In this article I discuss the similarities & differences that exist between Optimum Nutrition’s two popular weight gain powders, Serious Mass & Pro Gainer.
If you’re considering taking either of them, note that there are sharp distinctions in key categories such as calories, macronutrient profile, workout performance enhancers, vitamins, and minerals.
Besides going over all of those areas, in Serious Mass vs Pro Gainer we’ll also be looking at the powders’ respective carbohydrate & protein sources as well as practical things like serving size, cost per serving, and online buyer ratings.
Science resources included
As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science and medical resources, clinical studies, & nutritional data used in this article.
What’s coming up
I’ll save the nutritional comparisons — calories, macros, ingredients — for later, and first have us look at the basic stuff:
- serving size;
- cost per serving;
- & buyer ratings.
I’ll share their info in that order too, since I think it’s important to know that the big difference in serving size between Serious Mass & Pro Gainer impacts many of the other comparisons in this article.
Knowing the serving size disparity ahead of looking at all of the nutrient & cost information will help us keep the right perspective when we get to those things.
In the section where I compare Pro Gainer’s nutrient profile to Serious Mass’, I’ll be going over the following categories:
- Ingredients, including
- additional fitness supplements
- vitamins & minerals
- Carbohydrate sources
- Protein sources
Any time you see Serious Mass’ & Pro Gainer’s pics or their names written in blue, those are links to their respective Amazon product pages that you can click on to check current price, read buyer reviews, etc…and those pages will open in a separate browser tab.
Also, there are very slight price & ingredient differences amongst the various flavors Serious Mass & Pro Gainer each come in.
And so all of the nutrition info I’m providing I’m getting from their chocolate flavored versions, though with cost I looked for the cheapest flavor (for example, Pro Gainer’s Vanilla Custard in the 10 lb. bag size).
Serving size – Pro Gainer vs. Serious Mass
For this article I bought a 6 lb. tub of Serious Mass’ Vanilla flavor, and the 5 lb. tub of Pro Gainer’s chocolate:
And here’s a head-to-head look at their serving sizes, snipped off of product pages:
The ‘scoop(s)’ on Pro Gainer & Serious Mass servings
After sticking my hand in each one & fishing around way down in the powder ’til I got the scoops out, I discovered that Serious Mass & Pro Gainer use the same scoop.
So that explains how Serious Mass’ serving size of 336 grams is close to exactly double Pro Gainer’s 165 grams, since Pro Gainer’s serving size is listed as one heaping scoop, and Serious Mass’ serving size calls for two heaping scoops.
But the powders don’t weigh the same…
I put the same amount of each powder into their scoop — they were both packed firm by me scraping it up the inside wall of the tub and then very slightly rounding it.
But Pro Gainer weighed 15 grams less, even with me heaping it up a little more than I did with the Serious Mass:
Serious Mass weighing in at 168 grams per rounded scoop, and Pro Gainer at 153 grams.
I can pass along to you that Serious Mass has a denser feel & look than Pro Gainer powder when you check them out side by side.
And my guess is because its got a ton of maltodextrin in it while Pro Gainer backs off the maltodextrin and has more whey protein in it — which by nature is light & fluffy when in powder form.
Since the term heaping is vague and its execution not real smooth**, I took a smaller scoop from a whey powder tub I had and packed it (pretty) evenly with Serious Mass & Pro Gainer and weighed them.
Got the same result: Serious Mass weighs more.
**Heap big mess
By the way, I couldn’t get 165 grams — Pro Gainer’s serving size — to stay on top of the scoop, and I tried 3 times.
The closest I got was 153 grams, but even that was a little messy.
You can see from the earlier image above that at 153 grams it’s already spilling off, and a bunch of it is just waiting for me to make a wrong move so it can fall off too.
But the Serious Mass hit its 1/2 a serving (168 grams) pretty easily, just from getting it packed in while scooping inside the tub.
The Pro Gainer & Serious Mass scoop is BIG
From the images below you’ll see that it stands almost 3″ high, and that it’s way bigger than the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey scoop it swallowed up.
Serving suggestions: Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
The difference in the powder consistency between Serious Mass & Pro Gainer I mentioned earlier has an effect on the directions Optimum Nutrition gives us when it comes to making the beverages.
