Whether you’re looking to bodybuild for recreational or competitive reasons, getting the right balance of nutrition is a must. Having worked with many athletes and bodybuilders who were frustrated and stuck at a plateau, I realized the problem wasn’t how hard they were working, it was how they were fueling. Carbs were being left on the sidelines but they are a key player in bodybuilding nutrition — Go team carbs!
So, is corn good for bodybuilding? Yes, corn is good for bodybuilding because it’s considered a ‘healthy carb’, in addition to being easily digestible, good for many different diet types, and can be easily taken on-the-go.
Considering the keto craze and Atkins advertising frenzie, it can be extremely confusing to know which foods will give you the gains. Starchy foods like corn have gotten an unnecessarily bad wrap in the process. But I’ve got the real science and experience to prove to you that corn is good for bodybuilding.
Corn is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates and calories — two key ingredients that support muscle growth. The starch is easily digestible, ideal for pre and post work-out absorption. And it’s one of the cheapest ingredients around!
Now I know that was a lot of chatter about corn. But don’t worry, I’m going to help you munch through all of that information one kernel at a time, helping you digest all the important knowledge about corn for bodybuilding.
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Bodybuilding Nutrition 101: Where Does Corn Fit In?
Before we dive into the fields full of not so corny knowledge, let’s fill our brains (and muscles) with the best nutrition for bodybuilding.
When it comes to bodybuilding and muscle gain, it’s essential to incorporate all macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates). In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, men and women who strength train at least twice a week need at least half of their calories coming from carbohydrates like corn. Everyday.
In bodybuilding, appearance is the main factor. This is why increased muscle size and definition are critical.
During the off-season, without competitive events, extra energy is required (15% additional calories above your baseline). This allows energy to be available for muscle anabolism (building).
When it’s the pre-contest phase, calorie restriction (about 15% less than your baseline) can help you achieve less body fat. Bringing those muscles to center stage. Research has found that a relatively high protein intake (about 30% of energy intake) during this time will also help reduce mass.
But during both the off-season and pre-contest phases, carbohydrates should make up at least half of your total energy intake. The ideal diet for bodybuilders should be about 55-60% carbohydrate, 25-30% protein, and 15-20% fat.
Why Corn is Good for Bodybuilding
Now to get into the real kernel. Corn contains a favorable amount of calories and carbohydrates for bodybuilding. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of fresh corn contains about 125 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates.
Corn is also high in healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals which keep your body strong and workout going on. If that’s not enough to get you going out to grab an ear of it, I’m going to give you my top four reasons why corn is one of the best foods for bodybuilding.
Top 4 Reasons To Eat Corn For Bodybuilding
1. Easily digested and absorbed
Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source, with about one-half going to the brain and muscles, so it needs to be readily available. Harvard University agrees that carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for every cell in your body.
When working out, the key is to eat foods that provide quick fuel. Corn is relatively low in protein and fat which makes it easier for our bodies to digest. It provides the calories and nutrients needed to support muscle growth.
Carbohydrates are the quickest macronutrients to be digested and absorbed. In fact, carbohydrate digestion begins in our mouth with an enzyme found in our saliva. Trusted medical manuals teach us that proteins are more complex so the body takes longer to break them down.
Fats take the longest to digest. As you can imagine, having a stomach full of fat is not ideal for a pre or post-workout. This is because the blood will be flowing to the stomach to digest instead of to your working muscles, leading to stomach upset or cramps.
Carbohydrates also offer a benefit to bodybuilding because they’re easily converted into a storage form of glucose, called glycogen. Meaning that when you need some extra fuel to push through those extra reps, the stored form of glucose (glycogen) is there for you.
Related Article: Is Rice Good For Weight Loss? (5 Rules To Follow)
2. Corn is a healthy carb
You may be thinking that corn is starchy and therefore bad for you. In general, eating too many starchy foods may lead to health conditions, weight gain, or cravings.
However, it’s important to note that this is dependent on the health and metabolism of your body, what else you eat, the type of carbs you’re having, and how active you are. There’s a big difference between carbs coming from a candy bar and carbs coming from corn.
Technically corn on the cob is considered to be a vegetable. This may be where the health concerns come into play because as a vegetable, corn is a starchy one. But corn can also be considered to be a whole grain because when you eat it, you have the whole kernel.
Corn also contains a good source of fiber (about 5 grams per cup) which stabilizes the blood sugar and sustains energy.
Related Article: Is Peanut Butter Good For Weight Loss?
