Eating at Carl’s Jr. When Bulking (6 Bodybuilding Meals)

Popular bodybuilder, Bradley Martyn, shared his thoughts in a YouTube video about why Carl’s Jr. is a great option for bodybuilders as well as how he likes to order when he visits. 

I agree with his opinion but wanted to provide even more information as to what specifically you should order based on your caloric needs as well as how you can customize your order to also make a great pre or post-workout option.

So what should you eat at Carl’s Jr. when bodybuilding? If you are looking for a meal below 750 calories at a grilled chicken sandwich or Big Hamburger and a 3-piece chicken tenders is best. For a meal higher than 900 calories, opt for a combination of two of a chicken club sandwich, Big Hamburger and chicken tenders.  

In this article, I will provide:

  • 6 meal options for what to eat at Carl’s Jr. when bulking
  • My top 4 tips for eating at Carl’s Jr. both before and after your workout

Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone

What To Eat at Carl’s Jr. If You’re A Bodybuilder: 6 Meal Options  

Six meal options to order at Carl’s Jr. when bodybuilding or bulking are:

1. 550 Calorie Carl’s Jr. Bulking Meal Plan 

550 calorie bulking carl's jr meal plan
  • Order a Charbroiled Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich 
  • Do not order your meal with a side 

This meal has 549 calories, 36g protein (26%), 45g carbohydrates (33%) and 25g fat (41%).

The Santa Fe chicken sandwich comes with grilled chicken as a protein source, which provides a much higher protein meal option compared to the burgers. When bodybuilding, getting sufficient protein is a top priority as it’s what your body will use to repair your muscles after a workout leading to increased strength and muscle mass. 

The chicken sandwich comes with Santa Fe sauce and cheese, both of which will increase the fat in your meal. Fat will provide a feeling of being full and satisfied for longer after you eat, generally making it easier to stick to your diet long term. This is particularly important for a lower calorie meal option like this one. 

Customizations to adjust calories

  • Ordering the sandwich without Santa Fe sauce or cheese will reduce the calories in your meal. You can also ask for extra sauce or cheese to increase the calories. 
  • Adding a side to your meal will also increase calories. The lowest calories sides are a side salad at 140 calories and small french fries at 300 calories. All sides are low in protein but high in carbs and fat therefore I recommend sticking to a low-calorie option so your meal still has sufficient protein. 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

This meal is a great option around a workout, however, I recommend you order it without Santa Fe sauce. This will help to reduce the fat in the meal, so your body can get energy primarily from the carbs in your meal. This will provide a bigger burst of energy during your workout. 

2. 650 Calorie Carl’s Jr. Bulking Meal Plan 

650 calorie bulking carl's jr meal plan
  • Order a Charbroiled BBQ chicken sandwich
  • Add a 3-piece order of chicken tenders
  • Do not order your meal with a side 

This meal has 642 calories, 58g protein (36%), 62g carbohydrates (39%) and 18g fat (25%).

A charbroiled chicken sandwich is a high protein and high carb but low-fat meal. Chicken tenders are high fat and protein but low carb options. Since the two items are high in different macronutrients, they complement each other well to create a high protein meal with a relatively even mix of carbs and fat. 

When bodybuilding, getting an even mix of macronutrients is ideal as you get the benefits of each. In particular, getting enough protein is crucial as it’s what your body will use to build muscle and strength. 

By including carbs in your meal you will feel energized throughout the day. Adding the fat in will slow down your body’s digestion of these carbs providing you with the energy slowly over a longer period. This is generally preferred as getting a big spike of energy is usually followed by a crash a couple of hours later.

Customizations to adjust calories

  • Adding a higher fat sauce to your sandwich will increase the calories. Swap out the BBQ sauce for Santa Fe sauce or mayonnaise to increase the calories of your sandwich. 
  • Add a side of fries or a salad to boost the calories. The lower calories sides I recommend are a side salad (140 calories) and small french fries (300 calories). Carl’s Jr. sides are low in protein but high in carbs and fat therefore I recommend sticking to a low-calorie option so your meal still has sufficient protein. 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

This meal makes for a great pre or post-workout meal option as it’s high in protein and carbohydrates but low in fat. This ratio of macros will keep you energized throughout your workout and allow you to recover post-workout.

Pre-workout, you may find this is more food than what is comfortable to eat. If this is the case, I recommend skipping the chicken tenders or eating only 1 – 2. Post-workout, I would recommend including the chicken tenders as this extra protein is important for muscle recovery and growth. 

