Blowing Up Your Fatboy: Gainer Shake Basics

    So I know you have your opinions about gainer shakes: what’s best, what’s healthy, what’s stupid, what’s toxic… And yet for all that supposed information, there’s probably at least as much confusion. From decades of bodybuilding and fattening guys, here’s what I’ve discovered about gainer shakes and using them to put over 150 pounds on my fatboy since we got together a few years ago. (And all that blubber looks amazing on his 5'6" frame.)

    Guys who’ve followed what I’ve outlined here (both quantity and frequency) have gained 15-20 pounds in a month. In one case, 10lbs in a week for several weeks when combined with an already high-calorie diet.

    4 Pillars of a Gainer Shake
    Whatever the recipe and no matter the goal, all gainer shakes are built from four main components:

  • a calorie source (heavy cream, peanut butter, etc.)
  • an insulin trigger (maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, table sugar, etc.)
  • a flavor component (cocoa, Quik, fruit, juice, ice cream, etc.)
  • a texturizer (ice, xanthan gum, milk, soluble fiber, lecithin, egg yolk, etc.)
  • If your gainer shake tastes terrible, doesn’t give the desired results, or gives your fatboy diarrhea, it’s because you don’t have the right balance of the four components above.

    All-Purpose Gainer Mix
    Use this unflavored mixture to pour over cereal or fresh fruit. You can also use it to revive stale cake, stale hard cookies, stale hard bread, stale cooked rice. Just pour it over the day-old food and put it in the microwave for about 30-60 sec.

  • A pint (=2 cups, =16 fl oz, =500ml)  of “heavy whipping cream” (=“whipping cream” in the UK, =about 30-40% milk fat).
  • Half cup (=4 fl oz, =120ml) of maltodextrin (available cheaply online)
  • This mixes easily with a spoon and has a sweet, creamy texture.

    Gainer Shake Variation
    To the recipe above, add

  • 0-1 cups (0-250ml) of milk to thin the mixture to a desired consistency.
  • Add flavorings such as

  • Nestle’s Quik, or
  • fruit, or
  • ice cream
  • Blend well.

    If you can’t tolerate dairy, use non-dairy creamer and half as much maltodextrin (or else it’ll be insufferably sweet). If that doesn’t please, see the Pudding recipe below.

    Pudding or Dip Variation
    Feed this pudding variation to your growing fatboy as is, or have him use it as a dip for cookies, apple slices, bananas, or a bland cracker.

  • A cup (=8 fl oz, =250ml)  of “natural” peanut butter (just peanuts and salt). You can use bad commercial peanut butter, but it’ll be hard to incorporate the maltodextrin, and it won’t taste as good. To make any peanut butter more pliable, microwave it for 15-30 sec.
  • Half cup (=4 fl oz, =120ml) maltodextrin (available cheaply online)
  • You can substitute any nut butter you wish for peanut butter. Peanut butter is the most common of nut butters, but almond butter or especially macadamia nut butter are even more fattening. All you need to make a nut butter is some nuts, some salt, and a grinder.

    Frequency & Variety
    Gaining is much more about consistency than about quantity. Blowing up your fatboy necessitates at least one serving of any of these every day. Now think that through: He’s gonna eat one of these at least 30, maybe even 60 times in a month, so you need to keep the flavor and textures varied. Even if he tells you he loves one particular recipe and wants it every day, strongly urge him once in a while to try another flavor, texture or variant. He’ll say he doesn’t like it as well, but that’s perfect. He can go back to his favorite the next time with renewed enthusiasm. The alternative is that he eats his favorite every day until he’s sick to death of it, and then you can’t feed him anything like it for at least a month.

    A Word About Maltodextrin
    Maltodextrin is a common additive in packaged foods around the world. It’s not expensive; it’s not exotic. Maltodextrin is the most efficient substance to trigger an insulin spike in your fatboy. Now whenever you say “insulin” to a gainer, he hears “diabetes.” (You can look forward to my writing a future blog entry on diabetes and gaining). Your fatboy is not crazy for making that association, but it might help to know that bodybuilders also use maltodextrin to help them build muscle. Maltodextrin used to be very popular in bodybuilding circles when high-carb diets were in vogue because the substance enters the blood stream twice as fast as ordinary sugar. This makes it the most effective way to shunt calories into the fat cells. (In bodybuilding, it was used by “hard gainers” as a post-workout drink combined with high amounts of protein.)

    Maltodextrin spikes Insulin, which unlocks muscle or fat cells to allow nutrients to enter. Whether the insulin unlocks muscle or fat cells is a long explanation and not fully understood in nutritional science. (Also there is no evidence that a particular diet–much less a particular nutrient–will give someone diabetes). However, the bottom line for fattening your guy is that you want something to push all those calories into his fat cells like a tsunami, not like a trickle.

    Maltodextrin is available online quite cheaply in almost every country. A inexpensive source I’ve found is My Spice Sage. If you’re considering dextrose, which is more easily available in health food stores that cater to bodybuilders, keep in mind that the osmotic pressure of maltodextrin is less than that of dextrose, which means less bloat and discomfort.

    Butter & Oils
    Cooking oils taste horrible and will run through your gainer’s digestive tract like a freight train (if he doesn’t just vomit). Yes, you can use only small amounts, which sort of defeats the point, or you have to have at least twice as much fiber and starch to prevent the diarrhea. Butter isn’t too bad, but it won’t emulsify well (you’ll get little granules of fat), and why not just use cream. The fat in cream is butter.

    Now, a far better use of butter or olive oil would be as a roux with rice (Creole style) or as a sauce with sautéed garlic over pasta (northern Italian style).

    Weight Gain Powder
    Weight gain powders are expensive and inefficient. I know they say “weight gain” on the label, but they don’t mean “fat gain.” I don’t even recommend 90% of the ones on the market to bodybuilders. They’re usually mostly sugar (dextrose) and some cheap or low-quality protein such as casein, soy, or a hydrolized mystery protein. For that, you’ll pay more than you would for the same calories in regular food. Weight gainers do boast a lot of calories but check out the serving size. Usually you have to drink a cement mixer full of the stuff. Sure, weight-gain powder and gainers seem to go together like truckers and beer. But using weight-gainers as a calorie source is like using beer in your truck as a fuel source. In my opinion, weight gain powders have no uses for gainers, and I only recommend a select few for encouragers trying to put on muscle mass for bodybuilding.

    Cake Shakes
    Well, here you’re on your own. If you’re drinking a shake for calories, a shake made with cake mix is a poor choice. Yes, it’s got loads of calories, but again we must consider the volume. A cup of heavy cream has 800 calories. A cup of peanut butter has 1600 calories. A cup of cake shake has probably 400 calories.

    The only use of a cake shake is if you’re more concerned with bloat than calories. Many gainers love feeling like they just eaten an entire brick yard.  If that’s your aim, then you can’t beat the cake shake. And sure, it’s got a lot of calories too. Again, I prefer other foods and feeding techniques for really taking a guy to capacity in a feeding scene.