Transcript: EP 271 – Gain Muscle & Lose Fat at 40 and Beyond with Stephen Perrine & Heidi Skolnik
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness where we’re determined to bring you back to your superpower itself. And this is a topic and two guests that I am thrilled to bring to you. I have with me someone who I’ve known for a while, and I’m so happy to reconnect with me is Stephen Perrine. He’s been an author, editor and publisher on more than two dozen New York Times bestseller books, including Eat This, Not That! Series, and my book, The 21-Day Belly Fix. We worked on that book together.
Stephen Perrine: Definitely.
Dr. Taz: As an executive editor for the AARP Magazine and the AARP Bulletin and editor-in-chief of AARP’s The Arrow newsletter, he oversees health and wellness coverage reaching more than 38 million readers. The former editor-in-chief of Best Life and editorial creative director of Men’s Health, he’s appeared as a nutrition expert on Dr. Oz, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The 700 Club. He is impressive with his knowledge and experience in the health and wellness space. I’ve worked with him, I know this firsthand.
But let me also introduce you to Heidi. And Heidi, I hope I say your last name correctly, Skolnik. Did I get that right? She’s
Heidi Skolnik: Got it.
Dr. Taz: Is that right?
Heidi Skolnik: That’s right.
Dr. Taz: Awesome. Okay.
She’s a nutrition and exercise physiologist and has appeared as well on national media, including The Today Show, Live! With Kelly and Michael, and The Food Network. She oversees performance nutrition at the School of the American Ballet and the Juilliard School, and has been a part of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery for over 20 years. She’s previously served as team nutritionist, get this guys, for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, and the New York Mets.
I’m actually scared to share nutrition knowledge with her.
She sits on the advisory board of the National Menopause Foundation and served on the board member of the National Osteoporosis Foundation for 10 years. She’s the author of Grill Yourself Skinny and co-author of Nutrient Training for Peak Performance and The Reverse Diet.
Welcome to the show, guys. Thrilled to have you both here. Thrilled to be, first of all, talking about metabolism and metabolism at midlife, and even just addressing the health needs of a population that’s sort of over 45, over 50, where many people feel expired, to be quite honest, or they’re maybe subconsciously told they’re expired. And I think there’s a definite pushback on all of that.
So why did you guys write this book? Tell us about the book and tell us a little bit about it and how it even came to be.
Stephen Perrine: Well, it really started with my work with AARP. The organization, knowing that I had done a number of books like this in the past, said, “Could you do something for people at midlife, people in their 50s, 60s?” And so when I began to research what the nutritional needs of people at midlife were, I was stunned to discover what I didn’t know. And as you’ve read from my credentials, I’ve been reporting on fitness and nutrition for 25 years. And it was shocking not only how much information is out there, but how little has been reported. And I think it really comes down, as you sort of hinted at, to age discrimination. It’s prejudice against people who are 45 plus because we’re not catered to by the media. And so the information that Heidi and I uncovered and put into The Whole Body Reset, is really mind blowing, even though it’s very well established science and life altering to people who get their hands on the information.
Dr. Taz: So I can’t wait to dig into some of this information in the book. By the way guys, it’s The Whole Body Reset.
Heidi, what was your sort of lead in attraction to working on this particular project, especially given that you’ve worked with so many different types of people, especially athletes? I’m curious to see why you wanted to get involved in this project.
Heidi Skolnik: Well, Stephen called me. We had worked together so many times in the past. And for me, as Steve indicated, I’m in this world. I sit in conferences and I read the journals and I have the knowledge, but I didn’t have a platform to share it. And this has really been a wonderful opportunity to get information out there. And look, I’ve aged in, so this is my age group now. And I hear what my peers are saying and what my clients are saying, and it is information I share in my private practice all the time. And so now to be able to deliver this information that is all science based, because I’m a non-diet dietician. I’m a nutritionist. So being able to share information that will help people live longer, healthier with function and strength is really what my messaging is all about. So it’s really been a terrific opportunity.
Dr. Taz: Well, I think that’s incredible. And I agree. I’m hitting in this age group too very shortly and I think that most of us feel like we still have a lot to do, and we still have a lot within us and we want to be vibrant and active. And I can’t count the number of women, 40 and above, who’ve sat before me and been like, “I just don’t feel like myself. I am gaining weight. I don’t know why. I’m starving myself. I’m over exercising. I’m keto, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, you name it, intermittent fasting, one meal a day.” They’re doing it all and nothing’s changing. What do we have wrong? What is the information that we are not getting that is making people, as they hit sort of this age range, feel completely like they’re aliens in the mirror?