Here’s a bullet-pointed summary for each of them.
Serious Mass directions for use
- Use a blender**, not a shaker bottle;
- 24 oz. of liquid;
- They suggest starting with one scoop (168 grams).
** – Personal note: I agree with Optimum Nutrition about going the blender route. I used only a 1/6 dose (51 grams) in a shaker bottle and I couldn’t get rid of all the clumps, despite a lot of additional aggression after the first couple of taste tests. 😄
Pro Gainer directions for use
- They suggest a shaker** or a blender;
- 16 oz. of liquid, so Serious Mass needs a cup more than this.
** – My take: I did a 1/4 dose (41 grams) in a shaker bottle with around 12 oz. of water & it blended well with the same number of shakes I’d give a regular protein powder.
I couldn’t test out a full serving that way because my shaker bottle only holds a little over 16 oz. of liquid, so the 165 grams of powder won’t even fit.
Cost per serving – Pro Gainer v. Serious Mass
Like I usually do, just wanted to let you know I’m using the prices I’m looking at today, and that you may see something a little different when you look them up — hopefully you’ll see a “20% off” sale. 😉
Cheapest places to buy ON’s Serious Mass & Pro Gainer
Serious Mass prices
As of today anyway, Amazon has the best deal on Serious Mass — the 12 lb. bag of Chocolate flavor is listed around 46 bucks (24¢ per oz.), while over on Optimum Nutrition’s website I see that it’s selling for $50.99.
The smaller size Serious Mass comes in is a 6 lb. tub and it’s now $30.45 (32¢ per oz.) on Amazon and $34.99 on ON’s site.
Pro Gainer prices
Today I see that that the ten lb. bag of Vanilla Custard on Amazon is going for $71 & change (61¢ per oz.)
And over on Optimum Nutrition’s website Pro Gainer’s 10 lb. bag lists for about 80 bucks (though they’re saying it’s currently sold out right now as I’m looking there).
About the Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer cost per serving comparison
Note that Serious Mass & Pro Gainer have different large sizes (12 lb. & 10 lb., respectively) as well as different small sizes (6 lb. & 5 lb., respectively).
So for my cost per serving illustration I’ll just separate them as “large” or “small”.
Serious Mass 12 lb. cost: $46
Cost / serving: $2.90
Pro Gainer 10 lb. cost: $71
Cost / serving: $2.55
Serious Mass 6 lb. cost: $30
Cost / serving: $3.81
Pro Gainer 5 lb. cost: $44
Cost / serving: $3.11
Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer cost comparison summary
As we all probably figured, the larger sizes of these mass gainers are a better deal for your wallet.
As far as which of these two is a better deal for each of us, well that I think comes down to our individual fitness goals.
For example, someone may think the 12 lb. bag of Serious Mass ($2.90/serving) isn’t as good of a deal as the 10 lb. Pro Gainer (@ $2.55/serving), but that’s only if they intend to take Serious Mass’ full serving size of 336 grams & all of its 1,250 calories.
* are pumping iron regularly with some intensity, and
* really want to add the pounds quickly, and
* can handle 1200+ calories as a BETWEEN MEAL supplement, and
* don’t mind the fact that not all of the weight you’re adding is lean muscle,
then Serious Mass at under 3 bucks a serving is the best gainer for the job.
Cut it down to half by taking just one scoop — same amount as Pro Gainer’s serving size — and now it’s only $1.45 a pop, and thus around 40% cheaper than Pro Gainer gram for gram.
And in my humble opinion Serious Mass should be cheaper than Pro Gainer when we’re comparing them using the same weight, for example one scoop apiece.
This is because around 80% of Serious Mass consists of just one ingredient (maltodextrin) that is very inexpensive to make, and Pro Gainer has over two and a half times the protein as Serious Mass does in a single scoop (60 grams vs. 25).
We’ll get more into these & other ingredients in just a bit, but next let’s compare Pro Gainer’s & Serious Mass’ buyer ratings.
Buyer ratings – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
* These two mass gainers are both well-regarded by their buyers.
* Serious Mass has been around longer so it has a lot more reviews, plus it’s been the #1 selling mass gainer for a few years running now.
