Peanut butter is a staple in most homes, but is peanut butter a good choice for bodybuilders? Will peanut butter help us reach our aesthetic goals, or will it hold us back from looking and performing our best?
Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? Peanut Butter is good for bodybuilding because it’s higher in calories for when we’re bulking, and it also digests slowly to keep us full for when we’re dieting. Peanut butter works well for bodybuilding as long as we eat it in moderation.
To incorporate peanut butter into our diet without affecting our bodybuilding goals we need to know how peanut butter could benefit us, and how it could potentially hold us back.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- What calories and nutrients peanut butter has to offer
- The pros and cons of peanut butter for bodybuilding
- If peanut butter is a good choice before and after workouts
- How to incorporate peanut butter in a pre-workout and post-workout recipe
Peanut Butter For Bodybuilding: Overview
Calories In Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter varies in calories based on which variety we’re purchasing but overall the calories in peanut butter are between 180 to 200 calories per serving.
Most of the time the serving size for peanut butter is 2 tablespoons, but not every brand adheres to this so it’s important to read the nutrition label to see what servings size the nutrition info is based on.
Peanut butter that is all-natural and contains only peanuts tends to be higher in calories. Those that are not natural and have added sugars tend to be lower in calories. This may be surprising to some, but we’ll discuss why this is.
This is a perfect example of products that are deemed “healthier” actually being higher in calories, than products that are said to be “not as healthy”.
While calories certainly matter for changes in our body weight, it’s important to understand that just because a food is lower in calories does not mean it’s necessarily healthier.
Macronutrients In Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is primarily a source of fat because it contains more fat than it does protein or carbs. The amount of fat that peanut butter has will depend on if its a natural peanut butter or sweetened peanut butter.
The natural peanut butter will have more grams of fat than one that is sweetened. The natural peanut butter will have around 16 grams of fat in a serving (2 tbsp), while sweetened peanut butter will typically have fewer grams of fat in a serving.
That being said, sometimes the fat content of sweetened peanut butter will be the same as natural peanut butter because the manufacturers sometimes add vegetable oil and/or trans fats to the product along with the sugar, which reduces the nutritional value of the product.
The sweetened peanut butter will have more carbs than natural peanut butter because of the added sugars, which increase the number of carbs in the peanut butter. So rather than having mostly fats in a serving, the sweetened variety will have an almost even mixture of fats and carbs.
This is why natural peanut butter can sometimes have more calories than sweetened varieties because fat has 9 calories per gram, and carbs only have 4 calories per gram.
So per serving the natural peanut butter will have more calories, especially if the sweetened variety doesn’t have added vegetable oil.
Another important point is that peanut butter is often thought of as a protein, but it’s not as great of a source of protein as we may think because it only contains 8 grams of protein per serving.
Micronutrient Content Of Peanut Butter
Peanut butter has a moderate amount of micronutrients such as vitamin E, niacin, manganese, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
These micronutrients are important but to get the most out of our micronutrient consumption, we should pair peanut butter with a fruit or a vegetable.
Unless you’re a fan of celery and peanut butter or carrots and peanut butter (surprisingly tasty, trust me!), it will most likely be fruit that we pair it with.
The natural varieties of peanut butter will be more micronutrient-dense than the sweetened varieties because the micronutrients in peanut butter come from peanuts, and the sweetened variety has fewer peanuts per serving than the natural ones.
Curious to know more about nuts and bodybuilding? Check out our articles
3 Pros Of Eating Peanut Butter For Bodybuilding
The pros of eating peanut butter for bodybuilding are:
- Peanut Butter Keeps Us Full
- Peanut Butter Is Easy To Consume
- Peanut Butter Is Versatile
1. Peanut Butter Keeps Us Full
A benefit to including peanut butter in our bodybuilding meals and snacks is that it will keep us full for longer, which is especially helpful when we’re dieting.
When we’re dieting we will be consuming fewer calories than our body burns per day and therefore it is common to be hungry throughout the day, but eating foods that digest slower and keep us full for longer periods can be very helpful.
