Cottage cheese historically has been a staple food on a weight loss diet, but does it provide similar benefits for bodybuilders with specific physique goals?
Here’s my quick answer…
Is cottage cheese good or bad for bodybuilding? Cottage cheese is good for bodybuilding because it’s high in protein, helping with muscle growth. It will also keep you full longer, which is beneficial when cutting. It is important, however, to be mindful of the fat content so it doesn’t impact body composition.
In this article, I will provide:
- The macro and micronutrients cottage cheese provides
- The pros and cons of cottage cheese for bodybuilding
- Whether cottage cheese is a good choice pre-and post-workout
- A pre-and post-workout recipe that includes cottage cheese
Eating Cottage Cheese for Bodybuilding: Overview
Macronutrients in Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a low-calorie snack option at 200 calories per cup. It is also a high protein food with some variation in the amount of protein and fat depending on the milk fat percentage purchased.
Cottage cheese ranges from 0% milkfat to 4% milkfat. Lower fat options contain more protein and carbs while the higher fat options contain less protein and carbs but more fat. Since the difference in calories is minimal, the cottage cheese that’s best for you will be based on the macronutrients.
Generally, most bodybuilders are looking to maximize the protein they are eating so the lower fat option is recommended. This will ensure you get the most protein without consuming a ton of additional fat that may impact body composition. This is especially important for bodybuilders that are cutting.
For bodybuilders that are bulking, a higher fat percentage could be beneficial if you generally are looking to consume more fat. A better option however is to stick to a lower percentage of cottage cheese and pair it with a fat dense food such as nuts.
Overall, low-fat cottage cheese is beneficial to consume to help reach our daily protein goals.
Micronutrient in Cottage Cheese
As a dairy product, the biggest micronutrient that cottage cheese provides is calcium as well as B vitamins.
Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium as it’s also a high protein food. This means you are getting a double bang for your buck when you eat cottage cheese. Calcium is important for bone health which is particularly important as we age.
Vitamin B is important for bodybuilders as it supports building muscle due to its role in muscle protein synthesis. B vitamins have an impact on your energy levels. Low vitamin B can make it difficult for bodybuilders to push through a workout, particularly for those cutting so foods rich in vitamin B are an important part of a bodybuilder’s diet.
- Want to learn more about high protein foods? Check out our article Bulking Foods For Bodybuilding.
3 Pros of Eating Cottage Cheese For Bodybuilding
The pros of eating cottage cheese for bodybuilders are:
- Cottage cheese is a low-fat protein source
- Cottage cheese keeps us full for longer
- Cottage cheese is easy to consume
1. Cottage Cheese Is a Low-Fat Protein Source
Cottage cheese is high in protein which is necessary for bodybuilders to build muscle. Since it’s also low in fat, by including cottage cheese in your diet, you can get enough protein without impacting your body composition.
For a lean physique like most bodybuilders are looking for, research shows that we want to aim for 5g of protein for every 1g of fat. This will make sure you are getting the fat you need for healthy hormones while also getting enough protein to maximize muscle building.
Cottage cheese with a fat percentage of 0-2% has this ratio or better, making it a great protein source for bodybuilders.
Cottage cheese is also particularly beneficial for vegetarians as most other high-quality protein sources are meat.
2. Cottage Cheese Keeps Us Full for Longer
Cottage cheese is high in protein and therefore takes longer to digest. This keeps you full for longer after you eat, this is especially helpful for bodybuilders who are cutting.
Bodybuilders that are cutting are consuming fewer calories than they are burning in a day which can often lead to hunger. By eating slow-digesting food like cottage cheese, it can help keep you full for longer after you eat.
When you are more full and satisfied after you eat, you are also less likely to find yourself reaching for a snack between meals. Many snacks like nachos or granola bars are high in calories causing you to eat more than what would result in successful weight loss.
3. Cottage Cheese Is Easy To Consume
Cottage cheese is easy to consume on the go or add to a snack or meal, which is helpful for bodybuilders that are on the go with a busy lifestyle.
Many bodybuilders find it easy to get protein in their meals but struggle with how to incorporate a high protein snack into their day-to-day life, especially while at work or on the go.
Cottage cheese can easily be packed in Tupperware and eaten on the go. Add nuts, fruit and/or cereal to make it more of a complete snack.
Cottage cheese is also great when bulking and you are already consuming large amounts of meat. My bodybuilding clients that are bulking often tell me they start to lose their desire for meat and don’t enjoy it. When this happens, I recommend trying a vegetarian protein option like cottage cheese that is more enjoyable to eat.
- Sometimes eating too much cheese can make you feel sleepy. Find out why
3 Cons of Eating Cottage Cheese For Bodybuilding
The downside of eating cottage cheese for bodybuilders is:
- Cottage cheese has lactose
- Cottage cheese can be high in sodium
- Cottage cheese can be high in fat
1. Cottage Cheese Has Lactose
Cottage cheese is a dairy product which means it contains lactose, which may cause digestive issues for some.
Experts estimate that approximately 68% of the population is lactose intolerant. This means that they experience some sort of digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea etc. after consuming a food that contains lactose.
For bodybuilders who have the goal of maximizing their gym performance, experiencing these symptoms during a workout is not ideal. I don’t know about you but I certainly cannot focus on getting a solid gym session in when my stomach is uncomfortable.
Digestive discomfort may also interfere with you getting enough protein for muscle growth. While everyone has a different tolerance to consume food while experiencing digestive issues, it will start to get in the way of your nutrition if it is occurring regularly.
Fortunately, for those that are lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free cottage cheese options available for purchase at most grocery stores. It’s important to always read the label to confirm if this is something you struggle with.
2. Cottage Cheese Can Be High in Sodium
Cottage cheese can be high in sodium if you are eating a high quantity daily and consume additional food that is high in sodium such as processed foods.