Stephen Perrine: Sure. Well, what happens when we hit our mid-30s or so? We began to develop something. Everyone develops something called anabolic resistance. It’s simply that we have difficulty turning protein into muscle. So every day your body breaks down and builds up muscle. It’s a natural process. The older we get, the harder it is for us to build up muscle, and so we wind up in a muscle deficit. Over time, as we lose muscle, we lose the ability to burn more calories. We lose strength, athletic performance. But we also lose the ability to store glucose, which is blood sugar. We turn that into glycogen. It’s stored in the muscles. And that prevents us from putting on weight gain. Because we’re losing between three and 8% of our muscle every decade after our 30s, that’s the primary reason why we begin to gain weight. It’s not metabolism. Our metabolisms don’t actually slow down. We’re not aging and it’s not inevitable. It’s simply this protein processing problem.
It turns out that there’s well established science that shows how we can overcome this very easily, and I might say very deliciously as well. It’s simply a matter of what’s called protein timing. You see, our bodies, because we have difficulty turning protein into muscle, we need to sort of press that button a little bit harder. So if my 14 year old daughter drinks a glass of milk with eight grams of protein, her body starts turning it into muscle. If I drink a glass of milk with eight grams of protein, my body goes, “Eh, what?” It’s a matter of hitting at least 25 grams if you’re a woman and 30 grams if you’re a man at each meal.
Heidi Skolnik: .
Stephen Perrine: When we do that… including breakfast, which is most important because that’s when we tend to not get those numbers… When you do that, your body acts as though you were in your 20s. It responds to exercise as though you were in your 20s, and it can build back muscle. And that muscle helps not only prevent weight gain, but fight off inflammation, protect us from everything from heart disease to diabetes, to Alzheimer’s. And so this is, again, establishing science, but it’s not getting out there.
Dr. Taz: So, what’s the magic about 20 to 30 grams? Why does that sort of press that button versus eight to 10 grams? And does that mean we should be eating like three square meals a day with that amount of protein? Or can we graze and snack throughout the day? Because if you’re grazing and snacking, it’s really hard to get 20 to 30 grams at a sitting, right?
Stephen Perrine: Right.
Dr. Taz: So, that’s-
Stephen Perrine: We’re told snacking throughout the day or grazing is good for us.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Stephen Perrine: It’s not. You really need to… Again, imagine it’s a button and you have to press that button harder as you get older in order to turn on the process.
Heidi Skolnik: Yeah. It’s both dose and timing, so we need a higher amount. There’s just a higher threshold by which we need to get the number of amino acids working together, leucine also being one, but we need both dose and amount. And so waiting until evening, which is when many people think about getting in their protein, they’ve missed these opportunities and you can’t make that up later in the day. So yes, you need three squares. And we do know grazing all… There’s a difference between snacking and grazing. Having a snack, we recommend. It can help bridge the hunger gap between meals and also having some protein at that snack can be really helpful. Grazing isn’t good because then it’s causing our… First, it’s hard to know you’re really ever full and it’s not usually substantial. And then it’s causing insulin to be pumped out all day. It’s like fatigue going on. So grazing is not a great idea, but having a snack is.
In terms of the reset, whole body reset, what we’re saying and the science is saying that you do need to reach these threshold amounts in order to keep that muscle building going on.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Heidi Skolnik: And so yes, those three square meals, what that looks like is different from what I often think people think.
Dr. Taz: Okay. So then what does this whole idea of protein timing do to things like intermittent fasting or the one meal a day? What happens to some of those trends that have come on in the last couple of years?
Heidi Skolnik: Well-
Stephen Perrine: Oh, I hope that it blows it out of the water. .
Heidi Skolnik: There actually is a great study that came out and we’ve included it, and perhaps you saw it. I believe it was in The Lancet, though don’t quote me on where it was published, where it looked at intermittent fasting. And intermittent fasting can be effective for weight loss. But unfortunately, what also goes along with that is a loss of muscle.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Heidi Skolnik: So anytime you lose weight, you’re going to lose some muscle, but you want to diminish how much muscle you’re using. You want to save that muscle, it’s so precious. So the amount of muscle you lose was double the amount you would lose on a similar caloric level, but spread more evenly throughout the day.
