For any bodybuilder, protein is the key to a good diet. For a hardgainer, the best way to get that protein is in the form of a gainer. But not all weight gainers are created equally, and I'd like to take a look at some of the qualities that they should have and some of the popular types of gainers so you can make an informed decision before you spend your money.
Evolution Of Gainers
Back in the day, weight gainers used to be fairly cheap protein powders loaded with sugar and fat to up the calorie content. The serving size would be something like 128 oz and the serving would contain 3000 calories. Not exactly a practical serving, and all that sugar kind of went against the idea of eating clean. Plus, the quality of the protein in the gainer was usually poor. Although many gainers like this still remain on the market, fortunately, the supplement industry has come a long way.
A quick side note on what I mean by "protein quality." The quality of a protein is determined by how well your body can use it, a factor termed "biological value," BV for short. This rating is calculated by taking the total nitrogen retained from eating a protein and dividing that by the total nitrogen absorbed by eating that protein.
Basically, it refers to how well and how fast your body actually gets and uses the protein. So a ptotein like whey isolate (BV 159) is the most readily absorbed, while a milk protein like casein (BV 77) is absorbed less readily and is said to be pf less quality. Now, sometimes it's good to eat lower BV rated proteins because you want to absorb it slowly, like before you go to bed.
But generally, you want protein with a higher BV rating, because you're body is getting more of the protein you're ingesting, and more quality products use higher quality proteins.
Here's a list of some common proteins with their BV:
- Whey Protein Isolate - 159
- Whey Protein Concentrate - 104
- Whole Egg - 100
- Egg White - 88
- Chicken/Turkey - 79
- Casein - 77
- Soy - 74
Keep this information in mind whenever you buy a gainer, because you'll be an informed customer when buying it.
Another thing to consider is how much sugar is contained in the gainer. Excess amounts of sugar have been shown to give an insulin spike, as well as increase levels of seratonin. This has been shown to give most people a feeling of drowsiness, irritability, and headaches. This doesn't affect everyone, but some people are more sensitive than others. Plus, the insulin spike sets your body to storing fat. Look at the nutrition label on the gainer, and see how much sugar it contains, listed under the carbohydrates. Somewhere in the 30-60 gram range is pretty good.
This brings up the question of what you want in the carb/protein/fat ratio. You need carbs to help protein absorption, and you know you need the protein. Fats are definitely your friends in a gainer (though not saturated fat), as they seriously up the calorie content. A general rule of thumb is twice as much protein as fat, and twice as many carbs as protein.
Create Your Own
Don't want to spend the money on a supplement and want to try to make your own gainer? It's quite possible and effective. The easiest thing to do is get a regular protein powder, and mix in a few tablespoons of flax or canola oil and some fruit for flavor. You can also throw in some peanut butter or processed egg whites for more calories and protein. Be creative, you'll be surprised how decent some of it tastes.
Here's an example recipe:
Approx. Total: 820 calories
95 g carbs (40g sugars)
48g fat (but only 10g sat fat, plus lots of Omega 3)
You don't even have to buy a whey powder, you could use an egg substitute for protein, but whey powders are pretty affordable and I'd recommend that.
So there you have it. Hopefully, this will help you in making a decision the next time you go to buy a weight gainer. So much of it is personal preference, but there are a lot of factors I hope I've demonstrated that make some gainers better than others. Good luck and e-mail me with any questions!