1 cup of cottage cheese is about 30% of the RDI daily sodium recommendation for adults. For most bodybuilders, this is not something to be concerned about as their diet is generally high in whole foods and low in processed food that would contain high amounts of sodium.
However, if you have a health condition or eat a high volume of other high sodium foods, you may want to purchase a low sodium cottage cheese.
- Looking for more low sodium alternatives? Check out my article on 11 Low Sodium Store-Bought Sauces, Dips, & Salad Dressing.
3. Cottage Cheese Can Be High in Fat
Cottage cheese can be high in fat, which leads to additional calories consumed to get enough protein that could impact body composition.
Cottage cheese ranges in fat percentage with 4% containing 9g of fat per cup. This is an additional 81 calories per serving. While this may not seem like a lot, it can quickly add up if you are consuming it often and are not aware of these calories.
I recommend reading the label and opting for a brand that is between 0-2% fat. Serve your cottage cheese with a side of nuts if you need additional fat. This will let you control the amount of fat you’re adding and consider it in your daily calories.
Can You Eat Cottage Cheese Before Workouts?
Yes, cottage cheese is a good choice to eat before a workout as it’s high in protein and provides some carbs. Choose a low-fat version and add in fruit or cereal to give you additional energy for your workout. It is best to consume cottage cheese 1 hour before your workout.
Before a workout, it’s important to eat something high in carbs and easily digestible to give you the most energy for your workout. Fat slows down our digestion so we want to keep this low.
Cottage cheese has some carbs, primarily from sugar, but we want to pair it with more carbs to provide us with enough energy. Fruit or cereal is a great option for this. Make sure you are choosing a low-fat cottage cheese and I recommend lactose-free if you tend to experience digestive issues.
Can You Eat Cottage Cheese After Workouts?
Cottage cheese is a great choice post-workout as it provides a high-quality protein source. To maximize recovery, it’s important to add additional carbs with your cottage cheese, ideally a more complex carb such as oats. Choose a low fat cottage cheese to promote recovery.
After a workout, it’s important to consume carbs and protein to restore energy and encourage muscle strength and growth. Cottage cheese is a great protein source and provides some carbs. These carbs are primarily from naturally occurring sugar, and therefore it’s important to consume some additional slow-digesting carbs such as oats or toast.
If you are looking to boost the protein in this meal further, try serving it with a side of low-fat deli meat such as ham or turkey.
Does Cottage Cheese Help Muscle Growth?
Yes, cottage cheese helps muscle growth as it’s a high-protein food that is easy to incorporate into snacks or meals to help us reach our daily protein goal. It’s important to choose a low-fat version, otherwise, to get enough protein, you may be consuming enough fat which will impact body weight and body composition.
It’s important to remember that no food alone will lead to muscle growth. It is instead a sufficient training stimulus that is the number one factor. However, in conjunction with this, you must also be consuming enough protein for your body to repair and grow your muscles after your workouts. Research suggests for bodybuilders, this intake is about 1-1.4g of protein daily per 1lb of bodyweight.
Cottage cheese is high in protein which will help you to reach this goal but remember you also need to be consuming other protein sources throughout the day as well.
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Healthy Cottage Cheese Recipe for Bodybuilders
Pre-Workout Cottage Cheese Recipe: Protein Pancakes
These protein pancakes are the perfect high carb and low-fat meal to leave you with plenty of energy throughout your workout. Top with fruit and maple syrup to add quick carbs into the meal for an extra boost.
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- ½ cup oats
- ½ cup egg whites
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until quite hot, spray with oil. Pour the mixture into the pan to create 3-4 pancakes.
- Let the pancake sit for 5 minutes until the pancake is bubbling.
- Flip over and let cook for another 3 minutes until golden brown.
- Top with berries, nut butter and/or maple syrup.
This recipe makes 1 serving with 317 calories, 35g protein, 37g carbs, 4g fat. For a higher calorie option, add additional toppings.
- Check out other cottage cheese recipe: Cottage Cheese Protein Pudding
Post-Workout Cottage Cheese Recipe: Cottage Cheese Toast
Cottage cheese toast is a perfect post-workout meal as it’s high in carbs and protein with some fat, providing the most optimal recovery.
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- 2 slices whole-wheat toast or bagel
- 1 small tomato
- ½ small avocado (~50g)
- Toast the bread as desired.
- Layer the cottage cheese over the toast and top with avocado and tomato.
- Sprinkle it with salt and garlic powder to taste.
This recipe makes 1 serving with 380 calories, 26g protein, 46g carbs, 10g fat. For a higher calorie option, increase the recipe by 1.5 to create a third toast.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions for eating cottage cheese as a bodybuilder.
Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Cottage Cheese?
Bodybuilders eat cottage cheese as a high-protein snack to help them achieve their daily protein goal needed for muscle growth. It also keeps you full for longer after you eat which is helpful for those cutting. Cottage cheese is a vegetarian protein source, good for bodybuilders that eat a lot of meat and want variety.
Is Yogurt or Cottage Cheese Better for Bodybuilding?
Cottage cheese contains slightly more protein per 3/4 cup than Greek yogurt, but Greek yogurt is better for bodybuilding. Greek yogurt is lower in sodium, which can help prevent bloating, and has more calcium. Calcium is necessary for bone health and muscle contractions, which can help you train with more intensity.
Is Cottage Cheese Good for Bulking?
Cottage cheese is good for bulking as it provides a high protein food option that is easy to consume. When bulking, a common complaint from bodybuilders is they no longer enjoy eating meat given the high quantity consumed. Cottage cheese is much more palatable and can be served with nuts to further boost the calories.
Other Cottage Cheese Recipes
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.