many bodybuilders overlook fruit, one of the best food groups for muscle growth

Fruits of your labor: many bodybuilders overlook fruit, one of the best food groups for muscle growth

Steve Stiefel

Many bodybuilders believe that fruit makes people fat. However, that’s not the case, as long as you know which fruits to eat, when to eat them and how much to eat.

Most bodybuilders know that they should take in simple carbs before and after workouts–and many of them rely on the sugars in their protein mixes or other pre- and postworkout products. By and large, these products contain glucose or dextrose, great simple-carb sources for workouts. Often, bodybuilders avoid using fructose because this form of simple sugar is more readily stored as bodyfat than other sugars are. It’s a simple extension, then, to avoid fruit because of its fructose content.

However, many bodybuilders don’t know that fructose content varies significantly from one form of fruit to another. Many fruits don’t contain much fructose, and they’re loaded with important phytochemicals (micronutrients that are beneficial to bodybuilders) available in few if any other food sources. Some bodybuilders also overestimate the problem associated with consuming fructose. When you eliminate fruit from your diet, you not only eliminate the fructose and other sugars that fruit contains, but you also eliminate the beneficial nutrients contained in fruit that help support growth.

Here’s the lowdown on fructose, which fruits to eat, and when and why you should include them in your diet.


So what’s wrong with fructose? Fruit’s bad rap comes from the fact that it contains fructose–a simple carbohydrate that the body processes in a different way than it processes other such sugars.

Fructose is not directly utilized by muscles the way that glucose and dextrose are. These other simple sugars are readily converted to muscle glycogen, the form of carbohydrates that are stored in muscles. Having well-stocked muscle glycogen stores helps you recover and grow and helps you perform better at your next workout. It also gives muscles a full appearance that bodybuilders seek.

When you take in fructose, though, it must first travel to the liver before it can be converted to glycogen. The problem with fructose arises when your liver glycogen levels are full. At this point, fructose gets converted to fat and is stored, which increases the size of your fat cells. As it’s often hard to gauge when your liver glycogen stocks are full, many bodybuilders opt for avoiding fruit altogether. Such extreme measures may actually be counterproductive, as eliminating fruits also excludes the nutrients they offer.

The best time to eat fruit is immediately upon waking. At this time of day, your liver glycogen levels are low, because your body has used them as an energy source while you slept. With low liver glycogen levels, your body turns to your muscles and begins to break them down for energy. When you eat fruit immediately upon waking, you provide your body with an alternate energy source, which helps end muscle catabolism.

Another good time to eat fruit is 30-60 minutes before a workout, particularly if you haven’t eaten a high-carb meal for several hours. The fructose will fill the liver with glycogen, which will deliver glucose to the working muscles and help to spare muscle glycogen. As a bonus, fructose also doesn’t block fat burning during exercise the way that glucose tends to do.

After your workouts is also a great time. At that point, though, generally opt for fruits that are higher in glucose than fructose. Glucose is more readily available for storage as glycogen, and it will better help spike your insulin levels to allow for more efficient muscle growth. For the best fruit choices for each of these times of day, see the chart, “Pickin’ Fruit.”

* THE PROS OF FRUIT Many pro bodybuilders already know about these advantages of fruit. “I rely on fruit as my primary source of simple carbs,” says Mustafa Mohammad. “I eat two pieces of fruit with my breakfast. I usually have bananas, but sometimes I have oranges or kiwi fruits.” Mohammad also uses fruit as pre- and postworkout sources of simple sugars. “I eat fruit before and after my workouts, because I believe you should eat whole foods as much as possible for your nutritional needs. I use supplements such as protein shakes for convenience or when it is difficult to get in more whole food.”

Mohammad finds that eating fruit has additional benefits. “Fruit helps me increase my appetite and consume more whole foods,” he says. “When I am dieting, it can be difficult to get in all the chicken and rice a bodybuilder needs to maintain muscle mass while trying to shed bodyfat. I find that I can eat more chicken when I also eat a little bit of fruit with the meal. The sweet taste helps me take in more food.”

Another way that Mohammad uses fruit is to help increase energy. “When I feel run down or sluggish, I eat a piece or two of fruit with a protein food. Because of the fiber content, I don’t worry about the fruit increasing my insulin levels too much. Fruit is digested slowly enough that it doesn’t have this effect. The fiber also slows down the rate of protein digestion to give a steady release of amino acids.” Mohammad says that when you are low on energy, your liver glycogen stores also may be low, so, again, don’t worry about the fructose being stored as bodyfat.

* FRUIT WRAP-UP Like Rodney Dangerfield, fruit doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Too many bodybuilders cut out fruit because of their misguided fears about the fructose it contains. Although you don’t want to go wild with fruit–eating too much will overload your liver glycogen stores and may encourage bodyfat storage–you certainly don’t want to eliminate it, either. The nutrients, fiber and muscle-building simple sugars that fruit contains will assist your bodybuilding progress when you consume it as FLEX recommends.


Use the charts below to help you pick the best fruit for the job. If

you’re worried about fructose spilling over to fat, try a citrate

supplement along with your fruit choice, such as creatine citrate or

calcium citrate. It helps direct fructose toward glycogen production and

away from fat.


These fruits provide higher fructose than glucose for sustained fuel

that won’t block fat burning. Eat one or two servings.


Pear (1 medium) 16 11 5

Watermelon (1 wedge) 18 12 6

Apple (1 medium) 14 9 5

Cantaloupe (1/2 melon) 22 12 10

Grapes (1 cup) 24 13 11

Strawberries (2 cups) 14 8 6

Raspberries (2 cups) 10 6 4


These fruits provide equal or nearly equal fructose and glucose to

restock liver and muscle glycogen to help halt muscle breakdown. Eat two

or three servings.


Pineapple (1 cup diced) 13 7 6

Honeydew melon (1 wedge) 13 7 6

Orange (1 medium) 12 6 6

Banana (1 medium) 18 9 9

Blueberries (1 cup) 14 7 7

Nectarine (1 medium) 10 5 5

Kiwi fruit (2 medium) 12 6 6


These fruits provide more glucose than fructose for restocking muscle

glycogen and enhancing muscle growth. (The last five fruits from the

morning fruit category are also decent choices postworkout, for their

ability to fill glycogen stores.) Eat one or two servings along with

white bread, baked potatoes or a carb drink.


Cherries (1 cup) 14 6 8

Peach (1 medium) 8 3 5

* Quantities are in grams.


COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group