Is Nutella going to jeopardize your gains? As a Registered Dietitian, I am frequently asked if Nutella has benefits for weight gain. Bodybuilders want to know if they 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.
Want to learn more about high protein foods? Check out our article Bulking Foods For Bodybuilding.
- Nutella is an energy-dense food and simple carbohydrate that can help give you a quick burst of energy right before a training session, though it’s best to stick to the recommended serving size.
- If you’re going to eat Nutella after training, it’s best to pair it with a good source of protein to optimize your muscle growth and recovery, as Nutella only contains 3 grams of protein per serving.
- While some bodybuilders employ the “If It Fits Your Macros” approach, over-reliance on highly-processed foods, like Nutella, can lead to nutritional deficiencies if they are not balanced with whole, nutrient-dense sources of fats, carb, and protein.
Nutella For Bodybuilding: Overview
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.
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.
- Related: Can You Build Muscle on A Bad Diet?
Easy To Digest and Fast-Acting Energy
Carbs and fats provide the energy the body needs to perform. An appropriate energy intake allows the body to use 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 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.
One of its ingredients, cocoa, provides several health benefits. 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.
“During exercise, oxygen demand increases, particularly in skeletal muscle, causing a dramatic change in the blood flow to various organs.These physiological changes that occur during acute exercise increase free radical production, leading to oxidative damage to biomolecules.”— Antioxidants Journal
Antioxidants help diminish free radicals, which decreases oxidative stress. The result? When oxidative stress is diminished, inflammation is lowered.
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.
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 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.
“The present findings demonstrated that high cocoa flavanol (HCF) consumption before moderate-intensity exercise could enhance exercise-induced improvement in executive function (EF), but not in memory function (MF). Therefore, we suggest that the combination of HCF consumption and aerobic exercise may be beneficial for improving EF.”— Nutrition Journal
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
After a bulking phase, you’ll likely enter a cutting phase. For this, you need a caloric deficit to lose fat, and eating Nutella will make it hard to achieve.
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 helps to mitigate some of the 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 high blood pressure should stay away from highly processed and sugary foods.
“The relevant findings showed that ultra processed food (EPF) consumption is significantly associated with the incidence of obesity, increasing insulin resistance, BMI levels, waist circumference, and LDL cholesterol levels while reducing HDL cholesterol levels, leading to a potential increase in the risk of type-2 diabetes (T2D).”— Nutrients Journal
- Related Article: Can You Eat Sugar While Bulking? (Complete Guide)
Can You Eat Nutella Before Workouts?
Nutella is a good choice before your workout since it is a simple carbohydrate, which provides a quick source of energy. You can eat Nutella as part of a balanced meal 30-60 minutes before you train, while making sure to keep track of your portion size.
Is Nutella Good or Bad Before Workouts?
Consuming carbs and protein right before training can help maintain training intensity. It also 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.
Bodybuilders with hypoglycemia should avoid having a simple carb right before training. Simple carbs can spike your insulin levels, followed by a decrease in your blood sugar level. Add healthy fat, like avocados, and protein to your meal to prevent those sharps peaks and troughs.
- Related Article: Is Cereal Good For Bulking? (Plus, My Top 3 Picks)
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.
Theoretically, you could have 6 tablespoons of Nutella a day. However, since Nutella also has a high-fat content and low nutrient-density, I would try not to eat more than 2 tablespoons per day.
Can You Eat Nutella After Workouts?
After training, carbs and protein are essential. 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 can also help you refuel (9).
Nutella offers enough carbs and fat to help replenish your glycogen stores. However, Nutella has only 2 grams of protein per serving, which is not enough to help muscle building and recovery. If you want 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 many carbs, 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 that’s low in nutrients, I recommend sticking to the recommended serving size of 2 tablespoons. Remember, nutritional variety is key to having optimal results and good health.
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 to 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 formation.
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
Nutella 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.
- Calories: 534
- Carbohydrates: 59 g
- Proteins: 14 g
- Fats: 32 g
- 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
- In a food processor, place all of the ingredients.
- Mix for 1-2 minutes until a paste is made.
- Take a small portion out of the food processor and shape it into a ball.
- Repeat the process with the rest of the mix.
- Serve them or place them into a container.
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.
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.
- Calories: 833
- Carbohydrates: 64 g
- Proteins: 52 g
- Fats: 45 g
- 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)
- Add all of the ingredients to a blender.
- Mix well until it’s a creamy batter.
- Put a pan on your stove in medium heat and spray some cooking oil.
- Pour in the batter.
- Cook each side of the pancakes for around 2-3 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
If you need the extra calories, you can add peanut butter (healthy fats) or sugar-free chocolate chips (fats).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Nutella A Good Source of Protein?
At just 3 grams of protein in a 2-tablespoons serving, Nutella is not considered a good source of protein to meet your daily recommended intake. However, it does pair well with protein shakes, protein oats, and energy balls.
Is Nutella or Peanut Butter Better For Gaining Weight?
Pure peanut butter is better for gaining weight than Nutella, as it has less sugar and more protein. In a two-tablespoon serving, peanut butter contains 180 calories, 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 8 grams of protein. Nutella contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein.
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.