Is Shrimp Good For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)

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As a Registered Dietitian, many bodybuilding clients ask about high-protein and low-fat foods, especially on a cut. Chicken breast is the most common answer, but shrimp is another good contender (that is often overlooked).

Key Takeaways

  • Shrimp is low in calories and high in protein, with a three-ounce serving providing 72 calories, 17.1 grams of protein, and only 0.4 grams of fats. This makes it an ideal option when you’re eating fewer calories (i.e., on a cut).
  • Despite the low calories, you can also have shrimp when bulking, as it offers lots of protein. Certain cooking methods (e.g., breading) can increase calorie content. I’ve shared three shrimp muscle-building recipes below.

Shrimp: Overview

nutritional content in 3 oz of shrimp (85 grams)


Shrimp is relatively low in calories, with a three-ounce serving providing 72 calories, the same caloric content as a medium-sized apple.

This makes shrimp one of the best high-protein, low-calorie options, which can be particularly beneficial while cutting and trying to keep your calories and fats under control.

This allows you to add other calorie sources to your diet and see more food on your plate, making you feel fuller between meals.


Shrimp mainly consists of protein, with a three-ounce serving offering 17.1 grams ‒ almost as much as a scoop of protein powder.

Unlike some seafood (especially fatty fish like salmon), shrimp is low in fat; one serving provides less than 0.5 grams.

This is so small that you can ignore it as part of your bodybuilding diet.  


Here are the top three nutrients that shrimp has and how they benefit muscle building:

  • Selenium (73% of daily needs per three ounces). It is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in your body, which can offer modest muscle recovery benefits. Additionally, it helps support your immune function and may reduce the risk of catching the common cold, allowing you to spend more time in the gym.
  • Vitamin D (28% of daily needs). It plays an important role in calcium metabolism and bone health. Stronger bones are more resistant to injuries and stress fractures. Eating vitamin D-rich foods is also beneficial because an estimated billion people worldwide are deficient.
  • Phosphorus (4.5% of daily needs). Along with calcium and vitamin D, phosphorus is essential for bone health. This mineral is also involved in nutrient metabolism and energy production, impacting energy levels and gym performance.

Also, here’s some insight from registered dietitian Christina Manian:

“In addition to all the vitamins and minerals, shrimp is loaded with healthful micronutrients like choline, phosphorus, copper, and B vitamins, including niacin, B6, and B12. These work together to support brain, bone, red blood cell, and nerve health, and also aid in energy metabolism, growth, and repair throughout the body.”

We reviewed 29 types of fish and ranked them in terms of which are best for bodybuilding. Read our top picks.

3 Pros Of Eating Shrimp

pros vs cons of eating shrimp for bodybuilding

Low In Calories

As discussed, shrimp is very low in calories compared to other seafood. 

For example, comparing equal portion sizes (100 grams of each), here is a breakdown of the caloric content of some popular fish (from highest to lowest):

  • Salmon: 179 calories
  • Tuna: 144 calories
  • Tilapia: 111 calories
  • Shrimp: 85 calories
  • Cod: 82 calories

As you can see, cod is the only food with fewer calories than shrimp.  

Given its low energy density, shrimp is a great food to enjoy in a cutting phase because it provides plenty of protein with zero carbs and almost no fat.

Better Macro Management

Since shrimp only contains protein (no carbs or fat), you know that everything you eat comes from this single macronutrient, making it easier to manage your nutrition.

More specifically, adjusting your other macros for the meal makes it easier to hit your targets.

For example, if you already have protein from shrimp, you can add a carb (like rice) and fat (like avocado) to balance things according to your macro goals.

That said, this is only a benefit for those tracking their macros and calories. As a bodybuilder, I assume you do. 

However, if you’re following an intuitive eating approach, macro-management isn’t something you’ll be concerned with. 

High In Antioxidants

Shrimp has a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin

It can help decrease inflammation, support muscle recovery, and even reduce signs of premature aging.

Astaxanthin has other benefits for your muscles. 

A study done on animals showed that it can support endurance by limiting muscle damage.

It has also been shown to increase blood flow, which means that more oxygen and nutrients can reach your muscles to help repair and grow. 

1 Con of Eating Shrimp

High in Cholesterol

Shrimp is naturally high in cholesterol, with 160 mg per 100 grams. For reference, the recommended daily intake for healthy adults is 300 mg of cholesterol

This means you get more than half the daily cholesterol value in one food serving.

That said, the case may not be as clear-cut for most people, as research suggests that only about 25% of the population is sensitive to dietary cholesterol (i.e., consuming it leads to significant increases in blood levels).

