Protein Powders vs. Weight Gainers… (which one should you use?)

What’s the difference between protein powders and weight gainers?

Which one should YOU use to help achieve your muscle building goals?

I get a lot of questions like this from my online followers…
They just want to cut through all the confusion and figure out which one they should use, what’s the best value for their money, and how they can maximize their muscle gains…

This is a common question I hear:

“Lee, I’m 24 years old, 5’10 tall, and weigh 173 pounds. My goal is to bulk up and gain as much muscle as I can. But I don’t want to get gain any fat either. Should I use a Protein Powder or a Weight Gainer to help me gain lean muscle?”

Then they usually list out a bunch of different brands of protein powders and weight gainers, and ask me to rank them as to which one is the best…

But before we can answer this question we need to step back and just look at protein powders and weight gainers for what they really are… A source of quick convenient liquid nutrition. That’s it!

Most advanced bodybuilders, myself included, don’t even consider protein powders or weight gainers to be “supplements” at all, but rather just a convenient food source. For example, do you consider drinking a glass of milk taking supplements? Probably not… Well, drinking a protein or weight gainer shake is pretty much the same thing, except it’s a more concentrated source of liquid nutrition.

So don’t be fooled by all the hyped up magazine ads that feature jacked up bodybuilders saying that the key to their success is drinking “Super Duper Muscle Builder 4000″.

You need to read between the lines when it comes to any advertising.
For example; just because Mr. Olympia drinks protein shakes, that doesn’t automatically mean that the protein shakes are what caused him to win the Mr. Olympia.

To break this down further and show you how supplement ads will sometimes play off this, just look at the following example…

Ronnie Coleman drinks bottled water.

Ronnie Coleman won the Mr. Olympia.

So There For…
Bottled Water is the key to winning the Mr. Olympia.

ronnie coleman

Now we all know that drinking water is important, not only for building muscle, but for life in general. However, this doesn’t mean that drinking bottled water is the “magic secret” that will cause you to build the ultimate body of your dreams.

The same thing applies with protein powders and weight gainers. Yes protein is an essential nutrient, one that we all need in order to live. But protein powder doesn’t have any special muscle building properties over normal high protein foods. Regardless of what the advertisements say, or who the paid spokesperson is, these products are nothing more then a convenient meal replacement alternative.

So now that we’ve gotten the marketing hype out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the article and answer the question…

Protein Powder OR Weight Gainer – Which One Is The Best?

There are 3 main categories of protein supplements:

1) – Protein Powders
These powders are almost all isolated or concentrated protein, with only trace amounts of carbohydrate and fat. A typical scoop of protein powder will have 20+ grams of protein and only a couple grams of carbs and / or fat.

2) – Weight Gainer Powders
These powders are usually a combination of both carbohydrates and protein. Generally they will have a 2 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. A typical serving of weight gainer powder (which is usually a couple large scoops of powder) will have 60+ grams of carbohydrates and 30+ grams of protein. Along with a few grams of fat.

3) – Meal Replacement Powders
These powders are also a combination of protein and carbohydrates. But they generally have a 2 to 1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates. A typical serving of a meal replacement (which usually comes in a pre-packaged individual serving pouch) will have 40+ grams of protein and approx. 20+ grams of carbs.


The best bang for your buck and the one I recommend everyone use is…
Pure Protein Powder!.

This is a staple that should be on everyone’s grocery list. I recommend either a whey protein isolate or a protein isolate blend such as Iso-Smooth 4 Protein Blend. The average person needs to get more protein in their diet, NOT more carbohydrates, so that’s why I personally use and recommend protein powder as the top choice.

Pure Protein Powder

Now with the others, weight gainers & meal replacements, they are totally optional and only really need to be used for extra convenience.

Meal Replacement Packets are good for when you on the go and can’t sit down for a sensible meal. All you have to do is pack a shaker bottle and a bunch of meal replacement packets with you and you can have instant high protein meals anywhere. Now because of the packaging they are expensive, about twice the price of protein powder on a per serving basis. But I have a cheaper “home made” alternative for meal replacements that you can use with pure protein powder as the base ingredient. You can check it out in the video clip below:

Click PLAY To Watch Video:

Note: if you can’t watch the embedded video clip above,
you can watch it directly on my YouTube Channel at:

For the most part I actually discourage guys from using Weight Gainer Powders.
More often then not the weight you’ll gain from these drinks is just excess bodyfat. The carbs that are in most weight gainers will cause an insulin spike and thus promote fat storage. The only time when spiking your insulin levels is a good thing, is right after you finish a hard weight training workout. So if you want, you can actually use a weight gainer shake as your post workout shake.

However, you can very easily make your own post workout Protein & Carb shake with pure protein powder and simply add in the carbs yourself. This is usually cheaper then buying a weight gainer powder.

You can buy Maltodextrin (a carbohydrate powder) in bulk at stores that sell Home Brew Beer & Wine Kits. You can also buy Dextrose (a simple sugar) at these home brew kit stores as well, and simply add them to your post workout protein shake.

