If you’re a bodybuilder scrutinizing every meal for maximum muscle gain and fat loss, you’ve likely pondered the place of yams in your diet. As a nutrition coach, I’ll cut through the noise to evaluate yams as a powerhouse or pitfall in your bodybuilding journey.
- Yams are good for bodybuilding because they provide a complex carb source for sustained energy before a workout. However, you must give yourself at least 1.5 hours for digestion before training.
- A small yam provides 56 grams of carbs, which is considered very “carb-dense”. This is great during a bulking phase when you need to consume more carbs and calories. During a cutting phase, you can still eat yams, but you’ll need to be mindful of the portion size.
- Yams are a good source of fiber (8 grams) and provide vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, which help support your immune system, muscle contractions, and bone growth. Their rich nutritional profile makes them better than processed carbs like bread, cereal, and white rice.
Yams Overview: Macros, Calories, and Nutrients
Macronutrient Content of Yams
Yams are primarily made up of slow-digesting carbohydrates that provide a steady stream of energy over a longer period.
A small yam (approximately 200g) contains:
- 236 calories
- 3g of protein
- 56g of carbs
- 8g of fibre
- 0g of fat.
For a bodybuilder on a cut, I recommend consuming yams primarily before and after training, as this is when carbs will provide the most benefit.
For a bodybuilder on a bulk, yams are an excellent fuel source to consume any time of day as calories and carbs aren’t as restricted.
With that said, yams are high in volume, meaning they will physically fill your stomach.
So if you have a hard time always feeling full while bulking, you might want to limit your yam consumption to 1-2 servings per day and get the remaining carbs from other sources.
If you want to increase the calories even further during a bulk, add a fat source like butter or nut butter on top of the yam.
Micronutrient Content of Yams
Yams have plenty of micronutrients, so they should be prioritized over more processed carbs, such as bread or cereal.
Yams pack a solid nutritional punch with plenty of micronutrients such as:
- Potassium (17% of daily needs per 100g)
- Manganese (22% of daily needs)
- Vitamin C (28% of daily needs)
Eating foods with various micronutrients will help your body feel and function at its best, making it easier to pursue your aesthetic goals.
For instance, here is what registered dietitian Cheri Bantilan wrote about some of the nutrients found in yams:
“Yams are not only an excellent source of fiber but also high in potassium and manganese, which are important for supporting bone health, growth, metabolism, and heart function. Yams also provide decent amounts of other micronutrients, such as copper and vitamin C. Copper is vital for red blood cell production and iron absorption, while vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that can boost your immune system.”
- Related: Healthy Bulking Foods
Pros of Eating Yams
1. Yams Give You Energy
Yams are made up almost exclusively of carbs, the body’s primary energy source.
Since yams are so high in carbs, they make a great addition to your pre-workout meal to provide steady energy throughout your workout.
Consuming them at least 1.5 – 2 hours before a workout is vital to give your body enough time to break them down.
Here’s what Jillian Levy, a senior health writer at Dr. Axe, has to say:
“Tubers, including yams, are a good source of fiber, starch and energy. Compared to refined grains, most root vegetables are also lower in calories and lower on the glycemic index, which means they won’t spike your blood sugar as much.”
2. Yams Can Make It Easier To Lose Weight
Yams are a good source of fiber, which slows down digestion, helping you to feel full and satisfied long after eating. This makes it easier to stick to a low-calorie diet and lose weight.
This is particularly helpful for bodybuilders who are cutting.
Think about the last time you went over your daily calories. I’m guessing it was overindulging in higher-calorie food when you felt hungry and unsatisfied.
If you can consume plenty of fiber-rich foods, like yams, that leave you feeling full and satisfied, it will be easier to stick to a lower-calorie diet long-term.
3. Yams Provide More Micronutrients Than Other Carbs
Yams are better than other processed carbs, such as bagels, instant noodles, or pasta, since they provide more micronutrients.
Micronutrients are critical for all bodily functions, so any deficiencies can leave you not feeling your best.
It can also impact your bodily functions, such as muscle performance and recovery, which are key for bodybuilders.
For bodybuilders looking to push their physique to the limit, consuming adequate micronutrients can make a noticeable difference in how they feel and how enjoyable the process is.
- Yams are on our list of High-Calorie Low-Sugar Foods (click to learn more)
4. Yams Are Easy to Cook
As a bodybuilder, you can probably appreciate how frustrating and time-consuming cooking can be, especially when bulking and having to eat 3,000-4,000+ calories daily.
An underrated benefit of yams in a bodybuilding diet is that they are easy to cook. You can boil and bake them or even pop them in the microwave.
The best part? You can cook them in larger quantities to have a solid carb source for several days in advance.
Plus, you can prepare them sweet or savory to keep your diet interesting and make it easier to eat your daily calories. I’ve shared two delicious yam recipes below.
Cons of Eating Yams
1. Yams Are High in Carbs
While this is a benefit, it can also be a drawback for those who are in cutting phases. It’s not to say you can’t eat yams while cutting, but you’ll definitely want to track your intake.
