No matter what your fitness goal is, meal replacement supplements could very well come in handy for you. When on a mass gain diet, you'll typically be eating 5-7 meals a day especially if you're a really skinny guy who finds it hard to pack on any weight. Obviously, cooking and preparing 5-7 meals every single day sounds like a nightmare to manage. By doing this you will likely lose motivation, and fast. So what you can do is replace a few of those meals with meal replacement powders.
Meal replacement powders (known as MRPs for short) provide all the nutrition, including high quality protein and carbs that your body needs, and it comes in a very convenient form. Instead of cooking something, all you need to make an MRP is a shaker bottle and some water or milk.
It's like having a whey protein shake, and most meal replacements will have some when in them anyway, but unlike most whey shakes meal replacements are usually fortified with more nutrients, vitamins and mineral to make it more suitable as a complete ready-to-go meal.
This makes it easy to have a quality meal if you're stuck in a situation where you can't cook up a meal. Just bring your MRP packet with you and a shaker bottle, and then when you need to eat just add water or milk and shake it, then just drink it. How easy is that?
It's like having your own personal chef available 24/7. Whenever you need a quality meal to feed your body the muscle-building nutrition it needs, you just call upon your magic chef Mr MRP.
But, and there's always a but, you shouldn't replace a quality whole food meal for a meal replacement if you don't have to. Meal replacement supplements should only be used to make it more convenient at certain times, but they shouldn't form the majority of your diet. That's why they are called a 'supplement' after all.
A quality whole food meal with nutritious protein, carbohydrates, fiber and a bit of healthy fats is always the best choice as a quality muscle-building meal. I would say it's fine to replace a maximum of 2-3 of your daily meals with an MRP, but nothing more than this. Never use more than 3 in any one day.
You should stick to quality meal replacement supplement products from reputable brand names in the fitness industry. Such good names are EAS, Optimum Nutrition, Met-Rx, and Prolab to name a few of the best. Some factors to consider when choosing the best meal replacements to include in your diet are the price, nutritional content, and taste.
The taste of an MRP can be a mixed opinion. Some people may love the taste, while some won't really find them too appetising. Personally, most of them I've ever tried have tasted good to great. But you may have to try a few different ones first to end up with your favorite.
If you have never tasted them before, don't go out and buy a box full because with meal replacements you can sometimes get a bad flavor that you can hardly stomach if you just select one randomly.
For me personally, it was an acquired taste. I started out with EAS Myoplex, which is one of the best meal replacements out there. At first, they were really hard to get down because of the thickness and the taste. I told myself to toughen up, and I kept drinking them until I started actually enjoying them after a week or two. Now I absolutely love them when I do ever have one.
The price is another factor to consider. Some people may say that MRPs are expensive, but when you do some basic math it's clear to see that they are very affordable for most people. For example, with the meal replacements I used recently they worked out to be just under 2 and half dollars each when bought in a box. In my view this is great for a high quality, protein-rich nutritious convenient meal that I can have anywhere on the go to maintain proper protein intake.
Hopefully this article has helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land - information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly structured, well-balanced and optmized training and nutrition plan for your specific goals (which if you're reading this is likely building muscle mass as a hardgainer/skinny guy).
To do that there's essentially 3 paths you can take, each with their pros and cons:
Path A: Design Your Own Mass Gain Program (cheapest)
Learn all the crucial basics, principles and over-arching strategies you need to know about planning the best well-balanced, science-based, all-natural mass building program for your specific goal and workout/diet preferences with our pillar 7-step comprehensive guide for beginner lifters and future heros. If you don't want to spend any money at all, this is how you do it, but be sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your DIY muscle gain program as an unbalanced/bro-science/straight-up-bad program can mean little to no gains at best, and bad posture, injuries and a whole lot of having to backtrack later at worst.
Path B: Follow A Proven Mass Gain Program ($)
To save time having to research and plan the best muscle building program for your specific goals as a hardgainer/skinny-guy/skinny-fat-dad-bod/whatever, there are indeed some excellent pre-made online programs out there that have stood the test of time in getting guys great results. It can give you a great head-on your transformation journey, and will make things simpler for you as it's simply a matter of executing a specific eating and workout program and not having to worry about getting all the little important details of your program on-point.
Sean Nal's hardgainer transformation program (you can see my full review and before/after pics using the program here) is the complete all-in-one online program I'd recommend to most people and especially beginners, and is the one I personally got the most out of when I first started.
Ignore any slick marketing, this guy's the real deal and easily one of the smartest hardgainers-turned-fitness-models I've come across online. Vince Delmonte's Mass Gain program comes in at a close second, who's another smart guy with the real-world results to back it up, who has another effective and proven step by step online program that's helped thousands of guys transform over a few months (rather than years).
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer ($$$)
The most expensive option to achieve your dream physique, but if you have the money to spend (1 on 1 coaching can quickly add up in costs) then ensure you pick a trainer who understands the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly choose one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want. If you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who has been in your shoes before and started out as a skinny hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully, otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you and give you unhelpful generic advice.
Whichever path you choose - stick with it for long enough, don't give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but you understand that last sentence I said you won't need it ;)
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)