Intake: The Shakedown on Weight-Gain Powders

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Fitness for the Outside Athlete, December 1996

Intake: The Shakedown on Weight-Gain Powders
By Cory Johnson

You can laugh at the gym-bound troglodytes whose primary life mission is to become bulgy. But being a 98-pound weakling--aerobically fit or not--won't boost your performance. "Whether you're nordic skiing, running, or snowshoeing," says Paul Ward, a sports scientist and publisher of The Encyclopedia of Weight Training, "more muscle improves your performance."

When aerobic athletes train long distances, they first use up their glycogen stores, then fat, and then they literally burn off muscle. "It's hard--especially for athletes with low-fat diets--to consume enough calories to rebuild those muscles," Ward says. One solution lies in using the same mega-mass shake powders so beloved by the muscle-T set.

These protein and carbohydrate mixes work for everyone from vegetarians who don't get enough protein (most powders are free of meat products) to serious endurance athletes who "simply have trouble downing enough food," Ward says. Still, he cautions that such powders can't replace regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Herewith a nutritional and gustatory guide to some of the biggest names in weight-gain shakes.

Product Cost Carbos Protein Calories Degree of Wretchedness Bulk-up Factor Bottom Line
Challenge Rapid Weight Gain $2.80 185 65 1,490 3 2 Packed with carbos, proteins, and vitamins--for those who think you can't get too much of a good thing.
Met-Rx Engineered Nutrition MKP $2.50 3 25 120 2 2 A small caloric boost in single-serving packets that are convenient to tote on race day or an afternoon in the woods.
MLO Hard $1.89 178 40 1,200 5 3 The ten-pound drums in which this high-carb mix is sold might once have stored Spackle--the tastes are similar.
Performance Weight Gainer 1850 $6.00 322 50 1,500 4 3 Carbo loading in a can. The choice for those who can't stomach endless helpings of baked ziti.
Twinlab Gainers Fuel 2500 $6.28 485 50 2,140 2 4 Strawberry Quick meets plaster of Paris, but it has the calories to revive you even after a marathon of nordic skiing.
Weider Super Mega Mass 4000 $3.48 106 27 4,030 5 5 A heavyweight concoction that provides plenty of fuel for the truly obsessive ultra-endurance athlete.
Raw Eggs (three-egg serving) $0.63 3 18 210 4 1 High in protein, high in fat, and yes there's a high risk of salmonella. But hey, it worked for Rocky Balboa.
Cost, carbos, protein, and calories listed per serving; carbos and protein in grams

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