Is Tuna Good For Building Muscle?

Ever thought of tuna as your gym buddy? Well, it turns out it could be.

Packed with high-quality protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, tuna can indeed play a key role in building muscle, as long as it's paired with a comprehensive exercise regime and consumed in moderation.

We'll dive deeper into the topic in this article. Keep reading to understand just how tuna contributes to muscle growth and what to be mindful of when including it in your diet.

Protein Content in Tuna

You might be wondering: “Why tuna?” when there are so many other protein sources out there.

This section will help you understand the impressive protein content in tuna and why it's worth considering when you're looking to build muscle.

Detailed Breakdown of the Protein Content in Tuna

Tuna is not just another fish in the sea when it comes to protein content.

A 3-ounce serving of cooked yellowfin tuna, for instance, delivers a whopping 25 grams of protein, packing a powerful punch for your muscles, all for just 110 calories.

This makes tuna a highly efficient source of protein, offering a high ratio of protein to calories.

This means, if you're seeking to gain muscle, adding tuna to your meals can help you meet your protein needs without piling on the calories.

You see, for muscle building, it's not just about consuming more protein, it's about consuming protein efficiently.

You want to consume protein in a way that gives your body what it needs to build muscle without adding unnecessary calories that could lead to fat gain.

In this way, tuna is like a secret weapon for muscle builders.

Explanation of What “Complete Protein” Means

But there's more to tuna's protein than just quantity. The protein in tuna is also high-quality protein.

This means it's a “complete” protein. But what does that mean, and why does it matter?

A complete protein is one that provides all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own.

These essential amino acids – histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine – are the building blocks of proteins in the body.

They play crucial roles in various physiological processes, including the building and repairing of muscles.

This means that the protein in tuna isn't just contributing to the amount of protein in your diet; it's also providing the full spectrum of essential amino acids your muscles need to grow and repair.

The result? Tuna is more than just another protein source. It's a complete package that offers your body exactly what it needs to build muscle efficiently.

Tuna for Muscle Building

So, you know that tuna is chock-full of protein. But how does that translate into muscle growth?

Let's get into the nitty-gritty of how tuna aids in muscle building and why strength training should be your trusty sidekick in this journey.

How the Protein in Tuna Contributes to Muscle Building

The process of muscle building, scientifically known as muscle protein synthesis, is basically a cycle of damage and repair.

When you work out, especially with strength training exercises, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers.

These tears then need to be repaired, and it's in this repair process that your muscles actually grow.

That's where the protein comes in. As we discussed earlier, proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks your body uses to repair and grow muscles.

So, when you consume protein-rich foods like tuna, you're providing your body with the raw materials it needs for muscle repair and growth.

The complete protein in tuna is particularly beneficial, as it provides all the essential amino acids your body needs in one package.

However, remember that simply eating a can of tuna won't magically give you bulging biceps.

You need to tear those muscle fibers first to give the protein something to repair. And that's where strength training comes in.

Why Other Factors, Like Strength Training, are Crucial in Muscle Building

Muscle building is a team sport, with diet and exercise being the key players.

Even if you're eating all the right foods, if you're not also engaging in strength training exercises, you won't see the muscle growth you're hoping for.

Strength training provides the stimulus your muscles need to grow.

It causes the small tears in your muscle fibers that then need to be repaired, and that repair process leads to muscle growth.

But for your body to make those repairs, it needs the right nutrients, particularly protein.

When you combine strength training with a protein-rich diet that includes foods like tuna, you're creating the perfect conditions for muscle growth.

You're giving your body the stimulus to grow muscles and providing the nutrients it needs to make those growths.

Just remember that while tuna is an excellent source of protein, it shouldn't be your only source of protein.

Variety is important in any diet, and getting your protein from a mix of sources will ensure you're also getting a range of other nutrients.

The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Muscle Recovery

While protein steals the show in muscle-building discussions, there's another star player that deserves our attention – omega-3 fatty acids.

Particularly beneficial for muscle recovery, let's dive into what omega-3 fatty acids are and why they're a valuable part of your fitness journey.

Explanation of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that your body needs but cannot produce itself, which means they must be obtained from your diet.

They are mainly found in fatty fish like tuna, as well as in other seafood, nuts and seeds, and plant oils.

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA is primarily found in plant sources, while EPA and DHA are abundant in fish and other seafood.

Why should you care about these somewhat hard-to-pronounce nutrients?

Because they offer a range of health benefits, one of which is aiding muscle recovery, a key factor in muscle growth.

Their Benefits, Especially in Fighting Inflammation and Promoting Muscle Recovery

In the context of muscle building and recovery, omega-3 fatty acids really show their mettle.

Firstly, they're known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Intense workouts can lead to muscle inflammation, which is a natural part of the muscle recovery process.

However, too much inflammation can slow down your recovery and hamper your muscle-building progress. That's where omega-3s come in.

By helping to manage inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids can aid your muscle recovery and get you ready for your next workout faster.

Secondly, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to increase muscle protein synthesis (the process of building muscle) and decrease muscle protein breakdown.

This means they can potentially help you build muscle more efficiently.

Lastly, some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids might also improve muscle strength and function, making them an all-around valuable nutrient for anyone looking to improve their physical fitness.

So, when you're chowing down on that tuna sandwich after your workout, remember that it's not just the protein doing you good.

The omega-3 fatty acids in the tuna are also playing a crucial role in your muscle recovery and growth.

Choosing the Right Tuna: Fresh vs. Canned

Whether fresh off the boat or straight from a can, tuna can be a great addition to your muscle-building diet.

But how do these two forms compare, and is one better than the other for your fitness goals? Let's cast a net over this topic and reel in some answers.

