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Whether you’re trying to increase your muscle mass or having difficulty maintaining your body weight, the most important factor for gaining weight is to increase your calorie consumption.

However, consuming enough calories from foods alone can sometimes be difficult, especially if you don’t have much of an appetite.

Supplement powders offer a convenient way to boost your calorie intake and support weight gain.

This article takes a closer look at the kinds of supplements that can be helpful for gaining weight, as well as our picks of the best ones to buy.

Supplements can be effective for weight gain because they provide a concentrated source of calories and nutrients. However, they should be used only to supplement your diet — not as a replacement for whole, nutrient-rich foods.

“A weight gain supplement should not be the first point of attack when wanting to gain weight,” said Laura Asbury, a registered dietitian and strength and conditioning coach. “Calories and nutrients must be in line in order to gain weight in a healthy and sustainable way.”

Also keep in mind that while some supplements may more directly help you gain weight by providing a boost of calories, others may have a more indirect effect by supporting muscle gain.

Several types of supplements — protein powders, mass gainers, creatine, and pre-workouts — can help you gain weight if you use them in combination with a balanced diet.

In general, protein powders and mass gainers are your best bets if you’re simply looking to boost your calorie intake.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping to gain muscle mass through strength training, creatine powders and pre-workouts are worth considering.

Here is a closer look at each type.

Protein powders

  • Who they’re best for: those unable to meet daily protein needs via food and those looking for a convenient way to increase protein intake
  • Potential side effects: Side effects vary based on the ingredients. Those with lactose intolerance or a milk allergy should avoid protein supplements that contain those ingredients. Some protein supplements also include additives that may cause digestive distress in some people.

Protein plays an essential role in building and maintaining muscle mass. However, protein intake without a calorie surplus and an appropriate resistance training program will not result in building lean muscle mass.

In fact, research suggests that high protein diets may aid in weight loss because protein helps people feel full (1).

For this reason, if you use a protein supplement in a weight gain diet plan, it’s important to make sure you also maintain a calorie surplus.

One way to find out whether you’re eating enough calories is to track your diet on a few typical days to determine whether you need to adjust your total calorie intake. From there, you can also adjust your macronutrient intake as needed.

The recommended daily protein intake for active adults to build and maintain muscle is 0.6–0.9 grams (g) per pound (1.4–2.0 g per kilogram) of body weight per day. This amount has been found to support muscle growth and maintenance (2).

Keep in mind that protein supplements are not necessary if you can meet your daily protein needs through whole food sources. However, supplements may be a convenient way to fit more protein into a busy schedule.

Pros

  • versatile addition to your diet
  • support muscle growth and maintenance
  • convenient and easy to take on the go

Cons

  • will not result in weight gain unless your diet has a calorie surplus
  • if low in calories, may not contribute enough calories to be helpful
  • may contain additives that can cause digestive upset in some people

Weight and mass gainer supplements

  • Who they’re best for: those who cannot maintain a calorie surplus through food alone
  • Potential side effects: Active ingredients can vary widely among products, and these ingredient differences can affect the potential side effects. Some products may also have additives, such as artificial sweeteners, that could cause digestive distress.

Sometimes called mass gainers, these supplements are often marketed as a way to gain muscle mass. Their ingredients and nutrition content can vary widely.

In general, mass gainers are higher in calories, fat, and carbs than traditional protein powders, though some may contain only carbohydrates.

According to Asbury, these products generally contain 300 or more calories per serving.

Adding weight gainers to your diet can certainly increase the number of calories you’re eating. However, some people find the taste and consistency of these products unpleasant.

Additionally, although these supplements can be convenient when you’re on the go, another option is simply to eat more food, such as trail mix or smoothies, which would also provide other beneficial nutrients.

Pros

  • convenient concentrated source of calories and other macronutrients
  • often high in protein

Cons

  • typically expensive
  • may have an unpleasant taste
  • vary widely in ingredients and nutrient content

Creatine

  • Who it’s best for: people looking to build muscle and enhance athletic performance
  • Potential side effects: It may lead to water retention in some people, and larger doses may result in gastrointestinal distress (3).

Creatine may have an indirect effect on lean muscle mass gains because of its potential to boost exercise performance.

When you take creatine as a supplement, the creatine concentration in your muscles increases. This can lead to performance benefits and muscle gain over time. However, most creatine supplements are low in calories and need to be combined with other ingredients to provide enough calories to support weight gain (4).

