Build Muscle to Lose Weight, Balance Your Blood Sugar & Age Powerfully

Lean muscle helps you burn fat, balance your blood sugar, age powerfully, and so much more. In this episode, JJ reveals how building muscle starts in your kitchen. You’ll learn how much protein you need to gain muscle and lose weight, why food timing matters, the best scale to measure lean muscle, the top paleo protein sources, and the best plant-based protein sources for vegans and vegetarians. Plus, JJ shares how to make the perfect muscle-building meal, foods to eat to gain muscle, the #1 beverage to promote muscular strength, and how to optimize protein around your workout. As JJ says, it’s never too late to build and maintain strong muscles… all by what goes on the end of your fork!

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ATHE_Transcript_Ep 494_YT 42
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Thanks so much for joining me. This is Ask the Health Expert. In each episode, I put the Power of Health in your hands and share ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox, and lots more. So you can look and feel better fast if you'd rather watch the video. Hey, I did put on my makeup and do my hair, so check it out on my YouTube channel.
What's one thing that can be a total game changer for your. Ready, Lean muscle. Lean muscle has a ton of benefits. It can make you look and feel fit, helps you burn fat, balances your blood sugar, and it's mission critical for healthy aging. But don't you wish you could just [00:01:00] blink and make it happen on your body?
Yeah, me too. But if you wanna build muscle, you have to commit to it in your. And in your kitchen. And if you're looking for what to do in the gym, check out my video on the best workouts for Lean Muscle because in this one we're gonna focus on your food. So by the end of this video, you'll have the fast track on how to eat to help you build lean muscle mass.
Hey, it's JJ. If you're trying to build muscle, what should you eat? When should you eat and why? Let me let the not so secret answer about what to eat. Slip right out of the. It's protein. But what protein and how much? Well, the amount of protein you need is slightly different for everyone. It's gonna depend on your lifestyle, your genes, and your goals.
But still, there are some must haves that you'll wanna make sure you include in your meals, and we'll get into those. But first, let me say that it's not [00:02:00] just about what? It's also about when new research is showing that when you eat the right amount of protein at the right. It's better for your overall health and it's the best way to gain muscle and lose weight.
And the what, when combo is also important because if you're just focusing on weight, You could be losing muscle too, and that actually wrecks your metabolism so you could end up gaining weight in the end. So make protein the first thing you put on your plate to build muscle and maximize fat loss. When you start with protein, protein first, some amazing things happen.
All right, let's get into how much protein is enough, and there's a range here. Your floor, the absolute lowest amount you should be getting is a half a gram per pound of ideal body weight, and that's every single day. But really, you should be getting more like three fourths of a gram to one gram per, per per pound of [00:03:00] ideal body.
Now in the perfect world, we would be talking about your body composition here. That is how much of your body is fat free mass versus fat mass? Because what we really need to be focused on is maintaining, or better yet increasing fat free mass. If you lose weight and you're losing fat free mass, that is a bad thing.
Now, if you're a woman, the average body fat range is 25 to 31% of your total. But you know what that is? That is average, and you don't wanna be average. You wanna be in the optimal range or the fitness range. So that's more like 21 to 24%. Now, if you're younger or very athletic, it can be as low as 14 to 20%.
And for men, your average is 18 to 24% of your total weight. But again, we are not shooting for average here on this show, right? You're gonna shoot for the fitness range, which is 14 to 17%, and if you're an [00:04:00] athletic guy, it'll be more in like the six to 13% range. Now, whether you're a man or a woman, if you're above the averages I just gave you, you're considered metabolically unhealthy.
So you're gonna want to jump on the information I'm giving you here right now, like. Today, by the way. If you're wondering how to figure this all out, my favorite scale is the Tanita Bio Impedance scale. That's T A N I T A. Ideally get one. That also tells your visceral fat, that's the fat around your organs.
All right, back to protein. I recommend. More than one gram of protein and even up to one and a half grams of protein per pound of ideal weight. If the demands on your body are really high, like if you're under tremendous stress, if you're really trying to build muscle, if you're injured and healing or if you're ill, But if none of that's the case, you don't need to go overboard every day because if you get too much protein, just like too much food, you can't use it.
Guess where it's. [00:05:00] Stored as body fat. Okay, so now once you figure out how much, here's the what. If you're eating animal protein, the good news is it's gonna give you all the essential amino acids your body needs. But remember, you are what you eat, ate. Meaning not just what you eat, but what you, what you eat ate two.
