Are Kidney Beans Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding (Pros & Cons)

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There are certain carb sources, like kidney beans, that also have a high protein content.  These types of food naturally grab the attention of bodybuilders because they have a higher protein requirement compared with the average person.

So, should bodybuilders add kidney beans to their diet? Kidney beans are great for bodybuilders because they are high in calories, which promotes a caloric surplus to achieve new muscle growth.  The carbs replenish lost energy from training, and the protein promotes muscle recovery.  But, kidney beans are high in sodium, leading to water retention and higher blood pressure.

Therefore, it’s important to know the pros and cons of consuming kidney beans, and if you do, an understanding of the proper portion sizes and meal timing is necessary.  

In this article, you will learn everything related to canned kidney beans and bodybuilding, including:

  • The calories and macronutrients of kidney beans and how it helps a bodybuilder
  • The pros and cons of eating kidney beans for bodybuilding
  • The best time of day to eat kidney beans
  • Tips for including kidney beans into your bodybuilding diet

Kidney Beans For Bodybuilding: Overview

Nutritional Content of Kidney Beans

Nutritional content of one cup of canned kidney beans (256 g)

The nutritional content can vary between each can. However, here you can find the average dietary content of canned kidney beans.

One cup of canned kidney beans (256 g) has the following nutritional content.

  • Calories: 215
  • Carbs: 37.1 g
  • Fiber: 11.0 g
  • Protein: 13.4 g
  • Fat: 1.5 g
  • Sodium: 758 mg


Kidney beans are moderate in calories. However, depending on the brand of canned kidney beans, the caloric content can be significantly increased. For example, some companies add sugars and fats to increase their palatability (taste); thus, increasing their caloric content. 

For example, Kitchens Of India Ready To Eat Rajma Masala has 340 kcal per one cup of food. This is because it has oil added into the mix. On the other hand, kidney beans like Organic Dark Red Kidney Beans by 365 Everyday Value has only 220 kcal per cup.

Kidney beans are used by bodybuilders in both cutting and bulking phases. Usually, it is not the kidney beans alone that is important when considering it a ‘cutting’ or ‘bulking’ food.  It has more to do with how you cook them because you don’t eat them raw. How you use it in a broader context of a meal is going to determine how it is going to be added based on the phase of training.  

The calories matter a lot when it comes to bodybuilding. For example, one cup of rice has a similar caloric content as one cup of kidney beans. However, thanks to its macronutrient composition (higher fat and protein), 1 cup of rice won’t fill you up as much as 1 cup of kidney beans. 

In any case, remember to measure the portion size thoroughly to ensure you are getting enough calories (bulking) or that you are not exceeding them (cutting).  Use an app like MacroFactor.


When it comes to macronutrients, kidney beans have all three: carbs, proteins, and fats. 

One cup of kidney beans has 37 g of carbs, which is considered a high amount. On average, a bodybuilder might need 40-50% of their total calorie intake coming from carbs. This makes kidney beans an excellent option to help you reach that total intake. 

Even though kidney beans are considered a “high carb food”, it is unlike other high carb foods (like rice or yams) in that it also has a high protein content.  One cup of kidney beans has 13 g of protein, almost the same amount of protein in 2 large eggs. For bodybuilders following a plant-based diet, or those that struggle to achieve their daily protein intake, eating foods like kidney beans can help you reach your protein goals.

Finally, even though kidney beans have some fat, they are not very high in fats. However, this is going to depend on the brand. Some brands add a lot of oil to their mix, making the food higher in fats and calories. On average, canned kidney beans should have less than 5 g of fats, which should be easily achieved if you’re buying raw (or ‘whole’) canned kidney beans.


One of the benefits of kidney beans is that they are very high in nutrients, including:  

  • Zinc. It is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. Additionally, it helps boost your immune system, making you less likely to get sick.
  • Manganese. It plays an essential role in calcium absorption, which has a role in bone health. Also, it helps convert the carbs that you eat (rice, pasta, or fruits) into energy that your body can use. 
  • Potassium. It is essential for muscle contraction. A lack of potassium can lead to muscle cramps. Additionally, it is a crucial electrolyte lost during exercise, which needs to be replaced to keep an optimal fluid balance. 

3 Pros Of Eating Kidney Beans For Bodybuilding

Pros vs Cons Of Eating Kidney Beans For Bodybuilding

Here are three pros of including kidney beans if you are a bodybuilder.

Carb Source That Is High in Protein

Bodybuilders that are following a plant-based approach or a vegan lifestyle, might have a difficult time reaching their total protein intake. 

