Introduction: Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Pharmacy,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: I recommend not going below a hundred grams of protein a day. That is the bare minimum that anyone should have.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to the Doctor’s Pharmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s farmacy with an f, place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve ever felt concerned about what it is that’s the root cause of our obesity epidemic and are confused. Well, hopefully this will explain everything because it turns out the problem is not fat, it’s muscle
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Or
Dr. Mark Hyman: The lack thereof. And today we have an expert to help guide us through why muscle is the most neglected and yet the most important organ on our body in determining our long-term health function, mobility, and longevity. So I’m super excited to have as our guest today, my friend renowned physician, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon. She’s a board certified doctor in family medicine and geriatric medicine. She’s done her fellowship in geriatrics and nutritional sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. That is for those of you who’re not in medicine, one of the most premier medical schools in the world. She completed her undergraduate training in nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois, and she’s basically an expert and an educator in the practical application of protein types and levels for health performance, aging and disease prevention. We talk a lot about fat in our diet. We talk a lot about carbs, but not too many people talk about protein. And Gabrielle Lyon is the number one doc in my view who has got this right. She’s continued to receive mentorship from Dr. Donald Lehman who she introduced me to and has been on the podcast and she’s been working with him for two decades to help bring protein metabolism, nutrition from the bench to the bedside. So welcome, Gabrielle.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Hi my friend. How are you?
Dr. Mark Hyman: Great, great. So I’m super excited because you got a new book out called Forever Strong, A New Science-Based Strategy for Aging. Well now it’s kind of like young forever, but strong forever, but forever Strong. I like it. I like it. I like it.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: By the way, that is just serendipitous. How about that? You know how these processes go.
Dr. Mark Hyman: I do, I do. It’s great. I don’t mind at all. So listen, I think you have given a recent TED Talk, which was the number one, I think new talk, number two. Number two, new talk on Ted. So it’s huge. And you opened the talk and you said, we don’t have an obesity crisis in America. We have a midlife muscle crisis. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Yeah. For decades we’re talking about obesity as if obesity is the root cause, but the reality is obesity starts somewhere. And I believe that the primary site is skeletal muscle and that we don’t have this obesity epidemic, but what we really have is an issue with skeletal muscle and it’s long been overlooked because oftentimes when we think about skeletal muscle, we think about exercise or fitness or looking good in a bikini, but skeletal muscle is so much more than that and it really is the pinnacle of health and wellbeing as it relates to longevity living well, activities of daily life. We were teasing because your long guy was out there being able to move and function in a way that takes us through our journey. And ultimately, if you don’t have healthy skeletal muscle, none of your other organ systems matter. It really begins with muscle.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, Gabrielle, it’s so interesting as I’m reflecting back on my medical school education, and I’m sure as you reflect on yours, muscle was not something we pay much attention to. It was like here’s the muscles that move the bones and basically that’s it. And if you had some horrible muscle disease like rhabdomyolysis from some injury or some genetic thing or trauma or toxin, that was a thing. Or if you got a pulled muscle, that’s a thing. But muscle cramps, maybe that’s a thing. But we never learned about muscle as an independent organ that’s regulating most of the functions in our body, from our hormones to our blood sugar, to our cholesterol, to our levels of inflammation, to our circadian rhythms. Pretty much everything is regulated by muscle. It’s not just moving around your bones. It’s a whole dynamic neuro immune endocrine organ.
Dr. Mark Hyman: And it’s like, well, how did I not learn that in medical school? And it turns out that neglecting muscle is a huge problem in medicine. It’s been like a dark spot. We talk about something called sarcopenia, which means less muscle, but we don’t really treat it. We don’t pay much attention to it. We don’t diagnose it. We go with you’re obese or you have osteoporosis. But we don’t walk around saying that the biggest problem threatening our population as we age is a disease called sarcopenia, which no one ever probably even heard of. And doctors don’t diagnose or treat. So what change in medicine that now we’re starting to actually have this conversation,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: I really appreciate that you’re bringing up the fact that we don’t diagnose or treat skeletal muscle disease like sarcopenia. Do you know that the I c D 10 code for sarcopenia came out in 2016
Dr. Mark Hyman: So that for everybody listening is the international classification of diseases. And so it wasn’t even considered a problem until 2015 is what you’re saying.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: 2016 it was actually considered a problem. And we’ve been dealing with sarcopenia and for those that are watching or listening, sarcopenia is defined as a decrease in muscle mass, muscle strength and function. And we’ve all seen what happens to our aging parents. They get smaller, they can’t go to the grocery, can’t get up off the floor. We all know what sarcopenia looks like. It just hadn’t been defined. It wasn’t given a I C D classification, a disease code until 2016. One of the reasons why I believe it’s been so underrepresented is that skeletal muscle is difficult to test for skeletal muscle. We don’t routinely test for it a dexa, which for those that are listening is largely body fat and then the rest is extrapolated for lean body mass, which includes bone and organs and tissue. And within lean body mass is muscle, but that’s not the primary source of lean body mass.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: So overall skeletal muscle has been very difficult to visualize. We don’t routinely image it. And not only that, we don’t routinely test it as in how much do we have, what is the amount? And then thirdly, we don’t actually look at the quality of our skeletal muscle. So in the beginning when we say we don’t have an obesity epidemic, but we have a midlife muscle crisis, we don’t directly look at the quality of our tissue. And that creates a trajectory of issues because if the paradigm of thinking is wrong, if we believe that obesity in and of itself is the problem, we don’t have a chance at fixing it. There’s no root cause medicine because obesity is symptomology of impaired muscle. In part, it’s all kinds of things. It’s insulin resistance and mitochondrial dysfunction. There’s a whole host of things that happen, but last time I checked we can’t do much about it, but we can always do something about muscle.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So pretend I’m a first year medical student and I don’t really know much, and you’re up in front of the class as the professor of muscle. By the way, we do take a class on the musculoskeletal system, but it’s really about bones and muscles and movement. It’s not about anything else. So what would you be explaining to the medical students about what muscle does, what its myriad functions are and why it’s so critical to our health and why we need to pay attention to it? And then take us through how we would diagnose what’s going on and how we would start to think about treating it. So sort of take us through a little curriculum.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: I would love to
Dr. Mark Hyman: And kind of school us on this because I think from a high level, people have no clue, and I think most doctors have no clue. It’s really quite amazing how little we understand about the role of muscle in our health. And by the way, it’s not just about looking strong and feeling good. Yeah, that’s like a side effect. It’s actually what the metabolic functions of the muscle are.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Correct. If I were to teach a medical school or medical class, what I would tell them is when we think about skeletal muscle, exactly right. It’s really important for exercise performance. That’s all the obvious. But where muscle really excels is its metabolic. It is our metabolic currency. And I will say this, it is the only currency that cannot be bought or sold. It has to be earned. Skeletal muscle is an organ system of metabolic currency that must be earned, which makes it very unique. So you have direct input into the health and function of skeletal muscle.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it means that your kidneys, you don’t go, Hey kidneys, I need to work out my kidneys. They just do their thing, right? But your muscle, you need to actually do something with it
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And you have the capacity to do that. The metabolic function of skeletal muscle, number one, it is the primary site for glucose disposal for the viewer or the listener. That is the carbohydrates that you eat the primary site for disposal is not liver. It’s actually skeletal muscle. The more healthier skeletal muscle, the more muscle mass you have, the more site for glucose disposal. Why that becomes important is because as we think about diseases that plague us now, we see elevated levels of blood sugar. We see elevated levels of insulin resistance. These are things that we can directly look at in the blood. Skeletal muscle can have challenges with these things with insulin resistance, decades before. This can happen decades before. So carbohydrate disposal is number one. Number two, it is a site for fatty acid, oxidation, fat. Everyone is worried about triglycerides. Well, muscle is a site for oxidation, a fat which is also, which means
Dr. Mark Hyman: Burning. Burning the fat. That’s what that means,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Right? It means burning fat, beta oxidation mitochondria, skeletal muscle is the largest site for all these mitochondrias. We have a ton of mitochondria and skeletal muscle, which is amazing because again, skeletal muscle are things that we can have input into.