Stephen Perrine: So intermittent fasting is the kind of thing that maybe isn’t quite so bad for younger people, but it’s terrible for people at midlife.
Dr. Taz: Interesting. That’s-
Heidi Skolnik: And also, there’s other things besides weight loss that we look at, like as Stephen was saying, it might be okay for younger people. There are some people with metabolic issues, whatever, but there’s hormonal issues. So even younger women, not so great in terms of the effect it might have on their hormones, appetite regulation, and all of that. So you have to really think and pick and choose what’s right for you at your stage of life.
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Let’s go back to protein timing, so is this, I get up in the morning and by eight or nine o’clock I need to have my 20 or 30 grams and then time it every three hours after that? So what’s the best kind of rhythm if we’re trying to truly reset the body?
Stephen Perrine: No, that sounds complicated. That’s hard. Just get up and have breakfast. You want to have it at 8:00, you want to have it at 9:00, you want to have it at 10:00, whatever, just have breakfast. Make sure it has 25 to 30 grams of protein in it. That might be a cup of cottage cheese. It might be a protein smoothie, might be some Greek yogurt with some nuts and hemp seed mixed in. Most of our breakfasts tend to fall short. So oatmeal with nuts and berries sounds like a healthy breakfast, but it’s probably got less than 20 grams of protein in it. So make sure you have something else, whether it’s a little Greek yogurt, glass of milk, something to make up that protein deficit.
Then have lunch, then have dinner. Very, very simple, and eat your favorite foods.
Dr. Taz: We don’t need to . We don’t need to timing it to press this metabolic button, right? We don’t need to be thinking like 8, 11, 2, 5?
Stephen Perrine: Yeah. No, no, no. It’s not that hard.
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Heidi Skolnik: It’s just that it is throughout the day, as opposed to that oatmeal, which certainly has health benefits to oatmeal, but there’s no protein. So it’s oatmeal plus that yogurt, right? It’s lunch, not a salad, not like an anemic salad that has a sprinkle of beans. You have to get to, again, that dose, that 25 to 30 grams of protein, whether you’re putting grilled chicken or you’re putting beans with some cheese, however you want to combine it to get to that level. And then again, at dinner. Most people get it in at dinner. It’s not that hard because that’s traditionally when we think of including protein.
Dr. Taz: Right.
One question is simply what does 25 to 30 grams of protein look like? Is that in the book where people can get an idea of what 25… So many people look at me and they’re like, “How do you get that in?”
Stephen Perrine: Sure.
A piece of meat, that’s about the size of a deck of cards. A piece of fish that’s about the size of a checkbook, cup of dairy like Greek yogurt, or-
Heidi Skolnik: .
Stephen Perrine: … cottage cheese, or what have you. We have in The Whole Body Reset a complete breakdown of exactly what would constitute that. We also have an entire chapter dedicated to how to eat at restaurants. So you could literally, not that you’d want to, but you could literally eat every meal at Wendy’s or McDonald’s and still follow this diet, with a little tweaking.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Stephen Perrine: So we show you how to eat everywhere from Dunkin to Starbucks, to Olive Garden, and make sure that you are hitting the numbers you need to hit. It’s the protein timing. It’s also making sure you’re getting enough fiber in there as well.
Heidi Skolnik: So, we also include plant-based. So for those people who –
Dr. Taz: Yeah, let’s talk about that. Yeah.
Heidi Skolnik: … or who want to mix and match and have some plant-based meals as well as some animal protein. So there are options and we do have lists of what protein foods are and how much equals that. And we do go beyond just protein in terms of other nutrients that we need as we get older, including B12, and our calcium needs, and our need for fiber, which has an element to weight management, but also really for our microbiome and staying healthy through our gut. So there is more to the book than protein timing, but I think the protein, that idea of how much protein, when, and how much, is just the cornerstone as we age that will help along with exercise. We do encourage resistance training. You don’t have to. Protein timing does help maintain more muscle even without exercise.
But clearly, doing resistance training as we get older is really, really, really helpful to maintain that muscle. And that muscle helps with our bones, it helps with our function, our strength, balance exercises, all of that. Not just cardio, which I think, especially people of our age for some reason… When we were coming up, it was really about how long could you get out there and run, or get on that bike, or get on that elliptical and go for an hour? But that’s not the best thing you can do for your health and wellbeing.
