Is Salmon Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

If you are looking to add some variety to your bodybuilding diet when it comes to protein, salmon is one of the best options you can add. 

Is salmon good for bodybuilding?  Not only is salmon a high-quality protein source that provides all of the essential amino acids your body needs, but it is also high in omega-3, which helps reduce inflammation and promote muscle recovery.  Additionally, salmon is high in potassium, which prevents muscle cramps during exercise.

As a registered dietitian who works with many bodybuilders, I often recommend consuming a fish source at least three times a week due to its several health benefits.

In this article, you will learn everything related to salmon and bodybuilding, including:

  • The pros and cons of adding salmon to your bodybuilding diet
  • Whether you should add salmon before or after your workout
  • How salmon helps promote muscle growth
  • Tips to include salmon into your bodybuilding diet

Salmon For Bodybuilding: Overview

Nutritional Content of Salmon

Nutritional content of 100 g of chinook salmon

There are six different types of salmon available. All have different characteristics when it comes to flavor and texture. However, they share similar nutritional content. In this case, we will analyze the Chinook salmon, which is the most commonly found salmon species available in US grocery stores. 

In 100 g of chinook salmon, you get the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 179
  • Carbs: 0.0 g
  • Protein: 19.9 g
  • Fats: 10.4 g

Calories

Salmon is a protein high in calories, which is why you’ll find it in my other articles on high calorie low sugar foods and high calorie low FODMAP foods.

One of the benefits of salmon is that it can be adjusted depending on your goals, whether that’s cutting or bulking.

If you are in a cutting phase, although it is high in calories, you still need to consume a good amount of protein to maintain your muscle mass.  So you can have a high-calorie protein in one meal (i.e. salmon for lunch), and then a low-calorie protein in another meal (i.e. tilapia). That way, you can balance the calories out throughout the day.

As a tip, if you are in a cutting phase, make sure you track your calories and macros to ensure that you are not having more than your body requires (use an app like MacroFactor). 

On the other hand, if you’re bulking, salmon is a high-calorie food that can help you achieve those extra calories needed for a caloric surplus.  

Macronutrients

When it comes to the macronutrient composition of salmon, it has protein and fat.

Salmon is an excellent source of protein, which is highly needed for bodybuilders to help preserve the muscle mass (while cutting) or help them develop more muscle mass (when bulking).

However, the reason salmon is high in calories is because of its fat contents (not protein). Salmon is very high in healthy (unsaturated) fats. In 100 g of salmon, you have 10 g of fats, which is the same as having two teaspoons of olive oil.

Thus, if you are in a cutting phase, you can avoid having more calories than you need by cooking the salmon without added fats. For example, baked or cooked in a pan without oil in the air fryer.

Micronutrients

Here are the top three nutrients that you find in salmon:

  • Selenium. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, selenium plays an essential part in your immunity. Lower blood levels of selenium have been associated with poor immune function.  
  • Niacin. Niacin is one of the nutrients responsible for converting the food you eat into usable energy for the body. It has an essential role when it comes to energy production.
  • Phosphorus. An essential nutrient that helps with your bone health. Having stronger bones means less likely to develop any injuries or fractures.

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.

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

3 Pros Of Eating Salmon For Bodybuilding

Pros vs Cons of Eating Salmon for Bodybuilding

Here are three reasons why you should include salmon in your diet if you are a bodybuilder:

High In Protein 

A bodybuilder requires a high protein intake, ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on average

This means that for a bodybuilder that weighs 200 lbs, their protein intake could go from 145 to 180 g of protein per day. Thanks to salmon being high in protein, it can help you to reach your daily protein intake.

With that said, most fish are high in protein, it’s not a unique quality to salmon.  

I’ve written about other types of fish for bodybuilders, including tilapia, cod, and tuna, which range from 23-30 grams of protein per 100 grams.  Since salmon only has 20 grams of protein per 100 grams, it’s actually on the lower end of protein compared with other types of fish I’d recommend for bodybuilding. 

High in Omega-3

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that the body cannot produce. This means that you need to get it from your diet.

There are several benefits that omega-3 provides. It helps improve your mood and decrease the risk of depression. Also, people that take omega-3 daily seem to have a 25% reduction in heart disease.

Finally, it can reduce inflammation in your body. With reduced inflammation, your body can recover better after your training session, which means more muscle mass.

Although there is no set recommendation for omega-3, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies recommends having at least 1 g per day. In 100 g of salmon, you get 2.3 g of omega-3, which gives you the minimal amount for the entire day.