A Comparison of Fresh and Canned Tuna

Fresh and canned tuna are both nutritious options but offer different benefits.

Fresh tuna, like yellowfin, is often considered the more gourmet choice and is a common sight on sushi menus.

It has a more delicate flavor and a firmer texture than canned.

Fresh tuna is also usually higher in protein than canned and contains all the essential amino acids you need for muscle building.

On the other hand, canned tuna is a convenient, cost-effective option that can be stored for much longer periods.

While it typically contains less protein per serving than fresh tuna, it still offers a good amount, making it a valuable muscle-building food.

In terms of omega-3 fatty acids, both fresh and canned tuna are great sources, but the amounts can vary.

Factors such as the type of tuna, the part of the fish used, and the method of preservation can all influence the omega-3 content.

For instance, canned tuna preserved in oil may contain less omega-3 than those preserved in water, as the oil can sometimes replace some of the fish's natural fatty acids.

Recommendations for Those Focusing on Muscle Building (e.g., Chunk Light Tuna in Water)

When it comes to muscle building, it's not just about choosing fresh or canned but also about choosing the right type of canned tuna.

For muscle builders, chunk light tuna canned in water is a top pick.

It's lower in fat and calories compared to tuna canned in oil, allowing you to focus your caloric intake on proteins rather than fats.

Plus, since it's preserved in water, it retains more of its natural omega-3 fatty acids, making it a double win for your muscle-building diet.

Just remember, canned tuna, like all canned foods, can be high in sodium, so you'll want to factor that into your dietary considerations.

And, while we're on the topic of considerations, we'd be remiss not to mention sustainability.

Tuna populations are facing significant pressure due to overfishing, so it's important to choose tuna that's been responsibly caught.

Look for tuna products with a certification from a reliable third party, like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), to ensure you're making an eco-conscious choice.

The Downside: Mercury Content

There's no denying the benefits of tuna for muscle building, but it's not all smooth sailing.

One potential downside is mercury content. Let's explore what that means and why it could affect your tuna consumption.

Explanation of the Mercury Content in Tuna

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water, and soil.

It exists in several forms, and when it gets into water bodies, it can be transformed into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that builds up in fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish.

Tuna, particularly larger and older fish, tend to have higher levels of mercury because they're higher up on the food chain.

They eat lots of smaller fish, accumulating more mercury in their bodies over time.

Mercury levels can vary depending on the type of tuna.

Generally, light canned tuna, made from smaller species like skipjack, usually contains less mercury than albacore or yellowfin tuna.

Discussion on the Potential Health Risks of Consuming Too Much Tuna

Why should you care about the mercury content in tuna?

Because consuming too much mercury can pose health risks, particularly to pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children.

For most adults, consuming tuna a few times a week isn't a cause for concern.

However, mercury is a neurotoxin, and at high levels, it can affect the nervous system, impairing vision, coordination, and speech, and causing muscle weakness.

For pregnant women, high levels of mercury can harm a developing fetus's nervous system.

Because of this, pregnant women are often advised to limit their consumption of high-mercury fish, like tuna.

For muscle builders, this means that while tuna is a great source of protein and omega-3s, it shouldn't be your only source.

It's essential to balance tuna with other lean proteins like chicken, turkey, eggs, and plant-based proteins.

How to Include Tuna in Your Muscle-Building Diet

Now that we've netted the ins and outs of tuna for muscle building, it's time to put that knowledge into practice.

How do we incorporate tuna into our diet in a healthy, balanced, and, of course, tasty way? Let's dive in.

Suggestions for Healthy Ways to Include Tuna in Meals

Tuna is a versatile ingredient that can be included in a variety of dishes, making it easy to incorporate into your diet.

For a protein-packed breakfast, try a tuna omelette.

Just whip up your usual eggs, add in some flaked canned tuna, and finish with a sprinkle of your favorite low-fat cheese.

For lunch, a tuna salad is a classic choice.

Mix canned tuna with Greek yogurt for a healthier twist on the traditional mayonnaise-based dressing, and add in some chopped celery for a satisfying crunch.

You can also toss some grilled tuna into your favorite salad greens for an extra protein boost.

Dinner options are plentiful. Tuna patties, made with canned tuna, breadcrumbs, and egg, can be a lean, protein-rich alternative to beef burgers.

If you have fresh tuna steaks, try grilling or broiling them with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of your favorite herbs.

Remember, while it's important to consume enough protein for muscle building, it's equally important to balance it with plenty of fresh vegetables and complex carbohydrates to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs.

Recommendations for Balancing Tuna with Other Protein Sources

While tuna is a great source of protein, it's not the only fish in the sea, so to speak.

As we mentioned earlier, it's crucial to balance tuna consumption with other protein sources to mitigate potential risks associated with mercury intake.

For other seafood options, consider incorporating salmon, shrimp, or tilapia into your meals, which are also good sources of protein but typically have lower mercury levels than tuna.

Land-based protein sources are plentiful, too.

Lean meats like chicken breast, turkey, and lean cuts of beef are all high in protein. For vegetarians or those wanting to diversify their protein sources, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, lentils, and a wide variety of beans can all contribute to meeting your protein needs.

Lastly, don't forget about plant-based proteins!

Foods like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and edamame, along with a variety of legumes and whole grains, can all help fuel your muscle-building journey.


In a nutshell, tuna, with its high protein content and wealth of essential nutrients, can play a significant role in your muscle-building diet.

But remember, variety is key. Balance your tuna intake with other protein sources, take into account the mercury content, and always prioritize sustainably sourced options.

Tuna is just one piece of the larger nutrition puzzle in your muscle-building journey, but it's a piece packed with potential benefits.