Best 500 Calorie Bulking & Bodybuilding Meals

When you are in a bulking phase, it can be helpful to have a variety of recipes on hand that are not only going to fit into your calorie and macro requirements but are tasty and satisfying as well.

The last thing you want is to be stuck eating the same old, plain, dry, chicken and rice meal for the fifth meal in a row. 

In this article, we will discuss:

  • How to structure a 500-calorie bodybuilding meal for bulking
  • 10 recipes for 500 calorie bodybuilding meals for bulking

How To Structure A 500 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal for Bulking

how to structure a 500 calorie bodybuilding meal for bulking

 Before we explore different 500 calorie meals for bulking and bodybuilding, we must first outline the different qualities that make a meal fit for this category. Not all foods or meal structures will be suitable for those that are bodybuilding and in a bulking phase.

A bulking phase may last for months or even years, and the intention is to eat a higher calorie diet that is rich in protein while lifting weights consistently, with the goal of building as much muscle as possible.

The elements that make up a good bulking meal for bodybuilding are:

  • Meets a certain increased calorie criterion (in this case 500 calories)
  • Contains a balance of protein, carbs and fats
  • Focuses on including quality protein for muscle building
  • Contains foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients
  • Is often one of many meals throughout the day

1. Meets a Certain Increased Calorie Criterion (In This Case 500 Calories)

During a bulking or a gaining phase in your diet, you must be eating in a caloric surplus, meaning that you should be taking in more calories than you expend in a day.

Because a caloric surplus is going to look different for everyone, the definition of a “higher calorie” meal will vary for each person as well. This can also depend on how many meals the individual eats throughout the day.

For example, if a 25-year-old, 150-pound woman normally eats around 2000 calories to maintain her weight, during her bulking phase, she would have to eat around 2500 calories per day. If she eats 5 meals a day, she will have to ensure that each meal she eats is 500 calories in order to meet her calorie requirement for the day.

2. Contains a Balance of Protein, Carbs and Fats

While the number of calories that you eat during your bulking phase is going to change in comparison to a maintenance or a deficit phase, the types of calories that you eat can remain relatively the same.

A good macronutrient balance for bodybuilders to follow when constructing their meals is:

  • 30-35% calories from protein
  • 55-60% calories from carbohydrates
  • 15-20% calories from fat

One adjustment that can be made when shifting from a deficit or maintenance phase into a bulking phase is reducing protein intake slightly, while increasing carbohydrate intake. This can be a good idea for a few reasons:

Protein takes more energy for your body to metabolize and break down and burns more calories in the process. In contrast, carbs and fat take less energy, which may be a benefit during a bulking phase.

In addition, when you increase your calories while bulking, it is a common experience to struggle with getting in the number of calories that you need due to feeling full. Protein increases satiety and fullness since it takes longer for the body to break down, while carbs are digested much faster.

Therefore, getting more calories from carbohydrates during your bulking phase will make it easier to increase your overall calorie intake.

3. Focuses on Including Quality Protein for Muscle Building

The main intention behind a bulking phase is to build more muscle. In order to build muscle, you must be eating adequate amounts of protein. Not only is it important to maintain the quantity of the protein that you eat while bulking, but the quality can determine your success as well.

Good quality protein is typically found in whole food animal sources but can be found in plants as well. Ideally, you want to be consuming a variety of different protein sources that contain all 9 of the essential amino acids that our body needs.

The meal and recipe example below will include different examples of high-quality protein sources to include into your bulking phase.

4. Contains Foods That Are High in Vitamins, Minerals and Other Nutrients

There is often debate over the pros and cons of eating high calorie processed foods during a bulking phase in comparison to “cleaner” whole foods. Because bulking involves an increase in calories it is much easier to fit certain high calorie “treat” foods into your diet that you would not normally eat on a daily basis.

While eating high calorie, low nutrient foods or meals will not have a negative effect if done on occasion, it is not recommended to do this frequently with your meals. Despite the need for extra calories while bulking, this does not negate your body’s requirement for essential nutrients that are found in whole foods.

Making an effort to consume whole foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber during your bulk will help to ensure that your body is receiving everything it needs to function optimally, and for you to feel your best while you bulk.