3. Corn is good for many diet types
Corn suits many different diet restrictions. It’s a good option for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is because not all plant-based protein sources contain enough of the essential amino acids (protein building blocks). Therefore, multiple foods are necessary to create a complete protein.
Corn lacks the amino acids tryptophan and lysine. So all it takes is mixing and matching it with foods like grains (rice, corn, wheat) or legumes (beans, lentils, peas) you’ll get the essential amino acids. A yummy example: corn tortillas and beans.
Plain corn is always gluten-free. So corn without any other ingredients shouldn’t contain any gluten. The only time this may not be true is when corn has been processed to make corn “products”. Very rarely canned or frozen versions may contain trace gluten so just check the label if you need to avoid it.
4. Corn is great on-the-go
Corn is a very versatile and inexpensive, making it a perfect addition for bodybuilding nutrition.
Considering those extra 15% of calories you need per day, eating for bodybuilding can get very expensive, very quickly. Corn constantly makes it way onto budget friendly and cheap eating lists. Just try searching for “budget friendly meals” and see how many times corn shows up.
When you cook corn on your own, you can keep it either on the cob or in a container and refrigerate it for three to five days. The canned versions (more on how to select canned corn to come) are easy to take with you. All you need is the can and a spoon!
Packaged and processed popcorn and corn snacks aren’t healthy because they tend to have excessive sodium and preservatives. Popcorn can be a very healthy snack, when you make it at home. Here’s an easy home-made popcorn recipe from Cookie and Kate.
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Not all corn is created equal
Now that we’ve answered the main question — corn is good for bodybuilding — we’re going to dive into what type of corn you should be buying for optimal health.
What’s the healthiest type of corn?
When picking corn, the less processed the better. Aim for foods that are closer to how they are found in nature. This means filling your plate with the foods that you could get on a farm.
When it comes to corn, aim for fresh versions (organic whenever possible) and cook it at home. Limit or avoid corn products such as corn nuts, packaged popcorn, or corn chips.
Shop for corn in this order: fresh, frozen, canned.
Canned foods are typically the most processed. If you are getting a canned version, there are better options such as organic with just salt added. Check the ingredient list and avoid those with added sugar (this is common!) or preservatives.
What about high fructose corn syrup?
High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch. It’s very refined. Manufacturers make it sweeter by converting some of the glucose sugar into fructose.
Just like other sugar, too much of it over time can lead to weight gain and diseases such as diabetes. It’s still up for debate whether or not high fructose corn syrup is worse than other sugars, but too much of it still poses a risk.
Studies show that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have similar effects on health and metabolism, being that when excess is consumed, they can be harmful.
When it comes to bodybuilding, some added sweeteners will most likely cause no harm. Research shows that exercise training increases insulin action, which is the hormone that shuttles glucose into your cells where it belongs.
In general, it’s still important to consider limiting processed foods or foods containing sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 10 percent of total calories.
Is genetic modification a concern?
Genetic modification is a frequent debate. On one hand it supports the ever expanding human population and food security, and on the other it may have a detrimental effect on the human body and environment.
“To many scientists, the risks associated with forgoing genetic engineering far surpass any environmental risk associated with its use and further development. However, all stakeholders must have access to the tools in order to realize future benefits.” – PLOS Biology Journal
Corn is one of humankind’s earliest innovations. Corn was domesticated 10,000 years ago when humans learned to cross-pollinate. The USDA reports that currently, up to 92% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered so nowadays it’s difficult to get corn that isn’t modified.
The dispute for genetically modified foods is ongoing, but according to Harvard University, the scientific community has overall concluded the consumption of genetically engineered foods is no more dangerous than eating traditionally selected crops.
To summarize what you learned in a pop, corn is an excellent addition to a balanced bodybuilding nutrition plan. It contains easily digestible carbohydrates, which are prime for pre or post-workout replenishment. Considering the low cost and portability, it’s great for on-the-go.
Corn is high in starch but also contains a good amount of fiber which helps curb the blood sugar spikes. As a bodybuilder, the higher carb content can be a real advantage, helping to build muscle, provide quick energy, and get you past the plateau.
Whenever possible, aim for whole and unprocessed versions of foods. These pack a nutritional punch that get you over the hump and towards your bodybuilding or fitness goals.
About The Author
Lisa is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with over 15 years of experience in nutrition, fitness, and mental health coaching and education. She studied Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University and earned a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University.
Having certifications and experience in group exercise, intuitive eating, coaching and psychotherapy, and digestive wellness, she’s enthusiastic about the relationship between the body and mind.
She’s dedicated to helping people understand how to implement healthy habit change, while gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them feel their personal best.