Dr. Mark Hyman: The mitochondria is that basically the thing that actually creates energy in our body? And it goes down as we get older. And it’s why you see a 90 year old barely able to move and a two year old running around like crazy is the number and function of their mitochondria and muscle is where you have the most mitochondria and where you can have the most impact on your mitochondria by certain types of activity, exercise and diet.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: That’s absolutely correct. The other two really important. Well, there’s more very important aspects of skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle serves as an amino acid reservoir. If you are to get injured, if you are in a highly catabolic state, highly catabolic state means do you have an infection? Did you get an illness? Do you have cancer? Are there things that are ramping up your metabolism? So much so that it’s requiring your amino acids. It’s requiring extra building blocks. Skeletal muscle is your amino acid reservoir. It improves your survivability in nearly all kinds of illness. The higher your skeletal muscle mass, the greater your survivability against nearly any illness, which is pretty incredible
Dr. Mark Hyman: Because muscle is protein, right? Muscle is protein. When you eat a steak, that’s muscle, right? That’s protein. And that is full of amino acids. And so what you’re saying is when our health is compromised or we’re starving or can’t find food, our bodies will use up that. And by the way, people, there is no requirement for carbohydrate, for fats. You have a very minimal requirement of essential fatty acids in a gram dose, right? For protein. It’s the only macronutrient you need in big, big doses to survive because all your D N A does is make proteins from amino acids. And so that is a critical function of your body that regulates everything. It’s going on in your system. It’s the main communication system. It’s how we produce our immune cells and immune function. And so it’s so critical and that’s why this reservoir is important. So what you’re saying is if you don’t have this and something bad happens to you, you’re screwed.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Absolutely. And the protein turnover. So as we age our body, well just on a very baseline level, the body goes through protein turnover. Your liver is turning over, your intestines are turning over, your muscle is turning over. All these organelles and all these systems in the body require rebuild and repair. You’re going through this constant state of protein turnover. The body turns over anywhere between 250 upwards to more than 300 grams of protein a day, which is really fascinating. If you do not have the capacity, we’re clearly not eating that. The other component to that, it will come from muscle. And this is why dietary protein is so important, which I know that we’re going to get to, is because we do have to be able to replenish and be able to replace these amino acids to be able to support protein turnover as we age, as we go through life, and our body becomes less efficient at doing this.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: That’s another aspect of skeletal muscle, making sure that you have strong healthy skeletal muscle as an amino acid reservoir. Another very interesting aspect of skeletal muscle is functions as an endocrin organ and it secretes. Mykines and myokines are peptides that travel throughout the body and for the listener at home, thinking about how the thyroid produces thyroid hormone, skeletal muscle exercising, skeletal muscle also produces something called mykines. Myokines travel throughout the body. They interface with bone, they crosstalk with liver and adipose tissue. They affect brain. So it’s so powerful. They affect the immune system. It helps regulate inflammation. There are very specific things that muscle does. And what’s so fascinating about skeletal muscle, so we talk about glucose disposal, we talk about fatty acid oxidation, number two. Number three, we talk about skeletal muscle as an amino acid reservoir. We also talk about it as a endocrine organ secreting mitts. So those are really the four, the
Dr. Mark Hyman: Mitochondria and mitochondria
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And mitochondria. So four metabolic functions and mitochondria, it is your place for mitochondria. And we could literally go on and on and on about skeletal muscle. And that’s what makes it so critical as it relates to how it functions as an endocrine system and as an organ system in and of itself.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s incredible. So as we age, this is inexorable loss of muscle. And so we do something about it when we’re younger, we have a lot of hormonal support, natural young hormones that are helping us keep our muscle. But we age if we don’t do something about it, and starting in age thirties, we start to lose muscle. And then when you get older, you end up in a situation where you’re kind of going to flu, you get high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, you get inflammation, you have high cortisol levels, low growth hormone, which is needed for repair and healing, and all of that is caused by the low muscle fast. So we’re kind of treating the wrong thing. When you go to your doctor for diabetes, they don’t talk to you about muscle. They say, here, take these diabetes drugs to help your blood sugar control. But they all pale in comparison to exercise, diet, and particularly types of exercise that actually help you build muscle. And muscle is really critical to burning calories to actually increasing your metabolism. People say, I have a slow metabolism. What they’re really saying is, I don’t have enough muscle.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Well, and when I think about slow metabolism, what I think about is it’s not so much that the muscle is so metabolically active at rest. Where you really get benefit from muscle is it becomes incredibly active as you train it. And that’s where the real magic of muscle comes from. Not only that, when you train skeletal muscle, you can improve these biomarkers that we think about that as you mentioned, go up with aging. We can improve fasting insulin levels, we can improve fasting blood glucose levels. We can improve triglycerides, we can improve H D L. And in fact, not only can you improve these things with one bout of exercise, obviously it takes sustained exercise to have these long-term effects. But with good training, you
Dr. Mark Hyman: Mean I can’t just do one bicep curl and that’s it?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: No, no. But with training, skeletal muscle then becomes sensitized, and we can see sensitization two days later, meaning it’s more sensitized to the glucose that you’re eating. One of the biggest problems that we see that really creates this wave of negative impact is insulin resistance and skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Skeletal muscle makes up more than 40% of the body. I don’t know. You’re pretty buff. Probably makes up more than 50% for you, but for most people it’s 40% of the body. This is a huge site of insulin resistance.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And one of the problems is when, by the way, there’s no such thing as a healthy sedentary person. There’s no such thing as a healthy sedentary person. We talked about how sarcopenic can begin in your thirties, but issues with insulin resistance and insulin resistance is probably the first. And then dysregulation of glucose can begin at 18 years old. If you are sedentary, your skeletal muscle can become insulin resistant. And we see this out of, this was originally out of Kit Peterson’s lab. She was testing on Yale students, but the initial work showed insulin resistance in 18 year olds that were lean and healthy, but sedentary.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow. It’s crazy. And I think I, you can also see this in even younger kids, right? In 2, 3, 4 or five-year-olds who have type two diabetes, it’s already happening crazy. I think as a physician, I’m sort of very curious why you think it is that our whole medical system has completely ignored this and why our traditional approach is so different than what you call your muscle centric medicine. So can you talk about muscle centric medicine, how it differs
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: From
Dr. Mark Hyman: This traditional approaches to health and aging and why it’s such an important reframing of the process of health and aging?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Can I share with you how this happened? Where muscle centric medicine actually came from? I think that you as a physician would appreciate this. I was in my fellowship and I was doing obesity medicine research and I was also seeing geriatric patients. So it was a combined fellowship in obesity, medicine and geriatrics. And I remember me personally, I’m a very warm, loving person for the most part, and I really care about those around me. And I started to see these patterns over time from the dementia wards to the obesity clinic. And the blood markers early on were very similar. And I realized I had this moment of insight where I looked at this person’s brain, one of these research participants’ brain and her brain in her mid fifties looked like an Alzheimer’s brain.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And I realized that the one thing that they had in common wasn’t that it was obesity, it was that they all had low muscle mass, low or unhealthy skeletal muscle. It wasn’t an obesity problem. And at that moment when I went and I asked some people about it, and I realized that while we traditionally give this advice to move more, eat less, that wasn’t solving this problem of skeletal muscle, that there wasn’t a discussion on dietary protein, there wasn’t a discussion on how do we maintain strength with aging? How do we early on look at the importance of skeletal muscle? There wasn’t even a way that we were measuring it in the obesity clinic. We weren’t measuring muscle strength in the geriatric clinic. We were, but we also weren’t looking at skeletal muscle. You could look at a dexa, but again, that’s extrapolation for what the actual muscle tissue is. And at that moment, I realized that we were looking at the wrong thing. And that’s what my book Forever Strong is all about is how do we shift the paradigm just because something has been done one way and we’ve been doing it for decades, that way isn’t effective. We are only getting more obese. We are only getting sicker, yet we continue to talk about obesity. It’s because we’re not looking at the right tissue. This is a muscle problem.