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Food, not supplements, should always take priority for good nutrition.
But, when you’re trying to gain weight, it can be difficult — and expensive — to enough calories from food to meet your goals.
This is where certain supplements can help.
Weight gain supplements are useful for boosting your calorie intake but some also make it easier to get the calories you need to gain weight by increasing your appetite.
From mass gainers to protein powders and even fish oil, here are the 7 best weight gain supplements of 2023 to try today.
A quick look at the best weight gain supplements
- Mass or Weight Gainers
- High-Calorie Protein Powders
- High-Calorie Meal Replacement Shakes
- Carb Supplements
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin and Minerals
1. Mass or weight gainers
Mass or weight gainers are the best weight gain supplement since they’re packed with the most calories.
Mass gainers provide anywhere from 500 calories per serving on the lower end and up to 2,000 calories on the higher end.
Most of the calories from mass gainers come from carbohydrates followed by protein and small amounts of fat.
The most commonly used protein source is whey — a milk protein — but there are several plant-based options available.
Some contain other ingredients helpful for weight gain like creatine.
Make sure to use at least 24 ounces (960 mL) of water, milk, or plant-based dairy alternative for mixing since the serving size of mass gainers is so large.
You can use a shaker bottle for this but a blender usually works best.
Mass or weight gainers are packed with calories from carbs and protein, making them a no-brainer for weight gain.
2. High-calorie protein powders
Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein, usually from milk proteins — whey and casein — but they come from other sources as well.
Most protein powders usually provide fewer than 150 calories per serving, making them a poor choice for gaining weight.
However, there are some that provide 200 calories or more per serving and are therefore much better choices.
Muscle Milk Genuine is a great choice, providing 280 calories and 32 grams of protein per serving.
You can mix Muscle Milk Genuine with water or milk, or for extra calories, add it to a blender with a banana, whole milk, peanut butter, and ice, and blend until smooth for a high-calorie shake.
You can view our other picks for high-calorie protein powders for weight gain here.
Protein powders are generally low in calories, but those that contain 200 calories or more per serving are a good choice for weight gain.
3. High-calorie meal replacement shakes
As the name suggests, meal replacements are intended to replace a meal.
They usually provide fewer calories than a traditional meal, making them a great choice for weight loss.
Used differently, however, high-calorie meal replacements are a great supplement for weight gain.
Instead of using them to replace a meal, use them as a snack between one of your regular high-calorie meals.
Meal replacement shakes are less likely than solid calories to fill you up so you’ll be able to get more calories in without feeling uncomfortably full.
A good meal placement choice is Ensure Complete, one of several nutritional shakes in the Ensure lineup.
It provides 350 calories and 30 grams of protein per bottle — the most of any Ensure product.
Ensure is commonly viewed as a nutritional drink for older adults, but because it’s rich in calories and protein, transportable and reclosable, and widely available, it’s a good weight gain supplement for anyone.
Boost Plus provides a similar number of calories as Ensure Complete, but fewer grams of protein.
Learn more about the differences between Ensure and Boost for weight gain here.
You can also check out our other top picks for high-calorie meal replacement shakes for weight gain here, each of which contains at least 300 calories per serving.
Use high-calorie meal replacements as a snack between one of your regular meals rather than what they’re designed for to gain weight fast.
Creatine is a popular supplement among athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters.
And for good reason.
Hundreds of studies have shown that creatine supplementation leads to significant gains in muscle size, strength, and power (1).
One study showed that men and women who supplemented with creatine and weight trained three times per week gained anywhere from 1 to 8.6 pounds (0.47 to 3.93 kg) after just one month (4).
Participants in the study followed a supplementation strategy called loading, which involves taking 20–25 grams daily for 5–7 days, followed by a daily maintenance dose of 3–5 grams thereafter.
The alternative method is to skip the 5–7-day loading phase and supplement with the 3–5-gram maintenance dose.
Weight gain from water retention is less likely to occur with this supplementation strategy but it takes about 4 times longer than the loading protocol to experience any benefits.
In either case, the water retention and weight gain that may come from following the loading protocol of creatine supplementation is temporary, and the long-term gains from creatine supplementation when combined with weight training come from increases in muscle mass, not water retention.
Among the many forms of creatine, creatine HCl and monohydrate are the most popular. Of these, creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied and cost-effective form.
Look for products that contain high-quality and pure forms of creatine monohydrate like Creapure or PharmaPure.