So choose wisely. This means pasture beef and not corn-fed cows. Think of them as the white bread of beef and shoots wild salmon rather over farm raised. Again, think of these factory farmed animals and seafood as junk food because the difference in their fatty acid profile compared to that of a wilder pastured animal or seafood.
basically turns a healthy option into an unhealthy one. Now, if you're a plant-based eater, but you probably know, you really have to focus on getting enough protein without overdoing the fatter carbs, right? So you're focusing on plants, but we gotta really focus on the protein within them. If you're relying on [00:06:00] beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts and things like that, you're gonna get a lot of carbs and fat just to get enough protein.
Case in 0.1 chicken. Has the protein of four cups of quinoa, you'll go way overloading on your carbs. So let's talk about the best options for each preference. Whether you're a, a animal based eater or a plant based eater, a good way to get enough protein when you break your fast is with the loaded smoothie.
And here's the deal with breaking your fast. The most important meal of the day, your mom was right. Breakfast, whether breakfast happens at 8:00 AM or noon. When you're breaking the fast, you really wanna make sure that you are getting protein. It is super key critical. It's going to trigger something called mTOR and that's gonna help you build that muscle.
How much should you have there? The baseline there is gonna be 30 grams. I want you to shoot for 30 grams in that first meal, and if you can get up to more like 40 or 50, depending on your overall needs for the day, even up to [00:07:00] 60. Great. Super important. So here's how I do it. I'm gonna always start with a loaded smoothie.
Remember I call them loaded smoothies cuz I'm loading them up with all sorts of great stuff, protein, fat, and fiber. So I can hit the trifecta for blood sugar, balance and satiety, but I'm gonna load first with protein. So I either use my plant based or my paleo protein powders. I put that in first, and that's gonna get me at least 20 grams of protein.
I now add in my collagen as well to grab another 11, 10 to 11 grams of protein. And I've been even sneaking in more by using good karma, a flax milk added protein. So right there. And then I'll throw in usually some freshly ground flax seed meal and a little bit of a slightly green banana. So I've got my fiber fat protein.
And I've got in there at least 40 grams of protein. Very easy way to go, and a great way to have that protein after your workout. Now, let's talk about my top animal based proteins, and each of these [00:08:00] have seven to eight grams of protein per ounce, depending on, of course, the specific source. Remember, if something's got more fat, it's gonna have less protein, right?
So number. Clean lean meat and what does that mean? Grass fed and grass finished. All meat eats grass, so we gotta make sure that it's grass finished. Also, wild caught fish like salmon. Salmon's a two for one, right, because it's got those great omega-3 fatty acids. It also has some incredible antioxidants called Anthem Organic Pasture Chicken, Organic pastured pork, and of course wild game and shellfish.
All of these can be great sources of protein. And the next one, if you're not intolerant, pastured eggs, one large egg has about six grams of protein. You also get nine essential amino acids and vitamins D B 12 and b2, which are critical for energy metabolism. But again, you gotta see if you're intolerant to eggs or not.
And then if you aren't, these can be a great. So [00:09:00] what about dairy? Another one, if you're not intolerant, and if you're not intolerant, you're gonna do grass fed, organic, full fat and do things like yogurt. Right? We, I love to do the yogurt. You can also do cows not cows milk, goat milk, and sheep milk if you cannot handle the cows milk, which is what I do now for some of my top plant-based proteins.
Number one, of course, protein powder. Here's what I'm gonna tell you about. If you're doing only vegetable protein, only plant-based protein, you're not gonna be able to get enough. Purely from food alone. Protein powder is gonna become your really, really good friend. So I'm gonna spike your diet with protein powder.
I have a great all in one protein powder from a p base. I'm gonna have you spike your diet with that sweet, ensure that you get the protein you need, and that's where you start with that loaded smoothie and nail it right, right from the start. Because the bumper, meals, breakfast and dinner, and it might be that those are the only two meals you have, are the places you really wanna [00:10:00] hit that protein heavy.
Now what else we've got almonds, other tree nuts. They have about four grams of protein per ounce. Remember, they also come with a lot of fat, healthy fats, but you still gotta count it. Quinoa is about four grams of protein and a half of a cooked cup comes with a lot of carbs. We gotta count those. Chia seeds are another one.
