Honey’s natural sweetness carries more than just flavor—it’s a quick energy source that bodybuilders may benefit from. But when protein’s your prize and calories count, where does honey fit on your plate? Whether you’re bulking up or trimming down, let’s explore if this sticky staple should stick around in your bodybuilding diet.
- Honey is an excellent food for bodybuilding because it provides fast-digesting carbohydrates that fuel your training sessions and replenishes lost glycogen to promote recovery. A single tablespoon of honey has 16-17 grams of carbs.
- Honey is a good addition to a bulking diet, especially for people with naturally small appetites who struggle to eat enough calories and carbs. Since it consists of simple carbs, you’re unlikely to feel full after eating it.
- Honey is superior to processed sugars despite the identical macronutrient profile. It contains numerous vitamins (B2, B3, B5, C) and minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium), making each tablespoon a nutrient bomb that supports your health and reduces the risk of deficiencies.
Honey Overview: Calories & Macros
Honey has more calories but may not be viewed as a ‘high-calorie’ food because the serving size is relatively small.
The serving size for honey is one tablespoon or around 21 grams and has 64-68 calories per serving.
You can be more generous with your serving sizes and the frequency of use when bulking.
However, you may want to be more mindful of honey’s calories and use smaller amounts less often when cutting.
Honey is one-dimensional with its macronutrient profile because it is a naturally occurring sugar with no other macronutrients but carbohydrates.
A serving of honey (one tablespoon or 21 grams) has 16-17 grams of carbs and no protein or fat.
The carbohydrate content of honey does make it useful for bodybuilding because it can give you a quick energy boost before working out and provide you with carbs to replenish energy stores after training.
That said, because honey is so one-dimensional, you must ensure you consume foods rich in protein and fats because both macronutrients are essential for bodybuilding.
There are many micronutrients in honey because it is a natural sugar.
When sugars undergo more processing, they lose many micronutrients in the process. Therefore, natural sugars should be prioritized over added sugars.
Here’s what Malia Frey, a certified health coach and fitness nutrition specialist says about honey:
“The vitamins and minerals in honey may include B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, and others, which are mainly derived from the soil and nectar‐producing plants. The quality of honey and its mineral content are determined by where it is grown and how it is processed.”
- Related: Can You Eat Sugar While Bulking?
3 Pros Of Eating Honey For Bodybuilding
1. Honey Gives You Energy
Honey is rich in carbohydrates and provides you with the body’s primary source of fuel.
The carbohydrates in honey are simple and digest quickly, giving you a quick energy boost.
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 some athletes.
“I recommend you add a spoonful of honey to your portable water bottle along with some water and drink at certain intervals depending on your workout schedule.”–Isaac Robertson, certified personal fitness trainer and nutritionist
2. Honey Has More Micronutrients Than Other Sweeteners
Honey is better than many other sweeteners because it is not highly processed and contains more vitamins and minerals.
This is beneficial because the body needs many nutrients to function well. If you can cover a decent percentage of your needs with a delicious snack like honey, that’s a win-win.
For instance, magnesium (found in honey) plays an important role in muscle contractions, as it supports the electrolyte balance, which is crucial for fluid balance and nerve transmissions.
3. Honey Can Help You Reach Your Carbohydrate Goals
Honey is so high in carbohydrates that even a tablespoon will give you a significant amount of carbohydrates, helping you reach your carb goals more easily.
When our carbohydrate goals are high, it can be challenging to eat enough to reach our targets without feeling uncomfortably full. Having honey can help you reach these goals without getting uncomfortable.
By extension, you can consume more total calories and put yourself in the calorie surplus necessary for weight and muscle gain.
- Related: Honey is on our list of High-Calorie Low Protein Foods.
2 Cons of Eating Honey For Bodybuilding
1. Honey Is High In Calories (Bad When Cutting)
The calories in honey add up quickly, with 64-68 calories per tablespoon. This can work against you when trying to lean out and stay within a specific calorie range.
It doesn’t take much for the calories to add up and put you over your daily targets.
Honey is also one of those foods you should be more mindful of when portioning it out. It’s easy to overestimate how much a serving size is.
2. Honey Is Not Filling (Again, Bad When Cutting)
Honey is such a low-volume food that no matter how much you consume, it will likely not be satiating or filling, which can leave you hungry despite having consumed a higher number of calories.
If you’re eating honey while dieting, you should consume it with foods that are higher in volume, such as fruit, to get a sense of fullness.
The only exception to this is if you’re consuming it during a workout because you wouldn’t want to feel full at that time.
Can You Eat Honey Before Workouts?
Honey is perfect for a pre-workout meal or snack because it provides quick energy as it is fast-digesting and contains carbs.
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 you with quick energy to use for training.
If you’re looking for a more sustainable source of energy for your pre-workout meal, you can pair it with a slower-digesting carb (like oats) to have a steady stream of energy even once the honey is digested.
Can You Eat Honey After Workouts?
Honey is a great option to consume after workouts too and is particularly useful for those who struggle to meet their carbohydrate goals.
You can eat honey following workouts because it helps replenish your energy stores that have been depleted from exercising.
However, you shouldn’t consume honey by itself. Protein is the other essential macronutrient you need following a workout to ensure muscle retention and growth.
Since honey has nothing but carbs, you need to pair it with a protein source to get the most out of your post-workout nutrition.
I asked Dietitian Brenda Peralta about eating honey before and after workouts. She stated:
“Honey is a source of simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are ideal before exercise since they 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 you build muscle by providing energy for your workouts and increasing your calorie intake.
This makes it a perfect addition to any bulking diet because it packs a calorie punch but is so low-volume that you don’t have to worry about it filling you up.
However, honey alone cannot do all the work to help you gain muscle.
To achieve muscle growth, you need a calorie surplus, adequate protein intake, and a training stimulus that challenges your muscles to adapt.
Honey Recipes For Bodybuilding
Honey Oat Bars
Before a workout, you want to prioritize your carbohydrate intake and minimize your fats to digest the meal 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 one 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, you need adequate protein intake to repair and rebuild your muscles, but honey alone is not up to the task.
So I’ve paired our delicious honey granola with a high-protein yogurt bowl to give you the best of both worlds: carbs & protein.
Granola Makes ten servings.
Yogurt Bowl Makes one 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 with and no clumps are present.
- Portion out yogurt into bowls for serving. Top with berries and ½ cup of granola.
What To Read Next
- Is Ice Cream Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Dark Chocolate Good or Bad for Bodybuilding?
- Are Donuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Nutella Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Nielsen FH, Lukaski HC. Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnes Res. 2006 Sep;19(3):180-9. PMID: 17172008.
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.
Why Trust Our Content
On Staff at FeastGood.com, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to every email within 1 business day.