Is Flaxseed Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

Flaxseeds are one of the most underestimated healthy fats available for bodybuilders.

Are flaxseeds good or bad for bodybuilding? Flax is great to add to a bodybuilding diet because it’s high in fiber, which helps with gut health and reduces hunger. It has omega 3 fatty acids that help decrease inflammation in the body, leading to better muscle recovery. It is also an energy-dense food ideal for those in a bulking stage to hit their calories.

This article will teach you everything you need to know related to flaxseeds and bodybuilding.

I will explore:

  • The calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients of flax
  • Pros and cons of adding flaxseeds if you are a bodybuilder
  • When can you eat flaxseeds: before or after training?
  • Is flaxseed good for muscle growth?
  • Does ground or whole flaxseed matter?
  • Tips and tricks to include flaxseed if you are a bodybuilder

Flaxseed For Bodybuilding: Overview

Nutritional Content of Flaxseed

Nutritional content 100 grams of flaxseeds

In 100 g of flaxseeds, you find the following nutritional value.

  • Calories: 534 kcal
  • Carbs: 28.9 g
  • Fiber: 27.3 g
  • Protein: 18.3 g
  • Fats: 42.2 g

While these macros might seem fairly high, you probably won’t be eating 100 grams of flaxseed in one sitting.  You’ll likely only eat 1-2 tablespoons in a given meal, which is only 7-14 grams of flax. 

Calories

Flaxseeds are a very energy-dense food, meaning they have a lot of calories for not a lot of volume. One tablespoon of flaxseeds (10g) has around 57 kcal. Although it might not seem like a lot, it has the same calories as one small apple.

One of the benefits of flaxseeds being high in calories is that it helps bodybuilders reach their daily caloric intake in a bulking phase. 

One of the most common troubles I have with my bodybuilder clients is increasing calories without adding too much volume.  Foods high in “volume” leave you feeling really full and uncomfortable. Flaxseeds are a good way of solving that problem.

However, since they are very energy-dense, you need to be careful in controlling the portion size. It might be tempting just to scoop the flaxseeds and add them to your protein shake or salad, but if you are not careful, you might have more calories than you need, which would be a problem if your goal is to lose weight.  

Macronutrients

Flaxseeds have all three macronutrients (protein, carb, and fat). However, the biggest portion comes from fat.

Most of the fats that come from flaxseeds are unsaturated fats. These are the ones that are healthier for your heart

Flaxseeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. This is an ideal trait for a bodybuilder since it reduces inflammation in your body, leading to optimal muscle recovery.

While flax does contain some carbs, the carbs come from fiber, which you don’t really absorb or metabolize to produce energy.  In one tablespoon of flaxseeds, you get 11% of the recommended daily value for fiber. Fiber is good for fighting constipation, having good gut health, and providing fullness to your diet. 

Micronutrients

Flaxseed is a very nutrient-dense food. It has a lot of vitamins and minerals that are essential for a bodybuilder. 

Here are the top nutrients (from the most to the least) and how they benefit a bodybuilder:

  • Manganese. It is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the body. It also plays a role in converting the food you eat into energy that the body can use. Additionally, it helps process and digest cholesterol.
  • Thiamin. It is essential for the metabolism of carbs. This means that once you eat high-carb food, it is one of the many vitamins responsible for processing and using it as energy in the body.
  • Magnesium. Having low magnesium seems to decrease performance in athletes. Additionally, it plays an essential role in sleep. Taking magnesium before going to bed seems to help people sleep better. Since this is a crucial moment for muscle recovery, it is essential to have a good night’s sleep.
  • Copper. Along with iron, it helps form red blood cells. They are important to help carry the oxygen and nutrients around the body, especially to muscle cells for them to grow. 

Flaxseed is a low FODMAP food, which is great for people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Click to check out my other low FODMAP foods that are good for bodybuilders

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

3 Pros Of Eating Flaxseed For Bodybuilding

Pros vs Cons of eating flaxseed for bodybuilding

Here are the top three reasons why you should include flaxseeds in your bodybuilding diet. 

Reduces Inflammation

Flaxseeds have two components that help reduce inflammation in the body (omega-3 and antioxidants).

You might be wondering how that helps a bodybuilder? 

After training, there is a slight increase in inflammation in the body. When this inflammation is reduced, the muscle has better recovery, which leads to more optimal muscle growth.

Good For Bulking

Thanks to flaxseeds being very energy-dense foods, it is an excellent option for those in a bulking phase. It is difficult to find ways of adding calories without adding too much stomach bulk in most cases, and flaxseeds are a great choice.

For example, in my experience, a bodybuilder might have a daily caloric intake of at least 3000 kcal, depending on their weight, height, age, and activity. 

However, reaching 3000 kcal might be very overwhelming for some. Adding flaxseeds to water, salads, or protein shakes is a good way of increasing calories without noticing it. 

High in Omega-3

Besides having anti-inflammatory properties, omega 3 has some huge benefits for a bodybuilder. Omega-3 fatty acids seem to have a direct relationship with protein synthesis

This is important because protein synthesis is responsible for converting the protein that you eat into usable material for muscle building.

Additionally, it seems that omega-3 might slightly help you burn more calories by increasing your metabolism.

