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Protein for Muscle and Metabolism: When and How much? | Donald Layman PhD

Episode 53, duration 1 hr and 23 mins
Episode 53

Protein for Muscle and Metabolism: When and How much? | Donald Layman PhD

Dr. Donald Layman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Layman served on the faculty at the University of Illinois from 1977 – 2012. Dr. Layman has been a leader in research about protein, nutrition for athletic performance, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular health. Dr. Layman has over 100 peer-reviewed publications. He has received numerous awards for his research from the American Society for Nutrition and the National Institutes for Health and for his nutrition teaching. Dr. Layman served as Associate Editor of The Journal of Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior and on the editorial boards of Nutrition & Metabolism and Nutrition Research and Practice. Dr. Layman earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry and biochemistry at Illinois State University and his doctorate in human nutrition and biochemistry at the University of Minnesota.


In this episode we discuss:
– Protein: How much & when should you be eating it?
– The ideal macronutrient balance to optimize your metabolism.
– The best ways to maintain muscle health.
– How does protein affect your body composition?

00:00:00 Is there an optimal level of fat in the diet?

00:02:20 The Grandfather of Protein

00:04:33 Protein and Meal Distribution

00:14:45 Macronutrient Balance

00:22:10 Does Protein Timing Matter?

00:28:40 Protein Synthesis

00:34:01 Your First Meal and Protein

00:41:49 Protein Shakes

00:50:55 How Much Protein?

00:54:30 Plant-based Protein

01:03:16 Longevity

01:09:59 Your Last Meal

01:14:46 Weight Loss and Aging

01:19:38 Protein and Muscle Health

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Dr. Donald Layman, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:00:02]

Welcome to the Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show where I believe a healthy world is based on transparent conversations. In today’s episode of The Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show, I sit down with my longtime mentor and best friend Dr. Donald Layman. Dr. Donald Layman is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. He’s published over 100 scientific articles. He is extremely well respected in the scientific space and considered one of the top experts in protein metabolism. Dr. Donald Layman is truly world class. In this episode, we talk about how to design a protein forward diet. We also discuss protein quality. How do you integrate whatever your protein choices are to design a diet that will optimize your metabolism? Finally, we talk about protein’s impact on body composition.

I hope you love this episode. Please head on over to my website, There is a link there for my book, Forever Strong. This book takes into account 20 years of clinical research, core fundamental principles of Dr. Donald Layman from bench to bedside. There’s a ton of freebies. Please head on over to You will see a link that says, Forever Strong. Get it now, and when you get it now, you will get a ton of free extra content. Let’s dive in.

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Dr. Donald Layman, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, over 100 published studies and really, I wince when I call you the grandfather of protein because that means that you’ve been in this for quite some time. For the listener who doesn’t know you and doesn’t know our relationship, although I’m quite sure that they do, you’ve been a mentor of mine for the last two decades. In fact, my book coming out, Forever Strong is fully dedicated to you, so very, very exciting.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:05:11]

Thank you for all of that. It’s been a wonderful association for over 20 years and really, best friends.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:05:20]

Pretty amazing. I’m so honored to have you on this podcast. I know that you will be on many more times. In this episode, it’s going to be very important for us to lay down the foundation, the foundation of dietary protein, and really, the crux of meal distribution, why it matters, all the nuances, so that people can walk away and be able to build a diet tomorrow in a way that supports them metabolically. And by the way, Don, you don’t even know this, but I am sending out a weekly email called 30g’s. Do you have any idea what that is? It’s funny, right?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:06:03]

Where could that have come from?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:06:06]

30g’s, you guys can sign up. It’s totally free. Go to my website, you can sign up for 30g’s. It’s 30 grams of protein. Every Monday, you will get a recipe. Although I’m about to tell you that Don is going to say that perhaps you might need more than 30g’s, this is a great starting point. If you’re interested in learning how to cook and optimize for dietary protein, you can head on over to my website, and sign up for 30g’s for free. Dr. Donald Layman, let’s talk about protein and protein distribution, and what do we even mean by that?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:06:46]

It’s a confusing thing, and I think that I’ve had some hand in making it confusing based on a study we ran back in 2014. But first, let’s sort out a couple of things. In children, meal distribution doesn’t seem to matter. The amount of protein per day is the issue. If you get in the 50 grams or 60 grams, whatever the growing child needs, when they get it during the day doesn’t seem to make much difference. Around 2000 though, we began to realize that adults begin to reduce their efficiency of how they handle protein. Some great work by the Galveston group with Bob Wolfe show that in someone 25 years of age or younger, 15 grams of protein at a meal would stimulate muscle protein synthesis very well. But in an older adult, they got essentially no effect and that it took somewhere in the 30 grams of protein to actually have an effect. We went on and demonstrated that a big part of that decreased efficiency related to a regulation of mTOR and ultimately, how much leucine as amino acid that was a signal.

So now we know that in adults, there seems to be a minimum threshold, your 30 grams, something around 30 grams of protein, which is a minimum threshold to stimulate protein synthesis. That begins to make us start thinking about meal distribution. That 30 grams is the minimum to get around 2.5 grams to 2.7 grams of leucine, which is what is required to stimulate protein synthesis. I don’t believe that’s the maximum; it’s the minimum. The maximum is probably higher than that, 45 grams, 55 grams, we don’t really know. It’s a decreasing curve, and so that becomes very hard to tell. It’s probably not the same in every single individual. The bigger you are, probably the larger the meal should be, that type of thing. I’ll just start with that, and you can ask some questions from there. But what we now know is that the distribution, you need at least 35 grams of protein in a meal to really stimulate protein synthesis in muscle, and as we know, as we get older, protecting muscle, and you and I like the term muscle-centric health, we know that protecting muscle is a key to long-term health.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:09:32]

It absolutely is. You mentioned this, 30 grams of dietary protein as a minimum to stimulating mTOR, which is mechanistic target of rapamycin. This is this complex within all tissues and within skeletal muscle, is exquisitely sensitive to one of the essential amino acids, leucine, which you pointed out. And by the way, this 30 grams three times a day, I think that we could probably blame you because it is really based on your earlier research. Then after you made this discovery, this discovery came out of your lab as it relates to a protein threshold. What do I mean by protein threshold? Meaning, a 30-gram protein meal could be a little over 4 ounces of chicken. Typically 30 grams was given in either a whey isolate or some kind of amino acid mixture. Now, based on 30 grams of protein three times a day, what did you initially see? What did some of the data initially show as it relates to body composition or blood pressure? Did these earlier studies have any impact on the things that we value?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:10:54]

Yeah, great question. After I answer your question, I’d like to backup to some of the basic research behind this. But what we specifically measured, Doug Paddon-Jones and I, is we took a typical American diet, which has almost all of their protein in a meal late in the day, and we wanted to distribute it earlier in the day. We had 90 grams of protein, and the typical American diet, 10 grams, 20 grams, or 60 grams at dinner. What we did was redistribute that 30/30/30. What we found was that the net daily muscle protein synthesis went up. So exactly the same food, exactly the same protein, just redistributing it, we got a greater net protein synthesis per day. Translating that into body composition, there’s really not great data to show how that translates. We think it does.

