The basic concept of a high calorie weight gain supplement is to provide your body with extra calories to help you put on weight. They can be helpful for people who have trouble consuming enough calories and individuals with a fast metabolism. The calories in these products will come from the three main macronutrient sources which are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. There are a few brands which advertise some other components like extra amino acids, creatine or insulin mimickers. Typically these added components are not worth it and increase the cost of the product without providing enough benefit to justify the cost. Many will not result in any additional gains beyond what the macronutrients will provide.
As mentioned above high calorie weight gain products are primarily a source of concentrated carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You should be taking a close look at the sources and quality of each of the three macronutrients. Carbohydrates should come from sources other than sugar. Often the better products will use maltodextrin from either corn or rice or a waxy maize starch. Typically these products use protein blends which is fine as long as the blend consists primarily of whey protein isolate, concentrate (80%), and casein. It is generally a good idea to avoid ones with soy protein or the lower quality concentrates. The ideal source of fat will be either flax, or sunflower oils.
The amount and quality of calories play a major role in whether you will gain fat or muscle. Higher quality calories like the ones listed above will give you a better chance of adding muscle to your physique vs. adding weight as fat. A quality high calorie supplement is like eating quality foods and the low quality ones are the equivalent to eating fast food.
We usually recommend consuming no more than 400-600 calories in any one shake. Any more than that and you will overload your digestive system and are much more likely to be adding weight as fat. Also keep in mind that when it comes to calories more is not better. As we mentioned above quality is important. Also keep in mind that in order to get more calories companies simply increase the serving size. For example if you take a look at Mass 600 which provides 600 calories including 50 grams of protein in a 150 gram serving and compare that to Real Mass from Gaspari which provides 1230 calories in a 325 gram serving with 50 grams of protein. You notice Real Mass has double the calories but it is also twice the serving size. What most people miss is that Real Mass has only HALF the protein of the Mass 600. You must consume 325 grams of powder to get 50 grams of protein while 150 grams of the Mass 600 will yield the same 50 grams of protein.
From a usage standpoint we recommend starting out by consuming 400 calories post workout and doing a second serving in either the morning or at night. Use this dosing strategy for 10 days before making any adjustments. If you find that you are adding weight too quickly you can adjust the serving downward or if you are not making gains you can adjust upward. Adjustments should be relatively small, ideally in no more than 200 calorie increments.
Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and TMRzoo.com and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.