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How to Maximize Your Metabolism

With Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

Season 3, Episode 3  | April 6, 2021

Metabolism is more complex than simply being “fast” or “slow” or controlled by exercise. There are many things we can do in our daily lives to optimize it. Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, shares how to build the foundation for a healthy metabolism, as well as ways to dig deeper if you’re not seeing results or feeling your best.

Samantha McKinney

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, is a Master Trainer at Life Time who supports members and nutrition programming.

When it comes to optimizing our metabolism, there are four modifiable lifestyle areas in which it’s essential to aim for healthy habits: nutrition, lifestyle, sleep, and exercise. The following recommendations may sound simple, but they can make a significant difference in regards to metabolism.

  • Exercise regularly: Balance adequate strength training — ideally four times per week — with a strategic cardio program that includes lower-intensity efforts with high-intensity training peppered in.
  • Stay hydrated: Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily.
  • Sleep enough: Prioritize getting around eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Consume enough protein: Most people do well consuming about 1 gram of protein per pound of goal body weight each day.
  • Eat plenty of produce: Give your body lots of antioxidants and fiber from nonstarchy veggies, berries, and other colorful produce.
  • Manage your stressors: Engage in regular stress-management techniques, such as outdoor movement, meditation, deep breathing, or social-media breaks.
  • Supplement smartly: Fill in nutrient gaps with a high-quality multivitamin and use an omega-3 fish oil to increase your intake of healthy fats.

If you’re doing the above 80 percent of the time and still aren’t seeing the progress you’d like or feeling healthy and energized, then it may be time to look deeper. Oftentimes, in those cases, metabolism issues can be traced back to digestive health and nutrient insufficiency, inflammation, or hormones.

To get more foundation-building tips and advice for tactical ways to dig deeper, listen to the full episode.

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Transcript: How to Maximize Your Metabolism

Season 3, Episode 3  | April 6, 2021

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, the national digital performer brand leader for Life Time. We’re all in different places when it comes to our health and fitness, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode, we break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, health issues, and more. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.

David Freeman

And we’ll also be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman  

Hey everybody, I’m David Freeman.

Jamie Martin

And I’m Jamie Martin.

David Freeman

Welcome back. In this episode, we’re going to be talking with Sam McKinney about metabolism. So many great mic drops throughout this whole episode. What are some things that stood out to you, Jamie?

Jamie Martin

Yeah, so, you know, metabolism is one of those things that, you know, for a long time, I associated with I have good metabolism or slow metabolism, and what I do from a fitness perspective is going to change that, but Sam really helped me better understand through this, and I have known this, but she reiterated the importance of nutrition and lifestyle in metabolism and like what are the things we could do in those aspects of our lives to optimize our metabolism so we can have more energy, so we can sleep better, so we just feel better overall, and I think that, for me, is one of those takeaways where metabolism is something, you know, we think about, it’s in the background, but there’s a lot of things we can do to optimize it. That was a big thing for me. How about you?

David Freeman

What I would say, as far as when we speak about metabolism, as a whole, you got to think of everybody has different predispositions, and when we start to go into health and fitness, it’s so broad, and what I would say, my biggest takeaway is understanding the difference between normal and optimal when we look at underneath the hood, and we go a little bit deeper, and we clearly define what it is that our body is doing, if we now know what it is that we’re doing or what it’s doing, and we have all the different resources and tools, that should be the next step is the action plan to follow, and you’ll hear a lot of the different pieces that Sam delivers on this episode to make sure that you’re set up for success. We always talk about knowledge is power, and what I want to say is you probably heard me say this before is that application of the knowledge is power, so in my head, in my eyes, I’m always learning from, whenever Sam is on our podcast, but taking the notes of the things that stand out to you of you know as an area of opportunity and then capitalize on those items is what I would say.

Jamie Martin  

Absolutely. She really outlined really well, like so what are some of the things that we can be watching for in our own lives that might indicate that we have, you know, an issue with our metabolism, and then she also offered, you know, this idea of lab testing to help us get a really clear picture of what’s under the hood, but I think one thing, David, you’re hitting on, is that it’s about the basics, in many cases. There’s a lot of things we can do in our daily lives to optimize our metabolism, and that’s where Sam really kind of…she will drive that home right to the end of this episode because, you know, yes, there’s tests we can do, yes, there’s, you know, a lot of detailed information we can get about our bodies, and that’s great to have, but when we do some of these foundational things and we hydrate, when we get enough sleep, those are all some things that we have control over and that can make a difference, and then we can always go deeper.

So, before we jump in, a little bit about Sam. You guys have heard her before on the podcast, Sam McKinney is a dietician trainer and a coach. She’s been doing this for over 10 years. Her interest and her experience were first in a highly clinical setting in the medical field, and that’s really laid the strong foundation that she has for understanding metabolism and that she’s truly, truly passionate about it, so you will hear that passion come through this entire episode. Any other final thoughts, David?

