Is Salmon The ULTIMATE Bulking Food For Bodybuilders?

Reviewed By :

Salmon has a rich nutritional profile, but my bodybuilding clients often ask me if it’s okay to eat. Their primary concern is that, while high in protein, it also provides a hefty amount of fat compared with other protein sources. So, let’s break it down

Key Takeaways

  • Salmon is a high-quality protein source (19.9 grams per 100 grams) that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. It’s also rich in omega-3s, which help reduce inflammation and may support muscle recovery.
  • Salmon is an excellent source of selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and niacin (vitamin B3). These are involved in bone health, energy metabolism, and muscle function, which are necessary for optimal bulking results.
  • While healthy, salmon’s protein-to-fat ratio is 1.9-to-1, far from the recommended 5:1 for bodybuilders. This means you get almost as much fat as protein per serving and must make up for it by having lower-fat foods during other meals and snacks.

Salmon: Overview

Nutritional content of 100 g of chinook salmon


Salmon is high in calories. It provides 179 calories per 100 grams.  

As such, salmon can help you achieve the calorie surplus needed to build muscle if you’re bulking.  

This is in contrast to lower-calorie fish, like flounder, which has only 70 calories per 100 grams, which is more ideal for bodybuilders on a cut.


Salmon is rich in protein and fats, with 100 grams providing 19.9 grams of protein and 10.4 grams of fats.

While protein is great for bodybuilders, the protein-to-fat ratio in salmon is not close to the recommended 5:1 for optimal body composition. 

Eating more foods with such a ratio would allow you to get the protein you need (at least 1.6 grams per kilogram or 0.7 grams per pound) without having too many fats.

Salmon’s ratio is approximately 1.9g protein to 1g fat, which means you get half as much fat as protein per serving and must make up by having lower-fat foods during your other meals.

Learn more about the fish with the most protein.


Here are the top three nutrients found in salmon that help with bulking:

  • Selenium (43% of daily needs per 100 grams). It is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation, which could benefit muscle recovery. Additionally, selenium is essential to immune system health, protecting you from the common cold and allowing you to spend more time at the gym. 
  • Niacin (62% of daily needs per 100 grams). Niacin, or vitamin B3, is one of the nutrients responsible for converting the food you eat into usable energy for the body, which means it plays an essential role in energy production.
  • Phosphorus (35% of daily needs per 100 grams). An essential nutrient that helps with bone health and may reduce the risk of injuries or stress fractures from high-volume training.
  • Potassium (11.5% of daily needs per 100 grams). Potassium helps regulate muscle contractions. Lower potassium levels are associated with a higher risk of muscle cramps. You get a similar amount of potassium in 100 grams of salmon as in one medium banana.

Pros Of Eating Salmon

pros of eating salmon

High In Protein 

A bodybuilder needs 1.6 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.7-1 gram per pound)

This means a bodybuilder weighing 200 pounds should eat 145 to 180 grams of protein daily. 

Salmon is high in protein (20 grams per 100 grams), so it can help you reach your daily protein target.

With that said, most fish are high in protein, so 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.  

High in Omega-3

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids the body cannot produce, so you must get them from food.

There are several benefits of omega-3 fatty acids related to mental and cardiovascular health.

Omega-3s can also reduce inflammation, helping your muscles recover after training and limiting muscle soreness.

Although there is no set recommendation for omega-3, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies recommends having at least one gram per day

100 grams of salmon provides 2.3 g of omega-3, more than twice the daily recommended amount.

Cons of Eating Salmon

cons of eating salmon

It May Have a Lot of Sodium

While excessive sodium intake is not good for most people, this con applies to canned salmon.

Canned foods tend to be very high in sodium. On average, canned foods could have more than 300 mg of sodium per serving size (more than the recommended amount). 

A high sodium intake (more than 2,300 mg per day) has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. It could also lead to water retention and even mask scale weight loss during a cut.

Raw salmon has fewer preservatives (including sodium) and is healthier than canned varieties.

When choosing processed food, ensure 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 before a workout since it lacks carbohydrates, which are the body’s preferred energy source. 

Before training, the best snack would be a carb-based option like fruit, oatmeal, granola, honey, or bread. Aim for up to a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight.

Also, protein and fats take longer to digest, and having high amounts of both before training can make you feel sluggish, bloated, and nauseous. 

If you want salmon as a pre-workout meal, eat it at least two, preferably three hours before your workout starts, and pair it with carb sources (e.g., quinoa or rice) for energy.

Can You Eat Salmon After Workouts?

Salmon is a good option after training since it is high in protein to kickstart recovery.

You still need to include a carb source to help replenish the energy lost during your training, so have it alongside rice or yams.

The consensus is to aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of protein and carbs per kilogram after training.

For a 70-kilo (154-lb) bodybuilder, that’s 21 to 35 grams of each macronutrient, which can be covered by as little as 100 grams of salmon and a serving or two of carbs.

Also, salmon is high in healthy fats, which help reduce inflammation and may support muscle recovery.

