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

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Donuts have become more popular these days with lifters, and it’s common to see bodybuilders having donuts before, during, or following training sessions. 

You can see pro bodybuilders, like Jason Poston, posing with donuts: 

You can see bikini models, like Hope Beel, doing the same thing: 

And then there are the countless YouTube videos of bodybuilders celebrating eating donuts as “epic cheat days”: 

But are donuts actually good for bodybuilding or are they holding us back from reaching our true potential in the sport?

Are Donuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? Donuts can be good for bodybuilding if we’re eating them in moderation and sticking to our planned calorie and macronutrient goals for the day.

Donuts can be bad for bodybuilding if we’re overeating them. Also, if eating donuts for bodybuilding, they should be consumed pre-workout in order to utilize the extra carbs. 

To get the most out of our bodybuilding training and nutrition while still eating foods like donuts that we enjoy, we need to understand how they can benefit us, and when to include them.

After reading this article you’ll learn:

  • If donuts are good or bad for bodybuilding
  • The pros and cons of donuts for bodybuilding
  • When to eat donuts for the best results
  • How to make your donuts for pre and post-workout

Donuts For Bodybuilding: Overview

donuts for bodybuilding

Calories From A Donut

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

This relates to how many calories a donut has because calories will determine whether we gain weight, maintain weight, or lose weight. They also determine the rate at which these weight changes will occur.

Donuts typically have anywhere from 200 to 400 calories depending on if the donut has lots of toppings or is plain. 

Donuts will impact our bodybuilding goals because they are higher in calories for a smaller portion of food, and it’s very easy to eat more than one donut.

If we eat too many donuts or we eat them too often, this is going to increase our caloric intake more than we may want, which can lead to more fat gain than we’d like if we’re not mindful about our donut consumption.

Takeaway:  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 then we will have more wiggle room in our diet to include donuts.

Donut Macronutrients

The 200 to 400 calories that we get per donut are mostly from carbs and fats, and very little protein.

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

Eating enough protein is crucial for bodybuilders to be able to build or retain as much muscle as possible.

Donuts will provide us with a hefty source of carbs and fats, but we can account for this throughout the rest of the day by eating fewer carbs and fats at other meals/snacks. This is how we can make donuts fit our macros and calorie goals for the day.

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

However, the fat content that donuts offer can slow down digestion and cause us to stay full for a longer amount of time, 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).

Micronutrient Content Of A Donut

Although donuts have lots of calories, they do not have lots of nutrients. This means that we are not getting many vitamins and minerals from these donuts, so they are not improving our health. But they sure do taste delicious!

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

It’s important to understand what donuts have to offer and what they do not so that we can adjust the rest of our diet accordingly to reach our bodybuilding goals and overall health goals at the end of the day.

3 Pros Of Eating Donuts For Bodybuilding

donuts bodybuilding

The pros of eating donuts for bodybuilding are that they:

  • Provide Us With Energy For Training
  • Can Help Make Bulking Easier
  • Can Increase Our Adherence To Our Diet Plan

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 our stomach but they will supply us with a good amount of calories.

3. Donuts Can Increase 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 and/or deprived, and increase our adherence to our diet long-term.

If we don’t include “fun foods” like donuts into our plan every once in a while, 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

The cons of eating donuts for bodybuilding are that they are:

  • Harder To Incorporate Into A Diet Plan
  • Low In Micronutrients
  • Easy To Overeat

1. Donuts Are Harder To Incorporate Into A Diet Plan

A downside to eating donuts for bodybuilding is that they are higher in calories, and when calories are limited, it can be harder to incorporate them into our plan while sticking to our planned calorie and macronutrient ranges.

If we have more calories to work with, then eating donuts may not be an issue. But if our calories are already low, then it can be difficult to incorporate them while staying on target.

2. Donuts Are Low In Micronutrients

Donuts will never be the best option because they are low in micronutrients, so if we’re prioritizing donuts in our diet, we could be missing out on important micronutrients that our bodies need to function.

If we’re eating donuts regularly, then we should ensure that we’re putting in a real effort throughout the rest of the day to eat lots of colourful fruits and vegetables. This will help us to compensate for the micronutrients that 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 when we get an opportunity to eat a donut, we often can’t control ourselves.

For this reason, we could choose to incorporate “fun foods” as often as we can within our current plan so that these food don’t feel as special, or we could try to avoid them entirely for the time being.

Can You Eat Donuts Before Workouts?

We can eat donuts before a workout, but we should try not to consume donuts with more than 5-10 grams of fat because fat slows digestion and can cause digestive upset when working out.

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

However, to minimize digestive discomfort while working out we should aim to eat a donut that has fewer grams of fat or give ourselves plenty of time to diest the donut before working out.

If a donut has less than 10 grams of fat, then we can probably work out without any digestion issues within an hour and a half of eating. 

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

Can You Eat Donuts After Workouts? 

Donuts by themselves are not the best option to eat following a workout because they lack the protein content we need post-workout to encourage muscle growth and repair. Following a workout, we should aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein.

Donuts can be paired with a protein source to make them suitable for proper post-workout nutrition. If we pair a donut with a protein shake or an egg, for example, then we’ve got a balanced post-workout meal.

A donut paired with a protein source is ideal because we’re getting carbs from the donut to replenish our energy stores, and we’re getting a protein source to repair any muscle damage that occurred from training.

In addition, we’re getting some fat from the donut as well, which isn’t necessary post-workout but will keep us satisfied for a longer period following training.

We asked Dietician Brenda Peralta about her thoughts on eating donuts pre and post-workout and she stated that :

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.

Donuts can be useful when we’re after muscle growth because they are calorically dense foods. 

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).

Donuts in combination with other foods with different macronutrient compositions can help us achieve muscle growth as long as we’re presenting the right training stimulus.

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, then we should make sure that a donut fits our calorie and macronutrient goals for the day.

When we’re bulking we will be eating more calories in a day 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, then we can get away with eating donuts more frequently. However, if we are trying to minimize the amount of fat that we gain, then we should be a bit more mindful about staying within our calorie limits for the day.

As I mentioned previously, we should also be making sure that we’re getting enough protein throughout the day because we won’t be able to gain the muscle that we’re looking for by just eating donuts because they do not have enough protein.

Donut Recipes For Bodybuilding

We’ve talked about how traditional donuts that we find in stores/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 2 recipes that solve both of these problems.

Pre Workout Low-Fat Donut Recipe

pre workout low-fat donut recipe

Baked Chocolate Frosted Donuts (with sprinkles, of course) 

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.

Makes 8 Donuts

For 1 donut (glaze included): 200 Calories with 38 g Carbs, 3 g Protein, and 4 g Fat

Donut Ingredients:
  • 125 grams  all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup milk (cows 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!

Want to learn more about the benefits of dark chocolate for bodybuilding? Check out our other article.

  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. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, brown sugar, milk, and yogurt 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 lightly brown.
  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 🙂

Post-Workout Protein Donut Recipe

post-workout protein donut recipe

Birthday Cake Protein Donuts

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

Makes 6 donuts

For 1 donut (glaze included)  247 Calories with 35 g Carbs, 20 g Protein, and 4 g Fat

Donut Ingredients:
  • 2 scoop 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 into 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 mould 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.

Final Thoughts

Donuts can be good for bodybuilding or bad for bodybuilding depending on how often we eat them, how many we eat, and when we’re eating them. 

Now that we know how donuts can benefit us, and how they could potentially work against us we can make more informed decisions about including them in our diet.


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

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.