David Freeman  

All I know is, after this episode, since it’s so good, it’s guaranteed to increase your metabolism. Let’s get after it, you all.

Jamie Martin  

Sam, welcome back to Life Time Talks, we’re so glad to have you.

Sam McKinney  

Thanks, Jamie. I love being here.

David Freeman

Well, Sam, how have you been? It’s been a while, not too long, but since the last time we talked, how have you been?

Sam McKinney  

Well, I think time is a little just funny to talk about between 2020 and 2021. I’m sure for everybody, it just kind of seems like it’s a blur, a lot of different events and happenings, and everything, but on a personal note, part of why it’s been a minute is I welcomed my first baby into the world, so I had a son last fall, so that’s been really fun, and I’m kind of back into some things after mat leave, right now.

Jamie Martin  

Congratulations. How is motherhood treating you, so far?

Sam McKinney

Well, today is a great day to ask me that because I think it’s the third time ever since he’s been born that I slept through the night, and he’s only 6 months old, so I feel like I could run a marathon and PR all of my strength workouts, right now.

Jamie Martin  

There is nothing quite like getting those full nights of sleep, I get that from being sleep deprived for a bit.

Sam McKinney

I will say though, it is life changing in the best way possible, it’s the hardest, and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been through so far, and I know that I’m just getting started, too, so I have a lot of respect for all of my colleagues and friends that are parents.

Jamie Martin  

Alright, so we’re talking about metabolism today, and this is one of those topics we hear a lot about, we’re like, oh, I’ve got fast metabolism, I’ve got slow metabolism, but let’s just like ground everybody right away, what is metabolism and why is it important for our general health and wellness?

Sam McKinney  

Thank you for asking that. I will say most people when they hear metabolism, they immediately just think about calorie burn and that’s it, it’s either I have a fast one or a slow one, and ultimately, what metabolism is, it’s basically just the sum of all the life sustaining processes in your body, so it’s really complex, it has way more to do than just with what your caloric expenditure is, and it has everything to do with functioning and all the intricacies of hormones, and respiration, and activity, and all of that, so it’s kind of a very complex topic that I find people try to boil down into calories, but I’m sure, as we’ll get into today, there’s a little bit more nuance than that, that I’m really excited to talk about, actually.

David Freeman

Well, you just said it, you just said it, exercise and activity, we usually associate to that boosting our metabolism, so can you talk about why movement is such a key factor when it comes to metabolism?

Sam McKinney

Yes, so when it comes to exercise and movement, that is obviously a big component, and that’s something that I know we’re all passionate about, on here, I will say from a metabolic standpoint, the biggest impact that exercise and movement has on metabolism is through its ability to help enhance or change your body composition, so at the end of the day, the way most people think about metabolism and calorie burn, the thing that it ties most closely into with exercise is muscle and strength building, so essentially, the more muscle you have just sitting around every minute of the day, you end up burning more calories because there’s more stuff that your body is essentially doing. Nothing said, that doesn’t mean that, you know, cardio or aerobic activity doesn’t matter, they do. Obviously, how much you move around each day, how much you push yourself, those, obviously, have calories that get burned there, but from a metabolic standpoint, it can change your respiration and how you utilize oxygen and you know expel carbon dioxide and all of that, but really with metabolism, it is that tie-in into what does it do to your body composition and what impact is the type of training program or regimen that you’re on have on your body comp and then that has sort of distills down to your metabolism, but as I’m sure you can see pretty quickly, there’s a lot…I won’t say more to talk about with nutrition and lifestyle, but there’s definitely a significant area there that you might want to focus on a little bit more deeply, if that makes sense.

David Freeman

So, leaning into that, when we look at, you said, lean body mass can affect one’s metabolism, so the leaner you are, the more lean muscle mass you have, that would associate to a higher metabolism, right, I just want to make sure that was good, that was good, yes, and then from that, EPOC, you spoke on that a little bit, so can you talk about certain types of exercises that kind of speak to both those items that they can arrive at lowering their body fat percentage and also how they can get the most out of the EPOC?

Sam McKinney

OK, so I will say for those that are looking for body composition changes, EPOC is definitely a factor. It’s not a factor that I typically focus on with clients, it’s usually more my performance clients that I’ll focus on EPOC, so for those of you that might not know, EPOC refers to, you know, the calories that you burn post workout, right, and that sometimes is just lumped into the calorie burn from a given workout, and basically, what research shows is that if you look at calories burned from a workout, it’s somewhere usually between 7 and 9 percent of total workout calories burned come from EPOC, so that might sound significant, but in a total, you know, 500 calorie workout, we’re talking, you know, 30 to 150 calories or so over the course of that next 24 hours. From a caloric standpoint, it’s not going to have that much of an impact.

