Optimize Your Body Composition For Superhuman Energy with Gabrielle Lyon, DO

Content By: Ari Whitten & Gabrielle Lyon, DO

In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, who is a Washington University fellowship-trained physician in nutritional science and geriatrics and is board certified in family medicine, and osteopathic manipulation. We will talk about the best ways to optimize your body composition for superhuman energy.

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Dr. Lyon and I discuss:

  • Why being “overfat” is not the biggest problem in health (and what really is)
  • The best way to build muscle
  • The muscle as an endocrine organ The role of mTOR in health
  • How much protein should I eat?
  • The best way to build muscle

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Ari: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m here with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, who is a Washington University fellowship trained physician in nutritional science and geriatrics and is board certified in family medicine, and osteopathic manipulation. 

She completed her undergraduate degree in human nutrition, vitamin and mineral metabolism at the University of Illinois. And she works closely with the Special Operations military as part of the Task Force Dagger Foundation and has a private practice in New York City. 

In addition, her practice services, innovators, mavericks, executives, and anyone looking to upgrade and optimize their health. She brings unparalleled results to her patients with personalized advanced nutritional interventions, metabolic and genetic testing, and behavioral action focused implementation. She leverages evidence-based medicine with emerging cutting-edge science to restore metabolism, balance hormones, and optimize body composition with the goal of a lifetime of vitality. 

And in this presentation, in this interview, she’s going to be talking all about optimizing body composition and leveraging your nutrition for the purposes of optimizing body composition, and how that relates to your energy levels and optimizing your body for superhuman energy levels. This has also been an interview a long time in the making. 

We’ve literally been trying to connect for, I think, a year and a half now through dozens of texts and emails exchanged and babies being born and navigating all of that territory. So, it’s finally happening, which I’m really grateful for because I’m really a big fan of her work. 

So, welcome, Dr. Lyon. Such a pleasure to have you. 

Dr. Lyon: I’m so grateful to be here. And I have to say, my dad is a super fan of your work. He is going to particularly pumped. 

The link between body composition and metabolic health

Ari: Awesome. Stoked to hear that. So, let’s first talk about the big picture of this. How does, and I want to say there’s some really cool stuff that we’re going to get into that very few people are talking about. About body composition more broadly, but about protein in particular and muscle mass and how there’s so many myths and misunderstandings around this that she’s doing great work to debunk. And I’m really excited about that. 

But first, I would love to kind of get into the broad picture of body composition and how that relates to overall metabolic health and energy production by our cells.  

Dr. Lyon: And I’m so happy to do that. It’s really interesting, the current climate of what we talk about as it relates to obesity, largely a BMI over 30. And we have this perspective that obesity is the problem. Arguably, it is a massive problem considering diabetes, Alzheimer’s, which is type three diabetes of the brain, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, you name it, any cardio metabolic disease can be related to obesity. 

What’s so fascinating, though, is this concept of focusing on the problem rather than the solution. So, the issue isn’t that we’re over fat. That’s a byproduct from a very broad way of speaking because the issue is being under muscled. So, it’s the fact that we don’t have healthy muscle tissue because muscle is your metabolic currency, and it’s muscle as the underlying endocrine organ that is really at the root cause of these diseases of obesity. These diseases of chronic aging like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension. 

So, the concept, and we’ve chatted about this before is this concept of muscle centric medicine and it’s the idea that muscle is the largest organ in the body. And it’s the largest endocrine organ. When you contract it, it secretes proteins called myokines, which then go through the body and are anti-inflammatory. They protect our bone, our brain, our heart our liver. They are systemically inflammatory. 

In addition to muscle as a metabolic organ, when, it’s almost like this suitcase. So, have you ever tried to overstuff a suitcase? All of us have, right. That is really what happens when we’re continuously overeating. So, glycogen needs to be depleted. But if you are in a space where you are not training, and you are not exercising, and you’re not going through muscle glycogen depletion. You then are overstuffing the tissue. And in particular…

Ari: There’s going to be a segment of people who don’t know what glycogen is or what it means to deplete glycogen. So, just explain that a bit. 

