Several of my nutrition clients have asked me whether they can enjoy treats like ice cream, especially if they have bodybuilding and physique goals. Here’s my answer…
Is ice cream good or bad for bodybuilding? Ice cream is not the best food for bodybuilding because it is usually overconsumed and has little nutritional value.
However, ice cream can be useful when we need to consume more calories (like in a bulking phase), and can sometimes help increase diet adherence.
Diet adherence is the idea that if you incorporate a treat in your diet every so often (like ice cream) that it makes it easier to stick to your diet over the long-term.
To include ice cream in our bodybuilding diet without jeopardizing our goals, we need to understand how ice cream can be beneficial, how to incorporate it, and also, how ice cream could limit our progress.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- What nutrients ice cream has to offer
- The pros and cons of including ice cream in your diet
- If ice cream should be eaten before and after workouts
- How to make 2 ice cream recipes that won’t impact your physique goals
Ice Cream For Bodybuilding: Overview
Calories In Ice Cream
The calories in ice cream are quite high depending on the brand that we purchase. Generally, they range from 140 To 290 calories per serving, with basic flavors being lower than flavors with chunks included.
If you prefer more basic brands and flavors, then you’re looking at fewer calories per serving.
Ice cream servings are generally about a ½ cup, but this could vary from brand to brand. The ½ cup serving is easy to overestimate, so if we’re someone who struggles with portion sizes, then it may be best to measure it out to keep the calories in check.
The calorie content of ice cream could be a benefit if we’re trying to gain mass; however, if we’re trying to diet or even maintain our physique, then the calories in ice cream may be an issue.
Macronutrients In Ice Cream
The macronutrients in ice cream are primarily carbohydrates and fats with little to no protein. The ratio of carbs to fats will vary from brand to brand but generally, there will be more carbs per serving than fats.
The main macronutrient in ice cream is carbohydrates from the sugar content of ice cream, which gives it its delicious flavour. There are typically between 17 to 33 grams of carbs in a ½ cup serving of ice cream depending on the brand and flavour we choose.
Ice cream also has a good amount of fat because of the milk fat that is used to give it its creamy texture. We can expect anywhere from 7 to 14 grams of fat in a ½ cup serving of ice cream.
Ice cream products that are marketed as “lighter” or “low calorie” versions have reduced the fat and carb content of the ice cream by decreasing the milk fat and/or using sugar alcohols to replace some of the sugar.
These changes in the ingredients will reduce the total carb and fat content of the ice cream, which in turn lowers the calories per serving.
Typically we can detect these changes in the consistency and the taste of the product, but some companies do a great job of creating lighter ice creams that taste great.
The protein content of ice cream is incredibly low at around 4 grams per serving, even though it is a dairy product and most dairy products do provide a decent amount of protein.
We will get some protein from ice cream but certainly not enough to help us reach our daily protein targets.
Micronutrient Content Of Ice Cream
Ice cream contains an adequate amount of calcium because it is a dairy product, but the sugar content of ice cream tends to overshadow the calcium we’re getting per serving.
It’s fair to say that there are some micronutrients in ice cream, calcium, in particular, is decently high, but it is not the best choice if our health is our top priority.
We could easily get our calcium from any other dairy product like greek yogurt or cottage cheese, which has less sugar and more protein per serving.
That being said, if we’re eating enough micronutrients throughout the day from other foods, then having a serving of ice cream isn’t going to prevent us from being healthy.
Alternatively, if we don’t think we’re getting enough micronutrients in the meals and snacks we’re eating throughout the day, we could add fruit to a serving of ice cream and bump up the nutrient quality of that snack.
Chances are we are not eating ice cream for the micronutrients it has to offer anyway, but it’s important to understand how we can incorporate ice cream into our bodybuilding diet while still prioritizing our health.
3 Pros Of Eating Ice Cream For Bodybuilding
The pros of eating ice cream for bodybuilding are:
- Ice Cream Is Satiating
- Ice Cream Can Help Diet Adherence
- Ice Cream Can Help Us Consume Additional Calories
1. Ice Cream Is Satiating
Ice cream is satiating because it has a higher sugar content along with some fats to keep us full, which is why after we eat ice cream we will be satisfied and less likely to reach for more food afterwards (which is not necessarily the case for other treats like donuts).
Ice cream can be a perfect inclusion to end the day because ice cream is so satiating that after we eat it, we typically don’t feel that we need to keep snacking.
