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

I love sushi, you love sushi, and even pro bodybuilders will indulge in eating sushi: 

So, is sushi good or bad for bodybuilding? 

Sushi is an excellent choice if you are a bodybuilder as it has all the essential macros: carbs (rice) to provide energy, protein (fish) to help repair and grow your muscle, and fats (avocado) to help provide anti-inflammatory properties and keep you feeling satiated.

However, not all kinds of sushi are ideal to have if you are a bodybuilder. Some types of sushi are healthier than others, and if you are not careful, the calories and macros might not match your targets.

Key Takeaways

  • Sushi is high in many essential vitamins and minerals that can keep your muscles functioning properly and help prevent injury so that you can keep up with your workouts.
  • Sushi is a good option both before and after a workout. But if you eat it before a workout, it’s best to have it 30-60 minutes beforehand and eat small amounts of fish and fat sources with it to prevent feeling sluggish.
  • Sushi can have a high sodium content, which can make you feel more bloated and negatively affect your muscle definition. Bodybuilders should opt for low-sodium sauces to prevent this.

Sushi For Bodybuilding: Overview

Calories From Sushi

Calories and Macronutrients from Sushi

An average roll of six-piece sushi with fish and veggies usually has around 200-300 kcal.

How the sushi is cooked and the ingredients used will increase its calories. 

For example, if you decide to have it tempura style (i.e., fried), it can add 100-200 kcal. If the tempura is just the protein, it might only add 100 kcal. However, if the whole roll is fried, it can add at least 200 kcal.

Adding fats (like cream cheese, avocado, or mayonnaise) will also raise its calorie content. 

The type of sauce will also play a role. Regular soy sauce won’t add any calories, but if you have a sweet sauce, it could add an additional 25-100 calories.

All of this to say, it is easy to rack up the number of calories you’re eating when having sushi. 

Depending on whether you’re bulking or cutting, this could either be seen as a positive or negative (more on this later).

  • We reviewed 29 types of fish and ranked them in terms of which are best for bodybuilding. Read our top picks: Best Fish For Bodybuilding.

Macronutrients From Sushi

One of the benefits of sushi is that it has all the macronutrients a bodybuilder requires.

An average roll has the following macronutrient breakdown:

  • Carbs: 30-40 g (a tempura roll might go up to 60 g)
  • Protein: 10-25 g 
  • Fat: 5-10 g (a tempura roll might have up to 15 g)

For bodybuilders specifically, it’s important to note that the protein content can be slightly lower for sushi in relation to the total number of carbs.  

If you’re not careful with your sushi selection, you could have a roll with 40g of carbs but only 10g of protein (4:1 carb to protein ratio).  

This type of roll would make it easy to undereat on your protein requirements and overeat on your carb requirements.

An average bodybuilder (who weighs around 200 lbs) needs a protein intake of 145-200g. Having just 10g of protein while eating sushi would make it very hard to hit your daily protein intake. 

Therefore, it’s important that you order the proper sushi plates. (I provide examples of higher-protein sushi rolls later).

Micronutrients From Sushi

Sushi gives us a good portion of certain micronutrients. The micronutrients will depend on the specific roll you choose but can include:

  • Vitamin D (from fish). It is essential for bone health and muscle recovery. Better recovery means you can keep pushing yourself hard during your workouts.
  • Magnesium (from nori – a type of seaweed – avocado, and pickled ginger). It helps support muscle and nerve function, meaning your muscles can keep functioning properly. It can also help reduce your risk of injury.
  • Potassium (from pickled ginger and avocado). It helps maintain a proper fluid balance in your body so that you can prevent muscle cramps from dehydration.
  • Thiamine (from nori). Also known as Vitamin B1, it helps the body convert food into energy so that you have enough fuel for your workouts. It can also help the body adapt to stressful situations, such as intense training sessions.

3 Pros of Eating Sushi for Bodybuilding

Here is a list of the pros of eating sushi for bodybuilding. 

1. Sushi Is a Complete Meal

Whether going out or eating at home, sometimes we don’t have enough time to think or prepare a meal with all the macros.

Sushi will have all the macros required to make a “complete meal.” 

Rice is the primary carb source that provides the energy you need for the best training performance. 

Fish is the main protein source that helps repair and grow your muscles. 

Finally, avocado or sesame seeds have healthy fats that add extra calories for muscle building and balancing hormones. 

2. Sushi Can Be Modified According to Your Macros

One of the most significant advantages of sushi is that it is a meal with several ingredients. You can always modify, choose, or remove certain components to fit your macronutrient goals. 

The biggest problem regarding sushi is its low protein content. However, this problem is solved if you add extra protein or make the protein bigger. You can do this by eating fewer rolls and more sashimi (the raw pieces of fish with no rice). 