From there, I would back up to some other research that supports the concept. There’s a great study, even before we fully understood mTOR, leucine, and aging, there’s a great study by [Maria Arno 0:12:16] in France. What she looked at was a low-protein diet. They took individuals that had basically the RDA, around 56 grams of protein, and they looked at distributions. They looked at lots of small meals, versus having one large meal. What they showed was that if they didn’t have a meal that contain more than 30 grams, in fact, they use 45 grams of protein, if they didn’t have a meal that got above 30 grams of protein, the net daily protein synthesis were lower. Over a 21-period, there was detectively less lean body mass. That’s the first we think that meal threshold is key.

Teresa Davis went on and did some other types of research where they looked at continuous infusions, and she actually did it in young pigs. But what they looked at was IV infusion where it was a continuous infusion versus doing it in boluses, where it was discrete meals. What she showed was that the pigs grew much more lean body mass with bolus meal feeding. What we’re beginning to learn is that muscle really wants to see meals. The worst of all worlds is doing lots of small doses of protein. As I said earlier, that seems to work okay in kids, but it doesn’t work well in adults. So now the question becomes, meal distribution, is even what we’re after, or what I would actually say, and you’ve heard me say this before, it’s not an even distribution. It’s getting protein in the first meal of the day.

Doug Paddon-Jones and I happen to do uneven distribution, and I think that has faked everybody out forever. I would just emphasize that there’s not a single study to my knowledge that has ever shown that the noon meal is important, the amount of protein in the noon meal. But what I would argue is that of all of the protein synthesis studies that have ever been done ever, they all use breakfast. They all use the first meal after an overnight fast. Why? Because protein synthesis is depressed, and it’s ultra-sensitive to what you eat. What we know is that if you don’t have enough protein, you stay in that overnight catabolic condition, and we think that is detrimental. We personally did studies with weight loss, and what we showed is that If you distribute protein into the first meal, that breakfast meal, you can blunt the amount of lean mass loss during a weight loss for obesity. We know that protein sparing effect works in short term catabolic conditions. So again, what we’re pretty comfortable with is that protein at the first meal is important. Protein and a bigger meal is important. Beyond that, we don’t know really what the importance of a middle meal would be.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:15:33]

Yeah, and I think that you make a great point. Oftentimes, we talk about even distribution as it relates to muscle protein synthesis. I will say there are other things that we should consider. You mentioned, and we’re going to clarify this for the listener, that the noon meal doesn’t necessarily matter for the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. Now, that may be true. There are other reasons above and beyond muscle protein synthesis, and again, this is part of the nuanced conversation, that make it very valuable to include dietary protein in that second meal. Would you like to perhaps mention that?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:16:19]

Exactly. You mentioned blood pressure when you asked the question, and I ignored it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:16:24]

You would think we’d had these conversations before. This is probably one of my most difficult interviews because you and I talk, although we haven’t for the last two weeks, usually talk every day. We’ve done tons of YouTube videos, which I encourage you guys to listen to. But the goal is to really lay out some fundamentals, and this is a culmination of years of conversation to lay out for you to really get some evidence-based information. Before I interrupted you with my backstory of how many times that we talk, we were discussing that you made a very bold statement, which that statement was it doesn’t matter the amount of protein for muscle protein synthesis in that noon meal. That’s not to say protein isn’t incredibly valuable, and I would love for you to point out some of the reasons as to why and perhaps another way in which we can think about dietary protein in that noon meal or middle meal of the day.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:17:22]

Right. Protein is a macronutrient, so it’s part of metabolic balance. Amino acids all have a lot of metabolic roles, and so everybody focuses on the muscle protein synthesis aspect, athletes and older adults, but we know from studies with metabolic syndrome and diabetes and things like that, that how you partition your carbohydrates and protein has a huge effect. We ran actually multiple studies looking at using protein to substitute for carbohydrates. When you do that, you correct all of the elements of metabolic syndrome. You will lower blood pressure, which you mentioned. You’d lower fasting blood sugar. You’d lower the post-meal insulin response. You’ll begin to reduce abdominal fat, the waistline. You will decrease triglycerides dramatically. You’ll increase HDL. Basically, all of the things that you’re trying to do with pre-diabetes or even in Type 2 diabetes. Using protein to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the diet, there is a massive amount of literature over the last 20 years to support that’s a great thing to do. And as you’re pointing out, that means you need consistent meal patterns. You need a consistent macronutrient ratio of carbohydrate and protein.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:19:01]

Now the next logical question is you said carbohydrate versus fat.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:19:09]

Let’s go back to the original metabolic syndrome data, Jerry Reaven’s and others, was actually using fat to substitute for carbohydrate. So you can get a lot of the same effects just by lowering the carbohydrates and substituting fat. I think it’s still fairly controversial as to is there an optimal level of fat in the diet? I think that a lot of the things that we’ve heard about fat should be less than 30%, saturated fat less than 10%, I think those are totally overstated. They’re extrapolations beyond the data. But I’m not necessarily in favor of 80% fat diet either. I know there’s a lot of keto people out there. I think that more of a macronutrient balance is a good approach. RDA for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day; I’m okay with that. I think it can create a very good balanced diet. You can balance that out 130 grams to 150 grams of protein, and then somewhere 60 grams to 90 grams of fat. That’s a pretty balanced diet without being extreme in any one of the macronutrients.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:20:36]

