Cod, rice, and broccoli have been a staple meal in a traditional bodybuilding diet, but is this beneficial for performance and achieving your physique goals? Or is it an outdated approach that doesn’t provide any real benefits?
Here’s my quick answer…
Is cod good or bad for bodybuilding? Cod is good for bodybuilding because it’s high in protein, helping with muscle growth. It will also keep you full longer, which is beneficial when cutting. Cod is primarily protein, which makes it easier to hit your macros but consume it with carbs and fat to create a balanced meal.
In this article, I will provide:
- The macro and micronutrients cod provides
- The pros and cons of cod for bodybuilding
- Whether cod is a good choice pre-and post-workout
- A pre-and post-workout recipe that includes cod
Eating Cod for Bodybuilding: Overview
Macronutrients in Cod
Cod is a high protein food option with virtually no fat or carbs making it a great food option for bodybuilders to hit their protein goal without consuming additional fat that might impact body composition.
A 6oz serving provides 130 calories and 30g of protein. Adding cod as a protein source in your meal is a great option for bodybuilders that are cutting and bulking as protein is important in both cases. If you are bulking, you may find your serving size is larger, since you’re eating more calories, and closer to 8-10oz.
When eating cod it’s important to consume it as a meal along with a carb source, such as potatoes or rice, and a fat source, such as avocado or olive oil. Since it does not provide any carbs and very minimal fat, this will ensure you are consuming all the macronutrients you need in your day.
Overall, cod is beneficial to consume to help reach our daily protein goals.
Micronutrients in Cod
Cod is high in micronutrients such as iodine, which is crucial for healthy hormones, as well as B vitamins helping to boost energy levels.
Cod contains iodine, which is critical for our body to produce hormones correctly. While iodine is important, it’s often difficult for many people in North America to get into their diet. Adding a 4oz or greater serving size of cod into your day will provide you with your daily recommended iodine.
Vitamin B is important for bodybuilders as it supports building muscle due to its role in muscle protein synthesis. B vitamins have an impact on your energy levels. Low vitamin B can make it difficult for bodybuilders to push through a workout, particularly for those cutting so foods rich in vitamin B are an important part of a bodybuilder’s diet.
- We reviewed 29 different types of fish and ranked them in terms of which are best for bodybuilding. Read our top picks: Best Fish For Bodybuilding.
3 Pros of Eating Cod For Bodybuilding
The pros of eating cod for bodybuilders are:
- Cod is a low-fat protein source
- Cod keeps us full for longer
- Cod makes it easy to hit our macros
1. Cod Is a Low-fat Protein Source
Cod is high in protein which is needed for bodybuilders to gain muscle. Since it’s also low in fat, by including cod in your diet, you can get enough protein without impacting your body composition.
For a lean physique like most bodybuilders are looking for, research shows that we want to aim for 5g of protein for every 1g of fat. This will make sure you are getting the fat you need for healthy hormones while also getting enough protein to maximize muscle building.
Cod only has 1g of fat per 30g of protein meaning it far exceeds this ratio, making it a great protein source for bodybuilders.
- Learn more about the most protein fish.
2. Cod Keeps Us Full for Longer
Cod is a high protein food meaning it takes longer to digest. This keeps you full for longer after you eat, this is especially helpful for bodybuilders who are cutting.
When bodybuilders are cutting, they are consuming fewer calories than they burn in a day which can often lead to hunger. By eating slow-digesting food like cod, it can help keep you full for longer after you eat.
When you are more full and satisfied after eating, you are probably a lot less likely to find yourself reaching for a snack between meals. Many snacks like chips, donuts, or granola bars are high in calories causing you to eat more than what would result in successful weight loss.
3. Cod Makes It Easy To Hit Our Macros
Cod only provides protein, making it a single macro food. By building a meal with single macro foods it’s significantly easier to hit your macros as you just have to adjust your portion sizes based on your needs.
Cod is a great option for anyone just starting to bodybuild and learn about counting macros as it’s just providing protein to your meal. I always recommend to my newer bodybuilding clients, or just those that are super busy, to stick with meals that have single macro ingredients. This makes it much easier to hit your macros as you just have to adjust the portion size.
If you instead are eating foods with multiple macros, you are constantly finding yourself playing ‘macro tetris’ throughout the day trying to find foods that will fit into your exact needs. This can be difficult and often leads to clients going over their macros.
Including cod in your diet is an easy way to simplify your meals and make it super easy to hit your macros and obtain the desired physique you’re looking for.
- Learn more the 19 Best Fish To Eat After A Workout (Plus 10 To Avoid)
3 Cons of Eating Cod For Bodybuilding
The downside of eating cod for bodybuilders is:
- Cod contains mercury
- Cod doesn’t work well for meal prep
- Cod does not have enough fat for healthy hormones
1. Cod Contains Mercury
Cod contains mercury, which when consumed in excess, can lead to neurological and cardiovascular issues.
The amount of mercury in fish will vary based on the type of fish. The FDA has classified cod as a lower mercury option and therefore recommends consuming 8 – 12oz per week. This is 40 – 60g of protein which is likely to be about a meal’s worth of protein for most bodybuilders.
Therefore, to make sure you are getting enough protein throughout the week, without consuming too much mercury, it’s important to get several different protein sources such as chicken, beef, eggs, greek yogurt and cottage cheese.
2. Cod Doesn’t Work Well for Meal Prep
Cod does not work well for bodybuilders that are meal prepping their food as it does not store or reheat well. It instead becomes rubbery and fishy which will make your meal much less enjoyable to eat.