* And it’s more affordable for many people, since as I showed earlier it’s cheaper “gram for gram”, or by the scoop if you prefer ($1.45 vs. $2.55)…regardless of whether you’re pounding two scoops at a time or not. 😉
About the buyer review numbers
The ⭐ rating you see I calculate after gathering as many online reviews as I can find on the various fitness supplement retailers, and the % sign you see represents the percentage of reviewers who gave the product a 4 or 5-star rating.
Generally speaking in the fitness supplement arena, an 80% is like a “B” in school: good not great, and 90% & up is excellent.
I’ve mentioned this elsewhere here on heydayDo: mass gainer ratings — even for the most popular powders — are lower than the ratings you’ll find for the top well-regarded “regular” protein powders.
I’ve read a lot of buyer reviews over the years and here’s my slightly-informed guess as to why this is:
- some buyers aren’t aware that a gainer is supposed to have a ton of carbs in it;
- the taste of some gainer flavors ain’t great;
- the bloat that can come from downing several hundred calories in a short period of time.
Serious Mass buyer reviews
4.6 ⭐ 88% 4&5-star ratings, 38,000+ online reviews
Check current price & reviews on Amazon
Pro Gainer buyer reviews
Macros – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
OK, here are the comparisons of per serving calories & macronutrients (protein, carbs, & fat) for these two mass gainers.
I’ll also list the sugar & sodium amounts in this section too, “just cuz”.
I’ll go with the manufacturer’s listed serving sizes, which means two scoops for Serious Mass and one for Pro Gainer.
(Of course the macronutrient percentages for Serious Mass won’t be any different whether you’re drinking it with one scoop or two.)
Calories per serving – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Serious Mass 1,250
Pro Gainer 650
Protein per serving – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Serious Mass 50 grams
Pro Gainer 60 grams
Carbs per serving – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Serious Mass 252 grams
Pro Gainer 85
Fat per serving – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Serious Mass 4.5 grams
Pro Gainer 8 grams
Sugar per serving – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Serious Mass 20 grams
Pro Gainer 7 grams
Sodium per serving – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Serious Mass 570 milligrams
Pro Gainer 380 milligrams
Macronutrient percentages – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Below is a chart that compares the macronutrient percentages of Pro Gainer & Serious Mass, and you can see the sharp differences in their respective carbs to protein ratios.
Serious Mass is over 5:1 carbs to protein while Pro Gainer is roughly 1.5:1, with Serious Mass delivering the majority of its calories via the high glycemic index carb maltodextrin, & Pro Gainer going with more protein & a bit more fat.
Is one mass gainer carb-to-protein ratio better than the other?
In one sense not really, since one of their main purposes is simply to provide significant additional calories in between meals, not be a complete meal replacement.
Remember Optimum Nutrition’s blurb in its directions for Serious Mass use:
Macro ratios usually act as daily intake guidelines
I’m not positive, but I think the concept of macro percentages ever getting into our heads started with simple dietary guidelines that are issued by the National Academies Institute of Medicine.
I have their book Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements, and on page 81 of the PDF they list these macronutrient percentages as guidelines for adults:
“45–65 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates, 20–35 percent from fat, and 10–35 percent from protein.”
Keep in mind this is broad advice for the general public, most of whom aren’t as active as athletes & other consistent weightlifters like recreational bodybuilders, workout warriors, etc.
Macro ratios for bodybuilders
There has been some research done to establish macronutrient percentage guidelines for competitive bodybuilders which I think is worth taking a peek at, even though they train a lot more hardcore than the rest of us consistent lifters.
- Protein 30%
- Carbs 55-60%
- Fats 15-20%
Serious Mass & Pro Gainer for post-workout nutrition
That research paper “Macronutrient Considerations for the Sport of Bodybuilding” published in Sports Medicine I referenced above also talked about the importance of getting amino acids from quality protein along with high glycemic carbs right after weight training, and the amount of suggested high GI carbs was a lot…here’s their concluding quote:
“Consumption of protein/amino acids and carbohydrate immediately before and after training sessions may augment protein synthesis, muscle glycogen re-synthesis and reduce protein degradation.
The optimal rate of carbohydrate ingested immediately after a training session should be 1.2 g/kg/hour at 30-minute intervals for 4 hours and the carbohydrate should be of high glycemic index.”
