Saturday, March 11, 2023

Building Muscle with Sunflower Seeds: A Detailed Breakdown of the Superfood

An image of sunflower seeds with powerfull arms and text that says Sunflower Seeds and A superfood high in protein and essential nutrients

Building and maintaining muscle mass can be a real challenge, especially when you're on a tight budget or limited in food options or supplements. There are simple and affordable strategies to make sure you're getting the protein and energy you need to support muscle growth and maintenance. One such strategy is incorporating sunflower seeds as a supplement into your diet. They can be a fantastic source of plant-based protein and other essential nutrients that your body needs. In this article/guide, we'll dive into how sunflower seeds can help you build or maintain muscle, the steps, the recipes, and good suggestions for tech and sunflower seeds you may need.

I've experienced the benefits of using raw, hulled sunflower seeds as a protein supplement, especially during tough financial times. Over the course of two years, I was able to maintain and even grow muscle in previously untrained muscle groups just by incorporating these seeds into my daily routine. I bought them in bulk to ensure a steady supply. Through my journey, I confirmed that these seeds can indeed be an effective muscle-building food, and I've been incorporating them as a supplement into my diet ever since.

Sunflower seeds pack a protein punch (about 22 grams per 100 grams of seeds), containing all the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle. Although some amino acids may be present in lower quantities, they're still a valuable protein source, especially for vegetarians and vegans who need to be strategic about getting all the amino acids their bodies need. Plus, sunflower seeds are also rich in other essential nutrients, including:

  • Vitamin E, which is more than just a nutrient. This fat-soluble antioxidant protects your body from those unstable molecules known as free radicals, which can cause damage to your tissues. It also helps keep your skin healthy and eyesight sharp, and even has anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Selenium is another powerful antioxidant that fights off free radicals and other harmful substances, ensuring that your cells stay safe. Not only does it protect your cells, but it also plays a role in maintaining a healthy thyroid and immune system.

  • Magnesium is a vital mineral that keeps your muscles functioning and your energy levels high. It's also crucial for strong bones and helps regulate your blood pressure. Plus, this mineral is involved in countless biochemical reactions that are essential for your overall health and well-being.

  • Zinc is an indispensable nutrient that's essential for your immune system, wound healing, and even your sense of taste and smell. It plays a key role in synthesizing DNA, metabolizing protein, and producing testosterone, the hormone that's important for male development and reproductive health. It also regulates gene expression and helps with cell division.

Amino acids present in sunflower seeds

Sunflowers seeds are a real powerhouse of nutrition! These seeds pack a punch with their wealth of both essential and non-essential amino acids. You see, amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and they play a critical role in muscle growth, as well as overall health. There are two types: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are the ones our bodies can't produce on their own, so it's crucial that we get them from our diets. On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be made by our bodies, so we don't necessarily need to get them from food.

The essential amino acids present in sunflower seeds include:

  1. Histidine
  2. Isoleucine
  3. Leucine
  4. Lysine
  5. Methionine
  6. Phenylalanine
  7. Threonine
  8. Tryptophan
  9. Valine
  • Histidine is essential for the production of histamine, a chemical involved in immune function & regulation of stomach acid. It's also needed for producing red & white blood cells.

  • Isoleucine helps with muscle protein synthesis & energy production and is crucial for blood clotting & immune system health.

  • Leucine contributes to muscle protein synthesis and regulates blood sugar. It also supports wound healing & immune function.

  • Lysine is crucial for collagen synthesis, which maintains healthy skin, bones & cartilage. It also helps absorb calcium & produce hormones & enzymes.

  • Methionine plays a role in producing proteins, enzymes & other compounds important for bodily functions, & acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from free radicals.

  • Phenylalanine helps in producing proteins, enzymes, & compounds needed for various bodily functions. It's also a precursor to dopamine, affecting mood, motivation & movement.

  • Threonine is necessary for proper protein synthesis and forming collagen & elastin in skin & tissues. It also contributes to fat metabolism & immune system health.

