7 Power Plants That Burn Fat and Build Muscle
Imagine, being able to add a few carefully selected ingredients to your diet and supercharge your muscle building and fat loss efforts. In case you’re thinking the hard work would then stop, that’s something best left to your imagination! If you’re after plants that burn fat, or help build muscle, stick around! Whether you’re looking for that extra performance edge, following the vegan lifestyle, or both, including these plants is a definite step in the right direction.
Plants are some of the most powerful entities known. Humans have used them to fight disease and help performance since ancient times. Recently, we’ve discovered plenty that guarantees as part of a supercharged diet, they’re not going away anytime soon. Some plants are rich in compounds scientifically proven to help you build fat and gain muscle. Here are 7 of them.
If you’ve sworn off flesh eating, it can be difficult to get a complete amino acid profile. This is doubly true if you’re fueling the demands of an intense training regimen. Heavy resistance training demands adequate protein, but it’s not just about getting enough protein grams.
Amino acids are protein’s building blocks. Some your body can make from elements in your food. Others it can’t. Those must be directly consumed. Scientists have identified 8 of these. It’s vial to get correct amounts of “The Essential 8” amino acids, or you’re shooting your training results in the foot.
The easiest way to get them is by eating eggs, meat and fish or taking supplements. Option A may violate your moral code, while option B may drain your wallet. Paying close attention to your dietary amino acid profile helps immensely here. That where these 7 plants come in. Several of them are exactly what you need when it comes to not leaving out any of the amino acids you need to build muscle.
If you’re concerned about fat loss and/or muscle building, here’s a passel of plants worth adding to your diet STAT. What does the latest research says about why I’m not blowing smoke?
This may be old news, since there was an actual grapefruit diet some years back that purported to help people lose weight. I’m sure it did, since one of these softball-sized wonders has barely 100 calories. You’d be sick of them long before you scarfed enough down to add any poundage! That idea was the backbone of that 80’s diet, actually. Ah, the ’80’s!
Recent studies however, have pinpointed several grapefruit benefits that go beyond just their low calories. A UC Berkeley study discovered that mice gained less fat when drinking grapefruit juice in addition to their regular diets, than when drinking equivalent calories in sweetened water. It gets better, they also found that insulin sensitivity increased and blood sugar was lower. One interesting find: It didn’t work with mice on low fat diets.
Another recent study conducted by the Nutrition and Medical Research Centre at Scripps Clinic in San Diego discovered that simply adding a glass of grapefruit juice to each meal, with no other dietary changes, caused test subjects to lose fat. I’m sure Grapefruit growers love these studies!
If you’re a hard training mouse, have a grapefruit for breakfast now!
NOTE: One other thing, grapefruit doesn’t play nice with some prescription meds, so check with your pharmacist before eating the stuff, if you’re taking any meds.
Yeah, so oil’s not a plant, but it comes from one. In this case it’s a pretty damn big one too. One important point on oils: they’re all highly caloric, so limit their use. However, oil or not, coconut oil has some interesting benefits.
Although it has more than twice the saturated fat content of lard, it’s actually much better at raising your good cholesterol (HDL) than just its saturated fat content would suggest. Scientists believe the reason for this is likely it contains a large amount of lauric acid, a kind of saturated fat called Medium Chain Trigylycerides (MCT).
Several studies have shown coconut oil substitution to be effective at shrinking waist size. It’s important to note that while the results were promising, these studies were small, and some had no control group.
As for the myriad other benefits ascribed to coconut oil consumption, such as infection fighting, and cancer risk reduction; the jury is far from in on those benefits, and probably won’t be until far more research is done. It may be discovered it doesn’t work for any of those things. Don’t eat the stuff because it’s going to cure you of what ails you; try it because it’s probably better than other oils when you’re trying to reduce belly fat, and helps boost HDL.
Yeah, so can you say “Trendy”? Good, because green tea is certainly that. Fortunately, it does have some research proven benefits, although you’re not going to just switch from water to green tea and hit 8% body fat. Keep dreamin!
