Are Black Beans Good or Bad for Bodybuilding? A Coach Answers

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As a Nutrition Coach, black beans are one of the key foods I try to incorporate into my clients’ meal plans.  Regardless if you’re bulking or cutting, they can be strategically implemented to serve your goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Black beans are good for bodybuilding because they provide a plant-based protein source, helping bodybuilders meet their daily protein goals. They are also high in carbs and should be consumed with other (low-carb) protein sources, such as meat, fish, and eggs.
  • Black beans are high in fiber (15 grams per cup), so they digest slowly and can help you feel full for longer. Having them during a cut can reduce hunger, but limit your intake before training to avoid feeling uncomfortably full and lethargic.
  • Combine a cup or less of black beans with a low-fiber carb (e.g., rice) and low-carb protein (e.g., meat or fish) for a nutritious post-workout meal to kickstart muscle recovery. (I’ve shared a recipe below.)

Black Beans: An Overview

Macronutrient Content

Black beans are primarily slow-digesting carbohydrates with some protein and minimal fat. They are relatively calorie-dense at 228 calories per cup.

Many people refer to black beans as a source of protein, but they are also rich in carbs, with one cup providing 15 grams of protein and 41 grams of carbohydrates (15 grams of dietary fiber). 

It’s vital to consider those carbohydrates when determining the quantity you consume, as they can quickly add up to many extra calories, which may or may not align with your goals. 

To ensure you get sufficient protein throughout the day, eating other protein-rich foods, in addition to black beans, is important.

Micronutrient Content

Black beans are high in various micronutrients, including potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Here’s a brief look at each micronutrient, along with the amount per cup:

  • Potassium (13% of daily needs) – crucial for fluid balance (along with sodium) and muscle contractions.
  • Iron (20% of daily needs) – helps supply muscles with much-needed oxygen for energy and good performance in the gym.
  • Magnesium (30% for men; 40% for women of daily needs) is necessary for good sleep, regulating nerve function, and supporting muscle contractions.

Therefore, beans can provide a variety of micronutrients to help your body feel and function at its best.  

Since black beans are a higher-calorie method of getting these micronutrients, I recommend including them in your diet a few times throughout the week (but not every meal). 

Here’s what registered dietitian Gaby McPherson wrote about black beans:

“The nutrition profile of black beans is impressive. Black beans are naturally gluten-free and vegan, and high in both protein and fiber. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and have been linked to reductions in disease risk.”

Pros of Eating Black Beans

pros of eating black beans

1. Black Beans Can Easily Become a Complete Protein

When combined with nuts, grains, or seeds, black beans can become a complete protein. This allows them to provide the muscle-repairing benefits bodybuilders need from their protein sources. 

For your body to repair and build muscle, protein sources must contain a sufficient amount of all nine essential amino acids. 

While black beans contain all nine essential amino acids, there isn’t enough methionine to provide these benefits alone. 

2. Black Beans Can Make It Easier To Lose Weight 

Black beans are fiber-rich, which slows digestion, helping you feel full and satisfied longer after eating. This makes eating a lower-calorie diet much easier in the long term. 

This is particularly helpful for bodybuilders who are cutting. 

Think about the last time you went over your daily calories. I’m guessing it was overindulging in higher-calorie food when you felt hungry and unsatisfied. 

If you can consume plenty of fiber-rich foods, like black beans, that leave you feeling full and satisfied, it will be easier to stick to a lower-calorie diet long-term.

Check out other bodybuilding foods that are high in fiber: 

3. Black Beans Provide More Micronutrients Than Other Carbs

Black beans provide many more micronutrients than other processed carbs common in a bodybuilder’s diet, such as rice, cereal, or bagels. 

black beans

Micronutrients are critical for all bodily functions, so any deficiencies can leave you not feeling your best. 

It can also impact your bodily functions, such as muscle performance and recovery, which are vital for bodybuilders. 

For bodybuilders looking to push their physique to the limit, consuming adequate micronutrients can make a noticeable difference in how they feel and how enjoyable the process is. 

Here’s some insight from Ph.D. and registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa Young:

“An excellent source of fiber, black beans help keep blood sugar steady and are good for digestive health.”

4. Black Beans are Cheap

A 15-ounce can of black beans costs $0.88 at Walmart

This makes them one of the cheaper protein foods, ideal for bodybuilders who meal prep on a budget.