Most western sushi restaurants also serve dishes like shrimp or chicken teriyaki. You could order one of those dishes with the sauce on the side to boost the protein content.  

Also, you can add more carbs and fats if you need extra energy when bulking or cut back on them if you are in a cutting phase. 

That’s the beauty of sushi; it can always be adjusted. 

3. Sushi Is High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Avocado and salmon, both common ingredients in regular sushi, are excellent sources of omega-3. 

Omega-3 is a potent anti-inflammatory (1).  It also helps boost mood and improves heart conditions (lowers triglycerides and lower blood pressure).

Omega-3 has also been studied for its effects on athletes. It can help decrease the risk of muscle loss, help relieve muscle soreness, and aid in fat loss (2). These are critical aspects for a bodybuilder whose main focus is to gain muscle.

4. Sushi Is a Great Option When Traveling

When traveling for business or pleasure, it can be difficult to find meals that suit your goals. Sushi is a popular food item, and many large cities and destination areas have excellent sushi restaurants.

You can even find good sushi in most food stores. Once you reach your destination, you can search for the nearest grocery store and pick up some fresh sushi.

3 Cons of Eating Sushi for Bodybuilding

Here you will find the cons of eating sushi for bodybuilding.

1. The Calories Can Add Up Quickly

If you are not careful, adding more ingredients or eating sushi prepared in a certain way can make it easy to have a calorie excess. 

Even though you need a caloric increase during a bulking phase, it could lead to excess fat gain if you frequently go too far over your calorie budget.

A regular roll can have around 200-300 kcal but can go up to 600-800 kcal if you add a lot of sauces or have deep-fried rolls. 

If you’re in a cutting phase, this might jeopardize your goals. 

2. High Sodium Content

The recommended intake of sodium is 2300 mg per day. Having a greater intake, in the long run, could lead to high blood pressure (3).

Sushi is nothing without soy sauce, and one tablespoon of soy sauce has almost 900 mg of sodium. This is nearly 40% of the recommended daily intake of sodium. 

For a bodybuilder, having a high sodium intake could lead to water retention. This makes you appear more bloated or “fluffy,” especially in your midsection, and can make it more difficult for your muscles to pop.

To diminish the sodium intake, opt for the low sodium option, or just be mindful of your other meals throughout the day to ensure they have lower sodium content. 

3. Low Protein Content

As previously mentioned, some sushi rolls may not have enough protein for your needs. 

The protein intake could be very low (10 g per roll). This amount is not enough to make up a substantial part of your daily protein intake for muscle gain or maintenance.

The next time you order sushi, make sure to add extra protein, make the protein portion bigger, or order sashimi.   

Can You Eat Sushi Before Workouts?

sushi before workouts

Yes, you can eat sushi before a workout. Rice is a simple carb that is easy to digest and provides fast-acting energy.

However, you should keep the fats and protein around 10-15% of your daily intake if you have it 30-60 minutes before a workout. Otherwise, it could cause bloating and make you uncomfortable during your workout.

I recommend male bodybuilders have one cup of sushi rice, which will provide around 45-60 g of carbs, before a workout. This is the equivalent of a regular six-piece roll and will give you more than enough energy for your training session.

I recommend female bodybuilders have half a roll before a workout. This is the equivalent of around ½ a cup of sushi rice, which provides around 20-30 g of carbs.

For both male and female bodybuilders, I also advise eating sushi with no more than 1-2 oz of fish and 1-2 tablespoons of a fat source.

Fats and protein take longer to digest and can leave a heavy feeling in your stomach before your workout. However, consuming small amounts of each before a training session is still beneficial because they provide long-lasting energy.

Can You Eat Sushi After Workouts?

Sushi is an excellent choice post-workout. Carbs from the rice help replenish the glycogen lost during training, and fats from ingredients like avocado can help reduce inflammation. Protein from fish can help repair and grow your muscles.

However, depending on the roll you get, the amount of protein might not be enough to help muscle growth. Make sure to have at least 4-5 oz of protein after a workout, whether from sushi alone or with other protein options on the side.

I recommend male bodybuilders in a bulking phase have two rolls after training, while a female bodybuilder can have one roll.

I also recommend male bodybuilders in a cutting phase have one sushi roll with an appetizer high in protein after a workout. The same guidelines apply to female bodybuilders. 

Which Type of Sushi Is Best For Building Muscle?

Here are the top 5 sushi rolls for building muscle: 

1. Salmon Avocado Roll

salmon avocado roll sushi

A salmon avocado roll is exactly like it sounds – it contains salmon and avocado wrapped in sushi rice and nori. It’s a common roll that you can find in nearly any sushi restaurant.

