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The Worst Foods for Weight Lifting, Says Expert

The goal of pumping iron is to build muscle—not put on unwanted fat. Avoid these foods at all costs.

If you're into lifting weights, knowing the right foods to eat—and avoiding the wrong ones—is integral to your overall success. Working out and maintaining a proper diet go hand in hand, since the food choices you make will directly impact how you feel when exercising, as well as your performance. The goal of pumping iron is to build muscle—not put on unwanted fat. We are here to point out the absolute worst foods for weight lifting, so you ensure you stay on the right track.

Eat This, Not That! spoke with Melissa Pfeister, founder of the health and wellness brand Stripped with Melissa and member of the ETNT Medical Expert Board, who points out the many foods for weight lifters to stay away from. The last thing you want to gain is extra fat on your journey, so these tips will be key players when shopping for food and planning meals. Continue lifting, and know the foods that are not your friend. You'll get your body super toned in no time!

Read on to learn more about the worst foods for weight lifting, and next up, check out The 6 Best Exercises for Strong and Toned Arms in 2022, Trainer Says.

Avoid unnatural sugars that can lead to fat gain

soda, baked goods, and candy

Not all sugars are created equal. Be cautious to stay away from food items with added sugars, including baked goods, protein bars that are typically filled with lots of sugar, and candy. Instead, choose items that have natural sugar, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Pfeister explains, "Sugar spikes your insulin levels which can lead to fat gain. So when you need a post-workout snack, grab that deliciously wholesome apple rather than that chocolate chip muffin!"

Related: These Are the Best Foods for Running Stamina, Says Dietitian

Avoid processed meats—always

ham, processed meat worst foods for weight lifting

Processed meats are, without a doubt, a major no-no. They are filled with calories, sodium, and saturated fats, which are extremely bad for you. Pfeister warns, "Many processed meats contain nitrates, which can form certain chemicals within your body that have actually been linked to cancer."

Stick to lean proteins

chicken and rice, lean protein food for weight lifting

It's important to maintain a healthy and clean diet when you are lifting iron. "I suggest sticking to lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and turkey," Pfeister says, along with "natural fruits and veggies, legumes and beans, and whole-grain foods like rice and oats."

Staying away from bad food choices will help you eliminate fat and build the muscle you are aiming for.

Related: What Science Says About the Exercise Habits That Slow Aging

Some nutritious foods can cause discomfort just before exercising


There are also certain nutritious foods that are excellent to work into your diet for added fiber, but they are choices you should probably avoid just before weight lifting. For instance, certain vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli can cause discomfort just before exercising. Some vegetables that are a little kinder on your digestion include cooked potatoes or asparagus. If yogurt isn't normally easy for you to digest, it's something else to avoid just before you lift.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa