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Bagels and biceps? It’s a question that’s been flexing its way into my consultations more often than you’d think. As a Registered Dietitian working with bodybuilders, the debate over the bagel’s place in muscle-building is a hot topic. So, are bagels friend or foe to your fitness journey? Let’s break it down.
- Bagels are an easy-to-add, high-carb food for bodybuilding. They are especially good if you are in a bulking phase and need calorie-dense foods. Plain bagels are better for immediate energy before a workout, and whole wheat bagels are better for post-workout.
- Bagels are affordable, easy to store (e.g., pop them in the fridge or freezer), and don’t require much preparation. Take a couple out of the fridge, warm them up, and you’re good to go. You can also carry them around for when you need some quick carbs, such as before or after working out.
- Bagels are high in calories and carbs, so it’s best to be mindful of your intake. When possible, eat whole rather than plain bagels for a more gradual energy release and the extra nutrients: fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. When cutting, consider Thin Bagels, as they have half the calories and carbs.
Bagels For Bodybuilding: Overview
As a registered dietitian, I am constantly asked about the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates, mainly if they affect the bodybuilding process.
Carbs provide glucose, the body’s primary energy source, but its absorption will vary.
Plain bagels are simple carbs. They are good to add before a workout since they provide fast-acting energy.
Whole bagels, on the other hand, are complex carbs. They provide a steadier energy release, which makes them perfect for including 3-4 hours before training or as a post-workout snack.
“Think of complex carbs as your workout’s best friend. They provide a steady stream of energy, helping you push through the toughest sessions.”– Dr. Alex Green, Exercise Physiologist
Bagels are an excellent carb-containing food with 60 grams per serving that provides the energy you need for the workout or replenishes glycogen storage.
They are also a high-protein carb with almost 10 grams per serving. This makes it an ideal way of adding protein throughout the day without adding more animal protein.
- Want to learn more about high-protein foods? Check out: Bodybuilding Foods For Bulking.
Pros Of Eating Bagels For Bodybuilding
1. Easy Way to Add Up Calories
Bagels are a high-energy-dense food. This means they have a lot of calories in a small portion of food.
The average calories that one bagel has are between 250-300. Bagels are a great way to go if you have trouble piling up the calories in a bulking phase.
2. They Are High in Carbs
Another reason bodybuilders typically incorporate bagels is because of their high carb content.
One bagel has around 30-45 g of carbs per serving. Carbs will provide the energy you need to perform at your best during training.
3. Quick And Affordable
Not only are they a great option to add up the calories and carbs, but they are also cheap and easy to eat. You can store them in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life.
While other carbs sources are affordable (like potatoes or rice), bagels don’t require prep time. You just have to take them out of the refrigerator, heat them, and they are ready to go
4. Easy to Carry Around
You can take them around in any container of choice, and they won’t take up a lot of room in your gym bag.
Bodybuilders often have to carry several containers with their meals and supplements around. Having a simple to-carry snack can save some time and space.
You can have a sweet or savory bagel. This versatility makes it ideal for a snack or breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
For example, have it with a couple of eggs in the morning or even some jam for a pre-workout snack.
Having versatility with your foods for bodybuilding will help break up the monotony of dieting and allow you to stick with your calorie and macro goals long term.
6. Easy to Digest
The plain bagel doesn’t have much fiber, making it the ideal food to have before a workout.
While fiber is good, eating too much of it before a workout will slow digestion, which isn’t what you want when you need energy for your workout.
As such, bagels will give you the energy you need without feeling too stuffed.
7. High Protein Carb
It is rare to find a carb that is also a good source of protein. One bagel has approximately 10 g of protein per serving––a little bit more than one egg has to offer.
If you are on a plant-based diet and are looking to cut back on animal food sources, bagels are an excellent choice to add.
- Bagels made our list as one of the best high-calorie, low-saturated fat foods (click for more)
Cons of Eating Bagels For Bodybuilding
1. They Are High in Calories
If you are in a cutting phase, having high-calorie and not satiating foods might make you feel hungry throughout the day.
When going on a cutting stage, I recommend looking at less energy-dense food to prevent going overboard on the calories.
Choose the Thin Bagels if you are in a cutting phase or want a more controlled calorie food.
2. They are High in Carbs
If you are controlling the number of carbs you eat, there might be better options.
One bagel might make you go overboard on your carb intake. You can either choose the thin bagel or only eat half a bagel.
Here’s what Dr. Rachel Smith, a nutrition scientist, has to say on the topic:
“Bodybuilders need to fuel their engines with the right kind of calories. Nutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods might add mass, but not the kind you want.”
3. Highly Processed Food
I recommend following an 80/20 diet. Have at least 80% of your food from natural sources and 20% from processed foods.
Highly processed foods usually lack essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Bagels fall in the 20% of processed foods.
Thus, ensure the rest of the foods you add to your diet come from natural sources (rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, chickpeas, or quinoa).
