In this podcast, I’m going to talk about greens supplements, which are more popular now than ever before. There’s no shortage of supplement companies out there promoting their greens powders with all sorts of marketing claims.
It’s a winning formula, too.
Your average greens supplement is just a bunch of dirt-cheap, fruit and vegetable powders, with pixie-dusted amounts of mushrooms or other extracts that sound nice. But how big of a difference do they really make?
Greens supplements are often sold as a direct replacement for food, but can you really just take a greens supplement instead of eating fruit and vegetables every day? Should you consider taking a greens supplement if you already eat healthily?
In this podcast, I’m going to answer those questions, as well as share my favorite greens supplements ingredients, and the worst ones. All of this should help you make better decisions when purchasing a greens supplement.
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
4:14 – What ingredients are commonly found in greens supplements?
5:16 – What are superfoods?
7:53 – How are greens supplements sold?
11:57 – How many servings of fruit and vegetables should you eat?
16:22 – Should you drink fruit and vegetable powders?
21:03 – The best greens supplements ingredients.
24:57 – What are the benefits of cruciferous vegetables?
27:28 – The worst greens supplements.
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews, your host. Thank you for joining me today. And real quickly before we get started, if you like what I’m doing on the show and you want to help me do better, and if you also want to never miss a new episode, make sure to subscribe. To the show in whatever app you are listening on.
It also helps boost the rankings of the podcast so more people can find it more easily. All right, so in this episode I’m gonna be talking about green’s supplements, which are more popular now than ever before. There are quite a few big supplement companies out there that sell only greens supplements or that.
Heavily promote their greens supplements, use them as tops of funnel type products, so to speak. Loss leaders or even gain leaders if the costs are low. And the costs are usually pretty low with these supplements because your average greens supplement is really just a bunch of fruit and vegetable powders, which are dirt cheap.
And then maybe a couple of fancy sounding mushrooms thrown in there. Don’t look at the amounts. Often they’re hidden anyway behind proprietary blends. But even if they’re not usually very small amounts of plant extracts, mushrooms and other things that sound nice, but how big of a difference do they really make?
And can you just take a greens supplement instead of eating your fruits and vegetables like you should. And that’s often how these supplements are sold. They’re often sold as a direct replacement for food. They’re often sold as something that can reduce bloating. That’s a big one that is promoted to women in particular who I guess, generally want to have as flat of a stomach as possible.
I suppose the same goes for US fitness guys. Nobody likes to feel bloated, but when I’ve looked at the market, Of greens supplements, a lot of it seems to target women and this is one of the big points to beat bloat. So I’m gonna be talking about those things. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking about whether you should even consider taking a greens supplement.
If you do eat your fruits and vegetables every day, or at least most days of the week, like you should. And I’m also gonna be sharing a few of my favorite ingredients for green’s supplements, as well as a few of the worst ingredients for green’s supplements, which should help you make better decisions when considering purchasing a Green’s supplement.
Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out. Than fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded chef.
Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible. iTunes, Cobo and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores. And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100% free when you sign up for an Audible account.
And this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime like commuting, meal, prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audio books for free, just go to www.buy Legion. That’s B Y legion.com/audible and sign up for your account.
So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn time proven and evidence based strategies for losing fat, building muscle and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books.
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger for Men, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for. And the shredded chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipe. All right, let’s get started. So I mentioned in the intro that your average greens supplement is some fruit powder, some vegetable powder maybe some algae, maybe some chlorella spy.
Not often and not often in large amounts because Spiralina in particular is actually expensive. But sometimes you’ll see those in a greens supplement. Sometimes they have mushrooms like Rahi or Turkey tail again, often severely underdosed. Probiotics are popular simply because many people believe that taking probiotics of any kind is good and that is not the case.
Some probiotic strains have been shown to benefit people with healthy guts. In most cases, from what I’m aware of, the evidence is limited but promising. Many strains though, do not, They can benefit people who are having problems, digestive problems, gastrointestinal problems, but not people who don’t have any of.
Problems and green supplements often have other quote unquote super foods, which is a term I don’t like and is generally a red flag. If a company sells a product as a superfood product or sells a product as containing quote unquote super foods, you should be skeptical because there are no super foods.
There are no. Miracle, quick fix magic bullet foods that can help you beat bloat or lose weight or dramatically increase your health or decrease your risk of disease and dysfunction. That said, there are foods that are more nutritious than others that are more uniquely nutritious than others, meaning they contain.
Molecules that you don’t find in many other nutritious foods that have significant benefits. For example, the anthes CINs, which are responsible for pigmentation, for coloring in certain fruits, they’re most abundant in berries, so elderberries, blueberries, strawberries, but you’ll also find them in cherries.