Dr. Lyon So, that’s the storage form of energy for muscle tissue. And you, the way to deplete it is you exercise muscle. You exercise the muscle. You deplete its energy source. So, then smartly you can refill them. If you are inactive, so inactivity is an inflammatory state. Which is something that we can control, which blows my mind, just the concept of being inactive is at baseline an inflammatory state. 

So, when you have full muscle glycogen, how do you get muscle glycogen? You eat food. The food that you eat goes to different parts of the body. One of those main reservoirs for storing food is muscle, not adipose tissue, but glycogen, which is glucose and then you utilize glucose to form glycogen. You have to deplete that. Otherwise it just sits there. 

What happens is, is then you begin to, so then you’re overeating. So, you haven’t moved, you haven’t depleted this glycogen. You then continue to eat. When you then continue to eat, the muscle, which is your metabolic currency, can no longer utilize fuels. So, the fuels like fatty acids and amino acids spill back into the bloodstream. This is the problem. 

Ari: Yeah, there was a, you just made me think of a video that I did several years ago where I was on a walk out in nature and I was pointing out all of these different animals to people. So, you know, ducks, all kinds of different birds, and squirrels, and rabbits, and I forget what else, maybe even saw some snakes on this walk. I used to live in a place called Winter Park. So, I used to see all these animals pretty much every day on my walks. 

And I would say, look at their consumption of food relative to their movement. They spend all day moving their bodies and contracting their muscles and then get little nibbles of food, contract, contract, contract, lots of muscle contractions, nibbles of food, lots of muscle contractions, nibbles of food. I mean, the whole pattern is like that. And then for modern humans, it’s like almost no muscle contraction, but lots of food coming into the system. 

Dr. Lyon: Right. And so, then the subsequent reality is people become obese. It’s not because they’re simply over consuming calories. Yes, that’s an issue. But the adiposity comes when your muscle tissue can no longer dispose of glucose, right. So, it’s one of the largest sites for glucose disposal is the muscle tissue, which is getting the glucose out of the bloodstream and putting it somewhere. Because glucose at its baseline is toxic. 

So, really, this paradigm shift of being over fat to under muscled is really key, especially in your domain of energy, of having superhuman energy. If you can get your muscle and body composition right, and you get your nutrition right. If you do proper feeding at your first meal, by your second meal you feel better. You don’t have to wait a month. It’s literally that quick of a turnaround time. 

Ari: Yeah. So, specifically, let’s make the connection with cellular energy production with the amount of energy that our cells are producing. So, what are, what’s the connection, the physiological mechanisms that connect muscle mass, insulin resistance, excess adiposity accumulation of body fat, what specifically is going on that would limit energy production? 

Dr. Lyon: Yes. So, one of the things that happen is adipose tissue as it relates to mitochondria function and energy production. Muscle is very good at utilizing and creating energy. I mean, it’s the mitochondria of the cells to muscle is the powerhouse of the cell. When muscle tissue is replaced with adiposity. You now, you know everyone’s seen a marbled steak. You overall have less energy, you overall have less mitochondria in your skeletal muscle, and it is replaced with fat tissue. 

And now it’s interesting because there is cells, there is fat droplets within muscle tissue that can be used for energy. This is not what I’m talking about. These are not the long marathon runners. I am talking about average people who are becoming overweight because they have unhealthy muscle and are becoming more fatigued because they have less mitochondria, less functioning mitochondria, which is the energy production side. 

Ari: Yeah. 

Dr. Lyon: That is a real issue. 

Ari: Yeah. And there’s a whole bunch of studies on measuring mitochondria, the amount of mitochondria in cells and mitochondrial capacity in aging, showing about a ten percent decline each decade. So, this correlates to about fifty to seventy-five percent loss of mitochondrial capacity from the ages of twenty to seventy. for most people. But specifically, there are studies where they’ve looked at lifelong exercisers and shown that that massive decline in mitochondrial capacity does not happen in people who are lifelong exercisers. 

