Instant noodles are extremely cheap and convenient to prepare, but is this because they don’t have much nutritional value to offer? Are instant noodles a convenience food that bodybuilders would benefit from or are they better left on the shelf?
Here’s my quick answer:
Are instant noodles good or bad for bodybuilding? Instant noodles are good for bodybuilding when we’re bulking because of the higher number of calories, carbs, and fat per serving. However, instant noodles may not be as good for those who are dieting/cutting for the same reasons.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- What nutrients that instant noodles have to offer if any
- The pros and cons of eating instant noodles for bodybuilding
- If we should eat instant noodles pre and post-workout
- How to include instant noodles in your diet to help reach your physique goals
Instant Noodles For Bodybuilding: Overview
Calories In Instant Noodles
Instant noodles (also known as ramen) have a higher number of calories per serving than many other foods at 380 – 420 calories per packet, depending on the brand that we’re purchasing.
The calories in instant noodles are high because they have a higher amount of carbs and fats, which weigh in at 4 calories per gram and 9 calories per gram respectively.
The calories in instant noodles can add up quickly, especially for those who eat more than one serving at a time. This could be beneficial for those who have higher daily calorie goals (heavier men, those who are really active, or those who are bulking), but for those whose calories are more limited, it can be detrimental.
The portion size of Instant noodles is easier to control when we’re making them at home, but if we’re eating them at a restaurant, then it can be really difficult to estimate how much we’re consuming.
Macronutrients In Instant Noodles
Instant noodles contain all three macronutrients, but they have more carbs and fat than protein. The carb and fat content of instant noodles is only ideal for those who are bulking.
One serving of instant noodles contains 58-60 grams of carbs, 12-20 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein depending on the brand and flavor of the seasoning packets.
For those who are trying to lean out, this proportion of carbs, fats, and protein is unfortunate. Consuming even one serving of instant noodles will make a huge dent in the carb and fat targets we have for the day.
This would mean that all the other meals during the day will be extremely limited and we would likely be hungrier than we need to be (read: more miserable than we need to be.)
For those who are bulking, the carb and fat content in a relatively small serving of instant noodles is probably quite helpful because it can be difficult to hit these higher targets with foods that are higher in volume.
The main downfall with instant noodles is that they do not contain enough protein, which is one of the most important nutrients for bodybuilding. The protein content of noodles would be higher if we added a protein source such as meat, fish, grains, or legumes.
Although we can purchase instant noodles that are flavored with beef stock or chicken stock, this is not enough to give us the protein content that we need.
If you want to learn more about fish, check out my article Is Cod Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
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.
The most prominent micronutrient in instant noodles is sodium, which is important for our body to function but is often consumed in excess in our diets anyway. The level of sodium in instant noodles is overkill and can negatively impact our health over time, rather than improve it.
Another food high in sodium is sushi. Check out my article on Is Sushi Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
The nutrients in instant noodles are not sufficient to provide us with any significant health benefits. Furthermore, eating too many instant noodles too often could increase our risk of heart disease, stroke, or at the very least hypertension.
Eating instant noodles every once in a while will likely not affect our health outcomes, but having them daily or in large quantities is something we should avoid.
Limiting how much we’re eating them could be difficult for some because instant noodle seasoning packs contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is known for being hyper-palatable and therefore very addicting.
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.
Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?
1 Pros Of Eating Instant Noodles For Bodybuilding
The one pro of eating instant noodles for bodybuilding are:
- Instant Noodles Provide Us With Energy
Instant Noodles Provide Us With Energy
Instant noodles contain a significant amount of carbohydrates, which is our body’s main source of energy, especially while exercising.
Instant noodles can provide us with the energy that we need to perform well in the gym because of the number of calories they contain that are primarily from carbohydrates.
When we’re bulking we’ll likely have excess energy to work with because our caloric intake is higher, but when we’re limited in calories as we would be while dieting, having a source of carbs like instant noodles can give us a well-needed energy boost.
Check out other foods great for bulking:
- Are Yams Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Oatmeal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Are Bagels Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Cons of Eating Instant Noodles For Bodybuilding
The cons of eating instant noodles for bodybuilding are:
- Instant Noodles Are High In Calories
- Instant Noodles Are Low In Protein
- Instant Noodles Are Low In Micronutrients
Instant Noodles Are High In Calories
Instant noodles are high in calories because of their increased carb and fat content, which pack a punch in a relatively small serving size.
Instant noodles could easily derail us from our physique goals if we’re trying to lean out because the calories per serving are relatively high even though the food itself is not particularly satisfying.
If we’re bulking, the added calories could be a benefit, but if we’re trying to stay relatively lean then we will still have to be conscious of having calories above our daily calorie goal.
Instant Noodles Are Low In Protein
Instant noodles do not contain enough protein to help us retain or build muscle, and therefore the noodles do not support our bodybuilding goals on their own.
If we’re making instant noodles at home we should add a protein source such as beef, chicken, egg, or legumes because the noodles themselves have enough protein to support our goals.
When we’re bodybuilding we typically have a higher protein requirement than the average person, so every meal that we consume should have some protein to help us meet our daily protein goals.
Instant Noodles Are Low In Micronutrients
Instant noodles are low in important micronutrients other than sodium, which it has in excess, and therefore have very low nutritional value.