Eggplant, black plums and other fruits and other plant foods and the beta glucans, which are a type of soluble fiber in oatmeal and others. And I have spoken and written about these. Uniquely beneficial foods. If you wanna call ’em super foods, that’s okay, but they have to be understood. It’s just, again, foods that are generally nutritious and have very specific molecules that are not present in many other types of nutritious foods.
That can have significant benefits when eaten at normal amounts. So I’ve written and spoken about those foods in my book Beyond Big, Leaner, Stronger, for example, in the diet section. And because that book is intended for intermediate and advanced weightlifters, I’m assuming, and I make it clear in the book that I’m gonna assume that the person reading.
Has read bigger, leaner, stronger, or at least understands the principles taught in bigger, leaner, stronger, understands energy, balance, macronutrient, balance understands the fundamentals of good dieting because in beyond bigger, Leaner, stronger, now we’re gonna get into more fine tuning your diet, more fine grained optimizations that are not necessary, but that can help you get a bit more out.
The dietary regimen that you’re following. If you’re already doing a good job eating a bunch of nutritious foods, why not consider being a little bit more specific with those foods to get even more benefits? So anyway, coming back to greens supplements, most of these products are sold by just connecting the dots between the general awareness that we should be eating a few servings of vegetables every day, a couple servings of fruit every day.
And many people don’t do that. Even many people who work out regularly and eat fairly well. And so the supplement marketer, the green supplement marketer, would say, You could just drink a glass of this every day instead. Hey, it’s delicious and it has these other things. Don’t really look into it, but it has some probiotics.
And probiotics obviously some mushrooms. Haven’t you heard Tim Ferris talk about the power of mushrooms? Yeah. Yeah, Mushrooms. Mushrooms. There’s this other green stuff in here, chlorella super powerful antioxidant, and it’s green, so I. Duh green. Unfortunately, though it is not scientifically sound to draw a correlation between the research that shows that people who eat more fruits and vegetables on average than people who eat less live longer, right?
There’s. Good evidence for that and the research that shows more mechanistically all the good things that happen in our bodies when we eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains and seeds and legumes and even lean protein, right? All of these nutritious foods they cause very specific. Reactions in the body that are beneficial and scientists have isolated a lot of these processes and know specifically why, for example, we should eat a serving or two of dark leafy greens every day.
That’s that’s an example of optimizing vegetable intake because vegetable, Could be like my kids who they will eat peas. They will eat broccoli. They will eat cauliflower. Sometimes they will eat cooked spinach sometimes and they’ll eat corn, which is a grain I know. But I mix it with the peas.
Mostly I can get them to eat broccoli and peas and corn mixed up, and that’s better than not eating any vegetables at all. I have no problem with that and I have no reason to try to force them to eat a wide variety of vegetables. But for those of us who are a little bit more mature and have a little bit more, Executive function to bring to bear on our diet.
It is smart to eat a variety of vegetables, eat the rainbow, as our mothers probably told us, as well as a variety of fruits. Eating a variety of whole grains is probably less important. My go-to, for example, is oatmeal. I’ll have a half a cup to a cup dry, and then I’ll cook it as my final meal. Usually around nine or nine 30.
I’ll put some walnuts in there for my. Dose of healthy fat and I will mix in a scoop of protein powder Legion way of course. And these days it’s cinnamon cereal, but I’ll try different flavors I just rotate through every month or so. I’ll pick another one. And I’ve tried our plant protein plant plus in oatmeal as well.
But. I like the way the most, I haven’t tried casing yet, but anyway, that’s my final meal of the day. That is my serving, or two servings, a half a cup dry is a serving of whole grains. So if I have a full cup that’s two servings of whole grains and I don’t see any reason to, at least from a health or wellness or.
Performance or any sort of beneficial context. I don’t see a reason to mix that up in the same way that, or to combine, to have some oatmeal with maybe some barley or quinoa or something else like that. Again, I don’t know of any health based reason to do that. Oatmeal gets the job done, gets me my whole grains in and has some unique properties that you don’t find in other grains.
Now, vegetables on the other. There is a benefit to eating a variety of vegetables. Now, I mentioned that high intake of fruits and vegetables, so let’s say three to five plus servings of vegetables per day and probably one to three plus servings of fruit per day. As general advice, I would say shoot for around four to five servings of vegetables per day.
A serving being a fist of. Cooked or raw, it doesn’t really matter. In most cases, it’s about the same in terms of volume. So a fists worth of vegetables is a serving about a fists worth of fruit is a serving. Of course, it changes a little bit in the case of a banana, one medium size banana is a serving, and so good general rule is two, maybe three servings of fruit per day, four, five or so servings of vegetables per day.
