An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but does it also help you build muscle and lose fat? Here is what I think about apples for bodybuilders as a Certified Sports Nutritionist.
- Apples are good for bodybuilding since they provide fast-acting energy for optimal performance. Apples also contain nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin D, all essential for good health and muscle recovery.
- If you’re in a cutting phase, apples are particularly great because they are relatively low in calories, packed with helpful nutrients to reduce the risk of deficiencies, and very filling due to the higher fiber content.
The calories found in an apple vary depending on its size. A small apple has approximately 85 kcal, while a large apple has 126 kcal.
The large size could increase your daily caloric intake in a bulking phase. At the same time, a small one would benefit someone in a cutting phase.
To know the exact calories in an apple, you can weigh it using a food scale and log your intake.
Apples are a simple carb source, meaning they are easy to digest and provide fast energy to the body.
An apple’s carb content could go from 22.8 g (a small one) to 33.4 g for a large one. This variety in sizes makes it easy to include in your daily macros.
Apples are a good fiber source since they have almost 6 grams––more than 20% of the daily recommended intake. Having a high-fiber diet is beneficial for gut and heart health.
However, apples do not offer any of the other macronutrients. Adding healthy fat (nut butter or avocado) and protein (eggs, cottage cheese, or protein powder) is essential for a balanced snack/meal.
- Related: Best Low-Calorie High-Fiber Foods
The most common nutrients in apples are vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. An apple provides more than 5% of the daily recommended value for each.
Here is a brief look at each nutrient in apples and its functions:
- Vitamin C: a potent antioxidant that boosts immune function.
- Potassium: regulates fluid balance and muscle contraction.
- Vitamin B6: is involved in cellular metabolism.
- Vitamin K: helps with bone growth.
Pros Of Eating Apples
Improves Muscle Recovery
Quercetin is one of the flavonoids (antioxidants) found in apples.
Promotes Weight Loss
Fiber takes longer to digest, which promotes satiety.
Feeling full for longer makes you less likely to snack and go over your calorie target. This is an indirect way to have a caloric deficit during a cutting phase.
Additionally, apples are a low-calorie but nutrient-rich food, ideal to eat during periods of caloric restriction to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Plus, apples are sweet and could be a viable alternative to candy bars, pastries, and ice cream when trying to limit your calorie intake.
Here’s what Atli Arnarson (Ph.D. in Nutrition Science) wrote about this:
“Two properties of apples — their high fiber and low-calorie contents — make them a weight-loss-friendly food. In one 12-week study, women who were instructed to eat 1.5 large apples (300 grams) per day lost 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg) over the course of the study. For this reason, this fruit might be a beneficial dessert or addition to a meal to add sweetness.”
3. Boost Immune Function
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and an essential nutrient, boosting immune function. A single apple covers approximately 17% of your daily vitamin C.
Having a robust immune system is essential for a bodybuilder. It means you’re less likely to get sick and can spend more time working out instead of treating a cold at home.
Pro Tip: Each fruit color has a unique nutritional profile and offers specific health benefits. Include a variety of colors in your diet
I always tell my clients to eat the rainbow if they like apples, have them in various colors, and include other fruits and veggies of different colors.
Cons of Eating Apples For Bodybuilding
Decreased Performance Due to Bloating
Due to its high fiber content, not all people tolerate that amount, which leads to bloating that could affect performance.
If you are not used to eating that much fiber in one meal, you can try removing half of the apple’s skin. Try eating the entire apple when you feel that your stomach tolerates it.
Also, remember that fiber needs water to function correctly, so stay hydrated throughout the day. Men should aim for up to 3.7 liters of water (125 fl. oz), and women––up to 2.7 liters (91 fl. oz) daily.
Can You Eat Apples Before Workouts?
Yes, apples are a great pre-workout snack. They are high in simple carbs, giving you the energy boost you need before training.
Have it 30-60 minutes before a workout if you are feeling low in energy.
However, an apple might not be enough if there is more time between your snack and your training session.
Suppose you are thinking of having a snack 2-3 hours before training. In that case, you should add other macronutrients for a slower energy release.
Add some Greek yogurt (protein) and peanut butter (healthy fats) for a steadier energy release.
Can You Eat Apples After Workouts?
Apples are a good post-workout snack since they offer the sugars needed to replenish the glycogen lost during training.
However, since it is only a carb source, it might not be enough as a snack. Add protein (protein shake) and healthy fat (almonds) to have all the macros needed for optimal muscle recovery.
Since apples are rich in potassium (an electrolyte), they can help replenish lost electrolytes to support overall recovery and muscle function.
Do Apples Help Muscle Growth?
Apples can help you grow muscle by adding calories and carbs to your diet.
However, they won’t help with muscle building independently since apples lack the other two essential macros: proteins and fats.
You need a calorie surplus and enough protein for muscle growth, so apples would only be a small part of the overall equation.
Other Fruits For Bodybuilding
Check out my other fruit resources:
Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211. PMID: 29099763; PMCID: PMC5707683.
Udensi UK, Tchounwou PB. Potassium Homeostasis, Oxidative Stress, and Human Disease. Int J Clin Exp Physiol. 2017;4(3):111-122. doi: 10.4103/ijcep.ijcep_43_17. PMID: 29218312; PMCID: PMC5716641.
Parra M, Stahl S, Hellmann H. Vitamin B₆ and Its Role in Cell Metabolism and Physiology. Cells. 2018 Jul 22;7(7):84. doi: 10.3390/cells7070084. PMID: 30037155; PMCID: PMC6071262.
Rodríguez-Olleros Rodríguez C, Díaz Curiel M. Vitamin K and Bone Health: A Review on the Effects of Vitamin K Deficiency and Supplementation and the Effect of Non-Vitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulants on Different Bone Parameters. J Osteoporos. 2019 Dec 31;2019:2069176. doi: 10.1155/2019/2069176. PMID: 31976057; PMCID: PMC6955144.
Bazzucchi I, Patrizio F, Ceci R, Duranti G, Sgrò P, Sabatini S, Di Luigi L, Sacchetti M, Felici F. The Effects of Quercetin Supplementation on Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 21;11(1):205. doi: 10.3390/nu11010205. PMID: 30669587; PMCID: PMC6356612.
Oliveira, M. C., Sichieri, R., & Moura, A. S. (2003). Weight Loss Associated With a Daily Intake of Three Apples or Three Pears Among Overweight Women. Nutrition, 19(3), 253-256. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0899-9007(02)00850-X
Zhao, H., Li, R., & Hu, J. (2023). Frequently used pesticides and their metabolites residues in apple and apple juice from markets across China: Occurrence and health risk assessment. LWT, 178, 114610. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2023.114610
Boyer J, Liu RH. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutr J. 2004 May 12;3:5. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-3-5. PMID: 15140261; PMCID: PMC442131.
Yang, T., Doherty, J., Zhao, B., Kinchla, A. J., Clark, J. M., & He, L. (2017, November 8). Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 65(44), 9744-9752. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03118
Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-17. Erratum in: J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:18. PMID: 18834505; PMCID: PMC2575187.
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