Fast food and bodybuilding just don’t mix, but what happens if you desperately need a cheat meal? You should already know how bad fast food is for your body, but let’s say you want to indulge: what do you eat?
Updated for 2021
There’s been so many time you’ve probably missed a meal and you’re about to head to the gym. So you’re gonna do it anyway…
I’ve been in the situations many times before, I’ll be on the road for a while and realized I haven’t eaten in hours. Going home to eat boring rice and chicken sounds appetizing, but let’s treat ourselves.
I’ll show you the best fast food restaurants and meals to eat at if you want to keep your gains and get ripped
Ignoring the obvious, fast food is one of the worst things you can put into your body. High in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories, it’s nutritionally dense but cheap. Available pretty much every time and everywhere, fast food is ubiquitous. You can’t enter a mall or drive down the main street without seeing the Golden Arches.
If you’re out traveling or just plain hungry, you’ve probably thought about getting a nice delicious, greasy, cheesy hamburger but you don’t. You don’t because it’s shit food and your plain chicken breast and broccoli hits your macros better than it ever could.
The macro composition of fast food is literally garbage, high in processed carbohydrates and low in protein. Our goal here: get the highest quality and amount of protein, limiting fats with medium carbs. Sure a Whopper has 28g of protein, at the expense of 660 calories.
But let’s say you want to indulge and treat yourself, what do you eat? Let’s jump in to the best fast food choices that bodybuilders would eat.
Best Food Choice at McDonald’s for Bodybuilding
Crispy Chicken Sandwich
McDonald’s has that oh-so-good smell that you can get a whiff of it a mile away and know what restaurant that is. The goal here is to stay as lean as possible, so let’s avoid the beef and anything that is deliciously crispy. Breading, for example, is just extra calories (and carbohydrates!) and more surface area for oil to absorb.
What we got here is a lean piece of meat, grilled chicken, and some actual veggies like red and green cabbage, and carrots. It’s the best choice, with higher protein than fat and a reasonable calorie amount.
For 2021, McDonald’s USA got rid of their grilled chicken options (wtf) and they’re back to crispy. We went from 37g protein to 27 grams. If you’re outside the USA, you might have grilled chicken options so eat that instead of breaded! Less surface area for the breading to soak up deep-fried oil (yuck).
Oh my, I could go on about my love for Taco Bell but we’ll save that for another day. It’s cheap and salty, what’s not to like. There’s not much macro nutritional difference between these two, so choose whatever is tastier (hint hint, it goes moo!).
Taco Bell has a wide menu but the other items don’t add much more macros (in trade for higher fat content). These are the “best” items you can get from Taco Bell while keeping it somewhat lean.
Beef Hard Taco
Honestly, I thought the beef soft taco would be the winner here, but it was very close. A beef soft taco has 190 calories and 4 grams of carbs more. But hey, you’re a bodybuilder eating at a fast food place, let’s give some room for deliciousness.
To show you how much I love Taco Bell, here’s me a while back eating 2400 calories worth of food.
Oh you’re going to love the macros too, let me break it down:
Suffice to say, I felt terrible after but it was 100% worth it. Thankfully I went to the gym later that day and the pump was unreal. I looked into it more and came to the realization the pump was so good because of the amount of sodium and potassium in the meal. This was the basis of my article Adding Salt to Your Preworkout.
Best option: Original Chicken Sandwich (unfortunately)
The home of the iconic Whopper burger when you want a burger, you go to Burger King.
The best option we have here is a Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Notice a trend here? Chicken without breading is your best choice when you’re looking for fast food. See below
Grilled Chicken Sandwhich (without mayo) 360 cal 7g fat 39g carbs 36g protein
Updated for 2021: Burger King has decided to get rid of grilled chicken options (like McDonalds here).
Aside from the chicken nuggets (which have an okay macro composition if we’re talking fast food), the Original Chicken Sandwich is your best choice. For less fat, I’d recommend to have no mayo sauce.
But let’s say you want to indulge; what do you eat? If you’re really hating your insides on a particular day, the highest caloric item you can order from Burger King is a Triple Whopper with three 1/4 pound patties. Loaded with 1070 calories, 60g of protein, 70g fat and 51g carbs, this is half of most people’s daily calorie intake in one sitting.
Wendy’s Frosty’s are to die for, especially when you dip your fries in it. Wendy’s motto is “fresh”, meaning never frozen burgers. This sounds good, considering most if not all fast food restaurants freeze their product. But let’s compare two iconic fast food menu items, Wendy’s Dave’s Single burger and McDonalds Big Mac.
As you can see, not a huge difference between the two. I myself was a little surprised the Big Mac had less fat due to the Special Sauce since that’s such a staple of the burger.
Thankfully Wendy’s still has a grilled chicken burger with decent macros as well, especially protein. Of all the fast food restaurants, Wendy’s is a solid choice (did I mention the frostys are delicious?)
Grilled Chicken Sandwich
World Famous Chicken, Chicken On The Bone (breast)
Home of the KFC Original Recipe chicken with 11 herbs and spices, KFC is the go-to spot for fried chicken. Their chicken comes in a convenient bucket so you can sit on the couch and watch Rich Piana videos as you try to hit your macros for the day. No beef on the menu, so all you got is chicken, picnic salads, and lava cakes.
The best item on their menu that isn’t too high in fat in relation to protein is their chicken drumsticks and breasts. KFC does have sandwiches, but at the moment they don’t have any grilled products. If anything, you could peel the crispy skin off the drumstick to save you some fat.
Updated for 2021: This is still the best option from KFC!
Best Fast Food Breakfast for Bodybuilding
But what about breakfast? Most fast-food restaurants now serve breakfast (for some reason…), making it even easier to start your day off wrong. The best breakfast fast food choice for bodybuilders is the Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s.
Taco Bell and Burger King both serve breakfast items, but none of them can beat the macros and lower calorie content of the Egg McMuffin.
This wraps up 2021’s version of the best fast food for bodybuilders. I don’t eat clean 100% of the time, so it’s a nice treat getting a greasy beef burger now and then. As long as it’s an occasional treat and not an everyday thing, it won’t be too bad on your body.
Plus it’s a great way to relieve the stress from dieting all the time. Something that isn’t talked about often is the amount of mental math and fatigue you endure when you’re constantly counting macros and calories.
Meal prep is one way to skip the hassle, check out my article on Painless Bodybuilding Meal Prep.