3. 750 Calorie Carl’s Jr. Bulking Meal Plan 

750 calorie bulking carl's jr meal plan
  • Order a Big Hamburger
  • Add a 3-piece order of chicken tenders
  • Do not order your meal with a side 

This meal has 755 calories, 50g protein (26%), 69g carbohydrates (37%) and 31g fat (37%).

Adding chicken tenders will boost your meal’s calories, primarily from fat and protein. This is particularly helpful when ordering a hamburger as it’s generally lower in protein than what I would recommend. When bodybuilding, you want to aim for 25 – 30% of your meal’s calories to come from protein, however, burgers only contain around 20%. 

Protein is required by our body to build muscle, therefore it should be a top priority for anyone bodybuilding looking to increase strength and muscle mass. 

Both the burger and chicken tenders provide an even mix of carbs and fat. Carbs are important to include as they provide a quicker source of energy for our body. However, without including fat as well, you are likely to notice a quick spike of energy followed by a crash. Fat will slow down this process providing the energy slowly over a longer period.   

Customizations for increased calories

  • Adding a higher fat topping to your burger will increase the calories. Adding mayonnaise or Santa Fe sauce will increase the calories of your meal, primarily through fat. You can also add cheese to your burger to further increase the calories. 
  • Small fries or a salad can be added to your order to increase calories. I recommend a lower calorie side such as a side salad (140 calories) and small french fries (300 calories). This will help to ensure your meal still has sufficient protein as Carl’s Jr. sides are primarily carbs and fat and low in protein. 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are planning to eat this meal around a workout, I recommend ordering a Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich in place of the Big Hamburger as a lower fat option. High-fat foods will leave us with less immediate energy for our workout. As all burgers at Carl’s Jr. are high in fat, I recommend skipping them for meals around a workout.

4. 900 Calorie Carl’s Jr. Bulking Meal Plan 

900 calorie bulking carl's jr meal plan
  • Order a Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich 
  • Add a 3-piece order of chicken tenders
  • Do not order your meal with a side 

This meal has 872 calories, 69g protein (32%), 59g carbohydrates (27%) and 40g fat (41%).

The chicken club sandwich is a high protein sandwich, similar to other Carl’s Jr. chicken sandwiches, however, this sandwich has bacon, cheese and mayonnaise making it higher in fat compared to others. 

Increasing the fat in your meal is helpful as the meal’s total calories increase. Since fat is lower in physical volume compared to protein and carbs, think of the size of 200 calories of peanut butter vs. 200 calories of potatoes, more fat will keep the total volume of your meal lower. This will reduce the overly full feeling that often accompanies high calories meals.

Chicken tenders similarly are high in protein and fat but lower in carbs. This makes them a great addition to the meal to continue to create a higher protein and higher fat meal option. 

Customizations for increased calories

  • Removing some of the higher fat toppings will decrease the meal’s calories. This sandwich can be ordered without cheese, bacon and/ or mayonnaise to decrease the calories. Alternatively, add extra of any of these toppings to increase the calories. 
  • Add a lower calories side to your meal to additionally increase calories. I recommend opting for a lower-calorie side, best options are a side salad (140 calories) or small french fries (300 calories). This will help to keep the protein high in your meal as Carl’s Jr. sides are primarily carbs and fat. 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

This meal is a great option around a workout with a few small modifications. I recommend you order the chicken club sandwich without mayonnaise, cheese and bacon. 

This will help to reduce the fat in your meal allowing your body to get its energy from the carbs we are eating. You will find this gives you a bigger burst of energy, ideal for any hard workout. It will also improve your recovery post-workout.

5. 1,100 Calorie Carl’s Jr. Bulking Meal Plan 

1,100 calorie bulking carl's jr meal plan
  • Order a Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich 
  • Add a Big Hamburger 
  • Do not order your meal with a side 

This meal has 1,089 calories, 69g protein (25%), 102g carbohydrates (37%) and 45g fat (37%).

Adding a Big Hamburger in place of the chicken tenders, increasing the calories primarily through additional carbs to the meal. This is important as your meal is already high in protein and fat so adding additional carbs will keep the macronutrients relatively in optimal balance.

The additional carbs will help to provide energy which you will find is released slowly over a longer period since it’s paired with fat in your meal. Not increasing the fat too high is also important as that is likely to result in digestive discomfort and a lethargic feeling similar to after a big Thanksgiving dinner. 

Carbs are generally high in volume, meaning they take up more physical space. You may find this means you get physically full more quickly. If this is the case, simply break this up into two smaller meals. Carbohydrates are quickly digested so you are likely to find you’re hungry within 2 – 3 hours.