Dr. Taz: Okay. So you’ve worked with a lot of athletes, Heidi. So those athletes, as they enter… If they cross that 45, 50 threshold, do they do a better job of preserving their muscle mass? Or do you see them suffering from the same sort of issue that so many people suffer from because they have so much more muscle mass to begin with, or not necessarily?
Heidi Skolnik: Well, I think everybody… It is a use it or lose it situation. If you’re fit in your 20s, that doesn’t mean… I mean, you’ve gotten a better start than many, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to maintain that forever if you don’t pay attention to your activity, what you’re doing.
Dr. Taz: .
Heidi Skolnik: Athletes… When we say athletes, there are so many different types of athletes.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Heidi Skolnik: The dancers are athletes. These artistic athletes have a different set of issues than former players who may be used to eating a lot, but not working out as much. They have to transition in a different way. But no matter where you’re starting from, it is really important that if you’ve never exercised a day in your life, it’s never too late to start. And I really shouldn’t even say exercise, it’s movement, right? Some people are turned off by the idea of exercise. For me, it’s like, yes, I can’t wait to sweat.
Dr. Taz: .
Heidi Skolnik: It feels good. I’m a former athlete and now I’m a fitness enthusiast. But even if you’ve never exercised and you are starting at a different place, you’ll see benefits to movement. And it’s important to know our body never stops responding, so it’s never too late to get that in.
Dr. Taz: And when you talk about resistance training as a recommendation, again, people want some structure around that, right? Is it twice a week that makes a difference? Daily? Three times a week, 20 minutes? What’s a good place to begin?
Heidi Skolnik: So there’s all different sorts of strength training and resistance training, but the minimum would be one to two times a week. You do see benefits. So it doesn’t have to be all consuming. We do encourage movement more days than not so that you could get in 30 minutes of cardio. That 150 minutes a week is the general recommendation for the minimum, but anything counts. For strength training like twice a week, major muscle groups. So it doesn’t have to take very long at all. You can do a lot in 20 minutes.
Stephen Perrine: And you can do it without a gym or without equipment. The Whole Body Reset has a whole chapter that breaks down beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts. You do them at home in your basement, no equipment needed, just body weight.
Dr. Taz: I love it. And I’m fascinated by this concept of protein timing and many of us in the field I’ve been talking about how muscle really is an endocrine organ. It regulates blood sugar. It regulates insulin. Insulin resistance, we’ve talked about before, is why we gain weight and store fat, and all this other stuff. So I think that this is a really important concept for everybody to latch onto, and a little counterintuitive. Very counterintuitive to the folks that are keto, that have heard, for example, that protein just turns into sugar down the road and furthers that issue of insulin resistance. What would you say to them?
Heidi Skolnik: Well, I think that understanding, first of all, this is not a high protein diet. This is an adequate protein diet. It is higher than what many might be used to doing. It’s not the lowest level, but it is not a high protein. It’s how you’re breaking up that protein throughout the day. And protein for sure does not equal fat. And we still want you to have carbohydrates. We still want you to have fat. We want you to have all foods, this is not a restrictive diet in any way. It’s about how you’re putting it together and when you’re eating. There isn’t any food that we’re telling you not to eat. And as Steve said, this is really simple. And it’s even taking popular, well-researched dietary patterns that are out there, that still don’t address the needs of us midlife and beyond, because even something like the Mediterranean diet, which is the highest level of study around, it still doesn’t address the protein needs for us as we age.
Dr. Taz: Right, right.
Heidi Skolnik: It’s still not addressing the specific needs around calcium and microbiome and B12 and some of these other things. So…
Stephen Perrine: Yeah. I also think one of the important things to say about The Whole Body Reset is that it is a program that stops and reverses age-related weight gain and muscle loss. Our role is not to strip away pounds in days, or any of the other kinds of crazy claims that a lot of keto books or things like that will claim.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Right.
Stephen Perrine: And there’s a reason for that because rapid weight loss is almost guaranteed to come back as greater weight gain because as you lose weight, you’re losing muscle. When you lose muscle, your metabolism drops. And when you go off that crazy, restrictive, impossible to follow a diet that your kids won’t eat anything, and you can’t go out, and you can’t go to dinner after 6:30 PM, or whatever weird thing you’ve planned out, that weight is going to come back and it’s going to come back greater than ever.
Heidi Skolnik: And-
Dr. Taz: There’s a fascinating study out just this week that I’m sure both of you saw, but it was on resting metabolic rate. It was talking about how you have to eat and you have to move in order to keep your resting metabolic rate up. And so when we go on these restrictive diets or highly calorie controlled diets, and we lose weight at a faster rate, the body adapts, right? It’s that metabolic adaptation, the body adapts, your metabolism goes back down.