Where I do focus on it more is my clients that are athletes, and we really need to make sure that they are not losing any muscle, and if anything, we’re in a build phase, and that we’re always replenishing those, so it’s kind of a cool thing to focus on for the general population, but I wouldn’t put the cart before the horse there compared to other things with nutrition and just making sure that their exercise program has adequate strength training in it and protein to build muscle, and making sure that their cardio program is strategic and not random, and what I mean by that is you want some lower intensity cardio, and you want to do that to send that message to your body of like, hey, my lifestyle requires movement, make sure you, you know, are able to use calories effectively for that, and then peppering in some higher intensity training, as well, and one more thing to hit on with that EPOC piece is if you look at cardio…well, strength training will give you a higher EPOC, in general, so if you are focusing on that, just know that strength is going to net you bigger results from it. From a cardio standpoint, your post-exercise oxygen consumption and calorie burn, it’s sort of linear to the duration of your workout, but it increases exponentially whenever you’re talking about intensity, so really that’s a long way of saying the more you’re willing to push yourself intensity-wise, even if it’s for short bursts, that usually has a bigger impact than the duration of how long your workout is.

Jamie Martin  

OK, so I just want to make sure I heard you, so if your workout is let’s say a 60-minute workout, if a certain portion of that is high intensity, it’s going to correlate to potentially more metabolic?

Sam McKinney
So, let me rephrase this differently, your exercise intensity, so how intense the session is, even if it’s a short session, is going to have a bigger impact on your EPOC than how long your workout lasts. That’s probably a better way for me to say it.

Jamie Martin

That totally — that’s exactly what I was trying to get to, so thank you for clarifying that. OK, so one thing we talked about, as we were prepping for this episode, is that, you know, a lot of people associate metabolism with their workouts, but you have a point made like it’s really more about lifestyle and nutrition, so let’s talk about that, and can you just dive deep into this and go as deep as you need to go, and we’ll ask questions throughout.

Sam McKinney

Well, they’re all important pieces of the pie, so it’s really hard to rank importance. It’s sort of a little bit more of a discussion of significance, and what I always tell my clients is, for example, if you think of a given week, you have 168 hours in a given week, alright, so seven 24-hour periods, right, if you think, let’s say, OK, I’m going to sleep eight hours a night, that’s about 56 hours or a third of your time, so your sleep is pretty important. If you talk about your exercise, let’s say, you are an avid exerciser and you work out six days a week for an hour, that’s six hours of that 168, right, so we’re talking about 4 percent of our time, nutrition and lifestyle, the time that you’re awake not exercising, that leaves you with 106 hours or 63 percent of your time, so it’s not that the exercise isn’t important, it’s absolutely critical, you’re not going to achieve a healthy good metabolism body composition without a solid exercise program that’s consistent and well designed, but we’ve got to get into that nutrition lifestyle piece, and so as we start to think about that, you’re constantly sending inputs to your metabolism, and your body is responding from a survival standpoint, and you’re sending in inputs based off of how often you eat, what you’re eating, how your stress is, what your sleep is like, what your general lifestyle is like, how sedentary you are, all of these factors play a role, so you can quickly see that this discussion of metabolism and calorie burn starts to . . . if you’re not careful, it can get really overwhelming if you start to wonder what you should do to support your metabolism or sort of how to crack a metabolic code or something that you’re struggling with, but I have found with my clients that there are some key themes that pop up over and over again that are addressable, so kind of take heart there. I’m sure we can get into some of those, too, but I want to pause and see what questions you guys have based off of what I just threw out.

David Freeman

So, that’s why we call her Sam, drop the mic, McKinney, right there, ya’ll. So, with that being said, we do have a question, I’m going to throw it at you like this, so working in the industry we always hear some people have strong metabolisms, I’m using the air quotes for those who can’t see me, so does genetics play a role, and if it does, can you kind of dive into how that plays a vital role in one’s metabolism?

Sam McKinney  

Without a doubt, genetics play a role. What I find is that sometimes we hang our hats on genetics, and we really shouldn’t do that for a lot of different reasons, so your genetics sort of lay out almost a blueprint or a framework of what your body is capable of, and conversely, what it potentially can fall into in terms of imbalances and patterns, right, so I’ll use kind of an example, let’s say, we all know somebody that, unfortunately, probably got diagnosed with something like lung cancer, who maybe lived a very healthy lifestyle and never smoked, right, and then, on the flip side, we probably know of somebody who’s in their 90s and has been smoking a pack a day since they were 15 and never struggled with lung cancer, right, so the way to kind of look at that, and this does tie back into metabolism, this is just sort of a parallel analogy is that person that maybe lived that healthy lifestyle and got a devastating diagnosis like that probably had some sort of strong underlying genetic predisposition that sort of allowed that to happen. Now, those are, of course, two extremes, the majority of us, we might have a propensity or a genetic — you know, kind of a genetic predisposition to something, but what your lifestyle and your nutrition and your exercise do is influence whether or not that’s expressed. Of course, there are genetic things that get expressed no matter what you do, right, or there are certain things that you won’t be able to elicit, you know, if you’re genetically set to be no more than 5 feet tall, you unlikely are going to become an NBA basketball player, right, like so there’s obviously extremes on that end, but genetics sort of lay a blueprint, and then what you do influences how they’re expressed, when they’re expressed, how significantly they’re express, and that’s referred to as epigenetics, so when it comes to metabolism, you can start to see…I can hear sometimes clients always say, oh well, such and such runs in my family or my whole family’s overweight, or you know my whole family is really, really lean, there are still things people can do from an exercise or nutrition standpoint to fight those things or work against them or work for them, as well. Does that make sense?