Peanut butter can keep us full long enough to get us to our next meal with minimal discomfort, especially as our daily intake gets lower and lower.
2. Peanut Butter Is Easy To Consume
Peanut butter is extremely easy to consume and it can be easily incorporated into a meal or snack to increase the calories, which can be beneficial when we’re bulking.
Peanut butter is very easy to consume which can be a benefit when we’re bulking and we need to consume more calories than we typically would.
It helps to have foods that are easy to consume in larger quantities, especially when we’re not particularly wanting to eat.
Finding foods that are easy to consume can make bulking or maintaining our weight a much more enjoyable process.
3. Peanut Butter Is Versatile
Peanut butter is versatile enough to go with many meals or snacks, which makes it a staple for bodybuilders who are often more concerned about hitting their macros than making a cohesive meal.
Having versatile products, like peanut butter, is a benefit to bodybuilders because sometimes to hit our macros we end up with some weird combinations of foods. So having foods that taste good with almost anything makes the process more enjoyable.
3 Cons of Eating Peanut Butter For Bodybuilding
The cons of eating peanut butter for bodybuilding are:
- Peanut Butter Is High In Calories
- Peanut Butter Servings Are Usually Overestimated
- Peanut Butter Is Often A Binge Trigger For Dieting Athletes
1. Peanut Butter Is High In Calories
Peanut butter is higher in calories, which means it has more potential to affect our body weight and body composition.
For those who are bulking it could make life easier; but for those who are dieting, the calories could add up quickly.
We should be mindful about the number of calories that peanut butter has along with our serving sizes because although it does keep us full for longer, if we’re consuming enough of it that it takes away from other macronutrients (mostly protein), then it may be a problem.
We should always have our overall calorie goal in mind when bodybuilding is our priority so that we know if we’re overconsuming or under-consuming based on our goals.
2. Peanut Butter Servings Are Usually Overestimated
A serving of peanut butter is hard to estimate and is typically overestimated by most individuals, and therefore is easy to overconsume. To avoid this, we’re likely better off measuring out a serving size.
If we’re someone who can afford to consume a few more calories than planned, then this may not be an issue.
However, if we’re in a dieting phase and we need to be more diligent about the calories and macronutrients we consume, then peanut butter can pose a problem if not measured.
3. Peanut Butter Is Often A Binge Trigger For Dieting Athletes
When bodybuilding athletes are severely restricted to get as lean as possible, peanut butter tends to be one of those foods that athletes will struggle to eat in moderation because their cravings are intense and most bodybuilders have it on hand.
Peanut butter is delicious and it’s a staple in most bodybuilding athlete’s diets, but it becomes a problem when athletes cannot control themselves around it.
To be fair it’s not the peanut butter’s fault, but it is a downside to keeping peanut butter in the house because it can be too tempting for some bodybuilders.
It should be noted that it’s not necessarily the athletes’ fault either because they don’t intend to binge on peanut butter, but when our bodies reach a certain level of deprivation, it can result in intense cravings because we are physically hungry.
Can You Eat Peanut Butter Before Workouts?
Peanut butter is high in fat which takes longer to digest, therefore it should be avoided 1 to ½ hours before working out. However, if we’re eating 2 to 3 hours before a workout it can be paired with protein, and carbs for a sufficient pre-workout meal.
We can eat peanut butter or any other fat before a workout as long as we’re giving it enough time to digest before the workout starts.
If the fat has not been digested by the time we’re working out, we will likely experience some gastrointestinal distress, which makes training much less enjoyable.
To avoid this, we should try not to consume peanut butter before a workout unless we’re consuming it 2 to 3 hours before training.
- Want to learn more about fats before a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Can You Eat Peanut Butter After Workouts?
We can eat peanut butter after a workout, as there is no harm in doing so. However, we should be aware that our priorities post-workout should be to consume more carbs and protein than fats.