  • Tryptophan helps produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter regulating mood, sleep & appetite. It also helps produce niacin & compounds important for brain function.

  • Valine supports muscle metabolism & repair and regulates blood sugar & energy production.

The non-essential amino acids present in sunflower seeds include:

  1. Alanine
  2. Arginine [conditionally essential]
  3. Aspartic acid
  4. Cysteine [conditionally essential]
  5. Glutamic acid
  6. Glycine
  7. Proline [conditionally essential]
  8. Serine
  9. Tyrosine [conditionally essential]
  • Alanine: An amino acid of utmost importance, it's a vital component in the formation of proteins, enzymes, and various other compounds crucial to the body's functions. Alanine is not only involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, but it also helps produce energy and stabilize blood sugar levels. It helps eliminate waste products from the body, contributing to optimal health and wellness.

  • Arginine: A versatile amino acid involved in the creation of proteins, enzymes, and other essential compounds for the body. Arginine aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, producing energy and relaxing blood vessels. It also flushes out waste products from the body, ensuring optimal functioning and overall health.

  • Aspartic acid: An integral part of the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, and other necessary compounds for the proper functioning of the body. Aspartic acid participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, generating energy and supporting general health.

  • Cysteine: Essential for the production of proteins, enzymes, and other crucial compounds for the body. As a powerful antioxidant, cysteine protects cells from free radical damage, it's involved in the metabolism of fats and energy production.

  • Glutamic acid: A key player in the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, and other important compounds required by the body. It plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, producing energy and maintaining overall health. Moreover, glutamic acid acts as a neurotransmitter, enhancing learning and memory.

  • Glycine: A critical amino acid for the formation of proteins, enzymes, and other vital compounds that keep the body functioning. It's involved in carbohydrate metabolism, producing energy and supporting general health. Glycine also acts as a neurotransmitter, regulating sleep patterns and muscle contractions.

  • Proline: An indispensable amino acid for the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, and other essential compounds for the body. Proline plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, producing energy and promoting overall health. It's also necessary for the formation of collagen, a protein that gives structure to skin, tissues, and other vital organs.

  • Serine: A vital amino acid in the creation of proteins, enzymes, and other essential compounds for the proper functioning of the body. Serine contributes to the metabolism of carbohydrates, generating energy and supporting overall health. It also serves as a neurotransmitter, regulating mood, brain function, and the immune system.

  • Tyrosine: A crucial amino acid for the formation of proteins, enzymes, and other essential compounds for the body. Tyrosine is also a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine neurotransmitters, crucial for mood regulation, motivation, and stress response. Tyrosine is vital in promoting overall health and well-being.

Conditionally essential amino acids

In certain conditions such as illness, stress, or injury, the body's demand for these amino acids can exceed its ability to produce them, making them conditionally essential. The conditionally essential amino acids present in sunflower seeds include arginine, cysteine, glycine, proline, and tyrosine. These amino acids are needed for wound healing, immune system function, and protein synthesis.


While sunflower seeds are a nutritious and convenient way to get protein and other essential nutrients, you have to be aware that they can also contain toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, which can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. To reduce your risk of exposure to these toxic metals, it is better to buy seeds that are certified as organic, which are less likely to have been exposed to pesticides and/or other chemicals that may contain heavy metals.

Additionally, some people may have an allergic reaction to sunflower seeds. Symptoms can range from mild, such as itching and swelling, to severe, such as anaphylaxis. If you have a known allergy to sunflower seeds or other nuts, avoid them.

If you get raw hulled sunflower seeds, it is advisable to wash them thoroughly in a colander or sieve and wait for the water to fully drain out. Then, you have to roast them or boil them, otherwise they won’t taste delicious and the protein will be less bioavailable. The how-to information is contained below in this article.

Keep in mind that although sunflower seeds are a good source of protein and healthy fats, they are also very calorie-dense. Consuming them in excess can lead to rapid weight gain, especially if you're not balancing your caloric intake with adequate physical activity. It is advised to consume them in moderation (like anything else) and factor their calorie content into your overall daily intake.