And if you do that, research shows that over time your. Risk of disease and dysfunction will go down. Now, of course, the rest of your lifestyle matters. You can’t sleep poorly. Drink a bunch of alcohol, smoke cigarettes, be overweight be sedentary and offset all of that with just eating your fruits and vegetables.
But it is a major contributive factor to longevity as is regular exercise. Sleeping well, not drinking too much alcohol, not smoking cigarettes, maintaining a healthy body weight and body composition. Now, what is not established in the scientific literature? Is a correlation between greens supplements, powdered fruits and vegetables and longevity.
Many supplement marketers offer that research as proof of why you are going to live longer if you just drink their greens slop every day. But that is, again, that is not. Scientifically sound, those things do not necessarily follow because for example when you’re drinking a Greens supplement, you’re not getting the fiber that you would normally get in the vegetables.
And we know that fiber is a very important nutrient, especially soluble fiber. We know that is food for our gut, for our microbiome. The beneficial bacteria that, that live in our gut, they feed off of that soluble fiber and. That when they gobble it up, they produce they poop out . They produce these short chain fatty acids that bring down inflammation levels in the body and cause other positive things to happen.
And so if you’re drinking, dehydrated, Vegetables and fruits, you’re not getting that soluble fiber. And it’s unknown how much the soluble fiber is contributing to the overall effect of the fruits and vegetables that we’re eating. The be the positive benefits that have been seen in research. The soluble fiber may be a major component of that.
It may be just as important as the vitamins and minerals and other nutrients. And to that point, there are other nutritional changes that occur when fruits and vegetables are processed into powders and put into these greens supplements. For example, scientists know that when you eat a whole piece of fruit, you’re getting, let’s take oranges, right?
You’re getting the natural vitamin C, but you’re also getting. What are called cofactors, other nutrients that help your body better use the vitamin C and have other effects in the body. And if you take a vitamin C pill, even a natural vitamin C pill, not ascorbic acid, which is the synthetic version, you are not necessarily gonna get all of those cofactors, and therefore you are not necessarily going to see the same benefits as if you just ate an orange.
Now that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take vitamin C pills or that ascorbic acid in particular is bad or doesn’t work? No, not at all. If we’re just looking at the vitamin C molecule, research shows that ascorbic acid causes really the same reactions at a cellular level in the body. So it is effective for.
Is, but again, if you eat the orange, you are getting additional nutritional components that scientists are not quite sure as to the importance or overall effects of, And so generally speaking, we want to eat nutritious foods, not supplement them. And so then that is my primary criticism of many Greens supplements and how they’re sold.
If people are eating well, they just don’t need to drink fruit and vegetable powders, and they are not going to get any significant benefits from tiny. Pixie dusted amounts of probiotics or probiotic strains that really have no place in a supplement for people with healthy guts. And then the same logic applies, or the same rationale applies to mushrooms and herbs and other plant extracts, which actually may be good ingredients if they’re included at clinically effective doses, which, Often not because that gets really expensive with the more scientifically validated ingredients.
Now that said, I’m not just anti green’s supplement in the way that I am, just anti testosterone booster, for example. There just are no natural substances that make a meaningful difference over the long term period. If that changes, one day, I will change my position. I am anti BCAs because for those of us who eat enough protein, there is no reason to take them.
I am anti collagen protein because it’s just trash to your protein, and if you’re taking it to try to look prettier hair, skin, nails, and if you’re actually seeing benefits, it’s probably because of the glycine content. In collagen protein, that’s an amino acid that is cheap. You can buy it in bulk. It is naturally.
You can just mix it with water, do three to five grams at night. It may also help your sleep and skip the collagen protein. You’ll save a lot of money that way. So I am currently just against those supplement categories. Those are supplements that I will never sell for any reason until maybe.
Things change in terms of peer-reviewed scientific research that would support meaningful claims that could be used to actually persuade people to buy them. But the Greens supplement is not in the same bucket for me because it can be done differently. You don’t have to just create a cheap and.
Relatively useless blend of fruit and vegetable powders. You could just take a multivitamin instead of drinking one of those supplements. Instead, what you can do is you can collect up cool stuff that you wanna put in your body and it can look green. Because of something like Chlorella or Spirolina, and I’m gonna talk about those ingredients.
And those are ingredients that you’re not gonna get through food alone. You’re not gonna be eating spirolina or chlorella. They don’t taste good at all in anything. They really just need to be supplemented. So you could have a base of a green supplement, a green substance like Spirolina, and then you can add other stuff in there that.