After a workout, we need more protein and carbs to properly restore our energy levels and encourage muscle repair and growth. Check out our other article on eggs for bodybuilding, which discusses how you can incorporate more protein after your workouts.
If eating fats following a workout takes away from our protein and carb consumption, then we should avoid it. But if fats, like peanut butter, are incorporated with sufficient carbs and protein then there is no issue.
We asked Dietician Brenda Peralta about her thoughts on eating the classic peanut butter & jelly sandwich pre and post-workout and she stated that :
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an excellent way to increase your energy before a workout. Peanuts add some protein and healthy fats that will provide more sustainable energy. You can have this delicious treat 2-3 hours before training. After training could be an excellent option to replenish depleted glycogen stores. However, more protein needs to be added for optimum recovery.”
- Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Does Peanut Butter Help Muscle Growth?
Peanut butter can help muscle growth because it helps us to consume more calories, and our body puts on muscle more readily when it has a surplus of calories to use for the muscle-building processes. However, we must also consume adequate protein.
Peanut butter by itself cannot cause muscle growth, but it can certainly help. To encourage muscle growth we would need to consume adequate protein throughout the day and provide a suitable training stimulus for our muscles.
The best recipe for success is a surplus of calories + adequate protein intake + a periodized strength training program = muscle growth!
- Peanut Butter is on our list of high calorie, low sugar foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
Is It Okay To Eat Peanut Butter When Bulking?
It is okay to eat peanut butter while we’re bulking because it is higher in calories, which will help us to reach our calorie goal for the day. However, it can also keep us full for longer so if we eat too much of it we may be too full to eat again.
The fat content of peanut butter helps provide excess calories which we need to bulk, but it also is slow to digest so it could keep us too full for too long. If we’re not hungry, it can make it more challenging to continue to consume the calories that we need to hit our calorie goal.
If we find it difficult to eat enough calories while bulking without getting overly full, then we may want to prioritize more carbohydrates than fats because carbs digest faster.
- Looking for a recipe with peanut butter, try our Peanut Butter Protein Balls.
Peanut Butter Recipes For Bodybuilding
Peanut butter can be incorporated in both pre-workout and post-workout meals as long as we’re eating it at the right times and we pair it with the right combinations of other macronutrients from other foods.
Pre-Workout Peanut Butter Recipe
Peanut Butter & Banana Overnight Oats
Peanut butter is missing carbs and protein to make it an optimal pre-workout meal so we’ve combined all of these macronutrients to create creamy oats that can be consumed 2 to 3 hours before your workout for the best results!
Makes 2 servings
For 1 serving: 379 Calories with 47 g Carbs, 21 g Protein, and 14 g Fat
- 1 large ripe banana, mashed
- 1 ¼ cup milk (any milk will work!)
- 140 grams vanilla greek yogurt
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ½ scoop of vanilla or chocolate protein powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
- Garnish options: Banana slices, dark chocolate, or nutella
- Combine the mashed banana, milk, and yogurt in a large bowl. Mix until the batter is smooth.
- Add protein powder, oats, cinnamon, and chia seeds to the wet ingredients. Stir until combined.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- When ready to serve, remove from fridge and top with peanut butter. Add banana slices and chocolate chips for extra toppings.
- Check out our other article that discusses oatmeal in more detail: Is Oatmeal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Post-Workout Peanut Butter Recipe
Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie
Following a workout, we need protein and carbs primarily, but fats can be added for flavour and satiety. Enter the peanut butter and jelly smoothie, which not only tastes incredible but also delivers all the nutrients we need!
Makes 1 serving
For 1 Smoothie: 388 Calories with 37g Carbs, 31g Protein, and 16g Fat
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- ½ cup frozen (or fresh) strawberries
- 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1 cup vanilla almond milk
- 3 to 4 ice cubes
- Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix thoroughly.
Peanut butter can be incorporated into a bodybuilding diet when we’re bulking, maintaining, and cutting as long as we’re mindful about how much we’re eating and when we’re eating it.
About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.