While bodybuilders have many protein sources to pick from, tilapia is one of the best proteins to add to their diets.
Why is tilapia good for bodybuilding? Tilapia is good for bodybuilders because it’s a lean protein option. This means that you get a significant protein intake without adding too much fat (unlike chicken thighs or red meat). Decreasing the fat from protein allows you to add healthier fats (like avocado) and better control your macronutrient intake.
With that said, if you’re wanting to add tilapia to your bodybuilding diet, there is one con to note, which I’ll discuss below. I also have some recommendations around the best time to eat tilapia for bodybuilding.
In this article, you will learn:
- The calorie and nutritional content of tilapia
- The micronutrients found in tilapia and how it benefits a bodybuilder
- Pros and cons of eating tilapia
- The best time to eat tilapia
- Tips and tricks to add tilapia on your bodybuilder diet
Tilapia For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutritional Content of Tilapia
One fillet of tilapia (116 g) has the following nutritional content.
- Calories: 111
- Carbs: 0.0 g
- Proteins: 23.3 g
- Fats: 2.0 g
Tilapia is a food that is moderate in calories. One fillet has 111 calories.
For both bodybuilders in a cutting and a bulking phase, tilapia can be cooked according to different macronutrient goals.
This means that if you are in a cutting phase, you might want to cook it with as little fat as possible to prevent increasing the caloric content too much.
On the other hand, if you are in a bulking phase, you might want to cook it with olive oil, butter, or cream sauces, to increase the calories the plate has to offer.
Remember to thoroughly measure the portion size using an app like MacroFactor (my favorite calorie counting app) to ensure you are not surpassing your total daily calories ‒ no matter in which phase you are in.
Tilapia is composed of only two macronutrients: proteins and fats. Most of the macronutrient content comes from protein though, which is a key characteristic of tilapia compared with other proteins.
A lot of other protein sources, like red meat, salmon, or chicken thighs, come with significant fat content. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as fats help you regular hormones and help keep you feeling full. But, if you’re wanting to control your fat intake, because you’re in a cutting phase, then tilapia is a great way to add protein to your diet without also adding fat.
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for a bodybuilder since it is the one necessary for muscle building. Most people don’t want to rely on a single source of protein either as that would get boring pretty fast. So, looking for different ways to achieve your protein goal is important.
Tilapia can provide the protein variety needed for bodybuilders, instead of simply relying on a single source, like chicken or protein shakes.
- Learn more about high protein fish.
Tilapia is high in pantothenic acid, selenium, and phosphorus. What benefits do these bring if you are a bodybuilder?
- Pantothenic acid. Part of the B vitamin complex, pantothenic acids help break down carbohydrates, fats, and protein into usable energy in the body and for tissue repair. This means that it helps repair and grow your muscles.
- Selenium. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the body. It plays an essential part in immune function. When there is less inflammation, your immune system functions better. This means that you have a more robust immune system to hit the gym instead of staying at home recuperating.
- Phosphorus. In our body, we use energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Without getting too technical, this is like a small ball of energy that once it is broken down, energy is released and used in the body. Phosphorus is part of that molecule, which means it plays an essential role in energy formation. Additionally, phosphorus plays an important role in bone formation.
- Want to learn more about other fish for bodybuilding? Check out my article on the Top 29 Fish For Bodybuilding (Ranked By Cheapest Options).
3 Pros Of Eating Tilapia For Bodybuilding
Here are the top 3 reasons to consider adding tilapia to your diet:
High in Protein
One of the main reasons you’ll want to add tilapia is its high protein intake.
Bodybuilders might need an average of 200-250g of protein per day. Achieving this could be difficult for some people unless they find protein sources that offer a high protein intake per serving.
If you want to increase your protein intake without relying on protein powder, tilapia is the way to go.
Additionally, compared to other proteins like meat and chicken breast, tilapia is a somewhat cheaper option to help you get all those daily grams of protein.
Low in Mercury
One of the biggest concerns when talking about fish is mercury intake.
Tilapia is considered to be low in mercury. Since it is a farm-raised fish, they have less contact with pollution in the sea. Thus making it low in mercury.
Easy to Digest
It might be easier to digest since fish has less connective tissue than meat and chicken.
The muscle fibers found in fish are shorter compared to larger animals. In the end, this means that it makes it easier to digest.
It is better for those who cannot train on a full stomach and need an easier digestible protein like fish, 1-2 hours prior to training.
- Learn more the 19 Best Fish To Eat After A Workout (Plus 10 To Avoid)
1 Con of Eating Tilapia For Bodybuilding
The cons of eating tilapia for bodybuilding are:
Omega 6 vs. Omega 3 Ratio
One of the main concerns of tilapia is its omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Omega-6 fatty acids tend to have an inflammatory effect, while omega-3 fatty acids tend to be anti-inflammatory.
Although we need more omega-6 in our diets than omega-3, the amount of omega-6 fatty acids is way too high in a Western diet, resulting in constant inflammation in our body.
