Eating at Panera Bread When Bulking (6 Bodybuilding Meals)

I thought Panera Bread was just a place to buy fresh loaves of bread, but after walking into one recently I noticed several high protein meal options that would be excellent for bodybuilders or people who are bulking. 

So what should you eat at Panera Bread when bulking? If you are looking for a bulking meal option between 600 – 850 calories at Panera Bread, a “pick two meal” with a sandwich and soup is best. For a meal higher than 850 calories, increase your order to a full sandwich and cup of soup. Opt for a side apple if pre-workout. 

In this article, I will provide:

  • 6 meal options for what to eat at Panera Bread when bulking
  • My top 4 tips for eating at Panera Bread both before and after your workout

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What To Eat at Panera Bread If You’re A Bodybuilder: 6 Meal Options  

Six meal options to order at Panera Bread when bodybuilding or bulking are:

1. 600 Calorie Panera Bread Bulking Meal Plan

600 calorie bulking panera bread meal plan
  • Order a “pick two meal”
  • 1/2 smokehouse bbq chicken sandwich on white
  • Cup of turkey chili 
  • Do not order a side

This meal has 586 calories, 37g protein (25%), 61g carbohydrates (42%) and 21.5g fat (33%).

The smokehouse bbq chicken sandwich provides a relatively even mix of protein, fat and carbs. When bulking, this is ideal as you get the benefits of each macronutrient. You will have sufficient protein for building muscle, quicker energy from the carbs, and lower volume calories from the fat.

Adding the turkey chilli will boost the meal’s protein by 14g. Getting enough protein is a priority when bulking as protein is what your body uses to repair your muscles post-workout. The process of damaging and repairing muscles is what will ultimately lead to increased strength and muscle mass. 

Customizations for increased calories

  • Adding a dressing to your sandwich will add between 25 – 220 calories. The three dressings with the highest calories are Greek (220 calories), caesar (170 calories) and bbq ranch (140 calories).
  • Adding a side to your meal will also further increase calories. An apple or a french baguette is the best high carb option for before or after a workout (80 calories and 22g of carbs and 180 calories and 36g of carbs respectively). 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are eating this around a workout, I recommend ordering it without cheese and with no additional dipping sauces. This will reduce the fat in your meal allowing your body to get a big burst of energy from the carbs you’ve eaten.

Additionally, adding a side of an apple is a great way to add the calories back to your meal that was lost from excluding the cheese. These calories will primarily come from carbs which are most optimal around a workout.

2. 700 Calorie Panera Bread Bulking Meal Plan 

700 calorie bulking panera bread meal plan
  • Order a pick two meal with:
    • 1/2 steak and white cheddar panini on ciabatta
    • 1/2 an asian chicken salad
  • Do not add a side

This meal has 684 calories, 39g protein (23%), 57g carbohydrates (33%) and 34g fat (44%).

Adding a half salad to your meal boosts the protein by 15g as well as adds additional fibre from the leafy greens. When bulking, you are likely consuming a lot of food, to eat enough calories, which often causes digestive discomfort. Fibre will help to relieve this and improve your overall digestive regularity. 

While a side of chips or baguette adds 150 – 180 calories, it is primarily from carbs and fat, with only 2 – 7g of protein in a serving. When bulking, I recommend aiming for a  meal that has 25 – 35% of its calories from protein. This ensures you have sufficient protein to build muscle and increase strength. 

Related Article: 13 Lowest Calorie Chips (Top Picks)

Customizations for increased calories

  • Swapping the salad dressing for a higher calorie option will add between 25 – 220 calories. The three dressings with the highest calories are Greek (220 calories), caesar (170 calories) and bbq ranch (140 calories).
  • Adding a side to your meal will also further increase calories. An apple or a french baguette is the best high carb option for before or after a workout (80 calories and 22g of carbs and 180 calories and 36g of carbs respectively).

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are eating this meal around a workout, I recommend opting for a full sandwich in place of the salad to reduce the volume of food eaten and the fibre. 

Fibre will slow down your digestion, making it more difficult for your body to get quick energy from the carbs it’s eaten. Additionally, the volume of food may cause digestive discomfort, which would likely result in a less effective workout.

I also recommend ordering the sandwich without the cheese, as this will reduce the fat in your meal. Similarly to fibre, by keeping the fat less in this meal, our body can focus on getting energy from carbs. This will provide you with a quick burst of energy needed for a workout.  

