Are Oranges Good For Bodybuilding? A Dietitian Answers

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Oranges are well known for their high vitamin C content, but you’re probably wondering if they fit into a bodybuilding diet and help with muscle gain or fat loss. Let’s break it down.

Key Takeaways

  • Oranges are a good fruit for bodybuilders. They provide carbs (15 grams) and fiber (3.1 grams) with only 62 calories. As such, they are quite filling for the number of calories––the ideal snack to have while cutting.
  • Oranges are rich in vitamin C (59% of daily needs per 100 grams)––a potent antioxidant praised for boosting immune system strength and limiting inflammation, which may promote muscle recovery.
  • Oranges are more acidic than other fruits (pH of 3.7 to 4.3), so they may not be ideal for people who suffer from acid reflux. Enjoy them in moderation, but avoid them before training, as stomach discomfort can affect your performance.

Oranges: Overview

nutrition content of orange 154 g


Oranges are relatively low in calories, with one fruit having around 62 calories, slightly less than the calories in an average slice of white bread. 

(In fairness, an orange is more satiating than white bread.)

That said, oranges have more calories than other fruits like watermelon, grapefruit, or strawberries (click to learn how these other fruits fit into a muscle-building diet).


Oranges primarily provide carbs with almost no protein and fat. 

One orange has 18 grams of carbs, which can be a nice energy boost before a training session (however, as I’ll explain below, you might not want to have more than one orange if you have it as a pre-workout snack). 

As a bodybuilder, more than 50% of your calories should come from carbs for high energy levels, especially while training.

One benefit of oranges is that they are very high in fiber, with one orange providing almost 15% of your daily fiber needs.

This is good for a bodybuilder in a cutting phase since high-fiber foods promote fullness during the day, making it easier to eat fewer calories.

However, that may not be ideal when bulking, as having a full stomach can make it more challenging to eat enough calories for healthy weight gain.

This is where orange juice (not oranges) might benefit you more if you are in a bulking phase. 

One cup of orange juice only has 0.5 g of fiber, which means you get more calories without feeling as full.  

Here is more insight from Registered Dietitian Jillian Kubala:

“One cup (248 mL) of pure orange juice has nearly double the calories of a whole orange and contains almost twice as much sugar. Plus, orange juice contains much less fiber than whole oranges, so it’s much less filling.”


Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C. They also provide some thiamin (vitamin B1), folate (vitamin B9), and small amounts of potassium. 

  • Vitamin C (59% of daily needs per 100 grams). This nutrient boosts immune system function, making you less likely to catch the flu and be forced to take time off the gym.  Another benefit of vitamin C is that it helps with collagen synthesis––a structural protein crucial for bone, joint, and connective tissue strength and health.

Check out my complete guide on the Best Fruits For Bodybuilding.

Pros Of Eating Oranges

pros of eating oranges

Prevent Nitric Oxide Loss

Oranges are high in antioxidants, especially in vitamin C.

In addition to strengthening the immune system, vitamin C can help prevent nitric oxide (NO) from being depleted

More specifically, vitamin C can help convert dietary nitrate (found primarily in leafy green and root veggies) to nitrite and then to nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide helps blood vessels dilate, which means more oxygen and nutrients can reach your muscles, potentially helping with muscle repair and exercise performance. 

Vitamin C and the flavonoids in oranges may also limit muscle inflammation and support recovery following strenuous workouts.

Improve Hydration

Oranges are 86% water, which makes them a good snack for replenishing lost fluids during training.

You can enjoy oranges at other times of the day, especially if you struggle to drink enough water: 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women.

Help Keep You Full

While higher in calories than watermelons and grapefruits, oranges are still relatively low and highly satiating.

This makes them a good snack when you’re hungry and tempted to reach for unhealthy food.

A single orange can satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you full for an hour or two, just in time for your next meal.

Here’s a quick tip from health writer Lisa Lillien:

“There’s no shortage of delicious ways to incorporate oranges into your meals. Eat a whole orange as a snack, use mandarin orange segments in salads, or blend oranges into a green smoothie to complement nutritious greens.”

Con of Eating Oranges

con of eating oranges

Increased Risk of Gastric Problems

Oranges are highly acidic, with a pH ranging from 3.7 to 4.3. For someone who doesn’t have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), this is not a problem. 

However, if you often need an antacid (medicine used to treat heartburn and indigestion), oranges might not be the best fruit to add, especially before a workout.

They can increase your symptoms of acid reflux and stomach discomfort. 

If the episode is too severe, it can affect your gym performance or cause you to skip a session altogether. 

Can You Eat Oranges Before Workouts?

Oranges can be a good choice to have as a snack before training as they provide some carbs to help fuel your workout. 

However, give yourself at least 90 minutes for digestion if you want to eat a whole orange (due to its high fiber and acidic content). 

Alternatively, have orange juice as a quick carb source 30-45 minutes before training.

oranges for bodybuilding

It’s generally recommended to have at least a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight before training. For a 70-kilo bodybuilder (154 lbs), that would be 70 grams of carbs or 3.5 cups of oranges.

Since that’s too much and will likely lead to stomach discomfort, have up to a cup of oranges and get your remaining carbs from low-fiber sources like rice cakes.

Also, since oranges are acidic, be careful with your pre-workout intake if you’re prone to acid reflux. In this case, go for less acidic fruits: watermelon, mango, kiwi, blueberries, and banana.

Remember that oranges lack protein and fats. If you want a steadier energy release (such as when having your pre-workout meal at least two hours before training), you need to add protein (e.g., Greek yogurt) and fats (e.g., peanuts) to the equation.

Can You Eat Oranges After Workouts?

As mentioned, oranges are great to have post-workout since they (1) have a high water content that promotes hydration and (2) contain antioxidants that can decrease inflammation.

That said, oranges can slow digestion because of their high fiber content. This may cause amino acids from protein to hit the bloodstream more slowly, potentially affecting overall recovery.

To avoid that, consider carb alternatives that digest more quickly. Rice cakes, dried fruits, and ripe bananas are excellent options.

In terms of amount, research recommends getting at least 0.3 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight after training. For our 70-kilo (154-lb) bodybuilder from above, that would mean having 21 grams of carbs or one cup of orange.

Also, aim for 0.3 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight to optimize muscle recovery and prevent tissue breakdown. A whey protein shake can be ideal given its quick overall digestion rate.

Final Verdict: Do Oranges Help Muscle Growth?

Oranges provide some calories to boost your intake and help you create a calorie surplus. However, it might be best to have them in juice form to limit satiety and be able to eat more food.

However, remember that oranges alone are insufficient, as you need protein to build muscle (at least 1.6 grams per kilogram) and fats for hormonal health, well-being, and nutrient absorption.

In other words, a balanced diet consisting of various whole and nutritious foods is best.


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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.

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