Are Tamales Good for Bulking?

Tamales are good for bulking. Tamales can make you gain weight faster due to their high fat and carbohydrate content. A single traditional tamale also contains up to 305 calories per 100-gram serving. So, if you’re planning on gaining weight faster, try eating a tamale or two. 

However, they are not the most nutritious way to bulk up.

What are Tamales?

Tamales are traditional Mexican and Native American food made primarily from corn. They are usually eaten during special occasions like Christmas, New Year’s, and Dia de los Meurtos (or Day of the Dead). 

Thanks to commercialization, they are now eaten and enjoyed all year round by everyone. Gone are the days when the women in the community only made this. Now, even you can prepare it yourself by buying a ready-to-eat tamale from a vendor or from the grocery.

But are they good for bulking up? Is eating a tamale a day a healthy way to pack on the pounds? Let’s take a deeper look into tamales’ nutritional value and ingredients.

Tamales Nutritional Value


A regular-sized tamale with traditional fillings has around 285 to 305 calories. This number increases or decreases based on the ingredients used and the size of the tamale itself. 


Tamales range between 18 to 32 grams per 100 grams, depending on the ingredients you used. If you’re carbo-loading, bring out the tamales! Bagels can also be a good option for bulking.


Lard is used in making the masa dough. This constitutes the majority of the fat content in a tamale. Despite it being saturated fat, it is still basically fat. If you count the fat content in the other ingredients like the pork filling, then you have a fat-heavy meal on your hands.


A traditional tamale has around 5 to 6 grams of fiber. The daily nutritional needs of men and women are 30 to 38 grams and up to 25 grams, respectively. That means for men, you’ll need at least six tamales to satisfy your fiber needs. Women only need a maximum of 5.

To increase the fiber content of your tamale, infuse it with beans and vegetables.


Tamales are chock full of protein when it comes to the filling you choose. You can have chicken, pork, or beef as your filling that would amount to 12 to 15 grams of protein per 100 grams. 

You can also use beans as an added source of protein or as the sole filling for your tamales for a healthier result.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tamales are rich in vitamin A, calcium, iron and zinc. It also contains Vitamin B3, B6, and B12. It also has vitamin B9 in its natural form, which is folate. Last but not least, it also contains phosphorous and potassium.

Tamale Ingredients That Make You Gain Weight

Anything eaten in excessive amounts is going to make you fat. Being part of what makes up a tamale, these ingredients help you gain weight faster.


Lard used to have a nasty reputation back in the day. This was when people were lobbying for plant-based oils instead of animal-based oils. The truth is, lard may have some beneficial qualities if consumed in moderation.

Lard, when compared to butter, is healthier. It has 60% monounsaturated fat compared to butter which only has 45%.

Although pure lard is dairy-free and contains zero trans fats, it should still be consumed in moderation.


Corn is starchy. But then again, it is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Although generally considered a healthy vegetable, it can also spike up your blood sugar levels. However, the fiber content in corn can also help balance your blood sugar level.

The bottom line is this: eating a lot of corn will help you gain weight and prevent any weight loss as long as this is included in your regular diet.


If for nothing else but a good source of protein, you can’t go wrong with pork. This makes it an excellent choice to include in your diet to promote muscle growth and maintenance.

It’s also a good source of iron and zinc. 

But then again, pork also has a high saturated fat content. If consumed in large amounts, pork can lead to massive weight gain.


Salt makes you store more water in your body. This can show up on the weighing scale as excess weight. Eating food that has a high salt content can lead to unwanted weight gain.

If you’re bulking up, watch the amount of salt in your food. You can have some, but always try to keep your sodium intake in moderation as too much salt is linked to many unwanted diseases.

Note: a single tamale can have 600 to 800 milligrams of sodium. The daily recommended amount of sodium one should have is 2,300 milligrams. You’ll easily reach that cap with three to four tamales.

How to Make Healthier Tamales Good for Bulking up

A traditional tamale is generally considered healthy because it is steamed instead of fried. But there’s a way to make it even more nutritious by substituting certain ingredients.

Take, for example, shredded chicken breast, ground turkey meat, beans, or vegetables as an alternative filling instead of traditional pork or beef. This instantly increases your fiber intake and decreases the amount of saturated fat inside one tamale.

Traditional tamales are made with lard. You don’t have to stick with that ingredient. You can use olive or vegetable oil.

Add onions and garlic and some choice spices and herbs to round out its flavor and aroma. Cilantro, cumin, and chili, along with some finely chopped carrots, will definitely improve the taste and smell of your tamale.

And if you can do away with the cheese, do it. Otherwise, use ricotta cheese if you have to.

Final Thoughts

Although tamales are generally considered healthy, overeating can make you gain weight quickly. This is all right if you’re planning on bulking up but is not considered the most beneficial way to do so. 

To gain more weight, you’d have to eat three or more tamales per sitting. This can give you the calories, carbs, protein, and fat needed to increase your weight effectively but could also significantly raise your blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

In the end, the trade-off isn’t worth the risk involved in bulking up. You’d get better results eating one tamale as part of your diet, including vegetables, boiled chicken, eggs, and other nutrient-rich food.