Jamie Martin

Yeah, I think that whole thing where like our environment can influence our genetics, right, and that’s where nutrition and lifestyle and our movement patterns play such a significant role, right?

Sam McKinney  

Totally. Yes.

Jamie Martin

So, let’s go back to some of those key themes that you mentioned, so we know that genetics play a factor, but we also know that we can make choices, right, that can influence those for good or bad, right, or things that work against us or for us, so let’s talk about those themes that you often see with your clients around what works and what doesn’t when it comes to boosting metabolism.

Sam McKinney

Well, I think I’d be remiss not to mention that usually this metabolism conversation comes up when we’re talking about body composition or weight loss or trying to change physique, right, that’s normally when people start talking about metabolism, and of course, ties into health conditions, but this metabolic conversation usually revolves around people trying to make a change, right, in how they feel, function, how their clothes fit, et cetera, so what I find is there are core themes that sort of apply to everybody that no matter what your genetics or your current metabolic state is you should focus on, and those are things that we’ve all heard a thousand times, make sure that you’re hydrated, right, ideally with filtered water, make sure that you are building muscle, so that comes from adequate protein intake, regular strength training, make sure that you are giving your body a lot of antioxidants and fiber from, you know, non-starchy vegetables, berries, you know, colorful produce, things like that, make sure you include healthy fats and omega-3s. We’ve all heard these things before.

That being said, there are a lot of people out there that are doing all of those things and they find I’m not getting the results that I’m really hoping for, and I’m really working hard at this, and I just feel like I’m stuck, and am I just doomed, is this just my genetics, and is a change never going to happen, and the answer to that is no, right, we have to dig a little bit deeper and see what’s going on under the hood and see what is going on with your metabolism in a more complex sense, so there’s a couple of key themes that I’ve realized in the last 12 years of being a dietitian and a coach that come up really frequently that we might need to overcome to help somebody become healthier on the inside so that all of those efforts with food and exercise are more effective and can help elicit changes on the outside.

Those themes are digestive health and nutrient sufficiency, those two go hand-in-hand. The next one is sort of this general bucket of inflammation. We hear that word a lot, inflammation, and usual, what I see tie into inflammatory-type patterns are, you know, stress levels, sleep issues, cholesterol issues, and blood sugar, right, so I know I just threw a lot out there, but that’s sort of all — these are all kind of inflammatory-type issues or conditions, and lastly is a big one that everybody wants to jump to is hormones, and that’s thyroid hormones and sex hormones, like testosterone, progesterone, et cetera. All very important, but those are kind of the three biggest themes I’m seeing, that digestive health and nutrients, sort of those inflammatory…I don’t want to say conditions, but those kinds of inflammatory states, and hormone issues, and if we can identify what’s going on with somebody, you can set up with their doctor a nutrition supplement, exercise, and potentially medical plan to make them healthier on the inside and get that metabolic fire going again. 

David Freeman  

So, you’re a registered dietician, you work in this field, whether it’s digestive health, inflammation, hormones, why do you think so many individuals don’t want to invest into a lab to actually see what’s underneath the hood?

Sam McKinney

You know, that really varies a lot person by person. What I will say is, from my experience, is the thought of looking deeper at bloodwork for the purposes of body composition and feeling great, it feels like kind of a novel concept for most people. Usually, we associate lab work with, hey, I’m getting a couple basics done at my annual physical or wow, something is really medically wrong, and my doctor needs bloodwork to look at it. This concept of looking at it from a more functional lens feels new and it feels different, and for some people, initially, might feel unnecessary, and if you think about it, the type of lab work we’re used to getting done with, you know, kind of a conventional doctor, which is fine and encouraged, it’s really just making sure like, hey, let me just and make sure you don’t have any medical conditions, or if you have medical conditions, let me see how well managed they are.

Well, let’s operate under the assumption that there are no medical conditions and there’s nothing to manage there, and you’re just kind of in the general population just trying to feel your best, it takes a lot more to assess health than it does to assess disease, and so what I mean by that is, if you’re trying to diagnose something, there are a couple lab markers, and if they’re off, OK, yeah, you have something, and you know that’s something for your physician to determine. If you’re trying to assess how healthy you are, that feels a little bit more ambiguous, there’s more to test there, you want to look at a lot of different things and see, hey, is there anything that’s starting to drift out of the optimal range, not just within that medical reference range but optimal, is there anything starting to drift, and is there anything that maybe is not a medical condition but could stand to be a little bit better that might be impacting how you’re feeling.

