How to Kickstart Your Metabolism

Podcast Episode #018: How to Kickstart Your Metabolism

After the age of about 30 most people notice their metabolism slowly begin to turn off. Little by little it becomes easier to pack on a few extra pounds and gets harder to shed that excess weight.

Are we all doomed to lose the metabolism battle as we age?

No way! There are simple strategies you can start using today that will boost your metabolism and help you maintain a lean, strong body even as you age.

How to Kickstart Your Metabolism [Full Text]

This week I have an amazing question from Brian G. in Vancouver. Let's dive right in.

Brian says,

"I just turned 42 this year and I've noticed a huge drop off in my metabolism. Nothing in my life has changed, but I've been slowly gaining a pound here and a pound there for at least 5 years. I'm scared to know where this is headed. Is there anything I can do to restart my metabolism?"

Brian, thanks so much for the question and I know this is something that pretty much everyone, possibly at the age of 30, is going to deal with. Our metabolism slowly starts to slow down, and that's when the weight starts to creep on, but there is good news. There are things we can do in our life to help slow down, stop, and reverse that process.

Today I'm really excited because I have a very special guest. He's a New York Times best-selling author. He's an expert when it comes to nutrition and healthy living. He has an upcoming book that's talking exactly this topic about firing up your metabolism and losing weight when it feels like nothing's going to to work.

I'm really excited to introduce you to Yuri Elkaim as our special guest today.

All right Yuri, thanks so much for joining us today.

Yuri: Happy to be here.

Dave: Maybe just to start off, you could tell us a little bit about yourself. Obviously I've read up on your story. You've got a pretty interesting story about how you got into specifically nutrition, but maybe you can tell the listeners a little bit about your background?

Yuri: Yeah, sure. I grew up most of my life playing soccer. That was my soul purpose in ... I thought that was my soul purpose in life was to play soccer. During my teens, I was committed to playing soccer, and training and being the best I could be, so that I could play professionally, and I was able to that in my early 20s for a couple of years, which was awesome.

Then I realized, you know what? I don't really feel like playing professionally...I don't feel like playing soccer anymore. There was just a bigger calling, which is what I'm doing now. But kind of during that time when I was 17, I had a lot of health issues like asthma, eczema, really low energy, digestive problems, and when I was 17, that kind of all culminated in my losing my hair in a space of 6 weeks. So, the last year of high school, I had long brown hair, bushy eyebrows, the whole bit, then it was gone in a space of like a month and a half.

For about 8 years, had no solutions. The Doctors didn't know what was going on. It basically was an autoimmune condition called alopecia. All they wanted to do was inject my head with cortisone. I was like no thanks. It took me about 8 years to eventually come full circle, and come back to school to study holistic nutrition.

Before that, I went to the University of Toronto, and I got my degree in kinesiology and health sciences. I had a really good understanding of bio-mechanics and physiology, and athletic conditioning, but I was still pretty clueless on the nutrition side, which eventually was the reason for all my health conditions, because I was eating terrible foods for a long time.

When I was 25, I came back and studied holistic nutrition, and that was a big big catalyst for myself, and I was able to regrow my hair, even though now, you can tell I don't have any. It kind of comes and goes in waves over time, but that was a huge catalyst in terms of just waking me up. In terms of understanding that nutrition plays huge part to...not only performance, but health as well. That's kind of how it all started.

Then I started as a personal trainer. Then I got a little bit tired of working one on one. What I really wanted to help a lot more people. My mission is to help ten million people in just live health, fit lives by 2018.

I think in 2006, 2007, I had to figure out this internet thing to some degree. It took me a little bit of time to get some traction, but it's been awesome.

Dave: Can we just rewind in your story there? You talked about diet, sort of, back then, you were eating junk. What does that look like because I know you're a healthy guy now, so it's all perspective.

Yuri: That's true. It's not fanatical, I still have some of those food. My nemesis is pizza, so I'm just like, you know what, I just have it occasionally. Growing up, up until my early 20s, I was eating copious amounts of cereal, breads, pastas, cheese, and very few fruits and vegetables. Hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, anything that was easy to throw into an oven or microwave, that's pretty much what I was eating for almost two decades. It's no wonder the body eventually rebels.

