Gaining weight can be difficult when you’re born with a higher metabolism or live for fitness. It’s also problemsome if you have trouble eating enough or have an underlying medical condition. One—or a combination of—these factors makes it challenging to gain weight without turning to unhealthy processed foods or store-bought weight gainer shakes for meeting your goals. If this sounds like you, there are other healthier solutions including one of our favorites: homemade, wholesome smoothies and shakes.
Dangers of protein shakes for weight gain
Protein shakes for weight gain are recommended when your caloric need is higher than the amount of calories you’re taking in. Eating whole foods is always the top choice, but oftentimes store-bought shakes are recommended by a physician or trainer when it’s too difficult for you to get necessary calories — specifically protein — through food.
So, what’s the big deal? Why shouldn’t you just guzzle these down one or two times a day? Well, the main problem is that many of these products are highly processed and contain harmful components such as added sugar or hydrogenated oils, which can lead to high cholesterol, inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, they have manufactured vitamins and minerals that may not be as well-absorbed as natural versions.
Check out this comparison of a standard store-bought strawberry protein shake for weight gain versus our 8fit Chocolate, Strawberry and Peanut Butter Smoothie. Which ingredients do you trust?
Store-bought strawberry protein shake ingredients
Water, corn maltodextrin, sugar, blend of vegetable oils (canola, corn), milk protein concentrate, and soy protein isolate. Less than 0.5% of: Natural and artificial flavor, nonfat milk, magnesium phosphate, sodium citrate, soy lecithin, potassium citrate, cellulose gel, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, choline chloride, ascorbic acid, salt, cellulose gum, carrageenan, potassium hydroxide, ferrous sulfate, dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, zinc sulfate, niacinamide, manganese sulfate, calcium pantothenate, red #3, copper sulfate, vitamin A palmitate, thiamine chloride hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, chromium chloride, folic acid, sodium molybdate, biotin, sodium selenate, potassium iodide, phylloquinone, vitamin D3, and vitamin B12.
Protein powder without additives, strawberries, banana, unsweetened plain peanut butter, raw cocoa powder, plain Greek yogurt, and any naturally occurring ingredients that come with those.
Protein shake benefits
Our bodies use protein to produce hormones, enzymes, cells, DNA, and immune system components. Without adequate protein, our bodies can’t put together the structures that make up our cells, tissues, and organs, nor can they generate the biochemical substances needed for everyday function (muscle movement, cardiovascular health, growth, and healing).
So, while high-protein foods are definitely important, some are better than others. At 8fit, we recommend getting your nutrition from whole foods, which means homemade protein shakes are on the “yes!” list. Here are some of the benefits of protein shakes when you make them from whole food ingredients:
Essential amino acids that work together to build muscle
Natural sources of vitamins and minerals
Customizable (vegan, vegetarian, allergies)
Economical (saves money and reduces waste)
Never boring or repetitive
Just as easy to take on the go
What protein powder to buy for weight gain
Protein is healthier and better-absorbed when it comes from whole foods. But, if you must buy protein powder, we have some tips. The quality of protein powder depends on the type of ingredients, processing, and amount of sugar and artificial ingredients. Don’t trust the claims made on the food labels as they can be misleading.
Just like our example of the store-bought protein shake, the ingredient list gives valuable insight into what the product contains. As with any packaged product, we encourage you to read the ingredient list and find the ones with minimal ingredients and with ones you can pronounce. In terms of protein content, aim for at least 70% with at least 16 grams per serving.
Want to get even more natural or don’t have a good quality protein powder at home? Substitute protein powder with Greek yogurt. If the recipe calls for one tablespoon of protein powder, you can replace it with two tablespoons of Greek yogurt.
Homemade recipes: protein shakes for weight gain
If you prefer to make your own smoothies and protein shakes for weight gain, use this go-to list of healthy ingredients. Feel free to mix-and-match—just aim to have one ingredient per category.
Protein: Greek yogurt, milk, milk alternative (unsweetened soy, almond, oat milk)
Carbs: oats, banana, berries, mango
Fat: shredded coconut, peanut butter, almond butter, avocado
Extra nutrients: cinnamon, coffee, turmeric, greens (spinach, kale), vanilla
Chocolate, strawberry and peanut butter smoothie
Chocolate, strawberry, and peanut butter? Say no more. This smoothie will remind you of a banana split, without the ice cream sundae tummy ache. Featuring peanut butter — a heart-healthy fat—this smoothie gives you a good dose of wholesome calories. Here’s what you need for a 500-calorie serving:
1 cups Greek yogurt, plain (full-fat)
2 tsp protein powder
¼ cup strawberries
2 tsp peanut butter powder
1 tsp raw cocoa powder
Wash and remove stems from strawberries. Peel banana.
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Turmeric, vanilla, and mango smoothie
This smoothie is great for weight gain and chockfull of anti-inflammatory (turmeric and ginger) and disease-preventing ingredients. Coconut is our featured calorie-booster here, giving you a unique texture packed with healthy fat and calories. Read on for the 500-calorie recipe.
1 cup soy yogurt
2 Tbsp protein powder
¼ cups mango (frozen, diced)
1 Tbsp coconut (shredded)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cups rolled oats (uncooked)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger
Add all the ingredients (protein powder, mango, coconut, vanilla, oats, turmeric, ginger, and yogurt) into a blender and mix until smooth.
Serve in a glass and enjoy.
Coffee coconut breakfast smoothie
This smoothie isn’t only for breakfast time. It contains coffee for an energy boost that can be helpful in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up. Oats are our favorite grain to add to smoothies because they’re soluble fiber content helps give you prolonged energy. Follow the recipe below to make our 500-calorie version.
2 ½ Tbsp protein powder
¾ cups milk (whole 3.5%)
¾ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tsp coconut (shredded)
2 dried figs
¼ cups rolled oats (uncooked)
Add all the ingredients (oats, walnuts, figs, coconut, instant coffee, cinnamon, milk, protein powder) into a blender and mix until smooth.
Serve in a glass and enjoy.
Want more high-protein recipes? Take a look at our healthy protein shake recipes article for a few ideas.