Firstly, I did read this question, but I do not think it fully answers mine.

I recently started some fitness training. My goals are to have a lean body. I am 171cm/68kg and I don't care if I were to lose a few kg or not. I use very light free weights (2-6 kg depending on exercise) and do some body weight exercises.

Currently, my protein intake is at least 90 g/day while it can reach to 130 g/day. When I exercise, just after the exercise, I consume 160 g can of tuna fish in brine. It consists of 30 g of proteins for the cost of 120 calories. I do not mind the price of the tuna.

My questions are:

  1. Can tuna in brine replace protein shakes?
  2. Although I drain the brine as well as I can, I am still afraid that I consume more salt than I should. Will this cause some adverse effects in the long run, compared to protein shakes?

Please answer this question considering my long term goals.

  • 2
    One question I have right off the bat is; if you only train using light free weights, and "do some body weight exercises", what makes you think you need a protein shake to begin with?
    – Alec
    May 25, 2018 at 17:50
  • Well, it is advertised pretty much everywhere that you need twice grams of protein of your body weight in kg. So, I try to increase my protein consumption on days that I exercise. Is it incorrect?
    – ck1987pd
    May 25, 2018 at 18:09
  • 1
    @C.Koca - Almost every food has some protein in it. By this answer, you only really need an average of 90g per day. If you routinely get that and more, you're fine. And real food is always preferable to manufactured. Is brine tuna the only available? We have lots of tuna in water available where I live.
    – JohnP
    May 25, 2018 at 18:54
  • @JohnP - If you look at that answer's first source, it seems like the answerer has gotten grams/kg mixed up with grams/pound. Can you double-check that I'm not misreading it? Ref: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290421
    – Alec
    May 25, 2018 at 19:03
  • @Alec - No, it's right. Current sedentary recommendation is around .8/kg, that is recommending .4/lb. A kg is 2.2 lbs, so it's a tiny bit off but not much.
    – JohnP
    May 25, 2018 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


I was writing in the comments, but this became a bit wall-of-texty, so I choose to do it in an answer instead, where I can at least break it up into paragraphs.

First things first

I want to first discuss whether or not you actually needs protein shakes, given your light training regimen.

You mention in your comment that:

it is advertised pretty much everywhere that you need twice grams of protein of your body weight in kg

Yes, and the key word being "advertised".

Have you heard the phrase "breakfast is the most important meal of the day"? If we dig deeper, we'll learn that it was actually a man named Will Keith Kellogg who first coined this phrase. You may have heard the name Kellogg. The man started a company which sells breakfast cereal. So as you might assume, he was very happy when people started spreading the rumor of breakfast's immense importance.

Similarly, the whole 2-2.5g of protein per kg. of bodyweight holds very little scientific substance, and is essentially just a rumor spread to sell more protein powder. What's actually important is that you find out which amount per day works for you, because you don't necessarily have the same training regimen, or the same metabolic rate, or the same sleep schedule, or the same adaptations etc. as the persons who rely on 2g per kg.

I'm sure there are people who require 2g per kg bodyweight, but if your muscles aren't in need of that much protein, it will just convert the excess to fat, and store it.

This can also be said for the idea that you have to consume protein right after your workout. Because what kind of high-protein food is very easy to pack and eat right after a workout? Protein shakes, protein bars... This is why they sell this crap at the gym!

Fact of the matter is you don't need breakfast. In fact, when you wake up, your body naturally increases your blood sugar level to get you started. Further spiking your blood sugar level with high-sugar breakfast cereal (like Kellogg's stuff) increases the risk of Type-2 Diabetes.

This is not to say that all breakfast is bad. Just be aware of what you eat.

So, to your questions

Can tuna in brine replace protein shakes?

Tuna is food, and a protein shake is a food replacement. So what you're asking is if food can replace a food replacement.

The answer is yes.

Protein shakes should only be used when your protein intake needs to be higher than what you can consume through regular foods. It's a supplement after all. Whenever possible, your diet should be regulated with food rather than supplements, and add the latter only when necessary.

However, I urge you to check the mercury content of the tuna before eating cans of it every day. Particularly albacore tends to have way higher mercury content than, say, skipjack.

Although I drain the brine as well as I can, I am still afraid that I consume more salt than I should. Will this cause some adverse effects in the long run, compared to protein shakes?

I can't make a definitive statement about the salt contents of the tuna you buy. But an adult should eat no more than 6 grams of salt per day. If you keep this in mind, I'm sure you'll be fine.

  • Thank you for your detailed response. As a principle, I'll wait a few days before accepting this answer. I'll take the brine part to a dietitian and answer it myself later.
    – ck1987pd
    May 25, 2018 at 19:13
  • 1
    @C.Koca - Sounds like a good idea! Yeah, it's good to wait for more answers. As a side-note, the current RDA of protein for a sedentary person is 0.8g per kg of bodyweight. I'd say start at 1.2, and adjust as needed. If you're not gaining weight, increase it. If you start getting pudgy, decrease it. Sadly there is no one-size-fits-all number here.
    – Alec
    May 25, 2018 at 19:22

@Alec already delivered an excellent answer to your question. So here I am just adding an a few words. As said protein shakes are only supplements and offer the advantage of beeing easy to prepare. If you are worried about salt and mercury content you may very well change it up with beans and lentils aswell as lowfat quark. Watching protein intake and timing very carefully is important if you are really advanced or in a big caloric deficit, if that is not the case just eat “healthy and balanced“ and do not worry about a few more or less grams of protein directly after workout

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