Jamie Martin

So, with that in mind, I mean, I think that’s so key, and that quote you just said, it’s harder to assess health than diagnose disease, I think that is so huge, and to then invest in like researching health versus disease can be expensive, so I want to help people understand like what are some of those tests that can help people take a closer look at this and start doing this work? I know we often go to the doctor and like I’m going to get my vitamin D tested, and that’s a hormone, but what are some more specifics that we could be looking for?

Sam McKinney

Well, just by saying that those key blood markers that you probably do get done at your annual physical, they’re drawn because they’re the most important, right, so you have to get those done, right, I’m not . . . don’t be . . . don’t skip those because those have everything to do with, you know, how your body is carrying oxygen and how, you know, your liver and your kidneys are functioning, and you know all of those things, so you want to start there, but I would make sure that outside of just looking at blood sugar, for example, that you’re assessing a hemoglobin A1c.

You might’ve heard of that, sometimes it’s referred to as glycosylated hemoglobin, and that looks at how your blood sugars been trending for the last three months. It’s routinely looked at in people that have diabetes, it’s not routinely looked at in people that don’t, but it is good to see because if you’re just getting a blood sugar done at a physical, that can fluctuate pretty wildly from day-to-day, so it’s good to get a snapshot to see how the last three months have been going.

Love that you mention vitamin D, we want to be looking at that, as well.

A couple other things that I would consider would be looking at iron levels because low iron is an issue, and it can really slow down — I’ve seen low iron in women really slow down metabolism a lot, so iron-deficient women just repleting iron can help them lose body fat faster, so little things like that. On the flip side, high iron is actually really common. It can happen in both men and women, but I’ve seen it with men have a lot of inflammation, and we want to take care of making sure that the iron is not too high, so iron is a big one. With iron, too, you want to look at something called ferritin. It’s a storage form of iron, and I don’t know how in the weeds to get here, but like I said, I want to cover kind of the basic buckets.

I’d say from a stress standpoint, looking at cortisol levels on a regular basis, that’s kind of our main stress hormone, can be helpful along with it’s counter hormone DHEA, and DHEA ties into the broader hormonal conversation because it’s sort of a mother hormone that is a precursor or almost like a raw material needed to make other hormones in your body, and the other hormones that I’m talking about are primarily testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and then a huge one that I see is thyroid health, so, gosh, if your thyroid is off it almost doesn’t matter what you’re doing until your thyroid is addressed, like you can really feel like you’re banging your head against a wall with effort and not see changes in body composition until thyroid is addressed, and that’s an area I’m pretty passionate about, as well, so I don’t know if it’s OK that I go into that a little bit.

Jamie Martin

I think so. I think one thing I just want to note here that’s so important is nothing operates in isolation, like it’s all interconnected, and like you talking about these hormones, these precursor hormones, it’s like you sometimes think about I just got to work on my testosterone, I got to get that up, but it’s often like . . . it’s a web, right, and you pull one part of it and it’s all connected.

Sam McKinney

Yes, the way that I say, you know, sometimes I’ll have people ask, well, can I just get my testosterone tested or just my cortisol, and my answer to that is, sure, you can, and I can identify that there’s a problem, like oh yeah, that’s the issue, you know, that’s why you’ve been stuck, and they’re like, well, how do I fix it. I’m like, well, I don’t know because I don’t know what caused it, and I won’t know what caused it until I see all those other labs that are around it to sort of figure out that web. Is it, are you not producing enough? Is your body using too much? Is there something driving it up? Is it converting to something else? And so, this is why it’s important where I can appreciate to a listener, right now, who might be sitting back like, whoa, this is kind of a lot. Ultimately, what this boils down to is get a comprehensive test done at least once a year just as an annual preventative thing and have somebody help you figure it out, right, it’s not your job to know every metabolic nuance, but do get sort of a clean sweep in a proactive approach, work with somebody that’s a skilled practitioner where they can be like, oh, OK, your stress, it’s impacting your metabolism. Here are things I want you to focus on, and you can potentially prevent a lot of things down the road.

David Freeman

I want to talk about the movie Clue, when you think about the movie Clue, let’s give them a nice little nostalgic vibe so that you look at the movie Clue, what Jamie just said . . .

Sam McKinney

Do I need to have seen the movie Clue?

David Freeman

What, you haven’t seen Clue?

Sam McKinney

I have not seen Clue. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

David Freeman

We’ve got to cut the podcast right now. What are you talking about, you don’t know Clue, the movie Clue?

Sam McKinney

No.

David Freeman

Alright . . .

Sam McKinney

I was like we’re going down a . . .

David Freeman

. . . that’s your homework.

Sam McKinney

. . . path where I don’t know how to respond.

David Freeman

Jamie, do you know Clue?

Sam McKinney  

Sorry, Dave.

Jamie Martin

Well, are we talking about Clue based on the board game, Clue?

David Freeman

Yeah, there was a movie.

Jamie Martin

That’s where my head is going, am I totally off base, too?

