The holy grail of anyone on a bulking cycle is a meal that’s high in protein and calories, is easy to eat day after day, is cheap when bulking, and still somehow tastes great.
Stories of bodybuilding legends dirty bulking on nothing but pizza have been whispered throughout gyms by guys, slowly going crazy eating the same thing (chicken and rice) week on week, for decades. But do these stories actually have any truth to them?
While pizza is an easy meal to serve up and eat, and on paper looks like it has everything someone trying to bulk is searching for, is pizza good for bulking, and is it the food to turn to for your bulk? Or, is it something that’s going to lead to excess fat gain and no progress in the gym?
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What is Pizza
Originally Italian, pizza is a food that’s been adopted the world over, to the point that it’s a staple meal in multiple places around the globe, from college dorms to Michelin star restaurants.
Pizzas are built on a dough base of varying thickness, normally with cheese and tomato sauce spread on top, and one or two toppings scattered on top of that, before being oven cooked.
Because pizza is such a flexible style of food, it’s common to see extras, including more toppings, stuffed crusts with extra cheese, or other interesting variations.
As a food for bulking, pizza definitely has its advantages: It’s calorically dense, simple to cook, and it’s incredibly easy to change how a pizza is served, normally by adding or taking away toppings, to help hit your daily macros or calorie goal.
Judging the calories in an individual pizza is difficult, as the metrics can vary massively depending on everything used to make each individual pizza. Things like different toppings, bases, and even different brands can completely change the nutritional figures.
The numbers below can be used as the average nutritional information for a 100g slice of pizza, but we recommend adjusting based on exactly what you’re eating.
No one bulking is going to eat a single slice of pizza. The 14-inch pizza used for our figures has 8 slices, which many people trying to bulk are going to be able to finish in one sitting. That means the above figures should be multiplied by 8 for the final figures.
This means a single standard pizza contains around 2269 calories, 83 grams of fat, and 97 grams of protein. That’s a huge amount of calories, potentially over half of a daily bulk calorie goal, along with a massive amount of protein.
The amount of fat and salt in pizza can be a concern, especially if you’re making it a regular meal and this is one of the major issues with a dirty bulk. But there are several ways around this, which this article will go into later.
Is Pizza Good for Bulking?
In general, pizza can be considered a decent food for bulking, because it’s high in calories, high in carbs, and depending on the toppings, can be very high in protein as well. But this has to be balanced against the amount of fat and salt that your average pizza also contains.
Potentially the biggest advantage of pizza is that there are so many options available, with different crust styles, toppings, and additions, all of which allow you to create a meal that’s built around your particular nutritional needs and any diet plan you already have in place.
Related – Best dirty bulking foods
It’s easy to create a customized pizza that hits your exact macronutrient breakdown, then divide it into meals that leave you full, and can be spread out throughout the day, or eaten in smaller, easier-to-digest meals.
Anyone who has tried to bulk on a vegetarian diet knows that it brings its own set of challenges in that vegetables are highly satiating, quickly fill you up, and are low in calories.
Pizza is also a surprisingly good option for a vegetarian bulk though, as you can make a veg pizza that’s still high in calories and will happily accept almost any topping while still tasting good and being nutritionally relevant.
Another big advantage of pizza is that it’s incredibly easy to cook and eat. Cooking a pizza is normally as simple as preheating the oven, then leaving your pizza to cook for around 15 to 20 minutes until it’s ready to serve.
These points mean pizza is a good option if you’re on the go, important if you’re looking for a meal that’s easy to eat in that all important post-workout glycogen window. Excess pizza is also simple to store, and it can be refrigerated for up to 4 days after cooking while still being safe, and tasty, to eat cold.
Finally, pizza is a food that is available almost anywhere and can be bought and stored in bulk, easily and cheaply.
Every supermarket will have several pre-made pizzas that can be bought en masse and stored in the freezer for weeks, then cooked from frozen when needed.
