Is Roast Beef Good For Muscle Building? A Dietitian Answers

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Roast beef is high-protein and relatively low-fat and sodium. Yet, when it comes to bodybuilding, it’s not discussed as much as other protein sources like chicken or tuna. So, should you add it to your diet to build muscle?

Key Takeaways

  • Given its cooking versatility and good protein-to-fat ratio, roast beef can be used for cutting and bulking. While cutting, combine with more fibrous veggies (e.g., leafy greens).  While bulking, combine with more starchy carbs (e.g., rice, quinoa, or potatoes).
  • When adding roast beef to your muscle-building diet, measure the portions to ensure accuracy, look at the sodium content when buying packaged roast beef (e.g., deli meat), and eat it alongside veggies for more balanced and nutritious meals.
  • Avoid eating roast beef before workouts, but feel free to make roast beef part of your post-workout nutrition, especially alongside high-quality carb sources.  

Roast Beef: Overview

nutritional content of 100 g of lean roast beef cooked


Roast beef is moderately energy-dense, with 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of a lean cut providing 168 calories.

This is less than some high-calorie options, like chicken thighs (which have 221 calories), but more than other protein sources, like shrimp (which has 85 calories).

Because it is neither high nor low in calories, you can modify the portion sizes or sides for cutting and bulking goals.

For example, have roast beef with a large bowl of mixed greens for a low-calorie, high-protein meal during a cut, or pair the meat with rice, potatoes, or beans for extra calories while bulking.


Roast beef only has protein and fats with no carbs. 

First, roast beef is rich in protein, with 100 grams providing 27.7 grams––more than what you get from a scoop of protein powder or in four large eggs

It is also a high-quality protein because it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs, particularly leucine, which is necessary for optimal protein synthesis (i.e., muscle repair and growth). 

Also, roast beef is fairly low in fat compared to other animal sources, with 100 grams providing just 5.6 grams.

In comparison, the same serving of chicken thigh with skin has almost three times as much fat (16.6 grams).

Compared to other red meats, it has a similar content to ground beef, which is 95% lean meat. They both have 5-5.6 grams of fat per 100 grams. 

However, compared to other meat cuts like a T-bone, it has a lower fat content since T-bone has 7.2 grams of fat.


Here are the top three nutrients roast beef offers: 

5 Pros Of Eating Roast Beef

pros of eating roast beef

High In Protein

The recommended protein intake for bodybuilding is 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram or 0.7 to 1 gram per pound. This can be difficult to reach, especially if you’re heavier.

For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, you’d need 140 to 200 grams of protein daily. 

One 100-gram roast beef serving would cover 20% of the minimum required for a 200-lb bodybuilder.

Roast beef is also an affordable protein. Depending on where you buy it and what cut you choose, it could go from $7.89 per pound. While this isn’t cheaper than ground beef, it is cheaper than a T-bone steak. 

Easy To Meal Prep

Roast beef is great for bodybuilding because you can cook a batch and place it in the fridge for the week. This isn’t the case for all types of protein, such as fish, which tastes best when fresh. 

You can also store roast beef in individual portions and freeze it for future use. 

Low in Sodium

A food must contain less than 140 mg of sodium per serving (100 grams) to be classified as low in sodium. 

Roast beef has 54 mg of sodium per 100 grams, making it the best option for bodybuilders who need to control their sodium intake––for example, those with high blood pressure. 

High In Creatine

Creatine is a natural substance found in your body. It helps speed up the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules––the primary energy currency for cells (including muscle cells). 

This is particularly important during exercise when ATP demands increase as much as 1,000-fold.

Thanks to these effects, creatine helps improve muscle recovery, strength, and high-intensity performance, such as weight training.

Better performance means stimulating your muscles more effectively and achieving more growth in the long run.

An intake of 3-10 g of creatine daily appears ideal for bodybuilding. 

Red meat has around 5 grams of creatine per kilogram. You won’t eat a kilogram of roast beef in a single sitting, but you can get a reasonable amount (up to two grams) from several portions.  

Check out my other creatine articles:

Ideal During a Cut

Since roast beef is high in protein and relatively low in calories, it makes the perfect food to feel fuller between meals and more easily reach your protein target without consuming too much fat.

