Painting of a muscular barbarian eating pizza to bulk up.

Is Pizza Good for Bulking? It Can Be

If you’re on a quest to bulk up, pizza can seem like a formidable ally. It’s hearty, delicious, and bursting with the calories needed to fuel growth. Its high caloric density and balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fats make it seem like the perfect bulking meal. But is it really?

The Nutritional Value of Pizza

Pizza is a popular dish of vaguely Italian origin consisting of a usually round, flattened base of leavened dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, and the occasional sardine. It’s then baked at a high temperature.

None of that is inherently unhealthy, but the quality of the ingredients matters. The pizza you get at the local fast-food joint might have thick slabs of dough made from highly processed grains, perhaps with sugar added. That’s an entirely different beast from a pizza made from nutritious whole-grain dough.

  • Dough: The dough is often made from white flour. Better if it’s whole grain. Either way, it’s a dense source of carbohydrates.
  • Tomato Sauce: Usually made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, and various herbs and spices. This contributes a negligible number of carbs and fibre, along with a range of vitamins and minerals.
  • Cheese: Most commonly mozzarella, but you’ll also find cheddar, feta, or gorgonzola. This adds protein, fat, and micronutrients, such as calcium.
  • Toppings: The toppings can range from various types of meat (like pepperoni, sausage, or chicken) to vegetables (like bell peppers, onions, or spinach) to even fruits (like pineapple). These contribute various amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fibre. Lean meats can raise the protein content, but pizza is already relatively high in protein, especially if you’re using whole-grain dough. Adding fruits and veggies is probably the better approach if you’re trying to make it more nutritious.

Pizza Macros & Calories

Pizza is a great source of macros and calories while bulking. Its main shortcoming is the lack of fibre, especially if you’re using heavily processed dough. Here’s what you’ll get in every slice:

  • Carbs: 25-35 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Protein: 10-15 grams of protein.
  • Fats: 10-20 grams of fat.
  • Fibre: 1-3 grams of fibre. More if you use whole wheat dough.
  • Calories: 250-400 calories.

If you eat three slices of pizza as a meal, you could expect:

  • Carbs: 75-105 grams
  • Protein: 30-45 grams
  • Fats: 30-60 grams
  • Fibre: 3-9 grams
  • Calories: 750-1200 calories

That’s great. It’s high in carbs, high enough in protein, and rich in fats. Eating three slices of pizza is an incredibly easy way to eat 1,000 calories.


Pizza can be a good bulking food. As with any food, moderation is key. Opt for healthier versions when possible, such as those made with whole grain crusts, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables. Consider pairing it with a salad. Maybe have some fruit for dessert. Try to get most of your calories from nutritious whole foods.

Pizza is high in calories, helping you bulk with ease, but health is more than a caloric squeeze. For true strength and health, let it be known: seeds of balance must be sown.

Wide Old Bamba

For more, you might like our article on dirty bulking.

Painting of man with IBS eating a low-FODMAP bulking diet.

The Low-FODMAP Bulking Diet (for Gaining Weight)

FODMAPs are the enigmatic compounds that lurk within certain carbohydrates. They aren’t good or bad. It all depends on how you respond to them. Most people digest them without any issue, but they can wreak havoc on some people with more irritable bowels (IBS).

Here’s the problem. People with more sensitive digestive systems often eat less food, causing them to lose weight and preventing them from building muscle. I was one of these unfortunate skinny guys, underweight and unable to eat enough food to bulk up.

So, we need to eat more food, but how? Whenever we try, our guts flare up, causing bloating, pain, constipation or diarrhea. That’s where a low-FODMAP diet comes in. It isn’t a cure-all, but it often helps. It’s often worth trying.

Delve Deeper
Painting of guacamole and other healthy bulking dips.

The Most Nutritious Bulking Dips

Dips are rich and indulgent. They feel like they ought to be forbidden. But they aren’t. They’re often made from nutrient-dense ingredients like garlic, onions, vegetables, legumes, and healthy fats. These are some of the healthiest foods out there. They’re also high in calories, easy to snack on, and can be a convenient way to add calories to meals. Perfect for bulking!

