Fish can be a great way to add protein into your post-workout meal but if you’re not careful which one you purchase you may end up picking one that is higher in fat than what is optimal to consume.
So what is the best fish to eat after a workout? The best fish to eat after a workout is haddock as it provides the most protein with the least amount of fat. Haddock is a more expensive fish and may be too pricey to consume every day. Other good sources that are cheaper include canned tuna, pollock, rockfish, and cod.
Below I break down the protein to fat ratio for the best 19 types of fish to eat after a workout and explain the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
In this article I will talk about:
- What makes the best fish to eat after a workout?
- A comprehensive list of fish to eat post-workout from the highest to lowest protein to fat ratio
- Fish to AVOID after a workout
- Benefits of eating fish after a workout
How We Decided On The Best Fish To Eat After A Workout
To determine the best fish to eat after a workout, we used the ratio of fat to protein for each type of fish and selected those that had a 5:1 or greater ratio.
Research shows that the best approach to maintain optimal body composition is to consume a ratio of 5g of protein to 1g of fat. This will ensure you are eating the minimum amount of fat required for healthy hormones while also consuming enough protein to maximize muscle building.
Post-workout, this ratio is also important to optimize recovery. We want protein and carbs to be broken down quickly so that our body can utilize them to repair and recover post-workout as this is what will lead to muscle growth. Fat will slow down this absorption process so it’s best to consume a more minimal amount.
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
|Haddock||16||0.5||32.0 to 1.0|
|Canned Tuna||26||1||26.0 to 1.0|
|Red Snapper||20||1||20.0 to 1.0|
|Pollock||19||1||19.0 to 1.0|
|Pickerel||19||1||19.0 to 1.0|
|Halibut||19||1||19.0 to 1.0|
|Mahi-Mahi||19||1||19.0 to 1.0|
|Grouper||19||1||19.0 to 1.0|
|Rockfish||18||1||18.0 to 1.0|
|Cod||18||1||18.0 to 1.0|
|Tilapia||20||2||10.0 to 1.0|
|Sea bass||19||2||9.5 to 1.0|
|Sole||15||2||7.5 to 1.0|
|Perch||15||2||7.5 to 1.0|
|Monkfish||15||2||7.5 to 1.0|
|Arctic Char||20||3||6.7 to 1.0|
|Flounder||12||2||6.0 to 1.0|
|Barramundi||20||3.5||5.7 to 1.0|
|Tuna||24||4.5||5.3 to 1.0|
Haddock is a mild white fish that has the highest protein to fat ratio, making it one of the best protein sources for post-workout.
While haddock contains virtually no fat, it only contains 16g of protein per 100g serving which is less than many other types of fish. This means you are going to be purchasing and consuming more fish to get the same amount of protein.
For someone that is looking to lose body fat, this is helpful as the higher volume of fish will help to physically fill you up. Since haddock is a more expensive fish, this is likely to be too costly to consume every day. Overall, it’s a great option for your post-workout meal, it just comes with a small bit of an extra price tag.
- Looking for a cheaper fish option? Check out my article on the 29 Best Fish For Bodybuilding (Ranked By Cheapest Option).
Canned tuna has a very high protein to fat ratio and is both affordable and portable, making it a great option for a post-workout meal.
Canned tuna packs 26g of protein in a 100g serving which is the highest of any other fish. It also only has 1g of fat, making it an affordable option post-workout. Unlike other fish, canned tuna can be stored in the pantry to be used in a pinch or even brought with you to the gym to eat on the go.
Most people will mix canned tuna with mayonnaise but to help reduce the fat post-workout, greek yogurt is a great alternative.
Canned tuna contains mercury which when consumed in excess, can lead to neurological and cardiovascular issues. The FDA has classified canned tuna as a lower mercury option and therefore recommends consuming 4oz per week, which is approximately 1 can.
- Want to learn more about tuna? Check out my article on the 3 Reasons Why Tuna Is Good For Bodybuilding (Plus, 1 Con).
Red Snapper, Grouper and Mahi-Mahi
These fish are a great low-fat protein source post-workout, however, given the high price they are likely to be best consumed on occasion and not daily.
Red snapper, grouper and mahi-mahi provide 19g of protein per 100g with only 1g of fat which is ideal post-workout. These fish are also considered to be one of the best-tasting fish, which is great for those that may not like the taste of fish.
