Is Nutella Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

Is Nutella going to jeopardize your gains? As a Registered Dietitian, I am frequently asked if bodybuilders can still incorporate Nutella into their diets or if it is now no longer “allowed.”

Is Nutella good or bad for bodybuilding? Nutella is an energy-dense food that helps add calories, especially in a bulking phase. However, it is not very nutritious since it lacks essential vitamins and minerals. Occasionally, Nutella is not a bad choice to add to your bodybuilding diet. However, I would recommend having it in moderation only, and not daily.

By the end of this article, you’ll know whether you should eat Nutella based on your specific fitness goals, and if so, how much is acceptable.  

In this article, I will explore:

  • The nutritional content found in Nutella
  • The pros and cons of eating Nutella for bodybuilding.
  • Why you can add Nutella in moderation to your diet whether you are in a bulking or cutting phase.
  • How to add it before or after training.
  • Tasty recipes for you to try with Nutella.

Nutella For Bodybuilding: Overview

nutella for bodybuilding

Two tablespoons of Nutella (37 g) have the following nutritional content.

  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 12 g
  • Total carbs: 23 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Calcium: 4%
  • Iron: 4%

Nutella’s ingredients in order of predominance are sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, skimmed milk powder, fat-reduced cocoa, and soy.

Therefore, people that are allergic to hazelnuts, soy, or milk should completely avoid eating Nutella.

A bodybuilder’s energy intake could go from 3500-3800 kcal if you’re a male, and 2800-3400 kcal if you’re a female (1). 

Therefore, having two tablespoons of Nutella represents 5% of the energy intake if you’re male and 7% if you’re female.  If you’re someone who tracks your macros, you need to take this into consideration.  

For people that are starting the bodybuilding process, and are in a bulking phase,  adding calories can be a difficult task. So, incorporating energy-dense foods, like Nutella, could help them achieve their calorie and macro goals.

This is especially the case after training when adding a carb source helps replenish glycogen stores. Nutella is a great way to add carbs into the diet without feeling stuffed or bloated.

And while Nutella doesn’t provide a lot of micronutrients, you will get some calcium and iron (from the milk), which helps overall bone health. Any tiny amount of micronutrients is better than nothing.

But as you’ll see in the pros and cons below, my recommendation would be to limit your intake of Nutella, and substitute it for more nutrient-dense foods.  

Since Nutella contains hazelnuts, you might be wondering Are Nuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? Check out my other article to find out.

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

Pros Of Eating Nutella For Bodybuilding

Here I will discuss the benefits of adding Nutella to your diet if you are a bodybuilder.

Nutella Is High in Calories

Bodybuilders tend to have an extremely high-calorie intake. In a bulking phase, bodybuilders have large energy expenditures that are often difficult to meet. Using energy-dense foods (like Nutella) is a convenient way to meet the energy needs required for muscle building.

A male bodybuilder’s energy intake could be up to 3500-3800 kcal (1). Some people might find it challenging to reach this goal. That is why energy-dense processed foods are sometimes ideal for adding.

The key part is balancing your Nutella intake with foods that aren’t processed, and contain more micronutrients for optimal health.

Easy To Digest and Fast-Acting Energy

Carbs and fats provide the energy the body needs to perform accordingly. An appropriate energy intake will allow the body to use the protein for muscle building instead of energy. Having Nutella along with a protein source (like a protein shake) offers all three essential macros.

Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars that offer immediate energy. Since they don’t need to be processed, they are easily digested and enter the cells right away. Having a simple carb before training offers the energy you need to endure bodybuilders’ hard training sessions.

Antioxidant Capacity

One of its ingredients, cocoa, provides several health benefits. Since it is high in flavonoids, a potent antioxidant, that can help reduce the body’s inflammation obtained through hard training sessions (2).

When you exercise, your body produces free radicals (molecules that aren’t balanced). Free radicals in excess tend to create an unbalanced atmosphere in the body generating oxidative stress (3), leading to inflammation. 

Antioxidants help diminish free radicals, which decreases oxidative stress. The result? When oxidative stress is diminished, inflammation is lowered. 

Improves Moods

Studies have shown that cocoa has several components that help improve mood and cognition (4). 

Increasing levels of serotonin help have better performance while training. This means that a better mood will probably make you train harder and longer.

Nutella is on our list of high calorie, low sodium foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)

Muscle Growth

nutella for muscle growth

Cocoa flavonoids stimulate the production of nitric oxide which results in greater vasodilatation and reduced blood pressure (5). 

