Eating enough calories can be one of the most difficult parts of a bulking phase. And for many, it results in resorting to slightly less healthy foods to make up those calories – often called dirty bulking foods.
These foods are often calorie-dense but lack nutrient density so while you can get a good number of calories per serving (ideal for a bulk), the macronutrient profile will not be beneficial.
A popular bulking food people often turn to is Nutella. This is a weakness for many people when dieting on a cut but as soon as it gets to bulking season, people eat it straight from the jar!
The question is though, is Nutella good for bulking, or is it something that you should be avoiding?
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What is Nutella?
Nutella is a nut-based spread made from hazelnuts that were mainly created because chocolate was a more valued ingredient, so mixing it with nuts allowed the creators to make the chocolate go further.
** Nutella is the most popular and widely used brand, however, Nutella itself isn’t the food group. Nutella is a hazelnut spread so depending on where you are in the world, just know that when we refer to Nutella, the same information will apply to a generic hazelnut spread.
Some people use Nutella as a substitute for other nut butters such as peanut butter if, for example, they don’t like the taste. However, it is a lot less healthy and contains more unnatural macronutrients that aren’t ideal for bulking.
Related – Is peanut butter good for bulking
Most people will have Nutella on a sandwich or on toast, however, it can be incorporated into your meal plan through a wide variety of forms such as in oats or a shake.
This makes it a versatile option, especially for bulking but let’s take a look at the calorie content of Nutella before getting too carried away.
How Many Calories are in Nutella?
Nutella is a very calorie-dense food. This means that there is a high calorie to weight or volume ratio. This also enables you to get a lot of calories in a small serving.
Calorie-dense foods are good for bulking as you can eat smaller, less filling meals but still get a significant amount of calories to support a calorie surplus.
Here are the exact calories:
|Per portion (15g)
|of which Saturates g
|of which Sugars g
As you can see, there are roughly 530 calories in 100g of Nutella, which is a truly staggering amount!
In a sandwich, the regular serving size would be anywhere between 25 and 50 grams. This means this can bring up to 265 calories in the form of a small snack.
On top of that when you include the 2 slices of bread and any butter you may choose to add, this can bring an extra 465 calories to your everyday meal plan.
This can all be consumed in a matter of minutes on the way to work, before hitting the gym, or simply in the evenings to reach your calorie goals.
When comparing this to peanut butter, there is very little difference between the two.
Peanut butter contains around 50 calories more per 100g which isn’t a huge difference. However, the main issue is the fact of Nutella has a higher sugar content and unhealthy fat content. This is one of the main cons of Nutella as it may contribute to gaining unwanted fat.
A high-sugar content will have an impact on blood sugar levels, glucose and insulin resistance and this can be an issue when bulking as a constant and excessive surplus will lead to insulin resistance and more fat gain as a result.
Therefore, even though you’re bulking and Nutella is high in calories, you need to consider whether it’s an ideal food choice for your goals – which are presumably muscle growth.
Is Nutella Good for Bulking?
Nutella is a good option for bulking because it’s calorie-dense and has a high carbohydrate content. Nutella is also versatile so can be combined with other common bulking foods like bread and oats. Nutella does need to be consumed in moderation though due to its high sugar and fat content per 100g.
While I’ve just given a summary, the answer is not as simple as a straight yes or no answer, therefore you need to ask yourself a few questions to see if it will really be beneficial to your bulking diet.
Firstly what is your metabolism like? How easily do you put on mass and how easily do you put on body fat?
If you really struggle to gain weight and have a high metabolism, then there is no harm in trying to incorporate Nutella into your meal plans.
See also – Bulking with a high metabolism
It is unlikely that you will unintentionally gain huge amounts of weight from trying it, and it will give you the chance to see if it helps you out and fits in well with your current diet.
If you do gain a tiny bit too much fat then you can always remove it from your plan for a substitute that we will discuss later.
However, if you gain weight very easily and have a slow metabolism then I believe there is no need for Nutella as it’s likely going to be more detrimental to your progress rather than beneficial, even though it tastes great….
Nutella is so high in calories and sugar per serving that a small additional could easily lead to fat gain rather than the desired muscle growth that will come from more nutrient-dense foods. Peanut butter for example is high in protein and “beneficial” fats which promote muscle growth.
While Nutella is high in carbs and can contribute to muscle glycogen stores, it’s so high that for those with slow metabolisms or poor nutrient partitioning, you’ll, unfortunately, see more fat gain instead.
The only other downside to the sweet spread is its price.
If you are looking at getting authentic Nutella then it may cost $5-$10 depending on the jar size. If you were thinking about trialing Nutella in your meal plan, I would recommend opting for a cheaper supermarket’s own brand equivalent hazelnut spread as a test.
These cost well under half the price and make it more suitable for a student or someone bulking on a low budget.
How to Eat Nutella When Bulking?
With one google search, you will be introduced to millions of recipes incorporating Nutella, as it is a common ingredient in homemade sweet treats. However, here we will only cover the main meals.
The first way of consuming Nutella that we shall talk about is simply with bread. This can be taken in a few different directions such as with toast or in a sandwich. They are both very similar however from a dietary standpoint, a sandwich uses 2 slices of bread, which just equates to more calories.
This is a great meal as it can be prepared in minutes and can contain around 460 calories. A good snack for someone struggling to meet their daily requirements.
The next form is in a protein or a homemade mass gainer shake. As you may know, liquid calories are easier to drink than trying to force-feed yourself when not hungry.
Related – How to bulk with a low appetite
Therefore this is a great option. If you have a blender, then you can simply add 1 or 2 tablespoons to your shake and boost the drink by around 200 calories. This is great for drinking on the go or when not hungry.
Lastly, a more nutritious option to incorporate some more whole foods is to eat Nutella with oats.
This can vary from a protein porridge to baked oats. Both are great options as they include oats which is a high protein carb that helps with muscle growth and is a great source of fiber. With these taken into consideration, those are 2 great ways of eating Nutella.
Some people may simply not like the taste of Nutella, so here are some great alternatives that you can try out in your diet.
The most common substitute for Nutella is a food that we mentioned earlier. Peanut butter is a great alternative and it provides a very similar if not higher calorie content, while still providing you with natural fats and protein.
It can be consumed in a very similar way as Nutella, so still stands as a good nutritious snack to help you get more calories in.
If you’re looking for a slightly more healthy variation of chocolate/ hazelnut spread, then there are a few branded options you may want to look at.
The one I’ll be mentioning today is the ‘Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread’. The main difference with this variation of the food is that it’s made with all-natural and raw ingredients. This is also one of the only hazelnut spreads that are not made with palm oil.
You can also get low-calorie spreads which might make it easier to fit this into your bulking diet. The Skinny Food Co in the UK does a good option to give an example.
With all this being said, Nutella can be a great way to fit in a few extra calories for those with small appetites. It can be consumed on the go in a sandwich or even be blended into your protein shake.
However, like a lot of sweet foods, it does have its downsides. Due to its high sugar and unnatural fat content, Nutella isn’t the healthiest food to be bulking with.
If you are someone who gains weight quite easily (particularly fat) then you may want to stay away from Nutella for this very reason. This is because it may just translate to excess unwanted fat gain, which is only going to make the cutting process longer and more difficult.
Maybe a healthier alternative would be more suitable if you think this is related to you.
Because of this, I would only recommend Nutella if you are seriously struggling to gain weight or eat enough calories required to do so.
This being said, it needs to be eaten alongside a clean and healthy diet so this should definitely be in your 20% of foods (ie, 80% of your daily diet should be nutrient-dense whole food sources).