However, they are generally some of the most expensive fish so I don’t recommend consuming them daily. They are a great choice on occasion, especially if you’re going out to eat post-workout.
Pollock is a low-fat fish that is quite affordable, making it a great post-workout protein source to include regularly.
Pollock packs 19g of protein per 100g which is one of the highest among fish. This can be helpful post-workout as you won’t need to consume as high of a volume of food to get enough protein. This is great for those that may not have a huge appetite post-workout.
Pollock is also the most affordable fish when looking at the price per gram of protein. This makes it a great addition to your post-workout meal on a regular or even daily basis. Similar to most fish, it doesn’t reheat well so I recommend cooking it fresh which generally only takes 10 – 15 minutes.
Pickerel and Perch
These fish are high protein and low-fat freshwater fish, making them a great addition to your post-workout meal on a regular or even daily basis.
When you are considering what to eat post-workout, it’s important to consider the quantity of that food you will be eating in a week, especially for those that work out multiple days a week. With fish, the primary consideration is mercury levels.
Since Pickerel and perch are freshwater fish, unlike many ocean fish, they don’t have high levels of mercury that would result in potential health risks consuming regularly.
However, since they are freshwater fish, they do have a shorter season. They are generally only available around the great lakes in the summer. During this time, you will find them not only easier to find but much cheaper. Therefore, during the summer, these fish make for a great post-workout protein source to consume regularly.
Halibut and Monkfish
Halibut and monkfish have the desired protein to fat ratio for a post-workout meal, however, given the high mercury levels these fish contain, these fish should only be consumed once per week.
Both fish have a mild taste that most, even those that don’t love fish, enjoy. However, the FDA recommends consuming only 4oz of these fish weekly given the mercury content. This is just over 20g of protein which would be sufficient for 1 post-workout meal per week.
These fish are great options to consume after a workout, especially in a pinch where other fish options are not available.
While rockfish is a low-fat fish option great post-workout, it has high levels of mercury meaning it’s best to consume on occasion and not regularly.
Rockfish is a moderate mercury fish, meaning the FDA recommends sticking to a 4oz portion weekly. For most, this would equate to one post-workout meal per week.
Rockfish is quite similar in taste and texture to tilapia but does not have the same mercury concerns therefore it is the better choice for regular consumption.
Rockfish does have a firmer texture, closer to chicken, and therefore makes for an enjoyable swap instead of tilapia on occasion.
Tilapia is an affordable, low-fat fish that is quick to prepare, making it a great option for your post-workout needs.
Tilapia is quite lean with less than 2g of fat per serving, making a great option post-workout to ensure your body can most efficiently digest and utilize the protein for muscle repair and recovery.
Tilapia has received a bad reputation in recent years because of some questionable fish farming practices used while raising them that include the use of banned chemicals. Luckily, this is generally isolated to tilapia from China so it can be easily avoided by opting for wild-caught tilapia or something locally farmed in North America.
- Want to learn more about tilapia? Check out my article on the 3 Reasons Why Tilapia Is Good For Bodybuilding (Plus, 1 Con).
Sea Bass, Sole and Cod
These fish are a low-fat protein source perfect for your post-workout meal, they are generally on the more expensive end of fish and therefore may not be the best daily option if you are on a budget.
Sea bass, sole and cod are mild white fish that is similar to pollock and cod. They are high in protein and low in fat with minimal amounts of mercury, making them a great post-workout option that you can eat daily.
However, these fish are more expensive than their counterparts of pollock and cod and don’t provide significant additional benefits. Therefore, if you are on a budget, you may want to consider keeping sea bass, sole and cod for more special occasions.
- Want to learn more about cod? Check out my article Is Cod Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons).
Arctic char is quite similar in taste to salmon, but with less fat, it is a better option for your post-workout meal.
Salmon has a protein to fat ratio that is less than five, meaning it’s not the best choice post-workout as the fat will interfere with the speed at which your body can digest and utilize protein for muscle repair and recovery.
Arctic char is a pink fish similar to salmon but with a milder taste and less fat making it the better choice post-workout. The milder flavour is also great for those looking to try salmon but finding the flavour is a little strong.
- Related article: Is Salmon Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
While flounder has a protein to fat ratio that is appropriate for post-workout, it is on the lower end making it a great option for someone looking to put on muscle mass.