Creatine monohydrate is recognized as the most effective form of creatine and is the most common type used in creatine supplements (3).

The typical recommendation for creatine supplementation is to begin by taking a loading dose of approximately 20 g per day, split into 4 servings, for 5–7 days (4).

After this initial period, a dose of approximately 3–5 g per day is recommended for maintaining creatine levels.

Some people may experience short-term weight gain when starting creatine supplements, which can be attributed to changes in fluid balance.

“Total body water is increased with creatine supplementation, which could increase body weight. However, once creatine supplementation is stopped, phosphocreatine stores are diminished after 4–8 weeks, which may decrease body weight,” explained Asbury.

Pros

  • research-backed effectiveness for boosting exercise performance and recovery
  • may be helpful for gaining muscle
  • easy to add to a daily routine

Cons

  • will not contribute significant amounts of calories needed for weight gain
  • has an indirect effect on lean muscle mass gain — does not contribute directly to weight gain
  • may result in digestive distress when taken at higher doses

Pre-workouts

  • Who they’re best for: people looking to enhance athletic performance while gaining weight
  • Potential side effects: Side effects vary based on the ingredients. For example, beta-alanine can cause harmless tingling sensations. Caffeine can cause a jittery feeling and may negatively affect blood pressure, sleep, and stress levels in some people (5, 6).

Exercise, especially resistance training, is a necessary component of most weight gain plans. Pre-workout supplements may enable you to work out longer and at a higher intensity, which may indirectly lead to weight gain by contributing to muscle mass gain.

However, don’t depend on most pre-workout supplements to boost your daily calorie intake.

“At the end of the day, for someone to gain weight, they must be in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than they are metabolically burning), and pre-workout supplements are typically little to no calories,” explained Asbury.

The most common ingredients in pre-workout supplements are caffeine, beta-alanine, nitrates, creatine, and citrulline malate, all of which may help boost exercise performance (5, 6, 7, 8).

Pros

  • may boost exercise performance, which can result in lean muscle mass gain
  • convenient and easy to take

Cons

  • often low in calories
  • may have ingredients that can cause unpleasant side effects

Below, we recommend specific supplements that can be helpful for gaining weight.

We selected these products using the following criteria:

  • Quality: All supplements listed have been third-party tested for potency and purity. Most are also certified safe for sport, meaning that they are free of substances banned by most competitive sports organizations.
  • Active ingredients: We chose supplements that have research-backed benefits for weight gain or exercise performance, which may influence your ability to gain weight. However, the ingredients vary widely depending on the type of supplement. Understanding your individual goals will help you choose the best option.
  • Allergens: We checked supplements for major allergens, and any allergens present are indicated below.
  • Price: Weight gain supplements and other supplements meant to enhance exercise performance range in price. We included a guide below to help you make the best decision for your budget.

Here are the 6 best supplements for weight gain.

A note on price

Supplement prices vary and may depend on where you shop. We’ve included dollar signs ($–$$$) to indicate the average pricing of each supplement:

  • $ = under $1.00 per serving
  • $$ = $1.00–$2.99 per serving
  • $$$ = over $2.99 per serving

Best vegan

IronVegan Athlete’s Gainer

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: Natural Chocolate, Natural Vanilla
  • Main active ingredients: pea starch, pea protein isolate, organic sprouted brown rice protein concentrate, modified coconut oil

IronVegan Athlete’s Gainer is a plant-based weight gain supplement that features a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The primary protein is pea protein, and the carbohydrates come from a mix of sprouted grains.

The supplement also includes a mix of plant-based additives such as spirulina, tart cherry, beet root, and spices like cinnamon and ginger.

Plus, the powder is certified gluten-free and Informed Sport Certified, a third-party certification that ensures dietary products are free of substances banned by competitive sports organizations.

Nutrition stats per 2-scoop (190-g) serving of Natural Chocolate (9):

  • Calories: 720
  • Total fat: 8 g
  • Total carbs: 120 g
  • Fiber: 13 g
  • Total sugar: 1 g
  • Protein: 42 g

Pros

  • Informed Sport Certified
  • certified gluten-free
  • vegan-friendly
  • low in sugar
  • high in fiber

Cons

  • bag may be difficult to seal, according to some reviewers
  • not the easiest to mix, according to some reviewers
  • sweetened with stevia, which some may dislike

Best carbohydrate-only powder

NOW Sports Carbo Gain Powder

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: unflavored
  • Active ingredient: maltodextrin

If you’re looking for a quick way to boost both calories and total carbohydrates, NOW Sports Carbo Gain Powder is an easy solution.

