Complete Fast Food Guide For Bodybuilding (With Exact Meals)

If you want to make the best fast food choices when you’re bodybuilding then it’s important to: 

  • Know which fast food establishments make macro-friendly options
  • Know how to customize your order according to your goals

Over the past year, I’ve been to 20+ fast food restaurants and have come up with the ultimate fast food guide for bodybuilders. 

I’ve studied each of their menus and know which items are best, and which ones you should avoid. 

Before diving into the top fast food restaurants for bodybuilding…

I want to explain some rules for you to follow when eating out if you’re trying to optimize your health and physique.

Is Fast Food Okay For Bodybuilding?

Fast food is okay to eat for bodybuilding because you can usually fit the meals into your calorie and macronutrient targets for the day.  As such, not only can you have it, but you can enjoy it, and still reach your goals. 

With that said, fast food is generally lower in nutrients and higher in calories than foods that you would prepare yourself, so it’s important not to go overboard with fast food.

However, allowing yourself to have fast food can be beneficial when you’re on a time-crunch, when you don’t have anything ready at home, or you’re out with friends.

6 Bodybuilding Rules To Follow When Eating Fast Food

There are some important rules to follow when incorporating fast food into your bodybuilding lifestyle.

Rule #1: Fit Fast Food Into Your Macro Targets

One of the most important rules for eating fast food while bodybuilding is to fit it into your calories and macronutrient targets to keep you on track with your goal (fat loss, maintenance, or muscle gain). 

If you’re fitting your fast food meals into your targets then you will continue progressing toward your goal, but if you throw your targets out the window to have fast food then you will set yourself back; especially if this is happening frequently.

I recommend logging your meals ahead of time in your macro tracking app to see how you can incorporate your fast food meal with your other meals of the day.

If you’re bulking then you need to make sure you’re eating enough calories; if you’re cutting then you need to make sure you’re not going over your calorie target.

Most fast food places have menu items that you could order that would work well for a bulking diet or for a cutting diet, but you have to know which items are appropriate for which goal.

If you can’t find nutrition information for the meal you’re eating, log whatever you think is the closest. Trying to estimate is better than not logging anything.

Rule #2: Choose Higher Protein Options

Look for higher protein options to order because protein is the hardest nutrient to hit when you’re eating out, but it is the most important for muscle retention and growth. 

Additionally, if you’re not getting enough protein out of your meal, then you won’t stay full for long despite eating a higher number of calories.

I recommend choosing an option that has at least 20 grams of protein but go for an even higher protein option if possible. 

I typically look at the nutrition facts for fast food restaurants online to see what options have a decent amount of protein and use that to guide my choice.

Places that are customizable tend to be better for getting more protein because you can ask them to add more protein to your order for an additional cost.

Rule #3: Stay Within Upper Limit Of Saturated Fat Intake

Although you may be able to eat fast food for every meal of the day and still hit your calorie and macronutrient targets, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your choices are good for you. If you’re overconsuming saturated fat, then you’re putting yourself at higher risk for cardiovascular issues.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to 5-6% of your total intake, so when you’re choosing your fast food menu item ensure that the amount of saturated fat intake it has won’t put you beyond that benchmark.

For example, if you’re consuming 2300 calories per day, then you should keep your saturated fat intake to 115 to 138 calories, which would be the equivalent of 13 to 15 grams of saturated fat per day (fat has 9 calories per gram).

It’s safe to say almost all of the total fat in fast food comes from saturated fat because fast food tends to be fried food, animal proteins, and dairy which are all sources of saturated fat.

Rule #4: Choose Higher Fiber Carbs When Possible

Choosing higher fiber carbs is beneficial for bodybuilding regardless of whether you’re bulking or cutting because fiber is key for promoting better digestion. 

If you’re eating out more frequently and failing to choose options with an adequate amount of fiber then you may get “backed up” – so to speak.

Choosing higher fiber carbs is also beneficial for those who are eating out when cutting because fiber (along with protein) helps to keep you full for longer. 

So choosing a higher fiber carb when eating out can help you stay full for longer and reduce snacking which would further increase your calorie intake.

Higher fiber carbs can also help sustain you for longer if you’re having your fast food meal around 3 to 4 hours before working out. 

If you chose a lower fiber carb 3 to 4 hours before working out then you wouldn’t have as much energy available for your workout because it would digest more quickly.

Note: I wouldn’t recommend working out within 2 hours of eating fast food because fast food tends to be higher in fat and a higher fat intake too close to working out can cause cramps and discomfort.

Some examples of higher fiber carbs are: 

  • Whole wheat or whole grain bread, wraps, or burger buns
  • Brown rice
  • Beans

Rule #5: Keep Sodium Intake Below Upper Limit

You should also keep an eye on your sodium intake to ensure you’re not overdoing it. This is especially important if you’re eating out on a daily basis, for multiple meals a day.

The Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism states that:

“Adequate Intakes for adults range from 1200 to 1500 mg·day–1, depending on age. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for sodium is 2300 mg·day–1 for adults, based on the relationship between sodium intake and increased blood pressure.”

