Chia Seeds & Bodybuilding: 5 Ways To Eat Them For Muscle Gain

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Chia seeds are an excellent superfood worth incorporating into a bodybuilding diet, regardless of whether you’re in a bulking or cutting phase. Below, I’ll share the muscle-building benefits + five ways to eat them.

Key Takeaways

  • Chia seeds are energy-dense (138 calories per ounce), allowing bodybuilders to add extra calories to their diet for muscle growth easily. They also provide quality plant protein (4.7 grams per ounce).
  • Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, with one ounce providing 4,915 mg. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and can limit muscle inflammation for better post-workout recovery.
  • Chia seeds are not a good pre-workout food because they have almost no usable carbs and are full of fiber and fats, which slow digestion and could make you feel uncomfortably full and sluggish during training.

Chia Seeds: Overview

nutritional content of chia seeds


Chia seeds are a high-energy-dense food, meaning you get many calories in a small serving. 

One ounce of chia seeds (28.3 grams) has approximately 138 calories––the same as two large eggs.

Energy-dense foods are a great option for those in a bulking phase because they add calories without taking up much space in your stomach. 

As a result, you have more room in your stomach to continue eating other calorie-dense foods needed to gain weight.

With that said, make sure to measure the portion size when eating chia seeds. It might be tempting to scoop a couple of servings into your water or protein shake, but that could be hundreds of extra calories that could contribute to unwanted weight gain. 


Chia seeds have all three essential macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat.

One ounce of chia seeds (28.3 grams) has:

  • Carbs: 11.9 grams
  • Fiber: 9.7 grams
  • Protein: 4.7 grams
  • Fats: 8.7 grams

Even if it has some carbs, most of it comes from fiber. Since fiber is not absorbed in the body, you can say that it only has 2.2 grams of net carbs (Net carbs = total carbs – fiber).  

As such, this is a great food for a bodybuilder following a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

It might seem that it doesn’t have a lot of protein since one ounce has less than 5 grams of protein. 

However, when added in large quantities (say, 100 grams), it provides a good amount of plant-based proteins––16.5 grams, equivalent to two ounces of meat or chicken breast.

For a bodybuilder following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it can help you build the protein content during the day.

Finally, the primary macronutrient of chia seeds is fat, with one tablespoon having the same grams of fats as one teaspoon (5 grams) of butter. 

However, the fat content is different. Chia seeds are higher in unsaturated fats (healthier), while butter is higher in saturated fats (less healthy)


Chia seeds are high in certain nutrients, such as:

  • Phosphorus (35% of daily needs). It plays an integral part in bone formation. For a bodybuilder, having stronger bones means that you are less likely to have an injury while training. Additionally, it helps break down carbs and fats so you can use them as energy
  • Calcium (18% of daily needs). It acts as a messenger in the body and supports muscle contractions. A calcium deficiency can impair muscle function and affect workout performance. Along with phosphorus, it also plays an essential role in bone formation.
  • Zinc (12% of daily needs for men and 17% for women). One of the benefits of zinc is that it helps boost your immune function. In a study, those who took zinc saw a 33% shorter cold duration. Stronger immunity means a lower risk of getting sick and having to spend time away from the gym.  Additionally, zinc is also a potent antioxidant since it helps reduce inflammation in the body. Like manganese, this can have a positive impact on muscle recovery.

Pros Of Eating Chia Seeds

pros of eating chia seeds

High in Fiber

One of the most significant benefits of chia seeds is their high fiber content, with one ounce having 9.7 grams.

Fiber is necessary for optimal bowel movements and cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association recommends having at least 25 grams of fiber daily.

One common problem I often see in my nutrition consultations is constipation. It is not a shocker since data suggests that the average person consumes only 15 g of fiber daily. 

High in Protein

If you’re:

  • Looking to cut back on your animal protein intake
  • Struggling to increase your protein intake
  • Following a plant-based diet

Chia seeds can help increase your daily protein intake by providing 16.5 grams of high-quality protein per 100 grams. That’s the same as two ounces of chicken breast or two and a half large eggs.

Help Reduce Inflammation

Chia seeds are one of the top choices when looking to reduce inflammation in your body.

First, chia seeds are high in manganese and zinc, both potent antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.

Second, these seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, with two tablespoons (one ounce) providing 4,915 mg of omega-3 fatty acids

This covers the minimal recommended intake of 250-500 mg per day.

Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties, and regular consumption can help limit inflammation in the body for better overall health and potentially improved muscle recovery.

Cons of Eating Chia Seeds

cons of eating chia seeds

Can Produce Stomach Problems

Due to its high fiber content, some people might have difficulty digesting chia seeds. For some people, it might produce stomach cramps or bloating.

