Consuming ice cream is only good for bulking and building muscle mass if you don’t mind some of that bulk being body fat. On average, regular ice cream contains around 14-19g of sugar, 7-13g of fat, and only 2-3g of protein per 65g-92g serving. As you can see, the aforementioned food contains a large amount of sugar which causes fat gain, and and very little amount of protein which is essential for building muscle.
As you can see from the above table, the regular and premium versions of ice cream are very high in sugar and fat. Not only this but they are somewhat low in protein too.
It is well known that in order to build muscle and burn fat, you need to consume enough protein whilst reducing your sugar intake. This fact alone unfortunately means that ice cream does not fall into the criteria of being a muscle food.
Now I know what your thinking…
“But I Still Want Ice Cream!”…
I feel your pain, I really do! The good news is that all is not lost. What we need to do is not ask the question;
“Is ice cream good for bulking?”
Rather you should ask;
“Is there a way I can fit ice cream into my healthy lifestyle while still building muscle and burning fat?”
What we need to do here is look at the bigger picture. You can fit any food into your healthy lifestyle in moderation, as long as long as you only eat it now and again as a treat.
Try to have just one day off a week (generally at the weekend) where you can indulge in a bowl or two of your favourite frozen treat and other food and drink items that you have been craving throughout the week on your ‘clean’ days.
The rest of the week you want to be consuming a clean, high protein, low sugar diet which will nutritionally support your fitness and muscle building goals.
If you have read any of my other articles you will know that I am a big fan of intermittent fasting. If you can eat a clean diet which is also built around the principles of fasting, you will have a lot more leeway with the treats you do eat from time to time. Fasting gives your body time to burn off excess sugar in the body and therefore helps prevent your form gaining body fat when you do eat.
If you want to learn more about how fasting can help you build muscle and burn fat while still enjoying the foods you love, then you can read my article all about intermittent fasting HERE.
The Problems With Ice Cream
There are three main problems with ice cream which means that to our dismay, it can not be consumed as a health food, for building muscle or burning fat…. sadly!
- High in added sugar:
- High in calories and low in nutrients:
- Some brands contain unhealthy additives:
High In Added Sugar
Ice cream is very high in sugar, which we all know is not good for us. Sugar causes fat gain, tooth decay, fatty liver and many other obesity related problems. The recommended daily sugar intake is about 50g for 2,000 calorie a day diet Therefore, one or 2 small servings of ice cream really does start pushing you very close to that limit.
High in Calories and Low in Nutrients
Ice cream if full of calories, but it actually contains very few nutrients that are useful for the body apart from calcium. It is okay to consume as a treat now and again, but you most certainly can not base a healthy diet around it. There are far healthier ways to get your daily intake of calcium such as from milk or natural yogurt.
Some brands contain unhealthy additives:
Some brands of ice creams have been found to contain certain unhealthy ingredients. The FDA recently banned several artificial flavourings including benzophenone from ice cream and other frozen desserts. This was because they found possible links between the ingredient and cancer in certain animal studies.
Some processed ice creams have also been found to contain several artificial food dyes such as Red No.3 (erythrosine) and Blue No.2 (indigo carmine). These dyes are approved by the FDA, however some studies have shown that they may be a link to hyperactivity and behavioural issues in children.
Not All Ice Cream Is Created Equal…
It is important to remember that not all ice cream is the same. If you are trying to fit this sweet frozen treat into your muscle building diet, then it is just as important to choose the right variety of ice cream, as it is to choose how often and how much of it you eat.
You can see from the table at the beginning of this post that the standard and premium versions are the highest in sugar. Sugar is the real culprit when it comes to fat gain, hormonal imbalance (including that all important testosterone), and other metabolic and obesity related diseases.
Therefore we want to keep the consumption of the high sugar varieties to a minimum. One potion a week on a ‘cheat day’ is a good guideline.
As for the low fat variety; I would scratch this option all together. It is becoming more widely known now that fat does not make you fat. It is in fact an over consumption of starchy carbohydrates and worst still, refined sugar that makes you gain body fat.
If you want to make ice cream a more regular part of your diet, then I would definitely recommend going with the low sugar version.
I am not saying it is by any means healthy, and the low sugar ice cream is certainly not a muscle building food! Having said that, if you must eat ice cream a few times a week, then I would definitely go with the low sugar version. Again, intermittent fasting can really help offset the negative effects of your ice cream habit as well!
Again, referring to the table, we can see that the low sugar version has only 4 grams of sugar whereas the regular and premium versions have in excess of 14-19 grams of sugar!
