Does Mass Gainer Cause Acne?

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Written By
Andy Williams
Last Updated on

One of the most commonly worried about mass gainer side effects is acne development. Since acne occurs most frequently among teenagers, young people are often especially concerned that their muscle-building supplements can negatively affect their skin health and aesthetics.

However, acne can affect anyone, and some people are more prone to it than others, due to their genetics, diet, and lifestyle.

So, with that in mind, let’s see how strong the link between weight gainer usage and acne development really is.

Does Mass Gainer Cause Acne?

Closeup of the acne on a person's face

Does mass gainer cause acne? Yes, for some people, taking mass gainers on a regular basis can cause acne breakouts because weight gainers contain dairy protein (whey & casein) and refined carbohydrates.

However, to understand the link between mass gainers and acne, we first need to understand what a weight gainer is.

Nutritionally, a mass gainer is essentially a mixture of liquified protein and carbohydrates, usually whey protein, casein protein, and maltodextrin.

The term weight gainer simply describes a supplement that has lots of carbs, protein, and calories. So, in order to make a link between weight gainers and acne, we need to examine the individual ingredients that make up the actual mass gainer powder. 

Whey Protein and Acne

A tub of whey protein

Based on the current scientific evidence, it seems like whey protein can lead to acne in some people. However, it’s very difficult to pin the blame solely on the whey protein because so many other factors, such as stress, humidity, and improper skin care, can cause or worsen acne.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some studies suggest that consumption of cow’s milk (which contains whey and casein) can lead to acne because some of the hormones found in milk can cause inflammation, which in turn could clog your pores. [1] However, they also note that much more research is needed for this link to be verified.

Some sources also note that protein powder can sometimes be contaminated with dangerous substances, such as anabolic steroids, which can cause the development of acne. [2]

This is why I always recommend getting a protein powder from a reputable brand that’s been third-party tested for banned substances.

Regarding the link between protein supplements and acne, the studies that do exist are rather limited in that they’re observational. 

As an example, one study showed that those who consumed protein supplements over a two-month period developed worse acne. [3] However, half of the study’s 30 participants already had a history of acne, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the whey protein as the cause of their skin condition.

Carbohydrates and Acne

Some maltodextrin powder

When it comes to gaining weight, consuming more carbohydrates is one of the most effective ways to put your body in a calorie surplus. But could all those mass-gainer carbohydrates be causing acne?

One theory is that the high glycemic index carbs found in weight gainers are quickly converted into glucose, which spikes your insulin levels and increases IGF-1 levels, which ultimately could make your skin more oily and lead to acne. [4

This is one reason why I always recommend getting a weight gainer that uses oats or other low glycemic index carbs as the primary carbohydrate source. 

Years ago, these kinds of mass gainers were hard to find. However, as consumer demands for healthy and effective supplements have continued to grow, more oat-based mass gainers have come to the market in recent years.

Current recommendations from dermatologists are to limit the intake of refined carbohydrates and high glycemic index foods, so make sure to check what carbohydrates are in your mass gainer before you take it. [5]

How To Find a Mass Gainer That Doesn’t Cause Acne

Some mass gainer powder inside a shaker bottle

First and foremost, decide whether you want to go with a dairy-based mass gainer or a plant-based one. 

While whey and casein are usually considered more effective for building muscle than plant protein, quality plant-based protein sources like hemp, pea, and rice can produce comparable results to their dairy counterparts.

If you seem to do okay with dairy, you could go with a standard mass gainer that uses whey and casein. But if you want to play it really safe, you could always try a plant-based gainer.

Next, look for a mass gainer with a moderate amount of calories (less than 800 for sure). This is because the mega-calorie gainers all use cheap wheat or corn-based maltodextrin, which could lead to acne development due to their high glycemic index.

Instead, opt for a mass gainer that has 400 to 600 calories and uses oats as the primary carbohydrate source, which has a much lower glycemic index than the likes of maltodextrin.

Just note that some mass gainers use a bit of maltodextrin to help bind the ingredients together. I wouldn’t worry about this. As long as the maltodextrin isn’t a significant carbohydrate source within the formula, you’re good to go.

Also, use your mass gainer responsibly, which is to say as a supplement to your diet. Don’t take more than two servings per day because you should always get the majority of your calories and nutrition from wholefood courses to ensure that you get enough vitamins and minerals.

Learn Even More About Mass Gainers:

So, Do Mass Gainers Cause Acne?

A man with acne

Since acne is influenced by a person’s genetics, environment, and diet, it’s possible that you could experience the development or worsening of acne while taking a mass gainer or similar bodybuilding supplements.

However, as we established, not all mass gainers are created equal. A weight gainer that’s full of high GI carbs like maltodextrin is more likely to cause acne than a weight gainer that uses oats as the main carbohydrate source.

So, make sure to choose a mass gainer that uses low glycemic index carbohydrates if you want to keep your skin (and the rest of your body) healthy.

References 

  1. Can the right diet get rid of acne?. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/diet
  2. Van De Walle Ms Rd, G. (2021, June 3). Can whey protein contribute to acne? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-whey-protein-cause-acne
  3. Pontes, T. B., Filho, G. M. C. F., De Sousa Pereira Trindade, A., & Filho, J. F. S. (2013). Incidence of acne vulgaris in young adult users of protein-calorie supplements in the city of João Pessoa - PB. Anais Brasileiros De Dermatologia, 88(6), 907–912. https://doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20132024
  4. Meixiong, J., Ricco, C., Vasavda, C., & Ho, B. (2022). Diet and acne: A systematic review. JAAD International, 7, 95–112. https://www.jaadinternational.org/article/S2666-3287(22)00028-1/fulltext
  5. Diet and acne update: carbohydrates emerge as the main culprit. (2014, April 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24719062/
A picture of Best Mass Gainer UK founder, personal trainer Andy Williams
Andy Williams
Andy Williams is a UK-based personal trainer and bodybuilder who coaches gym-goers of all levels using proven evidence-based techniques in strength training, nutrition, and supplementation. He’s tested over 70 different mass gainers for their ingredient quality and muscle-building effectiveness and regularly shares his findings in his mass gainer reviews.
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