As a registered dietitian, many of my bodybuilding clients ask what the best protein they can add to their diet is that is both low in calories and fat. Chicken breast is the most common answer, but shrimp is another good contender.
So, is shrimp good or bad for bodybuilding? Shrimp is a low-calorie and low-fat protein that is great for bodybuilders or those in a cutting phase. Still, bodybuilders in a bulking phase can take advantage of shrimp’s high protein content to help repair and grow their muscles, so long as they’re pairing it with other sources of high-calorie foods.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about shrimp and bodybuilding, including:
- The pros and cons of adding shrimp to your bodybuilding diet
- Whether you should add shrimp before or after your workout
- How shrimp helps promote muscle growth
- Tips to include shrimp into your bodybuilding diet
As well, I’ll offer my favorite shrimp recipes for bodybuilders at the very end.
Shrimp For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutritional Content of Shrimp
You can find the following nutritional content in 3 oz of shrimp (85g).
- Calories: 72
- Carbs: 0.0 g
- Protein: 17.1 g
- Fat: 0.4 g
Shrimp is low in calories. In 3 oz of shrimp, you get 72 kcal. This is the same caloric content as one small apple. While I’ve covered proteins that are high in calories before (like chicken thighs), when it comes to proteins low in calories, shrimp is the best option that you can include.
If you are in a cutting phase, including foods that are low in calories but almost 100% made of protein is optimal. This allows you to add other sources of calories into your diet and see more food on your plate.
Why is this important?
Because the visual aspects of what your plate looks like in a cutting phase are important. The more food you see on your plate (even if you are cutting down calories), the less likely you will feel hungry during the day.
If you’re bulking, although shrimp is low in calories, you may still want to eat shrimp since it can be a way to vary your protein sources. I know a lot of my bodybuilding clients hate eating the same protein sources every day, which makes every meal feel like a grind. If that’s you, protein variety will be key.
When we talk about the macronutrient content of shrimp, it is mostly protein.
Shrimp is very high in protein. In 3 oz of shrimp, we can find 17.1 g of protein which can be around one scoop of protein powder (depending on the brand).
When it comes to fat, it doesn’t contain a significant amount since it has less than 1 g of fat per 3 oz of shrimp. This is such a small amount that it can pretty much be ignored as part of a bodybuilder’s diet.
However, not all fish have low-fat contents. As I discussed in my article on salmon, while salmon has about the same amount of protein compared with shrimp, it has 10 times the amount of fat per serving.
- Learn more about the most protein fish.
Besides being high in protein, shrimp is also high in other nutrients. Here are the top three nutrients that shrimp has and how it benefits a bodybuilder:
- Selenium. It is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in your body. Additionally, it helps support your immune function by making it stronger.
- Vitamin D. It has an important role when it comes to regulating calcium levels in the body. This means that it has an essential role in bone health. Having a source of vitamin D can also help improve your mood.
- Phosphorus. It also plays an essential part in bone health. Stronger bones mean you are less likely to have an injury or fracture.
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 Shrimp For Bodybuilding
Here are the three pros of including shrimp if you are a bodybuilder.
Low In Calories
As discussed previously, shrimp has the advantage that it is very low in calories compared to other seafood. For example, comparing equal portions sizes (100 g of each) here is a breakdown of the caloric content of some popular fish (from highest to lowest):
- Salmon: 179 kcal
- Tuna: 144 kcal
- Tilapia: 111 kcal
- Shrimp: 85 kcal
- Cod: 82 kcal
As you can see, only cod is lower in calories compared with shrimp. A bodybuilder in a cutting phase has a very strict caloric intake. Adding shrimp to their diet allows having a good protein intake without having too many calories.
Better Macro Management
Shrimp having only one macronutrient makes it easier for you to manage your protein, carb, and fat intake. Since shrimp only has protein (with no carbs or fat), you know that everything that you eat comes from this single macro.
This makes it easier to adjust your other macros during the meal to hit your targets. For example, if you already have protein coming from shrimp, you can add a carb (like rice) and a fat (like avocado) to balance things out according to your specific macro goals.
With that said, this is only a benefit for those who track their macros and calories, which if you’re a bodybuilder, I’m assuming you’re tracking these things. 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. Antioxidants help decrease inflammation in your body, meaning that you have better muscle recovery and reduced signs of premature aging.
Aastaxanthin has other benefits for the muscle too. A study done on animals showed that it can help endurance by preventing muscle damage. It has also been shown to increase blood flow, which means that more oxygen and nutrients can reach your muscles to help in the repair and growth process.
- Related Article: Shrimp vs. Chicken: Pros, Cons, Differences, & Which Is Better?
1 Con of Eating Shrimp For Bodybuilding
Here is one con you might find when you add shrimp if you are a bodybuilder.
