The 10 Best Supplements for Weight Gain, According to a Dietitian

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

October 31, 2023

According to a 2020 poll, roughly 7% of Americans are looking to gain weight (1). Surprisingly, this is easier said than done, due to the need for a caloric surplus in order to gain mass. To make it easier, I’ve compiled a list of the top supplements to help you safely—and effectively—gain weight. If increasing weight or muscle mass is a goal of yours, keep reading.

People try to gain weight for a variety of reasons. For some, it could be a need to build muscle mass, particularly for athletes or bodybuilders who require increased physical strength for better performance. Others might seek to gain weight due to health issues that are either A) caused by being underweight or B) can lead to increased energy needs and weight loss, such as hormonal imbalances, a weakened immune system, bone density concerns, or certain autoimmune or genetic conditions. 

Regardless of the reason, if your focus is to gain weight, it's essential to approach it in a healthy and controlled manner. Doing so often requires an increase in calorie and nutrient intake, with supplements potentially playing a supportive role in this process. 

As a registered dietitian, I have seen countless people successfully gain weight by taking the proper dietary steps and including the right supplements. Now, let’s get into what they are.

Should I Take Weight Gain Supplements?

Weight gain supplements can serve as valuable aids in your journey towards increased body mass and muscle growth, particularly for those struggling to gain weight. However, they are not magic solutions and should be used alongside a nutritious, calorie-dense diet and consistent strength training. 

As long as you have the okay from your healthcare provider, including weight gain supplements in your nutrition plan may be helpful. They will help you understand the potential risks and ensure that the supplement is suitable for your unique health goals. Remember, gaining weight healthily and successfully is a process that requires time, patience, and dedication.

Which Supplements Should I Take to Gain Weight?

If a client comes to me wanting to gain weight, I recommend these ten supplements as a registered dietitian with 20 years of experience.

1. Protein Supplements

Protein supplements can be an excellent tool for weight gain—especially for those looking to build muscle mass. A high percentage of protein supplements (think: hydrolyzed beef protein, whey protein, and hemp protein) are most notable for being a “complete protein,” meaning that they contain all essential and nonessential amino acids (all 20 of them!).

That said, drinking a protein shake after a workout can boost muscle recovery and growth and contribute to weight gain over time (2).

The baseline recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg. More specific protein recommended intakes are as follows (3):

  • For lower activity levels and weight maintenance: 1.2-1.8 g/kg
  • For moderate activity levels and weight maintenance: 1.4-2.0 g/kg
  • For moderate activity levels and muscle building or weight gain: 1.6-2.4 g/kg

For example, let’s say you weigh 130 pounds (59 kg), are moderately active, and want to put on a few extra pounds. By multiplying 59 kg by 1.6 g and 2.4 g, you should aim to get between 94 and 142 grams of protein daily. 

When it comes to which protein supplement is best, hydrolyzed beef protein is it. It’s one of the purest protein supplements on the market—free from potentially gut-irritating dairy, unnecessary fillers, and artificial ingredients. Hydrolyzed beef protein is a form of protein that’s derived from beef. The protein is then broken down into smaller peptides, making it easier to digest and absorb. This makes it an ideal post-workout supplement for promoting muscle recovery and growth. And thanks to its high collagen content, it helps support bone and joint health, too.

Unlike whey or casein protein, hydrolyzed beef protein is lactose-free, making it an excellent alternative for individuals with lactose intolerance. It’s also a rich source of creatine, an organic acid that can increase muscle mass and strength. 

2. Creatine

Creatine monohydrate (often referred to as just creatine) is another supplement frequently used for weight gain, particularly among athletes and weightlifters. This substance naturally occurs in muscle cells and aids in producing energy during high-intensity exercise. 

As a supplement, creatine can help increase muscle mass and improve performance in high-intensity, short-duration exercises like lifting weights. It accomplishes this by helping your muscles produce more ATP, the primary energy currency of the cell, which leads to increased capacity for high-intensity exercise (4).

Creatine may also lead to increased water retention in your muscles, which can contribute to weight gain. 