You can get creatine from animal products, namely meats and fish, but supplementation is a much better strategy to experience creatine’s benefits.
Creatine supplementation can lead to weight gain — primarily in the form of fluid — in the short-term, but in the long-term, creatine in combination with regular weight training helps you gain weight in the form of muscle.
5. Carb supplements
Carb — short for carbohydrate — supplements are concentrated sources of carbs, usually from easy, fast-digesting carbs like dextrose and maltodextrin.
Some carb supplements are called waxy maize since the carb source usually comes from corn.
Carb supplements usually don’t provide any protein or fats.
They are intended to be consumed around or during workouts or endurance activities to replenish energy stores.
But as a rich source of carbs and calories, they can also be great for weight gain.
Carb supplements contain in the range of 30 to 70 grams of carbs and 120 to 270 calories per serving.
They easily mix with water and many are flavored.
You can also mix carb supplements with your protein powder or add it to a homemade high-calorie smoothie to enhance exercise recovery or boost your calories.
Carbo Gain is unflavored but has a mildly sweet taste, and Vitargo comes in many flavors.
Carb supplements are rich in carbs and calories. You can easily mix them with protein powder or add a serving to a homemade high-calorie smoothie.
6. Fish oil
Consistently eating more calories than you need — known as a calorie surplus — is necessary to gain weight.
However, a poor appetite can make doing so extremely difficult.
A poor appetite may result from a certain condition, older age, the use of certain medications, and psychological factors like depression or stress.
When possible, it’s best to resolve or treat the underlying cause of a poor appetite, but when that’s not possible, fish oil may help.
Another study found that supplementing with two grams of EPA — a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil — led to increases in appetite similar to a common prescription appetite stimulant in patients with cancer (6).
So while fish oil doesn’t directly lead to weight gain, it may do so indirectly by allowing you to get the calories in that you need to gain weight without having to battle a poor appetite.
It’s unclear how fish oil may stimulate appetite in some people but it’s believed to influence hormones and the expression of certain genes that regulate appetite and body weight.
You’re less likely to experience “fish burps” from these brands.
Fish oil may indirectly increase your appetite, making it easier to get the calories in that you need to gain weight.
7. Vitamins and minerals
Did you know that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can decrease your appetite?
If you struggle with an appetite and you don’t why, you may not be getting enough of these nutrients:
- Zinc: A mineral necessary for growth and development. Good sources include oysters, meats, poultry, and fortified cereals.
- Iron: A mineral necessary for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen from the lungs to your body’s tissues. Good sources include oysters, beef, potatoes, tofu, and fortified cereals.
- Thiamin: Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin plays an important role in energy production. Good sources include pork, fish, fortified cereals and grains, tuna, and black beans.
Those at the greatest risk of deficiencies or inadequate intakes of these nutrients include:
- Zinc deficiency: Vegetarians, especially vegans, pregnant or lactating women, exclusively breastfed older infants, and people with inflammatory digestive conditions like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (7).
- Iron deficiency: Infants, young children, teenage girls, pregnant women, premenopausal women, frequent blood donors, and people with celiac disease, IBD, and heart failure (8).
- Thiamine deficiency: Older adults and people with alcohol dependence, HIV or AIDS, or diabetes (9).
A simple blood test can confirm whether you have low levels or are deficient in one of these nutrients.
You can supplement with these nutrients individually or purchase a basic multivitamin-mineral supplement.
In the case of a deficiency, restoring levels of these nutrients may improve your appetite and make it easier to get the calories you need to gain weight.
A deficiency in or inadequate intake of zinc, iron, or thiamine can decrease appetite. Restoring levels of these nutrients through supplementation may restore or increase your appetite, allowing you to achieve your weight gain goals easier.
The bottom line
Weight gain supplements are a convenient way to boost your calories and gain weight.
If you’re struggling to get enough calories, consider mass or weight gainers, high-calorie protein powders, or high-calorie meal replacement supplements.
Creatine can result in significant short-term weight gain from fluid but long-term weight gain in the form of muscle.
If you have a poor appetite, supplementing with fish oil may help while also making you feel less full after meals.
A deficiency or inadequate intake of zinc, iron, or thiamin can cause a poor appetite. Restoring levels of these nutrients if you are deficient in one or more of them may improve your appetite and make it easier to get the calories in that you need to gain weight fast, even with a fast metabolism.