Comparison of sunflower seeds to meat

Both meat and sunflower seeds are good sources of protein, but the quality of the protein can vary depending on the specific type of meat or seed. For example, meat from grass-fed animals tends to be higher in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), compared to meat from grain-fed animals. Similarly, sunflower seeds that are grown organically or are non-GMO may be higher in nutrients compared to conventionally grown seeds.

As for the amino acid content, both meat and sunflower seeds contain a good balance of all the essential and non-essential amino acids. However, meat tends to be a more complete source of protein because it contains all 9 essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. Sunflower seeds are more easily digestible and are also a good source of protein, but they may be slightly lower in some of the essential amino acids, such as lysine and threonine. They are also relatively low in saturated fat and cholesterol, compared to meat, which can be beneficial for our heart’s health.

Where to find them

  • Online Retailers: From Amazon to Thrive Market, online retailers offer an extensive range of hulled sunflower seeds at discounted prices when bought in bulk.

  • Health Food Stores: Get hulled sunflower seeds from your local health food store, which may also offer bulk discounts.

  • Wholesale Clubs: Costco and Sam's Club, for example, are good for bulk quantities at cost-effective prices.

  • Local Farms: Buy fresh (and probably high quality) sunflower seeds directly from local farms or farmers' markets, supporting local agriculture.

  • Online Bulk Food Retailers: Get hulled sunflower seeds in bulk from online retailers that specialize in selling food items. You may find organic or non-GMO options and discounts for larger orders.

How I used them for muscle maintenance and growth

I was fortunate because I found a very inexpensive source that sold raw hulled sunflower seeds at a low price, for only €1.50 per Kilo (2.2lbs)! During a period of a few months, I used to purchase them at a very low price from this source, about four to five Kilos (8.8 to 11 lbs) each time. However, their price almost tripled after a certain period of time, likely due to the increase in demand.

A 1.2L glass jar filled with a fresh smoothie from sunflower seeds, and the amounts of protein and calories in it

To make sure I have fresh sunflower seeds every week (for the whole week), I take just the right amount that can fit into a container, and wash them thoroughly in a colander that has holes smaller than the seeds, to prevent them from slipping out with the draining water. After washing, I let them drain properly, and then I try to roast them to perfection. I then take the amount that I’ll need for about 24 hours and blend it well with sugar and water into a desired consistency. Another way is to boil them for about 5 minutes or more, right after washing them. This way they become more tender and get easily blended for a smoothie. Boiling them also helps to remove some oil from the seeds into the water where the oil floats on top. If done by boiling for longer and by changing the water a couple of times or more, even more oil can be extracted, to have a leaner version of that superfood that’s rich in protein. Just keep in mind that this process only reduces a relatively small portion of the seed’s oil content, not all of it.

Detailed steps

Use the information within the previous paragraph as a base for the following steps:

What you need

  1. Hulled sunflower seeds

  2. Water or your preferred liquid

  3. Sugar (if you want). I add it while bulking, to increase calories and for the increase in insulin production. It also makes the smoothie more enjoyable.

  4. A frying pan or baking sheet (for roasting)

  5. Or, a pot (for boiling)

  6. A colander, sieve, or strainer, or a drainable basket/perforated container with small holes, to wash and drain the seeds.

  7. A blender, to blend them into a delicious smoothie.

Roasted (Dry Pan):

If you opt for the Dry Pan or the Oven method, you can roast a larger batch of seeds that will last you throughout the week, so you'll have them ready for blending into your daily doses. Just save it in a (preferably not plastic) container, in a dry place.

  1. Preheat a dry frying pan over medium heat.

  2. Add the washed and drained sunflower seeds to the pan.

  3. Stir the seeds constantly to prevent burning and roast until they become dry and golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye on the seeds to ensure they don't burn (they become dark / black), and adjust the heat as needed. If they do burn, discard.

