Are Hot Dogs Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

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Hot dogs are cheap and tasty, but you’re probably wondering if they fit well in a bodybuilding diet. As a nutrition coach, this is my breakdown to help you decide whether to include them (or not).

Key Takeaways

  • Hot dogs are not the best food for bodybuilding because they provide little to no nutritional value, their macronutrient distribution is not ideal (the ratio between protein, carbs, and fat), and they contain, on average, 17 grams of saturated and trans fat.
  • The average hot dog only has 7 grams of protein and 186 calories. To get enough protein, you would need to ingest a lot of calories, possibly risking excess fat gains. This is mainly because hot dogs contain little meat; the rest are additives, fillers, and meat byproducts.
  • If you want to eat hot dogs occasionally, pair them with nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, to get enough vitamins and minerals, and other protein-rich foods (chicken, eggs, cottage cheese) to ensure enough protein to support muscle repair and growth.

Hot Dogs: Calories, Macros, & Nutrients

hot dogs: calories, macros, & nutrients

Calories In Hot Dogs

Hot dogs without the bun or toppings are around 186 calories a piece. However, they are typically eaten with a hot dog bun and condiments, which would easily add 100 to 200 additional calories.

If you need more calories, like in a bulking phase, having multiple hot dogs with buns and condiments would be the best option.

If you need to consume fewer calories, having a hot dog with a lower-carb bun or no bun and pairing it with a salad would likely be the best option.

Macronutrients In Hot Dogs

macronutrients in hot dogs

The macronutrient content of a hot dog may surprise some people because they are pretty low in protein, at only 7 grams per hot dog. They also contain around 2 grams of carbs and 17 grams of fat. 

The primary macronutrient in hot dogs is fat, and fat can be beneficial in keeping you full for longer periods. 

However, the fat content that hot dogs contain is not particularly healthy forms of fat as they primarily come from saturated and trans fats.

Eating too many hot dogs too frequently could cause some health issues over time.

Even seemingly healthier options like all-beef, chicken, or turkey hot dogs have a bad macronutrient profile for bodybuilders. Most options on the market have approximately 5-6 grams of protein and 8-10 grams of fat.

Micronutrient Content Of Hot Dogs

The micronutrients in a hot dog are non-existent because the ingredients used to make traditional hot dogs are additives, filler, organ meats, or meat byproducts, which have little nutritional value.

Micronutrients are really important for our bodies to function optimally. Therefore, although calories and macronutrients are the most important for body composition, you still need to consume adequate micronutrients.

“Approximately one-third of the U.S. population is at risk of at least one vitamin or mineral deficiency, with many experiencing multiple deficiencies at once. Not only can a vitamin deficiency put you at higher risk for developing health issues, it can seriously impact your sports performance.”

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT and Health Writer

You can make up for the lack of micronutrients in hot dogs by consuming foods high in micronutrients, like fruits and vegetables. 

Hot Dogs: Pros

hot dogs pros

1. Hot Dogs Keep You Full For Longer Periods

Hot dogs may keep you full for longer periods because of the higher amounts of fat they contain. This is because dietary fats digest more slowly.

This is especially beneficial if you get hungry frequently throughout the day because these foods will keep you from overconsuming calories.

That said, there are better fat options out there than hot dogs that will provide you with healthier fat sources and more micronutrients, such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts.

2. Hot Dogs Are Affordable

Hot dogs are very affordable. If you have less money to allocate to your grocery budget, hot dogs can be an item topick up and get some protein in your meals.

That said, hot dogs are not a great source of protein, and there are certainly better options for protein foods.

Pairing a hot dog with micronutrients (salad, fruit, etc.) and carbs (potatoes, bread, etc.) can make it a more balanced meal.

3. Hot Dogs Boost Our Calorie Intake

As mentioned, your average hot dog (excluding toppings and a bun) has roughly 186 calories. 

This means you can easily add a few hundred extra calories to your daily total by eating a couple of hot dogs now and then.

While I don’t recommend making it a habit, hot dogs can be a tool for reaching your daily calorie target on days when you don’t want to eat as much or don’t have time to sit down for meals.

Hot Dog: Cons

hot dog cons

1. Hot Dogs Are Low In Micronutrients

Hot dogs have little to offer nutritionally because their ingredients are primarily fillers, additives, and meat byproducts.

These are not particularly nutritious and should not be consumed regularly.

If you’re consuming hot dogs regularly, this is more of a concern because they could impact your health. 

However, if you’re only having them once in a while and are pairing them with some fruits and vegetables, this is less of a health concern.

2. Hot Dogs Macronutrient Distribution Is Unhelpful

For bodybuilding, you typically want foods high in protein, high or low in carbs, depending on your current goals, and healthy fats in moderation. Hot dogs do not fit the bill.

You’re better off with foods that serve a purpose in bodybuilding because there is an art to perfecting your physique and building an impressive amount of muscle. 

So, each food you eat should have a specific purpose.

