The Best Fish To Eat Post-Workout For Maximum Recovery

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Fish can be a great addition to your post-workout meal, but you must be careful with the type, as the wrong fish can fill you up with fats without providing the necessary protein for recovery.

Key Takeaways

  • Haddock, mahi mahi, and pollock are the top three fish that provide the highest quality protein with as little fat as possible per serving ‒‒making them ideal post-workout.
  • Canned salmon, rainbow trout, carp, swordfish, and sardines are some fish that contain more fats with less protein and, therefore, are not ideal to eat immediately after training.  Fats can slow digestion and somewhat limit muscle repair.

How We Decided On The Best Post-Workout Fish

To determine the best fish to eat after a workout, we used the protein-to-fat ratio for each type of fish and selected those with a 5:1 or greater ratio.

Research shows that the best approach for optimal body composition is to consume 5 grams of protein per gram of fat. 

This will provide the fat required for healthy hormones while delivering enough protein to maximize muscle building. 

The ratio is also vital for recovery post-workout because your body can more quickly use fast-digesting carbs and protein, helping replenish lost glycogen and stopping muscle breakdown.

Fat will slow down this absorption process, so it may be better to consume less of it after training. 

It’s important to remember that fat doesn’t just come from the fish. It can also come from the cooking process. 

Methods of cooking that involve a lot of extra oil, such as deep-frying, should be avoided. Stick to oven baking or pan-frying using just cooking oil spray.

19 Fish To Eat After A Workout

Fish Type

Grams of
(per 100g serving)

Grams of
(per 100g serving)


Haddock160.532.0 to 1.0
Canned Tuna26126.0 to 1.0
Red Snapper20120.0 to 1.0
Pollock19119.0 to 1.0
Pickerel19119.0 to 1.0
Halibut19119.0 to 1.0
Mahi-Mahi19119.0 to 1.0
Grouper19119.0 to 1.0
Rockfish18118.0 to 1.0
Cod18118.0 to 1.0
Tilapia20210.0 to 1.0
Sea bass1929.5 to 1.0
Sole1527.5 to 1.0
Perch1527.5 to 1.0
Monkfish1527.5 to 1.0
Arctic Char2036.7 to 1.0
Flounder1226.0 to 1.0
Barramundi203.55.7 to 1.0
Tuna244.55.3 to 1.0


haddock to eat after a workout

Haddock is a mild white fish with the highest protein-to-fat ratio (32:1), making it one of the best protein sources post-workout. 

While haddock contains virtually no fat, it only has 16 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, less than many other fish. 

This means you must consume more fish to get the same protein.

While beneficial for fat loss (you can enjoy a higher volume of fish and feel fuller), haddock is more expensive and can add up. 

Also, Registered Dietitian Jill Corleone notes:

“Low in calories, high in protein, and carb-free, haddock makes a healthy addition to almost any diet plan you may be following. Whether cutting carbs for the keto diet or looking for healthy additions to your Mediterranean diet, haddock is a good option.”

Canned Tuna

canned tuna to eat after a workout

Canned tuna has a high protein-to-fat ratio (26:1) and is affordable and portable, ideal for a post-workout meal. 

Canned tuna packs 26 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving, the highest of other fish. It also only has 1 gram of fat, which is ideal after training. 

Unlike other fish, you can store canned tuna in the pantry for convenience or even take it on the go for a quick protein source. 

Most people mix canned tuna with mayonnaise, but Greek yogurt is a great alternative to reduce the fat post-workout. 

That said, canned tuna contains mercury, leading to neurological and cardiovascular issues when consumed excessively.  

The FDA has classified light canned tuna as a lower mercury option and therefore recommends consuming two to three servings per week, which is four to six ounces.

Red Snapper, Grouper, and Mahi-Mahi 

red snapper, grouper and mahi-mahi to eat after a workout

These fish are a great low-fat, high-protein source post-workout. However, given the high price, eating them occasionally rather than daily may be better.