I think that that’s very good advice. One of the things that I really want the listener to take away is to be able to think about how they can create a meal pattern that serves them. Right now, so far, we are laying out the foundation for the initial and original research of this overstated 30 grams of dietary protein three times a day, and is it necessary for muscle protein synthesis? If it is why, and if it’s not, why not? The first thing that you said is that really all the studies are looking at that first meal. People are coming out of an overnight fast. So we do know that distribution of dietary protein must matter. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see the robust increase in muscle protein synthesis. Also, all the subsequent data has all looked at that first meal, not the second and not the last. It’s all looked at that first meal.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:21:39]

If we take that, and we go back to that first study about [Arno 0:21:44] that I mentioned, if you have a low protein diet, 56 grams per day, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, if you’re trying to hit a really low number, the data is pretty clear that you need to be sure you get one meal, whether that’s the first meal, middle meal, or last meal. In fact, [Arno 0:22:04] actually did it at the middle meal. They actually did it at noon. They had a 45-gram middle the day meal. Then the question becomes is if I’m going to add, so I’ve now got one meal with 45 grams, let’s say it’s dinner, if I’m going to add another 25 grams or 30 grams of protein to my diet, I’m going to go from 56 grams up to 90 grams per day, where should I put it? What I would argue is the research would tell you that adding it on top of the 45-gram meal is a mistake. You need to put it into the first meal. So to me, that’s the way to think about distribution is first, be sure you’ve got one meal that’s in the 45 range, fine. Then if you’re going to add more protein as you go higher, add it into a second meal. And again, there’s an upper threshold, 55, there’s pretty good data that going from 50 to 90 doesn’t net you anything, so then you should put it into another meal. And now we get into things like Luc van Loon’s data, where they put in a fourth meal before nighttime. There’s pretty good data that can increase muscle mass and strength by putting it in at a fourth meal. So again, it’s how you build the diet. But first for adults, you need to get at least one meal up into the 40 range.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:23:38]

The argument would be to start it at that first meal when you’re coming out of an overnight fast. There is layers to this because some data would suggest starting out in the morning and not necessarily pushing that first meal can impact circadian biology and circadian rhythms. I think from your perspective, would you like to see that first meal of the day have a robust amount of protein say, 45 grams, or do you not care? Are you happy with that first meal at noon with 45 grams?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:24:16]

I think the way to think about it is that as far as muscle protein synthesis, when you have a protein meal, you get about a two-and-a-half-hour anabolic window. And if you’re only doing that once a day, I don’t know if it matters whether it’s 8 am or 12 noon. [Arno 0:24:40], again, did noon. Your point is you’re catabolic when you come out of the overnight fast, but you’re still catabolic at noon. It’s the same difference, it’s just that you’re only going to get two and a half hours of an anabolic period per meal. I’m not sure it matters what time of the 24-hour cycle you put it in if you only have one. Obviously, if you have two, I’d spread it out. I’d have one, and you come out of the overnight fast, and I’ve had another one at seven o’clock at night, I’d spread them. If I went for three, noon, or nighttime, I don’t know of any data to pick one of those versus the other.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:25:28]

Basically, what you’re saying is, it doesn’t necessarily matter when, from your perspective, you’re having the dietary protein meal, but the amount matters. And it sounds as if the timing does matter because if you’re anabolic, and I think that this is really important to clarify for people, rather than us further confusing them. In my clinical practice, I used to say, I don’t care when people have that first meal. I no longer say that. I do think that as we begin to think more about circadian biology and layer in influences from the environment, I like to see my patients having a first meal of the day earlier on, maybe 90 minutes to two hours after waking, 45 grams to 50 grams of dietary protein. I am happy with that. They are coming out of an overnight fast. Let’s say they go train. They’re having a robust amount of protein. Then for my patients, depending on what they need, I don’t care so much about that middle meal. I would like it to be balanced from a macronutrient perspective. I think a high-quality protein being a protein forward meal plan, whether it’s 30 grams of dietary protein. Again, the question becomes what is the goal of that meal? Is it muscle protein synthesis? Do we know the impact of that second meal? And then of course, the evening meal, I do like to have a robust amount of dietary protein. Again, that could be 45 grams to 50 grams. So I know that there are two meals that are pretty robust, and that middle meal, that could be a lighter meal. Now, if an individual, Don, was having three meals a day, how would you think about, I guess, number one, is it necessary and beneficial? I think that we both agree that one meal a day is not ideal.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:27:32]

I’m trying to sort out some different people for you. I’m trying to sort out a vegetarian, someone who thinks that the RDA is the right target, 56 grams per day. I mean, that puts limits. You can’t have two meals with 30 grams if you only have 56 in the day. It’s a math issue, right? So there’s that group. There’s this other group that you and I have worked with, quote, patients, ours were overweight, people trying to lose weight, so they’re catabolic by definition, how do you protect them? And then there is the healthy 35-year-old who exercises every day, and can you really detect the difference? I think I would break it into groups. But to your point of if the person is under any sort of stress, aging, sedentary lifestyle, losing weight, or trying to gain muscle mass, I would have that first meal as soon after waking up as comfortable. We always had them eat their first meal with more than 35 grams of protein before 7am. So I agree. Can you do it in a 35-year-old who’s eating 150 grams of protein per day? Would you be able to detect the body composition difference within a month just by how they put it and what time their first meal was, I don’t think you’d ever detect it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:29:08]

That’s a good point, and it’s something that we haven’t touched about, and I don’t think we’ve actually ever discussed publicly. We should mention what muscle protein synthesis is, if it’s breakdown or synthesis that’s easy to be detected. These studies, what exactly are we measuring? Is it simply a biomarker of what we think we are measuring?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:29:36]

Protein synthesis is a form of a biomarker just like when you go to the clinic and you get cholesterol measured, and somebody tells you that’s a biomarker for something. Protein synthesis is the anabolic stage of building new protein. But what we know is during the day, that cycles. It particularly cycles in muscle. You have an anabolic period after a meal, and then it goes into a catabolic period. So you’re going back and forth with synthesis being higher than breakdown, and then synthesis being lower than breakdown, so your net catabolic, and that’s cycling all day long. Nighttime that we’ve been talking about is an extended period. So most people typically have around 12 hours between meals where within three hours after your last meal, you begin to go catabolic. So we’re spending an extended period during a catabolic period, which is why you and I both favor having fairly early first meal with protein in it. It’s just logical.

