How to Gain Weight: Healthy Mass Gainer Alternatives

How to Gain Weight: Healthy Mass Gainer Alternatives

| |
| |

Many consumers take mass gainers or weight gain powders to help them achieve a caloric surplus and gain muscle while working out, but this type of supplement can be unhealthy. Weight gain supplements are convenient, but may not be a great idea to use long-term.

But are there natural options that are densely caloric but much healthier? What's the issue with mass gainers anyway? And can you make your own mass gainer at home?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in a popular mass gainer to explain why we consider this type of supplement to be unhealthy.

We'll also share a recipe for a homemade mass gain shake made with whole foods, and highlight three natural, healthy, high-calorie foods than can make gaining weight easy and convenient without any need to cook.

Why Are Mass Gainers Unhealthy?

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass ingredients

The ingredients in one of the most popular mass gainers in the US called Serious Mass, sold by Optimum Nutrition, are shown above.

Most mass gainer supplements are highly "processed," because it’s a technical challenge to get thousands of calories in a couple scoops of powder.

Maltodextrin, which is a highly processed powder derived from vegetables, provides the majority of the calories.

This ingredient is recognized by the FDA as safe when used in small doses as a food additive, but may be harmful to the gut at high doses.

A 2019 medical review found that maltodextrin caused intestinal inflammation at high doses, and 253 grams (the dose in Serious Mass) would certainly be categorized as a high dose. That's the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for carbs in an entire day according to the Mayo Clinic.

Artificial flavors have been shown in clinical studies to have toxicity risks, as we documented in our review of G Fuel.

Acesulfame potassium and sucralose are artificial sweeteners, the latter of which is clinically shown to negatively affect insulin function.

Our Whole Food Mass Gain Picks

Since mass gainer supplements typically provide around 1,000 calories per serving, they can be replaced with whole food alternatives which are cheaper, healthier and more nutrient-dense.

Coconut Flakes

image of coconuts

Coconut flakes are dense in calories, providing 100 calories in only three tablespoons according to the USDA.

This is an easy way to add 600-700 calories daily with minimal time or effort. The flakes can be added to a smoothie or consumed in isolation.

Coconut provides a range of nutrients according to the above-linked USDA resource, including 356 milligrams (mg) of potassium and 113 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams (g).

The fruit also contains a unique compound called lauric acid which is naturally antibacterial and antifungal and not found in many other whole foods.

Anthony's Organic Shredded Coconut is our top coconut flakes pick, because its only ingredient is organic coconut flakes.

Mixed Nuts

image of mixed nuts

Most nuts are highly caloric and one of the healthiest snack foods available.

A medical review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that nut consumption was associated with reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

We recommend eating a wide variety of different nuts rather than any one type.

Every type of nut has a unique phytochemical profile and nutrient composition, so you'll be exposed to more healthy compounds by alternating nut intake rather than consuming peanut butter every day.

Presto Mixed Nut Blend is our top nut pick, because it contains an unsalted mix of five different types of nuts: Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and pecans.


image of avocados

Avocados are another calorie dense health food, with large avocados providing 300 calories or more.

Eating two avocados daily adds around 700 calories depending on size.

This is an easy snack that tastes great with hot sauce or seasoning, and requires no preparation.

Avocados are high in fiber which is associated with gastrointestinal health, with one avocado containing 13.5 g of fiber according to the USDA. They're also naturally rich in zinc, vitamin C and B-vitamins like folate.

An animal study found that avocado oil consumption can alleviate oxidative damage in the body.

Avocados are significantly more expensive per serving than the other whole food mass gainers recommended above, but they're arguably the healthiest.

Chosen Foods Avocado Oil is our top packaged avocado product for consumers who are unable to access fresh avocados, because it's packaged in glass rather than plastic, and the only ingredient is avocado oil.

How to Make a Healthy Mass Gain Shake

A YouTube creator named "BullyJuice" has a video showing how to make a healthy homemade mass gain shake:

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


The healthiest way to gain weight is to eat energy-dense whole foods like coconut flakes and avocados.

This may optimize athletic performance and muscle-building compared to using mass gainers, because this approach provides significantly more nutrition per calorie consumed.

We recommend avoiding commercial mass gainers because we haven't come across any that we consider to be healthy.

Because mass gainer products have to provide a significant number of calories in a few scoops of dry powder, they tend to be formulated with highly processed carbs like maltodextrin and contain questionable additive ingredients like artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners.

The great thing about whole food weight gain snacks like mixed nuts is that they require no preparation. They're just as convenient as mass gainer shakes but significantly healthier (although often more expensive per serving).