Almond milk vs cow’s milk has been a big debate in the health space for years, but which is best for bodybuilders? As athletes with very specific physique goals, there are many factors to consider when answering this question.
As a nutrition coach that works with bodybuilders, I wanted to deep dive into this subject.
So, is almond milk good or bad for bodybuilding?
Almond milk is good for bodybuilding because it is a low-calorie milk option ‘freeing up’ calories that can be used towards foods that are more filling than milk. Since almond milk is higher in fat and lower in protein, ensure your other meals contain lean protein.
In this article, I will provide:
- The general health benefits and macronutrient breakdown for almond milk
- 3 pros and cons of drinking almond milk for bodybuilding
- How much and when to consume almond milk pre-and post-workout
- Is sweetened or unsweetened better for bodybuilders?
Eating Almond Milk for Bodybuilding: Overview
Before we dive into this topic, it’s important to first understand the nutritional information of almond milk.
Unsweetened almond milk, per 1 cup or 250ml, contains:
- 36 calories
- 1g of protein
- 3g of carbs
- 2g of fat
Sweetened almond milk, per 1 cup or 250ml, contains:
- 56 calories
- 1g of protein
- 8g of carbs
- 2.5g of fat.
Interested in knowing whether I recommend sweetened or unsweetened almond milk for bodybuilders? I will answer this question in depth later.
3 Pros of Drinking Almond Milk For Bodybuilding
Bodybuilders are generally looking to accomplish two primary goals, to build muscle and lose fat to optimize their physique. Let’s make sure we keep these goals in mind as we discuss whether drinking almond milk is good or bad for bodybuilders.
1. Almond Milk Is Lactose-Free
Almond milk does not contain any dairy making it a lactose-free milk alternative. Experts estimate that approximately 68% of the population is lactose intolerant. This means that they experience some sort of digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea etc. after consuming a food that has lactose.
For bodybuilders looking to maximize their gym performance, having a lactose free milk alternative is important so they aren’t experiencing these symptoms during their workout. I don’t know about you but I certainly cannot focus on getting a solid gym session in when my stomach is uncomfortable.
It’s also beneficial to avoid digestive discomfort so you can consume adequate protein throughout the day to support muscle growth. While everyone has a different tolerance to consume food while experiencing digestive issues, it will start to get in the way of your nutrition if it is occurring regularly.
Therefore, utilizing almond milk as a lactose-free alternative is beneficial for bodybuilders to avoid digestive issues that can negatively impact training and nutrition.
2. Almond Milk Is Low in Calories
Unsweetened almond milk contains 36 calories per cup, compared to 2% milk that has 122 calories for the same amount, this is a low-calorie milk option.
This is especially helpful for bodybuilders that are cutting. Consider this, if you make your post-workout protein shake with almond milk instead of 2% milk, you now have 86 more calories to consume throughout the day. Instead of 86 calories of fluid that won’t fill you up, you can consume food that is more voluminous and will leave you satisfied.
The more satisfied and physically full you can feel when cutting, the easier it can be to stick to your diet in the long term and see results.
Additionally, even for bodybuilders that are bulking and don’t need satiety, those calories can be used for more nutritious and protein-dense food that will better align with your goals.
3. Almond Milk Is High in Vitamin E
Almond milk is high in vitamin E which has been proven to stimulate the body’s natural immune response. Almond milk contains 8mg of vitamin E per cup, approximately 53% of the daily recommended dosage.
For bodybuilder’s, getting sick can be a major hurdle, especially if they are prepping for a competition or show. Not only can it cause you to miss workouts, but it can also impact your diet and therefore nutrition. Consuming sufficient vitamin E can play a role in supporting your body’s natural immune function, keeping you healthier and able to fight off sickness.
- Related Article: Is Gatorade Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
3 Cons of Drinking Almond Milk For Bodybuilding
Overall, there are a few downsides to consuming almond milk to consider, but these can generally be mitigated by consuming lean protein and calcium-rich foods in conjunction with almond milk.
1. Almond Milk Does Not Provide Sufficient Protein To Build Muscle
To build muscle, it’s critical to consume sufficient protein so your muscles have what they need to repair and recover after a workout.
