Yams are often grouped in with sweet potatoes but are yams comparable to other potatoes? Can yams provide benefits to our health and performance or are there better calories for bodybuilders?
Here is my quick answer…
So, are yams good or bad for bodybuilding? Yams are good for bodybuilding because it provides a complex carb source for sustained energy before a workout. However, yams are quite dense in carbs and we need to be mindful of the quantity consumed when we are trying to lean out. It’s best to pair yams with protein and fat for optimal body composition.
In this article, I will provide:
- The general health benefits and macronutrient breakdown of yams
- 3 pros and cons of eating yams for bodybuilding
- How much and when to consume yams pre-and post-workout
- A yam recipe for that is macro-friendly for bodybuilders
Yams for Bodybuilding: Overview
Chances are if you head to the grocery store to pick up a yam you are likely picking up a sweet potato instead.
In North America, this has been confusing as yams are a different root vegetable. How can you tell you have found a yam? The easiest way is by looking at the outside of the yam, it will be brown and bumpy with almost a bark-like texture.
You may also be wondering what is the difference between a yam and a sweet potato. A yam will have a starchier, non-sweet inside that is more potato-like. There are also differences in the macronutrient and micronutrient content, let’s dive into that now.
- Looking for more information on potatoes? Check out my article Are Potatoes Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Macronutrient Content of Yams
Yams are primarily made up of carbohydrates, specifically slower digesting carbohydrates that will provide you with a steady stream of energy over a longer period. This makes them a great energy source for bodybuilders to consume before training and provides us with carbs to recover post-workout.
A small yam (approximately 200g) contains:
- 236 calories
- 3g of protein
- 56g of carbs
- 8g of fibre
- 0g of fat.
For a bodybuilder that is cutting, I recommend consuming yams primarily before and after training as this is when carbs will provide the most benefit. If you are consuming them at another meal, try reducing the serving size in half.
For a bodybuilder that is bulking, yams are a great fuel source to consume at any time. They are quite high in volume, meaning they will physically fill your stomach up a lot, so best to not try and consume more than 1 serving in a given meal. If you are looking to increase the calories, it’s best to add a fat source like butter or nut butter on top.
Since yams are one-dimensional and only provide us with carbohydrates, it’s important to consume them in conjunction with other foods that contain protein and fat as these are also important to bodybuilders.
Micronutrient Content of Yams
Yams have plenty of micronutrients and therefore they should be prioritized over more processed carbs such as bread or cereal.
Yams pack a strong nutritional punch with plenty of micronutrients such as potassium, manganese and vitamin C. Replacing some more processed carbs in your diet, such as bread or cereal, is recommended as micronutrients are also important for bodybuilders.
Eating foods with a variety of micronutrients will help your body feel and function at its best, making it easier to pursue your aesthetic goals.
- Want to learn more about high protein foods? Check out our article Healthy Bulking Foods.
3 Pros of Eating Yams For Bodybuilding
The pros of eating yams for bodybuilding are:
- Yams give us energy
- Yams make it easier to lose weight
- Yams provide more micronutrients than other carbs
1. Yams Give Us Energy
Yams are made up almost exclusively of carbs, which is the body’s primary source of energy. The carbs in yams are complex carbs that digest slower, which will give us a slow release of energy over a longer period.
Since yams are so high in carbs, they make a great addition to your pre-workout meal to provide a steady stream of energy throughout your workout. It’s important to consume them at least 1.5 – 2 hours before a workout to provide your body with enough time to break them down.
Yams also make a great addition to a bodybuilder’s lunch to keep them energized throughout the afternoon. Since yams are quite high in carbs, if you are cutting I recommend opting for ½ a serving so the majority of your carbs are consumed around your workout.
2. Yams Can Make It Easier To Lose Weight
Yams are a good source of fibre, 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 that 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 were feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
If you can consume plenty of fibre-rich foods, like yams, that leave you feeling full and satisfied, the easier it will be 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 (Learn more about eating pasta on a high protein diet).
Bodybuilders generally focus on macronutrients in their food, which while important, can lead to an overconsumption of processed carbohydrates that provide very little 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 that are key for bodybuilders such as muscle performance and recovery.
For bodybuilders that are looking to push their physique to the limit, consuming adequate micronutrients can make a noticeable difference in how you are feeling and how enjoyable the process is.
Swapping out one processed carbs a day for a micronutrient dense source like yams will help you feel and perform your best.
- Yams are on our list of high calorie, low sugar foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
3 Cons of Eating Yams For Bodybuilding
The cons of eating yams for bodybuilding are:
- Yams are high in carbs
- Yams do not provide enough protein to build muscle
- Yams do not provide the fat required for healthy hormones
1. Yams Are High in Carbs
Yams are quite a dense source of carbohydrates and are likely not the best choice for a bodybuilder that is cutting.
Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy, but they aren’t required for any bodily function the way that protein and fat are. Therefore, when bodybuilders are cutting, it is often their carb intake that drops.
As a bodybuilder, when your carb intake is low, I recommend sticking to high volume and lower carb options such as squash or vegetables. These will do a better job of filling you up with far fewer carbs.
Yams are better for meals that need to be high in carbs such as pre-or post-workout.
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2. Yams Do Not Provide Enough Protein To Build Muscle
To build muscle, the most important 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 2.4g per kg of body weight should be consumed to build muscle. For example, this means a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 206g of protein per day.
Yams only contain 3g of protein per 200g, meaning it is not a significant source. Protein would need to be consumed from other sources throughout the day to offset this low protein food.
3. Yams Do Not Provide the Fat Required for Healthy Hormones
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 particularly big deal, hormones play a critical role in processes like appetite regulation and weight loss.
For bodybuilders that are looking to lose weight, you can imagine that this would be quite difficult without proper hormone functions. This can be mitigated by ensuring you consume foods that are rich in dietary fat and low in carbs at other meals throughout the day.
Some good examples include nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy products, and olive or coconut oil.
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. It’s best to consume them 1.5 – 2 hours before your workout to provide your body with enough time to break down the carbohydrates.
It’s important to remember yams do contain fibre which we don’t want to consume too much of before a workout as it will slow down the digestion process and leave us with less energy. Therefore, I recommend limiting the yam consumption to 1 small yam or 200g.
If you need more carbs pre-workout, it’s best to add a lower fibre option to your meal such as honey or a banana. These are also quick digesting carbs which are beneficial to pair with a slow-digesting carb, like yams. 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. Ensure you are pairing a lean source of protein with your yams, such as chicken or fish, for the best recovery.
Similar to before a workout, carbs are also important to consume after a workout. This will help replenish your body’s stored energy that is depleted throughout your workout. Yams do not contain any fat, so you can eat as many as needed to meet your personal carb needs.
The Canadian Sport Institute recommends athletes should be consuming 1-1.2g of carbs per kg of bodyweight post-workout for optimal recovery. For a 150lbs/68kg athlete, this would translate to between 68-82g of carbs or 240 – 30g of yams.
In addition to carbs, it’s also important to include protein post-workout.
Research shows consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout has a significant positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle. This process of repair and recovery is what will lead to strength and muscle growth, a key goal of bodybuilding.
Therefore, yams are beneficial to eat post-workout but ensure you are pairing them with a lean protein source for optimal recovery.
Are Yams Good for Muscle Growth?
Yes, yams can help us with muscle growth by providing us with energy for our workouts. However, since yams don’t contain protein it is necessary to pair with a lean protein source to encourage muscle growth.
The most important factor for muscle growth is a sufficient training stimulus and sufficient calories. While yams cannot guarantee that your workout is providing this, they will give you plenty of energy throughout your training session as well as an easy source of calories.
The missing piece that yams don’t have that is also important for muscle growth is protein. Protein is required for muscle repair and growth post-workout so ensure you are consuming a lean protein source with your yams for best results.
Yam Recipe for Bodybuilders
Pre-Workout Yam Recipe: Candied Yams
Candied yams are a great pre-workout meal as they combine slow-digesting carbs and fast-digesting carbs providing plenty of energy throughout your workout.
- 1lb of yams peeled and diced
- ⅔ cup of orange juice
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp butter
- ⅛ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- In a large pot, boil the yams for 15-20 minutes until soft.
- Mix the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for approximately 10 minutes until the sauce is thick.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked yams and mix well.
This recipe makes 3 servings with 276 calories, 2g protein, 58g carbs, 4g fat.
Post-Workout Yam Recipe: Oven Roasted Yams
Roasted yams make for an optimal post-workout meal as it’s high in carbs promoting recovery. Pairing the roast yams with chicken provide 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 1 serving with 432 calories, 38g protein, 56g carbs, 6g fat. For a higher calorie option, increase the serving size of any of the meal’s components.
- Related Article: Can You Build Muscle Without Vegetables? (What Science Says)
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions for eating Yams as a bodybuilder.
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. Since yams are high in fibre, slowing down the energy available, I recommend ~200g or less pre-workout. For meals not around your workout, opt for a ½ serving.
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. To further boost the calories top the yams with other low volume calorie sources like butter and honey.
Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Yams?
Bodybuilders eat yams because they are a micronutrient-rich source of carbohydrates. Carbs are important to bodybuilders to provide you with the energy you need for your workout and recovery post-workout while the micronutrients in yams will keep your body feeling and performing at its best.
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.