This can be beneficial for those who struggle with nighttime snacking because snacking calories add up quickly, so if we can put an end to this by including more satiating foods, then we can consume fewer calories in the evening even though ice cream is a calorie-dense food.
2. Ice Cream Can Help Diet Adherence
Eating ice cream can help with diet adherence because including it in our diet from time to time will help us to feel less restricted and deprived, which can help to keep motivation high when dieting.
Ice cream is a fun food that tastes amazing, which is even more enjoyable when we’ve been dieting down to improve our physique.
Including ice cream in our diet, while still hitting our calorie and macronutrient goals can help keep us on track with our goals and keep us from feeling deprived.
If we feel too deprived in our diet, we are more likely to emotionally eat or binge eat because we feel too restricted. We can potentially avoid this by including fun foods like ice cream in our plan.
3. Ice Cream Can Help Us Consume Additional Calories
Ice cream is high in calories, but this can be useful when we’re trying to eat a surplus of calories to bulk, or simply trying to reach our calories and macronutrient goals when we’re behind our targets.
Higher calories are not always a bad thing, they are extremely important when we intend to add muscle mass but sometimes it can be difficult to eat enough to hit our daily calorie and macronutrient goals.
Ice cream can help us to get in the calories we need, especially at the end of the day, to keep us on track for our bodybuilding goals.
3 Cons of Eating Ice Cream For Bodybuilding
The cons of eating ice cream for bodybuilding are:
- Ice Cream Is High In Calories
- Ice Cream Is Low In Micronutrients
- Ice Cream Is Easy To Overconsume
1. Ice Cream Is High In Calories
The calories in ice cream can also negatively impact our goals if we’re trying to diet and improve our physique through fat loss because the excess calories could easily put us over our calorie and macronutrient targets for the day.
Ice cream can be detrimental to our bodybuilding goals if we’re eating too much of it too often because it is calorie-dense.
If we’re in a cutting phase and have fewer calories to consume throughout the day, then incorporating too much ice cream can take away from the volume of food we’re able to eat for the rest of the day.
2. Ice Cream Is Low In Micronutrients
One of the downsides to eating ice cream is that it’s low in micronutrients, and for our bodies to function optimally we need to consume adequate micronutrients throughout the day.
Ice cream doesn’t have much to offer in the micronutrient department, so if we’re eating it too often and we’re not actively trying to get in enough vitamins and minerals during the rest of the day, then we may not be getting adequate amounts.
3. Ice Cream Is Easy To Overconsume
The main downfall of eating ice cream for bodybuilding is that it’s easy to over-consume and this can easily derail us from reaching our bodybuilding goals.
Ice cream is fun food, and including it in moderation does have some benefits; however, ice cream is so easy to over-consume that it can affect our goals more than it benefits them.
It can be difficult to consume ice cream in moderation because it is super delicious and hard to visually estimate the portion size. I recommend measuring out the ice cream if we’re someone who is trying to be more strict with our calorie and macronutrient intake.
If we have a hard time keeping ice cream in the house without eating the entire tub, then it may be best to keep it out of the house for the time being until we’re not dieting for bodybuilding and we have more time to work on improving our relationship with it.
Check out my other articles discussing whether
- Nutella is good or bad for bodybuilding
- Dark Chocolate is good or bad for bodybuilding
- Is Honey Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
Can You Eat Ice Cream Before Workouts?
Ice cream could be consumed before a workout, but it is generally not recommended because it is high in fat which takes longer to digest. In addition, some people find they cannot eat dairy products in general before working out.
Ice cream is not the best option for pre-workout meals even though it is carb-rich and carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source when working out. This is because of the fat content of ice cream which slows digestion.
If we’re going to consume ice cream as a pre-workout meal, then we should do so 2 to 3 hours before training to allow for adequate digestion.
If we try to workout without properly digesting the ice cream, then I can almost guarantee that there will be some uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues.
- Related Article: Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Can You Eat Ice Cream After Workouts?
We can eat ice cream after workouts but only if we add a protein source along with it because protein is one of the most important macronutrients that we need post-workout for muscle growth and recovery.
Eating ice cream post-workout isn’t a poor decision because the carb content of ice cream will be great for replenishing the energy stores that we’ve depleted while training.
The fat in ice cream isn’t necessarily beneficial after working out, but it isn’t detrimental either as long as it’s not affecting us from consuming adequate carbs and proteins.
