Does Eating Edamame DESTROY Your Muscle-Building Gains?

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As a Registered Dietitian, I see only one reason not to include edamame in your bodybuilding diet.  However, you’ll still want to know the best meal timing for edamame and how much you should eat to maximize its muscle-building benefits. I’ve broken it down below (+3 tips on how to add it to your diet).

Key Takeaways

  • Edamame is a good bodybuilding food, especially for those on a plant-based diet. A cup has 18.4 grams of complete protein and high amounts of folate, vitamin K, and iron, which are beneficial for metabolism, athletic performance, and recovery.
  • While it has a higher soy content, which bodybuilders avoid because some say it may increase estrogen levels, studies show that the compounds in edamame don’t impact estrogen or testosterone.
  • Edamame is not a good pre-workout food because it only has 5 grams of net carbs per cup. However, it can be an excellent addition to a post-workout meal, along with other protein foods (e.g., meat) and carbs (e.g., pasta or rice).

Edamame: Overview

Nutritional content of one cup of cooked edamame (160 g)


Edamame has a moderate amount of calories, with one cup (160 grams or 5.6 ounces) providing 224 calories.

The advantage is that you can modify how you eat it based on whether you’re bulking or cutting.

For example, if you are doing a cut, you might want to have edamame with just a little salt or low-sodium soy sauce. 

However, if you are bulking, add some sesame seed or olive oil to increase the caloric content.  


Edamame has a balanced nutritional profile, providing protein, carbs (and fiber), and fats in decent quantities.

Edamame is an excellent protein source for bodybuilders trying to reduce their animal protein intake or follow a plant-based approach. 

It offers 18.4 grams per cup––the same as three large eggs or almost as much as a scoop of protein powder. 

Even if you don’t follow a plant-based diet but struggle with eating enough protein throughout the day, edamame is a great food to boost your protein intake. 

Edamame also has 12 grams of fat per cup––mostly the healthy type (unsaturated). This means that it has fats that support cardiovascular health.

Finally, although edamame contains 13.8 grams of carbs per cup, more than half is fiber (8 grams), which is the undigestable part. 

This means your body can use only 5.8 grams of carbs (i.e., net carbs). 

For a bodybuilder who is following a low-carb or ketogenic approach, edamame is an excellent food to add. 


Here are the top four nutrients in edamame: 

  • Iron (45% of daily needs for men and 20% for women per cup). It is necessary for producing hemoglobin, a protein, and major structural component in red blood cells, which I mentioned just above.
  • Vitamin K (37% of daily needs for men and 50% for women per cup). It plays a vital role in bone health. Studies have shown that adequate vitamin K levels reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Selenium (2.5% of daily needs per cup). It is a potent antioxidant that helps boost immunity and may reduce the risk of getting sick (which often means taking time off training and losing muscle).

4 Pros Of Eating Edamame

pros of eating edamame

Complete Protein

Unlike other plant-based options like kidney beans or lentils, edamame has all nine essential amino acids your body needs, making it a high-quality “complete protein.” 

This means it has the same qualities as an animal protein without actually being an animal protein. 

High Levels of Satiety

Its high fiber intake provides several benefits, such as fighting constipation, supporting gut health, and boosting satiety (the feeling of fullness). 

This is incredibly beneficial for people trying to lose weight, as caloric restriction often leads to hunger. 

High In Leucine

Edamame offers 0.74 grams of leucine per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), which is good for a plant-based protein.

For reference, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends having 3-4 grams of leucine after training to get maximal protein synthesis. 

This means a one-cup serving of edamame can cover more than 33% of your leucine needs following a workout.

Leucine is one of the essential amino acids for bodybuilders since it is responsible for protein synthesis. This means that it starts the process of creating new proteins for muscle repair and growth. 

In one study, researchers compared post-workout protein synthesis in people who ingest a drink containing only carbs, carbs and protein, and carbs, protein, and leucine.

Those who ingested the carbohydrate, protein, and leucine beverages saw a 5% increase in protein synthesis. 

Plant-Based Source of Iron

Research shows that vegetarians are more likely to suffer from an iron deficiency. 

According to Roman Pawlak, Ph.D., and colleagues:

“Vegetarians have a high prevalence of depleted iron stores. A higher proportion of vegetarians, compared to nonvegetarians, had iron deficiency anemia.”

This is particularly true for women, as they have much higher iron needs––18 mg daily compared to 8 mg for men.

A cup of edamame provides 3.5 mg of iron, which is a significant boost, particularly for people who don’t eat iron-rich foods like organ meat (e.g., liver), red meat (e.g., beef and pork), chicken, and turkey.

Here is a bit of insight from Ciaran Fairman, Ph.D. as to why low iron levels are not ideal:

“Not having enough iron can result in..low energy levels and bad exercise performance.”

1 Con of Eating Edamame

con of eating edamame

Gastric Distress

Edamame can cause gastric problems like bloating, nausea, stomach cramps, and gas for people with a low fiber tolerance. 

