The benefits of peanut butter for athletes

8 min read


It’s unclear exactly when peanut butter first entered the mainstream food selection of gym goers, but some data suggests it was already popular in bodybuilding at least as early as the 1970s, as one example shows. taken from American bodybuilder Casey Viator’s diet.

Presumably, since peanut butter originated in the United States in the late 1800s – which is also the land of bodybuilding – and due to its “healthy” nutritional profile, it has become entrenched over time. in the dietary tradition of American bodybuilders, but without any particular motivation.

This tradition has made it one of the classic “bulk” foods, which has led the dietary supplement industry to offer “special” peanut butters enriched with other ingredients to increase muscle mass, or to use as an ingredient or flavoring for various products such as protein powders and bars. Consequently, fitness and bodybuilding magazines, books and websites have also solidified the perception of peanut butter as the ideal food for these activities.

Peanut butter contains “good fats”.

One of the most popular reasons for including peanut butter in the diet is its “good fat” content.

This vague term is generally used in popular parlance to define the broad class of unsaturated fats, because there is still a false belief that saturated fats independently have deleterious effects on health, and therefore foods containing them do not would have no beneficial effect.

Peanuts are made up of ~50% monounsaturated fat, ~30% polyunsaturated fat, and ~15-20% saturated fat; in other words, about 80-85% of the fats are unsaturated, which matches the lipid profile of other oilseeds. While this confirms its reputation as a source of “good fats”, the term is simplistic when considered in relative terms and in a realistic context.

Nutritional guidelines do not initially recommend avoiding saturated fat, but not (consistently) exceeding 10% of calorie intake (just under 30g in a 2500 kcal diet) (3). Additionally, many foods high in saturated fat (like many dairy products or cocoa) may have a health benefit (3). In other words, saturated fats can have a negative impact if consumed in excess and/or through the wrong foods, which can also apply to some unsaturated fats.

More importantly, peanuts are certainly not the only source of these “good fats” as many other oilseeds have similarly great lipid profiles. There are butters or creams made from other oilseeds (such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.) that can be considered an equally valid alternative, not to mention other sources of these fats other than the seeds themselves.

Where can I find peanut butter without added sugar?

Currently it is rather hard to find peanut butter without added sugar in traditional stores such as carrefour, Auchan, super u, Leclerc etc.…

These stores more regularly offer peanut butters such as Dacatine and others.

If you want to find peanut butter without added sugar, I recommend online specialty stores such as Myprotein, fitness shop and others.

Bonus: Currently by using a  Myprotein referral code  when registering the site, you will benefit from free delivery for 3 months.

Peanut butter is useful for mass phases

One of the most classic arguments is that peanut butter would be a “must” in the growth phases to add calories and help build muscle, which may imply that their content of “good fats” would limit body fat gain.

The perception of a “less fat” food is probably due to a typical bias called the “halo effect”, whereby when a food is perceived as healthy, its potentially unfavorable characteristics are ignored or minimized.

The idea of ​​using peanut butter as a way to add calories is certainly valid, but it’s not plausible that it has anabolic properties per se, or that it limits body fat gain for the same excess calories and total fat in the diet.

Some research has suggested that polyunsaturated fats are more anabolic and less obesogenic than saturated fats. Beyond the limitations and the need for further replication, this could suggest that monounsaturated fats, which peanuts are higher in, may also have similar benefits. But even if these benefits did exist, they wouldn’t be exclusive to peanut butter, but to unsaturated fats in general, which can be obtained from a myriad of other food sources.

In other words, whether or not peanut butter was present in a diet aimed at increasing muscle mass would make no difference, with the same calories, macronutrients and unsaturated fats in the diet. The only relative problem would be that the fats it contains are entirely replaced by saturated fats, and that these exceed the 10% calorie limit, but this is rather unlikely.

Peanut butter contains a lot of protein

The high protein content is another classic argument in favor of the usefulness of peanut butter for cosmetic purposes. This food contains about 25% protein, a relatively high percentage like many other legumes and oilseeds .

But a common misconception is that legumes (including peanuts) have a protein content similar to that of meat or fish, while the latter contain much more. As we’ve explained elsewhere, cooked meat and fish contain about twice as much protein as peanuts or peanut butter, and three to four times as much when compared to roughly the same state of hydration. (i.e. on a dry weight basis).

The protein quality of peanut protein is not particularly high, being deficient in certain essential amino acids such as cysteine, methionine, threonine, lysine, isoleucine and valine (especially lysine). It’s probably no coincidence that peanut protein doesn’t seem to have been offered by the dietary supplement industry to produce protein powders, as is increasingly the case with many other plant-based sources. . A positive point is that butter, the product of a refining process, at least improves the absorption of the food (and therefore of its proteins) compared to the whole form.

Although the protein content is modest in terms of percentage, the problem is that to obtain a sufficient amount of protein (20-25g) from peanuts alone, one would need to consume around 80-100g of peanuts, which provide 40-50g of fat at the same time (which can be half of 80-100% of total fat requirements for many dieters and athletes). Peanuts and their butter should therefore not be considered a “protein food”, since the portions normally consumed so as not to abuse fat do not even provide a lot of protein (only 5-7 g), let alone high quality. Peanut butter provides just a little more protein than what should already be present in the meal with a high quality protein concentrate food.

Peanut butter is a healthy food

The latest vague notion supporting the use of peanut butter in fitness is based on the rhetoric that it is, after all, a healthy food, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and, again, , in “healthy” unsaturated fats. If all of these notions are true (2), these same arguments could apply to any other healthy food, oleaginous or butter-derived, without confirming a specific usefulness of peanuts for bodybuilding or aesthetic improvement.

A problem with peanut butters, as with oilseed butters in general, is their high caloric density (low water content and high fat content); this makes their satiating power per calorie disadvantageous, putting them at high risk of overcalorization if not tracked. The fact that a food has good intrinsic nutritional properties does not therefore exclude that it may also present disadvantageous characteristics for many people.

Since excess calories and increased body fat in themselves worsen health parameters, the impact of peanut butter on health is related to the person’s environmental (energy) background and dietary education. . For those who are not in control of their diet and want to keep their weight under control, whole peanuts would be much more suitable, as they are less absorbed than their butter and do not tend to promote weight gain. (this is valid for oilseeds in general).


Peanut butter is associated with the classic diet of bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, but the reasons for this tradition don’t seem to have a rational basis.

It is probably because this food originated in the United States, the country of bodybuilding, and because it has good nutritional characteristics to be a tasty and high-calorie snack, it has been accepted by bodybuilders, who are always careful to select high quality food.

Peanut butter can certainly be considered a healthy food and rich in useful nutrients (high nutrient density), but there is nothing “magical” or essential to optimize aesthetic results, nor does it cannot be replaced by other foods with a similar nutritional profile. For example, there are butters or creams derived from other oilseeds that are a viable alternative for similar nutritional quality.

Whether it affects health or fitness, for those who control calories and macronutrients and enjoy it as a food, peanut butter is a sensible option, like hundreds of other foods. . For people who need to control their weight and are unfamiliar or unwilling to track calories and macronutrients, peanut butter should be evaluated with caution due to its high calorie density and therefore high likelihood that it brings an excess of calories in the diet. There are intermediate cases between these two extremes, but for those who tend to be overweight, there are more suitable foods, starting with whole oilseeds.

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