Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein: The Differences That Matter

Irrespective of the intensity of your workouts, supplements are a great way to keep your body fit and derive maximum results from your exercises.

It’s essential for fitness enthusiasts to educate themselves on which supplement will better help them achieve their goals. The fitness industry is still engaged in a fierce ‘mass gainer vs. whey protein’ debate regarding their effectiveness, cost productivity, and safety.

Unfortunately, there’s still no clear conclusion. But it’s time to put the debate to bed and finally figure out which of the two is better for your body.

Is Mass Gainer the Same as Whey Protein?

Whey protein and mass gainers, although serving a similar market and purpose, are vastly different from each other. The primary difference between the two lies in their composition.

While mass gainers are a rich blend of all essential macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), whey protein primarily serves as a pure source of protein, with a negligible presence of fats and carbohydrates

There is little merit to any ‘whey protein vs. mass gainer’ debate seeing as how both of them are meant for different applications. While a hard-gainer will typically opt to supplement their diet with a mass gainer, lean body enthusiasts will choose whey protein instead.

Let us now understand the differences between the two in a more systematic manner.

Difference Between Mass Gainer & Whey Protein

Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein

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Many fitness enthusiasts, mainly beginners, often face the misconception that there’s little to no difference between the functionality of mass gainers and whey protein.

Unfortunately, that is a flawed conclusion. There is a multitude of differences between the two supplementary sources of macronutrients. Let’s discuss some of them.

Basis of Comparison

Mass Gainer

Whey Protein


Mass gainers typically contain a blend of macronutrients, including balanced amounts of fats, carbohydrates, and protein sources.

Whey protein supplements are primarily composed of just protein, with only small amounts of other macronutrients present.


Fitness enthusiasts would mainly opt for a mass gainer only if they want to bulk up, improve their overall strength, and enhance their post-muscle recovery process.

Whey protein is more suitable for building leaner muscles and getting the optimum protein intake per day.


Mass gainers have a very diverse macronutrient profile. They offer added calories per serving along with a rich blend of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Whey protein can serve as an excellent source of quality protein, without any added carbohydrates and fats.

Target Market

Hard gainers and professional bodybuilders should opt for mass gainers during the bulking period as it will allow them to fulfill their daily macronutrient requirements and put on more bulky muscles.

Whey protein should be used by athletes like swimmers who need to maintain leaner muscles as well as gym-goers who are cutting calories to lose weight while building muscle mass.

It’s clear that the ‘mass gainer vs. whey protein’ discussion will have no conclusion, as the productivity of the two is determined according to the diverse requirements of different fitness enthusiasts.

The truth is that there is no option better than the other. They have their own use cases which should align with your goals and objectives.

What is Mass Gainer?

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass Weight Gainer Protein Powder, Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D for Immune Support, Chocolate, 6 Pound (Packaging May Vary)

Mass gainers are one of the most popular supplement choices in the fitness industry for aiding one’s weight gain and bodybuilding journey without engaging in “dirty bulking”. The supplement has a rich composition, harboring balanced amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Typically, the ratio of the presence of carbs and fats to the presence of protein in a mass gainer is 3:1 or 2:1. The higher carbohydrate content makes it an excellent option for those struggling to get their daily calorie intake.

Developers mainly use glucose and maltose to amp up the carbohydrate composition in a mass gainer. In some cases, the main carbohydrate source can be maltodextrin, a highly-processed carb in the form of powder made from rice or corn starch.

The consumption of maltodextrin, however, is not safe for people with issues like diabetes or celiac disease. In such cases, it is better to go for premium quality mass gainers, which derive their carbs from safer sources including yams, oats, and other natural ingredients.

The protein content of a typical mass gainer is derived from a blend of sources including milk, casein, and whey.

BSN TRUE-MASS Weight Gainer, Muscle Mass Gainer Protein Powder, Chocolate Milkshake, 10.38 Pound (Package May Vary)

The combination of two parts of carbs and fats and one part of proteins is an effective blend for weight gain. The former enhances the calorie count needed for weight gain while the latter provides the body with lean protein which it needs for building muscle.


  • Speeds up the weight gain process.
  • Builds greater muscle mass.
  • Optimizes the muscle recovery process.
  • Provides more strength for workouts.


  • People often confuse “gaining weight” for “gaining muscle” while overconsuming mass gainers.
  • Some lower-quality mass gainers may contain harmful ingredients to increase their carb and fat content.
  • Overconsumption is common and can lead to lofty calorie counts per day.

What is Whey Protein?

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder, Double Rich Chocolate 2 Pound (Packaging May Vary)

Taking protein supplements is essential for anyone, irrespective of their activity levels. The common consensus indicates that an average human should consume 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of their body weight. It’s difficult to achieve that number through a regular diet.

