Are Donuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? A Coach Answers

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Donuts and deadlifts? It might sound surprising, but these sweet treats have found their way into the gym bags of many bodybuilders. If you’ve spotted a fellow lifter indulging in a glazed delight, you’re likely curious: Can donuts coexist with your muscle-building and fat-shredding goals? Here’s my quick take as a nutrition coach.

Key Takeaways

  • Donuts can be good for bodybuilding if we eat them in moderation and stick to our daily calorie and macronutrient goals. However, they can also be bad if we overeat them because they are calorie-dense and lack the protein, vitamins, and minerals we need.
  • One of the main issues with donuts is that it’s easy to overeat them and throw our bodybuilding diet off balance. The average donut has 200-400 calories (depending on the toppings), and it’s easy to eat more than one, especially when hungry.
  • It’s best to eat donuts with fewer than 10 grams of fat 60-90 minutes before training to provide your body with the fuel (carbs) it needs. If you want to eat a donut after training, pair it with a high-quality protein source like eggs or a protein shake.

Examples of Pro Bodybuilders Eating Donuts

I’ve been in the fitness/bodybuilding social media space for the past few years and I’ve seen countless bodybuilders chowing down on donuts.  

Here’s 4X Olympia Pro Bodybuilder, Jason Poston, Posing With Donuts:

You Can Also See Bikini Model, Hope Beel, Doing The Same Thing: 

And then there are the countless YouTube videos of bodybuilders eating donuts on their cheat days

IFBB Pro Bodybuilder, Regan Grimes, Eats 12 Krisy Kreme Donuts:

IFBB Pro Fitness Model, Gerardo Gabriel, Eats Donuts DURING a Chest Workout:

Below is everything you need to know about incorporating donuts into a bodybuilding diet. 

Donuts: Calories & Macros

donuts for bodybuilding

Donuts can help or hinder our bodybuilding goals depending on how much and how often we eat them. 

This primarily relates to how many calories a donut has because that will determine whether we gain, maintain, or lose weight. 

Donuts will impact our bodybuilding goals because they are higher in calories (200 to 400 calories depending on the toppings) for a smaller portion of food, and eating more than one donut is easy.

The calories we get per donut are primarily from carbs, fats, and very little protein.

What this means for bodybuilding is that we will have to consciously eat more protein on days when we’re eating donuts because we won’t be getting enough protein from this food.

The carbs we get from donuts are very fast-digesting, giving us quick bursts of energy for training because carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source while exercising.

“One of the best things I like to eat before a workout is donuts. Fast carbs have their place in a diet. If you want straight-up energy, it’s a donut. Of course, not too much. There are some healthy donuts too. My favourite is Black Forest from Krispy Kreme. Just one, not a whole box.”

Arnold Aninion, Celebrity Trainer

However, depending on the kind of donut, it can also be high in fat, which isn’t great for training. 

Consuming fat right before or during training can cause gastrointestinal distress, which, as you can imagine, isn’t the best feeling when we’re training (other sources of fats include nuts and avocados).

As such, if you’re going to eat a donut before working out, ensure it contains less than 10 grams of fat (I’ve included two low-fat donut recipes below).

Also, although donuts have many calories, they do not have many nutrients. 


This means we are not getting many vitamins and minerals, so they are not improving our health. 

It’s okay to eat donuts even though they are not the most nutrient-dense, as long as we get lots of good micronutrients from other foods like fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

Key point: If we’re trying to lose weight, we may want to include fewer donuts in our diet. However, if we’re trying to maintain or gain weight, we will have more wiggle room in our diet to include donuts.

3 Pros Of Eating Donuts For Bodybuilding

1. Donuts Provide Us With Energy For Training

Donuts can be beneficial for bodybuilding because they can provide us with energy for training due to their higher carbohydrate composition. 

Carbohydrates will help fuel our training sessions and also help to replenish our energy stores following training to promote proper recovery.

2. Donuts Can Help Make Bulking Easier

Donuts can be helpful when bulking for bodybuilding because they are higher in calories, and when we’re bulking, we need to consume more calories than we burn.

It can be difficult for some bodybuilders to consume enough calories if they need a lot of food to hit their calorie targets.