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements (like Krill Oil)

Omega-3 fatty acids—commonly found in krill oil—are not typically associated with weight gain. They are, however, essential fats that play various roles in the body, including inflammation reduction and heart health. 

Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may aid in muscle growth, potentially leading to weight gain (5). These beneficial fats could enhance blood flow to your muscles during exercise, thus promoting muscle growth. However, omega-3s will only lead to significant weight gain if paired with a regular exercise regimen and a balanced, calorie-surplus diet.

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4. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Named for their unique branched chemical structure, branched-chain amino acids—commonly referred to as BCAAs—encompass three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Unfortunately, the human body can’t produce these on its own, so it’s crucial to get them through foods or a supplement (6). 

While BCAAs are known for their potential to enhance athletic performance and stimulate muscle recovery, they are less commonly associated with weight gain. Still, they can indirectly contribute to it. BCAAs can stimulate protein synthesis, leading to muscle growth when coupled with resistance training. This increase in muscle mass can lead to weight gain if you consume more calories than your body is burning.

5. Glutamine

Glutamine is another amino acid that is pivotal in human nutrition and metabolism. It’s primarily known for its benefits in muscle recovery, immune system support, and gut health. In the context of weight gain, glutamine may indirectly assist in muscle growth and recovery after strenuous workouts, which could lead to an increase in overall body mass over time (7).

Glutamine supplementation, when combined with resistance training, can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, an essential process for muscle growth and repair. 

6. HMB (Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methylbutyrate)

Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate, commonly known as HMB, is a compound the body produces when it breaks down the amino acid leucine (8). A growing body of research suggests that HMB supplementation might enhance muscle recovery and growth, which could indirectly contribute to weight gain in the form of lean body mass. This could be particularly beneficial for athletes and those who engage in intensive resistance training (i.e. barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups, etc). 

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7. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is another popular supplement in the fitness community, primarily due to its potential to enhance muscular endurance and, as a result, athletic performance. There is, however, no direct relationship between beta-alanine supplementation and weight gain. 

Beta-alanine’s primary function is to help produce carnosine, a molecule that helps to buffer acid in muscles, improving muscular endurance (9). Therefore, while beta-alanine can help individuals train more intensely and for longer durations, any associated weight gain would be indirect and dependent on other factors like increased caloric intake and the nature of the exercise regimen. 

8. Folate (Vitamin B9)

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is another supplement that can indirectly assist in weight gain and overall wellness. While not primarily recognized for promoting weight gain like creatine or whey protein, folate plays a critical role in the body's ability to synthesize and repair DNA while aiding in the division and growth of cells (10). 

This makes folate essential for periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and development. A deficiency in folate could lead to a decreased appetite, resulting in weight loss or difficulty gaining weight.

9. Mass Gainers

Mass gainer supplements are specifically designed to support individuals who struggle to put on weight. These products are typically high in calories, providing a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, along with vitamins and minerals. 

Here’s what each macro and micronutrient supports in the body:

  • Protein helps muscle growth and repair—especially when combined with regular resistance training.
  • Carbohydrates provide the energy needed for intense workouts, helping to increase overall calorie intake.
  • Fats provide concentrated energy sources.
  • The added vitamins and minerals ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs for overall health.

10. Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a significant role in the human body. It's vital for several biological processes, including protein synthesis, immune function, and cell growth—all of which are crucial to weight gain and muscle development. 

In addition, there's evidence to suggest that zinc may enhance appetite, which could benefit individuals seeking to increase their overall caloric intake (11). However, it's important to remember that while zinc can support weight gain efforts, it should be part of a balanced diet and regular exercise routine. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

While weight gain supplements can benefit those seeking to increase their caloric intake and enhance muscle growth, their safety is often a concern. Many are safe if taken in moderation and as part of a well-rounded diet and exercise regimen. 

However, potential risks exist. Some supplements may contain ingredients that could lead to side effects or interact with medications, underlying health conditions, or medical treatments.

Overconsumption of certain vitamins and minerals can also lead to health issues. Therefore, it’s paramount to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Lauren Manaker
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Lauren Manaker

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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