A bodybuilder’s protein needs are very high. It can range from 1.6 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For a bodybuilder that weighs 250 lbs, this means having 180-225 grams of protein per day. 

Since kidney beans are a carb source that is high in protein, it is an excellent choice to help you reach your total protein goal since one cup of kidney beans offers the same as half a scoop of protein.  

If you are having a challenging time reaching your protein goal, switch low protein carbs like rice, pasta, and sweet potatoes to a high protein carb like kidney beans to have both macronutrients in one. 

High In Fiber

Kidney beans are very high in fiber. One cup of kidney beans has 44% of the daily recommended fiber intake. 

Fiber has a lot of benefits. It helps reduce cholesterol levels, decreasing the incidence of heart disease; it helps fight constipation; it improves your gut health, and provides satiety (the feeling of fullness). 

If you are in a cutting phase, increasing the feeling of fullness prevents you from feeling hungry during the day, making a reduced-calorie diet easier. 

In contrast, when you add something that doesn’t have a lot of fiber, like a slice of white toast, you might feel hungry a couple of hours after eating it. This means that you are likely to search for something to eat much quicker than you otherwise would, which could increase your caloric intake. 

High In Antioxidants

Kidney beans have the advantage that it has a lot of antioxidants. It has isoflavones and anthocyanins, two of the most potent antioxidants. 

Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body. Not only does reducing inflammation help to reduce the risk of certain chronic illnesses, but it also helps a bodybuilder in their muscle recovery. Improving muscle recovery, i.e. how quickly our muscles recover between workouts, means that you can have better muscle growth. 

2 Cons of Eating Kidney Beans For Bodybuilding

Even if there are some great benefits, there are a couple of cons to consider before adding kidney beans if you are a bodybuilder.

High In Sodium

Like any other canned foods (such as sardines), canned kidney beans are very high in sodium. They can have more than 700 mg of sodium per serving. To have a low sodium intake, I recommend having less than 140 mg of sodium per serving size (which in this case would be one cup). 

The American Heart Association recommends not having more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. One cup of canned kidney beans represents 30% of the recommended daily intake, which is a lot if you are also having other canned foods or cooking more than one teaspoon of salt per day. 

Having more than 2,300 mg per day over several weeks can lead to high blood pressure. A high sodium diet can potentially lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. 

So, how much kidney beans can I consume to avoid having high blood pressure? It depends on the other foods that you are having. For example, if you are used to cooking with condiments with salt, or adding more than one teaspoon of salt during the day, you can easily be surpassing the recommended intake of sodium. 

Then, you need to regulate the amount of kidney beans you are having. Adding canned kidney beans (with more than 700 mg of sodium) 2-3 times per week won’t cause any problems. 

If you have high blood pressure or want to stay below 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Try to choose the canned kidney beans with the lowest sodium intake, and if you do consume them, make sure to decrease your cooking salt in other meals throughout the day. 

If you are in a bulking phase, and looking to add other foods that are high in calories but low in sodium to balance everything out, you can check my other article Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Sodium. 

Gastric Distress

Another common con with eating kidney beans is the possibility of gastric distress. Legumes in general, which kidney beans fall under, tend to generate stomach problems in some people. This is due to the high fiber intake. 

Although there are benefits of high fiber foods like seen above (better gut health, fighting constipation, and increasing satiety) in some people with low fiber tolerance it can lead to certain symptoms. 

The tolerance in a single sitting is very individual. If you have included other high fiber foods like quinoa, edamame, and lentils and get gastric distress, then adding kidney beans is very likely to produce the same symptoms (bloating, gas, and stomach cramps).  

Certain people like those that have IBS are more likely to get stomach problems when consuming kidney beans. Therefore, you might want to reduce the daily intake of kidney beans. 

If you are going to add kidney beans and are not used to having high fiber foods start with smaller portions. Instead of having one cup, try having ¼ cup, and slowly increase until you reach the desired amount. 

Can You Eat Kidney Beans Before Workouts?

Kidney beans are not the best option to include before a workout.  While they are high in carbs, providing energy for your workouts, they are also high in fiber and protein, which slows down the digestion process and how your body can use those carbs.  They can also create bloating that can affect your performance.  

Before working out, you need carbs to provide you with the necessary energy for your training session. Since kidney beans do have carbs they help you provide energy for your training session. 

If you want to include them before training, mix them along with a fast-acting carb source like rice, sweet potato, and potatoes. Just be aware of the portion size. For example, add ½ cup of kidney beans along with one cup of rice to provide a high carb pre-workout meal. 