So what more can you get out of flaxseeds? It helps improve muscle mass and decrease fat mass. 

Flax Seeds is on our list of high calorie, low saturated fat foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)

1 Con of Eating Flaxseed For Bodybuilding

There is one con that might make you want to rethink if you want to add flaxseeds to your diet.  

Might Produce Gastric Problems

Due to its high fiber content, it might produce stomach problems in some people. 

Bloating is the most common symptom I usually get when my clients add flaxseeds. 

Although it might not be the case for everyone, if that is the case with you, try to avoid consuming flaxseeds anywhere near your training sessions. 

Can You Eat Flaxseed Before Workouts?

Flaxseeds might not be the best option as a pre-workout snack. Before training, you need simple carbs to help you fuel your training session. Since most of the carbs in flaxseed are fiber, not only can this produce bloating, it won’t give you the immediate energy you require.

Before a training session, you need fast-acting energy to help you during the workout. This is obtained through simple carbs, those that don’t have fiber in them. Since fiber is harder to digest, and flaxseeds are high in fiber, it won’t give you the necessary energy you might need.

Additionally, it might produce bloating in some people. This means that your training session might be jeopardized when adding flaxseeds before training.

If you are looking to add them before training, try to have them 2-3 hours before. Make sure to add a carb source (like fruit) and some protein (whey protein) to have steadier glucose levels.

Want to learn more about fat before pre-workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

Can You Eat Flaxseed After Workouts?

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, flaxseed is a great option to eat after training. It helps decrease inflammation, which leads to optimal muscle recovery. Flax alone won’t suffice though.  You’ll also need to add a carb source to help replenish the energy lost and a protein source to help with muscle building.

After a workout, you need all three macronutrients to help with muscle building. Carbs are essential to replenish the energy lost and avoid protein from being used as energy. Fats, especially those that have omega-3 like flaxseeds, help decrease inflammation, and protein helps with muscle building.

Flaxseeds are a great option to have after training. Add it to your protein shake and some fruit, and you have the best post-workout recovery smoothie.

Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

Is Flaxseed Good For Muscle Growth?

Flaxseeds are good for muscle growth since it is very energy-dense, which means that it gives you enough calories for your muscles to grow. Additionally, thanks to omega-3, it has protein synthesis properties. However, it lacks protein, so it is essential to add a protein source when you add flaxseeds.

For your muscle to grow, you need a caloric surplus. This means that you need to eat more calories than your body needs. Flaxseeds are a good way of achieving those calories without adding too much bulk to your diet.

Additionally, thanks to omega-3 help reduce inflammation in the body, which leads to better muscle recovery. Also, it seems that omega-3 aids in protein synthesis—an essential component of muscle building.

There are some protein bars made out of flaxseed. To learn more, check out: Are Protein Bars Good For Breakfast?

Does Ground or Whole Flax Matter?

The whole flaxseed, since it is very high in fiber, might be difficult to digest. This means that you might not get all of the nutrients found in the food. On the other hand, ground flaxseed is easier to digest, and the nutrients are available for you to consume.

Although they are both great options, if you have the possibility of having ground flaxseed, you will take more advantage of its nutrients.

However, make sure to ground it when you are going to consume it. Ground flaxseed might oxidize faster (meaning that the fats found to lose some of their properties). 

Does Consuming the Seed or Oil Matter?

Flaxseeds are the natural form, which means it is where you find the fiber and nutrients. On the other hand, in flaxseed oil, you only find the fat content.

It really depends on what attribute you want to obtain. Oil lacks fiber. Hence if you are looking for something to help you fight constipation, oil is not the way to go. Choose the whole flaxseeds.

On the other hand, if you want to add it to your salads and increase omega-3, the oil might be the way to go. 

Tips For Incorporating Flaxseed Into A Bodybuilding Diet

Tips for incorporating flaxseed into a bodybuilding diet

If you are looking to add flaxseeds to your diet but don’t know how, here are a couple of tips and tricks I give my bodybuilder clients on how to add them. 

Measure the Portion Size

When you are adding flaxseeds, make sure to measure the portion size thoroughly. Since they are very energy-dense, you might end up increasing your daily calories without you noticing them. Although it is important to measure it no matter which phase you are in, if you are in a cutting phase, measure it thoroughly. 

Sprinkle It To Your Salad

A way of adding flaxseeds to your diet is by sprinkling them on your salad or veggies. This can add a crunchy flavor and add a different texture to your salads. You can slightly toast them and add them not only to add a different texture but another flavor. 

Add It To Your Protein Shake

Another way of increasing your flaxseed intake is by adding it to your protein shake. That way, you can get all three macronutrients in one meal that is easy to carry around. 

One of my favorite ways of adding flaxseeds is as a substitute for breadcrumbs. You get ground flaxseed and use it as a breading. This will be healthier than traditional breading since it is higher in nutrients and higher in fiber. 

Add It To Your Water

Finally, the other option I sometimes use is adding it to my water. When I am feeling like craving something sweet, I pour some sugar-free syrup, and I have a drink that is not only delicious but very nutrient-dense, thanks to the flaxseeds.

Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone

Other Seeds For Bodybuilding


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.