Dr. Lyon: And that’s a great point. And especially what is important here is resistance training as well as cardiovascular. It’s interesting. And when we think about cardiovascular training, I’m not just talking about slow, steady state cardio. You can cardiovascularly train with weights. It’s about getting your heart rate up over a period of time, depending on how you program it out. And that is one way to maintain and keep mitochondria healthy. 

So, there’s the resistance aspect, which keeps muscle fiber types healthy there, right. And then there is the oxidative capacity and the aerobics capacity. 

Ari: Man, my brain is just reeling with so many questions of so many specifics that I want to get into. But… 

Dr. Lyon: And I might not be able to answer all of them. But…

The importance of muscle in health

Ari: No, I have a feeling you will be. But the next layer that I want to get into is this idea of muscle as a metabolic organ and you’ve mentioned this a bit before. But this is an unusual framing of this thing, because even in endocrinology courses, they’re not going to teach you, hey, muscle is one of the endocrine organs, the hormone producing organs. You’re talking muscle mass is an endocrine organ. 

So, what exactly do you mean by that? And what kinds of hormones or substances is our muscle mass producing? And what is that doing in the body? 

Dr. Lyon: So, first of all, when we think about muscle as an organ in particular, I think about it really in two capacities. One, as an endocrine organ, which endocrine organs secrete compounds that go, either it can go systemic or they can go locally. And then the other aspect is I think of it as a metabolic organ. So, there’s really two kind of domains that I think are really valuable there. And then thirdly, if you wanted to throw that in, you can think about it as an organ for locomotion, which is arguably the most common. 

So, when you think about muscle as an endocrine organ, contractual and then it secretes things. There are these compounds called myokines. And what’s really fascinating, and there’s many of them. So, you secrete, you contract your muscle and typically resistance training is, I would say, the most robust response, although there’s some data on more steady state as well, aerobic for whatever reason, aerobics exercise is largely studied. 

And they secrete myokines. And those myokines, there’s so many. There’s BDNF, which is very common, goes to the brain. There’s also interleukins. So, interleukin-6. And I want to spend a moment on this because this one is very interesting. Interleukin-6 is also secreted by macrophages, which is part of the immune system, and in a response to an infection or an up regulation of an individual’s immunity. In that domain, it is actually considered inflammatory. 

However, interleukin-6 secreted by the muscle tissue is perhaps acutely inflammatory, and then over the long-haul anti-inflammatory. So, this is one way in which muscle, as it is, healthy muscle, which secretes these things largely anti-inflammatory. And again, there’s so many of these. And this is a very young science, which is why I think it’s largely not talked about. 

I think that it’s, these are, we’re talking about basic molecular science that is still emerging, really. And people are spending their life working in the lab, doing muscle biopsy, seeing what these things are. And so, from endocrine standpoint, that’s part of it. And even as it relates to bone health, right. So, you contract your muscle, it’s not just the force. It’s also the fact that these myokines are then going, there’s an interplay, an inner talk between them. Which is so fascinating, right? 

Ari: Yeah, absolutely. 

Dr. Lyon: So, this is the anti-inflammatory component of muscle. And it’s pretty simple in the context of you have to train it. It needs to be healthy. And then there is the metabolic component. And this is largely related to body composition, having healthy muscle. Muscle is the site for eighty percent of glucose disposal, which is basically everything that you’re eating. I mean, hopefully this crew isn’t eating a whole bunch of carbohydrates. But if you were, muscle is really what you’re looking at for the site of glucose disposal. In addition, there’s a big push about cholesterol, and statins, and we’ve all seen this. But muscle is actually a solution to that. It’s a large site for fatty acid oxidation. Thirdly, just at baseline, it is responsible largely for your resting metabolic rate, which means all the energy, all the calories that you would be burning at baseline, are largely determined by your muscle tissue. 

So then, and then thirdly, when we say muscle as an organ for locomotion, that’s obvious. But it’s very pliable tissue that allows for activities of daily living. And it’s largely related to our capacity to live well. The more muscle mass you have, the less morbidity and mortality you have. So, that means the less you’re actually going to suffer from chronic diseases. If you do, you’re much less likely to die or be hospitalized from them. 

