“My husband and I drink green smoothies everyday, and he recently asked me what the best ingredients would be to make a green smoothie most optimal for muscle gain and fitness. Although I usually add marine phytoplankton and freshly ground flaxseeds, what do you recommend? Is there any way to incorporate raw flesh foods (salmon, egg, etc.)?” – Daylan
A lot of people ask me what to put in a green smoothie to build muscle. The thing is, food doesn’t build muscle.
Adding protein powder, protein-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-packed nuts and seeds, won’t automatically add muscle unless you are actively doing strength training.
Your body does not store protein like it does with fat. If you want to build muscle, then you’ve got to give your body a reason to utilize dietary protein for muscle growth.
(By the way, the same goes for calcium and bone strength. Calcium supplements and calcium-rich foods are not automatic bone strengtheners. It takes exercise to “tell” your body to strengthen bone.)
Now, in conjunction with strength training, protein-rich fruits, vegetables, raw oats and seeds like chia or flax can make a green smoothie meal that contains up to 12-16 grams of complete protein. A quality hemp or rice protein powder can double this amount, which might give you better results if you are actively using exercise to build muscle.
I don’t believe that it is necessary to include raw flesh foods, eggs or dairy in the diet to have a toned, muscular physique. There are plenty of vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists who have enviable biceps and six-pack abs. If your goal is to remain vegan, then try increasing your vegan protein intake while performing strength-training exercises.
If you do choose to consume dairy, eggs and meat, seek out the highest quality sources. Look for foods that have been pasture-raised, and that come from small-scale, local farms. And incorporate these foods in other areas of your diet, rather than in a green smoothie.
Overall, my muscle-building green smoothie recommendations are to use plenty of protein-rich leafy greens like kale and dandelion greens as well as high-calorie fruit and chia seeds and rely on your workouts to build muscle. Add a quality protein supplement if there is a demonstrated need for it or if you are not getting the results you want from your diet alone.
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Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.