May or may not be green actually, but can have similar beneficial effects where there’s a theme of the benefits of such a supplement. It would be heavily weighted toward health, improving health, reducing risk of disease and dysfunction. But if it’s well formulated, there could be some performance stuff in there as well.
Physical. Mental and cognitive performance enhancement, and that could be a supplement worth taking. It would not be essential. It would not be as important as a good multivitamin, for example, and that’s not essential, but it is highly recommended even if you eat well, because it’s hard to get enough of certain key nutrient.
Even when you eat well look at vitamin D and vitamin K for example. Look at zinc and b12. If you don’t eat much meat it’s hard to do. It’s very easy to do with a good supplement and a good multivitamin supplement that is and a good multivitamin supplement can just act as a bit of an insurance policy, right?
It can help plug these little small nutritional holes that actually may have a disproportionately large negative. In how you feel and how you perform. Look at what happens when you are deficient or just insufficient in vitamin K and vitamin D. So again, a greens supplement, I would rank it below a multivitamin, but a good green supplement would be worth taking for the same reason that a good multivitamin is worth taking, but it would be even.
Optional it would be for people who just want to get a bit more out of their supplementation regimen. So with that context, let’s talk about a few of my favorite Greens supplement ingredients. The first one is Spy Lina, and this is a blue green allergy that has a long history of safe use. And that’s a bit odd because blue green allergy normally would it would kill you actually in a painful.
Way there are toxins in many bluegreen allergies called microsystems that are just not in spirolina, and therefore we can take it and it can benefit our health and our performance in many different ways. One of the very cool things about spirolina studies show that supplementing with it can improve our cholesterol profile.
It can increase muscle endurance, it can increase strength it can alleviate or even eliminate. Nasal symptoms caused by allergies. I’ve noticed that because I’m in Florida, back in Florida and there are a lot of oak trees around, and I’ve always had, when I was younger, I had a pretty annoying allergic reaction to oak pollen.
My eyes would itch all day and I would sneeze and it would last like a week or two and go away, and I didn’t discover antihistamines until later. I don’t know. So I just suffered through it every year as a teenager. Now it’s not that bad. I’ll get some itchiness in my eyes and maybe some sneezing here and there.
And so what I’ll notice is when I take Spiralina every day, which I do because I take my own green supplement, I take legion’s genesis every day, and it has spiralina in it. I get less of an allergic reaction to the oak pollen. It doesn’t get rid of it altogether. And usually when the oak pollen is peaking, I’ll take an antihistamine.
That gets rid of the symptoms altogether, of course, and it lasts longer than 24 hours for me, which is cool. I take one every couple of days for a week or so. Again, when the oak pollen is at its worst and that’s the end of it. So anyway, coming back to sp, studies show that it can reduce muscle damage caused by exercise It.
The body eliminate heavy metals. It can lower blood pressure, it can help protect liver health. It can reduce systemic inflammation, it can improve insulin sensitivity, and it can help improve immunity. And what’s even more surprising than all of the benefits that I just laid out as scientists are finding new ones I mentioned SP can Boost strength.
That’s based on research that was published last year in 2020. So as. Research on Spirolina continues. I will not be surprised to be adding to the rather long list of the cool things that it can do for you. Okay, let’s move on to the next ingredient. That is a green flag in green’s supplements and that is chlorella.
Which is a green allergy, that similar topi has quite a few nutrients, and because of its high chlorophyll content, there’s evidence that can help remove some toxins from the body like dioxins and HCAs. But unlike Spiralina, that doesn’t appear to be anything particularly unique about Chlorella. It. Is high in nutrients including magnesium.
It’s generally high in chlorophyll and it has a high protein content compared to other vegetable powders. But unlike SP, it doesn’t have a known unique bioactive component. But that’s not a reason to not take it or not include it in a greens supplement. If you are a formulator, there definitely are times where you are going after plants that have very unique.
Properties, and then there are times that you just wanna plop something in because it is a good source of certain vitamins or minerals or other nutrients. And chlorella is in the latter. Okay, next on my list of ingredients that I like to see in green’s supplements, cruciferous vegetables. Now of course, this means powdered cruciferous vegetables, and so this comes with the caveat that I’m not saying that you don’t need to eat the cruciferous vegetables if you just drink the powdered version of them, but powdered, cruciferous vegetables I do think have a place in a well formulated greens supplement.
Now, what are cruciferous vegetables? They are simply a group of plants that include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, B choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts collards, water, crests, radishes. Those are the most common dietary forms of cruciferous vegetables. The stuff that we actually eat. Most people think of the entire group as just broccoli, , and yes, broccoli is healthy.
