Are Black Beans Good or Bad for Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

Black beans are a great plant-based protein source, but does that mean they are good for just bodybuilders that are plant-based or can all bodybuilders benefit from including them in their diet?

Here is my quick answer…

So, are black beans good or bad for bodybuilding? Black beans are good for bodybuilding because they provide a plant-based protein source, helping all bodybuilding, including vegetarians and vegans, meet their daily protein goals. They are also high in carbs and should be consumed in conjunction with low-carb protein sources.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The general health benefits and macronutrient breakdown of black beans
  • 3 pros and cons of eating black beans for bodybuilding 
  • How much and when to consume black beans pre-and post-workout
  • A black bean recipe for that is macro-friendly for bodybuilders

Black Beans for Bodybuilding: Overview

Macronutrient Content of Black Beans

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, however, it’s important to remember the macronutrient that is the highest is carbs. While one cup of black beans does have 16g of protein, it also has 41g of carbohydrates. 

That doesn’t mean black beans aren’t a great source of protein, especially for those that are plant-based, but it’s important to consider those carbohydrates when determining the quantity we are consuming as the carbs can quickly add up to a lot of extra calories that will negatively impact body composition. 

Bodybuilders that are bulking can likely consume a larger quantity compared to someone that is cutting. To ensure we are getting sufficient protein throughout the day, it’s important to eat other protein-rich sources of food, in addition to black beans, throughout your day.

  • Black beans are on my list of cheap bulking carbs. Check out where it stands among 15 different carb sources

Micronutrient Content of Black Beans 

Black beans are high in a variety of micronutrients, including potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium, meaning they provide additional nutritional value outside of just the macronutrients.

Many other carbs in a bodybuilders diet, such as cereal or potatoes, do not provide nearly as many micronutrients therefore it’s important to include foods like beans that can provide a variety of micronutrients to help your body feel and function at its best, making it easier to pursue your aesthetic goals.  

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 (not every meal). Also including fruit and vegetables in your diet daily can help round out these requirements while still keeping your calories in check.

3 Pros of Eating Black Beans For Bodybuilding

The pros of eating yams for bodybuilding are:

  • Black beans can easily become a complete protein 
  • Black beans can make it easier to lose weight
  • Black beans provide more micronutrients than other carbs

1. Black Beans Can Easily Become a Complete Protein

Black beans can be made into a complete protein by combining them with nuts, grains or seeds, allowing them to provide the muscle repairing benefits bodybuilders need from their protein sources. 

For your body to repair and build muscle, protein sources need to contain a sufficient amount of all 9 essential amino acids. Most plant-based sources are not complete and therefore not able to provide the muscle repairing benefits bodybuilders need. 

While black beans contain all 9 essential amino acids, the methionine is not in a sufficient quantity to provide these benefits. We can easily create a complete protein however by eating foods rich in methionine along with our black beans. This includes nuts, grains and seeds. A common recommendation I make to my clients is rice and beans. 

Black beans are a great addition to our diet to help us continue to reach our protein goals while decreasing our meat consumption. 

2. Black Beans Can Make It Easier To Lose Weight 

Black beans are a rich source of fibre, which slows down digestion, helping you to 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 that 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 were feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

If you can consume plenty of fibre-rich foods, like black beans, that leave you feeling full and satisfied, the easier it will be 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 compared to other processed carbs common in a bodybuilder’s diet such as rice, cereal or bagels. 

Black Beans Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders generally have more of a focus on the macronutrients in their food instead of the micronutrients. While this is important, especially for body composition, it can lead to an overconsumption of processed carbohydrates that provide very little micronutrients. 

Micronutrients are critical for all bodily functions so any deficiencies can leave you not feeling your best. It can also impact your bodily functions that are key for bodybuilders such as muscle performance and recovery. 

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

Swapping out one processed carbs a day for a micronutrient dense source like black beans will help you feel and perform your best. 