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So we’re barking up the wrong tree basically. Right.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: You’re laughing because you’ve heard me talk about this for 10 years.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Honestly, I would say that I always knew about sarcopenia. I always talked about it at some level, but I never really understood it until I started listening and talking to you and learning from you about protein and muscle and exercise. And honestly, I was kind of lazy. I didn’t think that I did yoga. I rubbed my bike, I played tennis, I exercise all the time. I thought, oh, that’s good enough. And the reality is that I didn’t really start even lifting weights until late in my 15 ninth year. And I’ve been doing it for the last three and a half years, and it’s totally changed my body, my health, my mental look and my function. I mean, I actually noticed so many changes and I was sort of resistant to it, like resistant to resistant. I see it hurts. I was like, I would do 10 pushups, it would hurt, but now I can do 75 pushups. And it’s like, actually, I’m so inspired by this guy on Instagram, Gabrielle, I dunno if you’ve seen it. He’s this French guy, I can’t really understand what the post is about, but he basically posts himself working out without his shirt. He’s 78, he’s ripped, completely ripped. He can do 30 or I dunno, pull-ups. He’s doing all these crazy acrobatic things. He looks like a 20 year old gymnast. And I’m like, holy cow. It’s possible to do this and to get there at any age.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: It’s not that. It’s only possible, it’s essential and everybody can do it and it’s never too late. And this is a movement that has to happen. It’s something that we can do together. If we can all realize that we need to stop chasing body fat and really focus on skeletal muscle because it’s the thing that we can do, it’s much more empowering. You had mentioned something else. It was really important that when we are young, we are driven by hormones, so it’s much easier to maintain and build skeletal muscle. You could be on the twinky diet, not saying you should, but you probably will look at a weight and put on muscle. We’ve all seen those kids in high school. The reality is as we become less active, as we decrease that fluxx, that energy output from the muscle, we’re not moving muscle glycogen, which is the storage form of glucose. The muscle becomes less and less healthy, and over time it also becomes weaker. It becomes less efficient and effective at sensing dietary protein, which makes protein more important. As we age, the aging implications of skeletal muscle are very clear, very consistent, and something that we actually can do something about. And that’s so important. You can always get stronger. This I C D 10 diagnosis of sarcopenia is a diagnosis that we can reverse and manage. It’s incredible.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s pretty remarkable. I mean, you think about just what a neglected area of medicine is, and it turns out it may be one of the most important areas that we need to focus on, particularly as we age. So in your book, you talk a lot about forget forever strong, a new science-based strategy for aging. Well, you talk about a lot of the misconceptions and societal fixation on fat and not paying attention to muscle and longevity. You talked about how a lot of your patient’s health conditions that you were seeing were actually symptoms of unhealthy muscle and not the typical diagnoses that they were getting, right? When you get a diagnosis of diabetes or hypertension or hyper cholesterol or whatever, that’s what you think your problem is, but it actually may not be maybe something else. So can you talk about how these health conditions were related to unhealthy muscle and what some of the misconceptions are? And you’ve kind of touched on a little bit, but just kind of dive in a little bit more. I think it’s important to drive this home.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: One of the really important concepts to understand is a lot of these diseases that we associate with obesity are, again, issues with skeletal muscle. And is it the chicken or the egg? I really do believe that there’s enough evidence to support that there is major, major issues with skeletal muscle first, again, within the literature, people will say, is it liver or muscle? Again, when you think in humans research in humans, glucose disposal happens in skeletal muscle over time as glucose rises, you have issues with insulin resistance issues. With insulin resistance, you ultimately get elevated triglycerides. Everyone should know what their triglyceride levels are. So in clinic, I was seeing elevated levels of triglycerides and just for the viewer listener, over 150 triglycerides, over 150 fasting blood glucose that was not quite in diabetic range but was over a hundred elevated levels of fasting insulin. And one of the first things that we would always do is we retrain them to eat dietary protein. We figured out how many, I know that I don’t know where you are with calories and calories out yet, but maybe you’re into it. Maybe you’re not at this point, but I’ll get you there. I’ll you there. Yeah, I’m going to get you there anyway
Dr. Mark Hyman: About a calories. Give me another 10
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Years, give me another 10 years. I’ll get you there. Anyway, we would figure out how many calories they were eating. We would figure out what their ideal body weight and the way that we would talk them through what their ideal body weight is. What was the last body weight that they were happy with? The way it looked, was it in college? I believe we can get back there, and I’ve seen it hundreds of times. We get people back to their college weight. What we do is we prioritize dietary protein, and there are very specific tracks on how to do it. You and I as friends, and you and I as colleagues have talked all about dietary protein, and I’ve created three different tracks that are all evidence-based. The first thing that you did was when you picked up this book, you said, wow, this is really thick, has over 200 references. I mean, it’s hundreds of references. It’s
Dr. Mark Hyman: Got a lot of muscle in that book. Yes,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: A lot of years took two years to write. And one of the things that we do immediately is we correct for dietary protein. Here’s why. You can go, first of all, 24% of adults are the only ones who meet their requirement for exercise
Dr. Mark Hyman: 24%. And it’s not a very big requirement.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Wait a second, ready? 24%. 100% of people eat.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: While the exercise is critical and probably has a bigger impact on metabolic homeostasis, which is simply the balancing, probably the bigger impact. The reality is as it stands now, 24% of adults are meeting those requirements. 100% of people are eating. If we can nail the thing that everybody is doing correctly and appropriately and set them up for how to age well, for how to lose weight, that is evidence-based, that will also protect them, that will lower blood pressure, improve triglycerides, improve body composition while they’re going through weight loss and maintain skeletal muscle, then this is how we begin to reverse the trajectory of aging. So first thing we do is we decide how much protein this person needs. And in the book there’s a handful of options. Again, all evidence-based, the current recommended amount of protein with the R D A, which is a recommended dietary allowance, is 0.8 grams per kg 0.8 grams per kg has not been updated for decades.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: It is the bare minimum to protect against deficiencies. It is not optimal amount is the bare minimum. The other important point about that is it is not also geared towards plant-based. So individuals, as some individuals move more towards plant-based or other alternative sources of protein, the recommendation for 0.8 grams per kg, which we all agree is too low, including the European consensus, including the aging research that is based on high quality proteins. So what I am saying here is that the amount of protein that we’re ingesting is much too low with all the variables that are happening. And that’s really important to understand.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, no, no, I just want to reinforce that point. So what Gabrielle is saying is really important, which is that the dietary guidelines around the, we call the recommended reference DRIs or dietary reference index or the recommended RDAs or the recommended dietary on which used to be those are based on the minimum amount you need of something to not get a deficiency disease. In other words, how much vitamin D do you need to not get rickets 30 units? How much vitamin D do you need to optimize your immune system and to build bones and to have healthy muscle, maybe four or 5,000. So maybe 10 or a hundred times. I’m not saying we need a hundred times the D R I protein, but 0.8 grams per kilo is usually the number that people think of is what I should get. It’s not, it’s what the minimum amount that you need to not get something like rasmus or core, which is a protein deficiency disease.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So this is really important to understand. So I want you to dive into what we should be eating because there’s so much controversy about protein. On the one hand, you’ve got the paleo folks and the carnivores on the one end saying always you eat is meat, or we need more meat and we don’t need any grains or beans that they’re harmful to us. And on the other hand, you’ve got the vegans, they’re saying, no, no meat is bad for you. You should only get your protein from grains and beans. And by the way, did you see game changers? Because those guys are ripped and they perform at extreme levels and they’re incredible fit guys with tons of muscles. So what is this whole about being a vegan as a problem? Because it’s not, and we see people do really well. So can you kind of address that?
