Mass Gainer vs Lean Mass Gainer: Big Differences

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Written By
Andy Williams
Last Updated on

If you want to learn the differences between a mass gainer and a lean gainer—and find out which is best for you—then this is the article you’ve been looking for.

In this quick mass gainer vs lean mass gainer comparison, I’ll outline all the differences between these two similar but ultimately very different weight and muscle gain supplements.

What Is The Difference Between a Mass Gainer and a Lean Mass Gainer?

A lean mass gainer next to a regular mass gainer

The main difference between a mass gainer and a lean mass gainer (also simply called a “lean gainer”), is that mass gainers have more calories and carbohydrates than lean gainers. Another way of saying this is that mass gainers have a higher carbs-to-protein ratio than lean gainers.

On the other hand, lean gainers often have a similar amount of protein (and sometimes more) than regular mass gainers. This makes lean gainers ideal for those who want to build muscle and gain some weight but who don’t have extraordinarily high calorie requirements.

Because of their higher calorie and carbohydrate contents, mass gainers are harder to mix than lean gainers and often have a thicker texture. However, this can vary from brand to brand and on the liquid-to-powder ratio that you use.

A bag or tub of a lean gainer usually has more servings than a bag or tub of a mass gainer because the serving size for a lean gainer is smaller than that for a mass gainer. 

However, because of the greater protein density (i.e. protein content per 100g of powder), lean gainers are often a bit more expensive than traditional high-calorie mass gainers. Although again, this price difference can vary from brand to brand.

Which Is Better For Bulking, a Mass Gainer or a Lean Gainer?

Closeup of a lean mass gainer and a regular mass gainer to illustrate the differences

Both mass gainers and lean mass gainers can help you gain weight. The best option for you depends on your individual calorie requirement.

If you’re a hardgainer who struggles to put on weight, then a traditional mass gainer will better enable you to reach your weight gain goals because these gainers are more calorie-dense than their learner counterparts.

On the other hand, if you just need a small to moderate calorie, carb, and protein boost, then a lean gainer is probably the better choice because you get more protein and fewer calories.

Just note that mass gainers of both kinds should be used in addition to your whole food meals. If you swap your meals for weight gainers, then, not only could you miss out on vital nutrition, but you might not be in a calorie surplus, meaning that your body weight will just stay the same.

Who Should Use Mass Gainers?

A collection of mass gainers

Go for a higher-calorie mass gainer if you’re skinny, have a fast metabolism, and/or can’t seem to eat enough to gain the weight and muscle mass that you desire.

Look for a supplement that has at least 400 calories per serving, and try not to get tempted by mass gainers boasting of their extreme calorie content. If 400 or 500 calories aren’t enough, you can always have a second shake for a total of 800-1000 extra calories, which is more than enough for most people to gain weight.

Even though 1000+ calorie shakes can work, these supplements often have a comparable calorie and macronutrient content to lower calorie weight gainer on a per 100g basis.

That said, if you’re pushed for time, then it can make sense to take in 1000 calories in a single serving for the sake of convenience.

The advantage of mass gainers doesn’t always lie in their calories; the carb-to-protein ratio is just as important. So, if your weight gainer has significantly more carbohydrates than protein, it’s probably a good option for bulking up.

Who Should Use Lean Mass Gainers?

Lots of mass gainer tubs and bags

If you want to build muscle but don’t need to put on a ton of weight, then lean gainers are a great option. Characterised by their lower calorie content and lower carbs-to-protein ratio, lean mass gainers help you to eat in a calorie surplus without going overboard and gaining unwanted fat.

While many lean gainers still have more cabs than protein, the ratios are usually less than 2:1, which is good for meeting your daily protein target without overindulging in carbohydrates.

To be sure, some hardgainers need way more carbs than protein, but this isn’t the case for everyone. So, if you’re lean bulking, stick with a weight gainer that has a lower carbs-to-protein ratio.

And, in case, you’re wondering, there isn’t really such thing as a ketogenic mass gainer because even lean mass gainers still have quite a lot of carbohydrates.

Related Comparisons:

Lean Mass Gainer vs Mass Gainer: The Verdict

A mass gainer positioned next to a lean mass gainer to show the differences

The defining differences between mass gainers and lean gainers are the calorie content and carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Traditional mass gainers have more calories per serving and a higher carbs-to-protein ratio than lean mass gainers.

Hopefully, my lean mass gainer vs mass gainer comparison shed some light on the differences between these two types of weight gainers and helped you decide which one is best for your muscle-building ambitions.

While you can certainly gain weight with either a mass gainer or a lean mass gainer, the former is better for hardgainers because of the calorie density, while the latter is suited to those trying to make lean gains.

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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