The main issue with consuming ice cream following a workout is that it does not have enough protein to repair muscle damage and to encourage muscle growth.
To make ice cream a good post-workout meal, we would need to incorporate some protein to go with the carbs and fats.
We asked Dietician Brenda Peralta about eating ice cream before and after workouts and she stated that :
“A high-fat dairy is not a great choice to include before a workout. It can lead to gastrointestinal problems and bloating. If you are going to include it in your diet, have it at least 2-3 hours before the workout. It would be a better choice to include after a workout. However, keep in mind that it won’t provide as much protein and is needed, and is high in sugars and fat.”
Does Ice Cream Help Muscle Growth?
Ice cream can help muscle growth because it has a higher amount of calories for a relatively small serving, and our body will be more likely to build muscle when there are extra calories available.
The calories in ice cream will help to encourage muscle growth because it can help us to achieve our caloric surplus more easily to give our body some excess energy for the muscle-building processes.
However, we need to ensure that we’re consuming an adequate protein intake and getting a good training stimulus for muscle growth to occur.
If we’re not eating enough protein or training properly, then we will not build muscle despite achieving a caloric surplus.
Is It Okay To Eat Ice Cream When Bulking?
It is okay to eat ice cream when bulking because it can make the process easier by adding easy calories; however, we need to ensure that we’re getting enough protein and micronutrients from other food sources.
When we’re bulking it is probably the best time to include ice cream because we will need more calories and ice cream can be beneficial in achieving this.
That being said, when we’re bulking we still need to be mindful about hitting our macronutrient goals to ensure we’re actually building muscle and not just adding fat mass.
In addition, we’ll need adequate micronutrient intake for our bodies to function optimally. Therefore, we should also prioritize our fruit and vegetable intake along with our ice cream intake.
- Related Article: 6 Best Ice Cream For Bulking (And, The 3 Worst)
Ice Cream Recipes For Bodybuilding
We know that ice cream has a good amount of carbs and fats but is lacking in protein.
This information is useful because we know we need an ice cream alternative that has less fat before working out, and more an option with more protein when consuming ice cream after a workout.
Pre-Workout Ice Cream Recipe
Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich
To eat ice cream pre-workout and have it digested properly, we need to incorporate it in a way that maximizes the number of carbs we’re having for energy and minimizes the amount of fat to speed up digestion.
This is why we’ve created the homemade ice cream sandwich with homemade cookies to be paired with your favorite ice cream!
Makes 10 servings:
- For 1 serving: 316 Calories with 48 g Carbs, 4g Protein, and 12g Fat
- 160 grams all-purpose flour
- 30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 115 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 100 grams white sugar
- 100 grams light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 16 oz (1 pint) of ice cream
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 2 baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
- Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter comes together.
- Using an ice cream scoop, drop batter onto the greased cookie sheets.
- Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until the tops of the cookies become dry.
- Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Remove from sheets and allow to cool completely.
- Place the pint of ice cream on its side. Cut the ice cream pint into equal slices (slices should weigh around 1.6 oz each).
- Sandwich ice cream between 2 cookies.
- Enjoy now or wrap with plastic wrap and save for later!
Post-Workout Ice Cream Recipe
Protein Ice Cream
After a workout, we should be prioritizing our protein intake and our carbohydrate intake, but regular ice cream doesn’t fit the bill in the protein department. That’s why we’ve created protein ice cream that gives us the ice cream consistency that we love but with enough protein to fuel muscle repair & growth.
Makes 1 to 2 servings
- Divding into 2 servings: 216 Calories with 21g Carbs, 27g Protein, and 5g Fat
- For the whole batch: 432 Calories with 41g Carbs, 54g Protein, and 10g Fat
- 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
- 20 grams sugar
- 20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon xantham gum
- 240ml milk of choice
- 360 grams ice
- Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix thoroughly.
Looking for Ice Cream Recipes, Check Out:
- Protein Ice Cream With Xanthan Gum
- Protein Ice Cream Recipe For Bodybuilding (Easy To Make)
- Low Calorie High Protein Ice Cream Recipe
- Ice Cream Protein Shake
- Protein Ice Cream Sandwich
We can enjoy ice cream in moderation and still work towards our bodybuilding goals as long as we’re sticking to our daily calorie and macronutrient targets for the day. Learning to incorporate it can be great for our sanity, but it’s best not to overdo it!
Michael H. Tunick and Diane L. Van Hekken
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2015 63 (43), 9381-9388
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.