Dr. Mark Hyman: Because in the Zeit guys, people are so confused and people don’t know what to do, and they think that if they eat meat, they’re going to be damaged. And this is even when our guidelines are often telling us to eat less meat, and people who want to save the plant eat less meat. So we’re kind of confused. And the question is, what’s important for you? I basically said this guy who was like, I mean his diet wasn’t great, so you can be a healthy vegan, but he was a vegetarian. He didn’t want to kill animals, but he was like a hundred pounds overweight, ate tons of carbs, was super unhealthy. He says, well, I don’t want to hurt any animals. I said, well, aren’t you an animal and aren’t you hurting yourself? And don’t you think you need to take care of what’s going on for you? So can you help us sort of navigate this because such a big issue, and I’d love to spend some time digging into this with you,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Gladly. I do want to point out that we are at a precipice right now oftentimes, and up until this point, we have always thought about protein just as a sole macronutrient. There’s fats, there’s carbohydrates, and there’s proteins, 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential. Those when do you hear these essential amino acids addressed? You don’t. And you started out this conversation by saying, we don’t need carbohydrates. The amount of fat that we need is very minimal to meet our fatty acid needs, our essential fatty acids need. But the protein is essential. And again, we talk about it in a blanket statement protein, but the reality is, is those individual amino acids that we require. And in fact, when you look, if everyone at home could look at a packet of their protein bar, they’ll just see protein and it doesn’t talk about the actual quality of the protein or the individual amino acids or the digestibility of the protein. So
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, I even say, oh, you could look at total fat, but it could be all trans fat or it could be all omega fats and it’s very different in your body. Right,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Exactly. And I’m just going to lay this out there. I do know that you have physicians and healthcare providers and health coaches. There’s a very recent paper that came out and it’s perspectives. It’s called Developing a nutrient based framework for protein quality. And I’ll send it to you, everybody should read it, developing a nutrient based framework for protein quality. It will take out the emotion. So how I am setting this up is protein has a face. It is incredibly emotional for people, whether it’s saying red meat causes all the horrible diseases including climate change, everything. I mean, we don’t even have cigarettes, don’t even do all that. We must understand that while it is very heated, if we can begin to take away the emotional charge, we’ll begin to see protein for what it is just amino acids. And when we understand that there are certain amino acids that we need these essential amino acids and that they come in the form of high quality proteins, for example, beef and fish and chicken and eggs, that we are able to weigh protein.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: We’re able to not only meet these minimal amino acid needs, but also when we think about food as a food matrix, it is not just a macronutrient protein, it is also the things that ride alongside it. It’s the creatine and the ancien and the B 12 and selenium, zinc, all of these things. So anyway, I just want to lay that at people’s feet because if they don’t understand, it’s not just the macronutrient overarching protein, it’s the individual amino acids and the things that ride alongside of that. This is my last statement about that. It’s like when you talk about eating
Dr. Mark Hyman: Plants, carnitine, for example, right? Carnitine is a critical mitochondrial compound important for longevity. And where does that word come from? Carna. CARNA means meat, right?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And just as we think about fruits and vegetables, we think about fiber and all the phytochemicals and the anthocyanins. Well, dietary protein, animal-based proteins have the equivalent to that. So just to understand, protein is not just protein. They have different amino acids that make up each protein. Again, there are 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential. High quality proteins are simply defined based on those amino acid levels and numbers. And if this is getting too science for sciencey for people, this is all laid out very simply in my book. And we eat for those essential amino acids and we eat for the branch chain amino acids. Amino acids, which are leucine, iso, leucine, and baline that all come in the right amounts to feed skeletal muscle. When you meet the need for skeletal muscle, you have the potential to meet the need for the rest of the body.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: When you meet the need for skeletal muscle, you have the potential to meet the needs for the rest of the body. So understanding that protein quality is different, and I typically recommend one gram per pound ideal body weight. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you are going to need to be on the higher end of protein intake, potentially even above that. Now, I will say that there are going to be some studies. The A S N conference in Boston just happened. There are studies that are going to be coming out that are emerging that show that the lower the protein in your diet, that it must come from animal-based products and they’ve run it through ai. And
Dr. Mark Hyman: The lower the protein in your diet protein, you need
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Actually protein overall diet. The higher the animal-based products must come from to meet those individual amino acid needs. And they’ve used AI to look at, I think it’s over a hundred thousand foods or it’s astronomical amount, but they used AI to see, again, if a diet that is based on whole foods can meet the individual amino acids, and there was simply no way that it could be done. And it looked at from a vegan diet, it was 4,000 calories to try to match up those amino acids. And again,
Dr. Mark Hyman: If you’re going for the 0.8 grams, right? It’s got to be from animal food. If you’re going to eat two or three grams per kilo, you might be able to get more of it from plant protein, but you’re going to eat so many calories.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: But I think this is a really important point to understand because this evidence is now coming out again, the as SN conference was released or just happened in Boston and the What’s the conference,
Dr. Mark Hyman: Gabriel? The what?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: It was nutrition. It’s a s n. So I think it was whatever that stands for.
Dr. Mark Hyman: American Society for Nutrition. Yes,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: There you go. There you go. So it was usually experimental biology. They were combined, so it was experimental biology and the nutrition conference were together, but they’re now taking away some of that. So now it’s the nutrition. Anyway, so the whole point is that in order to meet all the amino acids, the lower your dietary protein intake that it has to come from animal-based foods to be able to meet those other needs. And I think that this has not been discussed before. Again, because protein quality at this level has not been shown before. Again, they’re creating a new coating system. So I think that that’s going to be fascinating.