Most also have the ingredients needed for you to make your own pizza from scratch, which is normally the better, healthier option. More on this later.
Most places have the option of one or more takeaways that offer pizza on their menu.
While it’s not a meal that we’d recommend having regularly, if you need some quick and dirty calories it’s an easy answer, and many takeaways let you modify your order, adding toppings and taking away things like extra cheese which don’t offer much in the way of useful macros.
How to Eat Pizza when Bulking
Whatever you choose to eat when bulking, it’s worth sticking to the cardinal rule;
Try to eat as healthy and balanced a diet as possible.
You should never be afraid to put on a few pounds, especially if you’re someone that can’t gain weight when bulking.
It’s more important to make sure that you’re getting enough raw calories to fuel your body and keep putting on mass. But if there are options that can help you put on lean mass, then you’d be a fool to ignore them, right?
With that in mind, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding how to eat a pizza for bulking:
Crusts: Choose thin crust over deep pan pizzas, because thinner crusts have fewer empty calories and far less fat content. Thin crust pizzas are also much easier to eat. You’ll spend less time feeling bloated and digesting the meal.
Toppings: You can put almost anything on a pizza (even pineapple…) which frees you up to build the perfect muscle-building meal. Focus on high protein toppings like grilled chicken and other meats, plus whatever else is necessary to hit your macro goals.
Cheese: The mozzarella cheese that’s traditionally used on pizza isn’t the best choice when it comes to bulking, so remove or replace excess cheese when possible.
A particularly bad option for bulking is stuffed crust pizzas and similar add-ons, which might taste amazing but add almost nothing in the context of a better meal for your bulk.
Sauce: Extra sauce on your pizza is mostly empty calories and a whole lot of sugar.
Cut down on the sauces, or switch to a healthier alternative. If you worry about the pizza being dry and tasteless, you can drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the top, which won’t affect the flavor but adds another 250 calories of good fats.
Good Pizza Alternatives for Bulking
Pizza can be a good option for a dirty bulk, but it might not fit into everyone’s diet plan and macros. But while it might sound strange, the best alternative to pizza when you’re bulking is more pizza.
Specifically, we mean to change the type of pizza you’re eating.
Instead of relying on store-bought or takeaway pizzas, buy pizza bases or pizza dough, high-quality tomato puree, and a whole bunch of high protein toppings, then make your own customized bulking pizza at home.
This way, you have exact control over what goes onto the plate and into your mouth. Your pizza can be high calorie, high protein, no sauce, extra salad, whatever suits your training and diet plan best. This is arguably the best way to enjoy pizza without the added saturated fats and salt content.
Another alternative is to replace the pizza base, the least nutritionally useful part of the meal, with something else. Pita bread is a common replacement, and you can build an entire “pizza” on a Pita bread in exactly the same way you would a standard pizza.
Pita bread has almost double the carbs and is slightly higher in protein than pizza dough, and switching to Pita saves around 50 calories per 100g slice, or around 400 calories across an entire pizza.
Pizza is a complicated food to assess in the context of bulking.
This is because there are so many potential ways that it can be eaten, which means you can’t just look at the raw numbers and decide if pizza is the right meal for you. Each pizza has to be taken individually to see if it’s going to get you closer to where you want to be.
With this in mind, when prepared and eaten correctly, pizza is a solid meal that can easily be a staple part of your bulking program. Because it can be stored for weeks and then defrosted and cooked in minutes, having a handful of pizza in the freezer as a backup meal is never a bad choice.
But the thing that makes pizza a genuinely good meal for bulking is the fact that you can make your own from scratch, and create a meal that serves up the balance of protein, carbs, and calories that you need to feed your body and keep growing, week on week.
It’s still arguably a “dirty” food, but when consumed in moderation on a bulk, it would be a decent option to up your calorie intake on occasion.
If you’re still looking for the ideal bulking food but struggling to gain weight, I’d recommend checking out our guide on bulking mistakes that everyone seems to make, just to make sure you’re not making them too!