Is it a biomarker? The problem is it’s tracer study-based thing that we do. We can measure it, not super precisely, but it’s a good indicator. But after a protein meal, we might get 50% or 100% increase in protein synthesis. But if you just said, well, gee, that’s a huge increase in muscle protein, you can’t measure that in the next 14 days, even 20 days or a month in a healthy individual. It’s a biomarker that we use to measure everything from protein quality to meal distribution, and we think it’s the right one because it’s a very expensive process. Some estimates are that muscle protein synthesis burns up something like 25% of the calories in the body. It’s a very expensive where a breakdown is a trailing process and doesn’t require much, so most of us who do these studies believe that the body is regulating everything on the synthesis side, not on the breakdown side. But again, it’s definitely not a direct correlation that a little bit higher synthesis means you’re going to have X amount more muscle mass in 21 days. It’s just not a direct relationship.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:32:17]

That’s really important to point out because we do get so hyper focused on reasoning. What is the reason why we have this amount of protein dose? How can we design a diet that influences our metabolism and influences our triglycerides and influences our body composition? And oftentimes, in the literature, people will say it’s muscle protein synthesis. That’s not exactly correct. Muscle protein synthesis, like you so beautifully explained, is a biomarker of the amino acids doing what we believe that they should be doing and stimulating the body in that way, which, in turn, in part, may contribute to the protection of lean body mass, which I say not just skeletal muscle mass, but the protection of many things in the body; lean body mass, skeletal muscle mass, but it’s not a direct correlation.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:33:23]

It’s a key component. People, myself and others, who do these studies believe that it’s the right marker, but it doesn’t translate directly. Just because you had an increased protein synthesis for two hours after a breakfast meal, that doesn’t mean that a month later, you’re going to have a lot more muscle mass. It’s just not that clean of an answer.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:33:52]

But would you say that we do believe that it is a biomarker of the amino acids in the meal? So it’s actually a biomarker of meal quality.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:34:03]

Yeah, it’s a way that we measure quality of things. We measure meal distribution, protein quality, and total energy requirements. It’s a way that we measure those things, and we think that it gives us the right directional answer, but it’s not a quantitative answer. So we’re looking is, is this a good thing to do, or we think that’s a good indication. But you can’t say that 50% increase in protein synthesis is going to net you a pound of muscle.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:34:37]

Right, and that actually leads very nicely to this second meal conversation. You mentioned earlier that first meal, we know that the anabolic influence of a meal, of an appropriately-dosed protein meal, lasts about two and a half hours. There are other, for lack of a better term, machinery, like eIF4. There are other things that happen, which I would love for you to explain, as just a general oversight as to potentially why that second meal doesn’t necessarily matter as much or that we know doesn’t matter as much when it comes to dosing dietary protein.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:35:22]

There were a number of us who have studied this first meal effect on protein synthesis, and my lab and a couple of others, Mike Rennie, Phil Atherton, and my lab, Layne Norton, we all start to said, if that’s a stimulation of protein synthesis, how long does it last? We started measuring duration, and what we found was that protein synthesis in muscle will come back to baseline after about two and a half hours. As we looked a little deeper, we realized that, and we mentioned the mTOR signaling before, what mTOR does is when leucine goes up in the blood, it stimulates mTOR, this signaling complex, and that stimulates a series of machinery known as initiation factors, eIF4, the S6 ribosomal protein. It stimulates a number of things, which increase the machinery, increase protein synthesis. What we realized in studying this duration is that after two and a half hours, protein synthesis comes back to baseline, but all of the machinery is still stimulated. Leucine is still high in the blood, and it will still be high at four or five hours after a meal, depending on how much you ate. eIF4 is still simulated. mTOR is still simulated. S6 is still simulated. You’re not coming in to lunch, and all of the machinery still stimulate, but yet protein synthesis is down. What’s the effect? There’s good reason to think that it’s not going to be dependent on leucine.

We did a couple of studies where just giving a small amount of amino acids, or a small amount of even energy, actually would stimulate protein synthesis again. There’s this concept out there of muscle full, which is what I think Phil Atherton used, which we’ve actually always looked at as a refractory period, that once muscle has been active for two and a half hours, it needs to rest. It’s a very energy-dependent process. It’s depleting ATP and muscle, and it appears that there might be some safeguards against getting too low. Obviously, if you deplete all the ATP in your muscle, you can’t move. You fall over in a heap. So there may be some safeguards to how low ATP can go, and that’s what we actually published. We don’t know if that’s totally true. It hasn’t been repeated by another lab. But it makes sense. We know that there is this refractory period. That leads us into the noon meal. What should it be? No one’s ever really studied it. Assuming that it should be 30 grams, there’s no harm in that, but there’s no data to really back that either.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:38:34]

That’s really important to think about when you, at home, are designing a diet. Is there harm in having another robust meal with 30 grams of dietary protein? Absolutely not. Is there benefit above and beyond muscle protein synthesis? Absolutely. We’re talking about metabolic correction. We’re talking about replacement of carbohydrates. Some of the other things that we haven’t actually spoken about are what are the other influences that protein has on the body above and beyond muscle protein synthesis, as it relates to muscle turnover, protein turnover?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:39:11]

Before we leave that, I’d highlight one more way of thinking about it. If I have two meals, I have a 30-gram protein meal at breakfast, and I have a 20-gram protein meal at lunch, where should I put 15 more grams? I’d put it in breakfast. I would take breakfast to 45 as opposed to taking lunch at 35. So that, frankly, is how I would do it. So again, it’s how do you choose to distribute it? Again, if we’re talking about diabetes, and you’d like an even distribution, that’s another reason to make it even. I think there’ll be a bigger anabolic effect of bringing breakfast up to 45 than to bringing lunch up to 35.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:40:08]

The reason you’re saying that is because of it being the first meal of the day, overnight fast, having a robust amount to really optimize the machinery.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:40:20]

Right. All of the leucine effects are going to be most important at that meal. We don’t even know that leucine is important at the lunch meal. There’s no data that say it is. So having 20 grams at lunch might be just as effective as having 35 from a muscle protein synthesis standpoint; not from a metabolic, but from a protein synthesis. We know that breakfast is acutely sensitive to it, so I would lean toward maximizing that meal.


Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:40:59]

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I know what you have for breakfast. Why don’t you share what? You’ve had the same breakfast for easily 20 years.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:43:49]

Actually, I vary a little bit. The eggs and that approach does work, but I basically have a whey protein, yogurt with berries and milk shake five mornings a week with about 45 grams of protein in it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:44:14]

And he gets crazy. Sometimes it’ll be blueberries, and sometimes it’ll be strawberries. It could be a crazy berry mix.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:44:20]

I’m definitely hooked on blueberry, but I actually had it with lemon yogurt today, so that’s pretty nuts.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:44:26]

I’ve never seen that. I’ve actually never seen that.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:44:31]

Actually, blueberries and yogurt are a great combination, blueberries and lemon yogurt, I’m sorry.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:44:37]

Well, sounds like a great a great idea. You don’t vary, and is there a reason why you don’t vary? This is funny because again, Don is my best friend. I do know these answers, but for individuals who are listening, this is the guy that actually discovered these thresholds. They came out of his lab, and that becomes so fascinating to be able to speak to the individual that really put the science behind some of the things that we’re discussing. Is there a reason why you do a whey protein shake with yogurt and berries?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:45:13]

Whey is the highest concentration of leucine per calorie or per gram of protein. It’s almost 12% leucine, so you get the maximum effect for the fewest calories. It’s very bioavailable. It’s quickly digested. One of the questions I always get is people will say, well, if I have this protein shake, what period of time should I take it? Can I drink it over the next four hours? And the answer is no. The issue is you want leucine to come up in the blood fairly rapidly. So if you’re doing protein shakes, we always ask people to drink it within at least 30 minutes or less because you want the leucine level to get up in the blood. You need about a two and a half to three-fold increase in the blood level of leucine to see these effects. People will talk about slow-digesting proteins like casein. If you take 25 grams of whey protein, you’ll max out. You’ll stimulate leucine. But if you take 25 grams of casein that digest so much slower and has less leucine, you won’t get the same effect. So the protein quality does matter, and the digestibility matters, so I do it. We developed it during our weight loss studies. We wanted something that was convenient. We can do it with eggs and meat and things like that, but they all take more time. Most people are getting up in the morning, they’re dealing with kids, they’re getting ready for work, they’re trying to run out the door, and so a shake is something you can take with you; it’s portable. It was convenient, easy to do, and frankly, I’ve gotten used to it, and I like the taste.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:47:16]

There are a few very important things that you said. Consistency is key, and also knowing what your macros are going into the day, having it set up where you’re not guessing, where you’re not at the whim of going to a breakfast where potentially you don’t know exactly what they’re cooking, or how they’re doing it even if you can eyeball it. The other really important thing that you mentioned was this digestibility concept. Whereas a protein shake something with yogurt, Greek yogurt, whey protein, very fast to digest, meaning it gets into the bloodstream quick. It is not slowed by a lot of fat or fiber. Now, for the individual that is going to wake up and have eggs and some kind of fiber or more saturated fat, a truly robust meal, where that digests slower, maybe it takes two hours to digest, how can an individual think about that as it relates to–

Dr. Donald Layman [0:48:24]

That’s a great question, and I get that question once in a while. And again, there’s a kind of nuance to it. One, you have to get that leucine level two and a half to three-fold above. With a whey protein shake, you can do that within 15 or 20 minutes. You can also do it with a more mixed meal, as you described with more fat and fiber, which slows down digestion, but to do that, you’re probably going to have to have more protein in the meal. So again, we start talking about 45 grams or 50 grams of protein. And what you might see is that as opposed to peaking in 30 minutes, it might not peak till an hour, but it will still peak. And the data suggests you’ll get the same effect, but chances are you’ll need more total protein to get that effect. Again, if you use something like whey versus casein, both at 25 grams, you will not get the same effect from the casein to stimulate protein synthesis, both because it has lower leucine, but also because it just won’t get the leucine to that high enough level because it digests too slowly. So again, when you start talking about a mixed meal, fiber, fat those things do slow down digestion. They slow down gastric emptying. That means you probably need to increase the amount of protein. Again, 45 grams or 50 grams is a good target.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:49:59]

You had mentioned that there would potentially be no benefit to go above 50 grams, but really what you’re talking about is there may be no benefit to muscle above 50 grams. As opposed to thinking about dietary protein as a whole, there may of course be benefits, which again, goes back to quite a bit of nuances in this conversation. Does it matter if an individual is male or female when it comes to these numbers?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:50:31]

It’s a great question. On the first cut of answering that, body composition, protein is based on weight. Women tend to be smaller than men, so just simply on that. But if we actually had the potential to look at lean body mass, protein should be based on lean body mass. The numbers we talk about make an assumption that lean body mass is about 75% of body weight. So based on that, women have a little less lean mass per weight. They have a little more body fat, 5% to 10% more than men. So theoretically, they’d need a little less protein, but I’ve never seen that actually measured well. So again, first cut, they’re simply smaller. Protein is 1.5 grams per kilogram body weight, and they’re smaller. They also have a little less lean body mass, so technically, they should need a little bit less.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:51:41]

But would you say that is really an overall number versus a meal distribution number?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:51:48]

Yeah, that’s a total amount per day. The RDA is 0.8 grams per kg, and you and I talk about 1.2 to 1.8. We’ve always used the same number for men and women. We go to 1.5 and 1.6, and we use it the same. The one thing that we do adjust for is how overweight you are. So we always tailor it toward what we would consider more of an ideal body weight. If you have someone whose ideal body weight would be 150 pounds, and they weigh 250, we don’t base the protein on 250. We base it on 150.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:52:38]

Yeah, and that’s really important as it relates to thinking about how much protein an individual needs, which, again, we mentioned that the RDA is 0.8 grams per kg. Don typically recommends 1.2 grams to 1.8 grams per kg. I may even go higher, which he cringes at often at 2.2 grams per kg, which ends up being one gram per pound ideal body weight. Again, this also depends on where you are metabolically, how many calories you need. Are you older? Are you suffering with obesity? Do you have a chronic illness? Are you an athlete? There are all kinds of reasons why you would adjust that protein amount, but definitely a minimum that an individual would shoot for, ideally, interestingly, would be almost double the RDA.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:53:33]

Yeah, we know that if you look at the studies in the literature, that 0.8 grams per kg, that minimum RDA simply isn’t correct for most adults. Almost every study that’s ever been run that looks at 0.8 grams per kg versus even 1.2, 1.2 is always better. As you get from 1.2 up to 2.2, we don’t have a lot of great studies showing the difference between each of those levels. I don’t have a problem with going to 2.2. I don’t have a problem with going to 2.5 if you have a particular reason to do it. But from a pure standpoint of muscle protein synthesis, there’s no good data that shows that 2.2 is better than 1.8.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:54:27]

Right. And that’s important, again, from a muscle perspective is 2.2 better than 1.8? Likely, it’s not. The next question would be what are you filling in? You have to get calories. Are you going to choose carbohydrates? Are you going to choose proteins? Are you going to choose fat? I think that it truly is up to the individual as to what those goals are in nutrient density.