Customizations for increased calories

  • Calories can be reduced by removing some of the higher fat toppings such as cheese, bacon and/ or mayonnaise. Alternatively, add extra of any of these toppings to increase the calories. 
  • Adding a side to your meal can be used to increase calories. Sticking to a lower calorie side, like a side salad (140 calories) or small french fries (300 calories), is best to help to keep the protein high in your meal. Carl’s Jr. sides are primarily carbs and fat so we don’t want to add too many calories through this method.

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are eating this meal before a workout, I recommend opting for one of the lower-calorie meal plans. A meal this high in calories will likely leave you feeling slow and less energized, similar to that sleepy feeling post-Thanksgiving dinner. 

6. 1,300 Calorie Carl’s Jr. Bulking Meal Plan 

1,300 calorie bulking carl's jr meal plan
  • Order a Charbroiled Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich 
  • Add a Big Hamburger
  • Add a 3-piece order of chicken tenders
  • Do not order your meal with a side 

This meal has 1,304 calories, 86g protein (26%), 114g carbohydrates (35%) and 56g fat (39%).

Including a mix of chicken and beef will create a meal with a relatively even mix of carbs, protein and fat. This even mix is beneficial when bulking to provide the benefits of each macronutrient, without the downsides that come with eating too much of one. 

This meal has sufficient protein, providing your body with the tools it needs to repair and build muscle and strength. The carbs will keep you feeling energized throughout your day. The fat will help to keep the physical volume of your meal from getting uncomfortably high, while still keeping the calories up to a sufficient amount.

Customizations for increased calories

  • Ordering the sandwich without Santa Fe sauce or cheese to decrease the calories in your meal. Alternatively, you can also ask for extra sauce or cheese to increase the calories. 
  • Add a lower-calorie side to your meal to further increase calories. The lower calories sides I recommend are a side salad (140 calories) or small french fries ( 300 calories). All sides are low in protein but high in carbs and fat therefore sticking to a low-calorie option is important so your meal still has sufficient protein. 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are eating this meal before or after a workout, I recommend opting for one of the lower-calorie meal plans. Eating a meal this high in calories will leave you feeling lethargic and is likely to cause digestive discomfort. Neither of these will leave you ready to perform well during a workout or recover post-workout. 

Tips for Eating at Carl’s Jr. Before a Workout

What you eat pre-workout is what provides this fuel so it’s important to opt for high carb and low-fat meal with some protein.

Should you eat at Carl’s Jr. before a workout? Yes, you should eat at Carl’s Jr. before a workout. A grilled chicken sandwich with no cheese, bacon or sauces and a piece of fruit provides a high carb, moderate protein and low-fat meal that is ideal pre-workout. Order a second sandwich for more calories.

Read more in my article Can You Eat Fried Food Before And After Workouts?

4 Tips for How to Eat at Carl’s Jr. Before a Workout

My top 4 tips for how to eat at Carl’s Jr. before a workout are:

1. Order a sandwich 

Before your workout, you want to focus on consuming foods that are high in carbs as this will provide the quickest source of energy for your body. The more carbs you are eating during this meal, the more energized you are likely to feel and the better and longer you can perform even during a heavy workout. 

I recommend aiming for at least two servings of carbs at this meal, with a serving size being about the size of a closed fist. At Carl’s Jr., a sandwich bun is the best option.

I recommend ensuring that you are eating this meal within 1 – 2 hours of your workout. 

2. Opt for grilled chicken for your protein

In addition to focusing on getting lots of carbs before a workout, you also want to limit the fat you are consuming. Fat will slow down your digestion system, making it more difficult and time-consuming for your body to break down and use the carbs we just ate. You are likely to find you have less energy during your workout which is not optimal.

At Carl’s Jr., grilled chicken is lower in fat compared to beef or breaded chicken and therefore the best option to consume before a workout. 

3. Skip the bacon, cheese and sauces

At Carl’s Jr., bacon, cheese and sauces are sources of fat. Our goal is to limit the fat we are eating around our workout so our body can easily use the carbs we just ate for energy. 

If you are ordering a sauce, I recommend sticking to low-fat options such as ketchup or BBQ sauce.

4. Consider bringing a piece of fruit for with your meal

While eating a meal high in carbs is the most important factor, to have the best workout it’s optimal to have a mix of fast and slow-digesting carbs. The sandwich bun provides a good slow-digesting carb but the meal does not have a quick digesting carb.

At Carl’s Jr., there is not an option to order that will provide quick digesting carbs, these are generally foods high in sugar, without adding additional fat. 

An easy and portable option that you can bring from home is a piece of fruit such as a banana or banana. If you’re really in a pinch, try coconut water which can be found at any gas station.

