Fiesta time! Nachos are often the go-to meal when visiting a Mexican restaurant.
However, are they good for bodybuilding?
Nachos are a highly processed food high in saturated (unhealthy) fats that could affect performance. If homemade, however, they can be an excellent food to include before or after training. Nachos have all the macros you need by adding low-fat cheese (protein), ground beef (protein), chips (carbs), and avocado (healthy fats).
In this article, you will learn:
- The calories and macro breakdown of nachos.
- Pros and cons of eating nachos for bodybuilding.
- If you can eat nachos before or after training.
- How many nachos to include, so it doesn’t affect your goals.
- Tips and tricks to make macro-friendly nachos at home.
Nachos For Bodybuilding: Overview
Calories from Nachos
Nachos can go from having 350 kcal up to 1000 kcal if you are not careful.
The main problem with nachos is the toppings that you decide to add. You could easily be surpassing your daily calories if you are not careful.
A simple order of nachos with only cheese (147 g) has the following nutritional content (1):
- Calories: 597
- Carbs: 60.7 g
- Fiber: 5.6 g
- Fat: 37.4 g
- Protein: 7.5 g
So this means that you eat 597 kcal for only chips and cheese.
You then have to add up any topping you decide to add to the nachos:
- Ground beef (10% fat)(4 oz): 200 kcal
- Sour cream (100g): 198 kcal
- Pico de gallo (100g): 17 kcal
- Fried beans (100g): 199 kcal
- Avocado (100g): 160 kcal
Therefore, a regular order of nachos with cheese, sour cream, and meat (333g) could easily have, if not more, the following nutritional content easily:
- Calories: 703
- Carbs: 66.9 g
- Fiber: 11.3 g
- Fat: 41 g
- Protein: 19.8 g
If you are in a bulking phase, the extra calories can be a lifesaver to achieve your goals. However, in a cutting phase where the calories are more controlled, having a nachos plate could jeopardize your goals if you are not careful.
Learn more about cheese in my article on: Can You Eat Cheese On A High Protein Diet?
Macronutrients from Nachos
Although nachos have all the macronutrients a bodybuilder needs (carbs, protein, and fats), they might not have the optimal ratio or percentages for improving muscle mass and losing fat mass.
Regarding the carb content, it could go from 60-80g of carbs, depending on the toppings you add. Since it is made with processed tortilla chips, it is mainly composed of simple carbs. The benefit of simple carbs is that they provide long-lasting energy, essential for a bodybuilder to perform optimal during training.
A bodybuilder needs between 1.6-2.2 g per kilogram of body weight of protein to have optimal muscle mass (3). Nachos with only cheese might lack the protein a bodybuilder needs. However, if chicken or beef is added, the protein would be ideal.
Finally, nachos are a high-fat food. They contain at least 37 grams of fat. Most of them come from saturated fats, the type of fats you want to avoid since they could cause heart problems. For a bodybuilder, having a high-fat diet could cause gastric problems like bloating, resulting in impaired performance.
In terms of macronutrient ratios, an average bodybuilder should aim for 50-60% carbs, 20-30% protein, and 20-30% from fat of their total daily calories. A regular order of nachos with cheese, sour cream, and meat have the following macro breakdown 38% carbs, 52% fats, and 11% protein.
You can see that the macros are way off from the recommended ratios for a bodybuilder.
However, since nachos are a very versatile food, you can adjust the foods to make the percentages more bodybuilder friendly. For example, add more lean meat, add greek yogurt instead of sour cream or choose the non-fried chips.
- Related Article: 13 Lowest Calorie Chips (Top Picks)
Micronutrients from Nachos
A high processed food lacks the nutrients a bodybuilder needs to have excellent health. Most of the ingredients from the nachos are processed which means that it lacks nutritional value.
In the end, nachos are classified as high energy-dense foods and low nutrient-dense foods.
However, if you make the nachos with more natural ingredients such as low-fat cheese, veggies, high-fiber tortilla chips, and avocado, those natural foods provide the nutrients a bodybuilder needs.
4 Pros Of Eating Nachos For Bodybuilding
Here is a list of some pros of eating nachos for bodybuilding.
1. Nachos are Easy to Modify
One of the major benefits of nachos is that you can modify them any way that you like.
