Meal delivery services have gained popularity in the past few years. Plenty of them offer healthy options, but if you’re a bodybuilder who’s short on time to cook, you may want a service that targets your specific needs and provides ready-made meals that require minimal preparation.
Bodybuilding requires you to max out at the gym while balancing rigor with recovery and optimizing your nutrition. And there are several meal delivery options to help you do just that.
We tested and chose meal delivery companies that can help you reach your fitness goals and save you some time in the kitchen by providing nutritious heat-and-eat meals.
Nutritional content: We looked for meal delivery services that balance proteins, fats, and carbs.
Menu variety: Each service listed offers a diverse selection of meals.
Ingredient quality: Companies use high quality, fresh ingredients that are often organic or sustainably sourced.
Availability: Delivery is available for most areas within the United States.
Value: Services provide a good value for the price.
Expert recommendations: We asked registered dietitians and board certified specialists in sports dietetics what they look for when selecting a meal delivery service that can support muscle building. Healthline dietitians have also tested many of the services we recommend and provided their feedback below.
For bodybuilders of all levels, diet is an integral part of daily training and many bodybuilders have increased nutrient needs due to the increased energy demands from exercise.
Furthermore, efforts to modify body composition require you to meet nutrient needs while accounting for different calorie requirements. Your body’s nutrient and calorie demands will adjust as your activity level changes.
Because of this, changes to your diet often align with changes to your training plan.
Your nutritional needs can vary depending on your specific goals and your competition schedule:
Cutting: Competition season often involves “cutting” and reducing total calorie intake. This requires thoughtful preparation to ensure that the reduced energy intake doesn’t result in loss of both fat and muscle.
Bulking: Many bodybuilders work on increasing lean muscle and fat mass — aka “bulking” — during the off-season. This requires maintaining a resistance training regimen while increasing total energy intake.
Maintenance: Some people may simply be trying to maintain their current physique for a period of time and might have nutrient needs between what’s necessary during bulking and cutting phases.
Different goals and starting points require an individualized approach when it comes to adjusting your diet for bodybuilding. Working with a registered dietitian can help to ensure you’re meeting your nutrient needs and allow you to develop a customized plan.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, carbohydrate intake for athletes can range from 3–5 g per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day to 8–12 g, depending on activity level.
Meanwhile, general recommendations for bodybuilders are to consume 4–10 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day, ideally from nutrient-dense foods.
Additionally, the timing of carbohydrate consumption is typically adjusted in tandem with your competition schedule and individual training regimen. For example, fueling both pre- and post-exercise with protein and carbohydrates has been shown to help increase strength.
However, research indicates that, in some cases, eating 20%–30% of total calories from fat may be harmful if bodybuilders are restricting calories, and the relative increase in fat intake compromises daily carbohydrate and protein intake.
If that’s the case, dropping to as low as 15%–20% of total calories from fat can be a better choice if it allows you to maintain sufficient carbohydrate intake.
When shopping for a meal delivery service, there are several key factors to keep in mind.
Consider your individual nutrient needs
It’s wise to find a service with options that fit your fitness goals.
Jessica Isaacs, RD, a sports dietitian and the owner of Jessica the Sports RD, emphasizes that not all meal delivery services are created equal, so it’s important to find a service that fits your needs.
“Some services are targeted toward an athletic population, with macronutrients in line with what a highly active person may need, where others are geared more toward a less active population looking to lose weight,” Isaacs explains.
While some people may require meals with higher amounts of protein to increase muscle mass, others may need to look for meals with varying calorie or carb counts based on their goals.
“Everyone’s individual calorie and macronutrient needs will vary depending on body size, goals, training, and other factors,” Isaacs says.
“Generally, for someone with the goal of building or maintaining muscle, I like to see meals that provide at least 25 g of protein per meal and have the option to increase the protein portion as needed,” she says.
If you’re looking to gain muscle, having the ability to customize your meals to meet your individual nutrient needs will help support your bodybuilding goals.
Assess the macronutrient composition of your meals
Total energy intake and macronutrient distribution are both important parts of reaching body composition goals, including efforts to build and maintain muscle mass.
Each meal delivery service offers a range of options when it comes to calories and macronutrients.
Research allergen and diet restriction procedures
If you’re following a specific eating pattern or have any dietary restrictions, it’s important to look for a service that caters to your needs. Some services may not be able to accommodate severe allergies or other dietary restrictions.
“If there are any allergies or avoidances to navigate, a meal prep company may or may not have a good grasp on how to accomplish this while maintaining the ideal nutrition profile,” Isaacs says.
If you have food allergies, research the meal delivery service and consider contacting customer support directly to ask about allergen policies.
Choose a plan with variety
Finally, choose a meal delivery service that features a diverse menu with plenty of options.
“Eating like a bodybuilder doesn’t have to and shouldn’t mean eating bland baked chicken, unseasoned rice, and steamed broccoli for all your meals,” Isaacs says.
“Sticking to a diet is much easier and people are more successful when they enjoy the foods they’re eating,” she says. “A meal prep service should be able to target specific calorie and macronutrient needs while also delivering flavorful food.”
You can read reviews and consider ordering a small number of meals to taste the offerings before committing. You can also learn a lot about the variety by reviewing the company’s website and weekly recipe offerings.
The following are answers to some commonly asked questions about bodybuilding meal prep services.
Is ICON a good meal prep service for bodybuilding?
ICON Meals is a great option for bodybuilding. Not only does the service offer a variety of nutritious, high protein foods categorized by specific fitness goals, but it also allows you to create your own custom meals to fit your meal plan.
Is HelloFresh good for bodybuilding?
It’s important that your meals provide the right amounts of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates for muscle building and recovering from workouts.
HelloFresh provides nutritional info for all its meals, but you’ll need to determine whether the calorie and macro content are appropriate for your needs and goals.
If you’re not sure whether HelloFresh would be a good option, a nutrition coach or registered dietitian may be able to help you decide.
Are meal prep companies worth it?
Optimal nutrition is vital for bodybuilders to ensure that your body has the necessary nutrients to meet the heightened energy demand from strength training.
A meal prep delivery service can make it easier to stick to a bodybuilding nutrition plan by providing structured meals that don’t require time or culinary skills to prepare.
In fact, some meal prep services are geared specifically toward bodybuilders and offer a combination of complete meals and meal components to make meal prep at home easier and more convenient.
Which meal delivery services are best for muscle gain?
A meal delivery service that’s best for muscle gain is one that provides an optimal number of calories and enough protein to support muscle building and repair.
Multiple meal delivery services now offer bodybuilding meals with a range of calories and macronutrients. Services include:
When choosing the best meal delivery service for muscle gain, consider your individual nutrient needs and ensure that the service offers meals with nutrient ranges that meet your needs.
Multiple meal prep delivery services can be beneficial for bodybuilding.
These services typically offer a range of plans for various fitness goals and often cater to certain dietary restrictions.
Look for a company that fits your needs and preferences and consider factors, such as:
Last medically reviewed on September 8, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
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Morton R. et al. (2017). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28698222/
Thomas D, et al. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26920240/
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