White bread is perhaps the most commonly consumed carbohydrate source in America today. Nearly any sandwich ordered from a drive-through marker board contains white bread, as do the side offerings at any fancy restaurant. Americans love their white bread, and consume a lot of it without thinking twice. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, have a responsibility to examine common, everyday foods to determine if these carbohydrate sources have any place, or a limited place, in the bodybuilding menu.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to white bread as a food for bodybuilding purposes. The first opinion is that white bread is great for bodybuilding goals. It digests quickly, which delivers fast calories to trainers seeking to gain mass. These fast-digesting carbohydrates, eaten following a workout with a good protein source creates the desired hormonal environment- resulting in higher insulin levels and greater testosterone uptake in tissues. White bread is readily available, whether in the slice, or more common, in the bun format from restaurants. Perhaps a chicken breast on a bun is the fastest and easiest way to put protein and fast carbs into the body following a workout? The carbs are there, the calories are there, the taste is there, the speed is there, and the convenience is certainly present. The perfect carb?
The other school of thought is that white bread has no place in the bodybuilding diet. The fast-delivery of its calories results in an insulin spike which does contribute to creating an anabolic environment, but creates a higher chance of adding body fat as well. The enriching process removes most of the valuable vitamins and minerals from bread. White bread also contains processed complex starchy carbs, which are not utilized by the body efficiently. One might as well consume a bag of flour. While the bread packaging may claim good micronutrient content, but as much as half these are removed during enriching and processing. Additionally, the lack of fiber means the bread’s journey through the body will be a slow one at best.
The answer, as with many things in life, likely lies in the middle. If the trainer has access to no other carbohydrate source, white bread provides a quick insulin spike and needed calories. After all, bad calories are better than no calories, when valuable muscle tissue is wasting. For trainers looking to gain mass, any source of carbohydrate calories can be good at time. However, optimal gains will be achieved with liberal use of white bread, and more frequent use of quality carbohydrate sources, such as brown rice, oatmeal, oat bran, oat bran cereal (IE Cheerios), whole wheat pastas, baked chips, low fat popcorn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, some fruits (berries are best), and vegetables. Bodybuilders looking to gain mass should consume white bread occasionally, and bodybuilders watching body fat levels should eat white bread rarely.