Getting aid from a pure protein supplement such as whey is a good solution to this omnipresent problem. Whey protein is commonly consumed by gym-goers alongside their resistance training to enhance their muscle-protein synthesis and build lean muscles.

The primary source of whey protein is milk, which is composed of two protein-based ingredients – whey and casein. During cheese formation, whey is separated from the other ingredients and then processed into powder, giving us whey protein.

Generally, a whey protein supplement is high in protein content and contains small amounts of fats and carbohydrates. However, some whey-based supplements might have additional ingredients or protein blends, straying farther away from a pure whey protein composition.

All fitness experts agree that whey is the most wholesome and effective source of protein, as it contains 9 amino acids required for effective muscle growth. These amino acids are crucial for aiding the body in repairing and growing new muscle fibers.

There are 3 main types of whey protein.

  1. The most common one is called whey protein concentrate, a variant composed of 70%-80% protein, and a negligible amount of carbs and fats. This variant, however, is high on lactose, making it a risk for lactose-intolerant people.
  2. Whey protein isolate, containing only 1% lactose, is a better option for such people. It is a highly-pure form of whey protein and comprises around 85-90% of pure protein.
  3. The last option is whey protein hydrolysate, a supplement mainly used in the medical industry and formulas for products meant for infants because of its high digestibility and reduced risks of triggering allergies.

Apart from helping gym-goers build lean muscle mass and achieve their daily target of protein intake, whey protein is also a proven medical associate for many illnesses and conditions.

For instance, many ongoing studies indicate that balanced consumption of whey protein can aid one’s weight-loss journey, instigate anti-cancer properties, lower cholesterol, and also increase the immune response in children with risks of asthma.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder, Double Rich Chocolate 2 Pound (Packaging May Vary)


  • Excellent source of protein without any added ingredients.
  • Good for losing weight and gaining lean muscles.
  • Improves post-workout muscle recovery.
  • Grants an easy way to attain the daily target of protein intake.


  • Lacks a diverse and wholesome macronutrient profile.
  • Not as effective as a pre-workout meal without any added dishes.
  • Overdosage may lead to digestive problems, nausea, and headaches.

When to Take Mass Gainer?

Mass gainers are rich in calories, carbohydrates, fats, and healthy protein sources. They offer a complete macronutrient profile. Skinny people, who want to meet their calorie goals and gain weight, should take advantage of this composition and purchase a good mass gainer.

Moreover, hard-gainers, who want to bulk up and get large muscles with their time at the gym, can make effective use of mass gainers. The rich mix of essential nutrients can aid their workout sessions and enhance their protein muscle synthesis process.

The metabolic rate of an individual is also key in determining if they should opt for a mass gainer or any other source of protein and nutrients. If a person has a high metabolism, their body is likely to burn a lot of calories, even if they are not exercising.

In this case, they might go into a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss and loss of muscle mass. To avoid this, daily intake of mass gainers is a good solution.

BSN TRUE-MASS Weight Gainer, Muscle Mass Gainer Protein Powder, Chocolate Milkshake, 10.38 Pound (Package May Vary)

Another use case of mass gainers is to consume it for getting past the bodybuilding and weightlifting plateau. When you hit a plateau, you won’t be able to progress in your training. You won’t be able to lift heavier weights than a certain amount.

The most common reason for such a plateau is letting the body get used to a specific dietary habit. For example, if you don’t change your daily calorie intake for a long time, you might not meeting the caloric requirements of the body for promoting more muscle growth.

Another common reason is that your body might get used to a certain level of intensity of your workout sessions.

In both cases, mass gainers can help you get past that barrier. It will give you more calories, which will not only fuel your body’s muscle growth process but also give you the extra energy required to lift heavier weights.

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When to Take Whey Protein?

Whey protein serves as a pure source of protein, without the negative effects of any complex carbs or fats.

As such, it is suitable for consumption when you want to gain more muscle, without putting up any more fat in your body. In such a case, you will grow leaner muscles, and the visible changes might be slower.

People who are undergoing the cutting phases, the period in which gym-goers reduce their caloric intake to lose fat while maintaining muscle mass, should opt for whey protein.

In this case, the body will get the most essential macronutrient which is required for building muscle – protein – without getting any extra calories in the form of carbohydrates and fats. Whey, therefore, is also suitable for fitness enthusiasts undergoing a weight loss journey.

Dymatize Elite 100% Whey Protein Powder, 25g Protein, 5.5g BCAAs & 2.7g L-Leucine, Quick Absorbing & Fast Digesting for Optimal Muscle Recovery, Gourmet, 5 Pound Vanilla 80 Ounce

More whey protein intake can also amp up one’s metabolism. This happens because protein has a high thermic effect, making it easier for your body to burn more calories.

Fitness enthusiasts, who prefer a more aesthetic, leaner body should also opt for whey protein, as it is strictly a source of pure protein, which focuses on weight gain only through increasing the muscle mass in the body.