4. They Are High in Sodium
Since bagels are a highly processed food, they are high in sodium. One bagel has an average of 450 mg of sodium.
They have twice the amount I usually recommend for processed foods. If you are going to add it regularly, make sure to cut back on other sodium-containing foods throughout the day.
Whole Wheat Bagel vs. Plain For Bodybuilding: Does It Matter?
Whole wheat bagels are less processed than plain bagels. Meaning they will have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Whenever possible, choose whole grain bagels to ensure you are providing your body with energy for bodybuilding and vital nutrients.
Whole wheat and plain bagels each have different nutritional characteristics. You might be wondering, does it matter which one I choose?
I recommend having the whole wheat bagel since it will be higher in fiber and nutrients. Whole wheat bagels will have fewer calories, twice the amount of fiber, and similar protein content.
They are also less processed, which makes them higher in nutrients.
Both of them will have a similar sodium content (around 450 mg), meaning you need to be careful to control your sodium intake.
For the most part, choose the whole-grain bagel. It has more potassium and magnesium, essential electrolytes that are needed replacing after training.
Since plain bagels are more processed and contain less fiber, they can be a good choice before a workout.
If you want to control the calories and carbs throughout the day and find bagels too high in both, opt for the Thin Bagel. It will have half the calories and carbs, which is an excellent option if you are in a cutting phase of training.
Nutrition Facts for Plain Bagel
|1 plain bagel (105 g)
Nutrition Facts for Whole Wheat Bagel
|1 whole wheat bagel (105 g)
Can You Eat Bagels Around Workouts?
Bagels are a top choice to eat before a workout—having 15-30 g of carbs before a workout will provide the energy you need.
Plain bagels are a great choice because they tend to easily digest, providing fast energy. Simple carbs will prevent you from feeling bloated or full during the workout.
However, if you need some time between your meal and your training (3-4 hours), opt for the whole grain bagel since it will have a steadier energy release.
When you are looking to add a meal or a snack at least 3-4 hours before a workout, aim to have 0.25-0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight.
For example, for a 180 lb bodybuilder, it means having 1 to 2 whole wheat bagels before the workout.
If you are having a snack 30-60 minutes before training, opt for the lower scale of the carb content.
It means having 0.25 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. This means having just one plain bagel before training.
- Related Article: Is Corn Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding?
A bagel is an excellent post-workout meal as long as you add some protein (20-30 g) and healthy fats.
Since it is a high-carb food, it will replenish your glycogen stores and help you add up the calories.
Some quality protein sources to go along with your post-workout bagel include:
- Grilled chicken breast
- Turkey slices
- Scrambled eggs
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
Adding healthy fats (like nuts) will also add up calories in case you are in a bulking phase. A good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as avocado or flaxseed oil, will help reduce the body’s inflammation after exercising.
To replenish your glycogen storage optimally, have 0.35 grams per pound of body weight of carbs after training.
For example, for a 180 lb bodybuilder, it means consuming 63 g of carbs post-workout. This means having one whole wheat bagel after training.
Bagel Recipes For Bodybuilding
Pre-Workout Bagel Recipe
Before a workout, it’s best to have simple, easily digestible carbohydrates because you need energy readily available.
Are you looking for a recipe with bagels to incorporate pre-workout? Try this one:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bagel
Carbohydrates: 76.5 g
Proteins: 14.9 g
Fats: 9.4 g
- 1 plain regular bagel (105 g)
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (15 g)
- 2 tablespoons of strawberry jam (30 g)
- Place the bagels in a toaster and warm them up.
- Spread the peanut butter evenly on top of each bagel slice.
- Grab the jam and spread it on the peanut butter.
- You can have it as a sandwich or as bagel slices.
- Serve on a plate and enjoy.
- If you are in a cutting phase and are reducing your carbs, you can have the Thin Bagels. They will have half the calories and carbs.
Post-Workout Bagel Recipe
After a workout, you need to replenish the glycogen and have some protein to help your muscles recuperate.
This recipe will have all the macros you need for optimal recovery. Providing more than 40 g, it will also have carbs, healthy fats, and antioxidants that will help fight free radicals.
Chicken and Avocado Bagel Sandwich
Carbohydrates: 61.5 g
Proteins: 40.7 g
Fats: 15.3 g
- 1 whole wheat medium bagel (105 g)
- 1 oz of low-fat Swiss cheese (28 g)
- 3 oz of cooked chicken breast (84 g)
- 1/3 of an avocado (100g)
- ¼ cup of spinach leaves (15 g)
- 2 slices of tomato (28 g)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the bagels in a toaster and warm them up.
- Add the spinach, tomato, avocado, chicken breast, and cheese to half the bagel.
- Place the other half of the bagel on top.
- You can cut it in half if it’s easier.
Bonus: you can add some extra flavor by adding Dijon Mustard.
- If you are in a cutting phase and are reducing your carbs, you can have the Thin Bagels. They will have half the calories and half the carbs.
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