Green tea has actually been shown to stimulate fat oxidation (burning) in human test subjects, but there’s also evidence it may do even more. A 2008 double blind, placebo controlled study showed that not only did green tea extract boost fat oxidation 17%, subjects also demonstrated an average 13% insulin sensitivity increase. Insulin sensitivity means your body responds to insulin more effectively. Poor insulin sensitivity is a Type 2 diabetes symptom.
Another benefit from the study is that fat oxidation had a high contribution to the body’s energy supply than it did in subjects not taking the green tea extract. It’s kind of a double bonus; you get more energy from fat, and burn more of it as well.
Isn’t Green Tea Fat Loss Just the Caffeine?
Caffeine is a proven fat metabolization booster, and green tea certainly has some. Many have theorized that it is largely responsible for green tea’s fat burning effects. Another double blind, placebo controlled study published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition earlier this year shed plenty of light on this. Not only did the study authors look at fat metabolization, they also examined exercise performance. Again, caffeine has been shown to benefit athletes, but what about green tea without it?
The 4 week study looked at distance cycled at 50% VO2 max (oxygen utilization) in addition to fat metabolization. Did tea do anything sans the caf? How’s a 24.9% increase in fat oxidation rate by the end of 4 weeks sound? The decaf tea test subjects also increased their cycling distance 10.9% over the placebo group. Good stuff, Maynard!
Okay, so this is kind of cheating. For years Spirulina was classified as a plant, but although it exhibits photosynthetic properties, now it’s been reclassified as a bacteria. I’m keepin’ it on the list anyway.
If you’re rockin’ the vegan lifestyle and training hard, getting enough high quality protein can be a problem.
Fortunately, the sea has an answer for you not named Charlie. Spirulina is a blu-green algae that is 62% amino acids. It’s been a health food fav for years, and more good stuff is coming out about it all the time.
Animal and test tube research has strongly linked the stuff to all manner of good things, from infection fighting to allergies. It hasn’t yet been sufficiently tested on humans to determine if those benefits carry over, however.
What about what we do know? It’s highly nutritious, full of not only protein, but vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and antioxidants. It’s a great source of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. One of the few spirulina studies to use both a control group and double-blind protocol saw test subjects’ LDL levels drop significantly over a 16 week period, so it appears that it will help in that regard, especially if you’re a healthy, elderly Korean, as were the study’s test subjects. It also improved the subjects lipid profiles and antioxidant capacity.
The bottom line: Spirulina is protein rich, but it still requires large amounts to deliver adaquate protein for humans who are training hard. Here’s the spirulina nutritional lowdown:
1 Cup of dried spirulina (kind of much for one sitting) contains (USDA figures):
- Calories: 325
- Protein: 64g
- Carbohydrates: 27g
- Fat: 9g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein Score: 103
I wasn’t going to include Ginger, but found it too beneficial to ignore, so here you go…
Ginger is closely related to tumeric, shown to have strong fat loss properties. So what? You’re closely related to Uncle
Gerrald, and he’s a fat, lazy slob and parties too much. Just because you’re closely related doesn’t mean you’re the same.
Relax, you’re in luck! Human and animal studies have linked Ginger to multiple health befits, including LDL (bad cholesterol) reduction. LDL is itself strongly correlated to cardio-vascular disease, in case you’ve been VanWinkling all these years. Many of the same studies also showed it to reduce blood triglycerides.
Ginger often lowers blood glucose levels, too. Elevated blood glucose levels trigger an insulin response, which in turn promotes unused calories to be stored as fat. Uugghhh! Moderating blood glucose levels lessens insulin requirements. One peer reviewed study of Type 2 diabetics showed it caused a significant drop in not only fasting blood sugar levels, but also A1C, the 90 day average blood sugar measurement.
Lowered A1C? Good stuff, that, especially for diabetics, like me. If you’re one too, please don’t start taking Ginger in place of your other meds, that’s not the point here! Talk to your doc!!!! You could add ginger root to your diet and see what happens, though.