Whey protein is suitable for athletes having a lean body is essential. They need muscle to compete in their area of sports. At the same time, they cannot afford nonessential body fat as it will hamper their muscular and cardiorespiratory agility and speed.

People who are progressing smoothly in their workouts, without hitting any weight gain or bodybuilding plateau, should stick with a pure source of protein like whey.

Lastly, whey protein is also good for people who want to opt for the safest option. Compared to mass gainers, whey is a better source of essential macronutrients – namely protein. A mass gainer may be housing some amount of unwanted fat, which is bad for your body.

Does Mass Gainer Help Build Muscle?

Long story short, mass gainers can serve as an excellent conduit for helping you meet your bodybuilding standards. Their composition – high calories, balanced amount of macronutrients, and presence of other essential vitamins is crucial for building muscle mass.

Mass gainers, along with adequate exercising and working out, can elevate the protein synthesis levels in your body, allowing better muscle recovery in between workouts.

Moreover, they also provide the adequate calorie count required to maintain your body weight and muscle mass. More importantly, a mass gainer will give you “clean calories”, which is essential for gaining weight through muscle mass and not fat.

Higher-quality mass gainers are also a great way to break your lifting barrier. They have high carbs content, meaning that they are protein-sparing. When you consume carbs, your body will use stored reserves of glycogen to get the energy for workouts instead of breaking down muscle tissues.

Balanced consumption of complex carbohydrates and fats will also give your body the energy required to engage in better workout sessions. With pro-level mass gainers, you can eventually train harder and lift heavier weights. The breakthrough is essential for building larger muscles.

Finally, the presence of glutamine in any mass gainer is essential for gaining bulky muscles, as the supplement is instrumental in various muscle recovery processes.

To summarize, mass gainers offer a multi-faceted solution to people who wish to gain healthy muscle mass without putting on a lot of fat-based weight.

Should I Take Mass Gainer and Whey Protein?

Amid the raging mass gainer vs. whey protein debate, there are some people who want to enjoy the benefits of both.

Unfortunately, consuming both mass gainers and whey protein on the same day, or at the same time, makes no sense.

If you are taking a mass gainer, a single serving alone is enough to give you 700-800 calories, with a balanced distribution of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In such a situation, getting more protein by consuming whey is pretty much useless.

Similarly, if you are taking whey protein, your primary aim should be to consume lesser calories, carbs, and fats, while getting more dosages of pure protein. In such a case, taking mass gainer alongside will render your efforts useless.

If you want to reap more benefits from your supplement, you can simply increase your serving size, instead of trying to consume two different products simultaneously.

Is Mass Gainer Good for Skinny Guys?

Yes, mass gainers are excellent for skinny guys as they can help build a bulky muscle mass while eliminating the negative effects of “dirty bulking”, a method of rapid weight and muscle growth by pairing the consumption of unhealthy, high-calorie foods with exercising.

Balanced consumption of a high-quality mass gainer can help the daily clean calorie intake of a skinny person. It will also provide a nourished macronutrient profile, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

With regular exercise and timely consumption of a reliable mass gainer, skinny people can put on some healthy weight and also build large muscles over time.

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Which is Cheaper: Mass Gainer or Whey Protein?

Generally, the average cost-per-serving of a mass gainer is less than that of whey protein. However, the actual price comparison will also depend on the brand that you choose or the quality that you are looking for.

Thankfully, because of competitive pricing, both whey protein and mass gainers can be found within an affordable price range in the market. However, the premium options available might be a tad too expensive for regular gym-goers.

Which is More Effective: Mass Gainer or Whey Protein?

Both mass gainers and whey protein are equally effective at achieving what they are designed to.

  • If you want to bulk up fast and build larger muscles, you should opt for a reliable brand of mass gainer.
  • On the other hand, if you want to build bulky muscles without consuming too many calories, then stick with whey protein.

Mass gainers will also lead to a rapid spike in your insulin levels, meaning that you might have some unwanted fat in your body. Whey protein, on the other hand, is a pure source of protein, and will not contain any added macronutrients.

Is It Better to take Mass Gainer or Whey Protein?

Your preference should depend on your requirements.

  • If you are a skinny person looking to bulk up quickly, then you should start looking at some of the popular mass gainers in the market.
  • Lean muscle admirers should prefer whey protein as it is low on calories and only offers pure protein.

Both have separate use cases, pros, cons, and compositions. While both of them help in building muscle, whey protein focuses more on lean bulking while mass gainers are all about getting those hard gains as quickly as possible without binge eating.

Summing Up

There will be no end to the infamous mass gainer vs. whey protein debate unless people realize that they are both two distinct products with diverse applications.

Either one is not better than the other in a general sense. The preference is dictated by the user’s requirements.