5. Is Often One of Many Meals Throughout the Day

A very common bodybuilding meal plan structure is to consume multiple meals in a day. If an individual was bulking on 2500 calories, but only eating 3 meals per day, then a 500-calorie meal would not be enough to meet their caloric requirement.

When bulking, adopting the approach of multiple meals per day, rather than eating only a few meals, can help to ensure that you are able to consume all the calories that you need while getting a steady flow of energy throughout the day.

While you certainly are not required to eat 5-6 meals in a day, it can be a helpful tool if you are struggling to get all the calories that you need in only 2-3 meals a day.

10 Recipes for 500 Calorie Bodybuilding Meals for Bulking

1. Peanut Butter Protein Oatmeal Bowl

peanut butter protein oatmeal bowl

This oatmeal bowl is packed with healthy fats, proteins, and carbs that will keep you feeling full and satisfied. Oatmeal is a delicious complex carbohydrate, and when it is paired with a protein and a fat, the rate at which it spikes your blood sugar is reduced. This recipe is a great breakfast staple that takes only a few minutes to prepare.


  • 1/2 cup rolled or quick oats
  • 1 banana
  • 1 serving protein powder
  • 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • Cinnamon to taste


1.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a pot on your stove. Once your water is boiling, add your oats and cook over medium heat until you have a thick consistency (rolled oats will take longer than quick oats)

2. Transfer your cooked oats to a bowl, and stir in 1 scoop of protein powder (I used Organic Clean Whey in vanilla for this recipe)

3. Top with 1 sliced banana, 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter

4. Add cinnamon if desired, and enjoy!

Calories & Macros

  • Calories: 496 Calories
  • Carbs: 70.5 grams
  • Protein: 30.5 grams
  • Fat: 13 grams

2. Tropical Hulk Smoothie

tropical hulk smoothie

Smoothies are a great way to get in high quality nutritious calories, without feeling weighed down by too much volume. If you are having difficulty getting all your calories in during a bulking phase, then this is a great smoothie for you. Smoothies are great as they are easily customizable to your calorie and macronutrient needs.

The hulk smoothie is very high in protein and gets its green hue from the addition of spinach. This is an amazing way to add nutrients into your diet if you are someone who has a hard time getting their greens in. Don’t be fooled by the green color, you can’t even taste the spinach! This meal would be great as a post workout due to its lower fat content.


  • 1 serving protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen mango
  • ½ cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 8 oz skim milk


1.  Add all your ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth

2. Transfer the blended mixture to a glass or a shaker cup and enjoy!

Calories & Macros

  • Calories: 496.5 Calories
  • Carbs: 56 grams
  • Protein: 43.5 grams
  • Fat: 5.75 grams

3. Egg and Sweet Potato Skillet

egg and sweet potato skillet

Despite eggs being labeled as a breakfast food, this recipe can be a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It has a balanced ratio of protein, carbs and fat, and is packed with nutrients coming from whole foods.

 Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbohydrate while bulking since they are rich in nutrients such as B Vitamins, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and iron. They are easily stored and are lower on the Glycemic Index in comparison to regular white potatoes.


  • 2 eggs and 2 egg whites
  • 200 grams diced sweet potato
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ a medium avocado (about 80 grams) sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large cast iron skillet or pan, fry diced potatoes in water on medium high heat.

2. Allow sweet potatoes to cook for a few minutes or until they begin to brown, then flip them.

Pro Tip- To make life easier in the morning, you could skip this step by pre prepping your diced sweet potatoes and baking them in the oven beforehand, then simply adding them to a skillet with coconut oil to reheat/ brown. I would recommend this as a time saver.

3. Add the chopped spinach, bell peppers, and any other veggies you choose and stir in to soften the veggies. Add pink Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

4. Make 3-4 little wells in the potato/vegetable mixture and crack an egg/ egg white into each well. Transfer the skillet to the oven at 400 degrees F, to cook for 5-10 minutes depending on how runny you want your eggs.

Pro Tip- you can also skip this step by simply adding your eggs in and making a sweet potato scramble! This also saves time if you don’t want your eggs over easy.