Flounder contains 12g of protein and 2g of fat per 100g. To get sufficient protein post-workout, you are going to be consuming more fat than most other fish. For anyone looking to put on muscle mass, this is an easy way to sneak in a few extra calories into your day. If you are cutting, you may find it better to opt with a lower fat fish regularly to save yourself some calories.
Flounder is considered a very delicious tasting fish that is low in fat and both mild and moist. It’s similar to other fish like mahi-mahi, grouper and red snapper but with a cheaper price tag. While it’s still a higher price tag fish, it’s an excellent fish to add to your diet on occasion as a treat.
Barramundi is a low-fat fish with a taste and texture enjoyed by most. This makes it a great option for your post-workout meal, especially those that are newer to consuming fish.
Barramundi is a fish with a very mild taste and a meatier texture, closer to chicken, that is generally preferred by people that don’t enjoy fish. This makes it an excellent option to get the beneficial micronutrient fish provides, while still enjoying your food.
Barramundi is a moderate price point with no concerns over mercury, making it a great fish to consume regularly.
Tuna is a great low-fat protein source after a workout, but given the mercury content, it is not recommended to consume on a regular or daily basis.
Tuna is one of the most popular fish, especially for anyone that enjoys raw fish such as sushi or poke. While tuna is a great low-fat protein source for your post-workout meal, we also want to consider how often we are consuming it given the high levels of mercury it contains.
The FDA recommends consuming a 4oz serving size per week. This is just under 30g of protein, which would be an appropriate serving size for one post-workout meal. Therefore, tuna does not make a good daily protein source, but it is a good option to add to your diet occasionally especially if you enjoy the taste.
10 Fish To Avoid After A Workout
|Canned Salmon||24||7||3.4 to 1.0|
|Rainbow Trout||20||6||3.3 to 1.0|
|Atlantic Salmon||25||8||3.1 to 1.0|
|Carp||18||6||3.0 to 1.0|
|Swordfish||20||7||2.9 to 1.0|
|Sardines||25||10||2.5 to 1.0|
|Catfish||15||6||2.5 to 1.0|
|Shad||22||18||1.2 to 1.0|
|Mackerel||18||18||1.0 to 1.0|
|Chilean Sea Bass||14||18||0.8 to 1.0|
3 Benefits of Eating Fish After A Workout
The benefits of eating fish after a workout are:
1. Fish Is a High-Quality Protein Source
Fish is a high-quality protein source, which is important to consume post-workout for muscle repair, recovery and growth.
To build muscle, a key factor is we need to consume sufficient protein since protein is the building blocks our body will utilize in this process. Now it’s not enough to just eat enough protein during your day, it’s also important to consume protein immediately post-workout to repair our muscles from the damage that occurred.
Fish provides a high-quality protein source that will give your body the protein that it needs when consumed post-workout.
- Related Article: Is Sushi Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
2. Fish Can Be a Low-Fat Protein Source
Fish can be a low-fat protein source that will improve our bodies ability to absorb protein and utilize it for muscle growth.
While fat is important for hormones and other bodily functions, we want to consume most of our fat at meals that are not immediately around a workout. This is primarily because fat slows down our digestive process and post-workout we want to be quickly digesting the carbs and protein we are eating so our body can quickly utilize them for repair and recovery.
If we consume too much fat around a workout, this will delay our body repairing our muscles which can lead to further breakdown of muscle beyond what our workout is designed to do.
Many fish are a low-fat protein source that is ideal for post-workout, providing the protein required for muscle building without providing additional fat that would inhibit the process.
- Related Article: Is Shrimp Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding (Pros & Cons)
3. Fish Is Quick To Cook
Fish is one of the quickest meats to cook, helping to ensure you are eating your post-workout meal within the one hour window that is most optimal for muscle recovery.
Post-workout, our goal is to consume a high carb and high protein meal within 1 hour of completing our workout. This ensures we are getting our muscles what they need to recover so no further breakdown occurs.
Anyone that 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.
Fish can typically cook 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 does not reheat well so cooking it fresh is important.
Other Fish Resources For Bodybuilders:
- Are Sardines Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- 27 Fish With The Most Protein (Complete List)
Helms, E.R., Aragon, A.A. & Fitschen, P.J. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 20 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
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
About The Author
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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