Having greater vasodilatation helps more blood to reach the muscles and provides more oxygen and nutrients which will help speed up the recovery process. Vasodilatation helps also achieve muscle pump which in the end helps maximize muscle growth. 

Improves Brain Function

One of the benefits flavonoids have is having improvement in cognitive function (6). 

Consuming foods that contain cocoa 30 minutes before a workout seems to help improve brain functions that help improve performance. 

Looking for other treats you can enjoy when bodybuilding? Check out my article Is Ice Cream Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?

Cons of Eating Nutella For Bodybuilding

Here are some of the cons of adding Nutella on a regular basis.

High in Calories, Sugar, and Fat

You need a caloric deficit to lose fat. 

In a cutting phase, you need to heavily reduce your calorie intake. Hence, instead of having an average intake of 3500-3800 kcal for a male bodybuilder and 2800-3400 kcal for a female bodybuilder, which is normal during a bulking phase, it can go down to 1600-2000 kcal in a cutting phase. 

Having energy-dense foods during this time might make you go overboard if you are not careful. If you decide to add Nutella to your diet when calories are more limited, always measure the portion size and subtract the calories from your daily intake.

Low in Protein

Protein is essential for muscle building. A daily intake of 1.6-2.2 g/kg of body weight with an average of 0.4-0.55 g/kg per meal is optimal for bodybuilders (7). 

Nutella has only 2 grams of protein per serving, which doesn’t make it the most convenient food to incorporate on its own. Furthermore, the foods you normally spread Nutella on (bagels, bread, or tortillas) are also high in carbs and low in protein. 

Highly Processed Food

Nutella is a highly processed food. This means that it is high in sugars and fat and low in nutrients. 

There is a correlation between a high consumption of sugars and type 2 diabetes. Although exercise mitigates the possible damage a high fat and high sugar diet could have, it’s better to have a more balanced approach.

Some bodybuilders have an ideology of “If It Fits Your Macros,” where they believe that you can eat whatever you want as long as your overall daily calories and macros are achieved. For example, if your total carbs for the day are 200 g you can eat any carb source you want (Nutella included) as long as you don’t go over the 200 g. 

However, if you use this approach, where most carbs and fats come from processed foods, it could lead to a nutritional deficiency. 

Having a nutritional deficiency could affect not only your health but your gains. Vitamins and minerals are needed to convert food into energy. Without them, the body is off balance and could result in bad performance.

Due to its high sugar content, bodybuilders with diabetes or blood pressure should stay away from highly processed and sugary foods.

Related Article: Can You Eat Sugar While Bulking? (Complete Guide)

Can You Eat Nutella Before Workouts?

Yes, Nutella is a good choice pre-workout since it is a simple carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates provide the energy you need without making you feel stuffed or bloated. Have it 30-60 minutes before training to fuel your workout, and ensure you measure the portion size to ensure your overall daily caloric goal is achieved.  

Is Nutella Good or Bad Before Workouts

An adequate carb intake for bodybuilders is between 50-60% of total energy intake. 

Having a sufficient carb intake helps maintain the training intensity. Consumption of carbs and protein immediately before training aids in protein synthesis, muscle glycogen resynthesis, and a reduction in protein breakdown (8).

Nutella is a good source of simple carbs to incorporate before training. Simple carbs don’t require digestion, which provides energy right away. Having a couple of spoons before a workout might help keep energy levels up during training.

However, bodybuilders that tend to have hypoglycemia should avoid having a simple carb right before training. Simple carbs can increase sugar levels rapidly, followed by a decrease in blood glucose. Add healthy fat (like avocados) or protein to prevent it from happening.

How Much Nutella Should You Have Before a Workout?

A bodybuilder that has an energy intake of 3500 kcal could have a requirement of 437.5 grams of carbs per day (50% total energy intake).

Two tablespoons of Nutella would represent 5% of the total carb intake.

Since bodybuilders tend to have high energy intakes and high carb intake, I usually like to spread it evenly throughout the day to maintain stable blood glucose levels. This means having an intake of 72.6 grams of carbs for six meal times.

Theoretically, you could have 6 tablespoons of Nutella to cover this much carbs. However, since Nutella also has a high-fat content and very low nutrient-dense, I would try not to eat more than 2 tablespoons per day.

Can You Eat Nutella After Workouts?

