Illustration of a skinny guy trying to bulk up by eating fast food.

The Best Fast Food Restaurants for Bulking

We get this question a fair bit. Most people associate fast-food restaurants with processed junk food, but that only describes some of them. If you want to get a healthy, high-calorie bulking meal from a fast-food restaurant, you can. There are some really good options.

Chipotle is the Best

I won’t bury the lead. Chipotle wins in a landslide. You can get delicious, balanced, high-calorie meals made from fresh whole foods. It checks every single box. You can load your burritos with whatever you like, including a nutritious mix of protein, legumes, veggies, rice, avocados, and high-calorie sauces.

Before and after photo showing a skinny guy bulking up by eating at a fast food bulking restaurant every day.

For example, here’s one of our members, Chema. He ate Chipotle every single day while aggressively bulking. (Aggressive bulking is when you attempt to fully maximize your rate of muscle growth, even though there’s a risk of gaining greater amounts of fat. More on that here.)

When I was living in Canada, my wife’s best friend managed a Chipotle restaurant for a while before opening her own Mexican restaurant. Oddly enough, now that I live in Mexico, one of the things I miss most about Canada is the ostensibly Mexican experience of getting fast-food burritos. I think burritos are from further North. I’m in the taco part of Mexico.

Smoothie Bars

You can also do well at smoothie bars (like Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Smoothie King, Jamba, and Booster Juice). It’s common for them to use ingredients like ice cream to make the smoothies more palatable, but that isn’t the end of the world, especially when it’s mixed with protein, fruits, and veggies.

The more dire problem is that fast-food smoothies are usually made for fitness people. Most of those people are trying to lose weight, so the smoothies tend to be low in calories. They aren’t like the thousand-calorie bulking shakes you can blend up at home. Still, they’re fast, nutritious, and easy on the appetite.

My wife and I are especially partial to Booster Juice. That’s our go-to fast-food place when we’re trying to find something fast, healthy, and high in calories.

Sandwich Restaurants

Fast-food sandwich places can be good, too (like Subway). Whole-grain breads are a great source of calories and carbs, they’re rich in fibre, and they have quite a few nutrients. You can fill that bread with ingredients like chicken breast, spinach, onions, olives, and peppers. That’s perfect for bulking.

European Pizza Places

Pizza can be good for bulking, but it depends on the pizza. There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about pizza; it’s just that the most popular pizza joints optimize for flavour instead of nutrition, which tends to mean cranking the salt and fat sky-high. Fat is an important part of a balanced diet, but the best bulking diets are usually higher protein, carbs, and fibre. It also helps to get more of your fat from sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil.

Salt is also important, but most of us already eat enough of it, and some of us eat too much. Plus, when you’re bulking, if you fill your stomach with a large meal that’s high in salt, you’ll become ravenously thirsty, and you’ll have no space left for water.

Think of a restaurant that has extra-virgin olive oil on the table. One of those places that serves pizza with ingredients like tomato sauce, olives, mushrooms, and peppers. The type that leaves you feeling fresh afterwards.

Kebab & Gyros

I’m less familiar with kebab and gyros, but they’re nutritious mixes of meats and veggies roasted over a spit, often served on bread, sometimes as a stew. These can be incredibly nutritious and high-calorie meals.

The main thing to watch out for is the grease and salt, as explained in the section in the section on pizza. That stuff is fine in moderation, but the best bulking diets usually tend to be higher in protein, carbs, and fibre.

What Did I Miss?

If I missed a good fast-food restaurant, drop it in the comments. I’m happy to keep expanding this list.

Shane Duquette is the founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, each with millions of readers. He's a Certified Conditioning Coach (CCC), has gained seventy pounds, and has over a decade of experience helping more than ten thousand naturally thin people build muscle. He also has a degree in fine arts, but those are inversely correlated with muscle growth.

Cassandra Duquette is a certified Nutritionist (CNP).
Cassandra Duquette

Cassandra Duquette is a certified nutritionist (CNP) living in Cancun, Mexico. She takes a holistic approach to nutrition, combining a good diet with exercise and a healthy lifestyle. She's gained 23 pounds, bulking up from 97 to 120 pounds.