The 3 Reasons Why Bodybuilders Love Broccoli, Per Dietitian

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Broccoli is a top choice among bodybuilders because it offers numerous benefits, from its caloric content to its rich antioxidant profile. However, it’s key to understand when to eat it for optimal performance and how to cook it so you don’t alter its nutrient composition.  

Key Takeaways

  • Broccoli is beneficial during a cut because it’s low in calories (only 30 calories per cup) but rich in fiber (1.8 grams per cup). This means it will fill you up, i.e., keep you satiated, without consuming many calories.
  • Broccoli is rich in antioxidants (including vitamins C & K), positively impacting muscle recovery by limiting inflammation and supporting immune system function.
  • Despite these benefits, broccoli is not a good pre-workout food because it doesn’t have enough carbs. However, you can pair it with protein (e.g., chicken) and carbs (e.g., rice) for a balanced post-workout meal that kickstarts recovery.

Broccoli: Overview

nutritional content is for one cup of raw broccoli (74 g)


Broccoli is low in calories like most other non-starchy veggies, such as carrots, mushrooms, and spinach. It only has 30 calories per cup (76 grams).

The low-calorie content is perfect for a cutting phase (where you want to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle) because you can eat more and feel fuller without adding too many calories to your total.

While you can still eat broccoli during a bulking phase, preparing it with fat (e.g., butter or oil) to increase its calorie content and eating it alongside energy-dense foods like fatty fish, grains, nuts, seeds, and meat is better.  

This will ensure you have the necessary calorie surplus for mass gain.


The majority of the calories in broccoli come from carbohydrates.  

A cup of broccoli has 2.9 grams of net carbs (the amount of carbs your body can use for energy), with the remaining 1.8 grams coming from fiber.

This is a relatively low carbohydrate content compared to other vegetables that bodybuilders consume.

As such, bodybuilders can eat large amounts of broccoli and get all the helpful nutrients (more on those next) without affecting their carb or calorie allowance much.


Broccoli is a very nutrient-rich food. Here are the top three nutrients you get from broccoli and their benefits:

  • Vitamin C (78% of daily needs for men and 92% for women per cup). It helps boost your immune system and increase collagen production––a protein crucial for muscle, bone, joint, and connective tissue health.
  • Vitamin K (64% of daily needs for men and 85% for women per cup). It can help strengthen your bones, reducing the risk of a fracture or injury while working out.

That said, the cooking method plays a role when it comes to nutrient absorption. 

Here is some insight from Ansley Hill, RD, LD:

“Different cooking methods, such as boiling, microwaving, stir-frying and steaming, alter broccoli’s nutrient composition, particularly reducing vitamin C, as well as soluble protein and sugar. Steaming appears to have the fewest negative effects.”

Pros of Eating Broccoli

pros vs cons of eating broccoli for bodybuilding

1. Broccoli Is High In Fiber

As mentioned above, a cup of broccoli has 1.8 grams of fiber, which is between 5 and 10% of the daily recommended intake of 25-30 grams.

Fiber is crucial for bodybuilding and general health, as it helps control cholesterol levels, supports gut health, fights constipation, and promotes satiety.

Thanks to its impact on satiety, fiber is particularly beneficial during a cut because it slows digestion, allowing you to feel fuller for longer without eating as many calories.

2. Broccoli Is High In Antioxidants

Broccoli is among the foods with the highest antioxidant capacity and can help control inflammation.

In a study on smokers (a habit associated with higher inflammation), subjects consumed 250 grams of broccoli daily for ten days and saw a 48% reduction in inflammatory markers.

Other research also points out broccoli’s anti-inflammatory effects thanks to its rich nutritional profile. 

Specifically, this vegetable is rich in glucosinolates and sulforaphane, which are associated with health improvements.

Both compounds may contribute to a lower risk of chronic disease, including conditions related to cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and metabolic health.

These effects also benefit bodybuilding because limiting inflammation can improve muscle recovery.

3. Broccoli Helps Boost Your Immune System 

Since a single cup of broccoli covers most of your daily vitamin C needs, it can positively impact immune system strength.

In one study, researchers noted that consuming 100 to 200 mg of vitamin C daily can profoundly impact immunity. You can get 140 mg of the nutrient in two cups of broccoli.

1 Con of Eating Broccoli 

Broccoli Can Produce Stomach Problems

While highly beneficial, broccoli can cause stomach distress, typically bloating and gas, in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or those sensitive to high-fiber diets.

This is mainly because broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) are high FODMAP.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are not as well absorbed by the small intestine.

Broccoli has a carb called raffinose, which passes through the GI tract and goes into the undigested intestines, where it ferments, producing gas as a by-product.

The result? Bloating.

Thus, I recommend eating broccoli in moderation until you know how much you can tolerate. For some, it might be one to two cups; for others, only half a cup. 

Can You Eat Broccoli Before Workouts?

Broccoli is not a good pre-workout food because it doesn’t provide enough carbs to fuel your performance. 

Plus, since it’s relatively fiber-rich, it may take longer to digest and make you feel uncomfortably full during training.

Research recommends aiming for a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight before training. For someone who weighs 70 kilograms (154 lbs), that would be up to 70 grams of carbs––far less than what you can get from broccoli.

Instead of broccoli, go for high-carb, low-fiber foods to fuel workout performance: rice, sweet potatoes, ripe bananas, granola, rice cakes, and white bread.

Can You Eat Broccoli After Workouts?

Broccoli is a good food after training since it’s rich in antioxidants that can help limit inflammation and kickstart muscle recovery.

However, you must pair it with other foods since it lacks carbs or protein.

Research recommends having 0.3 to 0.5 grams of carbs and protein per kilogram after training. For the same 70-kilo (154-lb) bodybuilder, that would be 21 to 35 grams of both nutrients.

Carbs are essential to help replenish your glycogen stores lost during training. Protein helps repair and grow your muscles. 

You can have broccoli with combinations like chicken and rice, steak and potatoes, or fish and quinoa to get enough of both nutrients.  

Tips For Incorporating Broccoli Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating broccoli into a bodybuilding diet

Use Broccoli As A Low-Carb Rice Alternative

For bodybuilders following a low-carb or ketogenic diet, replacing high-carb sources like rice with low-carb options like broccoli can help them achieve their goals. 

You can make broccoli rice to replace traditional rice to limit the number of calories and carbs you eat.

Here is one of my favorite broccoli rice recipes

broccoli rice

Meal Prep Broccoli

One advantage of broccoli is that you can meal prep and store it in the fridge or freezer. 

A common problem I see in bodybuilders is that they often don’t include veggies due to lack of time. 

At best, they rely on something quick and easy, like lettuce or tomatoes. However, remember that variety is vital to getting different nutrients. 

You can batch-cook broccoli once a week and store it in the fridge to reheat later. Store it in the freezer if you want to keep them longer. 

Here’s a quick tip from my colleague and nutrition coach Lauren Graham:

“Bags of fresh or frozen mixed vegetables are a great way to make a quick supper. I cook some meat in the frying pan and a pot of rice while the vegetables are sauteing and then throw them together with a stir fry sauce for a family dinner that’s ready in fifteen minutes.”

Try Different Broccoli Recipes

Another advantage of broccoli is adding it to many dishes to boost its nutritional value.

If you don’t know how to make broccoli, here are some of my favorite recipes:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Broccoli Good For Muscle Growth?

Broccoli can be part of a well-rounded muscle-building diet, but eating it (or not eating it) won’t make or break your results. 


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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

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

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