Also, here is some insight from registered dietitian Jaclyn London on having salmon post-workout:

“Eating salmon with iron- and magnesium-packed spinach and pine nuts can help improve oxygen flow to your cells and aid in muscle contraction, all essential to keeping blood vessels and organs healthy.”

Is Salmon Good For Muscle Growth?

Salmon is a good option for muscle growth because it provides two things you need: plenty of calories and protein.

You can increase your caloric intake with salmon and reach the protein you need for muscle gain.

Of course, the muscle-building process involves more than just one individual food (like salmon). 

You need an appropriate training stimulus and a diet that consistently puts you in a caloric surplus for months.

Tips For Incorporating Salmon Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating salmon into a bodybuilding diet

Marinate It

One of the most common things I hear during client consultations is that salmon tastes fishy and somewhat heavy. 

One option is to marinate salmon (even fresh varieties) for a few hours or overnight.

For example, add lemon juice and ginger to a bowl and place the salmon in the mixture to remove the fishy taste.

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

Have It In A Bowl

The most common way people have salmon is grilled or baked, but you can try other options to keep things fresh.

One of my favorite ways to eat salmon is in a bowl. The benefit of this is that you can make it cooked or raw. You can marinate it with lemon and ginger if you have it raw. 

The advantage is that you just take it out of the fridge, and it is ready to eat.

You can also cook it. 

Here are a couple of my favorite ways if you don’t have any recipes handy:

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 desired.

You can have it with pita chips during a bulk or with veggies when cutting.

Don’t Remove The Skin

One of the most common mistakes I see people make when cooking salmon is to remove the skin. Salmon skin is safe to eat and is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

So, when cooking salmon, leave the skin on to ensure a more nutritious meal and enjoy its crispy texture. 

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

Track Your Calorie Intake

Track your calories and macronutrients (my favorite app is MacroFactor), especially when eating an energy-dense, high-fat food like salmon.

This will ensure that your intake aligns with your goals, allowing you to build muscle and lose fat more efficiently.

Other Fish Resources For Bodybuilders:


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).

Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 7;10(2):180. doi: 10.3390/nu10020180. PMID: 29414855; PMCID: PMC5852756.

Schnabel R, Lubos E, Messow CM, Sinning CR, Zeller T, Wild PS, Peetz D, Handy DE, Munzel T, Loscalzo J, Lackner KJ, Blankenberg S. Selenium supplementation improves antioxidant capacity in vitro and in vivo in patients with coronary artery disease The SElenium Therapy in Coronary Artery disease Patients (SETCAP) Study. Am Heart J. 2008 Dec;156(6):1201.e1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2008.09.004. PMID: 19033020; PMCID: PMC3624729.

Rayman MP. Selenium and human health. Lancet. 2012 Mar 31;379(9822):1256-68. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61452-9. Epub 2012 Feb 29. PMID: 22381456.

Gasperi V, Sibilano M, Savini I, Catani MV. Niacin in the Central Nervous System: An Update of Biological Aspects and Clinical Applications. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Feb 23;20(4):974. doi: 10.3390/ijms20040974. PMID: 30813414; PMCID: PMC6412771.

Takeda E, Yamamoto H, Yamanaka-Okumura H, Taketani Y. Dietary phosphorus in bone health and quality of life. Nutr Rev. 2012 Jun;70(6):311-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00473.x. PMID: 22646125.

Jung AP, Bishop PA, Al-Nawwas A, Dale RB. Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps. J Athl Train. 2005 Jun;40(2):71-75. PMID: 15970952; PMCID: PMC1150229.

Jäger, R., Kerksick, C.M., Campbell, B.I. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 20 (2017).

Ishihara T, Yoshida M, Arita M. Omega-3 fatty acid-derived mediators that control inflammation and tissue homeostasis. Int Immunol. 2019 Aug 23;31(9):559-567. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxz001. PMID: 30772915.

Peake JM, Neubauer O, Della Gatta PA, Nosaka K. Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Mar 1;122(3):559-570. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00971.2016. Epub 2016 Dec 29. PMID: 28035017.

EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion related to the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal 2012; 10(7):2815. [48 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2815.

Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, Appel LJ, Bray GA, Harsha D, Obarzanek E, Conlin PR, Miller ER 3rd, Simons-Morton DG, Karanja N, Lin PH; DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 4;344(1):3-10. doi: 10.1056/NEJM200101043440101. PMID: 11136953.

Mata F, Valenzuela PL, Gimenez J, Tur C, Ferreria D, Domínguez R, Sanchez-Oliver AJ, Martínez Sanz JM. Carbohydrate Availability and Physical Performance: Physiological Overview and Practical Recommendations. Nutrients. 2019 May 16;11(5):1084. doi: 10.3390/nu11051084. PMID: 31100798; PMCID: PMC6566225.

Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-17. Erratum in: J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:18. PMID: 18834505; PMCID: PMC2575187.

About The Author

Brenda Peralta

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

Why Trust Our Content

FeastGood logo

On Staff at, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.

Have a Question?

If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at We respond to every email within 1 business day.