Any food that has a high protein content, like quinoa, will capture the attention of the bodybuilding community.
So, is quinoa good or bad for bodybuilding? Quinoa is great for bodybuilders because it is a plant-based protein source and is considered a “complete protein”. This means that it has all the essential amino acids required for effective muscle-building. Quinoa can be used to boost your daily protein intake or as part of a plant-based bodybuilding approach.
If you’re looking to add quinoa to your bodybuilding diet, there are a few things you need to know in terms of meal timing and portion sizes.
In this article, I will explore everything related to quinoa and bodybuilding, including:
- The calories and macronutrients in quinoa
- The pros and the cons of adding quinoa to your bodybuilder diet
- Whether it’s better to eat quinoa before or after a workout
- Tips to include quinoa into your bodybuilder diet
Quinoa For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutritional Content of Quinoa
You can find the following nutritional information in 1 cup of cooked quinoa (185 g).
- Calories: 222
- Carbs: 39.4 g
- Fiber: 5.2 g
- Protein: 8.1 g
- Fats: 3.6 g
Quinoa is a food that is moderate in calories. In one cup of cooked quinoa, you get 222 kcal, the same as having two and a half slices of toast.
Whether you are in a bulking, cutting, or maintenance phase, quinoa has the versatility to adapt to any of those stages.
If you are in a bulking phase, it can help you add the extra calories you need for a caloric surplus, which helps your muscles grow.
In a cutting phase, you can also include quinoa, but you’ll just have to be more precise with measuring the portion size. That way, you are not going over your daily calories.
Quinoa has all the macronutrients your body needs: carbs, proteins, and fats.
One cup of quinoa has almost 40 grams of carbs. A bodybuilder needs a high carb intake to help provide sufficient energy during the day, as well as throughout tough training sessions. Since a bodybuilder’s diet could range from 40-50% of carbs per day (out of their total daily caloric intake), quinoa is a great way to achieve this macro range.
Regarding protein intake, quinoa is exceptionally high in protein when compared to other grains like rice and corn. One cup of quinoa has the same amount of protein as one large egg. For a bodybuilder trying to reduce the animal protein in their diet or having trouble reaching their total protein intake, quinoa is a great solution.
A bodybuilder needs an average of 1.6-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Since this is higher than the average person, bodybuilders should find diverse protein sources, like quinoa, so that they don’t get sick of eating a single source of protein every day (i.e. eating chicken or eggs for every meal).
Finally, although quinoa doesn’t contain a lot of fats, it still has some. In one cup of quinoa, you can find 3.5 g of fat, which is the same as ½ teaspoon of olive oil. The fat composition of quinoa is mostly from unsaturated fats, the type of healthy fats for your heart.
- Eating quinoa is a great way to increase your protein intake while keeping your fat low
One of the benefits of quinoa is that it is very high in nutrients. However, this section will talk about those with higher than 15% of the recommended daily value that you can get from quinoa and how it benefits a bodybuilder.
- Thiamin. This vitamin from the vitamin B complex helps turn the food you eat into usable energy for the body. Additionally, it helps with tissue repair. When you are working out, your muscle fibers breakdown. They need to be repaired afterward for your muscles to grow. Thiamin helps in this process.
- Vitamin B6. This vitamin helps break down muscle glycogen. Muscle glycogen is a type of carb that you have in your muscles to provide energy when working out. Thus, when you are training, this vitamin is responsible for breaking that energy from your muscles so you can use it to move.
- Magnesium. It plays an important role in sleep regulation. Those that supplement with magnesium before sleep, seem to fight insomnia symptoms. During sleep is where your muscles repair and grow. Thus, it plays a vital role in muscle formation.
- Copper. Along with iron, it helps in the formation of red blood cells. They are the ones in charge of transporting oxygen and nutrients into tissue. This means that they are the responsible ones for your muscles to get enough oxygen and nutrients to work out and grow.
My favorite no salt, no sugar spices are made by Flavor God. Read more in my article: Is Flavor God Healthy? (We Asked A Nutrition Coach)
3 Pros Of Eating Quinoa For Bodybuilding
Here are the 3 pros of eating quinoa if you are a bodybuilder.
High in Fiber
One of the advantages of quinoa is its high fiber intake. One cup of fiber has 18% of the recommended daily intake. A high fiber diet is beneficial in order to have optimal gut health. It helps fight constipation, reduces cholesterol levels, and helps increase fullness.
For a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, this last attribute (increasing fullness) is essential to prevent feelings of hunger during the day while cutting calories.
In contrast, when you eat a carb source that is low in fiber (like instant noodles), you’ll feel more hungry, which might make you prone to snacking heavily between meals or overeating at your next meal. Not good if you’re looking to control your caloric intake during a weight loss phase.
Complete Protein Source
Animal protein is considered to be a complete protein since it has all the amino acids that the body needs to build muscle.
On the other hand, plant-based protein is considered incomplete because it doesn’t have all the amino acids that you need, which is why a lot of vegans and vegetarians rely heavily on supplementation or need to combine several plant-based protein options
However, quinoa is one of the few plant-based options with all the essential amino acids your body needs. Thus, it is considered a complete high-quality, complete protein (like chicken, fish, or meat).