Many fast food restaurants have menu items above the tolerable upper intake level on their own, automatically putting you over the upper limit for one meal by itself. 

For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to the sodium content of the meal you’re choosing.

If you’re constantly going over the upper limit for sodium, then you will drastically increase your risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to more serious health issues (like stroke and cardiovascular or renal disease).

I recommend choosing menu items that have between 0 to 800mg of sodium.

For reference:

  • Low sodium meal: <500mg
  • Average amount of sodium per meal: 500-800mg 
  • High sodium meal: 800-1000mg
  • Very high sodium meal:1000-1500mg
  • Extremely high sodium meal: 1500mg+

Rule #6: Prioritize Micronutrients When Possible

Lastly, it’s important to focus on getting some micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) when you can. 

This could be by choosing a fruit or veggies as a side when you’re eating fast food, or simply choosing to eat more fruits and veggies at other meals during the day.

Consuming an adequate amount of micronutrients is important for your overall health. If you’re lacking key nutrients then you’re more likely to have nutrient deficiencies that can cause an array of health issues.

Top 6 Best Fast Food For Bodybuilding

The top 6 best fast food options for bodybuilding are:

  1. Dairy Queen: Best Burger & Fry Fast Food
  2. Subway: Best Sandwich Fast Food
  3. Chipotle: Best Mexican Fast Food
  4. KFC: Best Chicken Fast Food
  5. Panda Express: Best Asian-Style Fast Food
  6. Little Caesars: Best Pizza Fast Food

Dairy Queen: Best Burger & Fry Fast Food

Dairy Queen
Calorie ContentProtein ContentCarb ContentFat Content
4/54/53/53/5

I wrote a complete guide to eating at Dairy Queen when bodybuilding (click to read it)

Why We Like It

  • It has the highest average protein content, which is great for muscle retention and growth.
  • It has higher-calorie options for those who are bulking and may need help meeting their calorie goals
  • It has lower-calorie options that are still high in protein for those who are cutting and have a lower calorie intake.

3 Different Orders Based On Your Needs

Option 1: 600 Calorie Meal

600 calorie dairy queen meal plan
  • 1/3 lb double with cheese (no fries)

Total: 567 calories, 36g protein, 36g carbohydrates, and 31g fat.

Option 2: 850 Calorie Meal

850 calorie dairy queen meal plan
  • Chicken bacon ranch sandwich (no fries)
  • 3 piece chicken strip

Total: 854 calories, 54g protein, 74g carbohydrates, and 38g fat.

Option 3: 1000+ Calorie Meal

1,150 calorie dairy queen meal plan
  • Chicken bacon ranch sandwich 
  • Grilled chicken sandwich
  • Regular size fry

Total: 1,160 calories, 63g protein, 119g carbohydrates, and 48g fat.

Other Restaurants We’ve Reviewed In This Category:

Subway: Best Sandwich Fast Food

Subway
Calorie ContentProtein ContentCarb ContentFat Content
4/55/55/53/5

I wrote a complete guide to eating at at Subway when bodybuilding (click to read it)

Why We Like It

  • It’s highly customizable so you can make your order fit your specific needs
  • It has lots of nutrient-dense options to add to your order to make it more nutritious
  • It’s has higher carb options making it a great pre or post workout option

3 Different Orders Based On Your Needs

Option 1: 400 Calorie Meal

Subway: 400 Calorie Meal
  • Oven-roasted chicken salad with double meat
    • tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers and olives
    • smokey honey mustard dressing
    • monterey cheddar cheese
    • guacamole

Totals: 400 calories, 35g of protein, 18g of carbohydrates, and 21g of fat.

Option 2: 800 Calorie Meal

Subway: 800 Calorie Meal
  • Large chicken caesar wrap with an additional ‘6-inch sub’ portion of chicken
    • lettuce, tomato, onions, green pepper and cucumber
    • 2 strips of bacon

Totals: 765 calories, 67g of protein, 55g of carbohydrates, and 34g of fat. 

Option 3: 1000+ Calorie Meal

Subway: 1000+ Calorie Meal
  • 12-inch oven-roasted chicken sub with double meat on Italian herb and cheese bread
    • 4 strips bacon
    • lettuce, tomato, onions, green pepper and cucumber 
    • cheddar cheese
    • sweet onion dressing
  • Chocolate chunk cookie

Totals: 1,262 calories, 90g of protein, 131g of carbohydrates, and 42g of fat.

Other Restaurants We’ve Reviewed In This Category:

Chipotle: Best Mexican Fast Food

Chipotle
Calorie ContentProtein ContentCarb ContentFat Content
4/55/53/53/5

I wrote a complete guide to eating at Chipotle when bodybuilding (click to read it)

Why We Like It

  • It’s highly customizable so you can make it fit any macronutrient targets
  • It has a variety of micronutrients to add to your meal to bump up the nutrient content
  • It has higher fiber carb options to choose from to increase your fiber intake

3 Different Orders Based On Your Needs

Option 1: 400 Calorie Meal

Chipotle: 400 Calorie Meal
  • Salad with steak
    • cilantro-lime cauliflower rice
    • fajitas vegetables and fresh tomato salsa
    • monterey jack cheese
    • tomatillo-red or tomatillo-green chili salsa

Totals: 363 calories, 32g protein, 25g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, and 15g fat.