The amount again is 1.2 grams of high GI carbs per kilogram of bodyweight per hour, taken over a four hour period.
I’m not that regimented enough to follow that schedule, but I know competitive bodybuilders who are/were.
I’m just interested in what’s the total amount of post-workout high GI carbs sports science recommends for the most intense weightlifters, and I’ll just adjust their numbers down to fit my moderate intensity training program.
If I apply their math — a kg is 2.2 lb. — roughly to my weight (180 lb.), then the recommendation is 90 grams four times, which equals 360 grams of high glycemic index carbs.
But that’s for hardcore bodybuilders.
I’m just a recreational lifter, so if I ratchet their numbers down by 30% or so (360 – 110) I end up at 250 grams — which is a Serious Mass single serving.
And indeed, Optimum Nutrition mentions taking both Serious Mass & Pro Gainer post-workout in their respective marketing material:
Post-workout carbs & protein studies
You may have heard that there are certain carb:protein ratios that ought to be targeted post-workout — usually 3:1 or 4:1.
But while there is some sports science research that supports this idea, other post-workout carbohydrate & protein studies conclude that adequate fast-absorbing protein (whey for instance) is good enough on its own. (1)
In any event, while the strength & conditioning scientists debate what the ideal numbers to hit are, it is agreed upon that weightlifters need to load up on key nutrients post-workout.
Here’s a money quote from the International Society of Sports Nutrition:
“It has been recommended that athletes ingest carbohydrate and protein following exercise in order to enhance glycogen re-synthesis, promote an anabolic hormonal environment, enhance protein synthesis, and/or lessen the immuno-suppressive effects of intense exercise.” (2)
Ingredients – Serious Mass vs. Pro Gainer
Optimum Nutrition handles the ingredients listing of Serious Mass & Pro Gainer differently on their Supplement Facts labels, though they share many common ingredients.
Here’s Serious Mass’ Supplement Facts label without the macros section since I showed it to you earlier, and its ingredients list is below it:
And here’s the bottom half of Pro Gainer’s Supplement Facts label showing all the vitamin & mineral additives; note its ingredients list below it has all those vitamins & minerals listed again.
Optimum Nutrition doesn’t list all the vitamins added to Serious Mass in its ingredients like they do for Pro Gainer, they just put them on the Supplement Facts label.
Below are my “in a nutshell” of what each of them mainly consist of.
Serious Mass ingredients summary
* Serious Mass is basically high glycemic carbs in the form of maltodextrin plus a protein blend that’s mostly whey with a little casein & egg white too.
* Serious Mass is over 80% maltodextrin, 16% whey/egg protein, and has been fortified with a long list of vitamins & minerals.
* It has a couple of performance enhancer supplements added as well, creatine & glutamine.
Pro Gainer ingredients summary
* Pro Gainer is also high in maltodextrin, but only 56% worth vs. the 82% of it in Serious Mass.
* Pro Gainer’s protein blend (39% of its ingredients) has more whey in it than Serious Mass’, thanks to the addition of whey protein isolate & whey peptides.
* Pro Gainer also has a fleet of vitamins & minerals added to it, though in less quantity overall compared to Serious Mass — but remember, its serving size (1 scoop) is only half the size of Serious Mass’.
* It doesn’t have any fitness supplements added to it like Serious Mass does.
Serious Mass vs Pro Gainer: Taste
I can pass along that I can tolerate the vanilla-flavored Serious Mass in water, and that I kind of like the chocolate-flavored Pro Gainer — which I’ve also been drinking in water since I bought it for this article.
If you’ve read other protein powder reviews of mine here on heydayDo, you know I don’t believe my opinion on taste provides you any value, since I’m convinced by science & life experiences that our taste buds do not interpret taste the same.
That said, for me the chocolate Pro Gainer was a lot better tasting than that vanilla Serious Mass.
Better texture too, but that’s the difference between a product that’s 39% milk protein (Pro Gainer) vs. one that’s 82% processed carbohydrate (Serious Mass).
Related articles here on heydayDo
I hope that my article on comparing Optimum Nutrition’s Pro Gainer to their best-selling weight gain product Serious Mass is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.