Now here is where you have to be careful; and we will look at this in more detail with a specific brand of low sugar ice cream in the next section. Notice how there is only 4 grams of sugar in the low sugar ice cream yet the total carb count per serving is 15 grams? Where are those extra carbs coming from if the sugar content is so low?
Those extra carbs are probably coming from artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols and also fibre.
The thing is, is that not all artificial sweeteners are equal an some are almost as bad as normal sugar when it comes to its effect blood sugar and insulin levels.
What Does This Mean for You?…
This means that you really need to know what kind of ingredients are being used in the product that is bringing up that carb count. Some low sugar ice creams will use ingredients and artificial sweeteners that don’t raise your insulin as much as others.
Nutritional labels can be somewhat deceiving, and this “healthier” ice cream is not always as healthy as you might be lead to believe.
Sadly, this is commonplace in the food industry! If they are not putting as much actual sugar in their products, then they need to put something else in to make it taste good. This often consists of chemicals and artificial sweeteners that still actually raise your insulin levels to a certain degree.
So yes, the low sugar version may be better for you than its regular counterpart. However, the actual benefits from choosing one over the other will only be marginal if you choose a poor quality low sugar ice cream from the offset.
The Joys of Marketing!
It’s not all doom and gloom though!
This revelation just means that you need to educate yourself as much as you can and really look at the labels before you make a choice. Know what you are eating, how much you are eating and what effect that it is having on your body in relation to the diet plan you are on.
Some brands of ‘healthy’ ice cream will inevitably use better quality ingredients than others, and they will mark this clearly on their nutrition facts label as well.
There is a very good chance however, that the lower end brands will use cheaper ingredients that does not really provide as much of a health benefit as the branding makes out.
Often, cheaper brands will want you to get you mildly addicted to the taste of their products, even if this means using ‘artificial sweeteners’ that still have a significant effect on blood sugar.
Some companies like to stick healthy branding on their food labels, and then use ingredients in the actual product that tastes great, but they still have an effect on the body that is similar to normal refined sugar.
The ‘artificial sweetener’ maltitol is a perfect example. Maltitol is a sweetener that is often used in diabetic versions candies and chocolate, yet this particular artificial sweetener is not as innocent as most people think. I am sure it makes the food taste great though.
Sadly, for some companies it’s all about sales at the expense of quality.
The more premium low sugar ice cream brands are much more likely to contain higher quality ingredients, lower sugar and fewer total impact carbs.
The true health brands will often cost more, but they are more likely to be the best out there when it comes to quality and integrity.
Well They Say You Get What You Pay for I Guess!…
Now I want to take a closer look at one of the most popular and most widely available low sugar ‘health ice creams’ on the market today and see how things stack up.
A Popular Low Sugar Ice Cream
Halo top is one of the most popular low sugar and low fat ice creams on the market today. It is the brand I recommend if you are looking to fit ice cream into your bodybuilding lifestyle. They have a large range of products including keto ice cream, vegan ice cream, and ‘full on’ low sugar dairy ice cream. They have a large variety of flavours to choose from, and all of their products are far less harmful to your body than standard ice cream.
What I like about halo top is that they are very transparent with their nutritional information and ingredients list. You can see this from the image above.
You can see that there is approximately half of the amount of added refined sugar in halo top, than there is in standard ice cream. What is also important to remember is that out of the 8 grams of total sugars in this vanilla version of Halo Top, only 4 grams is added sugar meaning that roughly 4 grams is naturally occurring sugars.
Even more important factor to consider is the sugar alcohols in this product. The 7 grams of sugar alcohols are from artificial sweeteners used to sweeten the product such as Erythritol. Many of these sugar alcohols do not spike your insulin levels as much as refined sugar.
You do still need to take into account their effect on your blood sugar though, seeing as they do cause some insulin response in the body. Many artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are still considered a form of carbohydrate and they still spike your blood sugar to some degree.
We will learn how to take this into consideration below.
The main selling point of Halo Top is that there is a lot less added refined sugar in the product, yet there is a good 6 grams of protein in each 85 gram portion.
Standard ice cream only contains around 2-3 grams of protein. Not only this but Halo Top uses whey protein concentrate in order to increase the amount of protein in the product.
This is great for us men and women who are looking to build or maintain muscle mass. This is because the whey form of protein is rapidly absorbed by the body and easily utilised in order to rebuild muscle mass and increase strength.
As a fitness fanatic, I would try to swap out your normal ice cream with Halo Top as much as your can. It is certainly the best of a bad bunch as I mentioned earlier.
A quick note on the carb count of Halo Top. This will be very important if you are on a keto or carbohydrate controlled diet and you are looking to fit this product into your lifestyle.
