Trying to pick out the right seafood to add to your bodybuilding diet can be tough and may even lead you to ponder whether tuna, in particular, is good for muscle growth.
Fortunately, we've put together a guide on everything you need to know about tuna and its potential health and fitness benefits to help you decide whether it's right for your diet.
For muscle growth, you'll want to select foods high in protein as it plays an essential role in the building, maintaining, and growing of muscle. Tuna definitely doesn't fall short here as it comes packed with protein whilst also remaining relatively low in fat and carbohydrates.
However, tuna contains so much more than just protein to help you achieve your fitness goals. For instance, some of its macronutrients, like taurine and omega-3, are linked to reducing fatigue and improving athletic performance.
With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about tuna and whether it's good for muscle growth...
If you take a closer look at the nutritional value of tuna, it becomes clear, at least in our opinion, why it's seen as a beneficial food to eat for muscle growth.
According to Nutritionix, 100g of tuna contains:
- Calories: 130
- Protein: 29g
- Fat: 0.6g
- Carbohydrates: 0g
Straight away, the impressive 29g of protein per 100g serving should stand out to you if you're interested in building muscle.
However, what should also stick out is that it contains no carbohydrates and a relatively small amount of fat. This makes tuna relatively lean, especially as it contains just 130 calories, making it well worth considering if you're looking to add muscle mass whilst minimising any increase in fat.
What else makes tuna so good for muscle growth though? Let's dive deeper into its macro and micronutrients to find out more...
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Is tuna good for muscle growth?
As mentioned, there's more than one reason why tuna may be beneficial for muscle growth, but the answers aren't overtly obvious looking at its macronutrient content. Here's everything you need to know about tuna in relation to muscle growth...
Packed with protein
We've already discussed that tuna is a great source of protein; however, what you may not know is that tuna provides what's known as a complete protein.
A complete protein is one that provides your body with the nine essential amino acids that cannot be produced internally and must be obtained through the food you eat. These amino acids are necessary to complete the total of 20 amino acids required for proper protein synthesis.
Why is this important for muscle growth? Well, when you consume protein, it gets metabolised into individual amino acids that serve specific functions, one of which is muscle building. By providing all the essential amino acids, complete proteins ensure that your body has the necessary building blocks to repair and build muscle tissue effectively.
For instance, leucine, one of the nine essential amino acids, plays a critical role in protein synthesis and muscle repair. This is important because when you exercise, you're actually creating microscopic tears in the fibres so your body can repair and rebuild them over time to make them stronger and, in turn, bigger.
Therefore, opting for something like tuna in your diet can help ensure you're getting the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth, thus making it one of the best foods for powerlifting in our opinion.
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May reduce inflammation
Tuna may also help reduce inflammation which, in turn, could be beneficial to your post-workout recovery. For example, tuna contains niacin, also known as vitamin B3, which is mainly related to obtaining energy from the food you eat.
That said, niacin has also been linked to reducing inflammation around joints. One study by Jonas et al. found niacin increased joint mobility and reduced inflammation over a 12-week period.
An increase in mobility should allow you to complete exercises through their full range of motion and, therefore, may benefit muscle growth as performing exercises in this way has been linked to beneficial effects on hypertrophy.
Tuna also contains omega-3 fatty acids which have also been linked to fighting inflammation. For example, a study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. found omega-3 supplementation reduced inflammation and even anxiety among healthy young adults.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with an increase in protein synthesis, with one study by Smith et al. finding its effects to be even more prominent in older adults. Therefore, adding more omega-3 to your diet should help your body create protein and, in turn, promote muscle growth. Check out our list of the best fish oil capsules for more ways to up your daily omega-3 intake.
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Source of taurine
Tuna is a rich source of taurine, a natural amino acid that has been linked to enhanced energy levels and improved athletic performance, as mentioned in our list of the best taurine supplements. In a comprehensive review of 19 studies conducted by Kurtz et al., taurine was found to be associated with increased oxygen uptake, extended endurance and recovery time, reduced muscle damage, and overall improvement in power during exercise.
These four factors can significantly contribute to muscle development over time, as they enable you to train for longer durations and with greater intensity, facilitating muscular hypertrophy. Including more taurine in your daily diet can potentially benefit your training, and tuna is an excellent dietary choice to start with.
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How much tuna should you eat for muscle growth?
If you're looking to give tuna a try, you're probably wondering how much you should eat to help you achieve your goal of building muscle. Unfortunately, there's not really an agreed-upon amount to consume for weightlifting.
In terms of your recommended daily allowance, you should be okay eating up to 500g of tuna a day, if not more, providing it's incorporated into a balanced diet of sufficient fats and carbohydrates to even out the high protein intake.
In fact, the USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults enjoy at least 8 ounces of seafood per week (based on a 2,000-calorie diet), with tuna being one option to consider.
That said, consuming too much tuna does come with its potential risks. For instance, seafood can be problematic due to its mercury content. Research suggests that high levels of mercury can be toxic to humans in relation to your cardiovascular and central nervous systems.
The issue tuna has is that it may eat other small fish that might be contaminated with mercury and, therefore, increase its mercury content as a result.
However, you only really need to be careful when it comes to the larger varieties, like bigeye and albacore, as smaller tuna, like light tuna and skipjack, tend to feature less mercury. Smaller tuna tends to be used in the canned variety, so if you're concerned, then canned tuna is another option to consider.