As a nutrition coach that works with a lot of bodybuilders, I wanted to dive deeper into whether cereal is beneficial for putting on muscle mass.
Cereal is good for bulking because it is an easily digestible carb providing quick energy around a workout. However, since most cereals provide minimal protein and fat, it’s best to pair them with sources of each, such as milk or Greek yogurt. As well, it’s important to avoid cereal with a lot of sugar per serving.
There is a lot more to consider though if you’re in a bulking phase, including the type of cereal you eat and when/how much you should eat based on your goals.
- Most cereal brands are excellent options for bulking because they’re a low-volume food, so you can eat a lot without feeling too full.
- However, some cereals are higher in fat. When looking for a cereal for bulking, look for one with less than 3g of fat per serving to avoid feeling too sluggish for your workouts.
- A cereal with less than 35% of its calories coming from sugar and at least 10g of protein per serving is best because it will keep you satiated and prevent sugar crashes.
Cereal for Bodybuilding: Overview
It’s important to first understand the nutritional information of cereal.
Each brand and type of cereal will differ, ranging from high carb + low protein to high protein + low carb.
With that said, most generic cereal brands, such as Rice Krispies, Chex, or Cheerios, will have the following calorie and macronutrient breakdown (per 1 cup):
- 170 calories
- 2g of protein
- 38g of carbs
- 1g of fat.
Note: If you’re simply pouring the cereal from the box into a bowl, you may far exceed the serving size outlined above.
This isn’t as concerning for someone who’s bulking as it is for someone who’s cutting. In a bulk, you need extra calories to build muscle. Having more than one serving of cereal may not harm your progress that much when you’re trying to gain weight.
However, if you eat cereal frequently and don’t want to consume too many extra calories to avoid putting on excess fat, I recommend serious athletes and bodybuilders measure the cereal using a measuring cup.
I don’t think this is necessary all of the time, but cereal is definitely one of those foods that people overeat, which can impact your overall nutritional targets for the rest of the day.
Later in the article, I’ll discuss the best cereal brands for those looking to bulk – ones that are higher in protein and have moderate carbs and fat.
4 Pros of Eating Cereal When Bulking
1. Cereal Is a Quick Carb Source Perfect for Pre–And Post-Workout
Cereal is primarily made up of fast-digesting carbs, making them the perfect pre-and post-workout.
A lot of sources of carbs also contain fat and protein, making it tricky to create a meal option for around a workout where the ratio of carbs to other macronutrients is quite high.
By choosing cereal as your carb source, you can choose the exact amount of carbs that you want to include in your meal without worrying about overconsuming protein or fat.
By including cereal in your diet pre-and post-workout, you can ensure you are always energized and able to perform your best at the gym, continuing to build muscle and increase strength.
- Want to learn more about high protein foods? Check out our article Best Foods For Bulking.
2. Cereal Is Quick and Portable
Many sources of carbs, such as rice, potatoes, and oatmeal require time to cook and prepare. Additionally, they aren’t very portable as they require refrigeration. For anyone that is busy and on the go, this can be a major hurdle in your bodybuilding journey.
Cereal on the other hand can be easily portioned out into a container and eaten on the go, without any refrigeration or reheating (assuming you’re eating dry cereal with no milk).
This also makes it a perfect option to keep in your gym bag for any situation where you are in a pinch and need a pre-workout snack.
- Related Article: Are Bagels Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
3. Cereal Is a Low Volume Carb Source
Carbohydrates are generally high in volume, this just means that the physical quantity of the food you are eating for the calories is quite large.
Think of a spoonful of peanut butter vs a cup of rice, both are approximately 200 calories but the peanut butter is significantly smaller.
For bodybuilders, eating a high-carbohydrate meal before a workout may be too much food and leave you feeling too physically full to have a good workout.
In this case, cereal can provide the carbs needed to fuel a workout, with much less volume, allowing you to have a better workout.
This may also be beneficial when bulking.
Many of my clients struggle to eat enough calories when bulking because they are feeling too physically full. In these cases, I recommend opting for low-volume food, such as cereal.
By including cereal in your diet, you can get the carbs you need, without the physical volume that can impact the quality of your workout.
4. Cereal Has Nutrients That Can Help With Muscle Growth
Cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals that can help with bodybuilding and muscle growth.