I always recommend to my bodybuilding clients to meal prep at least some of their food for the week so they can easily make meals throughout the week that fit their macros.
However, if you are making food that doesn’t taste good reheated, you are much more likely to skip that food and eat out instead which can lead to a lot of extra calories eaten that will impact your body composition.
Instead of meal prepping cod the traditional way, I recommend keeping the cod uncooked but preparing the rest of your meal in advance. Since cod only takes 12-15 minutes to bake, if you have your carb source and vegetables already cooked, it will still be a quick meal.
3. Cod Does Not Have Enough Fat for Healthy Hormones
Cod contains mostly protein and provides minimal fat, which is critical for your body’s hormone functions. While this may not seem that important for bodybuilders, hormone health is critical for processes like appetite regulation and weight loss.
If you are a bodybuilder looking to lose weight, you can imagine the challenge that would be without good hormone function. Not to fear, it’s quite easy to mitigate this by ensuring you consume foods that are high in fat along with your cod.
Some good examples include nuts and seeds and olive or coconut oil.
On the topic of whether nuts are good for bodybuilding, check out my other article: Are Nuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Can You Eat Cod Before Workouts?
Yes, cod is a good choice to eat before a workout as it’s high in protein and low in fat but it must be eaten with a carb source, such as rice or potatoes, to provide you with the energy you need. It is best to consume cod 1.5 – 2 hours before your workout so your body can adequately digest your food.
Before a workout, it’s important to eat something high in carbs and easily digestible to give you the most energy for your workout. Fat slows down our digestion so we want to keep this low.
Cod is primarily protein, which doesn’t provide energy but is beneficial to include in a small quantity for muscle growth. I recommend sticking to 4-6oz so your body can still focus on getting plenty of energy from carbs.
Some great options for carb sources include bread, bagels, rice, sweet potato, yams and regular potatoes.
Can You Eat Cod After Workouts?
Cod is a great choice post-workout as it provides a high-quality protein source. To maximize recovery, it’s important to add additional carbs with your meal, ideally a more complex carb such as rice, yams, or potatoes.
After a workout, it’s important to consume carbs and protein to restore energy and encourage muscle strength and growth. Cod is a great protein source but doesn’t provide any carbs. By pairing cod with a complex carb source, such as rice, yams or potatoes, you can ensure you are getting both the protein and carbs you need for maximum recovery.
To ensure you are getting adequate protein, I recommend a larger serving of 6-8oz.
Does Cod Help Muscle Growth?
Yes, cod helps muscle growth as it’s a high-protein food to incorporate into meals to help us reach our daily protein goal.
It’s important to remember that no food alone will lead to muscle growth. It is instead a sufficient training stimulus that is the number one factor.
However, in conjunction with this, you must also be consuming enough protein for your body to repair and grow your muscles after your workouts. Research suggests for bodybuilders, this intake is about 1-1.4g of protein daily per 1lb of bodyweight.
Cod is high in protein which will help you to reach this goal but remember you also need to be consuming other protein sources throughout the day as well.
Healthy Cod Recipe for Bodybuilders
Pre-Workout Cod Recipe: Fish sticks and fries
These fish sticks are a great way to get protein in before a workout along with plenty of carbs from both the breading and the potatoes. For a little extra boost of energy pre-workout, add in a piece of fruit 30 minutes before your workout.
- 6oz raw cod
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 egg white
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dill
- 1 small potato (approx. 175g)
- Slice the cod into long ‘fish stick’ shaped pieces and the potatoes into fry shaped pieces.
- Toss the potatoes in 1 tsp of olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes flipping halfway through.
- Place the panko crumbs in a shallow dish and mix with seasoning.
- Place the flour on a plate and the egg whites in a bowl.
- Coat each fish stick in flour, followed by egg whites, then finally panko. Place them on a baking sheet when done.
- Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes.
This recipe makes 1 serving with 368 calories, 36g protein, 53g carbs, 1g fat. For a higher calorie option, increase the amount of cod of potatoes.
Post-Workout Cod Recipe: Baked Cod
This baked cod is quick is an easy way to get protein post-workout. You can prepare this meal and place it in the fridge so all that’s left to do post-workout is bake the fish. The butter and rice provide the fat and carbs needed for optimal recovery.
- 4 x 6 oz cod filet
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 tbsp chives finely chopped
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 lemon thinly sliced
- 1 cup cooked rice
- In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil and herbs. Add salt and pepper.
- Lay the cod in a baking dish and spread the mixture evenly over each.
- Top with lemon slices.
- Bake at 400 for 13-15 minutes.
- Serve with 1 cup of rice.
This recipe makes 1 serving with 391 calories, 33g protein, 41g carbs, 10g fat. For a higher calorie option, increase the rice and consume multiple cod filets.
Cod is a great addition to a bodybuilders diet, not only by providing protein but also micronutrients. It’s important to remember to pair it with other foods high in fat and carbs to create a balanced meal with all the macronutrients.
Other Fish Resources For Bodybuilders:
- Is Sushi Good or Bad for Bodybuilding (Pros & Cons)
- Are Sardines Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- 12 Lowest Calorie Fish (Under 100 Calories)
- Cod vs. Tilapia: 6 Differences & Which Is Better?
- Cod vs. Salmon: 6 Differences & Which Is Better?
- Cod vs. Flounder: 5 Differences & Which Is Better?
- Mahi Mahi vs. Cod: Pros, Cons, Differences, & Which Is Better?
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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
Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
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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