Eating more food is an obvious requirement for weight gain but it has to be of the right type and amount, and at the right time to make sure that the extra calories don't make you fat. I eat several small meals a day consisting mostly of fibrous carbohydrates, a whole protein source with some vegetables. I think this way the body has a better chance of digesting the meal rather than storing any extra calories. I space this out between 2 - 3 hours, if it is a wholefood meal it will take longer to digest than a supplement or meal replacement product. For various reasons, availability, preparation, transportation, supplements can be used to increase the amount of calories needed to gain weight. So for this reason they can be used as a good addition to help in topping up the neccessary calorific increase. Otherwise wholefood should always be the first choice unless there is a reason you may want to have a particular nutrient at a certain time. This is a list of some of the stated claims with the active ingredient on some commercially available protein / weight gain supplements:
It can be difficult to discern except by a process of trial and error if a product works or not, and this can involve a considerable amount of both time, especially if you do the research, and financial investment. I do place a certain value on supplement research but I like to keep an open mind as to who funds that research, and who sets the agenda of the value or efficacy of a particular product. Over the years that I have been training naturally I have probably tried all if not most supplements, and use a small number because I have been able to detect that they had an effect. This is a list of what has been most beneficial to me to increase mass: Protein supplements, Weight gain powders, Meal Replacements, Creatine, Glutamine, Maltodextrin, Dextrose and Vitamins and Minerals.
I can't know on a cellular level if for example a certain ingredient has increased testosterone levels or if it has reduced the catabolic hormone cortisol, so I simply ensure that my diet contains enough nutrients from protein, carbohydrates, fats, and fruit and vegetables. Anything taken beyond the basics may have an additional benefit if it works for you, but you may have to apply your own judgement. Below is a guideline of what I would consume around training time to prepare for and recover from a mass building workout:
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