Nuts are often described in the media as ‘superfoods’ that are a must to include in your diet, but does that include bodybuilders?
- Nuts are good for bodybuilding because they contain fat and fiber (approximately 6 grams of protein and 2.4 grams of fiber per ounce), helping you feel satiated and more likely to stick to your diet.
- Since nuts are high in fat, ensure your other meals contain lean protein (chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, protein powder, etc.) to maintain the recommended 5 grams of protein to 1 gram of fat for optimal body composition. Daily fat from nuts and other sources should make up 30-35% of your calories.
- Nuts (specifically roasted varieties) can be high in sodium (1oz of salted nuts contains 119mg). Given the recommendation of 1250mg of sodium daily, it would be best to limit your salted nuts consumption to 1-2oz daily. Alternatively, get unsalted nuts and use a sodium-free seasoning to make them tastier.
Eating Nuts for Bodybuilding: Overview
Before we dive into this topic, it’s important to understand the nutritional information of nuts.
Per 28g or 1oz, nuts contain 162 calories, 6g of protein, 6g of carbs, and 14g of fat.
For context, 1oz of nuts is generally around a handful.
4 Pros of Eating Nuts For Bodybuilding
1. Nuts Can Make It Easier to Lose Weight
Nuts are a good source of fats and fiber that slow digestion and leave you feeling full and satisfied longer after eating.
This is an important factor when looking to lose weight. As most who tried a lower-calorie diet know, a late-night raid of the cupboards can quickly add up and derail any progress made during the week.
The more full and satisfied you can feel after each meal, the easier it will be to stick to a lower-calorie diet long-term and see real progress.
- Check out other nuts with the highest protein
2. Nuts Can Improve Digestion
Many bodybuilders consume the majority of carbohydrates pre- and post-workout.
While this is beneficial for performance, carbs eaten around a workout are generally lower in fiber.
This is where nuts can be beneficial to add to your diet.
Nuts provide 2.4g of fiber per 28g. General fiber recommendations are 25 – 30g daily, meaning 28g of nuts will provide 8.5% of your daily fiber.
Incorporating nuts into your diet when bodybuilding can improve your digestive system regularly, which is critical for overall health as this is how your body disposes of waste and toxins.
“Almonds, in particular, have been shown to benefit gut health by producing prebiotic substrates, essential for gut bacteria.”–Dr. Michael Greger, a Nutrition Expert
Additionally, it can help improve your overall mood, as poor digestive health is often linked to mental health issues.
3. Nuts Are an Anti-inflammatory
Nuts are anti-inflammatory, meaning they can help reduce the overall inflammation in our bodies.
Inflammation is a normal part of weight training and allows our bodies to adapt and recover. However, if inflammation is too high, you will notice a reduction in performance as your body can never fully recover.
Additionally, it can lead to other adverse health conditions.
In particular, studies have shown that nuts positively affect overall cardiovascular health—an important consideration for bodybuilders looking to perform well during heavy physical activity.
Consuming nuts regularly can increase your body’s ability to fight inflammation, ensuring you are properly recovering after each workout.
4. Nuts Can Boost Your Calorie Intake
While filling, nuts are also calorie-dense and can make it easier to stay in the necessary calorie surplus to build muscle.
One option is to snack on a few handfuls of nuts throughout the day, adding hundreds of extra calories (and protein) to your intake.
Alternatively, add some nuts to meals and snacks to boost their calories. For example, include some almonds in a protein shake, smoothie, oatmeal, or salad.
However, be mindful of your overall fat intake and reduce the amount of other high-fat foods you consume: natural oils, fatty fish, avocado, egg yolk, etc.
4 Cons of Eating Nuts for Bodybuilding
1. Nuts Don’t Provide Enough Protein to Build Muscle
To build muscle, it’s critical to consume sufficient protein so your muscles have what they need to repair and recover after a workout.
According to research, protein intake should be at least 1.6g per kg of body weight (0.7-0.8 grams per pound) for muscle growth. For example, a 200lb individual (~90kg) would need at least 144g of protein daily.
Nuts contain 6g of protein per 28g, making them not a great source.
To consume 34g of protein (one-sixth of your daily intake), you must eat roughly 160g of nuts. This would be a whopping 926 calories.
So, to get enough protein, you also need leaner sources: chicken, turkey, egg whites, cottage cheese, etc.
- Related Article: Nuts Make Me Gassy & Bloated – 4 Reasons + How To Fix
2. Nuts Don’t Have the Recommended Protein-to-Fat Ratio
In addition to getting enough protein, you must also consider the ratio of protein to fat.
Doing so will ensure you are keeping your calories within an appropriate range and not gaining fat.
Research shows that 5 grams of protein to 1 gram of fat is best for achieving a bodybuilder’s desired body composition.
This will provide the fat required for healthy hormones while consuming enough protein to maximize muscle building.
Per 28g, nuts contain 6g of protein and 14g of fat. This is a ratio of 1g of protein to 2.5g of fat, far below the recommended range.
3. Nuts Are Calorie Dense
Similar to a lot of high-fat foods, nuts are calorically dense.
This means that the physical volume of nuts is much lower for the calories consumed compared to food high in carbs or protein.
This can cause a problem if you aren’t aware of portion size.