3. 850 Calorie Panera Bread Bulking Meal Plan

850 calorie bulking panera bread meal plan
  • Order a turkey sandwich on sourdough
  • Add a second serving of roast turkey
  • Add a cup of broccoli and cheddar soup
  • Do not add a side

This meal has 831 calories, 63g protein (30%), 75g carbohydrates (36%) and 31g fat (34%).

Both the turkey sandwich and broccoli and cheddar soup provide a relatively even mix of protein, fat and carbs. When you are bulking, this even mix is ideal as you can get the benefits of each macronutrient. It will provide sufficient protein for building muscle, quick energy from the carbs and lower volume calories from the fat.

Adding a second serving of roast turkey boosts calories, primarily from protein. This is beneficial when bulking as it will ensure you are consuming enough so your body has what it needs to repair and build muscles after a workout. 

Customizations for increased calories

  • Adding a dressing to your sandwich will add between 25 – 220 calories. The three dressings with the highest calories are Greek (220 calories), caesar (170 calories) and bbq ranch (140 calories).
  • Adding a side to your meal will also further increase calories. An apple or a french baguette is the best high carb option for before or after a workout (80 calories and 22g of carbs and 180 calories and 36g of carbs respectively). 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

This is a great meal option for before a workout, however, I recommend you order the sandwich without mayonnaise as it is high in fat. High-fat foods will provide slower energy over a long period, instead of a quick burst of energy that is more ideal for around a workout. 

Additionally, adding a side of an apple is a great way to add the calories back to your meal that was lost from excluding the mayonnaise. These calories will primarily come from carbs which are most optimal around a workout

4. 950 Calorie Panera Bread Bulking Meal Plan 

950 calorie bulking panera bread meal plan
  • Order bacon turkey bravo sandwich 
  • Add a cup of chicken noodle soup

This meal has 930 calories, 56g protein (24%), 83g carbohydrates (36%) and 41.5g fat (40%).

Adding a cup of chicken noodle soup is a lower fat option to add protein, and calories, to your meal. While fat is a great way to add calories without adding too much physical volume of food, eating too much fat in one meal can leave you feeling overly full, think of that feeling when you eat too much rich food like fettuccine alfredo. 

Since the sandwich has bacon and cheese on it, the fat is already quite high. Not adding additional fat will ensure you are still feeling your best digestively after your meal, and don’t struggle with a lower appetite for the rest of the day. 

Customizations for increased calories

  • Adding a dressing to your sandwich will add between 25 – 220 calories. The three dressings with the highest calories are Greek (220 calories), caesar (170 calories) and bbq ranch (140 calories).
  • Adding a side to your meal will also further increase calories. An apple or a french baguette is the best high carb option for before or after a workout (80 calories and 22g of carbs and 180 calories and 36g of carbs respectively). 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

For the most optimal pre-workout meal, I recommend opting for the traditional turkey sandwich as this is a lower-fat option. Reducing the fat in this meal will ensure your body can use the carbs you consume to provide you with plenty of quick energy for your workout. 

If you do choose to order this sandwich, I recommend ordering it without bacon as this will help to somewhat reduce the fat. 

5. 1,150 Calorie Panera Bread Bulking Meal Plan

1,150 calorie bulking panera bread meal plan
  • Order a bacon turkey bravo sandwich 
  • Add a double serving of meat
  • Add a cup of french onion soup
  • Do not order a side

This meal has 1,168 calories, 77g protein (26%), 98g carbohydrates (34%) and 52g fat (40%).

The cup of french onion soup is a way to boost the carbs and protein of the meal, while the second serving of turkey boosts the protein. Increasing the calories through an even mix of macronutrients is beneficial when bulking to ensure you get the benefits of each macro without any downside that occurs from eating too much of one individual. 

With this ratio, you will ensure you have enough protein to repair and build muscles, feel energized from the carbs and add calories from the fat without adding a significant amount of physical volume to your meal. 

Customizations for increased calories

  • Adding a dressing to your sandwich will add between 25 – 220 calories. The three dressings with the highest calories are Greek (220 calories), caesar (170 calories) and bbq ranch (140 calories).
  • Adding a side to your meal will also further increase calories. An apple or a french baguette is the best high carb option for before or after a workout (80 calories and 22g of carbs and 180 calories and 36g of carbs respectively). 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are eating this meal before a workout, you may want to consider the lower-calorie meal plans as a meal this high in calories will likely leave you feeling less energized and slow, similar to that sleepy feeling post-Thanksgiving dinner. 