David Freeman

No, that’s it.

Jamie Martin

Yes. OK.

David Freeman

OK, yeah.

Jamie Martin

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve played the board game, so I know.

David Freeman

Oh my gosh, I don’t know what’s going on, right now.

Sam McKinney

I don’t even know where we should pick this up.

David Freeman

Anyway, let me draw the parallel, so Clue pretty much it’s a whole bunch of guests invited over for a dinner, and these high profile guests are all coming together, and then, at some point in time, somebody is murdered, and then they have to figure out with all the diff pieces as far as who it was, what tool was used, what room did it happen in, and my whole purpose of drawing that parallel and tried to give everybody a nostalgic vibe, before you all shot that hot air balloon out of the air, just now, is pretty much everything is tied together. If you have all the different pieces, then we can understand why this or that is not in those optimal levels, so man, I just fell flat on my face because you all both have not yet to watch the movie Clue. I love it, though.

Sam McKinney

You know, and Dave, you can flip that around and say that you had a genius analogy and we fell flat on our face by not being able to follow. You could flip that around pretty easily.

David Freeman

No, the way my mind works, I got to take responsibility, alright.

Sam McKinney

Well, what I will say, you know, kind of, yeah, in that tune is think about it almost as just like if you’re doing a full blood panel that looks at your inflammation, and your stress, and your nutrient levels, you know, your hormones including your thyroid and some of your sex hormones, just look at that as just getting like an every 12 month baseline, like hey, let me just get ahead of any patterns that might be starting to drift a little bit and really addressing those, and so there’s a lot of power in repleting a nutrient that your body needs to function, you know, if you start to notice a nutrient level going down, like vitamin D, repleting that sounds simple and has a huge impact, right, so I always use the analogy that if you think of like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, or calories is fuel, nutrients are like the engine parts, right, so like they need to be there for your fuel to function well, right, you can’t pour gasoline into a car that’s missing engine parts or it’s not going to work very well, so it’s sort of, you know, an analogy like that, and so there’s a lot of power in figuring out not just, hey, am I deficient, that means that you’ve been outside of optimal for a long time, right, and so like staying optimal in those things can have a huge impact, and you can use that same type of analogy and thought process when it comes to a hormone, let’s say, like insulin, which is required to keep blood sugar levels stable. If that’s starting to creep up, there’s so much power in being able to control that before you 5 or 10 years down the line get a diabetes diagnosis. Right? It’s all about being proactive, essentially.

Jamie Martin

That makes total sense. OK, so I want to go back because you asked about going a little deeper on thyroid health, and because that affects so many people, I would like to just circle back to that for a few minutes and have you talk about why that’s such an important thing to get figured out because, like you said, if that’s down, a lot of other efforts aren’t going to matter.

Sam McKinney

Yes. OK, so when it comes to thyroid health, what I will say is that, generally speaking, the main hormone that’s really looked at, when it comes to assessing thyroid health, is called thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH, and that’s essentially a signal from your pituitary gland at the base of your brain to your thyroid to tell it to function, so the thought process is, hey, if your TSH is high, that means that your thyroid needs a little bit of a swifter, stronger kick in the pants to do its job, right, like it’s getting yelled at by your pituitary a little bit louder like, hey, thyroid, you’re a little bit sluggish, you need to work harder, and so then the thought process is, well, if TSH isn’t high, then your thyroid is probably fine, and that’s where I really found a ton of my clients to be struggling because they’ve been told that their thyroid is fine over and over and over again, and when I look at the signs of dysfunctional thyroid health, they check off every single one, they’ve got trouble losing weight, they might feel like they’re bowel habits are a little bit sluggish, and they struggle with constipation, they’re incredibly tired, maybe they have depressive-type feelings, right, it’s hard for them to get up off the couch and go get a workout and stay consistent, they might feel cold all the time, right, so there are these clusters of symptoms that might tell us, hey, we might want to dig deeper in a specific area, so what’s somebody to do if they’re told, hey, your thyroid is medically fine, but you’re like, I’m kind of checking off all these symptoms, so what should I do from there.

Well, this is where it really tells a good story about how to dig deeper, so let’s say your TSH is fine, you might be wondering, OK, so my thyroid is functioning, what does that really mean, and in the case of thyroid health, think of it this way, the main thyroid hormone, your actual thyroid, which is right here sort of in your neck, the base of your neck, is called T4. Your thyroid produces T4, and it gets sent to different parts of your body where it then gets converted into T3.