Many of my clients love nuts as a healthy snack and grab handfuls throughout the day. But given how high in fat nuts can be, this can easily add up to hundreds of calories without realizing it.
This can be problematic for bodybuilders looking to maintain a lean physique. Luckily, you can implement some easy tactics to avoid this issue.
My first tip is to measure the nuts you plan to eat. A good serving size is 1oz or 28g, which is approximately 15g of fat. If you don’t have a food scale, measure using a shot glass.
If you prefer to snack on nuts throughout the day, use a smaller container to portion 1-2oz. Then, only snack on the nuts from that smaller container throughout the day.
This will ensure you are not overconsuming nuts and calories without realizing it.
4. Nuts Can Contain a Lot of Sodium
Salted nuts are a delicious snack, but depending on the quantity you eat, they can add a lot of sodium to your diet. On average, 1oz of salted nuts contains 119mg of sodium.
The FDA recommends that adults consume no more than 2300mg of sodium daily.
Considering that, 1oz of salted nuts would be about 5% of your daily sodium. Therefore, I would be okay with you consuming 2-3oz daily if you prefer salted nuts.
However, if you consume more than 3oz per day, have an existing health condition requiring a low-sodium diet, or already consume a diet high in sodium (this would generally be fast food or packaged foods), I recommend opting for unsalted nuts.
If you don’t like unsalted nuts, add your own seasoning.
Sodium-free taco seasoning (like Mrs. Dash) is a great option. Use a little bit of olive oil spray to ensure the seasoning sticks to the nuts.
Can You Eat Nuts Around Workouts?
Yes, you can consume nuts before a workout. However, limit them to 25g or less, 1-2 hours before a workout, so your body can still utilize carbs consumed as a quick energy source.
Leading up to a workout, your focus should be on consuming a meal high in carbs, as this will provide the best energy source for your body during a workout (like one that incorporates potatoes).
The fat and fiber in nuts will slow down how quickly your body can turn the carbs into energy, reducing the energy available.
A good general range I recommend is 15-20% of a meal’s calories.
We asked Registered Dietician Breda Peralta her thoughts on when to eat nuts in relation to your workout.
“Nuts are energy and nutrient-dense foods. Although they have all three macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats), they are primarily fat. Fat takes longer to digest. Before a workout, you want to have immediate energy available. If you are going to include them, try to have them at least 1-2 hours before a workout”.
Yes, you can consume nuts after workouts as they will provide all three macronutrients necessary post-workout.
However, since it is highest in fat, limit the quantity to 35g or less to maximize recovery. The amount should be reduced if any other fat sources are consumed.
Peralta noted that:
“They (nuts) are an ideal food to add after a workout. After a workout, though, you need all three macros”.
Carbs are also essential to consume after a workout to replenish your body’s stored energy that gets depleted during exercise. Protein is also crucial for muscle repair and growth.
Research shows consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout has a significant positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle.
Which Type of Nuts are Better for Bodybuilding
The macronutrients of most nuts are relatively similar. However, it’s important to note the following differences when considering which nut is best for bodybuilders.
The focus for bodybuilders is a lean physique, meaning protein consumption is king.
By opting for the nut with the highest protein-to-fat ratio, we can provide our body with the most protein for calories consumed.
Almonds, pistachios, and peanuts provide the most protein, with peanuts as the top contender.
Want more options? Here’s our complete list of the highest protein nuts and seeds.
Peanuts are also the most affordable nut, which can be helpful for a bodybuilder spending a significant amount of money on protein sources like chicken.
Nut Recipe for Bodybuilders
Protein oats are my favorite pre-workout meal to recommend to clients as they provide plenty of carbs to keep you fueled throughout your workout.
Including both slow-digesting carbs (oats) and fast-digesting carbs (banana) will give you a quick burst of energy at the beginning as well as sustained energy throughout.
- ½ cup (45g) of uncooked oats
- 1 small banana (100g)
- 1 tbsp nut butter
- 1 scoop protein powder
- Place the oats in a bowl and add water until the oats are covered. Cook in the microwave on high for 1 minute.
- Mash the banana and stir into oats. Cook in the microwave for another 45 seconds. Add additional water if needed.
- Once cooked, mix in the protein powder and top with peanut butter.
This recipe makes one serving with 511 calories, 34g protein (29%), 60g carbs (50%), 12g fat (22%).
For a higher calorie option, increase the number of oats or bananas.
Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato
Peanut butter and sweet potato may sound like a strange combination. Still, I promise you, it’s delicious and a perfect way to incorporate all three required macronutrients into your post-workout meal.
Adding chicken provides a protein boost to provide the desired amount.
- 3oz chicken breast
- Small sweet potato (~250g)
- 1.5 tbsp nut butter
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Cook chicken according to preference.
- Chop sweet potato into cups, and toss in 1 tsp of olive oil and seasonings. Roast at 400 for 30 – 40 minutes until soft.
- Top warm sweet potato with nut butter and serve with chicken.
This recipe makes one serving with 494 calories, 35g protein (28%), 55g carbs (45%), 15g fat (26%).
Increase the amount of chicken or sweet potato for a higher-calorie option.
- Nuts are on our list of high-calorie, low sugar foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
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About The Author
Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.
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