Dr. Mark Hyman: But you’re also saying is that even if that’s true, even if you get 0.8 grams per kilo and it’s all animal, it might meet your minimum requirements, but it’s really not optimal. It’s not what we should be eating. So the argument even goes stronger in your direction because if you’re trying to get to 1.6 or two grams per kilo, and we’ll talk about what that number may be needed for different age groups and so forth, that you actually need to be paying way more attention to that.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And I also think that high quality protein is critical. I really do, especially again, with this new evidence coming out. It’s when we say, so the people listening to this are very nutrition forward and they’re very interested in optimization in their health. And when we make global statements like Meat is bad for us and we should cut back our animal products, who does it impact? Who does it ultimately impact? It impacts those young children. It impacts those in nursing homes. It impacts those in government programs. If we were to do meatless Monday, it does two things. It culturally damages the way in which people think about food going forward. Though I have a four year old, she’s going to remember that we’re telling her to do meatless Monday. So there’s a whole cultural political food, but there is a whole cultural political conversation that then indoctrinates people, which can create a lot of problems because high quality animal-based food is a luxury. It is so important to our nutrition. The best possible diet is probably a combination of animal-based products with fruits and vegetables. I think that we can all eventually we’ll all eventually get to that point and understand and agree that if you want to age well, then you must be able to consume high quality protein. And I truly believe this. Again, I’ve seen this in clinical practice and numbers for people. What does that look like?
Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, before you jump on there, I want to stick on this issue of the protein quality because I think if you look at what I learned, for example, when I was young, I was a vegetarian. I read a book called Diet for I think a Small Planet, and that changed
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Everything. That book I wrote about that. That book changed the trajectory for everybody
Dr. Mark Hyman: And the book very well. I read it when I was like 20 something and basically said that if you combine beans and grains, you get a complete protein, so you don’t need to eat meat. Now what do you say to that? Because yes, if you eat one or the other, you might be missing swimming masses. But if you combine them, what’s the problem with that? And why can’t you be a healthy vegan or can? You
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Can, but it’s very myopic. So you could be a healthy vegan and you could certainly be a healthy vegan if you were not going to do Whole Foods and you were going to supplement. If you were going to supplement creatine, you were going to supplement all of these nutrients individually. The majority of people can’t do that. The majority of people don’t have the time, the energy, the finances to do that. And I guess at the end of the day, the question is why are we doing that? What is the driving force? If it is because you don’t want to eat animal products, that is one thing. But if the driving force is because eating that way is going to make a huge difference in climate change, that’s not true. We are not going to eat our way out of climate change. If you are eating that way because you are concerned about heart disease or any of these other things, that is not the way to do it. We do know that supporting healthy muscle is at the foundation of health. We know that there’s a decrease in overall or increase in survivability in all cause mortality, the more healthy muscle mass you have, if you fall and break a hip, your chances of survivability go up when you have more healthy skeletal muscle.
Dr. Mark Hyman: What would you say to the people who watch Game Changers and we’re like, no, those guys, look at that guy. He was like, did what of the rope thing for like 25 hours or something on some great heroic beats of strength.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: They’ll always be outliers.
Dr. Mark Hyman: How do they get like that? I mean, I have a theory. I want to hear what your theory is. I
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Mean, here’s what I think. When you are young, you have a lot of flexibility. When you are young, you have a lot of flexibility, time and age and stress and environmental impacts have not caught up to individuals. Yeah,
Dr. Mark Hyman: I’ve also seen them. I asked them, I met these guys. I’m like, what are you doing? Oh yeah, I take 12 vegan protein shakes a day. So they’re taking highly processed, often grown in ways that are equally environmentally destructive. They’re sprayed with chemicals and large amounts of these processed foods that have to be eaten in order to actually meet their protein requirements.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And I also think that we were circling back on a narrative, by the way, you remember, you weren’t around that time, but during World War ii, people at home were really encouraged.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Thank you. I’m old, but not that old encouraged to. I recently went to a dead show and I saw this great shirt. It said, I may be old, but I got to see Jerry
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Around World War ii, people at home were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens. I don’t know if you’ve read much about the history, but they were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens while soldiers were sent all the meat. They were given at least a pound of meat. Actually, I was looking at a paper from, I don’t know, it was like 1940 and soldiers, they were giving them 250 grams of protein a day, and they showed improvement in injury. They showed all these positive outcomes. So it was almost like, it’s almost as if now with the narrative, and I don’t want to go too deep into a rabbit hole about it, I talk about this in the book. It’s almost as if we are now circling back to an old conversation that is then just packaged differently. So back then it was Build your victory gardens, send all the meat and send all the high quality protein to the soldiers fighting for us, and they need that.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Then packaged food comes in and now all of a sudden it’s how do the grain and the packaged food companies come in and now we should be eating this, and now we should be self rationing, animal-based products, and now this is what we’re supposed to be eating. And I think that that’s a huge mistake. Not only that, but what packaged food can say versus what a commodity, what a whole food product can say, like milk or beef is what’s for dinner. It’s one statement they can’t make claims about. It’s going to support healthy muscle or it’s going to do X, Y, and Z. All these commodities, which these whole foods that support farmers say is it’s part of a healthy diet, but they can never counterbalance because they’re governed under two different bodies. They can’t say they can’t come after impossible burger or impossible meat, any of those things. And I think that that creates a lot of confusion. So you ask me where do I think some of this confusion is? I think some of this confusion comes from money, and I think it’s an old narrative recycled and without understanding where our history has brought us, we are bound to repeat it. And I’m seeing it being repeated again is quite frankly what I see that’s happening.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s quite shocking actually, when you think about the misinformation and the average consumer out there is getting buffeted about by all these different narratives and ideologies and not able to actually determine what is true and what’s not true, and whether or not you’re actually supposed to eat more meat or less meat or whether it is going to cause heart disease and cancer or whether it’s going to actually save your life.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: But that has never been shown. So there is no mechanism of, I mean, so there has not been any studies, any high quality evidence that shows red meat causes cancer.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, I mean, people do say that process meat like bacon, but the data is so weak on that when you look
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Process meat processed, okay, what is the mechanism of action? So now we’re talking about something else. Now we’re not talking about whole lean filets. Now we’re talking about is it the processed meat? Is it the packaged food? Now you’re in a whole different scope. And then what is the actual cause? And it’s created quite a challenge to the point where evidence can be presented like animals of internal medicine. They did looked at our current meat intake and there wasn’t evidence to support that we should reduce what we’re taking. And in fact, our red meat consumption is down like 30%, yet cancer rates, yet obesity, yet heart disease, Alzheimer’s, all of these things are up yet red meat consumption is down.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true actually. When you look at the data on consumption patterns, our meat consumption has dropped dramatically over the last 50 years while our grain consumption has increased dramatically, and that actually is leading to this obesity and diabetes epidemic that we’re seeing. And I think it’s hard for people to comport with this because we’ve been sort of brainwashed. I think that meat is dangerous or bad, and if you have it okay once in a while, but it shouldn’t be major part of your diet. So what you’re saying is you want to construct a very different diet, and it varies depending on your age. So let’s talk about what should our protein consumption look like? What’s the amount of protein we should be eating? What should we eating each meal? When should we be eating and what kind of protein matters and what changes as we age?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: The first thing that one would want to consider is where are they at in life when you are young? So let’s take my daughter or a teenager or someone who’s young, they can really get away with anything. Again, they’re driven by hormones. They can follow the guidelines, whether it’s 0.8 grams per kg. Again, is it optimal? No. Are they going to still be able to build muscle, manage protein turnover, have all this healthy skeletal muscle? Totally, as long as they’re moving, creating fluxx and providing some kind of stimulus to the body, I have no issue. Right? So I think it’s important to discuss high quality nutrition with younger individuals, but I don’t think that we should harp on it because we just shouldn’t. Now, as we get into our twenties, this really between twenties and thirties, this really we begin to think about what is the overall goal, and I don’t want to spend too much on age in the way of the younger generations because you can be overweight and have diabetes and be young. So it really is, are you metabolically healthy? Are you metabolically unhealthy? So that’s one question. And I would say that if you are metabolically healthy, then the amount of dietary protein would be one gram per pound ideal body weight. If you’re 20, that might be on the higher end, but if you’re really focused on building muscle in your twenties and thirties, which really the idea is that you build as much muscle as you can while you can do it because the way in which we age is not linear.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Mean. Look, I didn’t start until I was 59. Am I screwed?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: No, but also Mark, you’re very active. You’ve been very active your whole life. Whether you were doing yoga or we were riding our bikes around whatever, you were still active. You may not have been lifting weights and you were probably consuming a suboptimal protein diet, which by the way, by facts on that, I know that that’s true, which you are not now doing, but you always add healthy muscle. So let’s just say the first most important aspect is one gram per pound, ideal body weight,
Dr. Mark Hyman: One gram per pound. That’s how you were talking about less than a gram per kilo, which is 2.2 pounds. So this is more than double
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Correct. Everyone can start there. So the R D A, so how do we consider a high protein diet? High protein diet would be, you could say double the R D a, which would be 1.6 grams per kg. So 1.6 grams per kg would be considered a higher protein diet or even moderate because now you’re doubling the amount that is to protect you from deficiency.