Hot dogs do not have a specific purpose because they don’t have much to offer. They are not high in protein, and they are high in fat, but not a good kind of fat.

Hot dogs are one of those foods that feel like a waste of calories and macronutrients.

3. Hot Dogs Are Full of Sodium

Your average hot dog has approximately 600 mg of sodium, but that can vary from brand to brand.

For reference, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium daily. 

In other words, four medium-sized hot dogs will provide more sodium than you should eat for the entire day.

While sodium is essential for optimal performance, chronic overconsumption can contribute to elevated blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can You Eat Hot Dogs Before Workouts? 

Hot dogs are not the best option right before a workout because they are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. It’s essential to give ourselves time to let the fat of the hot dog digest before working out to avoid gastrointestinal distress.

Eating it with a bun and some high-carb condiments (e.g., ketchup) two hours before training would be better.

Can You Eat Hot Dogs After Workouts? 

Hot dogs with a bun will give you an adequate amount of carbs to replenish your energy stores, but they do not contain a sufficient amount of protein to promote muscle repair and growth.

You could add a protein source to the meal to make it suitable for post-workout. Good options include meat, eggs, cottage cheese, and even protein powder.

Having the hot dog with a bun is better because the extra carbs will replenish lost glycogen.

I asked Dietitian Brenda Peralta about eating hot dogs before and after workouts. She said:

“Hot dogs can be considered a complete meal. The bun, the hot dog, and the toppings combined can provide all the macronutrients. However, it is not the best protein source. It can also be a little bit heavy before a workout. Hence, try to have it at least 1 hour before the activity. Since it provides all macros, you can include it after a workout. Remember that it is low in essential nutrients and high in additives.”

Is It Okay To Eat Hot Dogs When Bulking? 

hot dogs help muscle growth

It is okay to eat hot dogs when bulking because they provide some calories, but you should eat them in moderation because they have little nutritional value, and they may keep you full for too long.

When bulking, you must consume more calories than your body needs to function.The excess calories will give your body additional energy to add mass. 

Consuming these extra calories can be challenging for some people, depending on how much food they need, so high-fat foods like hot dogs that keep you full for longer periods may be counterproductive. 

If you’re too full, then it may be hard to continue to eat to reach our daily calorie goal. For this reason, and because hot dogs have little nutritional value, you should eat them in moderation and avoid having them daily.

Hot Dog Recipe For Bodybuilding

Traditional hot dogs lack the protein to maximize our pre- and post-workout meals.

I’ve come up with the following recipe that help bump up the amount of protein you can get out of hot dogs.

Upgraded Chili Cheese Dog

upgraded chili cheese dog

This new and improved chili cheese dog packs a protein punch and has less fat than the original to help you reach your bodybuilding goals.

The protein-to-fats ratio is 2-to-1, which is far from the recommended 5-to-1 for bodybuilding, but it’s much better than what you would get from a traditional hot dog in a bun with some condiments.

Makes two servings.

  • For one Serving (2 hot dogs): 610 Calories with 56g Carbs, 44g Protein, and 22g Fat


  • 4 hot dog buns
  • 1 cup low-fat or fat-free cheese, shredded
  • 4 all meat-hot dogs (I use turkey dogs)
  • 85 grams ground chicken
  • 10 grams of chili or taco seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup sliced tomatoes
  • Green onion, for garnish


  1. Prep hot dog buns by adding cheese to the bottom of each bun. Set aside.
  2. Cook hot dogs over medium heat until crispy. Add each hot dog to a prepped bun. Set aside.
  3. Cook ground chicken over medium heat until cooked through. Add seasoning.
  4. Top each hot dog with ground beef mixture, lettuce, and tomatoes.
  5. Garnish with green onions. Add additional condiments if desired. 
  6. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Hot Dogs Be Included In A High-Protein Diet For Bodybuilding?

You can include hot dogs in your bodybuilding diet. However, given the relatively low protein content per hot dog, you should eat enough high-protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and cottage cheese, to reach the recommended minimum of 0.8 grams per pound.

Are There Healthier Alternatives To Traditional Hot Dogs For Bodybuilders?

Traditional and all-meat hot dogs have similar nutritional profiles, which means they are not ideal for bodybuildings. The best way to make hot dogs healthier is to pair them with nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables.

How Often Can Bodybuilders Safely Incorporate Hot Dogs Into Their Meal Plans?

Given the additives, fillers, saturated fats, and moderate amounts of trans fats, it would be best to eat hot dogs no more than once or twice a week to avoid adverse health effects.


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Huskisson E, Maggini S, Ruf M. The Influence of Micronutrients on Cognitive Function and Performance. Journal of International Medical Research. 2007;35(1):1-19. doi:10.1177/147323000703500101

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2023). Sodium – Your Diet. Retrieved from

Valentine V. The importance of salt in the athlete’s diet. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2007 Jul;6(4):237-40. PMID: 17617999.

Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 7;10(2):180. doi: 10.3390/nu10020180. PMID: 29414855; PMCID: PMC5852756.

About The Author

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.

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