Dr. Donald Layman [0:54:54]

Does the protein help you with satiety? There’s all kinds of legitimate reasons to go higher, but again, if you’re just asking the pure science about if I go from 1.8 up to 2.2, am I going to have bigger muscles? No.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:55:13]

It’s interesting when you see individuals or have you seen in the literature those with more protein-deficient diets who then increase their protein, does an individual require a stimulus to actually put on muscle? Do you require both exercise and dietary protein? Or is it safe to say an individual just increasing dietary protein will put on muscle without a stimulus?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:55:45]

Again, nuance. I think if you’re an adult who’s down around 0.8, I think increasing your protein to 1.5, you can actually put on lean body mass and probably muscle mass. If you’re relatively active and already eating 1.5 or going to 1.8, put on more muscle mass, I would say no. So again, if you’re low, adding more protein can be quite beneficial.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:56:19]

And that brings us very nicely to this conversation of vegetarian diets. We talked about whey protein. We really talked about high-quality protein, which for individuals who are curious what high-quality proteins are, they are typically animal based in nature. Again, this is a non-emotional conversation. It’s really based on hard, fast biological numbers that are based on an amino acid profile. When an individual is more vegetarian or plant-based and would like to swap out a plant-based protein for a whey protein or yogurt, does that plant-based protein have the same effect? If not, how would an individual navigate that to ensure that they’re getting the correct amino acid or the correct amount of protein?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:57:12]

Again, subsets of that answer. One of the studies that has been a lot that we’ve done that many other people have is looking at whey protein, which we’ve talked about versus soy protein. They’re both come as protein isolates. They’re both highly pure. They’re both readily bioavailable. They’re easily digested. What you’ll find is that 25 grams of whey protein will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and it takes about 32 of soy protein. There’s about a 20% difference that you need a higher amount of soy protein. Soy protein has all the amino acids in it, but again, they’re there for the sake of the plant. They’re not there for you. Where when you take an animal protein, they’re there for biological benefit of animals. So they’re perfectly balanced for humans, where the plant proteins are there for the balance of plants. Roots, stems, and flowers are different than hearts, brains, arms, and legs. You can do it, but it always requires more.

The problem, and when we look in the literature, what we find is that most vegetarians decrease the amount of protein. The average American is eating 80 grams to 90 grams of protein per day, which is above the RDA, but the average vegetarian is eating around 60 grams. So they’re decreasing the quantity and also the quality at the same time. We’re actually involved in doing a lot of modeling right now. Currently, as I mentioned, the average American has around 80 grams to 90 grams of protein, women versus men, in their diet, and it’s around 60% animal protein. So 30% of our calories, we get 60% of our protein in it. As you decrease that, there’s a threshold where the minimum RDA won’t work. We’re modeling that at the moment. But if you get down to less than 20% animal protein in the diet, the RDA simply isn’t adequate anymore. You have to increase it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:59:48]

Do you think that there is going to be a time that that’s reflected in the guidelines?

Dr. Donald Layman [0:59:53]

Wow, we can only pray that would somehow surface. But the political pressures from the food industry, they love selling cheap plant protein, so that’s my political announcement for the day, my soapbox. I hope so. I think there’s a beginning realization, if you look at the USDA and look at a lot of the MyPlate guidelines, none of them use the RDA as the guide. They’re all using above 1 gram per kg in their models. So while nobody’s talking about it, they’re at least beginning to model it correctly. I would hope that that’s the case. We’re even seeing some of that in the World Health Organization, which has traditionally been against animal protein, to realize now that if you get below 50% animal protein in the diet, you probably aren’t getting adequate amino acids, and you’re probably not getting adequate nutrients, B 12, calcium, zinc, selenium, B6, et cetera. So there’s a nutrient density aspect of it. It doesn’t mean you can’t create a balanced diet, but it means you need a lot more knowledge and a lot more time to get it right. Right now, Americans get 80% of their plant-based protein from wheat, which is extremely poor-quality protein. I mentioned that with whey protein, you can get a leucine effect, a muscle effect with 25 grams. 32 grams of soy, it takes over 40 grams of wheat protein to get to that level. So it’s a very poor-quality protein. So if Americans are going to become more plant protein oriented, they’re going to have to learn to eat very different plant proteins than they currently do.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:01:55]

That’s an interesting perspective. As individuals age, they typically require less calories. They’re not necessarily as active, or even if they were, and if an individual were to move in a plant-based direction, then how would it be possible to begin to make up for the food matrix from those high-quality dietary proteins? It’s concerning because it’s above and beyond just simply macronutrients. We’re not just talking about carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. We are talking about the overall nutrient requirements these bioactive compounds that are highly complex and integrated above the diet beyond just talking about those traditional bodybuilding diets, which is chicken breast and rice. I don’t know what the equivalent of that would be in a plant forward diet, but it really is devoid of these other critical nutrients that we know of.