Red snapper, grouper, and mahi-mahi provide 19 grams of protein per 100 grams with only 1 gram of fat. 

These fish are also considered some of the best-tasting, which is great if you don’t enjoy fish.


pollock to eat after a workout

Pollock is a low-fat and affordable fish, making it a great post-workout protein source to include regularly.

Pollock packs 19 grams of protein per 100 grams, which can be helpful post-workout as you won’t need to consume many servings to get enough protein. 

This is great for those who may have a small appetite post-workout.

Pollock is also the most affordable fish when looking at the price per gram of protein. 

Like most fish, it doesn’t reheat well, so I recommend cooking it fresh, which generally only takes 10 – 15 minutes.

Pickerel and Perch

pickerel and perch to eat after a workout

Pickerel and perch are high-protein, low-fat freshwater fish, ideal to enjoy post-workout as often as you like. 

When considering what to eat post-workout, it’s important to consider the food you will eat in a week. 

With fish, the primary consideration is mercury levels. 

Since pickerel and perch are freshwater fish, they don’t have high mercury levels (like many ocean fish do) and are safe to eat often. 

However, since they are freshwater fish, they have a shorter season and are generally only available around the Great Lakes in the summer. 

This means you can typically find them more easily and at a lower price, making them a good post-workout protein source for the summer season.

Halibut and Monkfish

halibut and monkfish to eat after a workout

Halibut and monkfish have the desired protein-to-fat ratio for a post-workout meal, but you should eat them once weekly, given the high mercury levels.

Both fish have a milder taste that most, even those who don’t love fish, enjoy. 

However, the FDA recommends consuming only 4 ounces of these fish weekly. This is just over 20 grams of protein, sufficient for one post-workout meal per week. 


rockfish to eat after a workout

While rockfish is a low-fat fish option that is great post-workout, it has high mercury levels, meaning it’s best to consume occasionally. 

Rockfish has moderate mercury levels, and the FDA recommends having a 4-ounce portion weekly, the equivalent of one post-workout meal.

Rockfish have a firm texture (resembling poultry), making for an enjoyable swap instead of other fish. 


tilapia to eat after a workout

Tilapia is an affordable, low-fat fish that is quick to prepare. 

Tilapia is relatively lean, with less than 2 grams of fat per serving, making it a great option post-workout to ensure your body can most efficiently digest and utilize the protein. 

Plus, here is a quick tip from my colleague and Registered Dietitian Brenda Peralta:

“You can pair tilapia with complex carbs, such as sweet potatoes and rice, for balanced meals that provide energy for your workouts and promote recovery after training.”

Tilapia has received a bad reputation in recent years because of questionable farming practices, including the use of banned chemicals. 

Luckily, this is generally isolated to tilapia from China. You can avoid it by opting for wild-caught tilapia or locally farmed in North America. 

Sea Bass, Sole, and Cod

sea bass, sole and cod to eat after a workout

These fish are a low-fat protein source perfect for your post-workout meal.

They are generally more expensive and may not be the best daily options on a budget.

Sea bass, sole, and cod are mild white fish, similar to pollock and cod in taste and texture. 

They are high in protein and low in fat, with minimal amounts of mercury, making them a great post-workout option you can eat daily if you have the budget.

Arctic Char

arctic char to eat after a workout

Arctic char tastes similar to salmon and is the better option for your post-workout meal because it has less fat. 

Salmon has a protein-to-fat ratio that is less than 5:1, meaning it’s not the best choice post-workout as the fat may slow digestion and somewhat hinder muscle repair and recovery.

Arctic char’s milder flavor is also great for those looking to try salmon but finding it to taste a little strong.


flounder to eat after a workout

While Flounder has a protein-to-fat ratio appropriate for post-workout, it is on the lower end (6:1), making it a good option for someone looking to build muscle.