You can eat other cruciferous vegetables as well. I like to rotate between broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. And then I have some arugula in a salad every day at lunch. But at dinner, I’m either eating, I’m eating a, a. A variety of medley of vegetables, but there’s always something cruciferous in there.
Now, as for why I like to see powdered cruciferous vegetables in greens supplements, it’s not for the healthy stuff like magnesium and vitamin C. Also cruciferous vegetables are a good source of soluble fiber, but of course, you’re not getting that soluble fiber if it’s just a powder. We’re going after specific compounds too.
Shohan and Isothiocyanates. And these substances positively interact with our body’s natural antioxidant defenses and detoxification processes. So by putting these things in our body those systems just work better. And what that means then is our body is just better at eliminating toxins and other foreign compounds, and that can reduce the risk of disease and dysfunction over time.
For example, there appears to be a link between high shohan intake and lower risk of cancer. Okay, so those are three of my favorite Greens supplement themed ingredients. Ingredients that you will sometimes see in a higher quality greens supplement. Sometimes not all three, because that may or may not make sense given the exact formulation, but one I always like to see, for example, is Lina.
But anyway, let’s talk about a few in. That you’ll often find in green’s supplements that I am not so hot on. The first one is hemp, and anything that is remotely related to marijuana is popular these days. And so hemp is now a protein supplement. It is sold as a food replacement. It is sold as a nutritional.
Powerhouse. And yeah, it does have nutrients, it does have protein but there are no cannabinoids. So if you’re looking for the additional benefits that may be associated with cannabinoids, the ones that don’t make you high, you’re not gonna get those in hemp. And there’s nothing particularly special about hemps nutritional profile.
It is usually. 30 to 50% protein by weight. So it’s not a great protein supplement. It’d be more like a meal replacement supplement and it’s cheap. So if you’re looking for a cheap meal replacement, a little bit of protein, some carbs and fat and some nutrients, I guess it’s okay. But I think there are better options for that.
I would rather just have you eat food, honestly. Okay, so next on the. No, no list. Non dark leafy greens. So lettuce, right? Have you ever heard somebody say, Eh, lettuce is just crunchy water, Eh? It’s true. If you look at the nutrition label when it comes to micronutrition, a lot of the lighter.
Colored leafs, they just don’t have much to offer. They don’t have much in the way of nutrients. So for example, lettuce, just plain old lettuce Swiss chard, endive, basal, yeah. These things have some nitrates and that’s good for circulation, but the amount of nitrates in them can vary from food to food and even.
One type of food, it can vary based on how it was grown and how it was processed. And nitrates are in every single vegetable. You don’t need to add the lettuce to get the nitrates if you are also eating other vegetables. And these types of non dark leafy greens are usually just fillers. They provide very little in the way of nutrition and they’re, they have nothing unique.
They don’t have the isothiocyanates. They don’t have the shohan. They really have no place in a good greens supplement. If a greens supplement that you are taking or considering buying has lettuce in it. I would say anywhere, but certainly if it’s one of the major players, if it’s high up in the ingredients list or in the ingredients list of a proprietary blend, I would say if it has a proprietary blend, just don’t buy it at all.
But if lettuce is prominently in there, just pick something else. The last common ingredient in green’s supplements that is just completely underwhelming is carrot. Yes, it is a great source of provi a or beta keratine, and it’s delicious in stews. It’s versatile. I eat. Carrots every day. I put it in my vegetable slop, as I call it, that I make for dinner, which has onion and garlic and a cruciferous vegetable and carrot.
And, oh, what else do I put in there? It’s a whole pile of things, green beans, and usually some cauliflower, some rice, cauliflower, in addition to the cruciferous veggie that I’m gonna cut up like a Brussels sprout. Or a broccoli. I could go frozen on the broccoli and Brussels sprout, but I prefer fresh for those.
I put in some peppers, all kinds of things, right? And carrot goes in there. But again, beyond the pro vitamin A and adding a bit of bulk and some taste, it doesn’t really have anything. Special to offer. There is a bit of scientific research on carrots, which yes, as they are just not that interesting.
And I’m guessing that they’re included in a lot of green’s supplement because sometimes people think of them as a super food. So there’s a bit of marketing puffy there, and they’re also very cheap. They add a bit of bulk and if they’re processed, Correctly. They can add a good taste, they can add a bit of sweetness, and that’s it really.
So when you see carrot or carrot extract, or carrot juice as an ingredient, of course, would be a powder in a greens supplement. Your spy sense should start tingling. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share.
Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f or life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.