5. Remove skillet from the oven, top with 1⁄2 a sliced avocado, and any herbs of choice, and serve! 

Calories & Macros

  • Calories: 502 Calories
  • Carbs: 53.8 grams
  • Protein: 26 grams
  • Fat: 21.8 grams

4.   One Pot Greek Pasta

one pot greek pastalet

This one pot pasta recipe is a great meal prepping recipe during your bulking phase, as this recipe makes 4 servings, with each serving coming in at just under 500 calories. This pasta contains a whopping 23 grams of protein, and uses whole wheat pasta which will help keep you fuller for longer in comparison to white pasta.

Calories & Macros

Serving Size: 2 cups

Per Serving:

  • Calories: 487 Calories
  • Carbs: 59.3 grams
  • Protein: 22.8 grams
  • Fat: 19.6 grams

Find the full recipe for the One Pot Greek Pasta here.

5. Maple Chicken Thighs Sheet Pan Dinner

maple chicken thighs sheet pan dinner

A sheet pan dinner can be a bodybuilder’s best friend because it is such a simple and easy form of meal prep. While a sheet pan dinner can involve so much variety, this particular recipe includes chicken thighs, sweet potato and brussel sprouts. All of these foods are extremely nutrient dense and create a well balanced meal.

This particular recipe comes in at about 436 calories per serving. In order to increase the calories in this meal to 500, I would suggest either having a larger serving of the sweet potato, or adding in a small amount of avocado (40 grams, or roughly ¼ of a whole avocado) to finish off the dish.

Calories & Macros:

Serving Size: 1 chicken thigh, about 4 sweet potato wedges & about 3/4 cup Brussels sprouts *Add in 40 grams of avocado

Per Serving:

  • Calories: 500 calories
  • Carbs: 48.71 grams
  • Protein: 34.8 grams
  • Fat: 20.26 grams

Find the full recipe for the Maple-Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potato Wedges and Brussel Sprouts recipe here.

6.   Healthy Chili Con Carne

healthy chili con carne

During a bulking phase chili can serve as a great meal prepped meal due to it’s high protein content, along with how easily you can store and freeze extra servings of it for convenience. This particular Mexican beef chili recipe is also packed with extra veggies, giving you even more fiber for a total of 9.6 grams per serving.

This chili recipe creates 4 servings, and each serving comes in at 428 calories per serving. In order to make this a 500 calorie meal, you simply add a light sprinkle (approximately 20 grams) of cheddar cheese for extra flavor.

Calories & Macros

Recipe creates 4 servings
*calculations below include 20 grams of cheddar cheese 

Per Serving:

  • Calories: 508 calories
  • Carbs: 38 grams
  • Protein: 45 grams
  • Fat: 18 grams

Find the full recipe for the Healthy Chili Con Carne here.

7.  High Protein Cinnamon French Toast

high protein cinnamon french toast

French toast may be commonly thought of as a comfort food, but it can also serve as an awesome high protein meal for bodybuilders while bulking. French toast is easy, fast, and requires minimal ingredients.

While this recipe includes maple syrup and peanut butter for toppings, feel free to switch up the toppings of your french toast with things like berries, banana, low sugar chocolate chips, jam, or butter.


  • 1 serving of protein powder
  • ½ cup of egg whites
  • 3 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 1-2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 0.5 tbsp peanut butter


1. Whisk the protein powder and egg whites in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon and continue mixing until combined.

2. Preheat a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.

3. Once the skillet is hot, soak both sides of the bread in the mixture and place on the heated pan. Cook on each side until a crispy layer forms, about 1-2 minutes on each side.

4. Plate the french toast and top with the maple syrup and peanut butter, and enjoy!

Calories & Macros

  • Calories: 507 calories
  • Carbs: 67 grams
  • Protein: 44 grams
  • Fat: 10 grams 

8. Bison Taco Meal Prep Bowl

bison taco meal prep bowl

Who doesn’t love taco Tuesday?! The best thing about this taco meal prep bowl is that you can have it any day of the week, and it is full of flavor and nutrition. This taco bowl is a great way to spice up your food if you find you have been getting bored with the traditional chicken and vegetables meals.

This taco bowl uses bison, this is because bison is a very healthy source of protein that is slightly lower in fat in comparison to beef. This recipe creates 5 servings, so you will be prepared to hit your 500 calorie meal all week long.


