One of the most common questions I get is what type of carbs bodybuilders should eat. While the majority of athletes form their meals around (sweet) potatoes and rice, the truth is that all sources of carbs have a place in your diet. And one of the most beloved foods is – you guessed it – pasta!
So is pasta good for bodybuilding? In this short article, we will take an in-depth look at what exactly pasta is and whether it is a good idea to add this food source in your diet.
What is pasta made from?
Pasta is a combination of wheat flour and eggs, formed into sheets and then cut into the preferred shape. Not all pasta is the same, however. Nowadays many brands of pasta are experimenting with variations that contain different types of flour (e.g. chickpea flour, pea flour, etc.). To clarify, this post will deal only with traditional pasta (based on wheat flour).
Is Pasta Good For Bodybuilding?
Let’s start with something you should keep in mind every time you ask carb-related questions. One gram of carbs is one gram of carbs, no matter the source it is coming from. The caloric weight of a carb is always 4 kcal per gram, no matter its source. So when it comes to weight loss, pasta is no better or worse than potatoes or table sugar.
However, many bodybuilders tend to think otherwise. Some will say that pasta is great for bulking but not for cutting. Others will say that you should avoid all wheat carbs. So what is really the truth?
The truth is that pasta is a great carb source for bodybuilding, but there are things you should keep in mind. And we will describe these bellow.
1. Glycemic index of pasta
The glycemic index indicates whether carbs are released rapidly or slowly after they are consumed. Usually, high glycemic foods like table sugar and fruits are best consumed during or right after a workout. Low glycemic foods are best consumed during all other times of the day, to promote satiety and high levels of energy.
Pasta has a glycemic index of 42, which is similar to buckwheat or brown rice. Whole grain pasta is slightly lower than that, with a GI or 37. Since the upper limit of low glycemic foods is 55, we know that pasta is a low glycemic food. As such, it makes a great pre-workout meal (±2 hours before training). In fact, pasta is a great carb source for all meals of the day apart from directly post-workout.
2. Refined grains and your gut
One of the things that makes bodybuilding interesting is that every single person is different. Some will digest pasta easily while others will struggle to do so. Some will enjoy eating the food while others will force each spoonful down in agony.
Overall, pasta is hard to digest for some people. The best way to understand whether you belong to this group is to experiment on your self. This is done by implementing an elimination diet for ±30 days and then slowly introducing new food sources for testing. If pasta causes inflammation to your gut it might be best to leave the food out of your diet. The same goes for any other food source. Even if others praise it as “the best” option, it might just not be the best option for you. Listen to your gut and you will know.
3. What do you eat pasta with?
Pasta as a food source is pretty straightforward. Similar carb density as rice but a higher protein content. It’s great for bodybuilders that need to eat lots of calories since it is considered to be “heavier” than other options. However, it’s not just the pasta, but also what you eat it with. If you eat pasta with a cream-based sauce, the amount of fat will probably exceed your daily limits. If you eat it with 150gr of chick breast you might hit your macros, but you may not like the taste. The goal is to find a way to eat pasta that helps it digest faster (boiled & a lean protein source) but still maintain a good taste (Add veggies and spices).
4. Pasta macros
Are you wondering how many calories are in a bowl of pasta? Or do you want to measure it using grams? Counting macros will help you fit pasta into your diet without any issues. But remember, macros changed when pasta is dry and when it’s cooked. More specifically:
Dry pasta (per 100gr): 13gr protein / 73gr carbohydrates / 1.5gr fat
Cooked pasta (per 100gr): 5gr protein / 25gr carbohydrates / 0.8gr fat
How Bodybuilders Should Cook Pasta (Taste and Digestion)
The reason pasta is such a “heavy” food is that most recipes blend large amounts of all three macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat). But this doesn’t necessarily have to be so. There are many recipes online that can show you how to easily prepare highly nutritious pasta dishes that are friendly to your gut and digest easily. Here is one of them by Michael Kory: