Is Pizza Good for Bulking? The Surprising Facts

Pizza is one of our favorite foods for calm evenings or a home party with friends. But most probably, you didn’t consider pizza as a food for muscle gain. Should you?

If you are a bodybuilder trying to increase your body mass with muscle gain, this weight gain period is called 'bulking.' In this period, people increase their daily calorie intake while they continue their weight-lifting training. Some may think it is an unhealthy approach. However, it may not necessarily be. If the weight gain or bulking period is planned with scientific recommendations, and the food sources are nutritionally balanced macro- and micronutrients, one can achieve bulk by incorporating various foods, including pizza. In this article, we will discuss how pizza can help you achieve your fitness goals.

What is bulking?

Bulking is a popular term for positive energy balance or calorie surplus nutrition approach, which creates a great anabolic effect in the body and results in body mass increase. This weight gain is likely to include both muscle and fat gain. However, if you combine this period with strength training, you can minimize the fat percentage while gaining muscle mass. Even if you gain fat besides muscle, which may be expected, a dieting period, also known as the 'cutting period,' follows this bulking phase to lose excess fat and keep the gained muscle mass.

When we look at the weight gain guidelines for bodybuilders or other athletes, the suggestion for off-season calorie surplus nutrition for bodybuilders weight gain consists of a 10–20% calorie increase for 0.25–0.5% weight gain per week. It was also suggested in another literature review that a 300–1,000 calorie increase daily should be prioritized.

How do you structure a bulking diet?

The protein consumption recommendations slightly differ depending on the literature, yet for muscle gain purposes, it is generally recommended to consume 1.6–2.2 g/kg/day protein divided throughout the day to 0.40–0.55 g/kg per meal. Fat consumption can be in the moderate range of 0.5–1.5 g/kg/day, and the rest of the calories should be coming from carbohydrates. Consumption of these nutrients may be distributed throughout the day according to individual preferences (3–6 meals).

Some experts suggest that protein and carbohydrates should be consumed within 1–2 hours pre- and post-training to better promote muscle mass gain or muscle repair. However, while some studies suggest that the post-workout meal time can be extended up to 5–6 hours, some studies even state that meal timing is secondary in terms of muscle gain and function as long as you can meet daily protein and carbohydrate needs.

Is pizza good for bulking?

Yes, pizza might be used for bulking as it is a calorie-dense food.

If we analyze macronutrients in pizza layer by layer, a great portion of the pizza dough is carbohydrates from flour. It may also contain olive oil, yeast, salt, and sugar. Tomato paste generally does not have much calorie contribution, but it includes several bioactive compounds like antioxidant lycopene. The cheese, generally used as mozzarella, is a protein and fat source. All of these ingredients make pizza seem like a balanced meal. However, it all depends on portion size, main ingredients and toppings, and the sides that you consume with pizza.

Not all pizza is created equally, and while some restaurants may use high-quality ingredients, some pizza in fast food restaurants can contain processed meats, excessive salt amounts, and be high in saturated fats that should be limited in our diet.

However, pizza is still a calorie-dense food that might help you meet certain caloric and nutrient goals while bulking, but it is important to include other foods providing vitamins, minerals, and fiber to not only aid in weight gain but also support your optimal health.

One slice of fast food restaurant pizza includes 285 calories, 35.6 g of carbohydrates,12.2 g of proteins, and 10.4 g of fat.

Pros of eating pizza while bulking

Here are some benefits of consuming pizza for bulking.

1. Calorie-dense

Pizza is a calorie-dense food, typically high in carbohydrates and fats, but it also includes some protein. These are all the essential macronutrients in a calorie surplus diet for supporting weight gain and muscle growth, and these macronutrients of pizza may be one of the meals for individuals on a mass gain diet. Therefore, it can be an efficient option for meeting the increased energy demands of a bulking phase, especially for individuals struggling to consume enough calories.

2. Convenient

Pizza is available from numerous restaurants and can be easily ordered for delivery or picked up on the go. This can ensure that you are getting a nutritious and satisfying meal to support your bulking goals.

3. Customizable

You can customize your pizza while you are making it at home or ordering from a pizzeria to make it fit your specific macronutrient requirements and taste preferences. You can prepare it with low-fat, high-protein cheese options or increase nutrient density by adding healthier toppings like grilled chicken and vegetables.

Cons of eating pizza while bulking

While the benefits may seem enticing, there are some notable drawbacks.

1. Hign in saturated fat

A traditional pizza may contain a high amount of saturated fat due to cheese and meat toppings. When consumed in excess, saturated fat may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, lead to fat gain, and negatively impact overall health.

2. Lack of fiber and micronutrients

While pizza does provide a high amount of calories and macronutrients, it may lack the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in whole food sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Therefore, relying too heavily on pizza for calorie intake during a bulking phase may result in nutrient deficiencies and compromise overall health and performance.

3. High in sodium

Due to the toppings, primarily processed meats and sauces, pizza can become high in sodium. Excessive sodium intake can lead to bloating, water retention, and increased blood pressure. It was shown that the risk of cardiovascular disease increased up to 6% for every 1 g increase in dietary sodium intake.

How to incorporate pizza into a bulking diet

To incorporate pizza into a bulking diet, you can prepare your own pizza at home or go for customizable restaurant-made versions for healthier ingredients. You can change the traditional crusts with whole-grain crusts and add lean protein toppings like grilled chicken or turkey. It is important to add plenty of fresh leafy greens such as parsley, basil, and arugula on top to get some fiber and micronutrients.

All in all, while pizza can be an addition to your diet for bulking purposes, moderation is key. Overconsumption can lead to changes in blood pressure and weight. The development of cardiovascular diseases and nutrient deficiencies is also a possibility. Before adding or taking anything from your diet, it's best to consult your nutritionist to preserve your optimal health and ensure a safe and healthy bulking process.

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