Dave: It's interesting because the way those foods are marketing, or marketed ... I actually use to be in food marketing, so I was on the evil side of trying to convince people that stuff was healthy when it wasn't.

Cereal in particular, it's got that health halo like Vector. I remember as a teenager thinking I'm doing myself a favour by eating this bowl of vector. Then you realize, it's the opposite.

Yuri: Well it's funny, when I was ... this is almost a decade ago now, I was actually invited to a big ad agency in Toronto to help them re-brand Vector cereal. I remember sitting in this room with all these creatives, and the went full out. They decked the whole room in sports paraphernalia just to get everyone into the grove, and it was very interesting to see, from an advertising perspective, how they go about messaging and branding a product, which I'm cedar pretty well versed in, but it was a very interesting experience.

Dave: It's almost when you get that curtain pulled back and you realize there's a lot of shady messaging going on. It's a little bit scary.

Yuri: Yeah, just a little bit.

What Can Be Done to Kickstart a Person's Falling Metabolism?

Dave: Today, we talked a little bit before, but we have a question from Brian, and just to kind of sum it up for all the listeners, Brian saying he just turned 42 and really notices over the last maybe, 4 or 5 years, his metabolism is slowly been shutting down. He keeps on gaining pound of weight here, a pound of weight there. He said ... basically his words were, "I'm scared of where I'm headed", and when you first read that message, what came to mind right away?

Yuri: It's amazing how many people are in the same boat. My specialties lie in two areas really. Having a lot more energy, and helping you burn fat and get in great shape.

On the weight lose, the fat burning side, I noticed so many men and women, they've exercised, they eat well, and they've tried everything, yet noting is working. Especially women, but men as well. For me it's tough to answer the question sometimes, because as you said earlier, when people say "I've been eating well", I don't necessarily know what that means. Or, I've been exercising regularly. I don't really know what that entails, right? A lot of what I do is dispelling myths and kind of clearing a lot of the nonsense out there and getting people clear cut answers that save them time and a lot of headaches and stuff.

What does "I'm eating well" mean to you? How are you fuelling your body?

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I understand his frustration, and it's kind of tough to answer that question without understanding like what is he eating on a regular basis? What is he doing activity wise? What is his stress like? How's he managing that? All of those things will impact his physiology.

Like internally, his hormones, his endocrine system, levels of toxicity. These are the underlying things like invisible forces that are preventing people from losing weight. Part of the reason over time we start to kind of add a pound or two every year without really noticing it, and all of a sudden, it's like a decade later, we're 20 pounds overweight.

I think it's a really common place for you, like if you have a high school reunion, or a university college reunion, or you see some of your classmates from 10 or 15 years ago, all of a sudden, they're 30 pounds heavier than they were before, it's the little things that build up over time. It's the constant sitting. It's the small indulgences every single day, whether it's a can of coke, or whatever it is, like little things over time add up. It's not like one big event that puts on 30 pounds, but it's the small little habits that become very tough to break because they are routine habits that we do on a regular basis.

It's the little things that build up over time. What are YOUR "little things" going to add up to?

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I found that it's really all about momentum. If you get into the grove of ... let's just use the example of having one Coke a day ... so if you have a Coke a day, mid-afternoon, while your working, because you're tired, and you need a little bit of a pick me up, just that one coke a day, if you do that, day in and day out for a whole year, you're going to be easily packing on a couple of pounds, everything else being equal.

Even if nothing else changed, even if you're exercising, even if you're eating well, and you do that one little thing, over time, that's going to make a difference. That's obviously not the difference you want to make, but it's about recognizing, what are those little habits that are standing in our way, and in order to change those habits, there's going to be a good amount of energy required to change the momentum.

It's like trying to get up early in the morning, it's tough at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It's really about riding that momentum. It's about understanding that anything you want to do, whatever change it is you want, is challenging. It's very very tough at first, but you have to understand that and go into that realizing that's going to be challenging because if you think it's going to be easy from day one, the likelihood of you sticking with those change or those small little habits is going to be very difficult.