I love Chien flax, so about two tablespoons. You're gonna get. Four grams of protein in chia for flax, two and a half grams of protein in two tablespoons. Again, remember, those come with a lot of fat and a lot of fiber. These are all good things, but when you're really trying to get the level of protein you need, you can see that you're gonna have to be very judicious when you're doing a plant-based diet.
And again, spike with some protein powder. So beans and legumes, lentils, peas, beans, they're gonna range from eight to 12 grams of protein per half of a cup cooked. And then gluten-free oats, they have about six grams of protein in a cooked cup. Again, as you see this, you're [00:11:00] thinking, Wow, okay, six grams of protein in a cup of cooked oats, that's gonna give me a lot of carbs.
So you have to really pay attention to the plate here. When we're putting the protein in from plant base, you have to go, How much do I have to count into the fat category? How much do I have to count into the slow, low carb category so you don't overload those to ensure that you get enough of your protein.
So the way I teach you to build your plate, again, remember protein first on your plate. That's where you start first, protein first. Once you've done protein, and depending on what you've done, if it's an animal based, you'll see if you need to count some fat servings. If it's plant-based, do I need to count some slow low carbs, or do I need to count some fat servings?
Once I've done that, my next thing to add. Non Starchy vegetables. And remember, I want you eating five to 10 servings of non starchy vegetables a day, right? And those are things like peppers and deep green leafys. I'm kind of hooked on arugula right now. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, you know, those things.
Half a cup cooked, one cup raw. [00:12:00] Then we're getting at each meal, two to four servings of healthy fat. That's about, you know, big tablespoon of almond butter. Or olive oil, five to 10 nuts. So with the healthy fats, again, if you're doing plant based, counted, if you're doing things like wild salmon, you'll get a fat serving too.
So think of meat, for example. If you're eating meat and you're having six ounces of wild salmon, you got a serving right there. Let's look at slow low carbs, because again, if you're doing quinoa, if you're doing legumes, you're gonna count that into the slow low carbs. I have people at each meal eating anywhere from zero to two servings of slow low carbs, not a ton there.
And again, we maintain our protein. Build around that first, add your non starchy vegetables and then you play around with, with carbs and fat, really depending on what works best for you. All right, I'm gonna walk you through a simple meal to give you an example cause I just loaded a lot on you. So let's say you start out with [00:13:00] salmon and we did some wild salmon.
Let's say we did six ounces there. So you probably got somewhere around 40 ounces of protein. And a serving of fat. Then we did say a cup of broccoli. We put a little bit of ghee there, maybe a little bit of MCT oil. We got another serving of fat, and we did half a cup of wild rice. Again, we could put a little gear, a little, a little bit of MCT there.
Between the two of those, maybe we have one serving of fat. Then we're gonna do two cups of salad, maybe more. Lots of arugula, cucumbers, all sorts of great stuff. Put a little extra virgin olive oil there, depending on how. We have three to four servings of fat right there. Do you see how, how we added the fat up between the salmon, between putting maybe a little gear, extra virgin olive oil or MCT on our broccoli and wild rice between the extra virgin olive oil on the salad, and then we got a little slow low carbs from the wild rice one serving between the broccoli and the salad.
Broccoli. A cup of that cooked has two servings. Two cups of of uncooked [00:14:00] veggies, two servings. So we got four servings of veggies as well. How easy was that? Right? Super easy. That is a typical dinner for me. Now, plant-based, let's say we start with a half, a couple lentils and a half a cup of quinoa, and then we add one and a half ounces of chopped walnuts.
Maybe we add a little nutritional yeast, like two tablespoons that adds protein. If you can tolerate. And then a cup roasted brussel sprouts, maybe with a little coconut oil or mct. From that, we got 34 grams of protein. We got four grams of fat and two of, I'm sorry, four servings of fat, two servings of starchy carbohydrates.
See right there though, like we are at our fat max. We're at our starchy carb max. To get to that amount of protein. So we have to be really vigilant as a plant-based eater. If you're eating plants, plus your body doesn't assimilate that protein quite as well, it's not as complete, right? So now here's a tip.
You wanna make sure that all of this great protein is actually getting [00:15:00] metabolized and utilize. So if you are over the age of 30, Or under any kind of stress. And my guess is it's yes, both. You may wanna add digestive enzymes because that's just about the age, our start to naturally decline. This can make a big, big difference.
