Can nachos be part of a bodybuilder’s balanced diet, or are they a hard pass for health-conscious lifters? As a dietitian, I’m here to break it down for you.
- Nachos are highly processed foods high in saturated fats that could affect performance, especially if they aren’t homemade. Eating nachos from time to time can help bodybuilders hit their caloric surplus when bulking, but it shouldn’t be made a daily practice.
- Pairing nachos with healthy foods like lean meat, homemade salsa, and Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and cheese saves you calories and fats. Nachos are also naturally low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, so it’s best to pair them with veggies, high-fiber tortilla chips, and avocado to boost their nutritional value.
- Nachos are not the best food to eat pre-workout, as they contain a lot of fat, slow down digestion, and could lead to stomach discomfort that would affect your performance.
Nachos For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nachos can have 350-1000 calories, depending on the toppings.
A simple order of nachos with only cheese (147 g) has the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 597
- Carbs: 60.7 g
- Fiber: 5.6 g
- Fat: 37.4 g
- Protein: 7.5 g
You then have to calculate the calories of any topping you decide to add:
- Ground beef (10% fat)(4 oz): 200 calories
- Sour cream (100g): 198 calories
- Pico de gallo (100g): 17 calories
- Fried beans (100g): 199 calories
- Avocado (100g): 160 calories
Therefore, a regular order of nachos with cheese, sour cream, and meat (333g) could easily have the following nutritional content:
- 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 help achieve your goals.
However, having a nacho plate could jeopardize your progress in a cutting phase where the calories are more controlled.
Here is what Certified Sports Nutritionist Rudy Mawer, MSc., has to say about caloric density and how it influences satiety:
“Choosing foods with a low-calorie density can help with weight loss. It makes you automatically eat fewer calories while still eating large and filling portions. An easier way to make sense of this is to imagine a full plate of food. The fewer calories the plate contains, the lower the calorie density of the meal. A vegetable with 30 calories per 100 grams has a low-calorie density, while chocolate with 550 calories per 100 grams has a very high-calorie density.”
More calorie-dense foods like nachos might not fill you up as much, making you more likely to overeat.
Although nachos have all the macronutrients a bodybuilder needs (carbs, protein, and fats), the ratio is not optimal for muscle growth and fat loss.
The carb content could be anywhere from 60-80g of carbs, depending on the toppings you add.
Next up is protein. A bodybuilder needs 1.6-2.2 g per kilogram of body weight to grow optimally.
Nachos with just cheese might lack the protein a bodybuilder needs. However, if chicken or beef is added, the protein would increase.
Finally, nachos are a high-fat food. They contain at least 37 grams of saturated fat.
For a bodybuilder, having a high-fat diet could cause gastric problems like bloating, which could impair performance.
However, since nachos are versatile, you can adjust the foods to make the macronutrient percentages more bodybuilder-friendly.
For example, add lean meat, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or choose non-fried low-calorie chips.
A highly processed food lacks the nutrients a bodybuilder needs for excellent health. Most of the ingredients from the nachos are processed, which means it lacks nutritional value.
Ultimately, nachos are classified as a high-energy-dense and low-nutrient-dense food.
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.
- Check out our article Bulking Foods For Bodybuilding (That Are Still Healthy).
Pros Of Eating Nachos
1. Nachos Are Easy to Modify
One of the significant benefits of nachos is that you can modify them any way you like.
Do you need more protein to reach your target? Then add more lean meat or low-fat cheese.
Or perhaps you need more carbs to replenish your energy stores post-workout? Add more chips to increase the carb intake.
Anything you need from a macro perspective can be modified so long as you’re tracking your intake.
2. Great Way to Add Veggies
In the long run, strenuous exercise sessions can cause stress that impairs your immune system. Thus, having a diet high in vitamins and minerals is essential.
Veggies are a great way of adding nutrients without extra calories.
“Every hard-working bodybuilder needs a hefty amount of vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, many believe that popping a daily multivitamin/multimineral will suffice. It will help, but it won’t cover your bases as completely as whole-food sources. You need vegetables.”–Chris Aceto, Pro Bodybuilder and Bodybuilding Coach
Add natural salsa to have more nutrients, or a variety of chopped vegetables.