Dr. Donald Layman [1:03:05]

I was going to answer your question, but then you mentioned bioavailability, and that changed my answer. I mean, you’re right. As we get older, and I will vouch for this, we need fewer and fewer calories. We have the same nutrient needs or probably even more, higher nutrient needs because we’re less efficient with the nutrients. We’re not as efficient in how our metabolism works. We need at least the same amount in a lot fewer calories, so nutrient density becomes an absolute issue. That’s one of the plant-based problems is that the plant-based foods just simply aren’t as nutrient dense. Now you start having to talk about supplements. Okay, we can get vitamin and mineral supplements. You’re going to have to take processed protein. You’re going to have to take isolates, okay. But that means you’re basing your diet around ultra processed foods and what form those take versus natural foods of eggs, milk, fish, and things like that. So all of that in the long term, we don’t really have data on. We don’t know that that’s healthier. Then you mentioned bioavailability. We know that vitamin A from animal sources is more than twice as active as from coming from a plant source. We know that B6, pyridoxal phosphate, is more than twice as effective as it comes from pyridoxine, from a plant source. We know that vitamin D is more than twice as effective when it comes from an animal source. We know that iron is probably almost three-fold more bioavailable, more digestible from an animal source, calcium. All of those things come into play. They’re just not the same.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:05:04]

There are two things that leads me to think about. Number one, there’s a lot of discussion in the longevity space of reducing animal products, even reducing dietary protein as a way to extend longevity. And my fear is that is very myopic in a way of thinking, and in no way, when we say globally, okay, well, we’re going to reduce our dietary protein, does that mean below the RDA, which we already know is the minimum, where the data would suggest that individuals require at least, those individuals that are getting 1.2 grams per kg in multiple biomarkers, do better than less? Do you have a perspective? There’s two folds to this question. Number one is do you have a perspective on the conversation of longevity? And then number two, I recognize that we didn’t talk about that last meal going into an overnight fast and how one would consider thinking about that last meal. So I’d love for you to kick it off about longevity, and then pivot over to thinking about that last meal.

Dr. Donald Layman [1:06:19]

You and I definitely have a perspective of muscle-centric health in that as we get older, maintaining mobility, maintaining activities of daily life, keeping your blood glucose in check, maintaining your blood, triglycerides, all of the things that healthy muscles help you do is critical. So you weigh that against the idea of longevity. What is longevity? Are people thinking you’re going to live to 120? Or is the goal really to be a healthy, active, viable 95? I think those are things that people confuse. If you look at the longevity study, the data is all based on two things. One is epidemiology, which you and I make fun of routinely. But basically, it’s really crappy data. Basically, they’ll take one food record, they’ll ask somebody what they ate yesterday, and then they’ll translate that into 25 years later, and they say, well, he had a heart attack. Well, I didn’t need the same thing yesterday that I ate today or tomorrow. It’s just nonsense, in my opinion.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:07:35]

Well for breakfast you did.

Dr. Donald Layman [1:07:37]

Breakfast, yeah. For me, I’m weird, but anyway. The issue is you and I would look at how people eat, and there are people who eat three meals a day at fast food restaurants in very unhealthy excess calorie conditions. And oh, by the way, there are some red meat or eggs in that diet. I would argue it’s not the red meat in the sandwich. It was the bun and the French fries and the sodas that actually made it unhealthy. But the correlation shows up as the meat. So I think the epidemiology of longevity is very suspect. The other part is animal studies. The problem with the animal studies in longevity is the laziness of the investigators. Basically, the way they do these studies is they’ll take a series of rats or mice or whatever, and they’ll put them on an aging study, which lasts two and a half years. And basically, in one group, they’ll restrict them. So we’ve got one group doing what we call ad libitum feeding. As you probably remember from my laboratory, ad libitum-fed rats eat 24 hours a day. If you go in and look inside their stomach, in the middle of their nighttime, it’s totally full. They’re absorptive. We’ve already talked about lots of small meals every day. That’s not a healthy thing to do.

Basically, what we now know is that if you restrict calories, or if you restrict protein, the animals will live longer. Well, what you’re doing is actually just normalizing them. Once you begin to restrict them, they shift from being ad libitum-fed to now meal feeding. They will eat their meal, and then fast until the next time you’re fed. And so now we’ve created meal feeding. We know that meal feeding is better than grazing all day long. So to me, the two pieces of data that go into the longevity data are both not very reliable. They’re both really bad pieces of data. On the other hand, we know that having healthy muscles in terms of diabetes and heart disease, in terms of survival from cancer, in terms of not falling and breaking a hip is probably the most beneficial health thing you can do. I would much rather focus on having adequate protein and healthy muscles and being a healthy 95 than being a very unhealthy 105.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:10:19]

Yeah. That’s really well said. We’ve discussed this. If you guys are interested to hear more about the nuances as it relates to some of these longevity experts, you can go back to one of the other videos that we’ve done. We’ve talked about it quite frequently. I do think that it’s important because the push for longevity really seems to have taken off, which is fascinating. I often think, is it because individuals are afraid of death? Or is it because we’re now starting to see aging parents? What is it, and how do we course correct potentially patterns of behavior as it relates to eating and exercise? There are some very simple things that individuals can do. I would say number one is understanding that the amount of total protein that you eat during the day is critical. That can be 1.2 grams per kg up to 2.2 grams per kg, then distributing it throughout the day.

Don and I have talked really in depth about that first meal. Potentially, that middle meal doesn’t matter for muscle protein synthesis. But if you are working on getting enough protein during the day, if you are working towards metabolic correction, if you have a chronic condition or are an athlete, there’s a whole host of reasons why getting a robust 30 gram or more second meal would be perfectly adequate. Pivoting to that last meal, I’ll just let you take the floor on what you think about that last meal. I know you’re going to say, it depends on what your other two meals were. But for argument’s sake, how do you think about that last meal?

Dr. Donald Layman [1:12:05]

Just before we leave the longevity, long term health, I think that the data is really good, that physical activity. You need a routine physical active lifestyle. It needs to include some resistance exercise of some form. That might be yoga in your case, or it could be weightlifting. We know that excess calories are a huge problem, and we know about adequate protein. Those three things are the things that you should keep in mind, keeping calories in check, and that probably means both carbohydrates and fat, getting your protein adequate and having exercise. Let’s see, your last meal, I assume you mean that a dinner meal versus the meal before bedtime.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:12:56]

I do. I mean dinner.

Dr. Donald Layman [1:12:58]

I like having a large meal per day. I think one meal that’s up in the 55-gram range, maxing the system, 60, if you prefer. I don’t know, in terms of any particular upper number. I like the balance of protein and carbohydrates throughout the day. We always look at teaching a one-to-one balance. If my breakfast meal has 45 grams of protein in it, I usually target about 30 grams of carbohydrate in my breakfast. If my dinner meal has 55, I think you could probably go to 55 grams of carb. I like to keep that ratio. I think that from a post-meal response, insulin and everything, I think that ratio makes some sense. That’s how we teach it. I think for most people, it’s a lot easier to get vegetables and things into bigger meals. Again, I don’t care whether the big meal is at lunch or dinner frankly. I usually tell people spreading them between breakfast and dinner again, if you’re under stress, but I grew up on a farm where the big meal of the day was the middle meal. I don’t think there was anything unhealthy about that. So again, I think having a big meal, presumably at night is fine. I usually will have more protein in it and partly just because it’s convenient. I don’t think there’s any particular merit to having 60 at dinner versus 60 at breakfast, frankly, but I like having the last meal fairly satiating. I want it to have enough protein and fats, fiber so that you’re not hungry in two more hours before bed.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:15:06]

And just to clarify, you’re not saying that individuals should follow the standard American diet pattern, which is 10 grams of dietary protein at that first meal, and that second meal is maybe 20 grams, and then that last meal is 60. What you’re really saying is that an earlier meal should have 45 grams. If you are thinking about what your total protein intake should be, the way to structure would be, say, earlier meal would have around 45 grams. And then if you didn’t want to have a large second meal, that you could easily put a dinner meal or that last meal to have 55 or so grams of dietary protein. Is that correct?

