Weight Gainer Shakes: Healthy or Junk?
Many people use weight gainer shakes as a way to easily take in extra calories. Taking a weight gainer shake is essentially eating a meal that is in liquid form. Are weight gainer shakes a healthy form of calories, or should they be considered junk or “filler” calories?
Almost every single weight gainer shake on the market contains two main ingredients: whey protein and maltodextrin. Some weight gainer shakes will include additional sources of protein and many will also include a source of dietary fat and/or added vitamins and minerals.
Whey protein is included in just about every weight gainer shake. Whey is certainly a solid source of protein, being both a complete protein and is high in branched chain amino acids. Whey tends to digest easily and quickly which is a bonus because it should not fill you up as much as eating a solid food protein source. Some weight gainer shakes will include other sources of protein such as casein and egg, which is a bonus as you will get the varying amino acid profiles and digestion rates of each source. Be aware though that most weight gainer shakes are whey based, with only a small amount of protein coming from other sources.
Maltodextrin is included in almost every single weight gainer as either the primary or sole source of carbohydrates. Supplement companies like maltodextrin because it is very cheap, tasteless, and can be listed as a non-sugar carbohydrate on the nutrition label. The truth is that maltodextrin causes a spike and fall in blood sugar similarly to glucose, and can actually be considered a sugar in terms of its effects on the body. Maltodextrin is a cheap filler ingredient that does not have much in the way of useful nutrients apart from carbohydrates, and almost all weight gainer shakes are loaded with it. There are a few weight gainer shakes that also include other carbohydrate sources like palatinose, but these are not common.
Additional ingredients added to weight gainer shakes are a source of fat and extra vitamins and minerals. Fat sources used in weight gainer shakes are usually not saturated or necessarily harmful, but they are also not usually rich in essential fatty acids. The added vitamins and minerals in some weight gainer shakes does improve their nutritional status, but still these vitamins and minerals are usually not in their most useful form.
Overall, weight gainer shakes will add calories, and are not really harmfull when used in moderation. They should, however, be considered “filler calories”. Solid food should always remain the foundation of your diet, with weight gainer shakes being simply a way to easily boost calorie intake when necessary.
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