Research suggests that to build muscle, a protein intake of roughly 2.4g per kg of body weight is ideal. For example, this means a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 206g of protein per day.
Almond milk only contains 1g of protein per cup, meaning it is not a significant source. To consume 34g of protein, or one-sixth of your daily intake, you would need to consume over 2 gallons of almond milk. Not only would this be a ridiculous amount of liquid to consume, but it would also be a whopping 1,224 calories!
That’s why I recommend mixing whey protein with almond milk.
To ensure sufficient protein, leaner sources of protein need to be consumed throughout the day. For ideas on incorporating sources of protein into your diet, check out my other article on eggs for bodybuilding.
2. Almond Milk Does Not Have the Recommended Protein to Fat Ratio for Optimal Body Composition
In addition to getting adequate protein, it’s also important to consider the ratio of protein to fat. Paying attention to this ratio will ensure while getting your protein requirements, you are also keeping your calories within an appropriate range and not gaining fat.
Research shows that a ratio of 5g of protein to 1g of fat is best to achieve a bodybuilder’s desired body composition. This will provide the fat required for healthy hormones while also consuming enough protein to maximize muscle building.
A cup of almond milk contains 1g of protein and 2g of fat. This does not mean almond milk is bad for bodybuilders, but it does help show us the importance of including a lean protein source, such as whey protein when consuming almond milk to increase the ratio back to the recommended 5:1.
3. Almond Milk Does Not Contain the Same Calcium As Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk is a significant source of calcium, which is important for strong bones. For bodybuilders, maintaining strong bones is important to decrease the risk of fractures that would require time off from the gym to heal.
Most brands of almond milk do not provide a significant amount of calcium; however, some brands do fortify almond milk with additional calcium. When selecting a brand, I recommend opting for one that is fortified if possible.
If you aren’t able to find a fortified option, there are still plenty of calcium-rich foods that you can consume in conjunction with almond milk to ensure adequate calcium intake. These foods include dairy products such as cheese and greek yogurt as well as sardines, fortified orange juice and soy milk.
- Related Article: Almond Milk Makes Me Gassy & Bloated: 4 Reasons + How To Fix
Can You Drink Almond Milk Before Workouts?
Yes, you can drink almond milk before a workout however limit it to the amount of liquid you can comfortably consume without experiencing digestive upset. Since almond milk does contain some fat, it’s important to consider that and reduce other fat sources consumed pre-workout.
Is Almond Milk Good or Bad to Drink Before Workouts?
Before a workout, it is best to eat a meal high in carbs to provide the best energy source for your body during a workout. The fat in almond milk will slow down how quickly your body can turn the carbs into energy, reducing the energy available.
To maximize your gym performance, you want the most energy available during your workout, meaning it’s important to limit the fat in your pre-workout meal. A good general range I recommend is 15-20% of a meal’s calories.
While almond milk contains some fat, it is not a significant source of fat. Like most foods, the quantity consumed is also an important consideration.
- If you’re doing an intermittent fasting diet, almond milk can be a great way to re-introduce food into your diet. I discuss this more in my article on Refeeding After A 3 Day Fast.
- Is Oat Milk Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding (Pros & Cons)
- Is Lemon Water Good or Bad for Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
How Much Almond Milk Should You Drink Before Workouts?
Almond milk can be consumed before a workout, if in a quantity that the total fat in your pre-workout meal does not exceed 15-20% of your meal’s total calories. In practice, this would be between 5 – 8 cups of almond milk, which is far more than most people are likely to consume.
We asked Registered Dietician, Breda Paralta, her thoughts on drinking almond milk before a workout. She said:
“Such a low amount of fat won’t make it hard to digest, meaning you can include it before a workout. However, a high amount of liquid before an activity can make some people uncomfortable”.
Therefore, the amount of almond milk consumed before a workout should be limited by the amount of liquid you are comfortable consuming before a workout without causing digestive upset.
It’s also important to consider the fat almond milk is providing to your meal when considering whether to include other fat sources in your pre-workout meal.
Can You Eat Almond Milk After Workouts?
Yes, you can consume almond milk after workouts however it’s important to ensure you are consuming it along with a lean protein and carb source to maximize recovery. Almond milk alone won’t be an adequate post workout meal.