Ari: I want to come back to that point because I think it’s an important one. We should touch on this, the lifespan, health span aspect and how it relates to muscle mass. I want to jump back to something you said earlier about being under muscled. 

So, within sort of the obesity epidemic, there’s lots of theories. There was just the calories in, calories out theory for a long time, which has a large element of truth, but was also not very well built out as an explanatory model. And there’s lots of nuances and layers to that story. 

There’s the carbohydrate theory of insulin. There was the kind of fat makes you fat, low fat era. Like I said, the carbohydrate insulin era. And then there’s the food reward theory of obesity, which focuses on hyper palatability of the diet as a major factor, driving up overall calorie consumption. And many of these have elements of truth and elements of falsehood. 

But this aspect of being under muscled. So, what specifically causes being under muscled? What is the root cause of that? 

Dr. Lyon: I think that’s a great question. I want to point something out to you and the listeners. When we started this discussion, we said, “Hey, I know what a BMI of over 30 means, or a percent body fat.” Maybe you don’t believe in BMI, but a percent body fat. I cannot tell you, Ari, what your percent muscle should be. And in fact, nobody can tell you what your optimal muscle should be. As a matter of fact, we don’t know what mine should be either. Or my Navy SEAL husband. We have no concept. 

So, when we think about this concept of under muscled, we have not spent enough time looking at the solution overall. And we have focused incorrectly, right, because we know the recidivism rate of obesity and gaining weight is outrageous, right. Fifty percent of us are overweight or close to that. The capacity to actually maintain metabolic health is sad. So, when you think about being under muscled, you can look at someone and people might get upset at me for saying this, but you know if someone is well-trained. Period. Is that true? Would you… 

Ari: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you can look at somebody and see, does this person use their body to do intense physical activity or not? 

Dr. Lyon: Correct. What does their tissue look like? And this isn’t a body judging conversation. This is how are you utilizing your tissue? Are you training to a capacity that is actually going to move the needle for you? I love yoga. That is not considered moving your tissue, right. That is not enough resistance training. And again, I love Pilates, I love yoga. I think it’s great. But when we are talking about under muscled and really developing that tissue, it’s vital because it’s an organ. 

And that means doing things perhaps, and maybe this is a little more esoteric that people don’t want to do. And that means resistance training. That is absolutely essential. Body weight doesn’t cut it. You have to lift load. So, this is a long-winded way of saying under muscled, if we focused on purely addressing skeletal muscle and optimizing skeletal muscle through two factors, perhaps three. 

Number one, proper nutrition, which you cannot build in your thirties if you do not get enough protein. Period. When you’re twenty, you could probably be on the Twinkie diet and do great. We’ve all done whatever we wanted to when we were in high school and we’ve had some success. And that’s true. However, as you age and your growth hormone and your testosterone, even your estrogen and these things decrease, you have to be much more diligent with the changing hormonal milieu, to than augment in other ways. 

Which would be through optimizing dietary protein, and that changes throughout the lifecycle. There is a trajectory. There is this mechanism, a physiological change called the anabolic resistance. That does happen as we age, no matter how you want to argue it. And we can talk about that. The single worst piece of advice I could ever give anyone is as your aging go plant based. 

Truly, I’m a geriatrician by training, which means part of my work was in over the age of sixty-five. And we’ll talk about that, and then we talked about resistance training. You have to simulate for tissue, then you have to have enough stimulus to be able to have enough substrate to repair it. And then the other thing is having a chronic inflammatory state, like obesity or lowgrade inflammation, is very catabolic. 

And that’s important to understand that you have to get inflammatory markers down. By any means necessary, which you talk a lot about. 

The biggest misconceptions around protein and meat consumption

Ari: Yeah, absolutely. So, I want to get to some practical recommendations of resistance exercise. But before we get there, you mentioned protein. I want to segue into that because there’s some important stuff we need to talk about that. 

Dr. Lyon: Very easy takeaways too, for patients. 

Ari: Including what is, some people will definitely perceive as a controversial statement around, like going plant based as you age. We have people, obviously a lot of the vegan health gurus and Joel Fuhrman and Michael Greger and… 

Dr. Lyon: All of which who are sarcopenic arguably. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s okay.  