This meal would be a better option post-workout, however, it is recommended to order two grilled chicken sandwiches to reduce the fat. 

Keeping the fat lower after our workout will allow our bodies to better recover.

6. 1,350 Calorie Panera Bread Bulking Meal Plan 

1,350 calorie bulking panera bread meal plan
  • Order Chipotle chicken avocado melt on focaccia 
  • Add a double portion of chicken
  • Add a bowl of turkey chili
  • Do not order a side

This meal has 1,354 calories, 86g protein (25%), 113g carbohydrates (33%) and 62g fat (41%).

The chipotle chicken avocado melt includes fat from avocado, cheese and chipotle sauce. Adding calories through higher fat sources will help to keep the physical volume of the meal lower. This is beneficial when bulking as eating high calories can be challenging due to a constant feeling of being physically full. 

Adding the turkey chilli will boost the protein without adding too much extra fat. With plenty of fat in the sandwich, adding more would risk digestive discomfort that comes from eating too much of a food that’s quite rich (fettuccine alfredo, chocolate cake etc.).

Customizations for increased calories

  • Adding a dressing to your sandwich will add between 25 – 220 calories. The three dressings with the highest calories are Greek (220 calories), caesar (170 calories) and bbq ranch (140 calories).
  • Adding a side to your meal will also further increase calories. An apple or a french baguette is the best high carb option for before or after a workout (80 calories and 22g of carbs and 180 calories and 36g of carbs respectively). 

Options For Pre & Post Workout

If you are planning to eat this meal around your workout, I recommend opting for one of the lower-calorie meal plans instead. Eating a meal this high in calories will leave you feeling lethargic and is likely to cause some digestive discomfort. Neither of these will result in a good workout or recovery post-workout. 

Tips for Eating at Panera Bread Before a Workout

What you eat before a workout is a big factor in how well you can perform during your workout. If you can select a more optimal meal, you can ensure you have the energy you need to perform at your best throughout the workout.

Should you eat at Panera Bread before a workout? Yes, you should eat at Panera Bread before a workout. A chicken or turkey sandwich without cheese and an apple provides a high carb, moderate protein and fat meal that is ideal pre-workout. Ordering a second sandwich provides more calories if needed.

4 Tips for How to Eat at Panera Bread Before a Workout

My top 4 tips for how to eat at Panera Bread before a workout are:

1. Order a sandwich 

Before a workout, the best thing you can consume is a meal that is high in carbs as it will ensure you have a quick energy source allowing you to feel energized and perform your best throughout your workout.

Your aim for this meal should be to have at least two servings. A good way to estimate a serving size should be about the size of a closed fist. At Panera Bread, a sandwich bun is the best option.

I recommend aiming to eat this about 1 – 2 hours in advance of your workout. 

2. Opt for chicken or turkey for your protein

In addition to consuming carbs pre-workout, it is just as important to limit the fat consumed as well. Fat is slower for our body to digest and therefore slows down our entire digestive process when we consume it. Slower digestion makes it more difficult for our bodies to break down and use the carbs we just ate, leaving us with less energy for our workout. 

At Panera Bread, chicken and turkey are lower in fat compared to beef and therefore the best option to consume before a workout. 

3. Skip the bacon, cheese and sauces

At Panera Bread, bacon, cheese and most sauces are high in fat. It is important to minimize the fat we are eating around a workout so that our body is better able to break down and use the carbs we are eating for energy. 

If you are ordering a sauce, I recommend sticking to a lower fat option like a green goddess, Asian sesame or poppyseed.

4. Add an apple as your side

To have the most energy for your workout, it is also helpful to try and include a combination of slow and quick digesting carbs. Slow digesting carbs provide energy over a couple of hours, think of starchier foods like bread or pasta. Quick digesting carbs provide energy within a half-hour, think of foods high in sugar like fruit. 

By consuming both, you will give your body a quick burst of energy to kick off your workout, as well as sustained energy throughout the rest of your gym session. If you find yourself with low energy during your workout, you can add a quick digesting carb halfway through. At Panera Bread, an apple would be your best option. 