Most other people have a normal response to cholesterol and are unlikely to experience a significant increase, even with more frequent consumption.

So, if you suspect you’re more sensitive to cholesterol or previous bloodwork has shown elevated levels, limiting shrimp to one or two servings per week may be better.

Can You Eat Shrimp Before Workouts?

Shrimp is not the best option as a pre-workout snack on its own because it only contains protein and doesn’t provide carbs for the energy you need for a tough training session.

Research recommends aiming for a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight. 

For someone who weighs 80 kilograms (176 lbs), that would be up to 80 grams of carbs.

So, if you want to eat shrimp before training, pair it with carbs (e.g., rice or quinoa) and give yourself at least two hours for proper digestion.

Can You Eat Shrimp After Workouts?

shrimp after workouts

Shrimp is an excellent food after your workout, as it provides the necessary protein for muscle repair and growth.

Plus, here is a bit of insight from PhD and certified strength and conditioning coach Grant Tinsley

“Like many other animal proteins, shrimp contains a high amount of the amino acid leucine, which is necessary for optimal muscle growth.”

Also, it has antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, which may support muscle recovery. 

However, carbohydrates are also important, as they help replenish the glycogen (a complex carb form primarily stored in the muscles) lost during training. 

Good options include rice, quinoa, potatoes, pasta, rice cakes, and dried fruit.

Research recommends consuming 0.3-0.5 grams of carbs and protein per kilogram of body weight after training. For an 80-kilo (176-lb) bodybuilder, that’s 24 to 40 grams of protein and carbs.

Tips For Incorporating Shrimp Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating shrimp into a bodybuilding diet

Be Aware of The Cooking Methods

Shrimp usually comes fried or cooked in butter in most restaurants.

These methods can significantly increase shrimp’s calorie and fat content, which may not be ideal during a cut.

You can instead opt for a shrimp ceviche cooked without added fats or have them steamed with some natural tomato sauce.

Breaded vs. Unbreaded

Another thing to consider is if the shrimp is breaded or unbreaded.

Breaded shrimp is very high in calories thanks to the breading and deep-frying. While shrimp has 85 calories per 100 grams, breading and deep-frying can increase the calories to 300.

Having extra calories might be okay when bulking (though you still have to monitor your fat intake), but it can be limiting when cutting and not being able to eat as many calories.

One option for having breaded shrimp during a cut is to use crushed almonds or flax seeds to reduce the calories. Also, instead of deep-frying, cook them in an air fryer.

Be Careful With the Sauces

Be careful with the sauces that come with shrimp––mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and butter-based sauces tend to be calorie-dense.

If you are eating out, look for words like creamy and sizzling, as they typically mean that food preparation is done with a lot of oil or high-calorie, dairy-based sauces.

If you are in a cutting phase, try to avoid them to prevent having more calories than you need and jeopardizing your goals.

3 Shrimp Recipes For Bodybuilders

  • Shrimp Bowl With Cilantro Lime Rice: My favorite thing is that it uses natural ingredients that add flavor.  Remember that it has a creamy dressing, so add it in moderation if you are on a tight calorie budget. You can also switch to low-fat Greek yogurt and mayonnaise to reduce the calories.
  • Breaded Shrimp: This recipe is made in the oven, which is better than frying. You can also try placing the shrimp in an air fryer to get a similar crunchy texture.
  • Garlic Shrimp With Quinoa: This recipe provides the protein you need to help repair and grow your muscles and has quinoa, a fantastic carb source that helps replenish the energy lost during training.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is Shrimp Good For Muscle Growth?

Yes, shrimp is good for muscle growth because it’s high in protein. 

However, you still need a high-calorie diet (i.e., a calorie surplus) for muscle growth.

How Fast Is Shrimp Digested?

Shrimp can take up to eight hours to digest fully compared to other fish, which can digest in as little as one to three hours. 

The rate at which food digests depends on several factors, including physical activity, hydration, and underlying gastric issues. 

Does Shrimp Give You Energy?

Protein can give you energy, but that’s not its primary function. Carbs are the preferred energy source. 

Since shrimp doesn’t contain carbs, it is not the best energy source. Rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are better options.

Is Shrimp Better Than Chicken Breasts For Bodybuilding?

They are both great protein options for a bodybuilder, but shrimp is better if you’re in a cutting phase because it has fewer calories per serving.

Shrimp has 85 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per 100 grams, whereas chicken breast has 158 calories and 3.4 grams of fat.


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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.

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