Peanut butter is a staple in most homes, but you’re probably wondering if it’s a good food to eat for bodybuilding. Here is my take on the matter as a certified nutrition coach.
- Peanut butter is good for both bulking and cutting phases – the only consideration would be the amount you consume. For bulking, you can add it to meals to boost your calorie intake for muscle growth. For cutting, you can use it strategically to control your hunger while in a caloric deficit.
- It’s best to avoid peanut butter for 60-90 minutes before training, as it digests more slowly and could lead to stomach distress.
- Peanut butter has 180-200 calories per serving, but it’s best to check the label and see what constitutes a serving size. People underestimate peanut butter servings and end up ingesting too many calories, which can hinder their fat loss efforts or cause them to gain weight too quickly during a bulk.
Want to learn more about high-protein foods? Check out our guide on Best Foods For Bulking
Peanut Butter: Calories & Macros
Peanut Butter varies in calories based on which variety you’re purchasing, but overall, the calories in peanut butter are between 180 and 200 calories per serving.
Most of the time, the serving size for peanut butter is two tablespoons, but not every brand adheres to this, so it’s essential to read the nutrition label to see what serving size the nutrition info is based on.
Peanut butter is primarily a source of fat because it contains more fat than protein or carbs. The amount of fat that peanut butter has will depend on whether it’s natural or sweetened.
Natural peanut butter has more fat than sweetened peanut butter––around 16 grams of fat in a serving (2 tbsp). In contrast, sweetened peanut butter typically has 8-10 grams of fat in a serving.
That 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 trans fats to the product along with the sugar, reducing the product’s nutritional value.
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.
Another critical point is that peanut butter is often thought of as a protein, but that’s NOT the case.
“Peanut butter contains around 22 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is only slightly lower than the protein content of chicken or beef. However, because peanut butter is calorie dense (due to the higher fat content), you should not use it as your main protein source and try instead to eat a variety of healthy proteins and fats.”– Mike Samuels, Personal Trainer, Sports Massage Therapist, and Fitness Writer
3 Pros Of Eating Peanut Butter For Bodybuilding
1. Peanut Butter Keeps Us Full
A benefit of peanut butter in bodybuilding meals and snacks is that it keeps you full for longer, which is especially helpful when dieting.
When dieting, you consume fewer calories than your body burns daily, making you feel hungrier throughout the day. Eating foods that digest slower and keep you full for longer periods can be very helpful.
“Investigative studies have found the benefits of peanuts, in particular, on weight management and hunger maintenance. This is partly due to its energy density which provides high satiety, and consuming peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut regularly in your diet provides longer-term management of weight. In short, the blend of protein and fats in peanuts results in a little going a long way, allowing you to maintain portion control and even reducing other food cravings.”–Leoni Jesner, ACE-CPT, and Fitness Writer
2. Peanut Butter Is Easy To Consume When Bulking
While beneficial in a fat loss phase, peanut butter can also be advantageous while bulking, too.
Peanut butter is easy to consume and can be added to a meal or snack to increase the calories, which can be beneficial when trygint to achieve a caloric surplus.
For example, add a tablespoon of peanut butter to your protein shake or oatmeal for an extra 100 calories.
Finding foods that are easy to consume and calorie-dense can make bulking or maintaining your weight a much more enjoyable process.
This is particularly true for naturally skinny individuals with smaller appetites who struggle to maintain a calorie surplus.
3. Peanut Butter Is Versatile
Peanut butter is versatile and goes well with many meals or snacks, making it a staple for bodybuilders who are more concerned about hitting their macros.
So, having foods that taste good with almost anything makes the process more enjoyable.
3 Cons of Eating Peanut Butter For Bodybuilding
1. Peanut Butter Is High In Calories
Peanut butter is higher in calories, which means it’s more likely to affect our body weight and body composition.
For those who are bulking, this can make life easier. But the calories could add up quickly for those who are cutting.
It’s not to say you can’t eat peanut butter while cutting, but it’s best to monitor your overall calorie intake for bodybuilding to know if you’re under- or overeating.
2. Peanut Butter Servings Are Usually Overestimated
Most individuals overestimate a serving of peanut butter, making it easy to overeat. To avoid this, you’re likely better off measuring out a serving size.
This may not be an issue if you can consume a few more calories than planned.
However, if you’re in a dieting phase and need to be more diligent about the calories and macronutrients you consume, 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 turn into a trigger food.
Athletes will often struggle to eat in moderation because their cravings are intense, and most bodybuilders have peanut butter on hand.
Two to three tablespoons can be enough to erase the calorie deficit athletes work hard to create, making fat loss impossible.
Can You Eat Peanut Butter Around Workouts?
Peanut butter is high in fat and takes longer to digest, so it’s best to avoid it for 60-90 minutes before working out. Otherwise, it might lead to gastrointestinal distress, making your workouts far less enjoyable.
However, if you’re eating 2 to 3 hours before a workout, it can be paired with protein and carbs for a sufficient pre-workout meal.
- Related: Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout?
You can eat peanut butter after a workout. However, your priorities post-workout should be to consume more carbs and protein than fats.
If eating fats following a workout takes away from your protein and carb consumption, then you should avoid it. But if fats, like peanut butter, are incorporated with sufficient carbs and protein, then there is no issue.
I asked Dietician Brenda Peralta about her thoughts on eating the classic peanut butter & jelly sandwich pre and post-workout, and she said:
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an excellent way to increase 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.”
Does Peanut Butter Help Muscle Growth?
Peanut butter can help muscle growth because it helps you consume more calories. A calorie surplus allows the body to more readily put on muscle.
However, you must also get enough protein––at least 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.
The best recipe for success is a surplus of calories + adequate protein intake + a periodized strength training program = muscle growth.
- Related: Try our Peanut Butter Protein Balls recipe.
Is It Okay To Eat Peanut Butter When Bulking?
Eating peanut butter while you’re bulking is okay because it is higher in calories, which will help you reach your calorie goal for the day.
However, it can also keep you full for longer, so if you eat too much of it, you may be too full to eat again.
If you’re not hungry, it can be more challenging to continue consuming the calories you need to hit your calorie goal.
If you find it challenging to eat enough calories while bulking without getting overly full, then you may want to prioritize more carbohydrates than fats because carbs digest faster.
Peanut Butter Recipes For Bodybuilding
Peanut butter can be incorporated into pre- and post-workout meals if we eat it at the right times and pair it with the right combinations of other macronutrients from other foods.
Peanut Butter & Banana Overnight Oats
Peanut butter is missing carbs and protein to make it an optimal pre-workout meal, so we’ve combined these macronutrients to create creamy oats that can be consumed 2 to 3 hours before your workout for the best results!
Makes two servings
For one 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 of 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.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie
Following a workout, we need protein and carbs primarily, but fats can be added for flavor and satiety. Enter the peanut butter and jelly smoothie, which tastes incredible and delivers all the necessary nutrients.
Makes one 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.
What To Read Next
Kerksick, C., Harvey, T., Stout, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 5, 17 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-5-17
Slater GJ, Dieter BP, Marsh DJ, Helms ER, Shaw G, Iraki J. Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Front Nutr. 2019 Aug 20;6:131. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00131. PMID: 31482093; PMCID: PMC6710320.
Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 7;10(2):180. doi: 10.3390/nu10020180. PMID: 29414855; PMCID: PMC5852756.
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.
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