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What Is a Weight Gainer?

By S. McCumber
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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A weight gainer is a calorie-dense food designed to help one intentionally gain weight. A weight gainer may be used by athletes, patients suffering from a wasting illness or growth disorder, or anyone else who desires to gain weight, whether for vanity or another reason. They can replace a meal for those who are having trouble eating regular food, or they can provide a between-meals snack if one is looking for extra calories.

Athletes are prominent users of weight gainers. A weight gainer used by athletes normally is rich in protein to aid in muscle development. Muscle is more dense than fat, burns more calories and provides the strength required for the fast and powerful movements many sports demand. Some weight gainers used by athletes are also loaded with carbohydrates and sugar to help in the muscle-building process and to provide energy for sports performance.

Athletic weight gainer comes in many forms. Most athletes choose a whey-protein-based powder that is mixed with water or milk to create a calorie-rich drink. There are also pre-mixed drinks that are sold in individual servings and high-calorie snacks similar to candy or granola bars. These drinks and bars come in a variety of flavors to help make them more palatable, because they are often considered to be bland or even offensive tasting.

Weight gainer is also used by those who suffer from illnesses that cause of a loss weight. Cancer patients typically have a hard time retaining weight while going through therapies to treat the disease, and they may supplement their normal diet with pre-packaged snacks or meals designed to help them gain weight. These types of supplements normally contain a higher ratio of carbohydrates to protein than their athletic counterparts. Like athletic weight gainers, they come in a variety of forms, including powder, pre-mixed drinks and bars.

Not all weight gainers are pre-packaged or in powder form. Whole foods also can be used as weight gainers, though they take more preparation and planning than the pre-packaged types. There are many calorie-dense foods that can serve as weight gainers. Fruit smoothies contain a high amount of calories and sugar. Greek-style yogurt mixed with berries is another common whole-food weight gainer.

Weight gainers often are a hybrid of the pre-packaged and whole-food types. Athletes often add fruits such as bananas or berries, along with chocolate or peanut butter to their whey protein drinks. Additional calories and fiber also can be added to fruit smoothies through the addition of oatmeal or yogurt.

Though not as common as weight gaining for athletic or health reasons, there are those who choose to gain weight for vanity reasons. There are cultures that value the appearance of heavy-set people and there are even lines of clothes tailored to that. Similarly, adolescent boys often feel they are too thin and may attempt to gain weight even if they are not participating in athletics.

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Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Jan 24, 2015

@Mor - My sister does a lot of triathlon races and basically needs to be on a special diet in order to stay healthy because she burns so many calories. She tried to make do with pre-packaged sports foods, but, honestly, in the end she did best when she went to a nutritionist and got a proper diet.

I don't care how many vitamins they shove into those bars, they can't take the place of making sure that you have enough natural foods in your lifestyle.

By Mor — On Jan 23, 2015

@browncoat - I don't usually recommend that people eat pre-packaged foods, but if they really need to gain weight, they can be very useful. The problem with natural weight gainers, like nuts, is that it can be difficult to get a wide variety of nutrients if you just stick to a single kind of food. Often the people trying to gain weight also need to maintain nutrient levels and a balance of fats, protein and carbs, more so than the average person.

Usually with weight gainer bars or other pre-packaged foods, they are formulated so that you get a balance of everything you need.

It depends on what kind you choose, of course, as some of them are just pure protein or even sugar based and those aren't going to do very much for nutrient levels.

By browncoat — On Jan 22, 2015

If you want suggestions on natural weight gainers, I would recommend eating nuts, particularly macadamia nuts. Nuts are usually high in various nutrients and protein and are very pleasant to eat. Macadamia nuts have something like 1000 calories per cup, so they are definitely going to be adding weight to your frame if anything can. They make a very good, high energy snack for hiking and other kinds of long distance exercise as well.

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