Will Workout Supplements Make Me Gain Weight?
People turn to supplements to gain muscle mass for various reasons: They may want quick gains or an edge, be short on time, or think you need to take supplements to see results. But expecting a workout supplement to function as a weight gain supplement isn’t the healthiest approach.
“Workout supplements do just that: Supplement a healthy diet and workout program designed to help build muscle,” says Openfit Nutrition Manager Krista Maguire, RD, CSSD. “In addition to providing your body with the fuel — i.e., calories — it needs to build muscle mass, supplements like protein shakes provide the protein/specific amino acids for muscle protein synthesis.”
Is There a Problem With Using Supplements to Gain Weight?
When trying to gain muscle mass, if you fixate on supplements and ignore your diet, you could be selling yourself short, overlooking nutritional gaps that can undermine your progress and overall health.
Whether a supplement can help someone gain muscle mass and weight “completely depends on the workout supplement chosen,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a board-certified sports dietitian based in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “But I encourage active individuals to look at their diet for deficiencies before they turn to supplements.”
Jones says she sees diet deficiencies when her clients are:
- Skipping meals
- Eating poorly balanced meals
- Going too long without eating
- Prioritizing protein too much and forgetting about just eating enough energy (calories)
Weightlifting Vs. Supplements: Which Is More Important for Gaining Muscle Mass?
It’s more important to have the right muscle-building workout, and perform it consistently, than to bank on a magic pill or powder.
To perhaps oversimplify it: If you double down on a program of resistance training (with appropriate recovery time and dietary support), you’ll see results a lot quicker than if you drink twice as many shakes without changing your effort in the gym.
For example, some people erroneously believe that more protein is always better, and doubling up can double their gains. The body just doesn’t work that way.
“Research shows that protein should be evenly distributed throughout the day and consumed every 3 to 4 hours, with each sitting to include about 20 g to 30 g protein (or about 10 g essential amino acids),” says Maguire. “Therefore, doubling up doesn’t provide any further benefits and could, if done over and over again, just lead to excess protein and calories that don’t provide any additional positive impact.”
A winning team
Quality workout supplements have their place in a winning diet and exercise program — but as part of an ensemble, not as the star of the show.
“I encourage clients to work toward the habit of choosing food first,” says Jones. “And when they do use a protein shake or supplement, consider what it is missing so they’re able to add a convenient food for a more complete snack with the shake, or ensure they’re getting enough of the nutrients they’re missing the rest of the day.”
If someone works on their diet, they should be able to see the gains they need, adds Jones. “Then to have an extra edge, they may want to discuss supplements with a sports dietitian, so they’re provided with evidence-based recommendations, as well as safe supplement suggestions,” she says.