3. Salsa is High in Vitamin C
Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant and helps improve immune function.
As little as 100 g of tomato (roughly half a medium-sized tomato) provides 22% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
Some studies have shown improved performance with a high vitamin C intake.
Thanks to the antioxidant capacity of vitamin C, free radicals may not produce as much oxidative damage that otherwise leads to muscle fatigue and impairs workout performance.
4. Nachos Go Well With Meat
Given their versatility, nachos go well with meat and can help you increase your protein intake.
Without enough iron, oxygen transport is affected, and it could lead to lower performance.
Nachos are a great food to pair with meat since you can add ground meat or fajitas. Chicken also contains a decent amount of iron.
Cons of Eating Nachos
1. Could Lead to Weight Gain (And Not The Healthy Kind)
Nachos can easily contain 700-1000 calories. Although a bodybuilder needs a calorie surplus to gain weight, not controlling the calories could lead to rapid weight gain, mainly in the form of fat.
One of the cons of nachos is they pair with energy-dense foods (chips, avocado, cheese).
The extra calories could also derail your fat loss efforts if you’re not careful.
2. Nachos are High in Processed Foods
Most of the ingredients used in nachos are very processed. This means you get a dish high in calories but low in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
If you are going to eat nachos, 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, mainly from animal sources.
Although they are great protein sources, cheese, beef, and sour cream can also be very high in saturated fats.
For reference, a serving of 6-8 nachos with cheese has approximately 32 grams of fats, 3.3 of which are saturated.
Choose low-fat cheese and 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.
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 30-90 minutes before a workout: fruit, dried fruit, toast with jam, etc.
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.
Can You Eat Nachos After Workouts?
Yes, you can eat nachos after a workout. It can be a good way to provide all the macros the body needs when paired with the right foods.
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.
Avoid the ultra-processed kind that is high in fat and low in fiber.
A good portion size would be 30-60 g of carbs per serving. It means around 40 chips for a male bodybuilder, while it means approximately 20 for a female bodybuilder.
Protein helps repair and grow muscle. To obtain optimal growth, have 0.3-0.5g/kg of body weight of protein after a workout.
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.
Do Nachos Help Muscle Growth?
Nachos can help muscle growth since they greatly increase your daily calories essential for muscle growth.
They also provide all the necessary macronutrients for muscle synthesis. However, high-calorie consumption can lead to muscle AND fat gains, so it’s important to monitor your caloric surplus carefully by tracking your overall daily intake.
Tips and Tricks to Make Nachos at Home for Bodybuilders
Here are some tips and tricks to make nachos more macro-friendly.
Choose a multigrain tortilla with at least 3g of fiber per serving.
Another option is making your tortilla chips. I know it sounds complicated, but it is straightforward.
- Grab some regular tortillas or even whole-grain pita bread.
- Cut them into triangles and lightly coat them with some olive oil.
- Place them in the oven or air fryer for 10-15 minutes or until 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 amount for your gains.
Lean ground beef, beef fajitas, or chicken are great options.
Cheese is already a source of saturated fat. Try to balance it out by adding healthier fats to the mix, like 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. Add regular chopped tomato with some cilantro to add more natural flavors and nutrients.
Add lettuce, jalapeños, and any other veggie you choose to make it healthier.
Other Foods For Bodybuilding
Check out my other articles on foods for bodybuilding:
Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review. Sports (Basel). 2019 Jun 26;7(7):154. doi: 10.3390/sports7070154. PMID: 31247944; PMCID: PMC6680710.
Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-80. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 5. PMID: 26477922.
Higgins MR, Izadi A, Kaviani M. Antioxidants and Exercise Performance: With a Focus on Vitamin E and C Supplementation. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 15;17(22):8452. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17228452. PMID: 33203106; PMCID: PMC7697466.
Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-17. Erratum in: J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:18. PMID: 18834505; PMCID: PMC2575187.
Hinton PS. Iron and the endurance athlete. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Sep;39(9):1012-8. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0147. Epub 2014 May 27. PMID: 25017111.
Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211. PMID: 29099763; PMCID: PMC5707683.
About The Author
Why Trust Our Content
On Staff at FeastGood.com, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to every email within 1 business day.