Can I Drink Weight-Gain Shakes to Gain Weight Without Exercise?
You can drink weight-gain shakes for underweight correction without exercise, but strength training helps you gain weight in the form of muscle instead of fat.
Though weight loss is normally the goal, another subset of the population turns to weight-gain shakes for underweight problems. It's possible to use weight-gain shakes or powders for underweight correction, but to gain lean muscle, instead of fat, combine them with exercise and a balanced diet 5.
You may be able to gain weight by drinking a weight-gain shake or taking a mass gainer without a workout regimen, but you won't have much control over where that weight goes or whether it's stored as fat. To gain weight and lean muscle mass, combine weight-gain shakes with strength-training exercises.
Healthy Weight Gain
If you're underweight, you may be on a mission to gain weight as quickly as possible until you reach your goal weight, but gradual weight gain is better than packing on the pounds too quickly. The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute recommends a goal of 1 to 2 pounds per week as a realistic starting point, so be patient and understand that small progress is still progress 34.
You can gain weight just by upping your intake of calories through things like drinking weight gainers and adding calorie-rich foods to your meals, but combining an increased calorie intake with resistance training and strength-training exercises helps you build lean muscle instead of packing on the pounds in the form of excess fat 13.
Read more: Can Gaining Muscle Make You Gain Weight?
What Are Weight-Gain Shakes?
When you're trying to gain weight, you typically need to take in a lot more calories, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Sometimes it can be difficult to meet those increased needs through foods alone, especially if you're underweight and you feel full quickly while eating. Weight-gain shakes are blends that aim to bridge the gap by offering high amounts of calories and macronutrients in a way that's easier to consume than eating large quantities of whole foods.
They're similar to protein powders or shakes, but instead of being designed for weight loss, they're made for weight gain. Look for weight-gain shakes and supplements that are pre-made and ready to drink or in a powder form that you mix with water or into a smoothie. Or, make your own using calorie-rich, nutrient-dense ingredients, which gives you better control over what you're consuming.
Be Choosy With Weight Gainers
Although pre-made and preformulated weight gainers and weight-gain shakes do have a convenience factor, they're not always the good choice you think they are. One popular high-protein weight-gain powder from Optimum Nutrition offers 1,250 calories, 50 grams of protein and over 250 grams of carbohydrates per serving 38. Another weight gainer from GNC contains 700 calories, 50 grams of protein and 117 grams of carbohydrates per serving 9.
While these weight-gain powders for underweight individuals make it easy to take in extra calories, they also contain artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors that aren't the best choices for your overall health. They're also designed to support the body during exercise and replenish any lost energy, so if you're regularly taking weight-gain shakes like this without exercising at all, your blood sugar and insulin levels may go up, and you may pack on the pounds in the form of fat, which can be unhealthy.
Make Your Own Weight Gainer
If you want to include weight-gain shakes in your overall weight-gain plan, it's best to make your own using a combination of nutrient-dense whole foods. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services emphasizes choosing quality over quantity and making sure your calories come from healthy foods, instead of getting a lot of empty calories from things like chips or soda just to meet your increased calorie needs 23.
You can make your own weight-gain shake at home by combining full-fat dairy milk or coconut milk with nut butters, avocado, coconut or MCT oil. Add some fresh or frozen berries, a couple of scoops of protein powder and a handful of greens like spinach or kale 6. Not only are these homemade weight-gain shakes high in calories and healthy fats, but they're also rich in vitamins and minerals and free of artificial ingredients 3.
Incorporating them into your diet in between meals can help you gain weight gradually. In addition to the shakes, make sure you're also eating a lot of nutrient-dense foods at meal times. Some examples include nut butter, eggs, full-fat dairy products (cheese, milk and yogurt), sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and coconut products 5.
The Importance of Exercise
Although it's possible to gain weight by consuming some type of mass gainer without a workout regimen, it's probably not your best bet. Exercise not only helps you build lean muscle instead of packing on pounds in the form of fat, but it has tons of other health benefits too. Exercise helps: 7
- Protect against heart disease
- Lower your risk of osteoporosis
- Boost your mood
- Combat anxiety and depression
- Improve your blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of certain types of cancer
When you're trying to add some pounds, you may not want to do too much cardio or high-intensity exercise, which burns off a lot of calories. Resistance training, on the other hand, like lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing body-weight exercises (squats, push-ups and planks) can help you build muscle and put on weight in a healthy way 4.
Be Realistic About Your Goals
When you're trying to gain weight, it's important to be realistic about your goals. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that your genetics plays a major role in your physical build 345. If your parents or siblings are underweight, it may be possible that your body is just naturally thin.
While you may be able to put on some weight, drastic and sudden changes may be both out of reach and unsustainable. Take an honest look at your goals and make sure they're attainable and healthy. Talk to your doctor or another qualified health professional to determine a healthy weight for you and then develop a plan together to help you get there.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Healthy Ways to Gain Weight If You’re Underweight"
- Victoria Department of Health and Human Services: "Weight and Muscle Gain"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Healthy Weight Gain"
- Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute: "Gaining Weight the Healthy Way"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Safe Weight Gain Tips for Underweight Kids"
- Cleveland Clinic: "7 Tips for Choosing the Best Protein Powder for You"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity"
- Optimum Nutrition: "Serious Mass"
- GNC: "GNC Pro Performance® Weight Gainer"