Gainful offers a protein powder subscription customized to diet, activity level and overall objective(s). A 28-serving bag is shipped every 4, 6 or 8 weeks. The subscription also includes online access to a registered dietitian for advice about nutrition and fitness. With many protein powders out on the market, such as Orgain Protein and Ghost Whey Protein, how does Gainful stack up?
Protein is the building block of your cells. By lifting heavy weight, you’re tearing muscle fibers with the intention of them repairing stronger. Feeding them enough protein is essential for this. Protein can also promote weight loss and lean muscle mass as it’s more satiating then carbohydrates or fat.
Is Supplemental Protein Necessary?
If you’re not getting enough protein through your diet, it’s important to supplement. The recommended daily intake to maximize muscle protein synthesis is 590 to 820 milligrams per pound of body weight per day. For a guy weighing 195 pounds, the optimal daily protein intake ranges from 115 to 160 grams per day, with the higher end for lifting and the lower for just cardio by itself. That’s a lot of protein to get through food, especially if you have dietary restrictions. Protein powder to the rescue.
Is the Timing of Supplemental Protein Important?
People who chug protein shakes right after their workout believe it optimizes recovery. People like whey protein in particular because it mixes well, has a good amino acid profile and is rapidly-absorbed. If you workout in the morning or afternoon, timing doesn’t matter and taking a scoop of whey protein right after your workout won’t make a difference. If you workout in the evening; however, take a scoop of whey (or pea/brown rice protein if you’re avoiding dairy) right after you finish (to help with overnight recovery) and another one when you wake up.
This obviously varies based on specifications. I wanted a powder without gluten, lactose or soy (I’m not allergic, but didn’t want them in my powder). My fitness goal is to cut and become more toned and muscular. Gainful recommended a blend with 91% whey protein isolate, 7.4% flavor stick and 1.5% green tea extract, along with a negligible amount of sunflower lecithin to prevent clumping.
Amino Acid Breakdown (for the Above Blend)
- Alanine 1327 mg
- Arginine 590 mg
- Aspartic Acid 2655 mg
- Cystine 708 mg
- Glutamic Acid 4248 mg
- Glycine 383 mg
- Histidine 413 mg
- Isoleucine 1563 mg
- Leucine 2625 mg
- Lysine 2566 mg
- Methionine 560 mg
- Phenylalanine 796 mg
- Proline 1504 mg
- Serine 1298 mg
- Threonine 1622 mg
- Tryptophan 472 mg
- Tyrosine 855 mg
- Valine 1445 mg
The amino acid profile obviously varies based on the type of protein you get and how much is in your blend.
The combination of pea and brown rice protein makes Gainful’s dairy-free option a complete protein. Both whey and pea protein are similar in terms of their impact on muscle growth and exercise capacity. The drawback of the pea and brown rice protein blend is although it mixes decently enough, it has a chalkier consistency than whey.
Gainful’s Ingredients and their Potential Benefits
- Whey protein isolate (more protein than concentrate – 90%, better for cutting, less lactose)
- Whey protein concentrate (tastes better/creamier, more carbs and fat/better for bulking than isolate – 70-80% protein)
- Organic pea protein (vegan, contains all 9 essential amino acids)
- Organic brown rice protein (vegan, complete protein when combined with pea protein)
- Micellar casein (slow-releasing protein source, good for overnight recovery)
- Organic tapioca maltodextrin (quick-digesting carb source, good for bulking and energy during and after workouts)
- Organic tapioca dextrose (another fast-digesting carb source, good in moderation for restoring glycogen faster/muscle repair and hydration post-workout)
- Green tea extract (EGCG has been proven to help burn fat, but might cause liver damage)
- Sunflower lecithin (anti-caking agent, good in case you’re allergic, sensitive to or just want to avoid soy altogether)
The flavor sticks are sweetened with organic stevia leaf extract and organic monkfruit extract. These are both safe, natural and zero calorie sweeteners.
Gainful ships 28 flavor sticks out with each package (one for every scoop). Their flavors are:
- Chocolate Fudge
- Cookies & Cream
- Cafe Mocha
- Peanut Butter Cup
- Strawberry Milkshake
- French Vanilla
Gainful only allows you to choose 4 flavor sticks per shipment, which is slight drawback, but by the second shipment, you should know your favorites and have them on rotation.
So the main advantage of Gainful is obviously the personalization aspect. They use some organic ingredients and say their whey is non-GMO even though it’s not Non-GMO Project Verified.
They also have a backup option in case you don’t like the recommended blend or would prefer something a little different. For me, their secondary option switches the green tea extract out for organic tapioca maltodextrin (8%) and organic tapioca dextrose (4.6%), the combination of which cut the amount of whey protein isolate down to 80%. They will also let you switch out individual ingredients so you can take part (or all) of the customization into your own hands. You can even get answers to specific questions from one of their dietitians before buying.