Ari: Yeah. Neal Barnard and Colin Campbell, a lot of those types of people. As well as even like Valter Longo, somebody who wrote The Longevity Diet, who’s obviously much more in the direction of plant based. So… 

Dr. Lyon: I’d love to talk about all those. 

Ari: Cool. So, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions around protein and meat consumption in particular? And you can treat those as sort of one topic or piece them apart as you wish. 

Dr. Lyon: So, there’s a couple major misconceptions. And I just want to take a step back and do a quick history lesson about where we are now. So, initially we, or the powers that be released the food guide pyramid. And they said eat low fat, eat lots of carbohydrates, and grains, and fruits and vegetables, right. So, we did that. And everybody got obese. Fifty percent of the population got obese, everybody got fat. 

So, that was a mistake. That was a big mistake. Then we said, don’t eat dietary cholesterol because that’s what’s going to change, affect your cholesterol. And we made all these fat recommendations, which they have also gotten wrong. So, now we’ve gotten the carbohydrate story wrong, and we’ve gotten the cholesterol and fats story wrong. 

So, it stands to reason that perhaps the anti-protein stories are also wrong. I just want to point that out. So, if history were, the trajectory of history as we see it now has gotten every recommendation wrong, it would stand to reason this also would be wrong. 

Ari: Yeah. Well, also, there’s I mean, there’s the whole Gary Taubes carbohydrate insulin theory of obesity and that’s been put to the test. And metabolic ward studies, for example, by Kevin Hall in recent years and they’ve shown at equal levels of calories, there aren’t differences between the low carb ketogenic groups and the higher carb, lower fat groups. We’ve gotten all kinds of things wrong over the years with nutrition. 

Dr. Lyon: So, it would stand to reason that people like Joel Fuhrman, Valter Longo, who recommends point three grams of protein per kilogram or something well below the RDA, which most of us don’t agree with the RDA in the professional space. But we know that it’s the bare minimum to prevent disease. And we can all agree on that. That’s what it’s in place for. So, to then further recommend below that is devastating. It’s devastating for an aging population. 

Ari: Let’s dig into that with a bit more nuance, because there’s some diseases, I believe, that do show some benefit, for example, from more of a vegetarian low protein intake. But there’s also this potential for disease substitution. You may be lowering your risk for some diseases and increasing your risk for other diseases. Are there any specific diseases that are associated with low protein intake? 

Dr. Lyon: Sarcopenia. Which directly relates to mortality and morbidity. I mean, you are sarcopenic, you fall and break a hip, you will not survive, you will never walk again. 

Ari: And that is one of the leading causes of death in old age populations, right? 

Dr. Lyon: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you got I mean, cachexia, people that get cancer with no muscle mass, you will not survive. So, would you rather be small and frail? Osteoporosis. We know that if you’re not getting enough protein, your bones will be brittle. Protein makes bone. Period. 

And for me personally, I am not wedded to either side. I just have seen it in clinical practice at the end of life. I come from a very different perspective. I’ve studied nutrition for over a decade professionally. And when you have studies that are like Valter Longo has, who is an editor of Cell, publishes a paper where the world’s leading protein experts all get together and write a petition to say, you have statistically made numbers that are incorrect. 

And that doesn’t get published. Because he’s an editor of the magazine or editor of the professional journal. This is a problem. 

Ari: Yeah. 

Dr. Lyon: This is something other than science. This is propaganda. And that’s what this is. 

Ari: Yeah.  

Dr. Lyon Anyone who’s had aging parents would say, “Oh, I’m going to have them eat less red meat.” When calories are controlled, red meat has never been shown to cause heart disease, hypertension, anything that it’s being said. Cancer. None of this is real. 

Ari: And to be clear, to be clear, there is quite a bit of negative research around processed meats. You know like cold cuts, bacon, things of that nature, sausages. That’s my understanding. But unprocessed red meat is what you’re referring to, correct. 