Stephen Perrine: Right.
Dr. Taz: Next thing you know, you’re gaining weight again even though you lost weight initially, because there’s a new set point. So that very slow methodical weight loss is key, but through muscle building, which will help to sustain it rather than through losing all of that, which then bounces you back to a different set point.
Heidi Skolnik: And we had a pilot program at AARP, 100 people, and it is true that all of them lost weight. But I want to really emphasize again that, that might be an outcome. Not gaining weight at a certain age is actually a very great accomplishment.
Dr. Taz: Right, right.
Heidi Skolnik: And really focusing on this pattern… Like the whole idea, again, as Steve was saying about you could still… It allows you to engage in your life. I mean, at my age, I’m not interested in having to say I can’t eat after 7:00 if that’s when we’re going out for dinner. And I’m not interested in being restricted. And I want to feel good about the body that I have, make peace with my body. At some age, there’s a lot of crazy dieting that goes on. It is men and women, but we know women are particularly prone to the whole diet culture. And so finding a dietary pattern that promotes health and wellbeing, and participation, and enjoyment of food, and body acceptance, and all of that I think is a gift.
Dr. Taz: I love it. I think it’s so important.
Is protein the main thing we’ve got wrong here, or are there other pieces that you guys explore in The Whole Body Reset?
Stephen Perrine: Ironically, the average American eats about the right amount of protein every day, they just eat it at the wrong time. We eat all of our protein in the second half of the day. And when you overeat protein, like at night when you get that 16-ounce steak or whatever crazy thing they offered at Outback, your body can only process, at most, maybe 40 grams of protein. So all the rest, the body can’t do anything with it except turn it into fat. So it’s finding that balance that’s important.
Heidi Skolnik: Fiber.
Stephen Perrine: But it’s also about increasing our fiber intake. The average American eats about 15 grams of fiber a day.
Dr. Taz: .
Stephen Perrine: We should get closer to 30 grams of fiber a day for a number of different reasons. It manages hunger, it helps fight inflammation. It keeps our microbiomes healthy. And so we help you to do that as well, to keep your fiber intake.
Dr. Taz: .
Stephen Perrine: And then to maximize the amount of fruits and vegetables. A very interesting study found that older people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have the highest amount of muscle mass.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Stephen Perrine: I had no idea. But again, it goes to… Well, this goes to the idea of inflammation.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Stephen Perrine: So one of the things we’re going to do is we’re going to keep inflammation down because inflammation is fat’s friend and muscle’s enemy. So imagine it’s a tug of war. On one side, you got muscle. On the other hand, you get fat and inflammation. Every day you wake up and decide who’s going to win the day.
Dr. Taz: I love thinking about it that way.
This is all such good information, guys. When does The Whole Body Reset launch, or when is it released?
Stephen Perrine: The Whole Body Reset comes out on March 1st at quality book stores, big stores near you.
Dr. Taz: Awesome. Looking forward to it.
Well, I’m excited. I definitely will be sharing this. I meet so many people who struggle with this particular issue, really get frustrated, really get down, right? Like really get upset, get down, have trouble getting through their day. So this is important information. And the idea of protein timing without restricting ourselves like crazy, sounds amazing. So for everyone listening out there, definitely, if this is an issue that has been bothering you or you know somebody entering kind of this next phase, then definitely make sure they get their hands on this.
And by the way, this whole protein timing and theory of inflammation and insulin resistance, all these words we’ve used, play also into hormone balance. So all of it’s connected and all of it’s related for sure.
So thank you both. Thank you. And if anyone wants to connect with either one of you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Stephen Perrine: Oh. You can find me on Twitter @eatwellnyc.
Dr. Taz: What about you, Heidi?
Heidi Skolnik: Heidi Skolnik, both on Twitter and Instagram. And they’re welcome to email me or look up Heidi Skolnik or Nutrition Conditioning.
Dr. Taz: Perfect.
All right. Well, thank you both so much for sharing your knowledge and this wonderful book with us. We can’t wait to get our hands on it.
And for everybody else watching or listening to this episode of Super Woman Wellness, thank you for joining us and remember to rate and review it, and share it with your friends. We’ll see you guys next time.
Stephen Perrine: Thank you.
Heidi Skolnik: Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure.