In the past honey was only thought of as a sweetener for baking, but now honey is gaining attention from exercisers who claim that it provides an almost instant energy boost.
Could honey be a bodybuilder’s secret weapon, or is it just another ingredient that’s been overhyped?
Here’s my quick answer:
Is honey good or bad for bodybuilding? Honey is good for bodybuilding because it provides fast-digesting carbohydrates that can fuel training sessions. However, we should be mindful of the calories when we’re trying to lean out. Also, honey is preferred over sugar as a sweetener since it contains micronutrients such as iron, magnesium, and zinc.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- What nutrients that honey has to offer
- The pros and cons of eating honey for bodybuilding
- If we should eat honey before and after workouts
- How to include honey in 2 recipes that will help you reach your physique goals
Honey For Bodybuilding: Overview
Calories In Honey
Honey does have a higher number of calories but may not be viewed this way because the serving size is relatively small. If we’re using honey in larger amounts or more often, then we should be mindful of the calories.
The serving size for honey is one tablespoon or around 21 grams and has 64 calories per serving.
If we’re someone who is bulking or maintaining, then we can likely be a bit more generous with our serving sizes and the frequency of use.
However, if we’re someone who is trying to lean out, then we may want to be a bit more mindful about the calories that honey has and use smaller amounts less often.
The calories that honey provides are easy to over-consume because honey is a low-volume food and doesn’t take up any room in our stomach.
While this can be good in situations where we have so many calories to consume that we don’t want to become full, it is not good for situations where we want to be full to ward off hunger.
Macronutrients In Honey
Honey is very one-dimensional with its macronutrient profile because it is a naturally occurring sugar and therefore has no other macronutrients but carbohydrates.
A serving of honey (one tablespoon or 21 grams) has 17 grams of carbs, and no protein or fat.
The carbohydrate content of honey does make it useful for bodybuilding because it can give us the quick energy boost that we need before training and provide us with carbs to replenish energy stores after training.
In addition, depending on what our current goals are, the higher carbohydrate content of honey can help us to reach our carbohydrate goals without getting overly full.
That being said, because honey is so one-dimensional we do have to ensure that we’re consuming other foods that are high in protein and fat because both of these macronutrients are also important for bodybuilding.
Micronutrient Content Of Honey
There are a good amount of micronutrients in honey because it is a natural sugar and not a highly processed sugar, therefore natural sugars should be prioritized over added sugars.
Honey provides some good micronutrients such as ascorbic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin and riboflavin; along with minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
When sugars undergo more processing, they lose many micronutrients in the process. So although sugars are all processed the same in the body, the value in consuming more natural sugars is the micronutrients that we get from them.
Micronutrients are important for our health, so they should be prioritized. That being said, we’re probably not consuming honey solely for the micronutrient content, but it is a bonus.
If we’re after micronutrients, then we would be better off increasing our fruit and vegetable intake.
- Related Article: Can You Eat Sugar While Bulking? (Complete Guide)
3 Pros Of Eating Honey For Bodybuilding
The pros of eating honey for bodybuilding are:
- Honey Gives Us Energy
- Honey Has More Micronutrients Than Other Sweeteners
- Honey Can Help Us Reach Our Carbohydrate Goals
1. Honey Gives Us Energy
Honey is rich in carbohydrates and therefore provides us with our body’s primary source of fuel. The carbohydrates in honey are simple sugars that digest quickly, which will give us a quick energy boost.
Honey can give us the ultimate energy boost because it is a simple sugar that digests quickly enough that we can feel the effects much faster than if we were to consume other forms of carbohydrates that the body takes longer to break down.
The energy boost that honey provides is the reason why honey is used as a pre-workout option and also as an intra-workout carb by all types of athletes.
2. Honey Has More Micronutrients Than Other Sweeteners
Honey is better than many other sweeteners on the market because it is not highly processed and therefore has more micronutrients to offer.
Honey is one of the best sweeteners we can use in baking to develop the sweet taste that we desire because it not only provides a great taste but also has more micronutrients than most other sweeteners.
Although we’re generally not baking to increase our micronutrients content, any health benefits we can get from our delicious treats are a bonus!
3. Honey Can Help Us Reach Our Carbohydrate Goals
Honey is so high in carbohydrates that even a tablespoon will give us a significant amount of carbohydrates, which can help us to reach our carb goals more easily without becoming overly full.
Honey is a bulker’s best friend because it can make the bulking process much easier by providing a hefty amount of carbohydrates per tablespoon.
When our carbohydrate goals are high it can be difficult to eat enough to achieve these goals without feeling uncomfortably full, but having honey can help us reach these goals without getting uncomfortable.
- Honey is on our list of high calorie, low protein foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
2 Cons of Eating Honey For Bodybuilding
The cons of eating honey for bodybuilding are:
- Honey Is High In Calories
- Honey Is Not Filling
1. Honey Is High In Calories
The calories in honey add up quickly with 64 calories per tablespoon of honey, which can work against us when we’re trying to lean out and stay within a certain calorie range.
Honey has a lot of calories for having such a small serving size, which means that it doesn’t take much to add up quickly and put us over our daily calorie and carb intakes.
Honey is one of those foods that we should be more mindful of when we’re portioning it out because we can easily overestimate how much a serving size is.
The calories in honey are more of a concern for those who are trying to lean out or undergo body recomposition, but it is likely less of a concern for those who are actively trying to bulk.