Nowadays, you find a 15:1 ratio from omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Although there is not a consensus of the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, a study showed that having a 4:1 ratio has a 70% decrease in cardiovascular incidents. Also, in the same study, people with a 2:1 ratio had less inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Takeaway: we usually eat way too much omega 6s compared with omega 3s, which is not good.
Farm-raised tilapia tends to be higher in omega-6, which means that you are adding more inflammatory properties to your body. A way of countering this effect is by making sure that you limit your omega-6 intake in other foods by reducing safflower oil, peanuts, and hemp seeds.
As well, whenever possible, try to choose wild tilapia over farm-raised. However, I’ve rarely seen wild tilapia at the grocery store, unless it was a specialty grocery store that sources a lot of organic food.
- My favorite no salt, no sugar spices are made by Flavor God. Read more in my article: Is Flavor God Healthy? (We Asked A Nutrition Coach)
Can You Eat Tilapia Before Workouts?
Eating tilapia immediately before a workout might not be the best idea. Having high protein food before a workout can lead to an upset stomach causing bloating and stomach pain because it takes longer to digest, resulting in impaired performance.
Although fish is easier to digest than meat or chicken, I would still advise having it 1-2 hours before a workout (compared with 2-3 hours for red meat). Along with it, you can include a carb option like sweet potato or rice to provide the necessary energy you need before training.
Another great option to increase your carbs is having a fruit-based sauce with fish. For example, one of my favorite combinations is having mango salsa with tilapia.
For a bodybuilder, having 100-150 grams of tilapia is equivalent to 23-35 grams of protein. Before a workout, this would be more than enough protein for a bodybuilder who is around 170-200 lbs, to provide a steady release of amino acids, which help maintain and grow your muscle mass.
Can You Eat Tilapia After Workouts?
Tilapia is an excellent option to have after a workout. After training, you need a protein intake to help repair and grow your muscle mass. One fillet of tilapia offers 23 g of protein, almost like 1 scoop of protein powder—an ideal amount to have after training if you’re a bodybuilder between 170-200 lbs.
Protein is an essential macronutrient to have post-training. However, you still need to add carbs and healthy fats to have the optimal workout meal.
Carbs help replenish the energy lost after training. If you don’t add carbs, you risk protein being used as an energy source instead of muscle building. Thus, when having tilapia, after a workout session, try adding beans, lentils, or potatoes.
Healthy fats (unsaturated) help reduce inflammation in the body. This means that you will have better muscle recovery after training. Add some avocado, flax seeds, or olive oil to your tilapia to increase your recovery game.
Is Tilapia Good For Muscle Growth?
While tilapia is high in protein, which is necessary for muscle growth, it is not so high in calories. As such you will still need to add high-calorie foods to your diet to obtain a caloric surplus, which is essential when building muscles.
You can add any foods found in my other article: Top 10 foods high in calories but low in protein.
They will help you achieve that caloric surplus (eating more calories than your body needs) to achieve that weight gain.
- Related Article: Flounder vs. Tilapia: 6 Differences & Which Is Better?
Tips For Incorporating Tilapia Into A Bodybuilding Diet
Here are a couple of my favorite tips and tricks for incorporating tilapia into your diet:
Be Aware of The Fats
If you are in a cutting phase, be careful about how you cook your tilapia.
Tilapia doesn’t have a lot of flavors, which means people tend to add lots of butter and olive oil to make it tastier. This means that you go from low-calorie food to high-calorie food.
In the end, you could be affecting your goals by adding more calories than your body needs. Make sure to measure the fats that you use to ensure that they are within your caloric budget.
Choose The Right Cooking Method
You’ll also need to think about choosing the right cooking method based on your goals.
If you are trying to control your caloric intake, choose baking, air frying, or cooking it in the pan to decrease the fat intake.
Avoid methods like deep frying since it can significantly increase the calories.
To make tilapia more flavorful, add lots of spices and herbs.
Add some rosemary with olive oil to create the perfect Mediterranean tilapia dish, or add garlic and lemon to make a more refreshing dish.
Here are three of my favorite recipes:
- Tilapia with Olives, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes from SimplyRecipes.com.
- Baked Tilapia from TasteofHome.com.
- Lemon Butter Baked Tilapia from WholesomeYum.com.
Careful On The Sauces
Although there is nothing better than fish with sauce (since they are a little dry), the sauce you choose to include can be high in calories.
Avoid those that are cream-based since they are more caloric than the ones veggie-based.
Other Food Comparisons
- Tilapia vs. Salmon: 5 Differences & Which Is Better?
- Cod vs. Tilapia: 6 Differences & Which Is Better?
- Tilapia vs Chicken Breast: 6 Differences & Which Is Better?
Other Fish and Seafood Resources For Bodybuilders
- Is Cod Good or Bad for Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- Is Sushi Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- 3 Reasons Why Tuna Is Good For Bodybuilding (Plus, 1 Con)
- Is Salmon Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- Are Sardines Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- Is Shrimp Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding (Pros & Cons)
- 12 Lowest Calorie Fish (Under 100 Calories)
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.