Dr. Lyon: So, unprocessed red meat. Definitely. But I will tell you, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a group of papers that put processed and unprocessed meats through a gradation evaluation of data, which is the same data that we use to determine that trans fats were bad. And they found that there was no high-quality evidence that we need to cut back on red meat or processed meat. 

Ari: Wow. 

Dr. Lyon: And that’s just the facts. And this was so emotional for people because they weren’t talking about radishes, or whatever, beats. That they tried to actually attack this researcher. Oh, he got industry funding, all of this stuff, which was nonsense, because people are at a very core against eating animals. And I can appreciate that opinion and I can appreciate that emotional response. But you cannot tell people that it is better for their health, because it is not. 

Ari: Yeah. I mean, there’s two overlapping things here. One is the ethical side of this, and the other one is the purely physiological and nutritional science. 

Dr. Lyon: Right. And I think that that’s a vital differentiation to make. And you cannot omit that discussion. So, the fact, the very fact of the matter is animal protein and plant protein are different. We’ve been eating animal protein for two and a half million years. 

It is arguably one of the things that allowed our brains to change, because of its nutrient density. It’s high bioavailable source of iron, zinc, selenium. These are non-negotiables for us. And it is definitely part of a healthy diet, for sure. And they’re not the same. 

Ari: Now, let me ask you this. There’s this other argument I know you’re familiar with, the idea that animal food consumption, animal protein, high protein, all of those things are going to lead to increases in IGF-1 levels and mTOR and that those things are going to decrease our lifespan, cause cancer, and things of that nature. What’s the…  

Dr. Lyon: So glad you brought that up.  So, basically the majority of our youth have great robust IGF responses. So, if elevated, and I’m not saying actually outside of range, but have a good IGF number maybe in the two hundreds. If that was going to cause cancer, then our entire youth would have cancer. 

So, this argument that I, and also eating protein and working out, working out is not bad for you. Working out stimulates mTOR.  mTOR is mechanistic target of rapamycin, for the listeners. And it’s actually a growth pathway that’s been maintained in the body since the beginning of time. It’s in essence a nutrient sensor. And it’s one of the things that senses protein. Once it senses enough protein based on a particular amount, which is called a leucine threshold.  

And we should talk about, before we end the interview, we should definitely talk about practical ways to reach a leucine threshold and stimulate mTOR, which is a good thing. mTOR is a complex that’s in all cells. So, it’s in the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, muscle. mTOR is exquisitely sensitive to amino acids in the muscle tissue. But liver perhaps is sensitive to insulin or glucose. 

So, the concept that mTOR causes cancer, it is not an initiator. mTOR is something that allows you to put on muscle. It allows for muscle protein synthesis, which is a good thing. No one would say that it’s not. Also, exercise stimulates mTOR. There are other things, but at the very core of saying that protein causes cancer is for people that have an agenda, that they just don’t want to eat animals. It’s a scare tactic. Its fear mongering for people. 

Ari: Yeah. I think it’s look, you can drink water if you drink three or four gallons of water in the next ten minutes, you’ll cause yourself permanent brain damage, put yourself into a coma, maybe even die from it. Does that mean water is bad and you should avoid water, and keep water consumption as low as possible? Well, we also know that if you starve yourself of water and you don’t drink very much water, there’s a whole set of other consequences that emerge from that. 

And from what I’ve seen with IGF-1 and this very much relates to mTOR, there’s a u- shaped curve of how IGF-1 relates to mortality. At extremely high levels it increases risk of death and very low levels it increases risk of death to the same degree. And so, like most things, there is a middle ground of where you want to be because it’s neither a bad compound neither, or a good combo. It’s something that is healthful in the proper doses, in the proper context. 

Dr. Lyon: Absolutely. And this concept of driving down IGF-1 by not eating protein is the wrong message. The largest stimulator of mTOR really throughout the body is excess calories, and excess insulin. And we know that obesity is oncogenic, which means it’s cancer… Do we know it’s cancer causing? It’s definitely cancer promoting. 