You need more protein to reach at least 1.6-2.2g/kg of protein per bodyweight? Then add more lean meat or low-fat cheese.
Or do you need at least 60 grams of carbs to replenish your energy stores? Then add more chips to increase the carb intake.
Anything that you need can be modified. You can add more fats or even take some away if you are in a cutting phase.
Nachos are one of the few foods that can be easily modified to fit your calories and your macros.
2. Great way to Add Veggies
In the long run, having a strenuous exercise session can cause so much stress that it might debilitate your immune system. Thus, having a diet high in vitamins and minerals is important (4).
Veggies are a great way of pilling up those nutrients without adding too many extra calories.
When eating nachos, you can increase your veggie intake without having to add a regular boring side salad.
Add natural salsa to have more nutrients or even some chopped lettuce.
3. Salsa is High in Vitamin C
Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant and it helps improve immune function.
In 100g of tomato, you can find 22% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Some studies have shown improved performance when there is a high intake of vitamin C (5).
To improve your recovery, add a source of vitamin C after exercise to increase the antioxidant activity and reduce free radicals. If they are in large quantities, free radicals are molecules that can produce inflammation in the body.
4. Meat Is High in Iron
Iron is an essential mineral, especially in athletes, since it is at greater risk of deficiency. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, and a prevalent ailment seen mainly in female athletes (6).
Without enough iron, oxygen transport is affected, and it could lead to lower performance.
Meat, mainly red meat, is very high in iron. Thus having a good source of it daily will prevent a deficiency from appearing.
Nachos are a great source of meat since you can add ground meat or fajitas. Chicken also contains a decent amount of iron.
Bonus: vitamin C helps absorb iron better. As we saw in the previous section, salsa is high in vitamin C, and this makes nachos a powerful food.
3 Cons of Eating Nachos For Bodybuilding
Although there are several pros, there are also a lot of cons of eating nachos for bodybuilding.
1. Could Lead to Weight Gain (and not the healthy kind)
Nachos can easily contain 700-1000 kcal. Although a bodybuilder needs to have a calorie surplus to gain weight, not controlling the calories could lead to weight gain, mainly fat gain.
One of the cons of nachos is that it contains very energy-dense foods (chips, avocado, cheese), all good ingredients but with a very small amount you get a punch of calories.
Suppose you are not careful and keep on adding those extras. In that case, you could easily be getting away from your goals, especially if you are in a cutting phase.
2. Nachos are High in Processed Foods
Most of the ingredients used in nachos are very processed. This means that you get a dish high in calories but low in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
If you are going to eat nachos, make sure to choose the fresher ingredients to add some micronutrients to your diet. If you decide to have the processed kind, add some extra green smoothies throughout the day to compensate for the lack of nutrients in the meal.
3. They are High in Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are the ones you want to consume in moderation, and they mainly come from animal sources. If you eat them in large quantities, they can lead to heart problems.
Although they are great protein sources, cheese, beef, and sour cream can also be very high in saturated fats.
Choose low-fat cheese, lean ground beef, and replace sour cream with Greek yogurt to decrease the saturated intake in the dish. Also, make sure to add healthier fat sources like avocado.
- Check out my other article where I discuss Is Greek Yogurt Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Can You Eat Nachos Before Workouts?
No, I would avoid eating nachos before a workout. Although they are high in simple carbs that provide quick energy, they are very high in fats. Having a high-fat meal slows digestion, leading to gastric problems and affecting the training. If you decide to have nachos before a workout, eat it at least 3-4 hours before.
I recommend having simple carbs when eating 30-60 minutes before a workout. They are easily digestible and make it the ideal food to add to provide fast-acting energy—the type you need to have the best workout. The chips from the nachos are a great source of simple carbs.
However, adding a fat source slows down digestion and makes the food stay longer in the stomach. Nachos are very high in fat. I normally recommend having a meal with 10-15% of fats before a workout to prevent any gastric distress. Nachos have more than 50% of their calories coming from fats. Therefore, having nachos before a workout could then lead to lower performance.
If you decide to have some nachos, eat them at least 3-4 hours before. How much can you have then?
A male bodybuilder in a bulking phase could opt to have a medium size of nachos with cheese, sour cream, and ground beef (300g). On the other hand, if you are in a cutting phase, try to cut the size by half. This means having no more than 150g of nachos with extra lean protein (ground beef, chicken, or beef).
