Is Butter Good For Bulking? Here’s What A Dietitian Says

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As a Registered Dietitian speaking with new clients, many label some foods as “good” or “bad” when they have a specific physique goal, which fully applies to butter. Let’s discuss whether butter should be in your muscle-building diet and how to incorporate it properly.

Key Takeaways

  • Butter is helpful when trying to bulk because it provides a lot of calories in a small amount of food (102 calories per tablespoon).  This makes it easier to maintain a calorie surplus, which is crucial while building muscle.
  • A tablespoon of butter provides 7.1g of saturated fats, roughly half the amount you should have on a 2,500-calorie diet. So, controlling your intake and avoiding other foods rich in saturated fats like fatty meat, coconut oil, and pastries are important.
  • While eating butter can be beneficial for bulking, it’s best to avoid it pre-workout because it digests slowly and doesn’t have carbs. Mix it with protein (e.g., meat) and carbs (e.g., rice) for a balanced, high-calorie post-workout meal to kickstart recovery.

Butter: Overview

nutritional value in one tablespoon of unsalted butter (14.2 g)


Butter is a high-calorie food. 

This is highly beneficial during a bulk, making maintaining the necessary calorie surplus for muscle gain easier.

For reference, a tablespoon of butter has the same calories as 100 grams of cooked rice. 

This means butter provides a lot of energy without making you feel as full, making it easier to bulk.

Despite the energy density, you can still have butter while cutting, but you must be careful with portion control and log your intake with an app like MacroFactor to stay within your calorie budget.


Butter provides almost nothing but dietary fat. 

The type of fat in butter is mostly saturated, which can be unhealthy in large quantities (when it makes up more than 5-6% of your total calories).

However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it entirely. You simply need to control your intake.

For instance, if you’re eating 2,500 calories daily, you can allow yourself 14 to 17 grams of saturated fat. 

For reference, a tablespoon of butter has 7.1 grams of saturated fats.

Pros Of Eating Butter

pros of eating butter

1. Butter Can Help You Gain Weight

As discussed, butter is energy-dense.

Having this much energy in a small quantity means you can use butter strategically to increase your daily calorie intake and more easily gain weight.

Below, I’ll review some tips for adding butter to your bodybuilding diet.

2. Butter Is Easy To Track

Another benefit of butter is that it is a single-macro food (only providing fats), making it easier to track. 

This means you only have to track the calories and fats it adds to your daily intake, which is easier to manage and fit into your diet than foods containing all three macronutrients (e.g., beans).

3. Butter Is Versatile

Butter can add taste and texture to various recipes, making your diet more enjoyable. 

This is particularly beneficial during a bulk, making it easier to finish meals and get the necessary calories.

Cons of Eating Butter

cons of eating butter

1. Overeating Butter Could Lead To Weight Gain

One obvious drawback of butter is that overconsumption can lead to unwanted weight gain or hinder your fat loss efforts.

From my experience, when clients are gaining weight (fat) and don’t know why, it’s usually because they are eye-balling certain foods, like butter. 

If you are not careful with the amount you put on toast or in the frying pan, you could pile on the calories without realizing it. 

Here is a small tip from Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD:

“Theoretically, adding just one serving per day to your diet without making any other changes could lead to approximately 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of weight gain over the course of a year. Therefore, it’s best to enjoy butter in moderation and swap it in for other fats in your diet to keep your calorie intake under control.”

2. Butter Could Give You Stomach Problems 

Butter consists primarily of fats, which take longer to break down and may lead to some stomach discomfort. 

It also has trace amounts of lactose, which can lead to GI distress in people with extreme lactose intolerance.

It’s said that over 65% of the population is lactose intolerant, but what percentage falls into the ‘extreme intolerance’ category is unclear. 

3. Too Much Butter Could Lead To Health Problems 

Butter is high in saturated fats (7.1 grams per tablespoon). A high intake is associated with cardiovascular issues. However, the problem comes when you overeat saturated fats every day. 

So, the best thing you can do is limit your intake of high-saturated-fat foods like coconut oil, pastries, fatty meats, processed meats (e.g., bacon and sausages), and cheese when adding butter to your diet.

Think of it like a slider:

  • More butter = less of other saturated fats foods
  • Less butter = more of other saturated fats foods

Does Butter Increase Testosterone?

There seems to be some literature citing a connection between saturated fat intake and testosterone levels.

Your body needs some saturated fats to make sex hormones (like testosterone). 

However, there are limited studies on butter’s influence on testosterone levels. 

