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

Often when eating out, most bodybuilders tend to choose sushi. 

Even pro bodybuilders will indulge in eating sushi, as you can see in various YouTube videos: 

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. If you are not careful, the calories and the macros could be off-balance.

In this article, I will explore:

  • The nutritional content of a general sushi roll
  • Cons and pros of eating sushi for bodybuilding
  • When to eat sushi: pre or post-workout
  • Which type of sushi is better for bodybuilding
  • Awesome sushi recipes to help you fit your macros

Sushi For Bodybuilding: Overview

Sushi For Bodybuilding

Calories from Sushi

There are different kinds of sushi. An average roll of six pieces with fish and veggies usually has around 200-300 kcal.

The preparation and the ingredients you add will increase its calories. For example, if you decide to have it tempura style, it might add 100-200 kcal. If the tempura is just the protein, then it might just add 100 kcal. However, if the whole roll is fried, it might 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 any sweet-based sauce, it will definitely add up the calories.

Remember, for you to reach your goals, it is important to have the calories as controlled as possible. If you want to be as lean as possible, the calories are one to look out for.

When eating sushi, it is easy to surpass the number of calories that you’re looking to eat. The serving sizes could be pretty small, and the extra ingredients could make the dish extremely caloric if you are not careful. 

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.

Macronutrients from Sushi

sushi has all the macronutrients a bodybuilder requires

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)

The carb content is ideal for a bodybuilder. It is mainly composed of simple carbs, which provide fast-acting energy.

  • Protein: 10-25 g 

The protein content, however, is on the lower side. An average bodybuilder (whose weight is 90 kg) needs a protein intake of 145-200g. Having just 10g of protein per meal is very low. Protein is essential for muscle building. If not enough protein is consumed, you won’t see those gains.

  • Fat: 5-10 g (a tempura roll might have up to 15 g)

Sushi has a good amount of fat. Depending on the ingredients, you can choose to have saturated fats or unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products (cream cheese and mayonnaise); if consumed in excess, they can lead to heart problems. Unsaturated fats are healthier for your body; they are found in avocado, salmon, and sesame seeds.

Want to learn more about avocados?  Check out my other article on Are Avocados Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?

Micronutrients from Sushi

Besides giving us the macros that we need to function correctly, it also gives us a good portion of certain micronutrients. The micronutrients will depend on the ingredients you choose, but can include:

  • Fish. High in vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and muscle recovery.
  • Nori. It is a type of seaweed used. It is high in magnesium, iron, thiamine, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and E.
  • Pickled ginger. Ginger is a good source of copper, manganese, potassium, and magnesium—essential electrolytes to keep the body functioning correctly.
  • Avocado. Good source of vitamin K, potassium, folate, magnesium, and vitamin E.

Depending on which ingredients you add, it could add or decrease its micronutrient content. Remember that not everything is about macros. You need micronutrients to metabolize the macros correctly. 

Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?

3 Pros Of Eating Sushi For Bodybuilding

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”. 

The rice is the primary carb source that provides the energy you need to have the best training performance. 

You have the fish that is the main protein source that helps repair and grows 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 composed of 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, if you add extra protein or make the protein bigger, this problem is solved. You can do this by eating less rolls, and more sashimi-style sushi (the raw pieces of fish with no rice). 

Protein is the biggest macronutrient to control if you are a bodybuilder since it’s responsible for repairing and promoting muscle growth.

Also, you can add more carbs and fats if you need the extra energy when bulking, or even 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 are excellent sources of omega 3, both ingredients in regular sushi. 

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

Regarding exercise, omega 3 has been studied on its effects on athletes. It might help decrease muscle loss, help in muscle soreness, and aid in fat loss (2). All of them are critical aspects for a bodybuilder whose main focus is to gain muscle with a slight fat increase.

Learn more the 19 Best Fish To Eat After A Workout (Plus 10 To Avoid)

3 Cons of Eating Sushi For Bodybuilding

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

1. It is Easy to Add up the Calories

If you are not careful, adding more ingredients or the type of preparation can make it easy to have a calorie excess. Even though we need a caloric increase to gain lean weight, it could lead to fat gain if you are not careful.

A regular roll can have around 200-300 kcal, but if you are not careful, it can go up to 600-800 kcal, which is the case for rolls with lots of sauces and rolls that are deep-fried). This can benefit you if you are in a bulking phase and have trouble adding up the calories. However, if you are in a cutting phase, this might jeopardize your goals. 

2. High Sodium Content

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

For a bodybuilder, having a high sodium intake could lead to water retention.

Sushi is nothing with soy sauce, and one tablespoon of soy sauce has almost 900 mg of sodium. Nearly 40% of the recommended daily intake of sodium. 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. 

Another food high in sodium is ramen.  Check out my article on Are Instant Noodles Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?

3. Low-protein Content

In order to gain muscle, protein is an essential macro. A daily protein of 1.6-2.2 g/kg per bodyweight is appropriate for a bodybuilder (4).

Depending on the sushi roll, the intake could be very low (10 g per roll). For a bodybuilder, this amount is not enough to gain muscle or maintain muscle mass.