Ari: So, let’s get super practical now. So, we’ve talked about protein. We’ve talked about the importance of body composition, why we don’t want to have lots of excess body fat, why we want to have more muscle mass. The importance of resistance exercise also. How do we take this information and turn it into a set of daily or weekly, sort of a weekly regimen of practical strategies to optimize our body composition? 

Dr. Lyon: Fantastic question. So, really, the first thing that you need to understand is how much protein you’re going to need. So, there’s a couple of things that we’re going to chunk down. We’re going to understand the total number of protein you need. You’re going to understand the quality of the protein, and then the amount per meal, and then the distribution. So, from a very practical aspect, something that is a great piece of advice, is one gram per pound of body weight in protein. And if you’re overweight, it’s really ideal body weight. So, for example, I’m one hundred and twenty-five pounds. I eat one hundred and thirty grams of protein a day. 

Ari: Let me add to that, one hundred twenty-five pounds of rock solid muscle. 

Dr. Lyon: Exactly, exactly. Listen, what I’m telling you is exactly what I do. And in the last eight weeks, I’ve lost over 10 pounds of body fat and put on at least five pounds of muscle tissue. And I track it all. So, I use and embody, I track it, right. So, if I’m just telling you one thing and doing something else, that doesn’t make sense. So, one gram per pound body weight or per pound ideal body weight. Now, so that’s the one aspect of it. Your total protein intake, you got to know your number. 

The second aspect to that is the quality. So, plant protein is different than animal protein from a very practical level. Animal products have in it the correct amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins for humans, skeletal muscle feeds skeletal muscle, animal products feed other animals, right. Whereas plants, while you can do it if you’re largely vegan or vegetarian, you’re going to require thirty-five to forty five percent more. 

So, from a practical standpoint, per meal distribution, you should have between thirty to fifty grams of protein per meal. And the reason you have this is because it triggers mTOR to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. And this is based from a very practical level on that leucine threshold that is a little more nuanced and not necessarily something you have to memorize, but you just have to know thirty to fifty grams per meal, spread throughout four to five hours. If you want, would be a great strategy if you are just starting out. 

Ari: Yeah. And so, you mentioned with the people who are plant based or vegan that they would need thirty-five to forty five percent more protein than that… 

Dr. Lyon: They would. 

Ari: In order to equate to the same level of triggering muscle protein synthesis. But the difficulty then is, is also that people on vegan or plant-based diets are already struggling to even get up to the amounts that you’re talking about. So, I mean, at least sticking to a whole food-based diet. So, I assume that go to would be inclusion of plant-based protein powders. 

Dr. Lyon: Yes. And/or a branch chain amino acid. And for those individuals, I also recommend five grams of creatine a day. 

Ari: Okay. 

Dr. Lyon: That’s very beneficial. Listen, guys, you have got to protect your muscle tissue. It doesn’t get easier in your fifties and sixties. So, you have to think we’re all in it for the long game. What does that look like? What does the next five years, ten years? What is the long game? You know we’re not getting younger. Even if we wish that we were, right. There is these things that happen. So, you have to take care of it. 

So, thirty to fifty grams, there’s probably not, and that is so for every one gram of protein, there’s about, for every one ounce there’s seven grams of protein. If it’s gravity bearing. So, what does that mean? So, for a piece of chicken, if you’re eating a three-ounce piece of chicken, three times seven is twenty one. That’s a little too low. You don’t actually stimulate that muscle protein synthesis. So, you would want four to five ounces per meal. 

Ari: Three times a day. 

Dr. Lyon: Yeah. I mean, yes, if you are fasting, which I normally fast, I only eat two meals a day. So, I will try to get anywhere, I will try to get fifty grams per meal and then maybe I’ll throw in some snacks to bump up my protein intake. But it’s, you can go through cycles of how you eat, for sure. 

Ari: Yeah. So, I have very similar recommendations on protein within, for example my Energy Blueprint Program. I have ten thousand members who have gone through this program. And one of the things that I encounter over and over again is when people see these recommendations and then they start to implement them, they go, “Oh, my God, I’m not even consuming half of this amount of protein. Like, it feels impossible to consume this much protein.”. 

Dr. Lyon: Right. 