Donuts can be helpful in these situations because they won’t take up much room in the stomach, but they will supply us with a lot of calories.

“Clean bulking is definitely the best option to start with if you want to maximize health and minimize excessive fat gain over the course of the bulk, however there will come a time when clean bulking will not work anymore. If and when this does happen, you will have to resort to eating “dirtier foods”, often ones higher in sugar and fats, as these can be great ways to boost appetite and calorie intake.”

Mike Dewar, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Fitness Author

3. Donuts Can Improve Our Adherence To Our Diet Plan

Donuts are enjoyable enough that including them every once in a while when we’re cutting can help us to feel less restricted or deprived and increase our adherence to our diet long-term.

If we don’t include “fun foods” like donuts into our plan occasionally, we can easily become unmotivated or experience intense cravings for these types of foods. 

The best way to avoid this is to plan to have donuts every once in a while to keep us satisfied while still working towards our goals.

3 Cons of Eating Donuts For Bodybuilding

Cons of eating donuts for bodybuilding

1. Donuts Are Harder To Incorporate Into A Diet Plan

A downside to eating donuts for bodybuilding is that they are higher in calories. 

When calories are limited, it can be harder to incorporate them into our plan while sticking to our planned calorie and macronutrient ranges.

Eating donuts may be fine if we have more calories to work with. But if our calories are already low, it can be challenging to incorporate them while staying on target.

2. Donuts Are Low In Micronutrients

Donuts are low in micronutrients, so if we’re prioritizing donuts in our diet regularly (i.e. for breakfast), we could be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function.

We should ensure that we’re putting in a real effort throughout the rest of the day to eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. 

This will help us compensate for the micronutrients we are not getting from donuts.

3. Donuts Are Easy To Overeat

The real downfall to eating donuts while bodybuilding isn’t that donuts are “bad.” It’s that donuts are so easy to overconsume because they’re delicious, and we often feel out of control around them.

If we feel out of control around donuts and struggle to consume just one and be satisfied, then it may do more harm than good to have donuts. 

It can be difficult, especially in a dieting phase, because we are so restricted that we often can’t control ourselves when we get an opportunity to eat a donut.

For this reason, we could incorporate “fun foods” as often as possible within our current plan so that these foods don’t feel as special. 

Alternatively, we could avoid them entirely for the time being.

Can You Eat Donuts Around Workouts?

donuts around workouts


We should not consume donuts with more than 5-10 grams of fat because fat slows digestion and can cause stomach distress when working out.

Donuts can be a good option to eat before a workout because they are higher in carbohydrates, giving the body energy.

If the donut has more than 20 grams of fat, we should wait 2 to 3 hours before beginning vigorous exercise to allow more time for the fats to digest.


Donuts alone are not the best option to eat after a workout because they lack the protein we need post-workout to encourage muscle growth and repair. 

Following a workout, we should aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein to repair any muscle damag that occurred from training.

Donuts can be paired with a protein source to make them suitable for proper post-workout nutrition. For example, if we pair a donut with a protein shake, we have a balanced post-workout meal.

Dietitian Brenda Peralta shared her thoughts on eating donuts pre and post-workout:

Brenda Peralta

“Simple carbs are a good energy source to include before a workout, but having too many donuts could make you feel sluggish afterward. Simple sugars raise your energy levels quickly. The body then needs to eliminate all the sugar from the blood as quickly. That is why after a sugar rush, you get a sugar crash. To avoid the sugar crash, avoid eating too many highly sugary foods, like donuts, before a workout. After training, insulin sensitivity is at its highest, making it an ideal moment to include donuts. But we should add some protein to balance it.”

Do Donuts Help Muscle Growth?

donuts help muscle growth

Donuts can help muscle growth because they are higher in calories, and we build muscles more readily when our body has excess calories available to expend the energy required for building additional muscle mass.

However, donuts alone will not build muscle mass because they do not have the protein content that we would need to repair muscle damage from our workouts or to promote muscle protein synthesis (a necessary process for muscle growth).

Is It Okay To Eat Donuts When Bulking?

 donuts when bulking

Donuts can be eaten when bulking, but if we’re trying to minimize fat gain while bulking, we should ensure that a donut fits our calorie and macronutrient goals for the day.