And one final bonus for building muscle, other than protein, something you can do more of to improve your muscle strength and your overall health really is to drink green. I mean, how amazing is that and easy to do in between meals? So there was a study founded by the National Institute of Health, National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.
It found that the polyphenols and green tea, Check this out. Improved muscular strength and bone mass in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. That's the beginning of osteoporosis. I mean, that is huge news. Plus we know it also can help you drop body fat and improve insulin sensitivity. So drink up on the green tea.
I do at least 32 ounces a day. All right, [00:16:00] so let's talk the timing of when you. Does the timing matter for developing muscle mass? Well, it, it actually can, and as you know, like timing can be the difference for everything. Now, the current thinking with protein researchers is that protein is more bioavailable to your muscles.
If you divvy up your requirements as meals throughout the day, rather than trying to get all of your protein in one giant steak at dinner. You're not gonna make the most of the protein you eat if you do it that way. Your digestive system gets overloaded. Muscles can't do the muscle protein synthesis of all of that, so you're gonna wanna divvy it up.
And really what you wanna focus on is your biggest, most important meals for protein are your first meal and your last meal, right? That's for really helping trigger mTOR, but then to get your overall amount of protein divvied up between all of your meals, but hit heavy on the morning and the in the evening.
Now, if you're working out to build muscle, It's a little bit of a moving target as far as timing goes, and the, the research is kind of [00:17:00] all over the place, but there is some interesting research showing that if you eat protein after you work out, it's actually more important than eating it before you work.
And, and what I look at here is this, if you can get up in the morning and go work out, heavy lift, heavy weights, right? And then eat afterwards and get a good hit of protein, 30 grams or more, ideally, even more. You're gonna help with that muscle protein synthesis, and you're gonna trigger that mTOR. But if you can't get a heavy workout in cuz you're hungry and it's lowering your workout, then maybe do a little something.
You know, an hour before, if that helps you work out harder, you're still, the harder you work out is gonna be more important. So don't sacrifice the quality of your workout to go in fasted. That's important. And overall it's gonna be getting that protein in each day. That's gonna be the most critical.
But remember the morning and evening rule because it, what they're really seeing is that first meal is really the [00:18:00] place to make sure you're getting in and minimally 30 grams of protein minimally. I really love using a smoothie after resistance training. Cause remember to build muscle. What are you gonna need to do?
Lift heavy weight. Now, that heavy weight could be your own body weight. It could be using a trx, it could be using weights, but it needs to be hard. It needs to feel like as you get towards the end, you can't keep going, right? So you're gonna lift heavy weights, and then you're going to eat at least a 30 gram bolus of protein, probably more.
And remember your overall protein needs for the day. You're looking at your total body, your ideal body weight. You're looking at that and going, I'm gonna get somewhere between 0.75 and one gram per pound of ideal body weight, maybe even a little bit more if I'm really in a building cycle, and I'm gonna divide that.
All right? Now, why are we doing this? Lean muscle is everything. For having a really high quality life. Like think about it, you know, [00:19:00] and I love what Dr. Peter Arties talking about. He talks about the centenarian decathlon, and if you wanna live to a hundred, you don't wanna live to 100, you know, like debilitated.
You wanna live to a hundred strong. And so in order to do that, you have to think of what am I gonna wanna be able to do in my eighties, nineties, and hundred? I'm gonna be able to. Carry groceries upstairs, pick up my great grandkids or great, great grandkids run around after the dog, right? So you gotta train for that now.
So you gotta keep yourself strong and prevent all that decline that comes with losing muscles you age. You do not have to lose it. Remember the, the use it or lose it is so true. And by the way, it is never too late to start. In fact, forties, fifties, you can be totally putting on muscles. So this is your time.
If you're listening to this, you go, I'm not doing resistance training. What an opportunity for you. All right, Thanks for joining me and for those of you who don't know me, I'm JJ Virgin. I'm a four times New York Times bestselling author and a fitness hall [00:20:00] of famer, and I have other great videos for you to help you build lean.
One on boosting the impact of your exercise. Another on the best exercise to build lean muscle and even one on how to make sure you're not over exercising. So check those out on this YouTube channel. I know they'll help you get healthy and stay fit. See you next time.
For more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review, find me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website And don't forget to subscribe to my show so you won't miss a single episode. Go to Thanks again for being with me this week.


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