Prevents Muscle Cramps

While having high omega-3 and protein contents will aid in muscle recovery, salmon also has one more unique characteristic.  It has a good amount of potassium that helps prevent muscle cramps.

You need potassium to help regulate your muscle contractions. A lack of potassium means that you are more likely to get muscle cramps.

In 100 g of salmon, you can get a similar potassium content as one medium banana. This means that it is an excellent food to eat regularly if you are prone to muscle cramps.

1 Con of Eating Salmon For Bodybuilding

There is only one con of adding salmon if you are a bodybuilder.

Natural vs. Canned

The main con of salmon is related to how you eat it. Whether it is raw (natural) or canned. Raw salmon has fewer preservatives and tends to be healthier than the canned version.

Canned foods tend to be very high in sodium. A high sodium intake (more than 2,300 mg per day) has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure that could lead to heart disease.

On average, canned foods could have more than 300 mg of sodium per serving size (more than the recommended amount). When choosing processed food, make sure that it has less than 140 mg of sodium to be considered low in sodium.

Can You Eat Salmon Before Workouts?

Salmon (on its own) is not the best option to have before a workout since it doesn’t have any carbs, which is the preferred energy source in the body. Before training, the best snack would be a carb-based option like fruit, oatmeal, granola, honey, or slices of bread.

The main goal of a pre-workout snack is to provide you with the energy you need to have an arduous training session. Since salmon is mostly composed of proteins and fats, it is not the best pre-workout food.

Protein and fats take longer to digest in the body. This means that if you have protein or fats before working out, you might feel more sluggish, or it could lead to bloating. Thus, if you think of adding salmon before workout out, make sure that it is 2-3 hours before training.

Can You Eat Salmon After Workouts?

Salmon is a great option to have after training since it is high in protein. Post-workout, you need to have a protein source to help repair and grow your muscles. You still need to include a carb source to help replenish the energy lost during your training, so have it alongside rice or yams.

Without replenishing your carb stores after training, you risk protein (muscle) being used as an energy source instead of muscle building.

As well, thanks to salmon being high in healthy anti-inflammatory fats, they help reduce inflammation during the workout. This means that you get a better recovery.

Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)

Is Salmon Good For Muscle Growth?

Salmon is an excellent option when it comes to muscle growth. For muscle building, you need two main things: calories and protein. Salmon has the advantage that it can provide both. You can increase your caloric intake with salmon and reach the protein intake you need for your muscles to grow.

Of course, the muscle building process involves more than just one individual food (like salmon).  You need to have an appropriate training stimulus and have a diet that consistently puts you in a caloric surplus for several weeks.

Tips For Incorporating Salmon Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating salmon into a bodybuilding diet

If you want to include salmon in your diet, here are a couple of tips you might want to have next time you add salmon.

Marinate It

During my consultations, one of the most common things I hear is that people don’t like to include salmon due to their “fishy” taste. 

While fresh salmon shouldn’t have this taste, if it does, make sure to marinate it over a couple of hours or overnight. In a bowl, place some lemon juice and ginger. Add the salmon and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. I can ensure that this will take the “fishy” taste of the salmon.

You can also add some low sodium soy sauce or even add some sesame oil.

Have It In A Bowl

The most common way people have salmon is grilled or baked.  However, looking for new ways to make salmon is essential to keep your interest.

One of my favorite ways to have salmon is in a bowl. The benefit of having them in a bowl is that you can either make it cooked or raw. If you have it raw, you can marinate it with lemon and ginger. The advantage is that you just take it out of the fridge, and it is ready to eat.

You can also cook it and have It ready to eat as well. If you don’t have any recipes on how to create salmon bowls. 

Here are a couple of my favorite ways.

Create a High Protein Dip

High Protein Dip Salmon

If you are prone to snacking but need to find a high-protein recipe, here is my favorite dip that is not only high in protein but also delicious!

In a food processor mix

  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • 2 oz of salmon (raw or cooked)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add water to change the consistency as wanted.

You can have it with pita chips (bulking phase) or with veggies (cutting phase).

Don’t Remove The Skin

One of the most common mistakes I often see people make when cooking salmon is removing the skin. Salmon skin is safe to eat. It has more protein and more omega-3 fatty acids.

When you are cooking salmon, leave the skin on. This will make it crispy and provide that extra texture to your dish.

If you don’t like the skin, cook the salmon with it, and then once you are going to eat it, remove it. This way, you can preserve some of the nutrients while cooking.

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?

Other Fish Resources For Bodybuilders:


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.