Instant noodles (aka “ramen”) offer a significant caloric intake with a substantial carbohydrate and fat content, yet they are notably deficient in protein and essential micronutrients. Let’s see if and how you can fit instant noodles into your bodybuilding diet.
- Instant noodles can be convenient to eat occasionally when bulking because of the higher number of calories, carbs, and fats per serving. However, it’s best to limit them, as they contain 800+ mg of sodium per serving (half a package).
- Instant noodles are not ideal to eat during a cut because the calories and carbs can add up, especially when eating two or more servings (which is usually the case). Plus, they are not particularly filling, and you may feel hungry within an hour or two after eating.
- Add some vegetables (e.g., carrots and broccoli) and a protein source (e.g., beef, eggs, or legumes) to make instant noodles more nutritious and bodybuilding-friendly (I’ve given you a recipe below).
Instant Noodles For Bodybuilding: Overview
Calories In Instant Noodles
Instant noodles (ramen) have approximately 190 calories per serving (half a package), depending on the brand.
This could benefit those with higher calorie needs (heavier men, highly active people, or those bulking) but may not be that great during a cut.
Macronutrients In Instant Noodles
Instant noodles contain all three macronutrients but have more carbs and fat than protein.
One serving of instant noodles contains 26 grams of carbs, 7.5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein, depending on the brand.
For bulking, the carb and fat content in a relatively small serving of instant noodles is helpful, making it easier to hit these nutritional targets and get enough calories.
The primary downside of instant noodles is that by itself it does not contain enough protein. However, I provide a high-protein ramen recipe at the end of the article that is more suitable for bodybuilders.
- Want to learn more about high-protein foods? Check out Best Foods For Bulking.
Micronutrient Content Of Instant Noodles
Instant noodles have little to no micronutrients other than sodium, which is fairly high for a single serving of food (816mg per half a package).
This is more than a third of the recommended 2,300 mg per day.
Eating instant noodles occasionally will likely not affect your health outcomes, but having them daily or in large quantities is something to avoid.
Limiting how much you’re eating could be difficult for some because instant noodle seasoning packs contain monosodium glutamate (MSG)––a flavor enhancer known for being tasty and potentially addictive.
MSG has been known to cause health issues in certain people, but there is no significant literature to support why this is, which is why its use in commercial foods has become controversial.
2 Pros Of Eating Instant Noodles For Bodybuilding
1. Instant Noodles Provide You With Energy
Instant noodles contain a significant amount of carbohydrates, which are your body’s preferred energy source.
They could boost energy and help you perform well in the gym.
Instant noodles can also work as a high-carb post-workout meal to help you replenish lost glycogen.
2. Instant Noodles Can Help You Eat Enough Calories When Bulking
Given their caloric density (approximately 190 calories per half a package), instant noodles can be a good food to eat occasionally to reach your calorie target and maintain the necessary surplus for weight gain.
For example, if you don’t feel hungry sometimes or don’t have the time to sit down for three or four meals, having instant noodles can help you ‘catch up’ and stay on track.
4 Cons of Eating Instant Noodles For Bodybuilding
1. Instant Noodles Are High In Calories
Instant noodles are high in calories because of their carb and fat content, which packs a punch in a small serving.
This means instant noodles may not be the best food to eat while trying to get lean because the calories, carbs, and fats add up if you eat two or more servings.
The problem is that instant noodles aren’t particularly filling, and you may feel hungry within an hour or two following a meal.
2. Instant Noodles Are Low In Protein
Instant noodles do not contain enough protein to help you retain or build muscle. Therefore, they cannot support your bodybuilding goals on their own.
When making noodles at home, add a protein source such as beef, chicken, eggs, or legumes to get closer to your daily target.
As a bodybuilder, you have higher protein requirements (0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight).
So every meal should include a substantial portion of protein that works you closer to your overall daily protein target.
3. Instant Noodles Are Low In Micronutrients
Instant noodles are low in essential micronutrients and have a poor nutritional value.
The only micronutrients in instant noodles are iron (6 percent of daily needs) and calcium (1 percent of daily needs), but both are in tiny amounts that don’t make a difference.