Instant noodles do not have much to offer beyond their sodium content, but if we paired them with vegetables or added vegetables to the instant noodles then we could dramatically increase the micronutrient content of the dish.
However, we do need to remember that consuming instant noodles too often can lead to increased health risks, therefore we should ensure that we’re eating a more whole food diet more often than not.
Even while bulking, the micronutrient quality of our food intake is important for short-term performance and long-term health.
Related Article: Can I Eat Pasta While Cutting? (Yes, Here’s How)
Can You Eat Instant Noodles Before Workouts?
Instant noodles and ramen can be eaten before a workout because they have a higher amount of carbohydrates, but they should only be eaten closer to 2 hours before working out because of their fat content, which can slow down the digestion process.
Fat is slower to digest than the other micronutrients, which is why we need to limit its consumption 1 to 2 hours before working out.
If our body is trying to digest the fat we’ve eaten, then we won’t be able to exert the effort necessary for training without causing some digestive discomfort.
For this reason, I would suggest only eating instant noodles 2 to 3 hours before working out, as It’s not worth compromising our training performance for instant noodles.
Can You Eat Instant Noodles After Workouts?
Instant noodles and ramen can be eaten after a workout because of their carbohydrate content but they need to be paired with a protein source since they do not contain adequate protein on their own.
The carbs that instant noodles provide will be ideal after working out because they will replenish the energy that we’ve depleted during the workout and encourage recovery.
However, the lack of protein in instant noodles is a concern because we need protein to promote muscle repair and growth. Therefore, I would suggest pairing the noodles with chicken, beef, or legumes to ensure adequate intake.
We asked Dietician Brenda Peralta about eating higher quality noodles or pasta before and after workouts and she stated that :
“Noodles, or pasta, is one of the top choices for athletes to consume before a workout. Since it is a simple carb choice, it can be easily digested, preventing any 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.”
Learn more about Can You Eat Pasta On A High Protein Diet?
Do Instant Noodles Help Muscle Growth?
Instant noodles and ramen can help encourage muscle growth because of the calories and carbohydrates they provide that can fuel training sessions, but they do not contain enough protein to help muscle growth.
Instant noodles can help muscle growth but they cannot guarantee that muscle growth will occur because they are only one piece of the puzzle that we need to build muscle.
The ultimate recipe for muscle growth is a caloric surplus, adequate protein intake, and a training stimulus that causes our body to adapt to the increasing demands.
Is It Okay To Eat Instant Noodles When Bulking?
While we’re bulking is probably the best time to eat instant noodles and ramen because they are high in calories, carbs, and fats which helps us to reach our required daily intake to add additional mass.
Instant noodles are a great option when bulking because they provide a decent amount of calories for a relatively small serving. However, we shouldn’t be consuming instant noodles too regularly because of the impact they could have on our health over time.
In addition, when we’re consuming instant noodles we need to prioritize protein in other meals or else add protein to the noodles to achieve the body composition that we’re wanting, rather than simply adding fat mass.
Ramen Recipes For Bodybuilding
Instant noodles have the perfect amount of carbs to provide us with the energy we need, but they lack the protein that we need post-workout, they contain too much fat to be eaten too soon before working out, and their nutritional value is extremely poor.
Luckily we have developed two recipes that can take the classic instant noodles and upgrade them to fit our bodybuilding lifestyle.
Ramen is a convenience food that is known for being delicious, but unfortunately, it typically lacks nutritional value….but not anymore! This upgraded ramen has more protein and more micronutrients than your typical ramen.
We can enjoy this upgraded ramen 2 to 3 hours before working out to improve our training performance.
Makes 1 serving.
- For 1 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 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 let it cook for 6 minutes or until the whites have become firm.
- Pour the ramen into a serving bowl. Top with green onion and sriracha.
Beef & Broccoli Power Bowl
The beef and broccoli power bowl is a great post-workout meal because the carbs from the noodles will replenish our energy stores, the protein from the steak and edamame allows us to repair muscular damage, and the broccoli gives us a healthy dose of micronutrients.
Now we can enjoy our instant noodles post-workout without neglecting proper post-workout nutrition.
Makes 4 servings.
- For 1 Serving: 485 Calories with 56g Carbs, 25g Protein, and 16g Fat
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 16oz steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 cup beef broth
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 3 packages instant noodles (seasonings discarded)
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 2 heads broccoli, chopped
- 1 cup edamame, shelled
- Optional: peanuts for garnishing
- In a saucepan, boil 6 cups of water. Once boiling, add the instant noodles. Cook until the noodles are tender (around 3 to 5 minutes).
- While the noodles are cooking, Steam broccoli in a saucepan (or in the microwave) until tender.
- Strain the noodles, and return them to the saucepan. Add the steamed broccoli to the saucepan.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and the steak. Cook to the desired level of doneness.
- Remove steak from the pan and add it to the saucepan.
- To the frying pan, add the other tablespoon of sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant. Add beef broth, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Stir to combine.
- Add the broth mixture, edamame, and sriracha to the noodles. Toss to combine.
- Top with peanuts and additional sriracha if desired. Enjoy!
Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?
The classic instant noodles can work for a bodybuilding lifestyle when eaten at the right times and in moderation. However, I suggest upgrading them with a protein source and some micronutrients for 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.