Looking again at the nutrition facts label you will notice that the total carbohydrate count for an 85 gram serving is around 19 grams of carbs.
Now, you may be thinking that this is rather high for a low sugar product. You may also be thinking that the carbohydrate count here is actually very similar to the standard and premium ice creams that are listed in the first chart in this article.
Well, that is true. However, the vast majority of the carbohydrate count in Halo Top comes from a combination of fibre, natural sugars, and the sugar alcohols rather than added refined sugar which is actually the biggest culprit when it comes to fat gain.
Not only this; but with total carbohydrate counts, you need to deduct the amount of grams of fibre to arrive at the true amount of carbs that actually have an impact on your blood sugar and insulin. This is because fibre doesn’t actually spike insulin, rather it helps to slow the digestion process and to reduce the effect of the other carbs on your blood sugar and insulin. Listing fibre as a carbohydrate is actually a bit of a misnomer when it comes to nutrition labels.
In contrast, with normal ice cream most of the total carbohydrate count is almost certainly from added refined sugars which have a much greater negative impact on your body and overall health.
It turns out that not all carbohydrates are equal!…
So to calculate the true amount of impact carbs in Halo Top that actually has a fat gaining effect on your body, you need to do the following.
Take the 19 grams of carbs, take off 3 grams to take account for the 3 grams of fibre. Then, to take into account the sugar alcohols that don’t spike your blood sugar as much as added refined sugar, you need to take half of the amount of grams of sugar alcohols, and deduct that number from the total carbohydrate count.
So 7 grams of sugar alcohols divided by 2 is 3.5 grams. Then take the 3.5 grams from the total amount of carbs.
In summary: Take the 19 grams of total carbohydrates and takeaway 3 grams of fibre. That is 16 grams of carbohydrates remaining. Now follow this with; 16 grams of carbohydrates take away 3.5 grams of sugar alcohol carbohydrates. That equals around 12.5 grams of total impact carbohydrates per 85 gram portion of Halo Top low sugar ice cream.
Of course, you adjust the numbers for whatever type of food your are working with.
Now you can see how the 12.5 grams of carbs that actually increases insulin levels is a lot better than the 17-20 grams of carbohydrates that are in standard ice cream that most likely consists of mostly added refined sugar that causes so many health problems today.
This makes Halo Top and similar products a great alternative to the regular ice cream. It is lower sugar, lower fat, and moderate protein. Perfect for muscle builders and fat burners like you and me.
So is ice cream good for bulking? What types of ice cream can we get away with when burning fat and building muscle?
Well, as I have already mentioned, ice cream is not a health product and is not good for bulking. It is high in fat and sugar which is not a good combination at all. Over consuming this stuff will encourage fat gain, hormonal imbalance and other metabolic and health problems.
You can certainly eat ice cream once in a while as a treat on a day off from your fitness and dieting activities.
If you want to consume ice cream more regularly during the week, you could use a lower sugar and higher protein version such as the one I have talked about here. This version will at least help you get some whey protein in you for your muscle building goals. Also, the significantly lower amount of added sugar will help to minimise the damage.
It is important to remember though, that you will only achieve good health and your physique goals if you remain focused and consistent in your efforts. You need to be eating clean 80-90% of the time.
You can not consume 3 tubs of Halo Top a day just because it is the “healthy version”. Despite Halo Top being low in carbohydrates and sugar, there is still a good amount of it in the product. Therefore if you are on a carbohydrate restricted diet, then you need to make sure track everything and stay within your limits.
As long as you track your numbers, you can certainly make a low sugar ice cream a part of your healthy lifestyle. You just need to remember that moderation is key.
Ice cream in any form, is not a healthy food. Even the ‘health’ versions!
If you have an addiction to sugar, trying to overcome this by using ‘health’ versions of junk food is often a bad way to go. You need to seek professional advice. Using low sugar alternatives will most likely just exasperate the issue.
It is like an alcoholic having ‘just a drop of vodka’. It rarely works! The danger is that you use the low sugar alternatives to binge eat, and so you end up consuming a load of sugar anyway. This just makes the problem worse, not better.
If however, you are someone who is not suffering from an addiction to sugar or ice cream, then these low sugar alternatives can certainly provide you with a tool to ‘get your fix’, while staying on track.
Again, as long as you track everything.
I do not say any of this to offend people who are struggling with any form of addiction. I am just trying to be totally honest and up front with anyone who reads this article, or any of my other blog posts for that matter.
My aim is to help as many people as possible make healthier lifestyle choices while still enjoying life!