Chicken breast is one of the most common proteins a bodybuilder adds to their diet, but how about chicken thighs? Are they the same?
Chicken thighs are not the best option for bodybuilding. It is low in protein and high in fat. It might help achieve the calories you need for muscle gain, but the fat to protein ratio is not ideal. It has 4 times the amount of fat than protein. But, if you remove the skin, this reduces the fat content considerably.
Not all protein sources are good to have. This article will teach you why chicken thighs are not the best to include for a bodybuilder, but if you do include them, how to make them work with your diet.
I will explore:
- The calorie and macronutrient breakdown of chicken thighs
- The micronutrients it has and how it might benefit a bodybuilder
- Pros and cons of adding chicken thighs if you are a bodybuilder
- Are chicken thighs good for muscle growth
- The difference between chicken thighs and chicken breast
- Tips and tricks to include chicken thighs into your bodybuilder diet
Chicken Thighs For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutritional Content of Chicken Thighs
In 100 g of chicken thighs raw, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 440
- Carbs: 0.8 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 9.6 g
- Fats: 44.2 g
Chicken thighs are very high in calories. In 100 g of raw product, you find 220 kcal.
The other problem that you see with chicken thighs is the cooking method. In most cases, they are breaded and deep-fried, increasing the calories even more. Having it breaded and fried can increase the caloric content by 100 kcal. Although this might not seem too much, slowly adding calories might jeopardize your goals.
If you are in a cutting phase, chicken thighs might not be the best protein option to add. Other leaner proteins provide you with the necessary protein intake without adding too much fat to the equation.
Although you might have a wider range of calories and macros for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, chicken thighs still might not be the best option. You can include them, just measure the portion size and record your calorie and macro intake.
Whether it is muscle gain or fat loss, remember that thoroughly having a measure of your calories will be fundamental for you to reach your goals.
Chicken thighs only have two macronutrients: fats and protein.
For a bodybuilder, having a high protein intake is essential for muscle building. However, you need to be careful with the amount of fat the protein source has.
In this case, chicken thighs are very high in fat. I normally recommend having more grams of protein than fat. Never more and never the same. This way, you make sure that the protein source is mainly protein and not anything else.
Although there is nothing wrong with having fat, it is much more complicated to control in a protein source. Whereas having it from other sources like avocado or olive oil, you can control how many grams you will have. Besides, these last types of fats (unsaturated) are better than fats found in animals (saturated).
To give you an idea of how many grams of fat 100 g of chicken thighs contain, let’s reference it to teaspoons of butter. One teaspoon of butter has approximately 5 g of fat. Thus, if in 100 g of chicken thighs you get 16.5 g of fat, you are eating 3 teaspoons of butter.
Most of the fat content found in chicken thighs comes from the skin. I know that this is one of the reasons why most people prefer chicken thighs over chicken breast since it’s the skin that gives it a lot of flavors. If you manage to get chicken thighs without the skin or remove it when you cook them, chicken thighs are really a great protein source.
Overall, the protein and fat ratio is not the best. Other leaner protein options might be better for a bodybuilder unless you get chicken thighs without the skin.
If you want high protein, low-fat foods, check out my article: How To Increase Your Protein Without Fat
We have now seen the macronutrients found in chicken thighs, but what about the micronutrients?
Chicken thighs do contain a certain amount of valuable micronutrients for a bodybuilder. Here are the main micronutrients found and how they might benefit a bodybuilder.
- Selenium. It is an antioxidant that helps decrease inflammation in the body and boosts your immune system. This means that you are less likely to get sick, stay at home, and more time training to achieve maximum muscle growth.
- Phosphorus. It is an essential part of the type of energy we use in our bodies. It also helps with muscle contraction.
- Niacin. This essential vitamin helps convert the food you eat into usable energy. It also helps keep your digestive system healthy.
- Zinc. An important mineral that helps boost immunity. This means that you have a stronger immune system that will prevent you from getting sick more often.
- Pantothenic acid. Like niacin, it helps convert food into usable energy. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to move, not even train.
Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?
3 Pros Of Eating Chicken Thighs For Bodybuilding
Besides being affordable, there are several benefits of including chicken thighs if you are a bodybuilder. Here is a list of the top three reasons why you should incorporate it into your diet.
Good Protein Source
Although they are high in fat, they are a good protein source. This can help you increase your protein intake without affecting your wallet for those on a tight budget since they are cheaper than chicken breasts.
A bodybuilder might need around 150-200 g of protein daily, and this might be a lot of protein for someone, and it can get expensive.
Tastier and Juicier
The most common thing my clients complain about chicken breast is its dryness. They say that it is very dry and not tasty. Dark meat (chicken thighs) is juicier and more flavorful compared to chicken breast.
This might help a bodybuilder in a bulking phase to add on the calories since they find the dish more delicious. While those who find the plate not as pleasing might not want to consume the entire plate, they will be forced to eat it. Not a very pleasant or favorable relationship to have with food.
Higher in Myoglobin
Chicken thighs are higher in a component called myoglobin. This is the protein that helps carry oxygen around the body. That is why chicken thighs are red-looking compared to chicken breasts that are whiter.
