Medically reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
8 min read
Health journeys do not look the same for every person. When adding supplements to your health routine, it’s important to consider your goals and decide on supplements that will help you work toward the things you want. If weight gain is one of your goals, consider these supplements to help you along your way! Remember to consult your doctor before adjusting your current supplement routine.
Protein is a vital part of building muscle and gaining weight. Protein is an excellent source of fuel for our bodies, and is instrumental in the building and maintenance of muscle mass. While all people need to eat a significant amount of protein for healthy body function, anyone intending to gain weight or increase muscle mass will need more – up to 0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight, versus 0.32 grams per pound for people not wanting to gain weight! While protein intake can be done through your diet, adding a protein supplement will help you see better results more quickly.
The best protein powder for weight gain really depends on your dietary preferences. The two most popular sources of protein powder are whey and casein, which are both derived from dairy. Studies have found that whey and casein are both the most beneficial when it comes to muscle gains and weight gain; the biggest difference between them is that casein-based protein powders are absorbed slowly, while whey-based powders are absorbed more quickly.
Vegetarian and vegan protein options are out there, too! Many of these options contain protein sourced from legumes, pumpkin seeds, and grains like chia and flax. The serving size of plant-based protein powders may be different from the serving size of dairy-derived powders, so make sure to check your recommended serving size when changing powders.
Creatine is a great supplement for people who are trying to build muscle mass. Creatine is an amino acid that helps muscles recover more quickly, especially after high-impact exercise; many athletes also feel a boost of energy when they take a creatine supplement. It also supports the building and development of muscle mass. Many athletes consider creatine to be the most important supplement they take, since it boosts both energy and performance.
Creatine can be found in our diets. It’s found in seafood, red meat, poultry, and pork. People who enjoy eating meat can get extra creatine through their diets, but people who do not want to add extra servings of meat, such as vegetarians and vegans, may need to source a creatine supplement to help meet their goals. One thing to consider when introducing a creatine supplement is that it may cause your body to retain water; keep this in mind and consider how the additional water weight may impact your goals. The recommended daily allowance for creatine is 3-5 grams daily.
Some may think that fish oil, derived from fatty fish, can lead to weight gain. This isn’t true! Fish oil itself does not cause weight gain. However, taking a supplement that contains both protein and fish oil was found to improve appetite, performance, and a desired weight gain in just a few short weeks. Some people also report that fish oil helps their muscles recover more quickly and may improve workout quality as well.
While most fish oil is sourced from actual fish, there are vegan and vegetarian alternatives that contain the same omega-3 fatty acids derived from algae and other plant-based sources.
B vitamins are some of the most important energy sources in our bodies. B12, especially, is a vital piece; it helps our bodies make red blood cells, as well as supporting protein and fat metabolism, nerve function, and the production of DNA. Because of its role in the production of red blood cells, which deliver oxygen throughout our bodies, B12 is extremely important for those wanting to gain weight and muscle mass.
A deficiency in B12 can manifest as weight loss. To combat this, ensuring that you’re getting enough B12 is vital. The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4-2.8 micrograms per day. People who eat meat and dairy are likely getting enough B12 each day, since it’s found in fish, meat, dairy, and fortified foods, like bread and cereal. People who live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle may find themselves at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency. Adding a B12 supplement or taking a multivitamin containing B12 will help prevent this and give you all of the wonderful benefits of B12.
Vitamin D is obtained mainly from sunlight. It is known for boosting moods and energy levels, but those aren’t the only perks. Adequate levels of vitamin D can improve muscle function and performance, and may also have an impact on balance. People experiencing a vitamin D deficiency may find themselves struggling with muscle weakness and plateauing of their results. Additionally, it’s possible that a deficiency may lead to weight gain, but it is not going to be a beneficial weight gain. Maintaining an appropriate level of vitamin D will help you reach your goals much faster.
The answer to this question is tricky - it varies from supplement to supplement. To determine if a supplement is safe and healthy, you’ll need to understand the ingredients it contains, as well as the dosage and how it compares to the RDA of each ingredient. Additionally, you’ll need to consider any other supplements or medications you’re already taking; there may be ingredients that conflict with each other and cause negative side effects. In many cases, an overdose of a supplement or vitamin can cause just as many issues as a deficiency. Take away these two things and remember them: if a supplement seems too good to be true, it probably is, and always consult your physician before changing up your supplement routine, especially if it’s something you aren’t familiar with.
A healthy diet is the best way to gain weight. While adding extra calories into your diet may seem as easy as grabbing extra sweets, chips, and other snacks, being mindful about it will give you the best results.
The key to healthy weight gain through diet is to be aware of your nutrients. A balanced meal containing a serving of protein alongside vegetables and a grain like brown rice or quinoa will pack in extra nutrients and calories without adding all of the extra sodium, sugar, and other negatives that come with processed foods.
Consider adding extra rice to your diet, or making a smoothie with your favorite milk, fresh fruits, greens (spinach is popular in smoothies), nuts or nut butters, and a scoop of your preferred protein powder. Not only will this add in extra calories, it will also give you additional helpings of nutrient-rich fruits and veggies.
When gaining weight, you want to make sure that the foods you eat work for you, not against you. While extra snack foods and sweets may sound tempting, you will see better results if you focus more on nutrient-dense foods. Lean or plant-based proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates, and eggs will give you extra boosts of calories and nutrients to make you feel full and help you reach your goals.
For extra protein, consider skinless chicken or turkey breast, fish (extra points if it’s a fatty fish, like salmon), eggs, and beans. Avocados, olive oil, and cheese are all dense in healthy fats. For carbs, stick to whole grains, quinoa (which is also high in protein), and sweet potatoes. Pairing any of these foods with fresh fruits and vegetables will keep you on track to meet your health goals.
Coffee has been shown to have some health benefits-- it can help support skeletal health by delaying age-related muscle loss, as well as support the healing of injured muscles. It has also been found to boost metabolism. But does drinking coffee help people gain weight? That depends on how it’s prepared.
A cup of plain black coffee has less than five calories per serving and no fat. Once coffee gets fancy though, the calorie count goes up! To try and keep it on the healthy side, consider adding a little bit of cream for some extra protein and fat. A scoop of chocolate or vanilla protein powder can be added to coffee as well. This will not only give it some extra flavor, but will also be an extra punch of protein to start off your day strong.
Many people enjoy having a drink after work or on the weekend. How does this fit in with your health goals? After drinking, our bodies convert alcohol into sugars. This does make it a source of energy, but there are no other nutritional benefits to drinking alcohol. It contains no other nutrients and can be considered empty calories.
Recommended consumption of alcoholic beverages is 1-2 servings or less per day. When consumed more frequently than this, there can be many adverse effects; in addition to health problems related to addiction and overconsumption, alcohol is also a diuretic, which may cause people to flush out vital nutrients before they’re properly absorbed by the body. Consider your alcohol consumption carefully when thinking about your health goals, as it may be working against you.