Are Chia Seeds Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

Chia seeds are an excellent superfood worth incorporating into a bodybuilding diet, regardless of whether you’re in a bulking or cutting phase.

Chia seeds have a lot of calories, helping bodybuilders achieve a caloric surplus, which is key for gaining muscle. Chia seeds also provide fullness because of their high fiber content. This helps bodybuilders who struggle with overeating due to not feeling satiated.  Chia seeds are also a great plant-based protein.

With that said, if you want to add chia seeds to your bodybuilding diet, there is one con that I’ll mention below.  As well, I’ll also discuss the optimal meal timing for chia seeds as there are better times of the day to eat them than others.

In this article, you will learn everything related to chia seeds and bodybuilding, including

  • The calories and macronutrients breakdown of chia seeds
  • Pros and cons of adding chia seeds to your diet
  • Whether it’s best to eat chia seeds before or after training
  • If chia seeds help in muscle growth
  • Tips and tricks to include chia seeds into your diet 

Chia Seeds For Bodybuilding: Overview

Nutritional Content of Chia Seeds

Nutritional content of 100 grams chia seeds

In 100 g of chia seeds, you find the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 486
  • Carbs: 42.1 g
  • Fiber: 34.4 g
  • Proteins: 16.5 g
  • Fats: 30.7 g

Calories

Chia seeds are a high-energy dense food. This means that you get a lot of calories in a small amount of food. One tablespoon of chia seeds (15 g) has approximately 73 kcal. This is the same number of calories as one small apple.

For those in a bulking phase, energy-dense foods are a great option to have.  This is because chia seeds add calories without taking too much space in your stomach.  As a result, it leaves more room in your stomach to continue eating other calorically dense foods needed to gain weight.

With that said, make sure to measure the portion size whenever you are eating chia seeds. It might be tempting to scoop a couple of servings into your water or protein shake. Still, if you are not careful, you might consume more calories than you need resulting in fat gain, not muscle gain. 

Macronutrients

Regarding the macronutrient content, chia seeds have all of three essential macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat).

One tablespoon of chia seeds (15 g) has:

  • Carbs: 6.3 g
  • Fiber: 5.2 g
  • Protein: 0.2 g
  • Fats: 4.6 g

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 1.1 g of total net carbs (Net carbs = total carbs – fiber).  As such, this is a great food to add for a bodybuilder, following a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

It might seem that it doesn’t have a lot of protein since one tablespoon has less than 1 g of protein. However, when added in large quantities (100 g), it does provide a good number of plant-based proteins.

When you consume 100 g of chia seeds, you get 16 g of protein, equivalent to 2 oz of meat or chicken. 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. One tablespoon of chia seeds has the same grams of fats as one teaspoon (5 g) 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)

Check out other foods that are high calories and low in saturated fat

Micronutrients

Chia seeds are high in certain nutrients, such as:

  • Phosphorus. It plays an important 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 in the body.
  • Calcium. It acts as a messenger in the body helping your brain tell your muscles to contract. Without an appropriate amount of calcium, you wouldn’t move appropriately while training. Along with phosphorus, it also plays an essential role in bone formation.

One interesting fact about chia seeds is that they contain more calcium and phosphorus than milk, compared to 100 g of each product. For those bodybuilders using a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can increase your chia seed intake to make sure you are getting enough calcium during the day. 

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

3 Pros Of Eating Chia Seeds For Bodybuilding

Pros vs Cons of eating chia seeds for bodybuilding

There are several benefits of including chia seeds if you are a bodybuilder. 

High in Fiber

One of the most significant benefits of chia seeds is their high fiber content.

To have optimal bowel movements and heart health benefits, the American Hearts Association recommends having at least 25 g of fiber daily.

One common problem I often see in my nutrition consultations is constipation. It is not a shocker since it is said that the average person consumes only 15 g of fiber daily. Increasing your fiber intake and water helps you have a healthier gastrointestinal tract.