Dr. Mark Hyman: I
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Think that depending on someone’s, it take, you could start with one gram per pound, ideal body weight, no one is going to get there. Most people are not going to get there. But I think it’s a great place to shoot for and notice this is really important. I’m not saying one gram per pound, lean mass mark, what’s your lean mass?
Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I’m about 10% body fat, 175 pounds. So I dunno, I’m not good with math, but you can figure it out
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Exactly. Nobody knows their lean body mass. No one knows their lean body mass. So it really is, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be consuming a higher amount of protein. There’s nothing that is dangerous about it. It’s
Dr. Mark Hyman: Not bad for your kidneys. It doesn’t.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: That’s almond. That is all miss bad for your kidneys. Unless you have
Dr. Mark Hyman: Kidney failure,
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Unless you have active kidney disease, then that’s a problem. So a dietary one gram per pound ideal body weight, could you go less than that? Absolutely. Now, let’s think about what does that look like? The first most important hierarchy of understanding is total protein, total protein throughout the day. Now, what is a baseline? I recommend not going below a hundred grams of protein a day. That is the bare minimum that anyone should have
Dr. Mark Hyman: For anybody. If you’re five feet tall or you’re six
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Feet, how tall am I? Mark,
Dr. Mark Hyman: You’re little. You’re like five feet.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Yeah, because we have to support these essential amino acid needs and we have to support these individual amino acid needs, and we also have to support these other low molecular weight compounds. We must get these in our diet. So the lower the total calories of your diet, the higher the protein intake, the lower your total calories, the must, the higher you must prioritize dietary protein. If you are older, if you are post-menopausal, if in your sixties, in your seventies, many of you out there are not eating a ton of calories, the majority of you are not eating a ton of calories, appetite goes down, you must increase dietary protein. This is the way you’ll protect your muscle. This is the way you prioritize nutrient density. When you think about nutrient density is how many nutrients, how much nutrients are in whatever it is that you’re eating. For example, Skittles might have calories but no nutrients. A lean cut of meat might have a ton of nutrients, and that would be nutrient densities, nutrients per calorie. So
Dr. Mark Hyman: What does that look like in a meal? So
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Let’s talk about meals. There’s a few ways, and I have never actually really talked about this in depth before. So there’s three tracks in the book and all are evidence-based. Once you determine how much protein you’re going to need, if you are looking for, let’s say, and there’s calculations, you can calculate it. You know exactly what you need. There’s different calculations. Again, it’s all based on activity levels and goals. But let’s say you were a midlife woman who wanted to lose high quality weight, who just wanted to lose body fat, and you are pre-diabetic and entering around menopause. Then I would have you do three meals a day. I would say, okay, let’s regulate your blood sugar. Your first meal is going to be 30 grams of protein. Your second meal is going to have 30 grams of protein, and your last meal is going to have 30 grams of protein.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: I’m going to have you eat your protein first and prioritize high quality protein. What does that mean? It could come in the form of a whey protein shake. It could come in the form of eggs for breakfast. It could come in the form of, I don’t know, Turkey, salmon, Turkey, bacon. You choose, right? There’s many, many ways in which you can get your protein. You could even have yogurt. I know you don’t like dairy, but you could have No, I like sheep yogurt. Okay, so there you go. And why is it 30 grams of protein three times a day? It’s interesting. There’s a lot of information in the literature that would talk about protein distribution. It’s not nearly as important in many people as we once thought. Here is why it is important.
