You train like a beast and smash our rep after rep in the gym. But once the dust of your workout settles, should you eat chicken or fish to make those gains?
A high-protein diet is the number one goal of a bodybuilder. It doesn’t matter how hard you work in your local iron house; if you don’t get your nutrition right you won’t optimize muscle growth.
Both chicken and fish provide important nutrition for any strength training athlete. But is there any real difference and which one should be in your meal prep container at all times?
Fish vs chicken
In this article we take a look…
High Protein Diets Are Important for Muscle Growth
Bodybuilding is the greatest sport on earth.
Nothing else comes even close to the feeling you get from hitting an insane, bar-bending bench press. Or finishing a set of squats that felt like they would shatter your soul and your spine in equal measure.
Not only does bodybuilding boost your confidence, your strength and your physical performance; it’s also great for your health.
But there’s more to achieving peak physique than just having a great workout program.
Nutrition is just as important.
Protein provides the building blocks of muscle tissue
When you’re in the gym, crushing hundreds of reps of pulldowns, flyes or deadlifts, you’re creating microscopic damage to your muscle fibers.
Strength training is the stimulus and catalyst for muscle building.
But protein is the trigger for growth.
Day-to-day your body breaks down its own muscle mass for energy. It has a high turnover rate, meaning without taking in more protein than you breakdown you’ll begin to lose muscle.
In order to stimulate repair, regrowth and regeneration, you need to not only lift weights, but get enough protein in your diet to stop protein turnover (protein degradation) as well as stimulate net protein synthesis.
When you eat a protein-rich meal your body uses it to remodel your muscle tissue. It activates various pathways that result in cellular growth.
And that means more bodybuilder gains.
Protein also has a number of other health benefits too:
- Elevates metabolic rate
- May lower blood pressure
- Keeps you feeling fuller for longer
- Maintains bone mass
- Good for weight loss
- Optimizes recovery
How much protein do you need to optimize muscle growth?
There are various recommendations for protein intake based around age, body mass and intensity of workouts.
Some government guidelines suggest shooting for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, this is based on non-lifters that don’t have much muscle mass and find it easier to achieve net protein synthesis.
As an overall guidance, you should be aiming to hit 1.8-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
That’s around 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight.[infobox]
Giving you the tip: Protein is essential for growth and repair of muscle tissue. Without sufficient protein in your diet, you can’t build muscle mass.[/infobox]
High Protein Quality Foods
When it comes to the best bang-for-your-buck protein foods, animal products come in a clear number one.
There’s no room for kale and cauliflower for real bros. It’s all about meat, dairy and eggs when it comes to powerful, muscle building foods.
If you’re vegetarian, foods like soy and mycoprotein provide a good substitute to meat with high protein amounts too.
Protein quality is measured by its amino acid profile
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. In any protein-based food, aminos string together to form peptide molecules, and these peptides fuse to form proteins.
Without them, there’d be no protein.
Amino acids are divided into essential and non-essential.
Essential aminos include leucine and isoleucine and can’t be synthesized by your own body. You have to get them from food.
Non-essential aminos such as alanine and glutamine can be made by your body if you don’t get enough of them through a good diet.
Complete proteins are foods that contain all essential amino acids. The perfect examples of these are:
- Meat – chicken, beef, pork
To maximize muscle protein synthesis, your diet should be rich in essential amino acids. Without them you’ll find it harder to achieve the tools your body needs to craft any decent amount of mass.
Protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS)
As well as rating your food by the number of essential amino acids, protein quality can also be graded by its digestibility.
The PDCAAS is a method of evaluating muscle building quality based on the combination of amino acid requirements of the human body, and your ability to digest the nutrients from food.
Foods with a score of 1.0 have maximal digestibility. When you eat them, 100% of the essential amino acids reach your body.
The lower the score, the more amino acids are ‘lost’ during digestion and the less optimal the food becomes for bodybuilding.
- 1.0 – Eggs, whey protein, cheese, soy, casein, chicken, beef
- 0.99 – Mycoprotein
- 0.9 – Fish
- 0. 73 – Vegetables
- 0.59 – Oats
Fish vs Chicken – Which One’s Best for Bodybuilders?
A high protein diet is key to muscle growth.
As a bodybuilder it’s important that you plan your meals and optimize protein intake in order to boost muscle protein synthesis.
With so many different protein sources to choose from, you want to make sure your food choices give you the best results.
Here’s a breakdown of fish and chicken:
Ask any bodybuilder what’s in his meal prep container and chances are he’ll tell you that chicken, rice and broccoli make up most of his meals.
Not only is chicken lean in calories and fat (around 165 kcal per 100 g) it’s also a great source of protein at 31 g.
You’ll find around 1-4 g of fat per fillet, and cholesterol amounts are low too.
Chicken is easy to cook, easy to store and versatile too. You can add it to practically any meal without any issues.
It provides vitamin B6 and a small amount of magnesium.
Unlike chicken, there are a huge number of sub-species of fish, each with their own individual nutrient profile.
On average, white fish provides slightly more calories than chicken does with just over 170 kcal per 100 g. The protein count is a little lower at 24 g because fish is higher in fat..
Fish is high in micronutrition, providing vitamins B6, B12, selenium and iodine.
It’s easy to cook but not as versatile as chicken is. It also smells to high hell when you open your meal prep container.
Oily fish such as salmon or mackerel provides heart and brain healthy omega 3 fats.
But more importantly for bodybuilders, fish also provides vitamin D – a steroid hormone that aids in recovery, builds muscle, boosts endurance and enhances endurance.
So which is better – fish or chicken?
“In this war of sea versus land, there can only be one winner!”
Well, not really.
Both are high in protein, and both provide huge amounts of nutrient value for minimal calories.
Although protein is the number one most important nutrient for muscle building, there’s nothing wrong with variety.
Consuming a range of protein sources helps to keep your diet interesting, as well as providing a broader range of micronutrients.
If you were to go solely off of protein intake, chicken would edge it. But with muscle building support from vitamin D and other micronutrients, oily fish is also hugely important for any bodybuilder wanting to maximize mass.