With only one ingredient, pure maltodextrin, this unsweetened powder is easy to mix into juice, water, or a smoothie.

Eating carbohydrates before exercise benefits your performance by providing your muscles with their main energy source, glucose. Additionally, carbohydrate intake after exercise replenishes muscle glycogen stores, which play a role in recovery (10).

These effects can indirectly affect weight gain by helping you make the most of your workout. Remember, it’s essential to maintain a calorie surplus to gain weight, and it’s important to consider your activity level when calculating your calorie needs.

This supplement is also third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified.

Nutrition stats per 1/2-cup (63-g) serving (11):

  • Calories: 240
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Total carbs: 60 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Total sugar: 2 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Pros

  • Informed Sport Certified
  • vegan-friendly
  • low in sugar
  • contains only one ingredient

Cons

  • lower in calories than others on this list
  • available only unflavored
  • does not provide fiber or protein

Best without artificial ingredients

True Athlete Natural Gainer

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla
  • Main active ingredients: whey protein blend, carbohydrate blend (pea starch, maltodextrin, and others), fat blend (medium-chain triglycerides, sunflower oil powder, flaxseed powder)

True Athlete Natural Gainer offers a mix of protein, carbs, and fat and is one of the best options if you’re looking for a product made without artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.

However, it is sweetened with monk fruit and stevia, natural sweeteners that can have an aftertaste that some people dislike.

The blend also contains milk, one of the nine major allergens, so if you have a milk or dairy allergy, you will want to skip this one.

True Athlete Natural Gainer is NSF Certified for Sport, which means it’s a good option for competitive athletes.

Nutrition stats per 4-scoop (135.5-g) serving of Chocolate (12):

  • Calories: 510
  • Total fat: 8 g
  • Total carbs: 70 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Total sugar: 8 g
  • Added sugar: 6 g
  • Protein: 35 g

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • free of artificial additives
  • high in protein
  • provides some additional nutrients, such as calcium and iron

Cons

  • not suitable for people who need or prefer to avoid milk or dairy products
  • not vegan-friendly
  • contains monk fruit and stevia, which some people may dislike

Best high calorie

Muscle Milk Pro Series Gainer Protein Powder

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: Chocolate, Cookies & Creme, Vanilla
  • Main active ingredients: maltodextrin, milk protein isolate, sunflower oil

At 650 calories per serving, this weight gainer tops our list for best high calorie option. It’s also NSF Certified for Sport.

Muscle Milk is a well-known sports supplement brand that offers a range of products, including weight gain supplements. The Pro Series includes protein powders, weight gainers, amino acids, casein supplements, and ready-to-drink protein shakes.

However, this product may not be appropriate for everyone because it is not allergen-free — it contains both milk and soy. It also has sucralose, an artificial sugar substitute, which may not be appealing to some people.

Nutrition stats per 4-scoop (162-g) serving of Chocolate (13):

  • Calories: 650
  • Total fat: 9 g
  • Total carbs: 109 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Total sugar: 5 g
  • Added sugar: 4 g
  • Protein: 32 g

Pros

  • NSF Certified For Sport
  • 660 calories per serving
  • low in added sugar
  • high in protein
  • contains several essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin D

Cons

  • not suitable for people who need or prefer to avoid milk or soy
  • not vegan-friendly
  • contains sucralose, which some people may prefer to avoid
  • low in fiber

Best pre-workout

Gnarly Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade Caffeine-Free, Mango
  • Main active ingredients: citrulline malate, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), beta-alanine, ginseng

Gnarly Pre-Workout is our pick for best pre-workout supplement because it contains an optimal mix of ingredients to boost exercise performance.

Each 1-scoop (14-g) serving of the Strawberry Lemonade flavor contains 180 milligrams of caffeine, 2.5 g of beta-alanine, and 5 g of citrulline malate. However, the Strawberry Lemonade flavor is also available in a caffeine-free version. (14).

All flavors are NSF Content Verified, and the Strawberry Lemonade is NSF Certified for Sport.