Yes, you can add Nutella after a workout. Having a carb source after training helps replenish your glycogen storage. However, it does not provide protein which is essential for muscle building. If you are going to add it post-workout, make sure to add a protein source.

Is Nutella Good of Bad After Workouts

After training, carbs and protein are essential for recovery and muscle building. The optimal carb ingested after training is 1.2 g/kg/ hours at a 30 minutes interval for up to 4 hours. Although it would be best to include a complex carb (such as potatoes), simple carbs and protein have a good glycogen storage replenishment (9).  

Nutella offers enough carbs and fat to help replenish glycogen stores. However, Nutella has only 2 grams of protein per serving. Not enough to help muscle recovery and building post-exercise. If you are looking to incorporate Nutella as a post-workout snack, make sure to add at least 20-30 grams of protein.

How Much Nutella Should You Have After a Workout?

For an 80 kg bodybuilder, the recommended intake of carb post-exercise would be 96 grams. For Nutella to provide that much carb, you would have to eat 8 tablespoons. However, this also means having 44 grams of fat—almost half the recommended fat intake.

Since Nutella is a highly processed food low in nutrients, I would recommend not having more than 2 tablespoons during the day. Remember that variety is key to having optimal results and good health as well.

Does Nutella Help Muscle Growth?

Proper nutrition is essential for muscle growth. Without the adequate calories of macros, the gains you are trying to achieve in the gym will not be seen.

A calorie surplus is key in muscle growth. Without it, there is nothing to build on. Nutella can help achieve muscle growth by increasing the total daily calories.

Carbs and fat also play an important role in muscle forming. Without them, protein would be used as an energy source instead of for muscle building. Nutella offers an energy source for the body to fuel your daily routines and exercise.

Nutella Recipes For Bodybuilding

Pre Workout Nutella Recipe

energy balls pre workout nutella recipe

Making energy balls are a great way to have ready-to-go snacks before a workout. They have both complex (oats) and simple carbs (Nutella, honey, and dates) that will offer the energy you need for your training. It also has a healthy dose of fat to provide a steadier energy release, preventing you from getting that dreadful sugar crash.

Learn more about dates in my article: Are Dates Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?

Nutella Energy Balls 

Macronutrient breakdown

Calories: 534

Carbohydrates: 59 g

Proteins: 14 g

Fats: 32 g

Ingredients
  • ½ cup instant oats (40 g)
  • 2 tablespoons of Nutella (37 g)
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (32 g)
  • ½ tablespoon honey (10.5 g)
  • 1 tablespoon dried dates (10 g)
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, place all of the ingredients.
  2. Mix for 1-2 minutes until a paste is made.
  3. Take a small portion out of the food processor and shape it into a ball.
  4. Repeat the process with the rest of the mix.
  5. Serve them or place them into a container.  
Tip

You can make a batch of energy balls and freeze them. They will last 1-3 months, which makes them ideal if you don’t have a lot of time to make snacks constantly.

Want to know more about oatmeal? Check out my article on Is Oatmeal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding.

Post Workout Nutella Recipe

nutella protein pancakes post workout nutella recipe

After the workout, it is essential to get all three macros. Carbs will help replenish glycogen storage, protein will help build muscle, and fat will provide calories and anti-inflammatory benefits for recovery.

If you are in a bulking phase, this is an excellent high-calorie recipe with more than 50 g or protein per serving. It is also a different and fantastic way of using your protein powder.

Nutella Protein Pancakes

Macronutrient Breakdown

Calories: 833

Carbohydrates: 64 g

Proteins: 52 g

Fats: 45 g

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup almond milk (80 g)
  • 1 small banana (100 g)
  • ¼ cup cottage fat-free cheese (57 g)
  • 1 large egg (50 g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4.2 g)
  • 2 tablespoons of Nutella (37 g)
  • 1/3 cup almond flour (50 g)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (30 g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (4.5 g)

Instructions

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a blender.
  2. Mix well until it’s a creamy batter.
  3. Put a pan on your stove in medium heat and spray some cooking oil.
  4. Pour in the batter.
  5. Cook each side of the pancakes for around 2-3 minutes.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Tip

If you need the extra calories, you can add peanut butter (healthy fats) or sugar-free chocolate chips (fats).

If you are in a cutting phase, I recommend cutting the Nutella intake by half and switching the almond flour (which is more energy-dense) for whole-wheat flour. It will decrease around 200-300 calories.

Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

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.