Can You Eat Kidney Beans After Workouts?

Yes, you can eat kidney beans after a workout. Kidney beans have carbs and proteins, making them a great food to add after training. Post-workout, you need to replenish your energy lost by adding a carb source since it is the body’s preferred energy source. Also, you need protein to help and repair your muscles.

The amount of protein in kidney beans might not be enough for a bodybuilder after a workout. You might still need to add more protein like chicken, eggs, meat, or fish to have the appropriate amount post-workout.

Additionally, you might want to add omega-3 fatty acids to help decrease inflammation in the body and improve muscle recovery. You can add olive oil, nuts, or avocado along with kidney beans.

Are Kidney Beans Good For Muscle Growth?

Kidney beans are good for muscle growth. They help you have a caloric surplus since one cup provides 215 kcal (more than 1 cup of kale which has 33 kcal). They also provide carbs, and proteins (almost the same as 2 large eggs) to help repair and grow your muscles. 

Although kidney beans are a good calorie source, kidney beans alone might not provide the calories that you need to reach a caloric surplus. You still need to add other high energy dense foods like oils, chia seeds, and avocado. 

Additionally, the protein intake should be higher. You might want to add more protein like chicken, fish, or seafood.

Tips For Incorporating Kidney Beans Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tipsf for incorporating kidney beans into a bodybuilding diet

If you want to include kidney beans in your bodybuilder diet. Here are a couple of tips that can help you avoid any problems.

Make Them Fresh

Whenever possible, try to make fresh kidney beans. This allows you to control the number of fats and sodium in your diet. 

If you make them fresh, make sure to soak them overnight (like any other legume). This will remove any excess starch and remove some of the fermentable carbs that can cause bloating. Additionally, soaking them can reduce the cooking time by a significant amount. 

When you make fresh kidney beans, I usually like to add a couple of cloves of garlic and onion puree. This will increase the flavor in them a lot!

If you are looking to make kidney beans at home, here is a delicious recipe that can help you out. 

Learn How To Choose 

If you have canned kidney beans, here is a cheat sheet for you to have next time you are buying them.


Ensure that it has less than 140 mg of sodium per serving size. This will make sure that you won’t have a lot of sodium in your diet. 


Kidney beans shouldn’t have a lot of fat. The ones present is because they were cooked with fats. 

If you are in a bulking phase, this can be an advantage to help increase your caloric intake.

However, if you are in a cutting phase, make sure it has less than 5 grams of fat per serving. 


In some cases, they add sugars to make it taste better. Choose those that don’t have any sugars added. If it does contain added sugars, make sure that it has less than 5 g per serving size. 


Organic foods don’t have pesticides and other chemicals that could be harmful in the long run. Whenever possible, go organic. Studies have shown that a long exposure to pesticides can produce allergic symptoms (like skin rash), or more severe symptoms like headache, nause, and dizziness. 

Which Are The Best Canned Kidney Beans For a Bodybuilder

Here is a list of my top kidney beans options for bodybuilders.

365 by Whole Foods Market

365 by Whole Foods Market is an excellent choice that is low in sodium (it only has 5 mg of sodium). Additionally, the ingredients list is only kidney beans and water, making it a good option to regularly have. 

S & W Organic Canned Kidney Beans

S & W Organic Canned Kidney Beans is a great organic option that is also very low in sodium. One serving has 85 mg of sodium. Additionally, it only has three ingredients: organic kidney beans, water, and salt. This means that it is also a natural option to have. 

Goya Foods Organic Dark Red Kidney Beans

Goya Foods Organic Dark Red Kidney Beans do have added sugars, but they only has 2 grams. They are also low in sodium (135 mg), which is less than recommended. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Kidney Beans Better Than Black Beans For Bodybuilding?

Both kidney beans and black beans are excellent options for those looking to increase their plant-based protein. They are very similar. Black beans have 12 kcal and 2g of protein more than kidney beans. Remember, a healthy diet has variety to get different nutrients. You can mix kidney and black beans during the week.

Are Kidney Beans Good For Muscle Recovery?

Yes, kidney beans are good for muscle recovery. They have antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body. Thus, making your muscle recovery better after a workout. Also, it is a good source of plant-based protein, which helps repair and grow your muscles.

Can I Consume Kidney Beans Every Day For Bodybuilding?

Yes, you can consume natural kidney beans every day if you are a bodybuilder. However, you need to be careful with your sodium intake for canned kidney beans. A can of kidney beans can have more than half of the daily sodium recommendation. This can lead to high blood pressure or water retention.


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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.

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