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Does Sushi Have A Place In A Weight Loss Program?

This is another great question I received on my “Ask Shane” page so I figured I’d do a blog post on the subject. While there’s not a straight up and down yes or no answer to this question, I’ll do my best to explain where I’d put sushi in a diet where fat loss is the primary objective.

It’s important that we start off this discussion by going ahead and clearing up any senseless debate on whether or not sushi is healthy. Of course there are numerous variations of sushi dishes but anything that isn’t fried and contains whole food ingredients like fish and other seafood with greens, vegetables, and grains such as rice certainly isn’t a junk food.

But then again even healthy ingredients can become unhealthy foods when something is eaten in excess. Don’t think for a second you can’t gain weight by eating sushi just because it has “healthy” ingredients.

We need to cut through this misconception that only processed and refined junk foods contribute to weight gain. Sure these are common contributors, but eating too many carbs or fats from any foods will lead to fat storage. Bottom line is once your body has all the energy it needs to meet demands and glycogen levels are full in the muscle cells and liver, excess energy be it from carbs or dietary fat is going to be converted to stored body fat.

Sushi will affect people in different ways depending on their rate of metabolism, energy demands, and insulin sensitivity. Some people can eat it and stay relatively lean while others will gain weight. It’s not just a simple matter of how many calories are in each California roll or whatever you’re eating. It’s how your body will deal with it that matters.

Will you burn it off quickly to meet energy demands or store the excess energy as fat? These are questions that I could never answer for someone without knowing more about their bioindividuality. As always weight loss is a process of trial and error experimentation to find out what works best for your body.

You simply start with the foundation of eating mostly whole, natural foods and cut out the processed and refined garbage. That’s where everyone should start. You’ve certainly got a better chance getting to your ideal bodyweight by eating sushi instead of fast food, but that should be obvious.

So what is it in sushi that could be a potential problem in a weight loss program? Once again it’s more the quantity that the quality that will be the biggest factor. Sushi aficionados will make a case for one form of sushi being better than others and I don’t doubt that to be true.

It’s just not my thing so I don’t really get into the debate that much. No question there’s a superior quality of tuna that will affect the taste, etc. But in the end it will be the total amount of calories from carbs and fats that will determine the place of sushi in a weight loss program.

Let’s face it, the two most impactful macronutrients will be fat and carbs. Whether it’s the tuna, the avocado, the rice, etc, it will come down to how much you eat. I don’t know how many sushi restaurants provide nutrition information on each dish but I doubt many do.

Here’s a sample of calorie and nutrient totals in some sushi dishes as found on myfitnesspal.com

California Roll (Sushi)

Serving Size: 8 pieces, Calories: 330, Fat: 7g, Carbs: 38g, Protein: 9g

Marie’s Brooklyn Roll (Sushi)

Serving Size: 8 pieces, Calories: 380, Fat: 11g, Carbs: 13g, Protein: 22g

Salmon & Avocado Roll (Sushi)

Serving Size: 4 pieces, Calories: 138, Fat: 3.9g, Carbs: 0g, Protein: 10.7g

Shrimp Tempura Roll (Sushi)

Serving Size: 1 piece, Calories: 85, Fat: 3.5g, Carbs: 10g, Protein: 3.3g

Okami Assorted California Rolls (Sushi)

Serving Size: 5 pieces, Calories: 255, Fat: 9g, Carbs: 35g, Protein: 5g

Salmon Roll (Sushi Track)

Serving Size: 8 pieces, Calories: 240, Fat: 9g, Carbs: 40g, Protein: 15g

Sushi Shrimp Tempura Roll (Generic)

Serving Size: 1 Roll, Calories: 220, Fat: 21g, Carbs: 64g, Protein: 20g

Tuna Roll + 3 Pieces (Sushi)

Serving Size: 1 roll 100 grams, Calories: 250, Fat: 1.5g, Carbs: 40g, Protein: 18g

Rainbow Roll (Sushi)

Serving Size: 1 roll, Calories: 476, Fat: 16g, Carbs: 50g, Protein: 33g

Avocado Roll (Sushi)

Serving Size: 6 pieces, Calories: 140, Fat: 5.7g, Carbs: 28g, Protein: 2g

California Roll – Reduced Calorie (Sushi)

Serving Size: 1 roll, Calories: 42.5, Fat: 1.1g, Carbs: 6.3g, Protein: 1.5g

Granted I’m sure this is pretty vague as sushi rolls will vary in size and weight depending on who’s making them. We’re not talking about a standardized serving size for this stuff. It’s mostly handmade in most restaurants.

So where does all this leave us with whether or not sushi has a place in a weight loss program?

I guess it sort of depends on the individual but I’d put it in the 20% category and not the 80% category. In other words it could be an excellent choice during diet breaks, but for a lot of people it probably shouldn’t be an everyday staple dish.

Once again if you can include it in your diet and still see the fat loss results you want, by all means go for it. But if find the scale not moving the direction you’d like when eating it more frequently, pull back on it.

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The total calories from carbs and fats may be the likely culprit that sabotages fat loss. You may be better off having a tuna filet or other fish with some veggies instead of the sushi rolls. I tend to advocate more of a Primal Blueprint or Paleo type diet during fat loss phases but could certainly see a place for sushi during re-feeds and diet breaks.

It’s hard to beat lean proteins and veggies during fat loss phases. The “lean and green” approach is more likely to improve insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Test and see for yourself how your body responds. If nothing else look to limit your consumption of sushi at any one sitting. Don’t eat until you’re stuffed, only until you’re no longer hungry. That’s a good rule of thumb for any meal.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts, a Mt. Pleasant based personal fitness training studio that specializes in Charleston weight loss programs for body transformation.

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Category: Fat Loss.