Is Almond Milk Good or Bad to Drink After Workouts?
Carbs are also important to consume after a workout to replenish your body’s stored energy that is depleted throughout your workout.
In addition to carbs, it’s also important to include protein post-workout.
Research shows consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout has a significant positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle. This process of repair and recovery is what will lead to strength and muscle growth, a key goal of bodybuilding.
While almond milk has some carbs and protein, it isn’t a significant source of either. This means that almond milk is a great post-workout option if you are also consuming it along with a protein and carb source.
Registered Dietician, Breda Paralta said:
“You can add it (almond milk) after a workout, but do keep in mind to add a protein source as well”.
How Much Almond Milk Should You Drink After a Workout?
Almond milk does contain some fat, which is an important consideration when determining the quantity to consume post-workout. Fat slows down your body’s ability to absorb the carbs and protein it needs to recover so I generally recommend the total fat in your post-workout meal does not exceed 20-25% of your total calories.
For almond milk, this would in practice be 10 – 15 cups which is almost a gallon. Given this is far more than what is likely for someone to drink, just enjoy the amount of almond milk post-workout that you enjoy.
It is important to consider the fat in the almond milk when building your post-workout meal. Since it contains some fat, you will want to adjust the other fat sources consumed accordingly.
Which Type of Almond Milk is Better for Bodybuilding
When we are considering what type of almond milk is available, we are generally looking at either sweetened or unsweetened.
The difference between these two types is simply just additional added sugar in sweetened almond milk. In 1 cup of sweetened almond milk, there is an extra 5g of sugar which is an additional 20 calories.
If you are consuming almond milk around a workout, the focus is on consuming a meal high in carbs so I recommend opting for the sweetened version. This will not only provide a few extra carbs but do so from sugar which can be quickly converted by our body to energy for your workout.
If you are consuming almond milk at a meal, not around a workout, I recommend sticking to unsweetened almond milk. This provides a lower calorie and carb option so you’re able to consume those calories through food that would be more nutritious and filling.
If you strongly prefer sweetened, while the difference is not significant, ensure you are considering these extra carbs and calories into your daily macros.
- Want to know whether other liquids are good for bodybuilding? Check out Is Diet Soda Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Almond Milk Recipe for Bodybuilders
Pre-Workout Almond Milk Recipe: Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are the easiest pre-workout meal for anyone on the go. They can be made the night before and are delicious when consumed cold. They also provide tons of energy for your workout from both slow-digesting carbs (oats) and quick digesting carbs (blueberries and maple syrup).
- ½ cup (45g) uncooked oats
- ¾ cup sweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tbsp maple syrup
- ½ cup (75g) blueberries
- Add all the ingredients, except the blueberries, into a glass container and stir well until combined.
- Add the blueberries at the very end and stir just until mixed in.
- Place in the fridge and let sit overnight. Consume hot or cold.
This recipe makes 1 serving with 402 calories, 30g protein (30%), 54g carbs (53%), 8g fat (17%). For a higher calorie option increase the number of oats or swap the berries for banana.
Post-Workout Almond Milk Recipe: Protein Cereal
A big bowl of cereal is a childhood favourite for a reason. This protein cereal makes it possible to enjoy the favourite without sacrificing any post-workout recovery.
- 1 cup sweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 2.5 cups of cereal (I recommend Chex, Cheerios or Rice Krispies)
Check out my complete guide on Can You Mix Whey Protein With Cereal?
- Add almond milk and protein powder to a shaker cup and shake well until combined.
- Pour over cereal in a large bowl.
This recipe makes 1 serving with calories, 31g protein (30%), 56g carbs (52%), 8g fat (18%). For a higher calorie option, increase the amount of chicken or sweet potato.
Overall, the benefits of almond milk outweigh the cons and therefore I recommend bodybuilders consume almond milk. Sweetened almond milk is the best choice around a workout while unsweetened almond milk is best for other meals throughout the day.
When consuming almond milk before a workout, consider the quantity of liquid that will leave you without digestive discomfort. It’s also important to consume almond milk along with a carb source pre-workout and protein and carb source post-workout.
Helms, E.R., Aragon, A.A. & Fitschen, P.J. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 20 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
About The Author
Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.