Cons of Eating Black Beans

cons of eating black beans

1. Black Beans Are Difficult To Consume on a Low Carb Diet

Black beans provide more carbs than other protein sources, making them not the best choice for bodybuilders on a lower-carb diet. 

For every 18g of protein you can get from black beans, you consume 41g of carbohydrates. 

When trying to get a significant amount of protein from this source, these carbs can quickly add up, especially on a lower-carb diet. 

For bodybuilders who are cutting, if they consume black beans, they need to eat low-carb protein sources (e.g., chicken breast, turkey, skinless chicken thighs, and low-fat cottage cheese) to meet their daily protein goal without exceeding their carbs.

2. Black Beans Can Be High in Sodium

Canned black beans can be high in sodium if you eat them daily and consume other high-sodium foods, such as processed foods. 

While canned black beans are a much more convenient option, 1 cup is about 34% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) sodium recommendation for adults

For most bodybuilders, this is not something to be concerned about as their diet is generally high in whole foods and low in processed food that contains high amounts of sodium. 

However, if you have a health condition or eat a high volume of other high-sodium foods, opt for dry beans and cook them yourself. 

This may also be helpful for bodybuilders close to competition to avoid water retention, bloating, and incorrect scale weigh-ins. 

3. Black Beans Do Not Provide the Fat Required for Healthy Hormones

Black beans provide plenty of carbs and fat but no dietary fat, which is critical for your body’s hormone functions

This may not seem critical for bodybuilders, but hormones play a critical role in appetite regulation and weight loss.

For a bodybuilder who is cutting, you can imagine that this would be difficult without proper hormone functions. 

This can be mitigated by ensuring you consume foods rich in dietary fat and low in carbs at other meals throughout the day.

Some examples include nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy products, and olive or coconut oil. 

Can You Eat Black Beans Before Workouts?

Yes, you can consume black beans before a workout, as they are an ideal source of carbs and protein, providing energy to fuel a workout. 

Consuming them 1.5 – 2 hours before your workout is best to give your body enough time to break down the carbohydrates. 

black beans for bodybuilding

It’s vital to remember that black beans contain fiber that you don’t want to consume too much of before a workout, as it will slow down digestion and leave you feeling full and with less energy. 

Therefore, I recommend limiting your intake to ½ a cup. 

If you need more carbs pre-workout, adding a lower fiber option to your meal, such as rice, is best. 

Can You Eat Black Beans After Workouts?

Yes, black beans are a great choice post-workout. They provide carbs and protein, which your body needs to repair your muscles and replenish energy stores. 

Black beans provide the right ratio of protein and carbs post-workout to help bodybuilders achieve their goals, whether cutting or bulking. 

They are also high in fiber, which helps provide sustained energy throughout the rest of your day.

Fiber does slow your digestion, so it’s important not to consume too much. Otherwise, it could interfere with recovery. Sticking to 1 cup or less is my recommendation. 

Are Black Beans Good for Muscle Growth?

While black beans alone cannot produce muscle growth, they provide a good source of protein. This promotes muscle recovery, which is a key piece of muscle growth.

You must also have an adequate training stimulus and eat sufficient calories to build muscle. 

Black beans provide sufficient calories and some protein, which is beneficial to include to assist with muscle growth.

It’s also essential to include additional protein sources throughout your day (e.g., meat, fish, cottage cheese, and eggs) and continue providing a sufficient training stimulus to complete the puzzle. 

Black Bean Recipe for Bodybuilders

Black Bean Recipe: Chicken and Black Bean Burrito

black bean recipe: chicken and black bean burrito

Roasted yams make for an optimal post-workout meal as it’s high in carbs, promoting recovery. Pairing the roast yams with chicken provides the protein required for muscle repair and growth.


  • One large tortilla 
  • ½ cup black beans, mashed
  • 3oz chicken breast cooked per your preference 
  • 30g avocado 
  • ½ cup shredded lettuce 
  • 2-3 tbsp of Greek yogurt
  • Salsa to taste 


  1. Cook the chicken to your preference. 
  2. Mash beans and spread them across the tortilla.
  3. Assemble the burrito with ingredients and roll tightly.

This recipe makes one serving with 472 calories, 34g protein, 52g carbs, and 14g fat.


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About The Author

Laura Semotiuk

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.

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