The most common vitamins found in cereal include:
- Vitamin A – helps keep your body tissues healthy and your bones strong
- Vitamin B – helps turn the food you eat into energy
- Vitamin E – helps strengthen the immune system
Together, these vitamins can give you the energy your body needs to get through your workouts and keep you healthy so that you don’t have to miss training sessions due to an illness.
4 Cons of Eating Cereal for Bodybuilding
While I’ll go through a few downsides to cereal, these can easily be mitigated by pairing cereal appropriately with foods that are high in healthy fats and protein.
1. Cereal Does Not Provide Enough Protein To Build Muscle
The most important factor when looking to build muscle is to consume sufficient protein so your body has what it needs for your muscles to repair and recover after a workout.
Research indicates that a protein intake of 2.4g per kg of body weight should be consumed to build muscle.
For example, this means a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 206g of protein per day.
Most cereals contain less than 5g of protein per cup, making them not a significant source.
To offset the low protein that is in cereal, I recommend ensuring you are consuming other protein sources throughout the day.
One of my favorite ways to get more protein with cereal is to add a scoop of protein powder.
I find chocolate protein powder goes well with just about every type of cereal, as long as you’re mixing it with milk.
2. Cereal Is a Fast-Digesting Carb Source
Cereal is quick for your body to digest, which means it provides energy within 30-60 minutes of consumption. While this is great in the short term, it can lead to an energy crash and hunger within 2-3 hours after eating.
This is why I recommend eating cereal either pre or post-workout for bodybuilding, but not at other times throughout the day.
This spike and crash of energy can make it challenging to bulk without gaining too much excess body fat. Your body will look for another quick energy source once it begins to crash to get your energy levels back up.
These quick energy sources it begins to crave are usually sweet treats that can be quite high in calories. Sweet treats are easy to over-consume, which can lead to eating too many calories.
Luckily, we can reduce the effect by eating cereal along with foods that have fat and protein. The best source of both fat and protein to pair with your cereal is full-fat dairy such as milk or greek yogurt.
3. Cereal Does Not Have Enough Fat for Healthy Hormones
Cereal is made up of mostly carbs and provides minimal fat, which is critical for your body’s hormone functions.
While this may seem like a very minor point, hormone health is critical for processes like appetite regulation.
For a bodybuilder that is looking to gain muscle, you can imagine that it would be a struggle without good hormone function. If you don’t have a good appetite, you’ll struggle to eat enough calories to be in a caloric surplus.
Not to fear, it’s quite easy to mitigate this by ensuring you consume foods that are high in fat at other meals throughout the day.
Some good examples include nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy products, avocados, and olive or coconut oil.
4. Cereal’s Nutrition Can Vary Significantly Based on Brand
Walk down the cereal aisle in any grocery store and you will quickly notice the vast variety of options available. This also means that the nutrition information on each cereal varies as well so you have to be careful about which one you choose.
If you aren’t reading the label, this can pose a big downside for bodybuilders who want to watch every macronutrient and micronutrient that goes into their body.
As you can imagine, consistently choosing a high-calorie cereal option could be problematic, even for bulking goals. If you don’t measure it carefully, you could put yourself in a higher caloric surplus than you need, you may be too full to eat at other meals during the day, or you may feel uncomfortable during your workouts if you eat it before a training session.
The extra calories in high-calorie cereal are also usually from fat, which is not optimal pre or post-workout.
To avoid this, I recommend always reading the label and opting for a cereal that has less than 3g of fat per serving. It’s also important to pay attention to the serving size and ensure you are consuming the correct amount.
- Related: How To Gain Weight Without Eating Sugar (Sample Meal Plan)
Can You Eat Cereal Before Workouts?
Yes, you can consume cereal before a workout as it is a quick energy source to fuel your muscles. Cereal is best to consume 30-60 minutes before the start of your workout. Ensure you pick a cereal that has less than 3g of fat andfiber per serving and is lower in sugar.
Before a workout, it’s best to stick with a meal high in carbs since this is what is easiest for your body to quickly break down and use for energy during your workout.
It’s also important to keep the fat and fiber low as they both slow down the digestion process, delaying the energy available.
Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian, said:
“Cereal is a fast-digesting carb source that is low in fat and fiber, making it an ideal food to consume pre-workout”.