Dr. Mark Hyman: You mean protein distribution, meaning what you eat when and what time of day and all that?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Exactly.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Because you say, oh, if you don’t have a certain amount at a certain time, it won’t work. You have to eat it all like a certain amount. For example, when I first started talking to you, you say, have to do 30 grams per meal, or it all gets burned as calories and not use as protein. Is that not true anymore?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Let me clarify. Okay. I’m going to clarify what we know from the science. So initially they looked at protein distribution over time, which is exactly what you said it was. How much protein per meal and what was the effect? Well, all the meals were really done on the breakfast meal. So the breakfast meal, when you’re coming out of an overnight fast is where you can really measure muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is a biomarker. It’s a biomarker for health. It’s a biomarker for muscle health. It doesn’t necessarily translate to a percentage of muscle mass that you’re putting down, but it truly is just a biomarker that the protein is doing what it’s supposed to do, that the muscle is sensing it. So 30 grams of dietary protein, that first meal is the most important. The first meal to set yourself up for blood sugar regulation.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: We know that your muscle is catabolic, meaning it’s breaking down that once you have at least 30 grams, and again, this is for a perimenopausal woman who needs to lose some weight. So this is the scenario, the case-based scenario that we’re going through. I’m happy with her having 30 grams of protein at that first meal. She’s probably not that hungry. She’s probably gone through periods of really chronic fasting. Maybe she’s has to usually did a, I don’t know, a donut and some coffee. So now we’re retraining her. So the 30 grams of dietary protein in that first meal while carbohydrates are managed. So I never recommend more than 30 grams of protein at that first or 30 grams of carbohydrates at that first meal. Will stimulate her muscle, which we’ve talked about is really essential for muscle health. But it also will make her satiated. It will stabilize her blood sugar. She’s not going to go for when she goes back to the office and there’s cookies out, she’s probably not going to go for it. And the evidence supports that, that she is much less likely to grab the cookies or the things that are out there because
Dr. Mark Hyman: It regulates your appetite.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: It suppresses her appetite. That’s right. Suppresses her appetite, impacts this thermic effective feeding, thermic effective food, meaning her metabolism is going to be revved up. Your metabolism is revved up anyway. But because the utilization of protein is significant for the body, primarily for the muscle, especially when you’re eating that 30 grams of dietary protein, you’ve now done yourself a metabolic favor. You have now stimulated skeletal muscle, which also burns energy, which is essentially calories. You now have set yourself up to not be hungry and now you’re protecting skeletal muscle. So by the time you go to that second meal now you’re not really as hungry. You know you’re going to get your baseline dietary protein in your blood sugar is regulated, you’re protecting skeletal muscle. Then you’re able, so based on that first meal, you’re going to feel better by that second meal.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Second meal and then is 30 grams of dietary protein. You could do a one-to-one ratio of protein to carbohydrates. Again, I have a whole list. I actually have freebies for the book. If people are interested in ordering the book early, we’ve created a whole bunch of things for people to get right away. And then that last meal, the day before you’re going into sleep or an overnight fast is when you would want to hit protein again. So now you’ve set up a minimum of 30 grams of high quality protein three times a day, which is 90 grams. You’re going to get some protein from some of your other sources. So the minimum you’re going to be getting is a hundred grams of dietary protein, which is a good start. Should people go higher eventually? But could we warm them up? Totally.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So Gabrielle, if you’re doing doing that protein intake, let’s say I’m just eating a gram per pound, but I don’t lift weights or do resistance training, will I get benefit?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Yes, you will. And another strategy would be to divide your protein intake by two meals a day, your first meal. The evidence supports that first meal is the most important, and it stimulates muscle protein synthesis and it has all these other growth factors. And we don’t even know how long that those growth factors last E I F for all these things might go on for hours afterwards. So the first meal of the day is most important, and that last meal of the day is most important. But what here is the aspect here, when individuals age and they’re not physically active, there is this change in physiology called anabolic resistance. Anabolic resistance is the decrease in efficiency of the muscle to sense dietary protein. And that becomes important to note. There’s ways in which we can overcome that anabolic resistance and is exactly what it sounds like. You are more resistant to the input. So skeletal muscle is a nutrient sensing organ. Skeletal muscle is a nutrient sensing organ. It senses the quality of your diet. It senses the amino acids of your diet. In particular leucine, which is one of those branched-chain amino acids, which comes from high quality protein. You need it in particular amounts to then stimulate this. So you mark, how much do you weigh? Let’s calculate
Dr. Mark Hyman: 1 75. That means I should be 175 grams of protein a day.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Well, you can negotiate that. It could be higher or lower. You’re very active. So if we did, let’s see, yeah, hold on. Divided by two, it’s 85 25. So let’s say you did easily, let’s say you get between 50 and 60 grams of protein at that first and last meal a day. I’m totally okay with that. Here’s why. Because you’ve maxed out the system for muscle protein synthesis at that first meal around 50, maybe 55 grams.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So if I eat more than 30 grams, it’s still getting utilized. It doesn’t go to waste.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: It’s all getting utilized. And again, we talked about protein turnover. The amino acids all are metabolized differently and they all play different diverse roles. Each amino acid has at least two roles. For example, arginine. Arginine is amino acid. That is a precursor for n O two. N O two is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes vasodilation and can help lower blood pressure. Leucine is another amino acid that stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis. Thianine is another amino acid that helps with the enterocytes. The cells in the gut produce mucin for gut health. So while we’re eating for skeletal muscle, all of these amino acids do other things.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Interesting.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And that’s what’s so critical. There are other amino acids that are precursor for neurotransmitters. So you use all these amino acids, it doesn’t go to waste. It may not benefit muscle, but these amino acids all have diverse roles and multiple roles and are processed differently. And that’s why I am so passionate about this message. This message is about becoming stronger as a society, becoming stronger as a culture and understanding that if we can get our nutrition, we can get our muscle. If you get your muscle right, then everything in your life, whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re going to be better capable to do it.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So lemme just get this straight. So what you’re saying basically is one that our basic minimum amount that we should be eating is wrong. It’s not a 0.8. We should almost double that. Yes. Two, the more exercise we do, the more we need. Three, the quality really matters and you need a certain amount in each meal, like 30 grams to actually activate protein synthesis. And four, the quality around protein, depending on where it’s coming from, is critical. Because if you don’t have certain amino acids, and I learned this from you like leucine, if you don’t have two and a half grams of leucine at a meal with protein, you don’t turn on the muscle building system. And so these are all really important things to take home. And also we need to understand what we need to do to build muscle. In addition to eating protein, I always think about it like eating protein, like putting a piece of meat, the pot on the stove to make soup or something. But unless you actually turn the stove on, you ain’t going to make soup or cook the meat. So how do you actually do the next step, which is the exercise part. And I want you to talk about the kind of exercise, the quality of exercise and what’s going on.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And just overarching, just by improving and increasing dietary protein, you can actually put on some muscle. I mean it might not be a lot and you probably if you were to do that, you may have been in some deficit. But by really just improving your dietary protein intake and correcting for calories and carbohydrates, you can lay down some muscle, but muscle requires a stimulus, it requires an input, it requires gene expression, and then ultimately muscle protein synthesis. On a very high level, there are a couple things that we need to think about. Obviously resistance, exercise. So when we think about resistance exercise, we need to think about how are we going to do it, the amount that we’re going to do and really the impact. And the biggest thing with resistance exercises, I think that there’s multiple ways to get an adaptation, and that’s really what you’re looking for.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: You’re looking for a stimulus and whether that’s stimulus is body weight or it is bands. I know mark, you like to use bands or it is actual weight. It is about volume and progressive overload, continuously challenging yourself over time. If someone is just starting out and I have a whole exercise library, a whole exercise plan in the book, by the way, mark, I would challenge you to do that. I would love to see, and don’t be scared. There are different tiers, like different levels, but I would challenge you to see what is it actually like And you can train three to four days a week. Again, it is all, there’s many different ways to do it, but if someone is just starting training three to four days a week I think is perfectly fine. Hitting each muscle group. Again, there’s many different ways to do it.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: You could do it at least twice a week. The other aspect is, again, progressive overload. Having enough volume to stimulate this, to stimulate your tissue and improving. And then the other aspect I think is really important is adding in some kind of high intensity interval training. I do think that high intensity interval training is key. Also, many different ways to do it. Start with one day a week, could take 20 minutes, 10 minutes of active training and totally a total 20 minute session. And I think that that’s perfectly adequate to start. If people want to throw in some cardiovascular training, there is some benefit. There’s a lot of talk about zone two training. Again, it really is about what is the stimulus. I think the most important thing from a physician standpoint is fluxx. And that means when you have muscle glycogen and when you have a full suitcase of muscle that you’re actually doing activity to empty that tank. So for me, again, I’m not a fitness professional, I’m a physician, and the way that I look at it is what is the activity that is going to create fluxx and move the markers that I care about in my patients, which are triglycerides, H D L, which is blood sugar, insulin. These are things that we can see impact with healthy skeletal muscle. So that’s where I would start.
Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s great. I mean I think it’s not as daunting as people think, but the question often is, people are older, they’re worried about getting injured. Do they need to start working with someone form matters? I think I’ve injured myself before by not doing things the right way and by incorrect form. So it’s really important I think, to do it the right way. What do you recommend that people want to get started? I know your book is full of really practical takeaway suggestions for every time and
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: People can do it at home. So we’ve created an exercise library so people can do it at home. And we’ve created programs. I had the help of Don Saladino and Carol Loki. Both of them helped me. Both of them have been training for years and years. Again, it does not have to be daunting. There’s multiple ways to do it. It really is about a stimulation to creating an adaptation within skeletal muscle. I do think that you should know and assess yourself in the beginning. You should know how many pushups you can do, how many air squats you should do. You should be getting stronger and we should be getting stronger together. But you should be tracking your improvements. We track our blood work. You should be tracking, not necessarily just body composition, but you should be tracking your performance over time. Again, multiple ways to do it. It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be consistent.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Consistent. So is it three days, five days, six days could
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Be, you could do it six days. I trained six days a week because it really is about how is the overall volume. And there’s many different ways to make that happen. So for example, if you’re going to train three days a week, your volume has to be adequate to stimulate skeletal muscle. You’ll probably stimulate skeletal muscle. You’ll certainly be doing enough to maintain. But if you’re looking for hypertrophy, which is muscle growth, then you’re going to have to have a well-designed program. It might take you a little bit longer if you’re just doing three days a week. If you want to do six days a week, you’re going to be doing less volume on each of those days. It depends. What do you have time for? How do you do best? I’m very busy. I have little kids. I like to train six days a week. I don’t necessarily need really long sessions and I’m hitting my body parts. At least I’m hitting them at least twice a week.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And so that’s just a very practical way to do it. But I do hear what you’re saying. And people really, you can do movements that are safe and there are certain movements that everyone should be able to do. And then you can learn movements. For example. I don’t expect someone to just be able to know how to do a deadlift. This is a movement where you should learn how to do it. You should be coached and cued, but everyone should be able to pick up heavy things and put it down. Whether you’re doing a farmer’s carry or you’re doing a band workout, there should be basic things that you are preparing for life.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So your book basically is a roadmap. One, how to take care of your muscle, why it’s important, what you should be eating and when, and what type of exercises you need to do. And it’s really shifting our focus from focusing on the fact that we’re trying to lose fat to a focus on how do we gain muscle as a way to both increase our overall health longevity, but also to lose weight and improve metabolism. Because metabolism exists in your muscles. That’s where most of your metabolic function is. And so when people say I have a cell metabolism, it’s often because they’re under lean, they’re over fat and under lean. And that is a huge problem. And when we look at America, 93.2% of us are metabolic and healthy and most of those people are under lean. So people don’t realize what an epidemic this is. And I walk around and now I’m alert. I look around and say, okay, how do I assess people’s muscle? You can tell by looking at people, are they kind of wasted and flabby? And it’s amazing how very, very overweight people can have so little muscle
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And we’re going to get to a point where it’s going to be the next vital sign. I really do. They’re starting to look at measurements of something called D three creatine where you take a pill over a few days and you can actually measure directly how much skeletal muscle mass someone has because creatine is obviously just in skeletal muscle. And I believe that it is going to be able to be available to physicians. Right now it’s just used in research, but we are going to have ways that are not cost prohibitive to be able to actually say, okay, here is where you are, here is where you should be. How are we going to work to close that gap?
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, I mean I think it’s like a new biomarker for muscle, right? That’s a great thing. I can’t wait until we get that.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Yeah. So there are things that I think that are really going to change. And I think it’s also really important to understand our history and how we got where we are because if we don’t understand then we can’t look at some of the evidence to support what is in front of us. So the protein research has been there for decades and why hasn’t it been out there? Why is it being kind of confused and all this information? Who knows? But the evidence is there and this book is very evidence-based and well done and transparent. I think that that’s important to know. And also if it sounds daunting, just try to hit that first meal a day to optimize dietary protein and the last meal. So again, there’s different tracks in the book to teach you how to do it. I don’t really care so much about your middle meal. So I mean it’s true. It really just depends. So I just want to highlight something because I want the listener to go away and go, okay, today if I am overweight, I need to lose weight. I’m going to try to eat three meals a day with 30 grams of protein. If I’m happy, if I’m happy with my weight, I’m like, mark, then I’m going to hit my first meal to have at least 50 grams of protein my last meal to have 50 grams of protein at least. And
Dr. Mark Hyman: What is 50 grams of protein? Is that like a 24 ounce T-bone steak? What is that? What
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Are we talking about here? Seven ounces would be 40 to about a seven ounce steak.
Dr. Mark Hyman: So basically that’s less than the size of a steak you’d get when you go to a restaurant. It’s not a huge amount. And often say to people, think about the palm of your hand. If you’re Shaquille O’Neal, that should be the size of protein. If you’re five feet tall and 10 pounds, well you probably need a smaller piece of protein.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: And there’s also multiple ways whether you want to do a protein shake. Again, ultimately where we are going is it is about the amino acids and they’re going to be coming out with a new scoring system Back in the day they had pdca, but they are going to be coming out with a new scoring system where you can actually see the score on the label. And that is really going to change the way in which we look at protein going to make it very transparent. Yeah,
Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s interesting. So right now you see fat, it’s saturated fat, trans fat. You can see right what it is. So it’ll be more of a granular view. I think this is amazing. I can’t believe it is taken this long for a coherent doctor to write a book about muscle, but it has because it’s been the neglected organ. And I think I always say muscle is the currency of longevity. If you don’t have muscle, you’re not going to age well. And I said that in my book Young Forever. It’s the foundation of your book, forever Strong, a new science-based strategy for aging. Well, I encourage everybody to get a copy. It’s quite amazing. And I also want to give you a chance to tell people about your Institute for Muscle Centric Medicine and the resources or support that people can get through that institute to help them on their journey to our optimal muscle health. Can you just close with that?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Yeah, thank you so much. So actually we do have a full clinic where we do see patients and people can go to the Institute for Muscle Centric Medicine right now. It is remote, they can apply to be a patient. We are also educating providers, providers, healthcare providers, health coaches, physicians, and we have a whole curriculum for physicians on this concept of muscle centric medicine and what are the biomarkers and what are some of the hallmarks of muscle health. Things that I think are just so valuable. And my newsletter, we provide tons of free resources and all of that can be found on dr gabrielle lyon.com. And by the way, we also have a recipe. People are going to be so confused about what to eat. We have a recipe newsletter called 30 Gs, which by the way, drew supported that and you supported that. So all kinds of ways. And by the way, I have a podcast.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Yay. People can listen to your podcast. What’s it called?
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: The Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show. Original. I know. I just wanted to make it easy to
Dr. Mark Hyman: Find
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon: Where I interview a lot of the researchers to bring this information from research to public. So it’s a lot of great information. And again, that’s all for free.
Dr. Mark Hyman: Well thanks the bed to bedside. Bench to bedside. That’s great. So thank you so much, Gabrielle, for what you’re doing for your book Forever Strong. I ready to get a copy right now. If you love this podcast, please share with your friends and family. I think that’ll be useful information for everybody. It’s something you probably haven’t heard before and we’d love to hear a comment from you about how you’ve taken care of your muscle, what you’ve learned about it. I’ve certainly learned a lot about my muscle and it’s quite amazing at 63 years old to have way more muscle than I did at 23. So it’s kind of cool. And aside from the vanity aspect, it’s kind of fun. I feel very strong and fit. I’m going treking up in the mountains in Apol next week. So it’s amazing to sort of still keep going at any age and I’d love for you to share it and your thoughts. And also we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Pharmacy.
Closing: Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.