Ari: What do you suggest to those people who are realizing that they’re not even close to your recommendations?

Dr. Lyon: I think that you do, if you can begin to move the needle for them. So, number one, they can always do protein shakes. But I really recommend, I love whole foods. I think that’s incredible. You know, for us, we eat a lot of ground beef, and that’s very palatable and very easy. So, you could do two bison burgers with two eggs and you’ve reached your protein. Or one bison burger with an egg and you’re done, you’re good.

So, I think that it’s really scaling back on some of the other things like carbohydrates and fat. So, you’ll have more room to really build that metabolic furnace and really build the foundation of your house, which is your muscle tissue. 

The strongest approach to resistance training

Ari: Yeah. So, let’s address the resistance training aspect of this really quick. What would be your practical recommendations? What is the ideal exercise regimen actually look like? 

Dr. Lyon: One that is very specific for the individual, right. And one you’re going to stick to and that sounds super cliche, but whether you’re trained or untrained, it’s really important to get with a fitness professional that puts this together. We know that high intensity interval training is something exceptional to add into your program, whether it’s two days a week. Again, it needs to be programed out. 

And then big compound lifts like bench, deadlift, squat, functional type movements, kettle bells. The reality is, if you are at home lifting two-pound weights, it’s not going to cut it. Any kind of challenge or resistance needs to have enough effort into it that it’s going to change your tissue. It’s going to move the needle. If it’s easy, you’re not doing it right. 

Ari: Got it. So, putting this all together, if you could summarize, let’s say your top three, top five big takeaways from everything you’ve covered so far. 

Dr. Lyon: Yes. Number one, know your total protein goal. Have a goal. Have a body composition goal. Track yourself. Do not leave things up to the nebulous of the universe. You need to have data. Data drives results. So, if you want to change your body composition, get a baseline measurement of where you’re at. Measure your body fat measure your skeletal muscle. A lot of trainers can do it. They can do calipers. You can get a sense of that. 

Then after you’ve got that baseline information, know how much protein you’re going to have per day. You’re going to determine what that number is, you’re going to preplan what you’re going to be eating so you are not left to the whim of the of the oak trees or whatever they are. You’re going to know exactly what you’re going to be eating for the next week. So, you’re going to plan because planning allows for success. 

You’re going to know exactly what your meals are going to be. How much protein it’s going to be second nature, you’re not even going to think about it. Yup, you’re going to have a resistance exercise training in place. You’re not going to make excuses as to why you can’t do it. You’re going to find reasons how to get it done. 

Ari: Love it. Love it. This is so good. Dr. Lyon, thank you so much. This has been awesome. You rocked it. I love this conversation. I love this content. I think it’s so important to get this message across because there’s way too few people talking about the importance of body composition, and muscle mass, and how this ties into to energy levels and quality of life, and also functionality. 

Not losing your functionality later in life as a result of physical weakness, and also preventing disease, and frailty, and old age. And there’s just, it’s such an important topic. One more thing for everybody who’s listening, who is interested in reaching out to you, at least following your work or working with you directly. How can they get in touch with you? 

Dr. Lyon: I’m very active on Instagram. And that’s Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, D-R Gabrielle Lyon. They can find me on my web site. same name usually. Dr.

Gabrielle Lyon. And then Facebook, doctor is spelled out. Twitter, same name. I had a free protocol that you guys can download. I do send out a newsletter, although not weekly with the new baby. I’m working on it. 

But I put studies in there. I put perspectives. I put opinion pieces. Anything that, any upcoming talks and books and things I’m reading. So, I put that in there. It’s valuable, it won’t waste your time. And I’m writing a book. So, standby. 

Ari: Awesome. And if somebody wants to work with you personally, where’s the… 

Dr. Lyon: Yeah so you guys can email. So, you can find that information on my web site, you can email info@drgabriellelyon. 

Ari: Beautiful. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with my audience. I really appreciate it. 

Show Notes

The link between body composition and metabolic health (06:20)
The importance of muscle in health (15:00)
The biggest misconceptions around protein and meat consumption (25:14)
The strongest approach to resistance training (42:42)


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