Here’s what health and fitness writer Rachael Schultz wrote about vitamins and minerals:
“There is little research on vitamins and minerals in regards to muscle growth, but we all know those micronutrients are essential to our overall health and functioning.”
The only way to make instant noodles more nutritious is to pair them with vegetables, such as baby spinach, lettuce, carrots, and cabbage.
However, you must remember that consuming instant noodles too often can increase health risks.
Even while bulking, the micronutrient quality of your food intake is vital for short-term performance and long-term health.
- Related Article: Can I Eat Pasta While Cutting?
4. Instant Noodles Are Full of Sodium
A single serving of instant noodles has 800+ mg of sodium, which covers more than 30% of your daily needs.
Some sodium is crucial for optimal performance and growth, supporting fluid balance and cognitive function.
Here are a few words from health and wellness expert Lisa Booth:
“Hydration, including both water and electrolytes like sodium, are one of the most important factors for indicating our health and ability to do sport performance. Scientific literature states that water balance not only influences endurance performance but also gives power and strength.”
However, consuming too much sodium doesn’t offer additional benefits and may lead to water retention and bloating, affecting your appearance and feelings.
Can You Eat Instant Noodles Before Workouts?
You can eat instant noodles and ramen before a workout because they are rich in carbohydrates and sodium, both of which support gym performance.
However, eat them at least two hours before working out because the dietary fats can slow down digestion to a degree.
You may experience some stomach discomfort if your body is still trying to digest the instant noodles when your workout starts.
Can You Eat Instant Noodles After Workouts?
You can eat instant noodles and ramen after a workout, but you should pair them with a protein source, such as chicken, beef, or legumes.
The carbs instant noodles provide will be ideal after working out because they will replenish the energy you’ve depleted during the workout and encourage recovery.
I asked Dietitian Brenda Peralta about eating higher-quality noodles or pasta before and after workouts. She said:
“Noodles, or pasta, is one of the top choices for athletes to consume before a workout. Since it is a simple carb, it can be easily digested, preventing stomach problems. Have it as a snack or a meal 1-2 hours before training. Post-exercise, it would be best if you replenish the glycogen lost. Noodles are a great way to do it. However, choose the whole-grain version to get more vitamins and minerals. Add some protein as well to have a balanced meal.”
Do Instant Noodles Help Muscle Growth?
Instant noodles and ramen can support muscle growth because the calories and carbohydrates fuel training sessions.
That said, the ultimate recipe for muscle growth is a caloric surplus, adequate protein intake, and a training stimulus that forces your body to adapt to the increasing demands.
Plus, you shouldn’t be consuming instant noodles too regularly because of the impact they could have on your health over time.
Also, you need to prioritize protein in other meals or add protein to the noodles to achieve your desired body composition.
Ramen Recipe For Bodybuilding
As I said, ramen lacks the protein you need for bodybuilding and is generally low in micronutrients. As such, I developed an “upgraded” ramen recipe that turns your classic instant noodles into a muscle-building bowl of goodness.
Makes one serving.
- For one serving: 614 Calories with 75g Carbs, 24g Protein, and 24g Fat
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- ½-1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 package of instant noodles (seasonings unnecessary)
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 large egg
- 1 green onion, sliced
- Sriracha for seasoning
- Add oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant.
- Add mushrooms to the saucepan. Cook for an additional minute.
- Pour in the broth and water, and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the instant noodles to the saucepan. Boil until the noodles are tender (around 3 minutes).
- Reduce heat to low. Add spinach and cook until wilted.
- Add egg to the broth and cook for 6 minutes or until the whites have become firm.
- Pour the ramen into a serving bowl. Top with green onion and sriracha.
Nutritionix. Instant Ramen Noodles. Retrieved from https://www.nutritionix.com/food/instant-ramen-noodles. Nutritional information for instant ramen noodles.
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Huh, I. S., Kim, H., Jo, H. K., Lim, C. S., Kim, J. S., Kim, S. J., Kwon, O., Oh, B., & Chang, N. (2017, May 24). Instant noodle consumption is associated with cardiometabolic risk factors among college students in Seoul. Nutrition Research and Practice, 11(3), 232-239. https://doi.org/10.4162/nrp.2017.11.3.232
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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.
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