The Myth of Bland Chicken


So often in the fitness world people talk about the “bodybuilder diet” which apparenty consists of broccoli, rice, and “bland chicken”. The emphasis is always on bland. As in, if you want to be maximally lean and ripped you need to sacrifice your taste buds to the god of gainz. The idea that bodybuilders are just forcing horrible tasting food down their gullets is repeated over and over. It feeds into the myth that to eat “clean” means to sacrifice flavor in favor of optimal health – that eating “clean” is a “sacrifice” that requires vast amounts of willpower. The “bland chicken” myth also makes it sound like seasonings are somehow not conducive to the goals of leanness, muscle gain, or health in general. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are two main problems with the “bland chicken” myth. First, most bland chicken is simply overcooked. Chicken has a narrow range of acceptable temperatures that are optimal in terms of texture. You want it to be around 160-165 degrees F. Too little and it’s undercooked – too much over that and the chewy texture translates into the perception of “blandness”. I don’t care how much seasoning you put on there if you have to chew it for 60 seconds to get it down you’re not going to enjoy it. Furthermore, keep in mind that if you take the chicken out of the oven at 165 degrees it’s going to keep cooking in its own juices for another 5 minutes bringing the temperature higher than 165 and thus out of the optimal texture range.

Second, most bland chicken is underseasoned. More specifically, most bland chicken is undersalted.

Why? Because of another pervasive myth in the fitness/health world: salt is bad and we need to limit our intake of salt. Very very few people have a legitimate medical condition that requires limiting salt intake. For everyone else, I would wager they are not consuming enough salt. Chicken is a low-fat meat (“lean protein”) and because of that missing fat, needs to be heavily seasoned with salt. Most people’s concept of “liberal salting” is just a small pinch. Naw. You need to smother your chicken in salt. Every available square inch of exposed surface needs to be salted. Your taste buds will thank you. Kosher salt is the best for sprinkling because it disperses evenly.

So next time you hear someone talking about “bland chicken” keep in mind that the only thing bland about chicken is your bland cooking method, either overcooking it or underseasoning it. Salt is your friend! Learn to love salt! Our brains were designed to crave salt and it is extremely tasty to normal humans. Use this to your advantage and turn boring, bland “clean” foods like veggies and chicken into delicious foods that are not a sacrifice to eat.

I want to add a bonus tip: if you want to get the protein-benefits of eating chicken but don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking raw meat then I highly suggest the more expensive but super convenient option of buying frozen pre-cooked grilled chicken at your supermarket. Walmart and Aldi both have good options (I love the Aldi ones the most). Make sure it’s not breaded (just check the carb content – should be zero).