Now, T3 is sort of that more active, metabolically active, thyroid hormone. That’s what actually exerts metabolic impacts on the cells, so once it gets into the cell, that’s what helps you burn calories, and once all that’s all functioning well, those symptoms start to alleviate, so the reason that I’m super passionate about this is that out of all the clients that I’ve had that have been stuck and have done a lab, about half of them have below optimal functioning T3 levels, so really that active one, so about half, right, that’s kind of a lot, so if you’re in that category of people where you’re like, man, I kind of feel like I eat better than my friends and family, I’m active, and things feel stuck, it could potentially be thyroid just from my experience, there’s probably a 50% chance that it might be thyroid, and so I kind of wanted to go over that, I know it sounds pretty technical because if you…think about all those steps I talked about, your pituitary has to talk to your thyroid, your thyroid has to make T4, T4 has to get to the other parts of your body, then it has to be converted into T3, then it has to go into your cell, there’s a lot of sort of areas in that chain that can be broken, but ultimately, if that T3 isn’t getting into that cell, you’re not going to feel good, and you’re not going to burn body fat, and it could be for a whole multitude of reasons. Whatever is going on upstream with you really needs to be addressed, so I like using thyroid as an example because it sort of this cascade approach, and we would do different things for somebody who, let’s say, their thyroid isn’t making T4 versus, let’s say, you are making T4 and you’re not converting it into T3, then that’s a different nutrition approach, so you can start to see how there’s nuance here, you don’t need to know these things, but in order to start to find a solution, you have to get tested and get it looked at and have a skilled practitioner determine, OK, how I optimize things that are going on for you to see better results.

Jamie Martin  

Oh, we need a whole episode on thyroid. I think that’s just so helpful to understand there’s movement, nutrition, exercise, and all those are important, but it’s so many things under the hood that we may not realize, and my experience and my knowledge, just having covered this stuff for a long time, is that the ranges that we say are normal, even if you’re in those, it may not be optimal to your point, like so there’s a huge range.

Sam McKinney

Let me actually, just because we were using thyroid as sort of the kind of analogy to illustrate, and again, this topic and how I’m speaking about it right now can apply to inflammation and to cortisol and to all these other things, but so to the reference ranges, there are some medical reference ranges that say that TSH, that yelling signal, remember like, hey, the higher your TSH is the slower your thyroid because that’s the signal for your thyroid to function, like how much yelling encouragement does your thyroid need from TSH to function, really functional medicine looks at anything above 2 as, OK, that’s getting too high. I’ve seen medical reference ranges at 4, I’ve even seen them at 6, and so you start to think about like this is significant, like how far off of optimal am I but I’m still within a medical norm, and you know it’s not like you’re in a dire medical situation, but your symptoms and how you’re feeling are very, very real, and you deserve to have them addressed, at least I believe.

Jamie Martin

Alright, so we’ve talked about, you know, testing show us some things, but like on the flip side, what if you do the testing and you discover your metabolism isn’t really the issue, what are some other common reasons that you might be struggling with seeing results?

Sam McKinney

Sure. Well, I will say that most of the time, and myself included, if you’re digging into your lab work, you’re always going to find something, right, that doesn’t mean there’s a reason to panic, it’s just we’re kind of continuously on this quest for optimal health.

With that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve come across having to do, you know, a lab review for somebody looking for an issue, and just looking at their intake form of what they’re doing right now, I’m like, oh, I don’t know that I would’ve jumped right to a lab, like there’s some other stuff that I would’ve put in place first foundationally, so what I would say common reasons people don’t see the success that they’re looking for, let’s say, even prior to doing a lab or outside of doing a lab, number one, intention doesn’t always translate to reality, and what I mean by that, this applies to myself, as well, so this is not condescending in any way, if you’ve never tracked your workouts and what you’re eating, even just for a week or two, I can guarantee you that you don’t actually know how consistent you are, so let’s take myself, as an example, you know, I am a dietician and a personal trainer, and if I don’t periodically write down what I’m eating, I can’t tell you for sure that I’m hitting my protein targets, right, I can’t tell you for sure that I didn’t mindlessly snack on something somebody brought into work or you know maybe grab a protein bar that I was eating in the car or that I forgot about, right, so that type of stuff can happen, and that doesn’t make you a bad person, that doesn’t make you a failure, but it’s just really do a reality check and write down for a week or two, see how you’re actually doing how compliant you really are because you can intend to eat a certain way, but unless you’re tracking it, it’s very unlikely that you actually are, so that’s number one.

Number two, I would say skipping out on the basics, so what I mean by that is the hydration, the protein, the multivitamin, the fish oil, I find that especially for somebody that’s very well educated on this stuff and maybe wants to look at cortisol patterns and all of that, it’s really easy for them to undervalue those things because they sound too simple, but they’re talked about so much because they work, so making sure that you’re getting half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. Generally speaking, most people need about a gram of protein per pound of their goal body weight, right. Most people need to be strength training three plus, ideally four or more times per week, right. Having those kind of buckets and foundations in place will help you get more out of your investment and lab work because sort of the foundations that apply no matter what your metabolism or lab work says are covered, so we can use your labs to sort of get into the more specialty approaches.

What I don’t want somebody to do is say, OK, I’m going to do this huge comprehensive lab test, and I’m going to dig into all of these hormones, and then I go over it with them, and I’m like, you know what, I don’t, yeah, I see issues here, but you just need to strength train and eat your protein, and they’re going to be like, well, what was this lab for. You have to have the foundations down to really get into the nuance, if that sort of makes sense.