Although a high-fiber diet has several benefits (preventing constipation, lowering cholesterol levels, and increasing satiety), some people might not benefit from having too much of it. 

If you have a low tolerance for fiber, start slow with the fiber intake. Since edamame provides 32% of the recommended intake, you might want to start with ¼ or ½ a cup and increase it to one full cup over a couple of weeks. 

Additionally, for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), having legumes like beans and edamame might increase symptoms, which means you need to consume them in moderation or not eat them at all. Always listen to your body. 

Will Edamame Affect Estrogen Levels?

One of the most common concerns for people looking to gain muscle is the increase of estrogen levels by adding soy to their diet

Edamame has estrogen-like compoundс called isoflavones, which are thought to increase estrogen (the female hormone) and decrease testosterone (the male hormone). 

This is cause for concern for bodybuilders since having a higher amount of estrogen means more body fat and less muscle mass. 

Hence, the bad reputation that has been given to soy products like edamame. 

However, studies have shown that eating edamame does not increase your estrogen levels, nor does it lower testosterone. 

A study was carried out on 61 untrained young men for 12 weeks to compare if soy supplementation had different strength and muscle gains. 

Lean body mass increased by an average of 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) in both groups, meaning that soy didn’t hinder muscle gain but increased it

How Much Edamame Beans Should Bodybuilders Eat?

This is a difficult question because little information is currently available regarding the tolerable upper limit for soy products. 

A study determined that women shouldn’t consume more than 100 mg of isoflavones (soy) daily. 

For reference, 100 grams of edamame (a bit more than half a cup) has 48 mg of isoflavones, which means women can safely eat more than a cup daily.

Regarding the upper limit for men, studies still need to be done. 

However, even if there is no upper limit for men, remember that having some variation in your diet is always good. 

Don’t rely on it as your sole protein source. Eat various protein sources since each has a different amino acid and nutrient profile. 

Can You Eat Edamame Before Workouts?

Edamame is not the best option to include before a workout because it lacks carbs, your body’s preferred fuel source.

As noted above, a cup only provides 5 grams of net carbs, and research recommends aiming for up to a gram per kilogram of body weight before training.

So, if you weigh 70 kilograms (154 lbs), aim for up to 70 grams of carbs.

Plus, given that edamame is rich in fats (12 grams per cup) and fiber (8 grams), it may take longer to digest and contribute to stomach discomfort during training.

Low-fiber carb sources, such as ripe bananas, rice, pasta, quinoa, white bread, and potatoes, are better options before training.

Can You Eat Edamame After Workouts?

Edamame is a good option after workouts. Its high protein content (more than 18 grams per cup) kickstarts muscle recovery. 

Research recommends aiming for 0.3 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 70 kilograms (154 lbs), you would need 21 to 35 grams of protein. A cup of edamame would cover most of that.

That said, a cup of edamame covers around 33% of your leucine (an essential amino acid for protein synthesis) needs after training.

So, while you can have edamame after training, pair it with leucine-rich protein sources like meat, fish, or eggs.

Data also recommends getting 0.3-0.5 grams of carbs per kilogram to replenish the lost glycogen (the complex carb primarily stored in your muscles) after training.

So, to ensure an adequate carb intake, include some carbs, such as potatoes, rice, or pasta.

Tips For Incorporating Edamame Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating edamame into a bodybuilding diet

Eat It Natural or Frozen

Whether natural or frozen, any type of edamame beans is good to have as a bodybuilder. 

People often think frozen fruits or veggies are not good, but as long as they are natural and without added preservatives or sugar, they are almost as good as fresh produce. 

Plus, frozen edamame doesn’t take that long to cook, which means it saves you money as well as time.

Here is a bit of insight from Atli Arnarson, BSc, Ph.D.:

“In the United States, most edamame is sold frozen. Generally, you can easily heat the beans by boiling, steaming, pan-frying, or microwaving them for a few minutes.”

Add Some Flavor

You can add several non-caloric options to edamame to make it tastier: 

  • Salt
  • Low-sodium soy sauce
  • Chilli flakes
  • Hot sauce 
  • Lemon 
  • Grounded ginger

Here are some high-calorie options you can add when bulking and needing extra calories: 

  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Avocado oil

Make It a Healthy Snack

Savory and crunchy edamame is an excellent choice if you are looking for something to snack on. 

For example, place them in the air fryer and cook until they are crunchy outside (typically takes 10-15 minutes). 

Here is a recipe that can help you learn how to make crunchy edamame. 

This can replace your regular protein shake or canned tuna as a snack and still help you get extra protein to reach your daily target. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does Edamame Count As Protein?

Yes, edamame counts as a protein. However, while edamame is high in protein (18.4 grams per cup), it also has carbs and fats. 

Edamame has 13.8 grams of carbs (5 grams net carbs) and 12.1 grams of healthy fat per cup. 

Is Edamame Good For Muscle Growth?

Edamame is good for muscle growth because it provides protein (the same amount as three large eggs) and plenty of calories (224 per cup), making it easier to create a calorie surplus

Also, it has all nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth. 


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

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