As a bodybuilder, I recommend sticking to high volume and lower carb options such as squash or vegetables when your carb intake is low. These will do a better job of filling you up with far fewer carbs.
Yams are better for meals high in carbs, such as pre- or post-workout.
- Are Nachos Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Oatmeal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Are Potatoes Good For Bodybuilding?
2. Yams Do Not Provide Enough Protein To Build Muscle (On Their Own)
To build muscle, the most crucial factor is consuming enough protein so your body has what it needs for your muscles to repair and recover post-workout.
Research indicates that a protein intake of 1.6g per kg of body weight should be consumed to build muscle. For example, a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 144g of protein daily.
Yams only contain 3g of protein per 200g, which is not a significant source. As such, you’ll want to pair yams with a high-quality protein source.
3. Yams Do Not Provide the Fat Required for Healthy Hormones (On Their Own)
Yams are primarily carbs and do not provide any dietary fat, which is critical for your body’s hormone functions.
While this may not seem like a huge deal, hormones play a critical role in appetite regulation and weight loss.
This would be pretty difficult for bodybuilders looking to lose weight without proper hormone functions.
This can be mitigated by ensuring you consume foods rich in dietary fat and low in carbs at other meals throughout the day:
- Natural oils (coconut, avocado, olive, etc.)
- Egg yolk
- Fatty fish
- Full-fat dairy
Can You Eat Yams Before Workouts?
Yes, you can consume yams before a workout, as they are an ideal source of energy to fuel a workout.
Consuming them 1.5 – 2 hours before your workout is best to give your body enough time to break down the carbohydrates.
Remember, yams contain fiber, which slows down digestion and may leave you with less energy. Therefore, I recommend limiting the consumption to one small yam or 200g.
If you need more carbs pre-workout, adding a lower-fiber, fast-digesting option to your meal, such as honey, dried fruit, a granola bar, or a fruit, is best.
This will ensure you have a quick source of energy for the start of your workout and sustained energy throughout.
Can You Eat Yams After Workouts?
Yes, you can consume yams post-workout. Since they are high-carb, fat-free food, they are an optimal choice easily customized to meet your personal carb needs.
Data recommends that athletes consume 1g of carbs per kg of bodyweight post-workout for optimal recovery.
For a 150lbs/68kg athlete, this would translate to 68 carbs or 245g of yams.
Research also shows that consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout significantly impacts muscle protein synthesis.
Ensure you are pairing a lean source of protein with your yams, such as chicken or fish, for the best recovery.
The protein would promote muscle repair, whereas carbs would replenish lost glycogen.
Are Yams Good for Muscle Growth?
Yes, yams can help you build muscle by providing energy for your workouts.
However, since yams don’t contain protein, pairing them with a lean protein source is necessary to encourage muscle growth.
The most critical factors for muscle growth are a sufficient training stimulus and sufficient calories.
While yams cannot guarantee that your workout provides this, they will give you plenty of energy throughout your training session and are an easy source of calories.
Yam Recipes for Bodybuilders
Here’s my favorite bodybuilding-friendly yam recipe:
Oven Roasted Yams
Roasted yams make for an optimal post-workout meal as they’re high in carbs, promoting recovery. Pairing the roast yams with chicken provides the protein required for muscle repair and growth.
- 1 small yam (~200g)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ¼ salt
- ¼ garlic powder
- 4oz chicken breast cooked per your preference
1. Dice the yams. Place in a large bowl and toss in olive oil and seasoning.
2. Lay the yams on a baking sheet, ensuring the pieces are not touching.
3. Bake at 400 for 30 – 40 minutes until the inside is soft and the outside is browned.
4. While the yams are roasting, cook the chicken breast according to your preference.
This recipe makes one serving with 432 calories, 38g protein, 56g carbs, and 6g fat. Increase the serving size of any of the meal’s ingredients for a higher-calorie option.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Time To Eat Yams for Bodybuilding?
The best time to eat yams for bodybuilding is pre-and post-workout, as yams are high in carbs, providing optimal fuel for your workout and promoting recovery.
Are Yams Good for Gaining Weight?
Yes, yams are good for gaining weight because they are a dense source of carbs, meaning you can get more calories without the food taking up as much room in your stomach, keeping you from feeling uncomfortably full.
Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Yams?
Bodybuilders eat yams because they are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, potassium, complex carbs, and fiber. Yams are easy to cook in bulk and could be prepared in many ways to add much-needed variety to a bodybuilding diet.
Obidiegwu, J.E.; Lyons, J.B.; Chilaka, C.A. The Dioscorea Genus (Yam)—An Appraisal of Nutritional and Therapeutic Potentials. Foods 2020, 9, 1304. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9091304
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.
Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-17. Erratum in: J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:18. PMID: 18834505; PMCID: PMC2575187.
Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
About The Author
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.
Why Trust Our Content
On Staff at FeastGood.com, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to every email within 1 business day.