High in Cholesterol
Shrimp is a food that is naturally high in cholesterol. The recommended daily intake is 200 mg of cholesterol per day. In 100 g of shrimp, you get 160 mg. This means that you get almost all the daily value of cholestrol in just one serving of food.
Eating foods that are high in cholesterol is not a bad thing. The problem comes when you eat foods high in cholesterol consistently over a long time (for example, eating shrimp daily as your primary protein source).
However, if you are a bodybuilder that knows you have high cholesterol levels because you get regular blood work, then I recommend having shrimp 1-2 times a week until your cholesterol levels drop.
Can You Eat Shrimp Before Workouts?
Shrimp (on its own) is not the best option as a pre-workout snack. Since it only contains protein, it doesn’t give you the necessary energy that you need for a tough training session. Protein also takes longer to digest, meaning you can feel bloated or sluggish before training. Add it 1-2 hours before training to have proper digestion.
If you are looking for a pre-workout snack, it is better to include high in carbs. For example, you can add dates, banana, granola, oatmeal, or rice to provide you with the necessary energy that you need for your training session.
Can You Eat Shrimp After Workouts?
Shrimp is an excellent food to add after your workout. It provides you with the necessary protein that you need to help repair and grow your muscles. Also, it has antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, which leads to better recovery. However, add a source of carbs and healthy fats to balance the meal out.
You need carbs to help replenish the energy lost during your training sessions. So shrimp alone won’t be sufficient. As well, healthy fats have omega-3 fatty acids (like nuts and seeds) that help decrease inflammation in the body. So be sure to include these post workout as well.
Tips For Incorporating Shrimp Into A Bodybuilding Diet
Looking to add shrimp to your diet regularly? Here are my top tips for incorporating shrimp into a bodybuilding diet.
Be Aware of The Cooking Methods
In most restaurants, shrimp usually comes fried or cooked in butter.
If you are in a cutting phase, these are very high-calorie cooking methods that might be affecting your goals. Although once in a while, this won’t hurt your goals. 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-fried. While shrimp has 85 kcal per 100 g, having it breaded and deep-fried can have around 300 kcal.
For those in a bulking phase, adding them might not affect the goals as much as those in a cutting phase with a more limited calorie intake.
Suppose you are craving breaded shrimp and are in a cutting phase, you can bread them with crushed almonds or crushed flax seeds to decrease calories. Instead of deep-frying them, cook them in an air fryer.
Be Careful With the Sauces
Be careful with the sauces that come with shrimp. Mayonnaise, tartar sauce, or butter-based sauces tend to be very high calories.
If you are eating out, look out for words like creamy and sizzling. They mean that they have dairy-based sauces or cooked with a lot of oil. They are ultimately increasing the caloric content of the meal.
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
If you want to include shrimp regularly but don’t know how to cook it without having too many calories. Here are my favorite shrimp recipes that you can include.
Shrimp Bowl with Cilantro Lime Rice
Try this shrimp bowl with cilantro lime rice if you want to add some Latin flavor to your diet. My favorite thing is that it uses natural ingredients that provide that extra punch of flavor.
Remember that it has a creamy dressing; thus, add it in moderation if you are on a tight calorie budget. You can also switch to low-fat Greek yogurt and low-fat mayonnaise to reduce the calories.
This is an excellent recipe for breaded shrimp for those looking for a breaded option. The recipe is made in the oven, making it better than frying. You can also try placing them in an air fryer to get that similar crunchy texture.
Garlic Shrimp with Quinoa
If you want a great option as a post-workout snack, try this garlic shrimp recipe with quinoa. It provides you with the protein you need to help repair and grow your muscles, and it has quinoa which is 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 to have a high-caloric diet for your muscles to grow. This means that you need to eat more than your body needs. Since shrimp is not a very high-calorie food, you still need to add some foods that are high in calories to help.
How Fast Is Shrimp Digested?
Shrimp can take up to 8 hours to fully digest, compared to other fish that can probably take 1-3 hours to digest. The rate at which your foods get digested depends on several factors—physical activity, hydration, or any other gastric issue that you might have.
Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Shrimp?
Bodybuilders eat shrimp because it is an excellent source of protein. It doesn’t contain any fat or carbs, making it easier to count in their daily macros. It is the same as having a scoop of protein powder in that it only contains one macro.
Is Shrimp All Protein?
Yes, shrimp is all protein. Although it contains some fat, it has less than 1 g of fat per 100 g of food. This means that it doesn’t have a significant amount of fat. This allows you to add other fat sources and the amount you want, depending on your macros.
Does Shrimp Give You Energy?
Protein can give you energy. However, it is not the primary function of a protein. 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 than chicken if you’re in a cutting phase. This is because chicken breast has more calories and fat than shrimp. Shrimp has 85kcal per 100g, chicken breast has 158kcal. Shrimp has 0.5g of fat, chicken breast has 3.4g.
About The Author
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.