  • 1 cup brown or white rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds of ground bison
  • 2 (1.25-ounce) packages of taco seasoning
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.25-ounces) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes, diced


1. In a large saucepan of 2 cups of water, cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add ground bison and cook until the bison has browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the bison as it cooks; stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.

3. Divide rice into meal prep containers. Top with ground bison mixture, black beans, corn and tomatoes.

Calories & Macros

Per Serving:

  • Calories: 521 calories
  • Carbs: 37 grams
  • Protein: 45 grams
  • Fat: 23 grams

9. Tuna Melt Open Faced Sandwich

tuna melt open faced sandwich

These quick and easy open faced tuna sandwiches are a perfect meal for your bulking phase that come in at just under 500 calories. Tuna is a great source of protein to have on hand, as it does not require the same amount of prep time as other animal protein sources do.

Tuna also contains healthy Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and other vitamins such as B vitamins. When you are shopping for canned tuna, be sure that you choose one that is packed in water instead of oil. This will allow you to fill your fat calories with other whole food sources.


  • 1 can (4.5 oz) tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1/4 cup carrots, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 1 tbsp red or white onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 slices 2% reduced fat cheddar
  • 2 slices tomato


1. Combine tuna, celery, carrots, onion, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over low heat, and place two slices of bread on top.

3. Top bread with cheese, then tuna salad and tomato. Cook on low heat until cheese melts and bread gets toasty.

4. Serve immediately.

Calories & Macros

Per 2 open faced Sandwiches:

  • Calories: 491 Calories
  • Carbs: 32 grams
  • Protein: 42 grams
  • Fat: 22 grams

10. Sheet Pan Fajitas

sheet pan fajitas

A sheet pan meal does not have to be boring, and this spicy fajita meal is a perfect example of that. This recipe is full of healthy vegetables and quality protein that will keep you full and satisfied, and it only takes about 15 minutes to prep and 40 minutes to cook!

This recipe creates 8 chicken fajitas, with the serving size being 2 fajitas and coming in at about 483 calories per serving.


  • 3 bell peppers, any color
  • 2 small yellow onions (or one large)
  • 1 lb. chicken breast
  • 1 packet of Fajita seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 lime
  • 8 6-inch tortillas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro


1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the onion and bell peppers into 1/4-inch wide strips. Slice the chicken breast into strips. Add the chicken and vegetables to a large baking sheet or dish.

2. Drizzle the avocado oil over the chicken and vegetables, then sprinkle the fajita seasoning mix over top. Toss the ingredients until everything is coated in oil and seasoning. Spread the chicken and vegetables out over the baking sheet evenly.

3. Bake the chicken and vegetables in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Once you remove this from the oven, top with juice from a lime

4. To serve, scoop 1/8 of the meat and vegetables into the center of each tortilla. Top with a few sprigs of cilantro, ⅛ cup sour cream per fajita, and an extra squeeze of lime if desired.

Calories & Macros

Per 2 Fajitas

  • Calories: 483 Calories
  • Carbs: 43 grams
  • Protein: 31 grams
  • Fat: 21 grams

(To round this meal out to roughly 500 calories, add 15 grams of sliced avocado to your 2 fajita serving)

What To Read Next

If you’re looking for full-day meal plans, check out our bodybuilding meal plans category.  We have several meal plans, ranging from 1000 to 6000 calories, all of which come with a free pdf meal plan download.  

I would recommend starting with the 2000 calorie bodybuilding meal plan or 2500 calorie bodybuilding meal plan.

Other Bodybuilding Recipe Ideas


Lambert CP, Frank LL, Evans WJ. Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding. Sports Med. 2004;34(5):317-27. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434050-00004. PMID: 15107010.

Carbone, J. W., & Pasiakos, S. M. (2019). Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients, 11(5), 1136.

Venn BJ, Green TJ. Glycemic index and glycemic load: measurement issues and their effect on diet-disease relationships. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;61 Suppl 1:S122-31. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602942. PMID: 17992183.

Mitchell L, Slater G, Hackett D, Johnson N, O’connor H. Physiological implications of preparing for a natural male bodybuilding competition. Eur J Sport Sci. 2018 Jun;18(5):619-629. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1444095. Epub 2018 Mar 1. PMID: 29490578.

About The Author

Colby Roy

Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.

About The Author

Colby Roy

Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.

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