When bulking, we must eat more calories daily than our body burns. The more aggressive we are with this surplus of calories will determine how rapidly our body weight will increase. 

The faster our body weight increases, the more likely we are to put on excess fat along with muscle.

If we’re not concerned about gaining fat, we can eat donuts more frequently. 

However, if we are trying to minimize the amount of fat we gain, we should be more mindful about staying within our calorie limits for the day.

Learn more about how much your caloric surplus should be when bulking.  

Donut Recipes For Bodybuilding

We’ve talked about how traditional donuts in stores and restaurants probably have too much fat to eat pre-workout but don’t have enough protein to support our goals post-workout, so I’ve included two recipes that solve both of these problems.

Baked Chocolate Frosted Donut Recipe

pre workout low-fat donut recipe

This donut recipe is a baked donut because we’re trying to keep our fat intake low before our workout. This donut has just the right amount of carbs to give us the energy boost we need for training.

The recipe makes eight donuts.  For one donut (glaze included): 200 Calories with 38 g Carbs, 3 g Protein, and 4 g Fat

Donut Ingredients:
  • 125 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup milk (cow milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc will work!)
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 30 grams butter, melted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk
  • Sprinkles!
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a donut pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Donuts: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a bowl.
  3. Mix the egg, brown sugar, milk, and yogurt in a separate bowl until smooth and well combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Spoon or pipe the batter into the greased donut pan, filling each ring ¾ of the way full.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown lightly.
  7. Allow the donuts to cool before glazing!
  8. Glaze: Combine powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and milk into a bowl. Mix until smooth.
  9. Place one donut at a time face down into the glaze. Tilt the donut to allow excess glaze to drip back into the bowl. Set aside until all donuts are glazed.
  10. Add the desired amount of sprinkles to the glazed donuts. This should be done while the glaze is still tacky for the best results.

Enjoy pre-workout with some coffee to increase your performance in the gym 🙂

Birthday Cake Protein Donut

post-workout protein donut recipe

Post-workout, we’re looking for a donut with a good amount of carbs and protein to recover optimally from training and encourage muscle growth, but we also want something that tastes great. Enter the birthday cake donut.

Makes six donuts.  For one donut (glaze included), 247 Calories with 35 g Carbs, 20 g Protein, and 4 g Fat

Donut Ingredients:
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sprinkles
  • 1 ½ cups flour (or oat flour for fewer carbs!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk (can add vanilla extract to plain almond milk)
  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons cake batter extract 
Glaze Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • ½ scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla almond milk
  • Sweeten to taste with sugar or sweetener
  • Sprinkles!
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease a donut pan with non-sticking cooking spray.
  2. Donuts: Combine the vanilla protein powder, baking powder, salt, sprinkles, and flour in a large bowl. Mix until combined.
  3. Add the egg, almond milk, greek yogurt, and cake batter extract. Mix until the batter is smooth.
  4. Spoon or pipe the batter into the greased donut tin. Fill each donut mold ¾ of the way full.
  5. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Let cool.
  6. Glaze: Mix Greek yogurt, protein powder, almond milk, and sweetener (optional) in a large mixing bowl.
  7. Place one donut at a time face down into the glaze. Tilt the donut to allow excess glaze to drip back into the bowl. Set aside until all donuts are glazed.
  8. Add the desired amount of sprinkles to the glazed donuts. This should be done while the glaze is still tacky for the best results.

What To Read Next? 


Ivy JL, Ferguson-Stegall LM. Nutrient Timing: The Means to Improved Exercise Performance, Recovery, and Training Adaptation. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2014;8(4):246-259. doi:10.1177/1559827613502444

Campbell, Bill I. PhD, CSCS1; Wilborn, Colin D. PhD, CSCS, ATC2; La Bounty, Paul M. PhD, MPT, CSCS3; Wilson, Jacob M. PhD, CSCS4. Nutrient Timing for Resistance Exercise. Strength and Conditioning Journal 34(4):p 2-10, August 2012. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3182558e16

Weinert D. J. (2009). Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 53(3), 186–193.

About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

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