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, intelligently-crafted (based on science-backed principles) and overall well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan to effetcively build muscle as a skinny guy (AKA a lifting hardgainer). When you have a great program used by other successful hardgainers that have gone before you, you can't go wrong if you simply stick with it.
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill personal trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in the classroom). No, instead, to create the best weight training and nutrition program for maximum results, you must be a little more selective in the program you choose to follow.
So, here are the 3 different paths you can take to guarantee you follow a finely-tuned, effective program that will leave nothing to chance and give you the best muscle building and strength gains of your life (again, if you simply execute and don't quit after a mere week 'cause you don't notice a change...).
See our flagship 7-step introductory guide to building muscle for beginners which covers all the basics you need to know, and guides you through designing and creating an effective program for muscle gain without getting fat. If you don't want to spend any money buying a pre-made program or finding a (good) personal trainer, and/or you're the DIY type who enjoys researching every little detail and knowing about how everything works and fits together, this is probably the path for you if you have the patience.
If you don't want to take the time to plan your own natural bodybuilding plan from scratch, following an already made, high-quality, credible program from a true expert in this field can save you a ton of time.
It can give you a great head start on your transformation journey and makes things a whole lot simpler as it's simply a matter of understanding what the program involves, how to do perform all the exercises, how to execute on the included meal plans (taking into account your own perferences as you'll want to tweak any pre-made diet plan for your own needs), and then simply executing week in and week out.
Sean Nal's popular hardgainer program is the one I currently recommend most, as it's the most complete, easy to follow program for beginners that I've seen (and I've experimented with many over the years). It's also the exact program that initially changed everything for me and I owe a fair part of my overall hardgainer success (going from 132lbs/60kg to 220lbs/100kg - mostly muscle) to being fortunate enough to having stumbled upon this program when I was struggling with gaining weight and building muscle. See my full review of Sean Nal's program here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't for everyone though as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably really consider if you have any type of serious injury though.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)