Here’s a nice benefit for hard training dudes and dudettes: Ginger reduces exercise induced muscle pain and soreness. So, no excuses, train your ass off (literally!). The reduction isn’t an immediate effect, but rather a long term one, from regular consumption. A placebo controlled double blind study examined both raw and heat treated Ginger for muscle soreness reduction and found negligible differences between the two, but showed both significantly outperformed the placebo.
The above study looked at human arm muscles. Interestingly, a similar study conducted by the same authors on quads found little benefit, although it was effective at reducing muscle recovery time in horses!
Finally, the stuff’s a natural antibiotic, even working against pathogens some of our best drugs have problems with. Another study, published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Biomedicine discovered “Natural spices of garlic and ginger possess effective anti-bacterial activity against multi-drug clinical pathogens and can be used for prevention of drug resistant microbial disease” They did say however, more study was necessary, but it sure sounds promising so far.
This stuff rocks on salads! Not only is it da bomb taste wise, it’s pretty damn good dietarily too. First, so you don’t go embarrassing yourself when you’re asking that dude at the store for it, it’s pronounced KEEN-wa, even if I still say Quin-o-ah. This stuff is a nutritional powerhouse.
Although we eat it like a grain, it’s not. It’s actually a seed, not a grain. It’s gluten free and non-GMO too, if that matters to you or your diet. It’s loaded with manganese, folate, phosphorus, fiber and magnesium. Training takes a big toll on magnesium levels and a deficiency is one of the main reasons behind muscle cramps. If those knots from hell get your goat, grab some quinoa for breakfast.
What about protein? Yep, it’s gotcha covered there, too. It has 8 grams per cooked cup serving and a stellar amino acid profile of 106. 100 is a complete protein. As a comparison, extra lean beef sirloin scores only 94. Sirloin has much more protein per unit mass, though.
Here’s a comparison of 6-1/2 ounces of quinoa vs lean sirloin for calories and macronutrients.
Quinoa’s in the first column.
- Calories: 222 vs 280
- Protein (grams): 8 vs 38
- Fat grams (grams): 4 vs 19
- Carbs (grams) 39 vs 0
- Glycemic Index: 53 vs N/A
53 is a moderate glycemic index, similar to brown rice. Don’t confuse quinoa with a low GI food, though!
Moringa is another power packed plant athletes can certainly benefit from. Not eating or training like a serious athlete? Time to start! Yeah, do as I say, not as I do….. Whatever, the stuff is still excellent nutrition, to wit…
Many people claim the stuff has benefits from cancer fighting to floor cleaning, and you can use it as an oil additive in your ’57 Chevy. In reality, it is quite nutritionally dense, and has been used medicinally in its native South America for thousands of years. Because it’s so nutritious and grows like a weed (it’s really a tree) the UN is even using it to combat child malnutrition in developing nations.
So, what’s inside moringa that can help you?
According to the USDA Nutritional Database, 4 ounces of raw, fresh leaves contain (NOTE: It’s often found as a dried leaf powder. 25 grams (1 ounce) of powder have about the same nutritional content as the 4 oz of fresh leaves) As you can see, it’s got a very nice macro balance.
- Calories: 65
- Protein: 9g
- Carbs: 8g
- Fiber: 2g
- Fat: 1g
(Hey, I know that doesn’t add up, macro-calorie wise, but that’s government math for you.)
Vitamin C 52mg (Other governments’ references show much more)
Vitamin A 378ug (ditto) That blasts the crap out of carrots, by the way.
For the complete nutritional dope on moringa, go here
If you’re looking to supercharge your diet, including these 7 plants is one heck of a way to do it. It’s especially vital if you’re a hard-training vegan. You can eat them raw in salads, or my favorite, add them to smoothies; loud and messy, but delicious. We all need one of those enclosed Starbucks blenders that are nice and quiet so we don’t wake everyone with our 5am smoothies.
Plants can help burn fat and build muscle, and do a damn fine job of it too, but don’t forget your job…. hit that gym, and stick with it!
What are your favorite power plants? Let me know, Thanks!