If you are not used to high-fiber foods, start with small portions and increase slowly to gauge your sensitivity levels. 

Could Interfere With Nutrient Absorption

Like hemp and other seeds, chia seeds are rich in phytic acid (0.96 to 1.16 grams per 100 grams).

Phytic acid is not harmful to your health but can bind to minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, limiting your body’s ability to absorb them.

The impact is not likely significant and only appears to last for a short period (i.e., having food containing phytic acid can temporarily hinder absorption during and shortly after a meal).

However, it’s still something to remember, so you may want to limit your intake to one or two ounces daily. 

Tips For Incorporating Chia Seeds Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating chia seeds into a bodybuilding diet

Add Them To Your Water Or Protein Shake

If you don’t know where to include chia seeds into your diet, just add them to your water bottle and wait 20 minutes for them to expand and become “gel-like.”

Chia seeds don’t have much of a flavor. If you want chia seeds to offer flavor, add a few drops of lemon to your water to make it more refreshing.

Another way to consume chia seeds is by adding a couple of tablespoons to your protein shake. This can also mask the slight taste that chia seeds might have.

Make Chia Pudding

One of the advantages of chia seeds is that they can create a gelatinous consistency once they absorb water. This makes it the ideal substitution when you are looking to make a pudding with no carbs.

The process is quite simple. Mix chia seeds with your favorite milk or milk substitute and let it soak overnight. 

You can add flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate powder, fruits, and nuts to the mix.

Here is my favorite chia pudding recipe from As a bonus tip, add protein powder to this recipe to increase protein.

Use It As a Thickener

Thanks to its water-absorbing properties, it can help you thicken sauces and salad dressings. To make the ultimate salad dressing, you can mix it with olive oil, vinegar, and mustard.

Here is one of my top salad dressings from, which uses chia seeds.

Use It As Breadcrumbs

You can use chia seeds instead of regular breadcrumbs if you want a low-carb version of crusted chicken. Place the chia seeds in a food processor until you get chia seed flour.

You can also use it as a mix when you are making meatloaf. This is ideal for those on a low-carb diet or who are gluten intolerant. 

Mix It Up

Although chia seeds are good, variation is key to optimal nutrition. 

You can create a seed mix with flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia to add different nutrients to your diet. 

In a jar, you can add ½ cup of chia seeds, ½ cup hemp seeds, and ½ a cup of flaxseeds and have a ready-to-use seed mix. 

Finally, here’s a quick tip from registered dietitian and nutrition expert Lizzie Streit:

“They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, or added to oatmeal, pudding, smoothies, and baked goods. You can also sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables, or rice dishes. Plus, chia seeds work wonders in homemade fritters as a binding agent.”

Can You Eat Chia Seeds Before Workouts?

Chia seeds are not the best food to have before a workout. Since they are high in fiber and fat, they can be difficult to digest, leading to stomach issues. 

Additionally, consuming chia seeds right before training will not give you the energy you need.

Research recommends aiming for a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight before training. So, go for carb sources like granola, rice, potatoes, or yams.

If you are going to have chia seeds before a workout, give yourself at least 90 minutes for digestion to avoid stomach discomfort. 

Can You Eat Chia Seeds After Workouts?

Chia seeds have anti-inflammatory properties, which could help with muscle recovery. However, they also take longer to digest, which may not be ideal after training.

By taking longer to digest, chia seeds can slow gastric emptying (food leaving your stomach) and cause glucose (carbs) and amino acids (protein) to enter your bloodstream more slowly, which could have a minor impact on muscle recovery.

Plus, chia seeds don’t provide enough protein for muscle repair. The literature recommends 0.3 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight following a workout.

For an 80-kilo (176-lb) bodybuilder, that would be 24 to 40 grams of protein, far more than what you can realistically get from chia seeds alone.

Additionally, you need carbs to restock your energy supplies after training. 

As discussed previously, the carb content of chia seeds is mostly fiber with minimal net carbs your body can use to replenish lost glycogen. 

So, while you can add some chia seeds to your post-workout meal (say, adding a teaspoon to your protein shake), include some quality carbs (e.g., rice, pasta, or potatoes) and protein (e.g., meat, fish, or low-fat cottage cheese).

Are Chia Seeds Good For Muscle Growth?

You need two things in the nutrition department to achieve muscle growth: 

  1. More calories than your body needs (calorie surplus).
  1. Protein to help repair your muscles (at least 1.6 grams per kilogram). 

Chia seeds help provide the extra calories you need to achieve that caloric surplus.

However, although chia seeds do have some protein, it is not enough on their own. 

Thus, if your goal is muscle growth, always pair chia seeds with another protein source like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or protein powder.

Other Seeds For Bodybuilding


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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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