Related Article: Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

Tips for Eating at Carl’s Jr. After a Workout

Your post-workout meal also plays a key role in achieving your goals of increasing muscle mass and strength. 

Should you eat at Carl’s Jr. after a workout? Yes, you should eat at Carl’s Jr. after a workout. Two grilled chicken sandwiches with light sauce provide a high carbohydrate and protein and moderate fat meal that is ideal post-workout. If a second sandwich is too much food, opt for 3 chicken tenders instead.

4 Tips for How to Eat at Carl’s Jr. After a Workout

My top 4 tips for how to eat at Carl’s Jr. after a workout are:

1. Order a sandwich 

Throughout your workout, your body will use up the fuel it has stored to provide you with the energy you need. 

By the end, you’ve likely depleted most of these stores. Replenishing them, kicks start the process of repairing, and in turn growing, our muscles so we want to prioritize beginning this quickly after finishing our workout.

The best way to do this is to eat a meal high in carbs post-workout. What does a high carb meal look like? I recommend at least two servings of carbs, where a serving is the size of a closed fist. At Carl’s Jr., a sandwich bun is the best option.

I recommend aiming to eat this meal within 1 – 1.5 hours after finishing your workout. 

2. Choose grilled chicken as your meat option

In addition to carbs, the other macro that is important to prioritize post-workout is protein. 

Protein is the building block that our body will use to repair our muscles damaged throughout our workout. This process of repairing muscle is what causes increased strength and muscle growth. 

To allow our body to utilize the carbs and protein we are eating quickly, reducing the amount of fat we are eating post-workout is also a key consideration. If we consume a lot of fat with our post-workout meal, it will slow down digestion and delay the muscle repair process. 

At Carl’s Jr., grilled chicken is the leanest option and therefore recommend post-workout.

3. Add a second sandwich to your meal

Protein is important post-workout so our body has what it needs to repair and grow our muscles. If adequate protein isn’t consumed, the muscle breakdown that started during your workout will continue instead of the repair and growth that is desired. 

At Carl’s Jr., adding a second sandwich to your meal is the best way to boost the protein without adding significant additional fat. If that is too much food for you post-workout, try adding 3 chicken tenders instead.

4. Go light on cheese, bacon and sauces

Limiting the fat that we are eating post-workout is important to ensure we aren’t slowing down digestion making it more difficult for our body to use the carbs and protein we need it to. 

I like to think of carbs and protein like cars on a highway driving, heading towards our muscles as their destination. Fat is the other drivers on the road going below the speed limit, slowing down how quickly they can get to their destination. 

At Carl’s Jr., the highest sources of fat are cheese, bacon and sauces. I recommend limiting your meal to only one of these. If you order a meal that comes with sauce, ask for it on the side and add no more than 1 thumb size portion to your meal. A low fat sauce option is ketchup or BBQ sauce.

Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions for eating at Carl’s Jr. if you workout. 

Will Eating at Carl’s Jr. Ruin My Gains?

No, eating at Carl’s Jr. will not ruin your gains. To maintain muscle mass, the most important factor is eating sufficient protein during the day. Carl’s Jr.’s menu has lots of high protein options, such as charbroiled grilled chicken sandwiches, big hamburgers and chicken tenders, that make it possible to maintain your gains.

Can I Eat at Carl’s Jr. and Still Gain Muscle?

Yes, you can eat at Carl’s Jr. and still gain muscle. To gain muscle, you need to be eating enough protein after your workout so your muscles have what they need to repair and grow. Carl’s Jr.’s charbroiled grilled chicken sandwiches, big hamburgers and chicken tenders are all high in protein ensuring you have enough protein to make it possible to gain muscle.

What Meal at Carl’s Jr. has the Most Protein?

The meal at Carl’s Jr. with the most protein is the Triple Western Bacon Cheeseburger with 9 piece Jalapeno poppers. This meal has 2,031 calories, 98g of protein, 142g of carbohydrates and 119g of fat. 

What Meal at Carl’s Jr. has the Most Calories?

The meal at Carl’s Jr. with the most calories is the Triple Western Bacon Cheeseburger with 9 piece Jalapeno poppers. This meal has 2,031 calories, 98g of protein, 142g of carbohydrates and 119g of fat. 

Which Meal at Carl’s Jr. has the Least Calories

The meal at Carl’s Jr. that has the least calories is the Charbroiled Chicken Salad. This meal has 280 calories, 33g of protein, 19g of carbohydrates and 9g of fat.

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

More Fast Food Meal Plans

Check out our other bulking and cutting meal plans from popular fast food restaurants:


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.