  4. Remove the seeds from the pan and let them cool before storing and/or blending them into a smoothie.

  5. Do not leave the smoothie in room temperature for too long, keep it in the fridge if not used right away.

Roasted (Oven):

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

  2. Spread the washed and drained sunflower seeds on a baking sheet.

  3. Roast the seeds in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

  4. Remove the seeds from the oven and let them cool before storing and/or blending them into a smoothie.

  5. Do not leave the smoothie in room temperature for too long, keep it in the fridge if not used right away.

After roasting you can also consume the seeds as they are, without blending them, they taste awesome. However, it can be time-consuming and will require a lot of chewing to consume the daily dose of protein needed without blending them into a smoothie.


If you opt for boiling, it's best to boil only the amount you plan to use within 24 hours, for sunflower seeds tend to spoil quickly after this time (in the fridge). Leaving them out at room temperature accelerates the spoilage process almost exponentially. If you feel that the smell changed to anything non pleasant, discard it and make a fresh one.

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

  2. Add the washed and drained sunflower seeds to the boiling water.

  3. Boil the seeds for 5-10 minutes, or until tender.

  4. Drain the water from the seeds and let them cool before blending them into a smoothie. Or, drain the water and repeat the boiling of the seeds, to extract more oil into the water to be drained.

Blending Instructions:

When blending the seeds, you can adjust the amount of liquid based on your preferred consistency.

  1. Start by adding your desired amount of seeds to a blender. For reference, I usually add 300 to 350 grams (10.5-12.3 oz), which provides either 66 grams of protein and 1710 calories or 77 grams of protein and 1995 calories, respectively. I split this into two servings, one for immediate consumption and the other for the next day. If you plan to drink it all at once, aim for around 150 grams (5.2 oz), which contains 33 grams of protein and 855 calories. However, if you're looking to bulk up, feel free to go for the Godzilla-sized dose.

  2. Add sugar or other sweetener if you want.

  3. Blend the seeds with two parts water or your preferred liquid, on high for 30-60 seconds, or until they are finely ground and smooth.

  4. If needed, add water or your preferred liquid to achieve the desired consistency, and blend again until it’s smooth and creamy.

  5. Drink the smoothie immediately or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

A delicious recipe is to make it with milk and a sweet cacao powder, instead of just water. You’ll love it. Also, remember to thoroughly clean the blender after each use to prevent any bacteria and/or buildup that could compromise your health and the quality of future smoothies.

Calculator for Protein and Calories in sunflower seeds

I made this handy tool that lets you enter the weight of sunflower seeds in grams, pounds, or ounces and gives you the total amount of protein and calories contained in that weight. It's simple and easy to use. For calculation, you can only fill one of the fields at a time.

Shopping suggestions

Below are my suggestions for the best blenders and raw hulled sunflower seeds available on Amazon, making it easier for you to get started. These products are carefully selected based on their quality, reliability, and customer reviews, ensuring that you're getting the most bang for your buck.

Suggested blenders

If you're in the market for a high-quality blender that won't break down after just a few months, check out these top-rated options on Amazon. Though they may seem a bit pricey at first glance, investing in one of these is well worth it. With their reliable and powerful motors and durable construction, you can count on them to last for years and to work as needed, while efficiently giving you appropriate blending outcomes.

  1. View/Buy Vitamix 7500 Black , Professional-Grade, 64 oz. Low-Profile Container: 4.7 out of 5 stars from over 1700 customer reviews; 1500 watt motor; 64-ounce container.
  2. View/Buy Vitamix 5200: 4.7 out of 5 stars from 6,496 customer reviews; 1380 watt motor; 64-ounce container.
  3. View/Buy Blendtec Classic 575: 4.6 out of 5 stars from 827 customer reviews; 1,560 watt motor; 36 Fluid Ounces |  90 oz WildSide+ Jar.

Hulled sunflower seeds

The following are the best currently available options on Amazon.

  1. View/Buy Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Hulled Sunflower Seeds, 6lb Bundle (3 x 2 lb resealable packages)
  2. View/Buy Yupik Raw Hulled Sunflower Seeds, 2.2 lb

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