In one paper from 2016, researchers examined the connection between dietary fat intake and testosterone levels in 259 women.

Researchers noted a significant connection between dietary fat intake and total and free testosterone levels. 

Specifically, the authors concluded that a higher polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) intake has a small positive effect on testosterone.

It suggested that dietary fats are involved in androgen synthesis and reproductive health.

That said, while the study provides evidence for the connection between dietary fat intake and testosterone levels, the authors underscored the importance of doing more studies and examining the impact of individual fatty acids.

So, we don’t have enough evidence to say that butter impacts testosterone levels.

Butter vs. Ghee For Bodybuilding: Which Is Better?

Ghee has more calories than butter (130 calories per tablespoon versus 102 for butter) since it is more concentrated. It also has a creamier and cheesy flavor. 

This means butter would be more beneficial than ghee during a cut, saving you some calories.

On the other hand, for those in a bulking phase, ghee is an excellent option to increase your caloric intake. 

That said, ghee has slightly more saturated fats (9 grams per tablespoon compared to 7.1 grams for butter), so controlling your intake is important.

 Here’s a comparison of the nutritional value of ghee and butter in 100 grams:

Butter7170.00.8 81.150.530.6

Butter vs. Margarine For Bodybuilding: Which Is Better? 

Butter is better than margarine because it is lower in trans fats. A high intake of trans fats has been linked to increased cholesterol levels and cardiovascular problems.

However, not all kinds of margarine are made with trans fats. Check how many grams of trans fats it reports in the ingredient panel and choose those with 0 grams.

Here’s some insight from Kris Gunnars, BSc:

“Many margarines are high in trans fat, which is linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. However, because of negative publicity and new laws, trans-fat-free margarines are becoming increasingly common.”

Also, read the ingredients list to check if it says “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” This means it is made with oils containing trans fats, so you should avoid them. 

In the following table, I compare the nutritional value of margarine and butter in 100 grams:

Butter7170.00.8 81.150.530.6
Margarine7170.70.280.715.2 65.5

Can You Eat Butter Before Workouts?

No, butter is not a good option before your workouts because it lacks carbs (your body’s preferred fuel source) and takes longer to digest, often leading to nausea or bloating during training.

Since research recommends having a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight before training, opt for ripe bananas, rice, potatoes, pasta, rice cakes, and granola.

  • Related: Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout?

Can You Eat Butter After Workouts?

You can eat butter after workouts since it provides plenty of energy necessary for optimal recovery. 

That said, research recommends having 0.3-0.5 grams of carbs and protein per kilogram of body weight after training for optimal recovery.

For a 70-kilo (154-lb) bodybuilder, that would be 21 to 35 grams of both nutrients. 

So, you can have some butter along with protein (e.g., chicken, beef, fish, or eggs) to support muscle repair and carbs (e.g., quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, or rice) to replenish lost glycogen and support protein synthesis.

Best Butter For Bodybuilding

There are a few brands of butter I recommend for bodybuilders looking to get healthier butter:

  • 365 by Whole Foods Market Butter Unsalted – This is a budget-friendly option with only two ingredients (pasteurized cream and natural flavors), making it a less processed butter. It also has 0 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Grass-Fed Ghee – This is a fantastic option if you’re looking to add ghee to your diet. It comes from grass-fed beef (higher quality fats) and has no lactose or sodium.
  • Vital Farms – This brand offers a great option for bodybuilders looking for quality butter. It comes from grass-fed cows and is sodium-free. 

Tips For Incorporating Butter Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating butter into a bodybuilding diet

Measure The Portion Size

If you add butter to your diet, make sure that you measure the portion size. 

Use a food scale to check how many grams of butter you use and track it in a calorie counter app like MacroFactor

This will help you stay within your daily calorie and macro budget. 

Have Some Variety

Remember that variety is key when it comes to nutrition. Different foods offer unique benefits, so having different foods throughout the day is always good. 

If you cook your eggs with butter in the morning, have avocado or olive oil for later meals. It will help create a healthy balance among your fats. 

Add Butter To Your Recipes

Finally, besides adding butter to your toast or fish, there are several ways to use butter in your diet. 

Here are my favorite ways to include either one in your diet: 

  • Moon milk (ideal before bedtime; I sometimes add half a scoop of protein powder like casein) 

Choose Unsalted

Whenever possible, choose unsalted butter. 

Brands offering salted butter could be very high in sodium, leading to water retention or making you look puffier. 

If you go with the salted butter, choose one with less than 150 mg per 100 grams.

Other Fat Sources For Bodybuilders


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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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