Flounder contains 12 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat per 100 grams, which means you will have to consume larger quantities to get enough protein compared to other fish. 

This is an easy way to sneak in a few extra calories into your day to build muscle. 

However, you may want to opt for a lower-fat fish (e.g., the top ten options from above) to save yourself some calories while cutting. 


barramundi to eat after a workout

Barramundi is a low-fat fish with a good taste and texture (meatier, resembling that of chicken), making it a great option for your post-workout meal, especially if you’re new to consuming fish.

This makes it an excellent option to get the beneficial micronutrient fish provides while still enjoying your meals.

Barramundi is moderately priced, but there are some mercury concerns, so it’s best to limit your consumption to once or twice weekly.


tuna to eat after a workout

Tuna is a great low-fat protein source after a workout. It’s also one of the most popular options, especially for people who enjoy raw fish, such as sushi or poke.

However, given the mercury content, it is not recommended to consume on a regular or daily basis. 

The FDA recommends consuming a 4-ounce serving size per week, which is just under 30 grams of protein and would be appropriate for one post-workout meal. 

Therefore, tuna is not a good daily protein source, but it is a good option to add to your diet occasionally, especially if you enjoy the taste. 

Benefits of Eating Fish After A Workout

benefits of eating fish after a workout

1. Fish Is a High-Quality Protein Source

Fish is a high-quality protein source, which means it provides the nine essential amino acids you need for muscle repair and growth. 

Now, eating enough protein during your day is not enough. It’s also essential to consume protein shortly after training to repair muscle damage.

Research recommends having 0.3 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight after training.

2. Fish Can Be a Low-Fat Protein Source

Fish can be a low-fat protein source that will improve your body’s ability to absorb and utilize protein.

While fat is important for hormones and other bodily functions, you want to consume most of it at meals not immediately around a workout. 

This is primarily because fat slows digestion, and post-workout, you want to quickly digest the carbs and protein you eat for repair and recovery.

Consuming too much fat around a workout could delay muscle repair and lead to further breakdown of muscle beyond what your workout is designed to do. 

3. Fish Is Quick To Cook

Fish is one of the quickest meats to cook, making it easier to eat your post-workout meal soon after training.

Anyone who cooks meat often knows it’s not always a quick process. 

Post-workout, if you’ve already driven home from the gym, you want to be eating food that’s quick to cook so you can fit it into that optimal window of one to two hours. 

Fish typically cooks in 10-15 minutes and can even be done in a pan or air fryer, so no preheating is required. This is particularly helpful as fish do not reheat well. 

Fish To Avoid After A Workout

Fish Type

Grams of
(per 100g serving)

Grams of
(per 100g serving)


Canned Salmon2473.4 to 1.0
Rainbow Trout2063.3 to 1.0
Atlantic Salmon2583.1 to 1.0
Carp1863.0 to 1.0
Swordfish 2072.9 to 1.0
Sardines25102.5 to 1.0
Catfish1562.5 to 1.0
Shad22181.2 to 1.0
Mackerel18181.0 to 1.0
Chilean Sea Bass14180.8 to 1.0

Other Fish Resources For Bodybuilders:


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Vliet SV, Beals JW, Martinez IG, Skinner SK, Burd NA. Achieving Optimal Post-Exercise Muscle Protein Remodeling in Physically Active Adults through Whole Food Consumption. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 16;10(2):224. doi: 10.3390/nu10020224. PMID: 29462924; PMCID: PMC5852800.

Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB. Fish Intake, Contaminants, and Human Health: Evaluating the Risks and the Benefits. JAMA. 2006;296(15):1885–1899. doi:10.1001/jama.296.15.1885

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Liu AG, Ford NA, Hu FB, Zelman KM, Mozaffarian D, Kris-Etherton PM. A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. Nutr J. 2017 Aug 30;16(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4. PMID: 28854932; PMCID: PMC5577766.

About The Author

Laura Semotiuk

Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.

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