Option 2: 800 Calorie Meal

Chipotle: 800 Calorie Meal
  • Salad with an order of steak and an order of barbacoa
    • cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and black beans
    • fajitas vegetables and fresh tomato salsa
    • extra monterey jack cheese
    • either tomatillo-red or tomatillo-green chili salsa

Totals: 768 calories, 70g protein, 50g carbohydrates, 17g fiber, and 32g fat.

Option 3: 1000+ Calorie Meal

Chipotle: 1000+ Calorie Meal
  • Burrito with a double order of chicken
    • light cilantro-lime brown rice and black beans
    • fajitas vegetables and roasted chili corn salsa
    • romaine lettuce
    • monterey jack cheese and sour cream
    • either tomatillo-red or tomatillo-green chili salsa

Totals: 1,266 calories, 94g protein, 119g carbohydrates, 17g fiber, and 46g fat.

Other Restaurants We’ve Reviewed In This Category:

KFC: Best Chicken Fast Food

Calorie ContentProtein ContentCarb ContentFat Content
3/55/52/54/5

I wrote a complete guide to eating at KFC when bodybuilding (click to read it)

Why We Like It

  • It has the highest average protein than other chicken fast food places
  • It has less average fat than other chicken fast-food places
  • There are options for those who require lower calorie meals or higher calorie meals

3 Different Orders Based On Your Needs

Option 1: 400 Calorie Meal

KFC: 400 Calorie Meal
  • 2-piece grilled chicken combo (breast and wing)
    • Mashed potatoes with gravy

Totals: 406 calories, 49g of protein, 20g of carbohydrates, and 14.5g of fat.

Option 2: 800 Calorie Meal

KFC: 800 Calorie Meal
  • 3-piece original recipe combo – breast, thigh, and wing
    • Mashed potato with no gravy

Totals: 770 calories, 68g of protein, 31g of carbohydrates, and 41.5g of fat.

Option 3: 1000+ Calorie Meal

KFC: 1000+ Calorie Meal
  • 3-piece original recipe chicken combo – breast, thigh, and wing
    • Side of baked beans
    • Side of sweet corn
    • Biscuit

Totals: 1104 calories, 83g of protein, 86g of carbohydrates, and 27.5g of fat.

Other Restaurants We’ve Reviewed In This Category:

Panda Express: Best Asian-Style Fast Food

Calorie ContentProtein ContentCarb ContentFat Content
3/54/54/52/5

I wrote a complete guide to eating at Panda Express when bodybuilding (click to read it)

Why We Like It

  • There are plenty of protein options to help you it your protein target
  • It has different vegetable options you can add to your meal to increase the number of nutrients
  • You can easily customize the meal to fit your calorie and macro targets

3 Different Orders Based On Your Needs

Option 1: 400 Calorie Meal

Panda Express: 400 Calorie Meal
  • Grilled teriyaki chicken bowl
    • Side of Supergreens

Totals: 384 calories, 42g protein, 18g carbohydrates, and 16g fat.

Option 2: 800 Calorie Meal

Panda Express: 800 Calorie Meal
  • Order a plate
    • Grilled teriyaki chicken
    • Beef & broccoli
    • 1 serving super greens
    • ½ serving of rice

Totals: 746 calories, 52g protein, 85g carbohydrates, and 22g fat.

Option 3: 1000+ Calorie Meal

Panda Express: 1000+ Calorie Meal
  • Order a plate
    • Grilled teriyaki chicken
    • Grilled Asian chicken
    • Side of fried rice

Totals: 1114 calories, 83g protein, 101g carbohydrates, and 42g fat.

Little Caesars: Best Pizza Fast Food

Calorie ContentProtein ContentCarb ContentFat Content
5/53/55/53/5

I wrote a complete guide to eating at Little Caesars when bodybuilding (click to read it)

Why We Like It

  • It has options for those who are both cutting and bulking
  • There are many protein options to choose from to help you hit your protein target
  • It’s lower in sodium than other pizza 

3 Different Orders Based On Your Needs

Option 1: 550 Calorie Meal

Little Caesars: 550 Calorie Meal
  • 2 slices of large thin crust cheese pizza
    • smokey ham as an additional topping

Totals: 534 calories, 31g protein, 38g carbohydrates, and 29g fat.

Option 2: 900 Calorie Meal

Little Caesars: 900 Calorie Meal
  • 3 slices of pepperoni thin crust pizza
    • smokey ham as an additional topping

Totals: 878 calories, 46g protein, 57g carbohydrates, and 52g fat.

Option 3: 1000+ Calorie Meal

Little Caesars: 1000+ Calorie Meal
  • 4 slices deep dish cheese pizza
    • green peppers and onions as additional toppings

Totals: 1253 calories, 59g protein, 159g carbohydrates, and 43g fat.

Other Restaurants We’ve Reviewed In This Category:

Looking For More Healthy Options While Eating Out? 

Check out low-calorie drink options: 

Check out low-calorie desserts: 

Check out low-calorie specialty menu options: 


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.