The access to a dietician, while cool to have, isn’t necessary and shouldn’t be built into the price for people who aren’t looking for advice. A lot of this information is available online and although having a registered dietitian at your fingertips can be helpful, it’s not worth the price if you’re not going to use it. If you are, then it’s worth it initially, but at some point you’ll get the majority of your questions answered and it becomes an unnecessary expense that’s automatically rolled into the cost. It would be better if Gainful charged a separate fee for access to the dietitian and kept that part of the subscription optional.
The ability to switch up the flavor of every shake is a huge advantage. Drinking the same shake day after day can get repetitive. Gainful offers 6 cool flavors to choose from with the hope that at least a few of them will make your taste buds happy.
Many people obviously blend up their own smoothies and add protein powder. In these cases, the flavor sticks can be left out if they’re going to mess with the flavor profile (of course they might enhance it as well, depending on what else is being added in).
Gainful also prints your name on the outside of their packet, which isn’t necessary, but a nice touch.
Who is Gainful Best For?
Gainful is best for people who’ve had issues with protein powder, don’t have the time and/or interest to research which one’s the best for them, would like to switch up flavors and for whom cost isn’t a huge concern.
It’s also better for people who aren’t blending their own protein smoothies because Gainful’s flavor sticks may not work with the fruit, vegetables and/or other supplements you throw in the blender. Or they might. Again, you could always leave out the flavor stick, but they’re one of Gainful’s major selling points, so if you’re not using them, it becomes harder to justify the price.
Gainful tailors your powder based on dietary restrictions (if any) and fitness goals, which sounds pretty cool. The thing is, it’s not as involved or complicated as they’re making it out to be. There aren’t that many different blends. They’ll typically include whey protein concentrate in your mix, unless you’re trying to cut and/or limit lactose, in which case(s) they’ll include whey protein isolate. If you’re dairy-free, they’ll swap out the whey for organic pea and brown rice protein. If you want to lose weight, they’ll add green tea extract (which does have 5 milligrams of caffeine, so you might want to manually remove it from your mix, especially if you’re going to be taking it before bed). In either case, because of the uncertainty around the safety of green tea extract, it’s best to avoid it. If you want to bulk, they’ll add organic tapioca maltodextrin and dextrose to your mix. There aren’t that many different combinations of ingredients, so with a little bit of research, you can find a powder that works for you at a fraction of the price.
When I said I wanted to gain weight, they took out the green tea extract, reduced the whey isolate to 80% and added organic tapioca maltodextrin at 8% and organic tapioca dextrose at 4.6%. When I said I didn’t have dietary restrictions, they replaced 33.8% of the whey protein isolate with whey protein concentrate. When I said I had all of the dietary restrictions, it switched the whey protein isolate out for 65% organic pea protein and 26% organic brown rice protein.
What’s interesting is they also recommended the same blend regardless of body type or activity level, which demonstrates that their customization isn’t all that involved and primarily based on dietary preferences. That’s why it would be more cost-effective for you to figure out what you’re looking for in a protein powder and shop around for the best price.
Depending on your selections, your mix will contain 20-30 grams of protein per serving. You can also increase the amount of protein in your blend by emailing Gainful.
Although Gainful isn’t available on Amazon at this time, they have 46 reviews on Trustpilot as of this writing and have 4 out of 5 stars. Most people reviewed the flavors as good, although a few didn’t like them. One person actually wrote that they weren’t distinguishable from each other and the coffee flavor lacked the kick one would expect. A few people had issues with customer service and cancelling their subscriptions. A few also said it didn’t mix well.
Where to Buy + Costs
You can buy Gainful off their website for $49 for 28 servings, which comes out to $1.75 per serving. Shipping is free.
Muscle Feast’s whey protein isolate powder is grass-fed and 71 cents per serving (less than half the cost for a potentially better powder). The Muscle Feast powder comes in chocolate, vanilla and plain, so although the flavor options aren’t enticing, most people should be satisfied with one of them. Orgain also makes an organic, vegan, complete protein powder that ranges from $1.25 to $1.41 per serving (depending on flavor) on Amazon, where you get a better deal than their website. They have green matcha, vanilla and plain on Amazon.
True Nutrition also offers customized protein powder, you just have to specify what you want in your mix. They also have several pre-formulated blends to choose from. I was able to construct a mix of 90% whey protein isolate, 5% non-GMO dextrose and 5% non-GMO maltodextrin with stevia-sweetened cinnamon toast swirl flavoring for $1.16 per serving (including $3.99 for shipping).
Personalized protein powder is a cool concept and if cost isn’t a huge factor, you can give Gainful’s subscription a shot for the convenience and ability to switch up the flavor and blend. You can cancel anytime. The thing is, you can get a grass-fed whey protein isolate powder for less than half the price, so you would be spending more and sacrificing on quality for the personalization. Competitor’s vegan protein powders are also significantly cheaper than Gainful as is True Nutrition’s customized powder.