinal side effects and maintains gut health.

A container of 5 servings comes at $44.99.


  • It doesn’t cause energy and sugar crashes
  • It has low glycemic carbs.
  • It has omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It has digestive enzymes to aid digestion.
  • It is manufactured in FDA-approved facilities.
  • It can provide 695 calories per serving.
  • It has a high carbohydrate-to-protein ratio.
  • It also contains creatine monohydrate.
  • It contains a digestive enzyme blend.
  • It is gluten-free.
  • It does not contain maltodextrin.


  • It has sweeteners.
  • It has dairy allergens.
  • It can only be bought from the website.

Natural Foods to take for Mass Gain

healthy food clean bulking

If you are highly motivated to achieve muscle gains with real food, then there can be no supplement that will seem good enough for you. So, you first need to do some ‘math.’ It will help you know your calorie surplus as well as your required macro and micronutrient intake.

You can do the calculations yourself or ask a nutritionist to do them for you. Or this macro calculator may also help you in this regard.

And after you figure out how much protein, carbs, and fats you require, get ready to choose the food combos for your organic mass gainer shakes and meals to achieve them.

Here are some foods that you can add to your recipes.

Dairy And Meat

Having dairy foods like egg, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and milk in the day could provide high amounts of protein and healthy fats. Furthermore, protein-rich meat and chicken are considered staple ingredients for mass gain.

For instance, even though one whole egg (50.3 g) offers just 6.24 grams of protein. But its amino acid profile can kickstart muscle and whole-body protein synthesis.

Moreover, 3 ounces (85-gram) of chicken breast contains 26.7 grams of high-quality proteins and different micronutrients.


Seafood like tuna, shrimp, or salmon is a rich source of proteins and muscle-building fatty acids that may boost muscle gains.

For instance, a 3-ounce (85-gram) shrimp has 19 grams of protein, 1.44 grams of good fat, and 1 gram of carbs.

Whole grains

Whole grains like oats, brown rice, or whole wheat may help you fulfill your daily protein and carbohydrate requirements.

For instance, 1 cup (100 g) of oats contains 13. 2 g of protein and 69.9 g of high-quality carbs along with other vital nutrients.

Beans And Lentils

Beans like Chickpeas, red beans, and lentils give you enough protein and carbs to meet your excess calorie requirement.

For instance, from just 1-cup (164 grams) of chickpeas, you can get 15 grams of protein and 45 grams of carbohydrates.

Fruits and Vegetables

Chugging in a banana shake or eating a salad with avocadoes, kale and beets may support your daily nutrient needs.

For instance, one banana (115 grams) has 26.6 grams of carbohydrates and a lot of micronutrients.

Dried Nuts

Peanuts and almonds are a great source to attain some extra calories and macronutrients without getting overstuffed.

For instance, 1 ounce (28-gram) of peanuts has 166 calories. These calories mostly come from 7 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs, and a lot of unsaturated fatty acids.


Can you use a mass gainer as a meal replacement?

No, most mass gainers are macronutrient focused and lack micronutrients. So, using them as a meal replacement may cause nutritional deficiencies.

How much mass gainer should I take to gain 10 kg?

Mass gainers may help you achieve anywhere between one to three pounds every week.

So, if you consistently take mass gainers to attain excess calories. Then, it may help you achieve 10 pounds in approximately a month or more.

Is mass gainer bad for your kidneys?

Yes, the high protein and sodium in mass gainers may put extra stress on the kidneys.


To conclude, real food might provide a superior nutrient profile to promote lean bulking. Even so, mass gainers are a more time-saving and cost-effective way to get big.

However, mass gainers may weigh you down on micronutrients and cause side effects.

Similarly, the struggle of achieving muscle mass with real foods is that you have to calculate the nutrients from multiple sources and take out the time to prepare meals.

So, in the end, you yourself must decide which option suits your needs better.

Important Disclaimer: The information contained on MAX HEALTH LIVING is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Any statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA and any information or products discussed are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Please consult a healthcare practitioner before making changes to your diet or taking supplements that may interfere with medications.

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We are a team of fitness, health, and supplement experts, and content creators. Over the past 4 years, we have spent over 123,000 hours researching food supplements, meal shakes, weight loss, and healthy living. Our aim is to educate people about their effects, benefits, and how to achieve a maximum healthy lifestyle. Read more.