Pure Protein Powder

Just mix your post workout shake so that it has about 80 grams of carbohydrate powder (a 50/50 mix of maltodextrin & dextrose would be ideal) and 40 grams of pure protein powder. This will give you the ideal 2 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein.

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Leave A Reply (44 comments so far)

  1. Jim

    Good info….where might I search for veggie greens? Can these take the place of broccoli throughout the day? (I am taking in about 50 g of broccoli at every meal….could this replace some of that?

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  2. Mark

    Lee, what about casein protein? Someone told me that casein in the evenings is “essential” for building muscle. I typically have a whey protein shake first thing in the morning and then another post-workout and then a casein shake in the evening.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. mark baker

    i have a question, what would be a good protein powder if im lactose intolerant allergic to casein peanuts whey. any ideas that can help me out

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  4. bob g

    lee – good advise – I have found that weight gain is just fat gain. I find that buying protein powdr is the best buy – Ihave used ‘baggies’ to make my own serving packets.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. Jason

    mark baker,

    I’m not 100% sure as im not lactose intolerant, but i think soy protein would be good, im pretty sure its lactose free and soy beans contain good protein. When i started i used soy protein and it tasted alright, im not sure about the performance because i stopped having it after i got told people usually stay away from it because its made in aluminium vats, but im pretty sure it works good.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. Jason

    I agree with only having the mass gainer after a workout, I really wanted to bulk up so i was having them 3 times a day, breakfast lunch and after workout. I gained lots of weight fast but it was mostly fat, so i cut back to just after my workout and my weight dropped back to normal.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. Jim:
    Good info….where might I search for veggie greens? Can these take the place of broccoli throughout the day? (I am taking in about 50 g of broccoli at every meal….could this replace some of that?


    Hey Jim,
    One of my personal favorite greens products, and the one I’m using now is called Athletic Greens at:
    This one has a more concentrated source of greens then the veggie greens that I was using in the video clip above.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  8. Mark:
    Lee, what about casein protein? Someone told me that casein in the evenings is “essential” for building muscle. I typically have a whey protein shake first thing in the morning and then another post-workout and then a casein shake in the evening.


    You are right in that casein is slower releasing then whey. However, real food protein is the slowest releasing of all. So if you want to eat something late at night that will provide a prolonged release of protein eat some real food. Before bed I’ll often eat some protein that I have left over from my dinner (i.e. meat, chicken, fish, etc.). Other times I may make up an egg and veggie omelet.

    But if you do want to have a sustained release protein powder, then I recommend Iso-Smooth from this is a 4 blend isolate protein that contains whey, milk, egg, and casein proteins. This provides fast, medium, and slow digesting protein.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  9. mark baker:
    i have a question, what would be a good protein powder if im lactose intolerant allergic to casein peanuts whey. any ideas that can help me out


    Have you tried using a high quality isolate protein? The more expensive isolates have the lactose and fat removed compared the the lower priced concentrates. This usually works well for most people who are lactose intolerant. But if that doesn’t work then you should visit a natural food store and try some of the vegetarian protein powders that are available.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  10. Colin


    Same here – I’m in the UK and have searched for these veggie greens and cannot find them anywhere. I bought spirulina (which tastes rank!) and wheatgrass but would really like to see a good supply of these in the UK.

    It seems to be a different market here and I have struggled to find many of the product Lee recommends. Even Bodylastics have no stock in the UK so we either have to pay exorbitant postage and taxes or wait for stock.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  11. jose

    where are your sources?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  12. jose:
    where are your sources?


    I often use Iso-Smooth 4 blend isolated protein powder from

    Granted this is a higher quality protein and it’s a bit more expensive then regular whey. But for just regular whey protein you can find this pretty much anywhere, from the supplement shop to the grocery store.

    And as for the Maltodextrin and Dextrose. Just look in the yellow pages for stores that sell home brew beer and wine kits in your area. Give them a call and ask if they carry these powders in bulk. Most of them should.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  13. Jim

    I understand maltodextrin and dextrose…..but what are your thoughts on Waxy Maize as an addition to these or to replace these? Worth looking at?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  14. Dani


    i live in the uk and i use a brand called fruitein powder from the brand also do berry powders as well as greens and the website do some other brands. You can find uk suppliers you just have to look hard on amazon shopping. Most of the natural food stores are your best places.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  15. Dani,

    Hey lee athletics greens is quite expensive for us to have shipped over to the uk. I have found some other brands over here but i was wondering (just like you say our protein powder should have 24g protein, 2g carbs, 2g Fat) what is the best kind of nutritional value to be looking for in greens powder?
    I use flaxseed for my healthy fats instead of fish oil capsules is this ok or do you really recommend have the fish oil instead?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  16. Jim:
    I understand maltodextrin and dextrose…..but what are your thoughts on Waxy Maize as an addition to these or to replace these? Worth looking at?