Garlic is a nutritional powerhouse, great for increasing blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and improving heart health (study, study). Onions are a potent prebiotic, great for improving gut health and digestion. Vegetables and legumes are rich in fibre and packed full of micronutrients. The benefits go on forever.

Here are some examples of healthy bulking dips:

  1. Guacamole: Made from mashed avocados, tomatoes, onions, lime juice, and seasonings, guacamole is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, and essential nutrients. Avocados are absurdly high in vitamins and minerals, and guacamole is rather high in avacodos, making guacamole an impressively nutritious dip.
  2. Salsa: Typically made from tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices, salsa is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense dip that can add flavour to various dishes.
  3. Tahini: Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini is rich in healthy fats, protein, and essential minerals like calcium and magnesium.
  4. Hummus: Made from chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, hummus is high in protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
  5. Tzatziki: A yogurt-based dip made with cucumber, garlic, and herbs, tzatziki is high in protein and makes a great dip for vegetables.
  6. Baba ganoush: A Mediterranean dip made from roasted eggplant, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. It’s rich in fibre, healthy fats, and various essential nutrients. I think it may also be a type of witch.
  7. Mayonnaise: made from ingredients like eggs, lemon juice, and olive oil, homemade mayonnaise is rich in protein and healthy fats.
  8. Bean dip: made from blended beans, bean dip can be a good source of plant-based protein and fibre. You can flavour it with your favourite spices or herbs, such as cumin, garlic, or cilantro. It may also put you in the mood to cook a pot of chili.
  9. Nut butter: made from ground nuts and perhaps a bit of salt, nut butter is the humblest dip on the list. However, since nuts are some of the healthiest foods out there, nut butter holds its own against even the very fanciest options. It’s a great dip for apple slices.

Then comes the question of what to dip in your dip. That’s tricky because most people dip tortilla chips, crackers, or pita, which aren’t always prepared in a healthy way. That’s not the end of the world. Choose the whole-grain variants. Still, even better if you’re dipping vegetables.

Painting of a woman cooking up a fiery pot of nutritious chili.

Healthy Ways to Cook & Prepare Food

Most foods can be healthy if you prepare them properly. For example, consider french fries. You could make them by slicing up potatoes, tossing them in olive oil and spices, and baking them in the oven. Or you could order them at a fast-food restaurant, where they’ve been deep-fried and heavily salted. The first method is healthier than the second. This true of other popular junk foods, such as potato chips. In both cases, the issue isn’t the potatoes; it’s the preparation.

Getting more controversial now, consider the “health food” aisle of the grocery store, filled with sweet potato and quinoa chips. Remember, the potatoes were never the problem, it was the preparation, and many of these foods are processed just as heavily as regular potato chips.

In most cases, as a rule of thumb, when you can, it’s better to buy individual ingredients and prepare them yourself. Here’s how:

  1. Prepare balanced meals: combine protein, nutritious carbs, healthy fats, and fibre. When you combine different categories of healthy foods, you get a wider variety of macronutrients and micronutrients. Digestion tends to be smoother. And you often get some cool extra benefits. For example, soluble fibre helps you regulate your blood sugar and blood lipids.
  2. Blending and grinding are fine. Feel free to blend up smoothies or grind your meat. Sometimes blending and grinding can make foods easier to digest, allowing you to eat a bigger and more abundant diet. Perfect for bulking!
  3. Trim excess fat: the fat found in meat is relatively high in saturated fat. Most people could stand to eat less saturated fat. You could eat less meat, buy leaner cuts, or cut the fat off yourself.
  4. Rinse canned foods: you can rinse canned foods to drain away some of the sodium. Mind you, you may also drain away some of the other nutrients. This one’s up to you.
  5. Use healthy cooking methods: stewing, baking, grilling, steaming, boiling, poaching, broiling, or slow cooking.
  6. Use healthy cooking oils. Avocado oil makes for a great default. It’s nutritious and handles high temperatures quite well. Great for pan frying. Extra-virgin olive oil works well if you’re drizzling it onto your food or cooking at lower temperatures.
  7. Season your food with herbs and spices: enhance the flavour of your meals using herbs, spices, and seasonings like pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and vanilla. These foods tend to be quite nutritious, and many of them offer interesting health benefits. For example, garlic is fantastic for blood flow and heart health (study, study).
  8. Use healthy toppings: parmesan, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sliced nuts, dark chocolate chips, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, pickled onions, and honey.
  9. Use sauces: mustard, homemade mayonnaise, chimichurri, salsa verde, hot sauce, and squeezed lime.
  10. Use dips: hummus, tahini, tzatziki, bean dip, baba ganoush, salsa, and guacamole.