Myoglobin helps deliver oxygen to your muscles which is essential for you to move during your training session. Usually, the more myoglobin the protein has, it is usually richer in nutrients, bringing more nutritional value.
Chicken thighs is on our list of high calorie, low sodium foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
1 Con of Eating Chicken Thighs For Bodybuilding
Even if chicken thighs have several benefits, there is one big disadvantage it has. Here is why you should avoid chicken thighs if you are a bodybuilder.
Higher in Calories and Fat
Chicken thighs are higher in calories and fat. Although there is nothing wrong with adding fats to your diet, it is crucial to carefully control its caloric intake for a bodybuilder that is in a cutting phase.
When your fat intake is a bit limited, choosing other sources of fat might be better for heart health and better calorie control. Since they are a source of saturated fats, you need to eat them in moderation. Try to have less than 7% of your total daily calories from saturated fats to prevent heart disease.
Can You Eat Chicken Thighs Before Workouts?
Chicken thighs are not the best option to have before a workout. The main goal of a pre-workout snack is to provide energy. This is achieved through carbs. Since chicken thighs don’t provide carbs, they might not be the best option. Also, they are very high in fat which might make you sluggish before training.
If you include chicken thighs as a pre-workout snack, make sure to have it 2-3 hours before training to make sure you digest it on time. Since it lacks carbs, make sure to add a carb source to help you fuel up your training session.
Avoid any cooking method that requires fat, like deep-fried, since it will increase the fat intake and increase the chances of you feeling sluggish and not ready to train.
For a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, 100-150 g of chicken thighs might be enough to cover the necessary protein and fat before a workout. On the other hand, a bodybuilder in a cutting phase has no more than 100 g. You can add a healthy carb source like brown rice or yams.
Can You Eat Chicken Thighs After Workouts?
Chicken thighs are ok to have after a workout. There might be better options available to increase your protein intake, but it is better to have them post-workout than before training. It provides the protein you need for muscle building, and it gives fats, which help provide calories for muscle growth.
After training, you need a protein source to help your muscles recover and grow. Chicken thighs are a great protein source that provides all the essential benefits for optimal muscle growth.
However, keep in mind that it does contain a substantial amount of fat, which you need to be careful of especially if you are in a cutting phase where the calories need to be thoroughly controlled.
Remember that you need to add a carb source to replenish the energy lost during your workout session. This will prevent the protein you consume from the chicken thighs from being used as energy. You can add a carb source like corn or quinoa.
Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Chicken Thighs vs. Chicken Breast: Which Is Better For Bodybuilding?
So, what is the difference between chicken breast and chicken thighs? Are they really that different?
In 100 g of chicken breast, you can find the following nutritional information.
- Calories: 158
- Carbs: 0 g
- Proteins: 32.1 g
- Fats: 3.2 g
If we compare, the calories might not differ too much from one another, as you can see. Chicken thighs only have 63 kcal more than chicken breast. For some, this might be insignificant.
However, the major difference between chicken thighs and chicken breasts comes from the macronutrient content. While chicken thighs have 16 g of protein per 10 g, chicken breast has twice that amount (32 g). For a bodybuilder, this might be a better option since they have a larger protein necessity.
The fat content also has a significant difference. While chicken thighs have 16 g of fat, chicken breast has only 3 g. If you are in a cutting phase, this might make or break the results you are after.
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Are Chicken Thighs Good For Muscle Growth?
Chicken thighs are good for muscle building since they do have the protein content needed for muscle repair and growth. They also contain the calories that you need to have a caloric surplus. However, since it is a very fat-dense food, you might need to control the fat contents in other meals throughout the day.
You can include chicken thighs but in moderation to ensure you are getting the right amount of protein compared to the amount of fat you get in your diet.
Tips For Incorporating Chicken Thighs Into A Bodybuilding Diet
If you want to include chicken thighs in your bodybuilder diet but don’t want to add on too many calories that might affect your goals, here are the most common tips and tricks I give my clients.
Remove the Skin
Most of the saturated fat that comes from chicken thighs is found in the skin. Thus, I always recommend to my clients to remove the chicken skin. You eliminate most of the calories and the saturated fats, which we want to consume in moderation.
The chicken’s skin is almost 50% fat, while only 10% protein (the rest is water). This is not a suitable macronutrient ratio for a bodybuilder.
Breading adds calories and carbs to the mix. However, it might not be a lot (between 50-100 kcal). Little by little, everything starts adding up. If you are not careful, that extra 200 kcal might be the make or break of your current goals.
Choose the Right Cooking Method
When you are choosing which cooking method to use, remember that chicken thighs are high in fat. Try to compensate by having a cooking method that doesn’t require a lot of added fats.
Broiled, baked, or grilled are all great options to have your chicken thighs without having to add any fat.
Be Aware of the Sauces
Most times, chicken thighs are covered in sauces. Those are sometimes very high in salt, fat, and sugar. This makes it even more caloric. Try to avoid them, or ask them on the side. That way you, can control the portion of sauce you add.
Choose the Right Side Dish
Since chicken things are high in calories, be aware of which side you decide to add. Avoid high-fat and high-carb foods like French fries. Choose healthier carb options like a sweet potato, either grilled or boiled. Remember to add a veggie source to increase the nutrient intake.
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About The Author
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.