Nuts are often described in the media as ‘superfoods’ that are a must to include in your diet, but does that include bodybuilders too? As individuals with specific physique goals, it’s important to consider several factors when assessing whether nuts are good or bad for bodybuilding.
Hi, I’m Laura ‒ I’m a nutrition coach that works with bodybuilders to help them achieve their physique goals.
So, are nuts good or bad for bodybuilding?
Nuts are good for bodybuilding because they contain fat and fiber, which help you to feel satiated and increase your ability to stick to your diet. Since nuts are high in fat, ensure your other meals contain lean protein. Daily fat from nuts and other sources should be between 30-35% of your total calories.
In this article, I will provide:
- The general health benefits and macronutrient breakdown for nuts
- 3 pros and cons of eating nuts for bodybuilding
- How much and when to consume nuts pre- and post-workout
- What is the best kind of nuts for bodybuilders
- A nuts recipe for pre-and post-workout that is macro-friendly for bodybuilders
Eating Nuts for Bodybuilding: Overview
Before we dive into this topic, it’s important to first 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.
3 Pros of Eating Nuts For Bodybuilding
As we consider whether nuts are good for bodybuilding, let’s make sure we keep the goals of bodybuilding top of mind as we want to ensure foods consumed align with these goals.
Generally, bodybuilders are looking to build muscle and lose fat in order to optimize their physique.
1. Nuts Can Make It Easier to Lose Weight
Nuts are a good source of both fat and fiber. Both act similarly, slowing down digestion and leaving 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.
When does that cupboard raid usually occur? Likely when you are unsatisfied and hungry. 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.
Therefore, incorporating nuts into your diet can assist with weight loss by making it easier to stick with a lower-calorie, something that is beneficial for bodybuilders.
- 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 3.5g of fiber per 28g. General fiber recommendations are between 25 – 30g of fiber daily, meaning 28g of nuts will provide 14% 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.
Additionally, it can help improve your overall mood as poor digestive health is often linked to a reduction in mental health.
3. Nuts Are an Anti-inflammatory Helping Reduce Inflammation
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 is never able to fully recover. Additionally, it can lead to other negative health conditions.
In particular, studies have shown nuts have a positive effect on cardiovascular inflammation and 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 Cons of Eating Nuts for Bodybuilding
Overall, there are a few downsides of nuts to consider, but these can generally be mitigated by considering the number of nuts eaten.
1. Nuts Do Not Provide Sufficient Protein to Build Muscle
In order to build muscle, it’s critical to consume sufficient protein so your muscles have what they need to repair and recover after a workout.
Research suggests that to build muscle, a protein intake of roughly 2.4g per kg of body weight is ideal. For example, this means a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 206g of protein per day.
Nuts contain 6g of protein per 28g, making them not a significant source. To consume 34g of protein, or one-sixth of your daily intake, you would need to consume approximately 160g of nuts. This would be a whopping 926 calories!
To ensure sufficient protein, leaner sources of protein need to be consumed throughout the day.
- Related Article: Nuts Make Me Gassy & Bloated: 4 Reasons & How To Fix
2. Nuts Do Not Have the Recommended Protein to Fat Ratio for Optimal Body Composition
In addition to getting sufficient protein, it’s also important to consider the ratio of protein to fat. Paying attention to this ratio will ensure while getting your protein requirements, you are also keeping your calories within an appropriate range and not gaining fat.
Research shows that a ratio of 5g of protein to 1g of fat is best to achieve a bodybuilder’s desired body composition. This will provide the fat required for healthy hormones while also consuming enough protein to maximize muscle building.
Nuts, per 28g, contain 6g of protein and 14g of fat. This is a ratio of 1g of protein to 2.5g of fat, about half of the recommended range.
This does not mean nuts are bad for bodybuilders, but it does demonstrate the importance of including a lean protein source, such as chicken when consuming nuts to increase the ratio back to the recommended 5:1.
3. Nuts Are Calorically Dense
Similar to a lot of foods that are high in fat, nuts are calorically dense. This simply 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 cognizant of portion size.
Many of my clients love nuts as a healthy snack, but simply grab handfuls throughout the day. Given how high in fat nuts can be, this can easily add up to hundreds of calories without realizing it. For bodybuilders who are looking to maintain a lean physique, this can be problematic.
Luckily, there are some easy tips you can implement to reduce this issue. My first tip is to always measure out the nuts you are planning to eat. A good serving size is 1oz or 28g as this is approximately 15g of fat. If you don’t have a food scale try using a shot glass to approximate.
If you prefer to snack on nuts throughout the day, use a smaller container to portion out 1-2oz. Then throughout the day, only snack on the nuts from that smaller container. This will ensure you are not overconsuming nuts, and calories, without realizing it. Another fat that is calorically dense is avocados.
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 contain 119mg of sodium. Health Canada recommends adults over the age of 14 consume no more than 2300mg daily with a more optimal recommended range of 1000-1500mg.