Additionally, fiber takes longer to digest. This means that it helps you feel fuller for longer. For a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, where the calories are restricted, this is an excellent choice of food to prevent feeling hungry during the day. 

Remember to measure the portion size to keep the calories controlled, since with only a small amount of chia seeds, you can stack on the calories pretty quick. 

High in Protein

For those looking to cut back on their animal protein intake, or have a hard time looking for other ways to increase your protein, or are following a plant-based approach, chia seeds help increase your total daily protein.  

When you consume 100 g of chia seeds, you get 16 g of protein, equivalent to 2 oz of chicken or two large eggs.  

Want a high protein chia seed recipe? Check out my Protein Chia Pudding.

Reduces Inflammation

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

Chia seeds are high in manganese and zinc. Both of which are potent antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.

Additionally, it is a food high in omega-3 fatty acids. In two tablespoons of chia seeds (1 oz), you can find 4,915 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, it covers the minimal recommended intake of 250-500 mg per day.

Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, consuming high dosage of them helps reduce inflammation in the body leading to better muscle recovery. 

1 Con of Eating Chia Seeds For Bodybuilding

Although chia seeds have a lot of benefits, it also has one drawback to consider. 

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 having a food very high in fiber, make sure to consume it in small portions and increase it slowly over time to gauge your sensitivity levels. 

Can You Eat Chia Seeds Before Workouts?

Chia seeds might not be the best option to include before a workout. Since they are high in fiber and fat, it can be difficult to digest leading to stomach issues. Additionally, consuming chia seeds right before training might not provide you with the energy you need, as you want to eat something more carb-dense.

If you are going to add chia seeds before a workout, you might want to have them 1-2 hours prior to training. That way, you have plenty of time to digest them and prevent having stomach problems which could lead to impaired performance.

For those looking for a snack to have before training, you might want to opt for a carb-based option such as granola, rice, potatoes, or yams. This will provide you with the sufficient energy needed to have an intense training session. 

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

Can You Eat Chia Seeds After Workouts?

Since chia seeds have anti-inflammatory properties, it makes them a great option to include after your workout. Reducing inflammation leads to better muscle recovery. However, it does not contain the necessary protein to help repair/grow your muscles. Thus, it is key to include a protein source along with chia seeds.

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

As discussed previously, even if chia seeds do contain some carbs, it is mostly fiber. Since fiber is not digested, it doesn’t help recuperate the lost energy. Add a carb source like mango, strawberries, or oatmeal with chia seeds. 

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

Are Chia Seeds Good For Muscle Growth?

To achieve muscle growth, you need two things in the nutrition part: more calories than your body needs (calorie surplus) and protein to help repair your muscles. Chia seeds help provide the extra calories you need to achieve that caloric surplus.

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 (cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, etc).

There are some protein bars made out of chia seeds. To learn more, check out: Are Protein Bars Good For Breakfast?

Tips For Incorporating Chia Seeds Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating chia seeds into a bodybuilding diet

Here are a couple of my favorite tips and tricks on including chia seeds into a bodybuilder 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 for 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 couple of drops of lemon to your water to make it more refreshing.

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

Looking for a recipe with chia seeds, try our Peanut Butter Protein Balls.

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 some 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 Delish.com that I can assure you are going to love. As a bonus tip, add protein powder to this recipe to make it higher in protein.

Related Recipe: Protein Powder Chia Pudding (Chocolate or Vanilla)

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 TasteLoveAndNourish.com, which uses chia seeds.

Use It As Breadcrumbs

If you are looking for a low-carb version of crusted chicken, you can use chia seeds instead of normal breadcrumbs. Place the chia seeds in a food processor until you get chia seed flour.

Additionally, you can use it as a mix when you are making meatloaf. Ideal for those in a low-carb diet or gluten intolerant. 

Mix It Up

Although chia seeds are good to have, variation is key to having optimal nutrition. You can create a seed mix with flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia to have different nutrients added 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. 

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

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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 FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.