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Tuna Balls

Long gone are the days when professional athletes and weekend warriors considered diet something that had little impact on performance. It’s now widely known that what you eat can be just as important, if not more, for overall athletic achievement as the hours spent training. Eat a nutritionally poor diet and you should not expect to perform your best. But fill your diet with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean meats and you’ll give yourself an edge with respect to feeling, looking and performing your best. And when it comes to nutritional firepower, athletes should look no further than canned fish. Convenient, nutrient dense and delicious, here is why I am always quick to cast my line for canned seafood as an important source of fuel.

Protein Powerhouse

Savvy athletes have long known that canned seafood provides a source of reliable protein to show their muscles some love. During workouts, muscle fibers experience various degrees of damage and it’s dietary protein that the body turns to help rebuild the structural aspects of your muscles so they can become stronger and more defined. While resistant types of activities such as weight lifting can place increased stress on muscles requiring the need for higher intakes of protein, endurance activities such running can also bring about various degrees of muscular damage, thereby heightening the need to source out protein such as canned seafood for repair. In fact, a recent study found that distance runners need roughly 1.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight per day. That is twice the RDA for protein for non-athletes. Each 2 ounce serving of Wild Planet canned seafood like salmon and tuna provides upwards of 13 grams of high-quality protein making it easier for the athletic crowd to meet their elevated dietary needs.

Mega Healthy Fats

Whether it’s sardines or albacore tuna or mackerel, Wild Planet canned fish delivers a boatload of omega-3 fatty acids. Over the years, the role these fats play in improving heart health has been well played out in research. But now athletes are catching onto the omega wave. Omega-3 fats have strong anti-inflammatory powers, and it’s thought that by helping to quell inflammation in the body they can improve recovery from vigorous training. One way this is accomplished is by lessening post-workout muscle soreness. What’s more, a recent study in the European Journal of Sport Science discovered that higher intake of omega-3 fats can improve muscle blood flow in athletes thereby allowing for improved exercise performance.

Of course, not all canned seafood is created equal when it comes to these benevolent fats. Owing to important differences in harvesting and processing methods, Wild Planet seafood has levels of omega-3 fats unmatched by the competition. For that reason, athletes of all stripes should go fish for these tinned swimmers with mega benefits.

Micro Magic

Beyond protein and healthy fats, canned fish are a good source of several vital micronutrients. These include iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus and selenium. Athletes require a full complement of these vitamins and minerals to aid in a range of important functions including energy production and muscle building. So reeling in items like salmon and white anchovies can be a near effortless way to load up your tank with the micronutrients needed to perform like a champ.

Easy Does It

Whatever your sport of choice may be, it can require a significant time commitment to assure that you are ready to keep up with the competition. Pair that with work and family commitments and this can leave little time or energy for spending hours in the kitchen cooking up a storm. That is precisely why I am quick to laud canned fish as a source of no-fuss nutrition for athletic bodies. It’s ready when you are to add a healthy dose of quick nutrition to everything from sandwiches to pasta dishes to soups. Heck, Wild Planet wild sardines are so delicious I’m not opposed to grabbing a fork and digging in straight from the can when I’ve just wrapped up a spirited bike ride. Or I’ll whip up a batch of these tasty tuna balls from my cookbook Rocket Fuel in advance so I can enjoy excellent nutrition without delay following a workout. Photo credit: Aaron Colussi
Photo credit: Aaron Colussi

Tuna Balls

These little balls of protein and carbs are the ultimate in fanciful post-training food. Bring them to feed an active crowd and they are sure to disappear quickly. Research suggests that curcumin, the phytochemical that gives curry powder its yellow hue, may help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness in response to strenuous exercise. These are great straight from the fridge or cooler, but you can also warm them in the microwave.

This recipe is an excerpt from ROCKET FUEL: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure by Matt Kadey, RD and was republished with permission of VeloPress from Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure by Matt Kadey, RD. See more recipes at

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Tuna Recipes






  1. Steam or boil potato until tender.

  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  3. Place potato in a large bowl and mash.

  4. Stir in remaining ingredients.

  5. Form into balls slightly smaller than golf ball–sized. You should have about 16 balls.

  6. Arrange on a lightly greased or parchment paper–lined baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until darkened and crispy on the outside.

  7. Let cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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