Nutrition stats per 1-scoop (14-g) serving of Strawberry Lemonade (14):

  • Calories: 10
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Total carbs: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Total sugar: 0 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Pros

  • NSF Content Verified
  • Strawberry Lemonade flavor is NSF Certified for Sport
  • caffeine-free option available
  • vegan-friendly
  • free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners

Cons

  • low in calories, carbs, and protein
  • available in only fruit-inspired flavors

Best creatine

Klean Athlete Klean Creatine

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: unflavored
  • Active ingredient: creatine monohydrate

Klean Athlete Klean Creatine is a third-party tested creatine supplement that contains 5 g of creatine monohydrate per 1-scoop (5-g) serving (15).

Research suggests that taking 3–5 g of creatine per day, after the initial loading dose, results in performance-enhancing benefits (4).

Klean Athlete Klean Creatine is vegan-friendly and NSF Certified for Sport.

Keep in mind that because this supplement is calorie-free, you will need to pair it with a high calorie diet to support muscle and weight gain.

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • contains only one ingredient
  • vegan-friendly

Cons

  • calorie-free, so it will not lead to weight or muscle gain without a high calorie diet

Here’s a quick look at how our picks compare:

PriceTypeCertificationsCalories per servingVeganFlavors
IronVegan Athlete’s Gainer$$$mass gainerInformed Sport720yes• Natural Chocolate
• Natural Vanilla
NOW Sports Carbo Gain Powder$carb gainerInformed Sport240yesunflavored
True Athlete Natural Gainer$$$mass gainerNSF Certified for Sport510no• Chocolate
• Vanilla
Muscle Milk Pro Series Gainer Protein Powder$$$mass gainerNSF Certified for Sport650no• Chocolate
• Vanilla
• Cookies & Cream
Gnarly Pre-Workout$$pre-workout• NSF Content Verified

• 1 flavor NSF Certified for Sport
10yes• Strawberry Lemonade
• Mango
• Strawberry Lemonade Caffeine-Free
Klean Athlete Klean Creatine$creatineNSF Certified for Sport0yesunflavored

You may want to consider the following factors when shopping for a weight gain supplement:

  • Weight and health goals: If you want to boost your performance during workouts, a pre-workout or creatine supplement may be the best choice. However, if you want to increase your total calorie intake, a high calorie protein powder or mass gainer is a better option.
  • Calorie needs: If you’re having trouble increasing calorie intake through food, opt for a higher calorie supplement such as a mass gainer or certain protein powders. Asbury said, “For a weight gain supplement to be of benefit, I try to find one that is 300 or more calories with at least 20 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbohydrates per serving.”
  • Current diet: Supplements vary greatly in calorie, fat, carb, and protein composition. The best product for you will depend on nutrient gaps in your diet. Some products also provide additional micronutrients and fiber, which can be helpful if you cannot meet your needs for these substances through diet alone.
  • Dietary preferences: Many weight gain supplements contain common allergens or may not be appropriate for people who follow a vegan diet. Make sure to select a product that fits your dietary needs and preferences.
  • Active ingredients: Consider the active ingredients in the supplement and how they may contribute to your goals. For example, if you need to improve your performance during a workout and have optimized your nutrition, ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine may be helpful.
  • Additives: Supplements often have additives, such as artificial sweeteners and colors, preservatives, or thickeners, that some people may prefer to avoid. Read supplement labels carefully to choose a product that best fits your needs and preferences.
  • Added sugar: Keep in mind that some protein powders and mass gainers may contribute excess amounts of added sugar and should be avoided, especially if you already consume other sources of added sugar throughout the day.
  • Third-party testing: To ensure that the contents match the label, it is best to select a supplement that has been third-party tested by a reputable organization, such as NSF International or Informed Sport.

Supplements that increase your calorie or protein intake could help you gain muscle when combined with an appropriate exercise program, typically weight training (16, 17).

Other supplements that improve your exercise performance can provide a larger stimulus that your body must adapt to. This could lead to more muscle or weight gain over time.

However, some supplements have little evidence to suggest that they can increase weight or muscle gain on their own.

BCAAs

BCAAs are critical for muscle growth (18).

Nearly all protein sources contain them, and any time you eat a complete protein source, you’re consuming BCAAs.

Research does not support the benefits of BCAA supplements for muscle gain (18).

Additionally, BCAA supplements are very low in calories and will not contribute much to the calorie surplus required for weight gain.

