Are Bagels Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

As a Registered Dietician, I’m often asked by my bodybuilding clients whether specific foods are good or bad for their goals, including bagels.  

So, are bagels good or bad for bodybuilding? Bagels are an easy-to-add food for bodybuilding that will give you the necessary carbs for your workout. They are especially good if you are in a bulking phase where you need calorie-dense foods. Plain bagels are better for immediate energy before a workout, and whole wheat bagels are better for post-workout. 

However, not everyone who bodybuilds should eat bagels, and there are a few more considerations that you need to make if you’re eating bagels around your workout.

In this article, I will explore: 

  • The pros and cons of eating bagels for bodybuilding
  • Why you can add bagels in moderation to your diet whether you’re bulking or cutting
  • What is the difference between plain and whole-grain bagels for bodybuilding 
  • How to add them before or after a workout
  • Some delicious bodybuilding bagel recipes for you to try 

Bagels For Bodybuilding: Overview

bagels ror bodybuilding

As a registered dietitian, I am constantly asked the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates, mainly if it affects the bodybuilding process. They will provide glucose, the primary energy source the body uses, 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 will have a steadier energy release which makes them perfect for including 3-4 hours before training or as a post-workout snack.

Bagels are an excellent carb-containing food with 60 grams per serving that will provide the energy you need for the workout or replenish 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.

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

Pros Of Eating Bagels For bodybuilding

  • Easy way to add up calories. Bagels are a high-energy dense food. This means that they have a lot of calories in a small portion of food. The average calories that one bagel has are between 250-300. Suppose you have trouble pilling up the calories in a bulking phase, then bagels are a great way to go.  

Another high-energy dense food for bodybuilding is cereal. Check out our article Is Cereal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding.

  • 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 carb per serving. Carbs will provide the energy you need to have the best performance during training. 
  • 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 even the freezer to extend their shelf life. While other carbs sources are affordable (like potatoes or rice), bagels don’t require any prep time. You just have to take them out of the refrigerator, heat them, and they are ready to go 
  • Easy to carry around. You can take them around in any container of choice and won’t take 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. 
  • Versatile. You can have a sweet or savory bagel. This versatility makes it ideal to have as a snack or even breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 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.
  • 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 fiber before a workout will slow down the digestion process, which is 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. 
  • 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 is on our list of high calorie, low saturated fat foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)

Cons of Eating Bagels For Bodybuilding

  • 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 usually 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. 
  • They are high in carbs. If you are controlling the number of carbs per day, this might not be the best option. One bagel might make you go overboard on your carb intake. You can either choose the thin bagel or only eat half a bagel. 
  • 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 are lacking essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Bagels are included in the 20% of processed foods. Thus, make sure the rest of the foods you add to your diet come from natural sources (rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, chickpeas, or quinoa).
  • 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 the whole grain bagels to make sure you are not only providing your body with energy for bodybuilding but also vital nutrients. 

Whole wheat and plain bagels each have different nutritional characteristics. You might be wondering, does it matter which one I choose?

I would 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 if you are controlling your sodium intake. 

On a regular basis, 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 a great option if you are in a cutting phase of training. 

Nutrition Facts for Plain Bagel

Column 1Column 2
Serving size1 plain bagel (105 g)
Calories277
Fat1.4 g
Total carbs55 g
Fiber1.7 g
Protein11.1 g

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100713/nutrients

Nutrition Facts for Whole Wheat Bagel

Column 1Column 2
Serving size1 whole wheat bagel (105 g)
Calories 262
Fat1.6 g
Total carbs51.3 g
Fiber4.3 g
Protein10.7 g

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100766/nutrients

Can You Eat Bagels Before Workouts?

Bagels are a top choice to eat before a workout—having 15-30 g of carb 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. 

If you are looking to have a snack 30-60 minutes before the workout, make sure to choose the plain bagel. 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. 

How Much Bagels Should You Eat Before Working Out?

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, 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.

Finally, if you need to eat something 15-20 minutes before the workout, aim to have 0.1 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight. Having half a plain bagel will cover the amount of carb required before training.  

Check out other carb sources for bodybuilding:

Can You Eat Bagels After Workouts? 

A bagel is an excellent post-workout meal as long as you add some protein (20-30 g) and healthy fat. Since it is a high-carb food, it will replenish your glycogen stores and will help you add up the calories. You can eat a bagel one to three hours prior to training.

After a workout, it is important to give the body the nutrients it needs to recover and replenish its glycogen storage. Having a snack or a meal afterward could help you achieve those gains. The ideal snack or meal will have a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. 

Bagels are a good source of carbs to add after training. They will help replenish your glycogen storage. Keep in mind that they won’t have the right amount of protein to have after a workout. Thus, it is essential to add some extra protein. 

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. 

How Many Bagels Should You Eat After Workout? 

To replenish your glycogen storage optimally, have 0.35 grams per pound of bodyweight 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.

Remember that protein is essential after training. It is an average of 20-30 g of protein. Have an intake of 0.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight after your workout. For example, add 3-5 oz of breast chicken to your bagel to have the best post-workout snack. 

Bagel Recipes For Bodybuilding 

Pre Workout Bagel Recipe

pre workout bagel recipe peanut butter and jelly bagel

Before a workout, it’s important to have simple carbohydrates that are easy to digest. For having good performance, you need energy easily available to sustain the workout. 

If you are looking for a recipe with bagels to incorporate pre-workout? Try this tasty recipe out!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bagel 

Macronutrient breakdown

Calories: 445

Carbohydrates: 76.5 g

Proteins: 14.9 g

Fats: 9.4 g

Ingredients

  • 1 plain regular bagel (105 g)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (15 g)
  • 2 tablespoons of strawberry jam (30 g)

Instructions

  1. Place the bagels in a toaster and warm them up. 
  2. Spread the peanut butter evenly on top of each of the bagel slices. 
  3. Grab the jam and spread it on top of the peanut butter. 
  4. You can have it as a sandwich or as bagel slices. 
  5. Serve on a plate and enjoy. 

Tip

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. 

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 your need to have the optimum 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 

Macronutrient breakdown

Calories: 542

Carbohydrates: 61.5 g

Proteins: 40.7 g

Fats: 15.3 g

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Place the bagels in a toaster and warm them up. 
  2. Add the spinach, tomato, avocado, chicken breast, and cheese to one-half of the bagel. 
  3. Place the other half of the bagel on top. 
  4. You can cut it in half if it’s easier. 

Bonus: you can add some extra flavor by adding Dijon Mustard. 

Tip

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. 

If you want to learn more about whether bodybuilders should eat avocados, check out my other article on: Are Avocados Good Or Bad For BodyBuilding? 

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.