I don't know if that really answered the question, but I think ... again, it's tough to give a concrete answer without knowing exactly what foods, what type of exercise plan they're following, how they're managing their stress. Those are really important factors. I think we look at the small things we do on a daily basis, it can definitely make a huge difference over time.

Dave: Just to kind of recap, there's a lot of really important advice there.

Just a couple of things you said is, number one, building some momentum and starting with small steps to build momentum over time. Then looking at it as habit formation as oppose to instant one eighty degree shift in lifestyles.

Kind of what you're saying there, right?

Yuri: Yeah, absolutely.

Dave: We don't know. Brian didn't send over his meal plan or his exercise plan, so we don't know his specifics, but can you speak in general, where are some places that people can start, or even uncover some places they could start focusing on tweaking some habits?

Yuri: My upcoming book The All-Day Fat Burning Diet talks essentially, because it's all about resetting your metabolism, and it's specifically geared towards those who have eaten well or followed other diets, or exercise properly, and still can't lose the weight.

I talk about six fat triggers that are causing people to gain this weight. Some of them are a little more overt, others are little more hidden, but I think a couple of the big ones are allergenic foods.

The Role of Stress and Fat Storage

We have to understand that we have a tough time losing weight when our body is in a stressed out state. I'm not talking about stressed out like mentally, like financially, stuff like that. Stress can be mental, physical, emotional, food, anything. When we're constantly stressed out, our bodies going to pump out cortisol. Cortisol is somewhat of a protective hormone around our cells to be able to deal with everything that's going on in life.

The problem is when our brain perceives that we are kind of in a stressed out, fight or flight state chronically, that's the signal to the brain saying, we're not to sure going to survive. Our brain, our body's still the same as it was when we first walked the earth. Now, what's it's trying to do is, it's trying to protect itself. It's trying to survive. When that happens, we're looking to store fat as opposed to burning. We're going to slow things down. Slow our metabolism down to conserve energy as opposed to expend it.

That's a really important understanding for people to have because when you're eating foods like dairy, gluten, sugar, allergenic foods that create inflammation inside the body, it'll create the release of different cytokines and different inflammatory molecules inside the body. Again, those are forms of stress because the body's going to see those as problems. It's going to increase it's output of cortisol, and then we're going to have that whole sequence happen again.

Eating sugar, dairy, gluten, processed foods cause inflammation. This is a stress on your body and can lead to weight gain.

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What I tend to recommend for all of my nutrition stuff is eat a clean hypoallergenic diet. Basically remove the gluten, remove the dairy, focus on eating real foods from mother nature. If you're having animal foods, do your best to make sure they're organic, or pasture raised, or free run. All those things that we want.

Over time if we're eating toxins, if we're getting a lot of big food proteins, our bodies have a tough time assimilating, those are all stressors on the body that can do a build up of damage over time that is going to force our body to store fat.

Those are some of the big ones. Sugar is a huge one as well. Sugar is terrible. It's one of the worst things we can have in our bodies. That as a general rule of thumb, we really want to avoid that.

Those are a couple of baseline foods to really think twice about ... again, its' not about ... again, some people have different perspectives on this, I'm a little bit more libertarian, again, as I said earlier, I like having the occasional pizza, has both dairy and gluten in it, but ...

Dave: And copious amounts.

Yuri: Exactly, but for me where I'm at in my life, and kind of the advice I give is little more balanced approach as opposed to it's like it's all or none.

Some people are all or none. That's not me, but it's got to be at least 80/20. 80 good, 20 maybe 20, maybe 15, maybe 10 would be better, I'm a little bit more liberal.

Your diet doesn't have to be "all or nothing" - Use the 80/20 rule for great results

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You have to find an approach that's going to work for you, because at the end of the day, if you're doing something that's so restrictive and deprivational, you're going to rebel against that. You have to find an approach that works for you. That's tasty, is lighting up those rewards centres in your brain, but is also good for you at the same time.

It's a constant daily experiment of trying new things, figuring out what's going to work, what isn't, and do your best to stick with that.

Dave: I was going to say, sort of in a spectrum of healthy eating, it's easy to say to someone to cut out dairy and gluten, and for some people, that might be a very easy shift. For someone else, every single meal could be full of glutenis products, and that would be a huge shift.

I want to get your opinion on exercise. Brian once again is talking about speeding up his metabolism. You started talking about stress and a lot of people don't equate exercise as being an actual stressor on the body. What would you say to someone who's in his position? Metabolism slowing down. They might be suffering from stress. How do you incorporate exercise?

What Style of Exercise is Best For Boosting Metabolism?

Yuri: Exercise is a form of stress. Basically the more you do, the more you're going to stress your body out. Typical example to use is why is it that most pro-athletes don't last past 35? There's very few of them, right?

The reason is because it's a wear and tear situation where it's you can't constantly push your body without it eventually pushing back and breaking down. Even most pro-athletes before 35 look like their 40 or 45. Just based on that free radical damage and the oxidative stress that they undergo with all that training and competition.

Look at that as an extreme, and then understand that there's sort of types of exercise that are going to much more beneficial to your metabolism. I'm a real big porponate of focusing on building strength. Even if you're a woman or man, the focus other words, needs to be on strength.

Want to lose weight? Focus your exercise efforts on strength training

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That's important because when we look at metabolism, metabolism, your basal metabolic rate accounts for 75 percent of the calories you burn every single day. That is the passive fat lose if you want to think of it that way.

Most people, unfortunately focus on the short term act of fat lose. Which is like, I'm going to go on the treadmill, I'm going to kill myself for thirty minutes until I burn 750 calories. You do that over and over again, you're going to break your body down. Plus that one little bout of activity on the treadmill is a very short term caloric benefit. You're going to burn those calories. You might burn a couple after the workout, then it's done.

Cardio has zero impact on your metabolism. What it actually does, numerous times have shown, the more cardio you do, the more determent it has on your thyroid gland, which is your master metabolism gland. We know that marathon runners and people that spend a lot of time doing different cardio activities, specifically running, have lower levels of T3, which is the active thyroid hormone, which is responsible for how fast or slow your metabolic rates are going to be. Which is huge.

Cardio has zero impact on your metabolism.

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We also know that cardio is going to suppress growth hormone and testosterone, both very important hormones for lean muscle mass, and it increases cortisol. It's basically doing everything we don't want hormonally, even though it's showing maybe 750 calories burned on the treadmill.

We want to shift that, and say if we want to do cardio, let's do it but in shorter amounts, and less volume. I like to recommend interval training or burst training as some people call it. Where's it like a spring job, spring jog, five to fifteen minutes, twice a week. That's pretty much all you need to start seeing some pretty cool cardiovascular and fat burning benefits without shock your hormonal system in a negative way.

Strength training is really important, because strength training is the only way to build your metabolic rate, because your metabolism is largely determined by your muscle mass. If you have very little muscle, then let's just take two people at 200 pounds each, one person is 50 percent body fat, the other person's 10 percent body fat. They weigh the same on the scale, but the person who's 10 percent body fat, is going to to have a much higher metabolic rate, because they've got more muscle mass. Muscle is much more metabolically active than fat is.

Basically what that means is that muscles have much more mitochondria, which are the power houses inside our cells, that are the ones who create energy, and fuel our bodies. If you have less body fat and more muscle, you're going to have a higher metabolic rate. That in the long term is what's going to keep you healthy and lean. You're metabolic rate, again, is 75 percent the calories your burn.

Exercise in one bout is maybe 10 to 15 percent. If you focus on strength training and building muscle, and you thought about becoming a body builder, about building strengths, so heavier weights, lower reps, you build and maintain that muscle, which is giving you the long term passive fat lose, which is really going to help you. Especially as you age because, for instance, in Brian's case, if you're in your forties, the reality is that our metabolism starts to decline after 30.

Your metabolism starts to decline at age 30. Strength training can stop this process!

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This is especially true for women as well as men. Pretty much everything starts to go down, our muscle mass, our bone density, all that stuff, so we want to counteract that by really strengthening our body, as opposed to, oh my God, I need to get rid of this little muffin top and I'm going to go run on the treadmill, and maybe it's going to magically disappear overnight.

You have to think a long term perspective. Understand that with strength training, you keep your thyroid hormones happy. You increase your growth hormone. You increase your testosterone, which are very important for maintaining and building muscle. If you're a woman watching this, don't worry, you're not going to turn into a bulky body builder, depending on the type of training program you're following.