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

  • Calories: 358
  • Protein: 12 g
  • Carbs: 60.4 g
  • Fats: 9.1 g

This is a great option to have 1-2 hours before a workout because it is high in carbs and relatively low in protein and fat. Since it is higher in calories, it is great when you are in a bulking phase. 

2. Tuna Roll

A tuna roll contains tuna, sushi rice, and nori. It is a highly customizable sushi option because you can get it with or without toppings like sesame seeds.

It also pairs well with sauces like sriracha, which only has 5 calories per teaspoon and is lower in sodium than soy sauce (120 mg vs. 291 mg, respectively).

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

  • Calories: 210
  • Protein: 9 g
  • Carbs:  20 g
  • Fats: 9 g

Like a salmon avocado roll, a tuna roll is ideal for bodybuilders in a bulking phase due to the slightly higher amount of fat.

3. California Roll

california roll sushi

A California roll contains avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab wrapped in sushi rice and nori. It’s a good choice for when you want sushi with some crunch but don’t want a deep-fried roll.

Because the crab is cooked, it’s also a good option for those who prefer not to eat raw fish.

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

  • Calories: 168 
  • Protein: 5.4 g
  • Carbs: 33 g
  • Fats: 1.2 g

It is great to have pre-workout due to its low protein and fat content. It is low in calories, so it is great if you are in a cutting phase. However, you may want to add some extra protein (like sashimi) to help keep you satiated.

4. Rainbow Roll

rainbow roll sushi

A rainbow roll has raw tuna, raw salmon, imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado. It’s called a “rainbow” because the fish and avocado are layered on top of each roll to make the appearance of a rainbow.

Since it has two different types of fish, it enables you to get a wider range of nutrients. 

A rainbow roll is easy to customize if you don’t want to eat raw fish. You can get smoked salmon instead of raw salmon and mango slices instead of raw tuna.

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

  • Calories: 180
  • Protein: 9 g
  • Carbs: 21 g
  • Fats: 7 g

You can have it either pre or post-workout. It is a great choice for people in a cutting phase since it’s lower in calories. 

5. Sashimi


Sashimi refers to pieces of raw fish sliced thin and served with no rice or other toppings. Some of the most common fish used for sashimi are salmon, tuna (yellowfin, skipjack, or bluefin), prawns, mackerel, and halibut.

Sashimi is a great option if you are looking for high-protein and low-fat options from your local sushi restaurant. 

On average, six pieces have the following nutritional value:

  • Calories: 210 
  • Protein: 31.8 g
  • Carbs: 1.5 g
  • Fats: 7.2 g

Sashimi is best for after a workout because its high protein content can aid in muscle repair. It’s also good for a cutting phase because the protein can help keep you full and reduce your temptations for snacking.

Other Tips When Ordering Sushi For Bodybuilding

Here are some other tips I give my clients for them to consider the next time they eat sushi.

  • If you want to increase the protein, opt for quinoa instead of rice. Not all sushi restaurants might have this option, but it’s worth asking.
  • Choose the sushi roll that has the most protein. Ideally, look for at least 2 protein sources. For example, salmon and tuna in the same roll would be a great choice.
  • Still struggling to get enough protein? Ask for a grilled skewer of chicken or beef on the side. Most sushi places I’ve been to have this option.
  • Choose one fat source (either avocado, sesame seeds, or cream cheese) to avoid adding too many calories and make it easier to stick to your daily fat macros.
  • Avoid the fried tempura rolls.
  • If your carb allotment is low during a cutting phase, ask the chef to use as little rice as possible when making your roll. Most six-piece sushi rolls have ¾ to 1 cup of rice, which is over 40 g of carbs. You can reduce this by half or more by asking the chef to use a smaller portion of rice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Sushi Help Muscle Growth?

Sushi can be good for muscle growth. The fish provides high amounts of protein, which is necessary to repair and build muscle after resistance training workouts.

Certain types of sushi also have high amounts of carbs and fat that can help you reach a caloric surplus needed for muscle growth.

What Type of Sushi Is High in Protein?

The top three high-protein rolls are tuna rolls, Alaska rolls, and caterpillar rolls. If your sushi is on the lower side of protein (around 10 g), you can order sashimi to increase the protein content.

This will also help you avoid adding too many carbs or fats, especially if you pick a lean option like ahi tuna.

Is Sushi Good for Losing Weight?

Sushi is good for losing weight if you keep it simple. Adding extra ingredients (like mayonnaise, avocado, or sweet sauces) or having it tempura style will increase the calories. Remember, to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day.

Learn More About How Fish Can Help You Build Muscle

Check out my other articles on foods for bodybuilding:


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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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