If you consider an average recommendation of 1250mg daily, 1oz of salted nuts would be about 10% of your daily sodium. Therefore, if you are consuming 1-2oz daily, and prefer salted nuts, I would not be concerned.
However, if you are consuming more than 2oz per day, have an existing health condition that requires a low-sodium diet or already consume a diet high in sodium (this would generally be fast food or packaged foods), I would consider opting for unsalted nuts.
If you find unsalted nuts don’t have enough flavor, try adding your own seasoning. Sodium-free taco seasoning (such as Mrs. Dash) makes for a great option. Use a little bit of olive oil spray to ensure the seasoning sticks to the nuts.
Can You Eat Nuts Before 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 is still able to utilize carbs consumed as a quick energy source. The number of nuts should be reduced if any other fat sources are consumed pre-workout.
Are Nuts Good or Bad to Eat Before Workouts?
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). Both the fat and fiber in nuts will slow down how quickly your body can turn the carbs into energy, reducing the energy available.
To maximize your gym performance, you want the most energy available during your workout, meaning it’s important to limit the fat in your pre-workout meal. A good general range I recommend is 15-20% of a meal’s calories.
Nuts are high in healthy fats, which while important for a healthy diet, is not the best source of energy pre-workout. Nuts do provide some carbs, but it is primarily from fiber which is not an optimal source of energy either.
Like most foods, the quantity consumed is also an important consideration.
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How Many Nuts Should You Eat Before Workouts?
Nuts can be consumed before a workout, if in a small enough quantity that the total fat in your pre-workout meal does not exceed 15-20% of your meal’s total calories. In practice, this is often a range of 10-15g of fat.
To keep the fat within this desired range, I recommend consuming no more than 25g of nuts before a workout. This will provide you with 13g of fat. Ensure you are also considering what else you are eating pre-workout. If other fat sources are consumed, I recommend reducing the number of nuts eaten.
We asked Registered Dietician, Breda Paralta, 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”.
Can You Eat Nuts After Workouts?
Yes, you can consume nuts after workouts as it will provide all three macronutrients necessary post-workout. However, since it is highest in fat, limit the quantity to 35g or less in order to maximize recovery. The amount should be reduced if any other fat sources are consumed.
Are Nuts Good or Bad to Eat After Workouts?
Peralta noted that:
“They (nuts) are an ideal food to add after a workout. After a workout though, you need all 3 macros”.
Carbs are also important to consume after a workout in order to replenish your body’s stored energy that is depleted over the duration of your workout.
In addition to carbs, it’s also important to include protein post-workout. 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. This process of repair and recovery is what will lead to strength and muscle growth, a key goal of bodybuilding.
While nuts have some carbs and fat, they aren’t a significant source of either. This means that nuts are a great addition post-workout to a meal that already has a carb and protein source.
Nuts are a significant source of fat, so it’s important to consider the serving size of nuts you are eating as a post-workout you only want to consume a moderate amount of fat. Some fat is important but consuming too much will slow down your digestion and your body won’t be able to use the carbs and protein it consumed to recover.
- Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
How Many Nuts Should You Eat After a Workout?
Nuts are beneficial to be consumed after a workout to provide a source of all three required macronutrients, as long as the quantity is small enough that the total fat in your post-workout meal does not exceed the recommended range of 20-25% of your total calories. This generally looks like 15-20g of fat.
In order to keep the fat in your post-workout meal low, I recommend consuming no more than 35g of nuts after a workout, which is about one large handful.
This will provide you with 17.5g of fat. When determining the number of nuts you are eating, ensure you are considering what else you are eating post-workout. If other fat sources are consumed, I recommend reducing the number of nuts eaten.
Also, there is no amount of time I recommend waiting after you have done your workout to consume nuts. So long as the quantity is within the recommended range, nuts can be consumed anytime.
- Looking for a treat post-workout? We explain how you can eat donuts and dark chocolate after a workout.
Which Type of Nuts are Better for Bodybuilding
Walking down the nuts section of a grocery store can be overwhelming, there are tons of options of nuts available.
The macronutrients of most nuts are relatively similar, however, when considering which nut is best for bodybuilders it’s important to note these differences.
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.
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
Pre-Workout Nut Recipe: Protein Oats
Protein oats are my favorite pre-workout meal to recommend to clients as it provides 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 just 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 1 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.
Post-Workout Nuts Recipe: Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato
Peanut butter and sweet potato may sound like a strange combination but I promise you, it’s both delicious and a perfect way to incorporate all three required macronutrients into your post-workout meal. Adding chicken provides a bit of 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, 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 1 serving with 494 calories, 35g protein (28%), 55g carbs (45%), 15g fat (26%). For a higher calorie option, increase the amount of chicken or sweet potato.
- Nuts are on our list of high calorie, low sugar foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
Overall, the health benefits of nuts outweigh the cons and therefore I recommend bodybuilders consume nuts. High-protein nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and pistachios are the best option for a bodybuilder given their body composition goals.
As with most foods high in fat, the most important factor to consider is the portion size. This is particularly true before or after a workout where consuming a small quantity is necessary to optimize performance.
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.