Since the apple is a quick digesting carb, I recommend not consuming this at the same time as your meal, instead, eat it half an hour before the start of your workout.  

Tips for Eating at Panera Bread After a Workout

Your post-workout meal plays an important role in increasing strength and muscular growth as it starts the process of repairing the muscle damaged during your workout. Therefore, this meal is also important when it comes to optimizing your gym performance. 

Should you eat at Panera Bread after a workout? Yes, you should eat at Panera Bread after a workout. A chicken or turkey sandwich with a double serving of meat provides a high carbohydrate and protein and moderate fat meal that is ideal post-workout. Ordering a second sandwich is a good option if you need more calories.

4 Tips for How to Eat at Panera Bread After a Workout

My top 4 tips for how to eat at Panera Bread after a workout are:

1. Order a sandwich 

During your workout, your body will use up the fuel it has stored for energy. By the time your workout is done, you’ve likely depleted most of these stores. Replenishing these stores will kick-start the process of repairing, and in turn growing, our muscles so it’s important to prioritize replenishment after a workout. 

The best way to replenish is to eat a meal high in carbs. A high carb meal generally looks like at least two servings of carbs, where a serving is the size of a closed fist. At Panera Bread, a sandwich bun is the best option.

I recommend aiming to eat this meal within 1 – 1.5 hours after finishing your workout. 

2. Choose chicken or turkey as your meat option

Protein is also important to consume after your workout as protein is the building block that our body uses to repair our muscles. This process of repairing muscle is what will ultimately lead to increased strength and muscle growth. 

For our body to be able to use the carbs and protein we are eating quickly, we also need to be limiting the amount of fat we are eating. Eating fat with our meal will slow down digestion, delaying the start of the muscle repair process. 

At Panera Bread, chicken or turkey is the leanest option and therefore recommended post-workout.

3. Add a double portion of meat to your meal 

To have our muscles repair and grow after a workout, our body needs to have sufficient protein for this process. If you aren’t able to eat enough protein, the process of our muscles breaking down that began during your workout, will continue instead of the repair and growth that is desired. 

At Panera Bread, adding a second serving of meat to your meal is the best way to boost the protein.

4. Go light on cheese, bacon and sauces

To ensure our body can quickly use the carbs and protein we are eating, we want to make sure we are limiting the fat. Fat slows down the digestion process, delaying the time until our body fully absorbs the protein and carbs consumed.

I like to think of it similarly to cars on a highway. Carbs and protein are driving at full speed towards their end destination of muscles. Fat is the drivers on the road going below the speed limit, slowing down the process of getting to their destination. 

At Panera Bread, the foods highest in fat are cheese, bacon and sauces. I recommend you limit your meal to only one of these options. If you choose sauce as your option, ask for it on the side and add no more than 1 thumb size portion to your meal.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions for eating at Panera Bread if you workout. 

Will Eating at Panera Bread Ruin My Gains?

No, eating at Panera Bread will not ruin your gains. To maintain the muscle you have, the most important factor is eating enough protein throughout your day. Panera Bread’s menu has lots of high protein options, such as chicken or turkey sandwiches and salads that make it possible to maintain your gains.

Can I Eat at Panera Bread and Still Gain Muscle?

Yes, you can eat at Panera Bread and still gain muscle. To gain muscle, you need to be eating sufficient protein after your workout so your muscles can repair and grow. Panera Bread’s chicken and turkey sandwiches and salads are all high in protein, ensuring you have enough protein to make it possible to gain muscle.

What Meal at Panera Bread has the Most Protein?

The meal at Panera Bread with the most protein is the steak and white cheddar panini on ciabatta. This meal has 1,074 calories, 70g of protein, 86g of carbohydrates and 50g of fat.  

What Meal at Panera Bread has the Most Calories?

The meal at Panera Bread with the most calories is the mac & cheese bread bowl. This meal has 1,1040 calories, 43g of protein, 163g of carbohydrates and 35g of fat. 

Which Meal at Panera Bread has the Least Calories

The meal at Panera Bread that has the least calories is a cup of chicken noodle soup. This meal has 60 calories, 6g of protein, 8g of carbohydrates and 0.5g of fat.

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?

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About The Author

Laura Semotiuk

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. You can connect with Laura on Instagram or through her Website.