There are also quite a few meals that don’t demand much preparation. You can dip apple slices into peanut butter, add some fruit to cottage cheese, or mix frozen berries and dark chocolate chips into Greek yogurt.

Painting of the best fermented food sources of probiotics.

How to Eat a Diet Rich in Probiotics (Fermented Foods)

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that provide health benefits when consumed. They do this by helping us build a robust gut microbiome, which improves digestion, reduces inflammation, and protects us against harmful bacteria (study, study, study).

The best sources of probiotics are fermented foods. This is still a fairly young field, so it’s hard to say which foods are the “best.” We do know that a more varied microbiome tends to be healthier, though. So if you can, try to pick a few foods from this list:

  1. Yogurt: yogurt is made by fermenting milk, making it a rich source of probiotics. Look for yogurt containing live and active cultures. Opt for plain, unsweetened varieties. Our favourite is Greek yogurt (which boasts a higher protein content).
  2. Kefir: kefir is also made by fermenting milk, similar to yogurt. However, it’s thinner, making it easily drinkable, and it tends to be even richer in probiotics. It can be made from cow, goat, or sheep milk, as well as non-dairy alternatives like coconut milk.
  3. Sauerkraut: sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage. It’s a rich source of probiotics and other nutrients, including fibre, which is also great for your gut. Look for unpasteurized sauerkraut in the refrigerated section.
  4. Kimchi: kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables like cabbage and radishes combined with spices. It’s rich in probiotics, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
  5. Miso: miso is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. It contains a variety of probiotics. It’s often used to make miso soup or as a flavouring in other dishes.
  6. Tempeh: tempeh is a high-protein food made from fermented soybeans. It’s rich in probiotics and can be used as a meat substitute in many recipes.
  7. Natto: natto is a Japanese dish also made from fermented soybeans. It’s a good source of probiotics and is particularly high in vitamin K2, which most people could use more of.
  8. Pickles: pickles are made by fermenting cucumbers. Look for the pickles with live cultures in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Aim to eat 1–2 servings of probiotic foods per day. Even better if they’re two different foods from the list.

Here’s where things get interesting. Probiotics are just one part of the picture. According to Dr. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, two of leading gut-health researchers from Stanford University, you can also strengthen your microbiome by eating a nutritious diet, minimising your intake of junk food, consuming plenty of fibre, and exercising.

Photo of a lean and muscular man and woman who are lean bulking.

How to Do a Lean Bulk

Lean bulking is when you cautiously stalk muscle growth, sneaking up on it without attracting the attention of fat gain. Traditional bulking is somewhat similar. What makes lean bulking different is the emphasis on reducing fat gain rather than maximizing muscle growth.

Lean bulking offers a few advantages:

  • You’ll gain less fat.
  • You might not need to cut after your bulk.
  • A smaller calorie surplus is easier to eat and digest.

Let’s delve deeper.

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Painting of a man bulking up in the jungle.

What is Bulking?

If you’re trying to build muscle, you’ve probably heard about bulking. Bulking is a term used in weight-training circles that refers to intentionally eating in a calorie surplus to gain muscle mass. The goal is to provide your body with enough nutrients and energy to support muscle growth but not so many extra nutrients that it causes unnecessary fat gain.

Let’s delve deeper.

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