Looking for a simple, fat-loss-friendly roast beef meal? 

Combine six ounces of the meat with a salad (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, some pepper, and some onion, topped with a bit of olive oil, salt, and vinegar).

The whole meal will be 400 calories or less and provide a respectable 55-58 grams of protein while keeping you full for some time.

1 Con of Eating Roast Beef

con of eating roast beef

Source of Saturated Fats

There are approximately 2.5 grams of saturated fats per 100 grams of roast beef.

For reference, the American Heart Association recommends having no more than 5-6% of your total calories from saturated fats since these fats are linked to some health problems.

So, if you need to eat 2,000 calories, you shouldn’t get more than 13 grams of saturated fats daily. For reference, 100 grams of roast beef would cover around 20% of the recommended intake.

That said, here is a bit of insight from Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD:

“The way that meat is raised can also slightly affect its nutritional composition. For example, grass-fed beef is typically lower in total fat and saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids compared with grain-fed beef.”

Can You Eat Roast Beef Before Workouts?

Roast beef is not the best food before workouts because it lacks carbohydrates, the preferred fuel source for muscles. 

Also, the protein and fats in roast beef can take longer to digest, making you feel sluggish.

Since research recommends having up to a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight, better pre-workout foods include ripe bananas, rice, pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, granola, bread, and rice cakes.

For a balanced meal, you can include roast beef (up to two ounces), but give yourself at least two hours for proper digestion.

Can You Eat Roast Beef After Workouts?

Roast beef is an excellent source of high-quality protein that can help repair and grow your muscles. 

Researchers recommend aiming for 0.3-0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight after training for optimal recovery. For a 70-kilogram (154-lb) bodybuilder, that would be 21 to 35 grams, which you can mostly cover with 100 grams of roast beef.

It is vital to have a carb option alongside the roast beef to help replenish your glycogen stores for optimal recovery. Aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of carbs/kilogram and consider a carb like sweet potato, quinoa, or brown rice. 

Some omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., avocado, nuts, or olive oil) and antioxidants (found in many fruits and veggies) may also be good. 

They help reduce inflammation and may support post-exercise recovery

Is Roast Beef Good For Muscle Growth?

Roast beef supports muscle growth by helping you reach your protein needs (1.6-2.2 grams/kilogram or 0.7-1 gram/lb). 

However, it might not be as energy-dense as other protein sources like corned beef

So, depending on your need for calories, you might want to choose a higher-fat protein source.

Put simply:

  • If your protein intake is fine, but you need more calories: Opt for higher-calorie foods, such as corned beef.
  • If your calorie intake is fine, but you need more protein: Roast beef is perfect.

Related: Is Chili Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding? 

Tips For Incorporating Roast Beef Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating roast beef into a bodybuilding diet

Measure the Portion Size

As with any food you eat, measure the portion size to ensure accuracy in your calorie and macro tracking. 

Eyeballing the portion in processed meats is a bit complex since it depends on the thickness and size of the slice. 

Depending on your natural appetite, you may undereat or overeat.

Check The Sodium

Not all roast beef can be low in sodium, especially when discussing deli roast beef. 

Processed meats (like deli proteins) tend to be high in sodium, with as much as 850 mg per 100 grams. That is why it is always important to check the nutritional label. 

When buying any sandwich meat, look for options with less than 140 mg of sodium per 100 grams. 

Have Variety

Remember that every protein and every food has a different nutritional characteristic. 

Although it might be tempting to have roast beef every day, eat different proteins and foods throughout the day. 

This allows for a more varied nutrient intake and leads to a more enjoyable and sustainable dietary approach.

Add Veggies

Аdd some non-starchy veggies when you cook roast beef to increase the dish’s nutritional value. 

For example, a basic option would be roast beef with green beans and potatoes.

Plus, here’s a quick tip from Edibel Quintero, RD:

“A roast beef leftover can be transformed into a stew, soup, or casserole. In these recipes, you can repurpose roast beef into hearty meals without starting from scratch because they require less active preparation time.”

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does Roast Beef Have More Protein Than Chicken?

No, chicken breast has a slightly higher protein content than roast beef––around 31 grams per 100 grams. 

Additionally, chicken breast has two grams less fat than roast beef.


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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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