The next time you decide to order sushi, make sure to add extra protein, make the protein bigger, or even order sashimi. As well, at most sushi restaurants you can usually order some grilled chicken or beef to add to your order.   

Can You Eat Sushi Before Workouts?

Yes, you can eat sushi before a workout. It is a good simple carb to have to provide fast-acting energy. Keep the fats and protein around 10-15% of your daily intake if you have it 30-60 minutes before a workout. If it’s more than 15% for each macro, eat it 2-3 hours before exercise since it could cause bloating.

sushi for workout

The main goal of a meal before training is to provide the necessary energy to have the best performance. A pre-workout snack includes simple carbs since they are easier to digest with a low intake of proteins and fats since they take longer to digest and might cause bloating.

Sushi has the advantage of providing simple carbs through sushi rice. To have a steadier energy release, you can add a small portion of healthy fats (such as avocado) or salmon (protein).

For a male bodybuilder, I recommend having one cup of sushi rice, which will provide around 45-60 g of carbs. This is more than enough to have the necessary energy to have an energized session. Add no more than 1-2 oz of salmon or any other fish and just 2 tablespoons of avocado to prevent making it very heavy. If we are talking about a roll, it would be a regular size roll.

I recommend having ½ a cup of sushi rice for female bodybuilding, which provides around 20-30 g of carbs. Add 1 oz of salmon and 2 tablespoons of avocado. For a regular roll, it would be more or less a half of a roll. 

Can You Eat Sushi After Workouts?

Yes, sushi is an excellent choice to have post-workout since it has all the macros you need to repair and grow your muscle. However, if you are not careful, the amount of protein might not be enough to help muscle growth. Make sure to have at least 4-5 oz of any protein with the sushi.

The main objective of a snack after training is to replenish the energy lost during the workout and help muscle growth. Carbs will replenish the glycogen lost during training, and this is obtained through sushi rice. Protein will help repair and grow your muscles. Any fish source is a great choice. Finally, fats have anti-inflammatory properties. Avocado has omega 3 that helps achieve this benefit.

In a bulking phase, a male bodybuilder can have two rolls after training, while a woman bodybuilder can have one roll. In a cutting phase, a male bodybuilder I would recommend having 1 roll with an appetizer that is high in protein. The same recommendation goes for a female bodybuilder. 

Which Type of Sushi Is Better For Bodybuilding?

type of sushi that is better for bodybuilding

The sushi you choose could either get you one step towards your goal or one step further. 

Always make sure to choose sushi that is more protein than rice. This will ensure your protein intake is on the right track. 

Here are the top 5 sushi rolls for bodybuilding: 

1. Salmon Avocado Roll

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

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

A great option to have 1-2 hours before a workout. Since it is higher in calories it is great when you are in a bulking phase. 

2. Tuna Roll

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

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

It is higher in fat thus it is a great choice to have after a workout. Ideal for bodybuilders that are in a bulking phase.

3. California Roll

One roll with 6 pieces has the following nutritional value:

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

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, add extra protein.

4. Rainbow Roll

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. A great choice for people in a cutting phase since it’s lower in calories and a bit higher in protein. 

5. Sashimi

6 pieces have the following nutritional value

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

These are great options if you are looking to have high protein and low-fat rolls.

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 instead of sushi rice, opt for quinoa. Not all sushi restaurants might have this option, but it’s worth asking.
  • Choose the sushi roll that has the most protein. Hopefully, at least 2 protein sources. For example, salmon and tuna in the same roll.
  • Still struggling to get enough protein?  Ask for a grilled skewer of chicken or beef.  Most sushi places I’ve been to will have this option.
  • Choose one fat source: either avocado, sesame seeds, or cream cheese.
  • Avoid the fried tempura rolls.

Does Sushi Help Muscle Growth?

Sushi helps achieve muscle growth by providing the necessary calories for helping repair and grow muscles. Remember that a calorie surplus is essential for gaining muscle mass, which can be achieved when eating sushi as part of a well-rounded bulking diet.

Sushi helps achieve muscle growth by providing the necessary calories for helping repair and grow muscles

However, not only calories are essential, having the right amount of protein is key for optimal muscle growth. You can modify the sushi recipe to have at least 20-30 g of protein after a workout, which is the average recommended intake for either a male or female bodybuilder.  

A carb source after training has also been proven to help achieve protein synthesis. By increasing muscle glycogen (the primary energy used by muscles). Having low muscle glycogen has been shown to reduce performance and increase fatigue. If you can’t work stronger, there won’t be any muscle rupture which won’t increase muscle mass. Thus, the sushi rice (carb source) is essential for muscle growth. 

FAQ: Sushi For Bodybuilding, Bulking, & Cutting

What Type of Sushi Is High in Protein?

The top three high protein rolls are Tuna Roll, Alaska roll, and Caterpillar Roll. They are all great options when looking for sushi that is high in protein. Suppose your sushi is on the lower scale of protein. In that case, you can order sashimi which will increase the protein portion without adding any carbs or fats. 

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 tempura style will increase the calories. Remember, to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit (eat fewer calories than your body needs).

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

Other Foods For Bodybuilding

Check out my other articles on foods for bodybuilding:


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.