  • Black beans is on our list of high calorie, low sodium foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)

3 Cons of Eating Black Beans For Bodybuilding

The cons of eating yams for bodybuilding are:

  • Black beans are difficult to consume on a lower-carb diet
  • Black beans can be high in sodium
  • Black beans do not provide the fat required for healthy hormones

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

Black beans provide a high amount of carbs compared to other protein sources making them not the best choice for bodybuilders that are on a lower-carb diet to improve body composition. 

Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy, but they aren’t required for any bodily function the way that protein and fat are. Therefore, when bodybuilders are cutting, it is often their carb intake that drops. 

For every 18g of protein we can get from black beans, we are also consuming 41g of carbohydrates. These carbs can quickly add up, especially on a lower-carb diet, when we are trying to get a significant amount of our protein from this source. 

For bodybuilders that are cutting, if we are consuming black beans, we also need to be consuming other low-carb protein sources to meet our daily protein goal without going over our carbs.

For bodybuilders that are bulking, the additional carbs likely don’t present an issue and therefore are a great way to get a plant-based protein source. 

2. Black Beans Can Be High in Sodium

Canned black beans can be high in sodium if you are eating them daily and also consuming other food that is high in sodium 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) of 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 would contain high amounts of sodium. 

However, if you have a health condition or eat a high volume of other high sodium foods, you may want to opt for dry beans and cook them yourself. This may also be helpful for bodybuilders close to competition. 

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

Black beans provide plenty of carbs and fat but do not provide any dietary fat, which is critical for your body’s hormone functions. This may not seem like a critical factor for bodybuilders but hormones play a critical role in processes like appetite regulation and weight loss.

For a bodybuilder that is cutting, you can imagine that this would be quite difficult without proper hormone functions. This can be mitigated by ensuring you consume foods that are rich in dietary fat and low in carbs at other meals throughout the day.

Some good 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 you with energy to fuel a workout. It’s best to consume them 1.5 – 2 hours before your workout to provide your body with enough time to break down the carbohydrates. 

Black Beans for Bodybuilding

It’s important to remember black beans do contain fibre which we don’t want to consume too much of before a workout as it will slow down the digestion process and leave us with less energy. Therefore, I recommend limiting your intake to ½ a cup. 

If you need more carbs pre-workout, it’s best to add a lower fibre option to your meal such as rice. 

Can You Eat Black Beans After Workouts?

Yes, black beans are a great choice post-workout. They provide both carbs and protein, both of which our body needs to repair our 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 fibre which helps provide sustained energy throughout the rest of your day.

Fibre does slow down your digestion so it’s important not to consume too many, 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.

To build muscle, we need to have an adequate training stimulus and be eating sufficient calories and protein. Black beans provide sufficient calories and some protein meaning they are beneficial to include to assist with muscle growth.

To complete the puzzle, it’s also important to include additional protein sources throughout your day as well as continue to provide a sufficient training stimulus. 

Black Bean Recipe for Bodybuilders

Pre-Workout Black Bean Recipe: Mexican Bean and Rice Salad

mexican bean and rice salad pre-workout recipe for bodybuilders

This salad is the perfect combination of protein and carbs to give you plenty of energy throughout your workout. The rice and beans provide a slow-digesting carb giving you sustained energy while the corn will add a quick boost at the beginning.

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 15oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 15oz can whole kernel corn, drained 
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Salt to taste


  1. Chop all the required ingredients, place in a large bowl. 
  1. Add seasoning and mix well.
  1. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, mix again before serving. 

This recipe makes 4 servings with 306 calories, 12g protein, 61g carbs, 2.5g fat. 

Post-Workout Black Bean Recipe: Chicken and Black Bean Burrito 

chicken and black bean burrito post-workout recipe for bodybuilders

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


  • 1 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 preference. 
  1. Mash beans and spread them across the tortilla.
  1. Assemble the burrito with ingredients and roll tightly.

This recipe makes 1 serving with 472 calories, 34g protein, 52g carbs, 14g fat. 

Final Thoughts 

Black beans are a great source of protein and micronutrients, especially for plant-based bodybuilders. However, to ensure optimal body composition we must be cognizant of the carb content and are consuming low-carb protein options in conjunction with black beans. 

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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