Dr. Donald Layman [1:15:53]

Yeah. The typical American has less than 10 grams of protein and over 75 grams of carbs in that breakfast meal. As far as I’m concerned, that is a prescription for Type 2 diabetes. That is awful. I used to tease that the average American is eating Dean Ornish’s diet for breakfast, the Zone diet for lunch, and the keto diet for dinner. It’s no wonder the bodies are confused. We talked about consistency and circadian rhythms and things earlier. If you eat in a totally chaotic manner, your body and metabolism is going to be chaotic, too.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:16:35]

In some of your earlier studies, you even showed that those that were isocaloric, I know because I was on the back end of having to do some of this work, which I don’t even want to remind myself, as an undergrad, by the way, you get to do a lot of the work and you never get your name on the paper. I just think that potentially, if you are an academic professor, this is just a public service announcement, you may reconsider this. One of the things that you showed so elegantly was that if individuals were eating too isocaloric, that the diets were isocaloric, meaning they both had say 1,600 calories or 1,800 calories, just by changing the macronutrients at breakfast from a higher carbohydrate to a higher protein ultimately had very significant positive metabolic implications. I think that might have been started with Jamie Boehm. Perhaps this was a 2006 study that I think was very interesting and very easy to read, I’m slightly biased, I’ve probably read it 2,700 times, was simply by again, changing, not the calories, the calories matter, we do need to account for calories, but ultimately, by changing the distribution of when you are having your macronutrients really plays a role. What you showed was that by swapping out a high-carbohydrate breakfast for a high-protein breakfast, that individuals lost more weight, lost more quality of weight, meaning fat, had better triglycerides, had better blood pressure, a whole host of things that really improved. I think it’s so simple, and it’s free to do just by leveraging knowledge that we’re talking about here, and that’s really important.

Dr. Donald Layman [1:18:32]

These were weight loss studies. Everybody in both arms of this study had exactly 1,700 calories, so they were isocaloric. They basically both had the same dinners, which was interesting. The one group was following the food guide pyramid as best we could teach it. So they had a high carb, low protein breakfast, low protein lunch, and a reasonable balanced dinner. The other group had essentially the same, maybe slightly tweaked lower carb. But what we did was in the first two meals, we substituted out about 60 grams of carbohydrate for 60 grams of protein. What we showed was that they lost more weight, body fat, less lean mass, we corrected glycemic regulations and lowered their triglycerides. We increased their HDLs. So across the board, every biomarker got healthier just by swapping out 60 grams of carbs for 60 grams of protein in those first two meals.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:19:42]

That’s critical, because again, you took the model of a standard American diet, which potentially you were restricting calories, but still just making the subtle shifts of macronutrients really changed the trajectory of an individual’s weight Loss. I think that we could probably talk forever, which we won’t. I do want to ask you one final question, where does exercise fit in as it relates to pushing this lever of protecting, maintaining muscle health and metabolism? Of course, this in and of itself is a whole other podcast, which we’ll do a part two and part three and all the parts. But yeah, can you frame that?

Dr. Donald Layman [1:20:30]

Exercise is critical. Muscle, frankly, responds more to exercise than it does to diet. You and I have now spent an hour talking about protein. But resistance exercise and an aerobic exercise too are critical to muscle health. If I was going to put them on a scale, assuming you’re not protein deficient, assuming you’re not 0.8 or less, assuming you’re up in the 1.2 or something, exercise probably has 75% of the effect on healthy muscle and diet, 25%. If you’re trying to be an athlete and gain muscle mass, you’re only going to really do it by having resistance exercise and the strength. If you’re an older adult, and you’re trying to gain strength, you need exercise. Just eating protein won’t do it, unless you’re too low. We mentioned that if you’re below 1 gram per kg, if you’re down around the RDA, going higher will be a benefit. But if you’re at 1.5, you’re not going to get that much better by going to 1.8. But adding more resistance exercise is a big deal. So if we look at the mechanisms inside of the muscle, what we know is that mTOR signal that we briefly touched on is sensitive to leucine, but it’s also very sensitive to resistance exercise, to stress. A molecule known as red 1 is a trigger that is related, and exercise inhibits that which allows mTOR to be more responsive. One of the things I always tell vegetarians and vegans is that if you’re going to be really low protein, then you darn well better be careful about having higher levels of resistance exercise because that’s your only saving grace for protecting muscle.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:22:28]

One of the other aspects that we think about is that 100% of people have to eat, you might as well nail that piece. 100% of people have to eat, whereas the evidence suggests that there’s 24%, 25% of adults are meeting their requirements for both resistance training and cardiovascular activity, so most people are not meeting the needs of activity. While that is critical and arguably more impactful from a whole body perspective, the majority of people are not doing enough.

 Dr. Donald Layman [1:23:07]

You’re 100% right that for most people, it’s much more in their strike zone to change their diet than to change their exercise.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:23:19]

We will eventually get to exercise. But again, having you on to lay out some fundamental changes is incredibly helpful and critical for the listener. Again, you guys, I strongly encourage you to go back and listen to some of our other podcasts, I’m sorry, YouTube videos. If you want to get recipes for dietary protein, you can sign up for my 30g’s. Now you know where the name came from. I will include all the links to Don here. And as I had mentioned before, my book, Forever Strong is coming out October 17th. It’s on presale now. It is fully dedicated to my best friend and mentor of a lifetime, Don Layman. So thank you so much for coming on.

Dr. Donald Layman [1:24:12]

My pleasure to join you as always.


Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:24:16]

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