A good serving size for a female bodybuilder in a bulking phase would be small nachos with cheese, sour cream, and ground beef (150g). If you are in a cutting phase, cut the serving size by half (75g) but make some modifications (like removing the sour cream or refried beans) to ensure you don’t surpass your daily calories.
- Want to learn more about beans? Check out my article on Are Black Beans Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Can You Eat Nachos After Workouts?
Yes, you can eat nachos after a workout. It is a great choice with the right ingredients to provide all the macros the body needs. Choose high-fiber chips (replenish glycogen stores), lean ground beef (help and repair muscles), and avocado (reduce inflammation), which can make nachos a great post-workout meal.
The nutrients you obtain after training are essential for muscle growth. Nachos could potentially be a good post-workout snack if you are careful to balance the macronutrients.
Carbs are essential to help replenish the muscle energy lost during exercise (glycogen). Chips are a good source of carb, depending on which type you get. Avoid the ultra-processed kind that is high in fat and low in fiber. A good portion size would be to have 30-60 g of carbs per serving. It means around 40 chips for a male bodybuilder, while it means approximately 20 chips for a female bodybuilder.
Protein helps repair and grow your muscle. To obtain optimal growth, have 0.3-0.5g/kg of body weight of protein after a workout (7). For a male bodybuilder, it would mean adding 4-5 oz of lean protein, while for a female bodybuilder, it means adding 3-4 oz of lean protein.
Finally, fats are essential for energy purposes and several other properties like reducing inflammation. However, a high-fat diet might slow down digestion which would cause bloating or a slower release of food.
Nachos are a very high-fat food. Choose low-fat cheese and add a healthy fat high in omega 3 like avocados instead of sour cream to decrease fat.
- Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Do Nachos Help Muscle Growth?
Nachos can help muscle growth since they greatly increase your daily calories essential for muscle growth. It also provides all the three necessary macronutrients for muscle synthesis. However, if you are not careful, high-calorie consumption can lead to muscle increase and fat increase.
Having a calorie surplus is key for muscle development. Since nachos are calorie-dense, they are a great way to have those extra calories, especially for initial bodybuilders who are not used to eating a lot.
However, be careful on which ingredients you use since it could lead to a very high-calorie increase and a low nutrient content.
You can modify the ingredients to have the optimal amount of protein between 20 and 30g after a workout, essential to muscle growth.
Tips and Tricks to Make Nachos at Home for Bodybuilding
If you are craving nachos but want to make them healthier. Here are some tips and tricks you can include to make them more macro-friendly.
The problem with tortilla chips is that they are processed, which means that they lack fiber, nutrients and are very high in fat.
Choose a multigrain tortilla to have a less processed version. Make sure to choose one that has at least 3g of fiber per serving.
Another option is making your own tortilla chips. I know it sounds complicated, but I can assure you it is very simple. Grab some regular tortillas or even whole-grain pita bread. Cut them in triangles and lightly coat them with some olive oil. Place them in the oven or air fryer for 10-15 minutes or until they are done. Voila! You have homemade chips.
Avoid the cheese sauce since it is mostly fat and sodium. It doesn’t have a lot of protein which is essential for a bodybuilder.
Opt for low-fat cheese. For example, mozzarella, swiss cheese, muenster, provolone, or the Mexican blend reduced in fat.
As a general rule (although there are always exceptions), the more intense in color and the easier it is to melt, the higher the fat.
Adding extra protein will ensure you get the optimal protein amount for your gains.
Lean ground beef, beef fajitas, or chicken are great options to have.
Cheese is already a source of saturated fat. Try to balance it out by adding healthier fats to the mix like for example, avocado.
If you miss adding sour cream, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t, you can add plain Greek yogurt. It has the same consistency, and the best part is low in fat but high in protein.
Load on the veggie! You can never have enough.
Avoid store-bought salsa, which is high in sugars and sodium. Try adding regular chopped tomato with some cilantro to add more natural flavors and nutrients.
Add lettuce, jalapeños, and any other veggie of your choice to make it healthier.
Other Foods For Bodybuilding
Check out my other articles on foods for bodybuilding:
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.