The amount of cereal that you are eating before a workout should be based on the number of carbohydrates you are aiming to consume in that meal.
The general rule of thumb for a pre-workout meal is to eat approximately 1g of carbs per kg of body weight as a minimum.
For example, a 175lb/80kg athlete should consume around 80g of carbs pre-workout which is approximately 2 cups, or 80g, of cereal.
For some people, this calculation is too low though, especially if you’re bulking.
So another rule of thumb you can use is to eat 35% – 40% of your daily carb intake pre-workout.
Therefore, if an athlete eats 400g of carbs per day while bulking, they should aim for 140g to 160g of carbs, in cereal.
Can You Eat Cereal After Workouts?
Yes, you can consume cereal post-workout. Since it is high in carbs and low in fat, it’s an optimal choice that can be customized to meet your personal carb needs. Ensure you are pairing a protein source, like milk or greek yogurts, and a source of nutrients, like strawberries, for a balanced post-workout meal.
Similar to before a workout, it is also important to consume a high-carb meal after your workout.
This will help replenish your body’s stored energy that has been depleted throughout your workout.
“After a workout, cereal is also an excellent food to have. Make sure to add a protein source, either milk, greek yogurt, or protein powder”
Research shows consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout has a significant positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle.
This process of repair and recovery is what will lead to strength and muscle growth, a key goal of bodybuilding.
As well, adding in nutrient-rich foods, like fruit, will ensure you are consuming the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best and adequately recover post-workout.
To determine the amount of cereal to consume post work-out, here’s what the Canadian Sport Institute recommends:
“Consume 1-1.2g of carbs per kg of body weight post-workout for optimal recovery.
For a 175lbs/80kg athlete, this would translate to between 80-96g of carbs or 2 – 2 ¼ cups of cereal.
To optimize your recovery, I always recommend consuming your high-carb meal within 2 hours of completing your workout.
What Criteria Should You Use For Picking A Good Cereal?
The number of different brands and types of cereal is endless, most grocery stores have an entire aisle dedicated just to cereal.
To ensure my recommendations work for everyone, regardless of which cereals you enjoy and are available to you, I will provide my top 3 tips on what to look for when choosing a cereal.
1. Choose a Cereal With 3g of Fat or Less per Serving
Cereal is a great option for bodybuilders around a workout as long as it isn’t high in fat as this will negatively impact the energy you have available.
If there is a high-fat cereal you enjoy, ensure you are only consuming it during meals that aren’t directly before or after your workout.
2. Choose a Cereal With 3g of Fibre or Less per Serving
Similar to fat, fiber will negatively impact the energy that you have available for your workout.
Since cereal is best for bodybuilders around a workout, it’s important to pick a low-fibre option.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to eating fiber. It’s simply that you want to avoid high-fiber pre-workout.
3. Choose a Cereal With 35% or Less of the Carbs Coming From Sugar
While having some sugar in cereal is beneficial for bodybuilders to provide a quick source of carbs, consuming a cereal high in sugar will create an energy spike and crash that is too quick.
Instead of having energy throughout your workout, you are likely to find yourself crashing halfway through your workout.
Opting for a moderate sugar option will give you the best combination of quick energy for the start of your workout as well as sustained energy for the duration.
For example, a box of honey nut cheerios has 32g of carbs per serving, of which 9g comes from sugar.
When we divide 9 by 32, we get 28% of the total carbs coming from sugar.
This is under 35% of the total carbs coming from sugar that we want in our cereal.
Therefore, honey-nut cheerios would be a good option!
- Related Article: Does Eating Junk Food After A Workout Ruin It? (No, Here’s Why)
4. Choose a Cereal With At Least 10g of Protein per Serving
Cereal with a sufficient amount of protein will keep you fuller and help promote recovery after your workout. It can also help you reach your protein targets if you’re bulking, very active, and require a high protein intake.
While 10g of protein likely won’t be enough to make a complete meal (I recommend a meal has at least 15-20 g of protein to be a complete meal), it’s a good starting point when it comes to finding a healthier cereal.
If you’re eating it on the go with nothing else, it will keep you more satiated than cereal with only 2g or 3g of protein. But it also allows you to consume other sources of protein such as a whey protein shake or eggs to round out your protein requirements.