Jamie Martin

Absolutely. I mean, I think, again, I love the idea, like kind of track what you’re doing, do the basics, see how you feel, see how that changes, and then, you know, we can always dig deeper, you can always go more into it.

Sam McKinney

And do those basics at least 80 percent of the time, not half the time, make sure you’re at that 80 percent compliance level and really that 80 percent should get you to where you want to go, and if you’re still having trouble and there is a large category of people where they’re still having trouble, even with all of those foundations in place, which is why I’m really passionate about this because I want them to sort of crack the code and figure out what’s going on there.

Jamie Martin

Oh, so lots of good tangible takeaways here. Sam, anything else before we dive into David’s two-minute drill?

Sam McKinney  

The one last thing that I kind of want to leave people with before I dive into the drill that I was joking around before we started recording that I was hoping was not two minutes of burpees, so the one thing I want to leave people with is if you’re living a healthy lifestyle, right, you’re focusing on colorful produce, getting healthy fats in, getting protein in, you’re active, you’re having fun when you’re active, you’re sleeping, you should feel good, so if you don’t feel good, I really encourage you to dig deeper, and what I mean by feeling good is you should and deserve great energy levels, you deserve to sleep well, right, you deserve to have a positive mood, right, all of these things really kind of encompass health, it’s way beyond just body composition, and if you’re starting to have symptoms, digestive, mood, energy, cravings, that’s your body talking to you, so I really encourage you to listen to it and just know like, OK, this is my body talking to me, and I might be a year, 5 years, 10 years away from something that’s medically an issue, but what if I addressed it now, it will be a whole lot easier to get back to optimal than to drift all the way into a disease state, so ultimately, I just want to let people know like you deserve to feel awesome, you deserve to feel and function your best, and if you’re not, find some help because it’s out there and you can feel better.

David Freeman  

Love it. You deserve it. You heard it from her, you deserve it, alright, and you’re going to deserve the two-minute drill I’m about to give you. Are you ready?

Sam McKinney

I don’t know if I’ll be ever ready so just hit me.

David Freeman

Alright, alright, alright. Jamie, go ahead and start our two-minute clock. Let me know when you’re good.

Jamie Martin

You can go any time, I’m watching the clock. Go.

David Freeman

Alright, here we go. Sam, place you would love to travel?

Sam McKinney

Bali.

David Freeman

Celebrity crush? 

Sam McKinney

George Clooney.

David Freeman  

Water or fire and why?

Sam McKinney

Water, I just got a mental image of the beach. That sounds way better than a fire to me, right now.

David Freeman

Love it. See, you must be thinking ahead here, one of my questions, would you rather to go to the beach or go skiing?

Sam McKinney

Beach all the way. I am not coordinated enough to ski.

Jamie Martin

Me either.

David Freeman

If you could be a superhero, who would it be and why?

Sam McKinney

Oh, I’m going to say Super Woman because I’m not that familiar with superhero characters, and that’s the first one that popped in my head, but that’s the honest answer. Lame, I know.

David Freeman

Love it. Pet peeve?

Sam McKinney  

Oh, people that bite their nails. Like hearing them bite their nails is the grossest thing ever, to me.

David Freeman

First thing you do when you wake up?

Sam McKinney

Well, again, I’ve got a little baby at home, so chances are, I’m probably running into the nursery.

David Freeman

Nice. If you could change one thing in the world tomorrow, what would it be?

Sam McKinney

Oh, kindness. Could everybody please just be kind to each other and realize that we don’t know the battles that other people are facing?

David Freeman

Love that. Love that. One food you can’t live without?

Sam McKinney

Chocolate, easy.

David Freeman

Last question here, what would be your legacy that you would want to leave the world with?

Sam McKinney

It really actually ties into this episode, I want people to know that your purpose on this earth and your potential and what you can fulfill ties back to are you sort of living your best self in terms of how healthy you are and what you’re capabilities and abilities are, right, and so the whole legacy is you deserve to be as healthy as your genetic potential allows, and by doing that, I believe that you can better have an impact on the world and the people around you and your community, and so realize that this…I know we talked a lot about body composition, but this has everything to do with just life and purpose, and the impact that you can have on everybody, so the legacy is just knowing that you can actually be your best self and not to put limits on that.

David Freeman

Awesome.

Jamie Martin

And that’s a great way to sign off. Sam, thank you for coming back on the podcast with us, we love having you, and we will no doubt have you back again soon, so thank you.

David Freeman

Thanks, Sam.

Sam McKinney

Thank you, guys, so much.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us, too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life, or reach out to us on Instagram, @lifetime.life, @jamiemartinel, or @freezy30, and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at el.lifetime.life/podcasts.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Feel free to write a review, and also let others know about it, too. Take a screenshot of the episode, and share it on social, share it with your friends, family, work buddies, life coach, you get the gist.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks. Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank-you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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