2. Honey Is Not Filling
Honey is such a low-volume food that no matter how much we consume, it will likely not be satiating or filling, which can leave us hungry despite having consumed a higher number of calories.
Honey is such a low-volume food that it can be detrimental for those who are dieting to improve their bodybuilding physique because it can leave us more hungry despite having consumed many of our daily calorie allotment.
If we’re eating honey while dieting, we should consume it with foods that are higher in volume such as fruit so that we get a sense of fullness.
The only exception to this is if we’re consuming it during a workout because we wouldn’t want to feel full at that time.
- Related Article: 10 Best High-Calorie Low-Fiber Foods (Dietitian Approved)
Can You Eat Honey Before Workouts?
Honey is perfect for a pre-workout meal or snack because it provides us with quick energy as it is fast-digesting and contains carbs, which is our body’s primary fuel source while exercising.
Honey can be consumed before workouts and even during workouts because it digests so quickly that it will not cause gastrointestinal issues, and it will provide us with quick energy to use for training.
If we’re looking for a more sustainable source of energy for our pre-workout meal, we can pair it with a slower-digesting carb (like oats) so that we have a steady stream of energy even once the honey itself is digested.
Can You Eat Honey After Workouts?
Honey is a great option to consume after workouts because it is a great source of carbohydrates. It is particularly useful for those who struggle to meet their carbohydrate goals.
We can eat honey following workouts because it helps us to replenish our energy stores that have been depleted from exercising.
However, we shouldn’t consume honey by itself because the other important macronutrient that we need following a workout to ensure muscle retention and/or growth is protein.
Honey is not an adequate protein source and therefore we need to pair it with a protein source to get the most out of our post-workout nutrition.
We asked Dietician Brenda Peralta about eating honey before and after workouts and she stated that :
“Honey is a source of simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are ideal before exercise since they will give you an immediate energy boost. Add one tablespoon before training 15-20 minutes before the workout. Adding a carb source before a workout can delay fatigue. If you are having trouble adding carbs after training, honey is also an excellent choice to keep in mind. Add honey to a protein shake to get both carbs and protein after a workout.”
Does Honey Help Muscle Growth?
Honey can help us with muscle growth by providing us with energy for our workouts, and increase our calorie intake as well. However, honey alone cannot do all the work to help us gain muscle.
To truly achieve muscle growth we need a calorie surplus, adequate protein intake, and a training stimulus that challenges our muscles to adapt.
Honey can play a role in helping us consume a higher number of calories and providing us with energy to train, but it fails to provide the protein we need and it cannot guarantee that the training stimulus is challenging enough.
Is It Okay To Eat Honey When Bulking?
Honey can be beneficial when bulking because it won’t fill us up but it will provide a solid amount of carbs and calories to help us reach our calorie and carbohydrate goals.
Honey is a perfect addition to any bulking diet because it packs a calorie punch but is so low-volume that we don’t have to worry about it filling us up.
One of the biggest issues when bulking is getting too full before hitting our daily calorie goals, but with honey, we don’t have to worry about this.
That being said, honey alone will not help us reach our other macronutrient goals so fats and protein should still be prioritized as well.
Honey Recipes For Bodybuilding
Honey is an excellent option for pre and post-workout nutrition because it is high in fast-digesting carbohydrates that we require before and after exercise for energy. Knowing how to include honey with other foods that benefit our training is the key to success.
Honey Oat Bars
Before a workout, we want to prioritize our carbohydrate intake and minimize our fat intake so that we can properly digest our food for energy without any gastrointestinal issues. The honey oat bars do just that by providing plenty of fast-digesting carbs with less fat than a traditional energy bar.
Makes 16 servings.
- For 1 serving: 228 Calories with 38g Carbs, 3g Protein, and 8g Fat
- 4 ½ cups quick oats
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup honey + 2 tbsp for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside
- In a large mixing bowl combine oats, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine.
- In a smaller mixing bowl, add coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Mix until combined.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix until ingredients come together.
- Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned. Let cool in the pan before cutting into bars.
- Top with drizzled honey (if desired)!
- Looking for a recipe with honey, try our Peanut Butter Protein Balls.
Honey Granola Yogurt Bowl
Following a workout, we need adequate protein intake to repair and rebuild our muscles, but honey alone is not up to the task. So we’ve paired our delicious honey granola with a high-protein yogurt bowl to give us the best of both worlds: carbs & protein!
Granola Makes 10 servings.
Yogurt Bowl Makes 1 serving.
- For 1 Serving of Granola & Yogurt Bowl: 699 Calories with 85g Carbs, 41g Protein, and 24g Fat
Honey Granola Ingredients:
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup dry roasted almonds
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup dried fruit
- ¼ cup chocolate chips
Yogurt Bowl Ingredients
- ½ cup fresh berries (or frozen and thawed)
- 1 cup vanilla greek yogurt
- ½ scoop vanilla protein powder
- Granola. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl combine oats, almonds, salt, cinnamon, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
- Spread the granola onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove granola from the oven and top with chocolate chips and dried fruit.
- Allow granola to cool completely in the pan.
- Yogurt Bowl. In a small mixing bowl combine yogurt and protein powder until the mixture is smooth and no clumps are present.
- Portion out yogurt into bowls for serving. Top with berries and ½ cup of granola.
Honey is an excellent option for bodybuilders because of its fast-digesting carbohydrates that provide us with quick energy. But knowing when to include honey, and knowing the correct amounts will yield the best results.
About The Author
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.