    Sure, you can use Waxy Maise in your post workout shakes as well. I’ve done this myself.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  17. Dani,


    For greens supplements it’s more important to look at the actual vegetable extracts, not so much the protein and carb counts. Again, you can compare the label on as this is one of the best ones I’ve ever used.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  18. Dani,


    Fish oil has a lot of benefits that flax oil doesn’t have. Just watch this video for more info…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  19. abbey adelanwa

    Lee im 16 and quite confused about what protein shake to take. at the moment there are two that are in my price range. they both look good but i don’t understand the nutritional information that was shown there.



    Please give your verdict and which one you would recomend

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  20. I have always liked a good protein powder but don’t care much for the weight gainers, not enough servings in a container.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  21. I have the same experience, using weight gainers just makes me fat, so whey proteine is all I use as a supplement. I just use creatine once in a while, but the disadvantage of that is that the body holds more water.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  22. Gurjindder

    I am Gurjindder From India i am beginner level bodybuilder From 2 months i am doing bodybuilding .
    Can u suggest me supplements to built my body as mentioned below but plz mention product which is vegetarian coz i am vegetarian i don’t eat animal product, fish, eggs etc don’t suggest product which contains animal fats or any animal, fish or egg substance,
    Plz Suggest me product for following
    1) Energy/Pre-Workout Aids
    2) Mass Gainers
    3) Muscle Builders
    4) Fat Burners
    5) Sports Performance
    6) Post-Workout Recovery
    7) Nitric Oxide Enhancers
    8) Hormone Boosters

    Most important i am vegetarian i don’t eat fish, meat animal product, eggs, Chicken etc, i am fully vegetarian so suggest me product which contain vegetarian things.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  23. abbey adelanwa,


    Both of those protein powders are really good and you can use either one. The 1st one is a pure whey protein powder. The 2nd one is a protein blend of whey, egg, casein, and soy. Personally I’m not a huge fan of soy protein so I would just opt for the whey protein instead.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  24. Gurjindder,

    For those of you who are interested in getting diet and training help from me personally, I’m going to be opening up my Total Fitness Bodybuilding “Inner Circle” Group Coaching Club very soon. You can see more info about this at:

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  25. Keith

    Hey lee, one question

    for pre workout, is it carbs that are slow acting like grains oats, and vegetables before workout and posts workout is fast acting carbs such as white rice or fruits. Thanks Let me know.


      (Quote)  (Reply)

  26. bilal

    plz sugges me a the some affective name of protine powder which’s gain my size and cuttting nd also my weight?thanks

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  27. Brennan

    mark baker,

    Try carnivor Mass its a beef protein isolate containing no whey and is safe for those who are lactose intolerant

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  28. joel

    so can i use a weightgainer instead for post

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  29. There are some protein side effects to be aware of.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  30. Mark


    What an extremely insightful and informative response. Thanks for posting!!!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  31. joel:
    so can i use a weightgainer instead for post


    A weight gainer shake can be used for a post workout shake. Just check the label to make sure it fits the requirements of a good post workout shake. I made a blog post about this at:

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  32. sexy smooth

    Heey Lee,

    This is my delima, I am a waiter at a restaurant, I work very hard walking around serving food and other stuff that I don’t have enough time to eat.
    I only eat twice a day and therefore loosing weight and getting slimmer by the day so I need something to replace the meal I am missing. I don’t work out but need to regain my usual structure like I was before starting this job.
    Your professional advice will be much appreciated.

    Thanks again.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  33. sexy smooth,

    Having protein shakes would help. You can be sipping on a shake throughout your shift to keep a steady supply of protein and calories in your system.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  34. chinu

    when should i take weight gainer ?….before eating or after eating or after working out?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  35. kindajacked

    How much for the Super Duper Muscle Builder 4000? and where do I purchase it?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  36. Cliff

    Glad to see that in general, you discourage use of weight gainers. I think they’re way overused. There’s a time and a place for them, but for most people, regular whey protein will do the job much better.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  37. Lena

    Nice advice to growing muscles without any fat….

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  38. paul


    ahoy.. how about bcca capsule 1000mg can take both with whey protein??

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  39. matt

    Hi what do u recommened to put on weight as well due to a stupid high metabolism


      (Quote)  (Reply)

  40. Mario

    I know this web site gives quality depending content and
    additional information, is there any other web page which provides these
    stuff in quality?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  41. affordable supplements uk

    Hi guys great in depth article. Currently 155lbs and looking to get to 180lbs. Have noted a few tips down from this and will hopefully reach my goal one day! Thanks. Kevin.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  42. daniel powell

    iam 88killos and iam lean is dymatzie iso 100 good protein 4 me

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  43. daniel powell

    what Is the best lean low carb protein 4 me

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  44. Tiller


    Check out ” egg white protein by Jay Robb.” 24g protein per serving. My son is allergic to whey & casein & he loves this stuff.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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