Pasta has become a popular choice of food for bodybuilders.
It is used as a source of carbohydrates and easily burnable calories. When it comes to a bodybuilding diet, the requirements are obviously different from a ‘normal’ diet.
A general diet requires the macronutrients and micronutrients in an even proportion. This is not the case with a bodybuilding diet!
For bodybuilders, proteins and carbohydrates are of the utmost importance. And pasta is a great source of carbohydrates!
So, yes. Bodybuilders DO eat pasta, a lot of it as a matter of fact. It’s great for muscle growth, replenishing energy before or after a workout, and the carbs even make your muscles ‘pop’ more!
In this piece we try to understand the role of carbohydrates in the body, how pastas are a good source of carbohydrates, lastly we will look at different types of pastas and which one might be the best for you.
Pasta – An Ideal Source of Carbohydrates and Calories
Pasta is rich in carbs and calories. But wait, do bodybuilders need that much carbs and calories? The answer is yes.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy resource. They help the body do ‘work’. When you’re working out, the muscles are actually breaking down digested carbohydrates to work those muscles.
So as a bodybuilder, it makes sense to have a lot of carbohydrates in your diet. The secret is to not let it accumulate and keep burning it.
With that said, there are many different types of pasta and not all of them have the same nutritional breakdown. Let us take a look at some of the common types of pasta.
Whole Grain vs. Regular Pasta
The two broad categories of pasta are the whole grain or ‘brown’ pasta and regular pasta or the ‘white’ pasta.
The main difference between the two types is how the grain seeds are processed. The three main parts of a grain seed are bran, germ and endo.
When the regular pasta seeds are refined before making pasta, the seeds end up losing their bran – the outer shell of the seed.
This gives the regular pasta a white appearance, whereas whole grain pasta remains brown because the bran is still present.
The following table summarises nutritional breakdown between the two types of pasta.
|Nutrient||Whole Grain Pasta||Regular Pasta|
|Carbohydrates||32 grams||40 grams|
|Proteins||7 grams||8.5 grams|
|Calories||170 cal||220 cal|
The above values are for one cup of cooked pasta. We can immediately see that regular/white pasta reigns supreme in terms of carbohydrate content.
Surprisingly it also does better than whole grain pasta for proteins and overall calorie content.
Vitamin and Mineral Comparison
Bran – the outermost shell of the seed is rich in a lot of different nutrients.
These are critical nutrients in the whole grain pasta are completely lost in regular white pasta.
Firstly, fiber content. Whole grain pasta contains almost triple the amount of fiber found in white pasta.
Fiber is important to keep the guts healthy and body waste free. Whole grain pasta is also richer in vitamin content, especially vitamin B.
Overall, brown pasta offers a much better combination of the different nutrients while regular pasta offers carbohydrates that can be easily digested and utilized fast by the body.
Pasta For Muscle Growth
Rich Source of Carbs
Pasta is considered as one of the best sources of carbohydrates. How is that related to bodybuilding? Well, carbs are what make your muscles do any work.
Without carbohydrates the muscles won’t have any energy and there won’t be any ‘work’ out.
We’ve already discussed the two broad types of pasta – regular and white.
Brown pasta is recommended for pre workout meals.
This is because the body requires a full meal before a workout. Brown pasta contains a great mix of macro and micro nutrients. It contains a huge fill of carbohydrates which your body can use throughout the workout.
Basically adding pasta to your pre workout meal will avoid feelings of hunger or sudden exhaustion in the middle of your workout. This will help you overload your muscles to their maximum capacity, leading to high gains.
Pair your pre workout pasta with a rich source of protein such as beef for a perfect meal.
White pasta is suitable for post workout meals. The body’s needs are dramatically different post workout than pre workout. After a workout:
- The body has already depleted its readily available source of energy
- The body is looking to repair the micro damage caused during the workout
White pasta is perfect to eat after a workout, comparable to whole grain pasta. It is easier for the body to digest and convert into energy. So the body can derive a lot of energy quickly. This helps the cells and tissues replenish their hunger and they can work on muscular repair.
Timing Your Meals Right
Pre and post workout differ not only in terms of nutrient content, but also how you time them. A pre workout meal has a much diverse set of nutrients.
It is ‘heavier’ in comparison to a post workout meal. A pre workout meal is basically there to ‘ready’ your body for the upcoming heavy lifting and work.
It is therefore wise to have your meals at least two hours before your main workout. This gives the body ample time to digest the food and ready the resources to be depleted.
A post workout meal on the other hand is designed to supply rapid energy and slow protein to the body. After a workout, the body is basically begging for energy. Huge amounts of glycogen and glucose is used up by the cells of the muscles and the heart.
This is the cost of repeated muscle contraction and pumping blood through the veins. A post workout meal therefore needs to be taken shortly after the workout. If you give it too much time, you run the risk of starving the tissues. Including pasta in your post workout meals will help replenish that carbohydrate resource quite fast.
Getting back to the important question – yes, bodybuilders do eat pasta!
It is a great source of calories and easily digestible energy for the body. Before a workout, pasta meals can be used to “calorie load” the body for maximum output at the gym. Post a workout, pasta meals help generate energy easily for the starved cells which allows for muscle repair and build up easily.