Even if you did follow a body building like training program, the likelihood of you bulking up is far less likely than if you're a man just because you have far less testosterone. there are different genetic markers that are different in women as well, but the focus needs to be on strength training. That is so important for the health of your metabolic rate.

Dave: I couldn't agree more.

To throw some numbers on that, you've probably read research, it's a little bit varying about home much a pound of muscle actually stimulates your basal metabolic rate. I've read stuff that says between 30 and 60 calories per day for every pound of muscle. You do that quick little math there, throw in 10 pounds of muscle, which isn't going drastically going to change someone's physical shape, but that could increase their metabolic rate 3 to 600 calories per day.

Huge. Huge.

Yuri: That's one of the reasons body builders constantly have to be eating. Their either training or eating or sleeping. They've got so much muscle that they have to be eating all the time. That's obviously and extreme example, but I think the extremes can inform the means quite often.

Dave: To kind of just get back to something practical, like Brian, I know there's tons of other listeners that's going to be in a similar position of Brian, stimulating your metabolism, I know you said a lot of great things.

One is clean up your diet. Specifically you talked about gluten and dairy. Number two, you talked about trying to reduce some of your stress, which could be done through a cleaner diet. Also, exercising with a real focus on strength, and if you're going to be doing cardio, kind of use like a high intensity sort of interval training type cardio?

Yuri: Yep.

Dave: Perfect.

Your "10 in 4" Takeaway

I mentioned to you that one of the things I like to do on this show is called a 10 and 4 take away. This is something that ... someone who's listening to this and is thinking, "geez, I just really need to speed up my metabolism. What can I do today?"

What would be you're one thing that you would say? This is you're biggest bang for your buck for someone to do today.

Yuri: It would definitely to eat more metabolic foods, like celery and cayenne pepper, and stuff like that.

I'm just kidding. I say that because there's a lot of nonsense out there.

There's really no single food that's going to boost your metabolism. Let's kind of clear the air on that. Certain spices like cayenne pepper will help, but in general, I think the advice on building muscle is very important because ... as we've been talking ... like muscle is the foundation of your metabolic rates.

If you're not maintaining and building muscle, it's only a matter of time before things slow down. You have to do things that are going to ... Again, strength training workout, 3 to 4 times a week. It doesn't have to be crazy. Just focus on big movements, heavier weights, lower repetitions, 4 to 8 repetitions is fine. Really challenge your muscles.

In addition to that is, I don't know how applicable this is, but really just understanding that your metabolic rate is heavily influenced by hormones. Your hormones are heavily influenced by what you eat, what you do, how you live your life. Understand that it's not just about eating less and exercising more, but you really have to focus on the quality of both. Quality of movement and quality of food because those are going to determine how well your hormones are working.

You can eat clean, you can kill yourself in the gym, but unless your physiology is responsive, or kind of optimized, you're going to have a very tough time losing weight and keeping your metabolic rate happy.

I don't know how applicable that is, but I think if you to bring up other things we talked about in terms of like eating clean foods, focusing on the strength training, we didn't really talk about managing your stress properly, those are three really important components to helping your metabolic rate stay active and hopefully elevated over time.

Dave: Sounds like we could talk, probably for much longer than the length of this show, so is there somewhere where people could find out more? Like is there a specific website that they could visit to find out a little more specifics about what you would prescribe for a general client?

Yuri: If you want to follow ... I've got a ton of great blog posted videos on my blog, You can check that out, and if you're interested in my upcoming book it's called The All Day Fat Burning Diet, which is all about resetting your metabolism to lose up to 5 pounds per week in a way that's actually safe and effective, you can learn about that at

Dave: When's the official launch of the book?

Yuri: That releases in stores December 22nd.

Dave: Perfect. Just in time for holidays.

Yuri: Exactly.

Dave: Awesome.

You're wealth of information. I really appreciate you taking the time and ... I know everyone's who's listening, definitely will take away some piece of advice they can use today.

Yuri: Awesome. Happy to share.

Dave: Thanks. We'll talk to you soon.

Yuri: Thank you.

Thanks for joining me today!

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