Despite their popularity, these supplements are not necessary for muscle gain if you’re consuming enough protein, and they’re not beneficial for increasing your total calorie intake.

Testosterone boosters

The hormone testosterone plays an important role in the anabolic processes of your body, which are responsible for muscle growth (19).

Testosterone boosters are a broad category of supplements that claim to increase levels of this hormone while enhancing muscle growth.

Ingredients commonly found in these supplements include tribulus terrestris, fenugreek, D-aspartic acid, ashwagandha, and DHEA.

Research shows mixed results on the effect these ingredients have on testosterone levels. A small number of studies have shown possible benefits of some ingredients in these products, but more evidence is needed (20, 21).

Some of these supplements could be more effective in people with low testosterone. But regardless, testosterone boosters do not typically live up to their marketing claims.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

CLA is a type of fatty acid found in animal products, specifically dairy and meats.

CLA supplements may affect body composition by contributing to a reduction in body fat and an increase in lean muscle mass. However, the research is inconclusive and shows mixed results (22).

Many studies suggest that CLA may be effective for weight loss (23).

Total calorie intake from food is the most important component of weight gain. But if you’re interested in increasing muscle mass, you’ll also need to regularly engage in resistance exercise.

Here are two tips from Asbury for increasing your calorie intake from foods:

  • Add healthy fats:Healthy fats have 9 calories per gram, compared to protein and carbohydrates that are 4 calories per gram. Increasing these foods will take up less room in the stomach and allow for more calories to be taken in at one time.” Nut butters, chia seeds, avocado, and whole milk are some foods that contain healthy fats.
  • Focus on meal timing: “Eating a meal or snack every 2–3 hours and not skipping meals will be necessary in gaining weight in a healthy way.”

Weight gain goals related to increasing muscle mass for aesthetic or performance reasons are unlikely to require medical intervention. However, it’s always best to consult a doctor or another trusted healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regimen.

When you’ve lost weight as a result of illness or experienced unexplained weight loss, you should discuss it with your doctor to identify the underlying cause and the next steps for weight gain.

Additionally, if you have a history of disordered eating, consider working with a health professional, such as a registered dietitian. They will be able to help you identify the best way to reach your weight goals while ensuring that you’re getting the nutrients you need for a healthy diet.

Learn more about how to gain weight in our expert guide.

Are weight gain supplements safe?

Weight gain supplements and other dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way as food or pharmaceuticals. Therefore, it is important to choose a supplement that is third-party tested for potency and purity.

Third-party testing can help ensure that the supplement you choose meets the quality standards you’d expect. However, the safety and effectiveness of any supplement is not guaranteed, and it’s best to consult a health professional before taking a supplement.

Who shouldn’t use a weight gain supplement?

Like other dietary supplements, weight gain supplements should accompany a balanced diet that meets your nutrient needs.

“Weight gain supplements are not advised when dietary changes are not made first,” explained Ashbury.

Supplements also should not be your sole source of nutrition.

Additionally, individuals who have experienced unexplained weight loss or weight loss due to an illness should consult a healthcare professional before adding a weight gain supplement to their diet.

Who should use a weight gain supplement?

Weight gain supplements can be a convenient way to increase total calorie and macronutrient intake. This is especially helpful for athletes with busy schedules, people with very high nutrient needs, and people with limited appetite.

How long do weight gain supplements take to work?

Weight changes take time and are influenced by a variety of individual factors, including total calorie intake and activity level. Maintaining a calorie surplus, whether by consuming additional calories from food or from weight gain supplements, will likely result in weight gain over time.

Do I need to exercise when taking weight gain supplements?

Exercise is important for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. If your goal for weight gain is to modify your body composition by increasing lean muscle mass and reducing body fat, then exercise should be part of your weight gain plan.

However, keep in mind that working out contributes to a calorie deficit and it’s important to consume enough calories to support your weight goals.

The bottom line

The most important lifestyle factors that will allow you to gain weight and muscle are proper nutrition and strength training.

Specifically, you need to eat more calories than your body uses and eat more protein than your body breaks down.

Some products, such as mass gainers, offer a concentrated source of calories and nutrients to directly help you gain weight, while others may help boost athletic performance and support muscle gains.

If you want to gain weight, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional to make sure that your exercise regimen and nutritional habits are optimized to help you reach your goals.