Best Cereal For Bodybuilding, Bulking, & Muscle Gain
1. Premier Protein Cereal
Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving (35g):
- 180 calories
- 20g of protein
- 14g of carbs
- 5g of sugar
- 5g of fat
- 2g of fiber
Most people know Premier for its protein shakes, but the company makes a high-protein cereal as well that ticks nearly all of the boxes for a good cereal for muscle building. It’s low in fat, fiber, and sugar and has more protein than nearly any other cereal you’ll find on store shelves.
I also like that this cereal tastes less like a “healthy” cereal than other high-protein options. It’s a bit drier than a regular cereal like Chex, but it has a good flavor and doesn’t get soggy in milk.
The macro breakdown of this cereal makes it a good option for before or after a workout or even a mid-day snack to hold you over between meals. However, if you have it close to your workouts, I recommend eating it with another carb source like fruit so you can get more energy and boost recovery.
2. Magic Spoon
Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving (37-38g):
- 140-170 calories
- 12-14g of protein
- 10-15g of carbs
- 0g of sugar
- 7-8g of fat
- 1-2g of fiber
Magic Spoon cereal comes in several delicious flavors like Cinnamon Roll, Blueberry Muffin, and Peanut Butter. It also stays crunchy in milk, which is a plus if you don’t like when your cereal gets mushy.
However, because it’s higher in fat, it’s best to have it at meals further away from your workouts. This way, the fat won’t make you feel sluggish or slow down the digestion of carbs and protein that you need for energy and recovery.
3. Three Wishes
Nutrition Breakdown Per Serving (35g):
- 120-130 calories
- 8g of protein
- 20g of carbs
- 3g of sugar
- 2g of fat
- 3-4g of fiber
Three Wishes cereal is a good alternative to Magic Spoon if you want a high-protein cereal with less fat. You can choose from tasty flavors like Strawberry or Fruit, and there’s an unflavored option as well.
Because it has slightly more fiber than other cereal, it may make you feel bloated if you have it before your workout. However, the fiber content isn’t too high, so you may want to experiment and see how it makes you feel before relying on it as a consistent pre-workout snack.
I also recommend pairing it with another protein source like Greek yogurt to help with your muscle-building goals.
Overall, the benefits of cereal outweigh the cons and therefore I recommend bodybuilders include cereal in their diets.
Opt for a cereal that is low in fat and fibre and moderate in sugar, good examples of this include Rice Krispies, Chex, and Cheerios.
Ensure you are always including a protein source with your cereal as well as a fat source when not around a workout. Good options include milk or greek yogurt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Bodybuilders Eat Cereal?
Bodybuilders do eat cereal. Most cereal is high in carbs and low in fat, so it’s a good option for before a workout when you need carbs for energy but not a lot of fat that can make you feel sluggish. The high carb content also makes it a good post-workout option because it can help replenish your glycogen stores.
Is Vector Cereal Good For Muscle Building?
Vector cereal is not the best option for muscle building. Despite being high in protein (5.7g per 55g serving), it’s also high in sugar (12g per serving) and fiber (3.3g per serving). The sugar can cause you to crash midway through a workout, and the fiber can make you feel bloated or uncomfortable while training.
Is Corn Flakes Good For Bodybuilding?
Corn Flakes can be a good option for bodybuilding, especially before or after a workout. They have 36g of carbs per 42g serving, so they can provide energy and help promote recovery. However, they only have 3g of protein per serving, so you should pair them with a protein source like whey protein or Greek yogurt.
Is Cheerios Good For Bodybuilding?
Cheerios can be good for bodybuilding, but you’ll want to be careful about how much you eat before or after a workout. While a 39g serving has 29g of carbs, it also has 4g of fiber. The fiber can make you feel sluggish before a workout or delay the absorption of other macros you need for recovery after a workout.
Furthermore, Cheerios only have 5g of protein per serving, so you’ll want to consume another protein source with them. Good protein options that pair well with Cheerios are skim milk and Greek yogurt.
What Are Some Examples of High Carb Cereals For Bodybuilding?
Good high-carb cereals for bodybuilding include Honey Nut Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and Chex. While they’re high in carbs, they’re lower in sugar, which can help prevent sugar crashes. For a high-carb cereal that also has a decent protein content (at least 10g per serving), Three Wishes and Magic Spoon are good options.
About The Author
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.