- Related Articles: 14 Grains With The Most Protein (Complete List) and other beans with highest protein
Gluten-free and Versatile
Another advantage of quinoa is that it is gluten-free. For bodybuilders that have celiacs disease or that are gluten intolerant, quinoa is a great option to help you reach your daily carb goals without worrying about having any gastrointestinal problems due to gluten.
Additionally, quinoa is a very versatile food. This means that you can have it either in savory or sweet dishes. I’ve even known bodybuilders to substitute their morning oatmeal with a bowl of quinoa ‒ making it ideal to eat at any meal throughout the day (I’ll give my favorite recipes below).
- Quinoa is a low FODMAP food, which is great for people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Click to check out my other low FODMAP foods that are good for bodybuilders
1 Con of Eating Quinoa For Bodybuilding
There is only one con of eating quinoa if you are a bodybuilder.
Although it might not be the case for everyone, some people have issues with high-fiber foods. Some of the symptoms include bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
If you are not used to having high fiber foods, you might want to start slowly adding quinoa to your diet. Also, if you are increasing your fiber intake, make sure to increase your water intake. Fiber needs water in order to work properly. If you increase fiber without adding water, instead of fighting constipation you might even make it worse.
Read more about other high fiber foods:
Can You Eat Quinoa Before Workouts?
As a carb, including quinoa before a workout is good in order to provide the body with energy. However, it might not be the best option for people who have slower digestion since it is a food high in fiber. This can lead to gastric distress, which could result in impaired performance.
If you are going to include quinoa before training due to its high fiber content. Make sure to add it 1-2 hours before training. This will give you plenty of time to digest part of the quinoa and provide you with the necessary energy that you need.
Can You Eat Quinoa After Workouts?
After training, you need to replenish the energy lost during your workout. Carbs are the preferred energy source for the body. By giving your body quinoa after training, it allows it to be used as energy, and protein for muscle repair instead of energy. Therefore, quinoa is good to eat post-workout.
Besides being a good carb source, it also contains some protein to help you repair and grow your muscles. However, the amount found in quinoa is not enough for a bodybuilder. Thus, make sure to include a protein source along with quinoa after training. You can include a protein shake, eggs, chicken, or fish.
Is Quinoa Good For Muscle Growth?
Quinoa provides a lot of calories for not a lot of food, making it easy to achieve a caloric surplus if bulking. Also, quinoa has a good amount of high-quality protein, which helps in muscle growth and repair. With that said, you’ll still need to add more protein in addition to quinoa if your goal is to gain muscle.
To gain muscle, you need to have a caloric surplus. This means consuming more calories than your body needs. Since it is moderate-to-high in calories, Quinoa allows you to reach those necessary calories to gain muscle.
- Related Article: Quinoa vs. Brown Rice For Bodybuilding: Which Is Better?
Tips For Incorporating Quinoa Into A Bodybuilding Diet
Here are some tips and tricks that I recommend for people looking to include quinoa into their bodybuilder diet:
Add Some Flavor
Quinoa doesn’t really have a lot of taste. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. The most common problem I hear people say about quinoa is that they don’t know how to cook it to avoid making it bland tasting.
Add lots of herbs and spices to the mix. One thing I typically do when cooking quinoa is saute it with onion, garlic, and olive oil before adding some water. This increases the flavor of quinoa.
You can also add other spices like basil, cumin, or oregano. You cannot go wrong with natural herbs.
Here are two of my favorite quinoa recipes.
- Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach, and Quinoa Salad from CookieAndKate.com
- Broccoli Pesto Quinoa Salad from LoveAndLemons.com
Have It For Breakfast
Here are some breakfast cereals made with quinoa that you can purchase from Amazon:
You can also make a delicious quinoa breakfast bowl if you want to try a new recipe.
Here is one of my favorite plant-based recipes that you can try from CookieAndKate.com.
Include It In Your Salad
If you are looking for something crunchy added to your salads, try with quinoa instead of croutons high in carbs and fats.
Adding quinoa to your salads gives you that extra crunchiness that you are after but with a punch of nutrients.
If I want something extra crunchy, I put them in the oven or the air fryer for a couple of minutes for them to get a little bit more toasty.
Substitute For Rice
For those trying to have a more plant-based approach, a tip is to replace your grain options or potatoes with quinoa. Rice, corn, and potatoes are not very high in protein (they can have 3 g of protein depending on the type).
By switching rice with quinoa, you can significantly increase your protein intake. Thus, relying less on animal proteins.
Include It Into Your Smoothies
Another way to help you add calories to your diet without adding too much volume and making you feel stuffed during the day is by adding quinoa to your smoothies. Once the quinoa is cooked, add one cup of quinoa to your protein shake instead of oatmeal.
This will help you increase your caloric intake and provide healthy carbs and protein.
If you don’t like depending on protein shakes, adding some quinoa into your diet can help you decrease the number that you put. For example, by combining 1 cup of quinoa with one cup of milk, you get 16 g of protein (almost half of a protein shake). Thus, you only have to add half a scoop of a protein shake to obtain 30 g of protein.
Other Carb Foods For Bodybuilding:
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.