How to improve your metabolism with Michelle Shapiro RD and Josh Kreifels RD

QTD: Improving Metabolism with Functional Nutrition

Season 2 Episode 5 of Quiet the Diet Podcast with Michelle Shapiro, RD and Josh Kreifels, RD

Improving Metabolism with Josh Kreifels, Functional Dietitian

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In this episode, Michelle explains how we can support our metabolism with Josh Kreifels, RD. They debunk common myths about metabolism, and talk about how we actually have more power than we think to improve our metabolic health. 

They discuss: 

  • What exactly is our metabolism? 
  • You are not doomed by your genetics 
  • The role of gut bacteria, thyroid hormones, and inflammation on metabolism
  • Daily (doable) actions for metabolic health 
  • Cold plunging
  • Pushing yourself in a positive way
How to Improve Your Metabolism with Michelle Shapiro RD and Josh Kreifels RD


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Obesity Study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
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I know I don’t have to tell you this but this episode is only for educational purposes. It is not nutrition or personalized medical advice.

We Have the Power to Improve Our Metabolism (To An Extent)

In today’s episode, we are going to talk about human metabolism in a way that might not be common, or what we usually hear in the conversations around metabolism. Of course you may have heard before when we think of metabolism, calories in versus calories out. And oftentimes people talking about those in smaller or larger bodies as having their body size dictated by their genetic capacity for metabolism.

Metabolism as defined in the dictionary is the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life also can be defined as the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change food into energy. There are many different things that can help to change our food into energy, the way we digest food influences that the gut microbiome influences that the inflammation we have in our body can influence that our hormones influence that.

So this conversation that we’re having around metabolism, I really want to have around how do we influence our body’s ability to change food into energy? How do we handle and influence our body’s ability to function overall, because those things are going to impact our hormones, which ultimately impact our metabolism. And I want us to think about metabolism on that bigger scale. I know I see a lot on social media about how lemon water can influence your metabolism or having anti inflammatory foods can make your metabolism better.

And what I think kind of the missing piece of those posts are is that there are things we can do to directly influence our metabolism. And there’s things we can do to indirectly influence our metabolism. What we’re going to talk about in this episode with my amazing guest, Josh trifles is how do we both directly and indirectly influence our metabolism. Anything that affects our ability to break down food into energy or ability to utilize that energy throughout our body is going to influence our body’s ability to burn fat. And in that classical way we think of metabolism.

I don’t know if you all remember the show fit to fat to fit. It was on TV, I think like seven years ago, something like that. And it was based around some personal trainers who wanted to gain weight in order to empathize more with their clients experience and also prove to them like hey, I can lose weight, you can lose weight. If I can do this, you can do this. And what a lot of the trainers found was that once they had gained the weight, their body operated completely differently, their cravings were different. Their quote unquote willpower felt different, their emotions were different, their sleep was different.

Because what we do know about our metabolism is that it’s not that simple. You know, weight loss is not as simple as calories in calories out because those who are occupying larger bodies may also have altered ability to lose weight in the first place. AKA our bodies run like well oiled machines, in some cases. And then if the machine gets altered, the actual activities the machine needs to do, like breaking that food down into energy and being able to utilize that energy properly are going to be impacted too. This is why for many people simple calories in calories out does not just help them lose weight.

So again, I always found that show very fascinating because I was like I knew it would be a lot harder when they actually got there than they thought it would be. And I think we have this judgment on people in larger bodies like just burn calories, it’ll be fine when we know very well that just limiting food and increasing exercise, if kind of that metabolism is not functioning properly will not result in the same chemical processes and someone whose metabolism is functioning properly.

So I really want to cover in this episode is how do we get that metabolism to function properly at any size. A study we’re going to talk about actually came out of the American Journal for clinical nutrition and looked at NHANES data from the 1990s till about 2018. And found that the total amount of calories people were consuming was very similar to the total amount of calories people are consuming today.

I guess the next natural question would be well, is the exercise similar and actually was physical activity was pretty similar in that 30 ish year timeframe? The kind of next natural follow up question to that would be why if our intake is about the same, and our movement is about the same, are we in larger bodies than we were 30 years ago, which has gone up dramatically. And we have proposed some kind of solutions.

In this episode, I think of why that might be we talk a little bit more about the study. And perhaps it’s the chemicals within our food supply. Maybe it’s the stress that we have, there’s a couple different proposed solutions, but the answer is a lot more complicated than just the total amount of food we’re consuming. And we go into that really well, me and Josh today, so I’m really really excited for you to hear this episode. And to have a new and hopefully less stressful and more nuanced look at how we can influence our metabolism using our daily habits.

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What Makes Functional Nutrition Different?

Michelle Shapiro RD

We have an amazingly special guest with us today, Josh Kreifels RD. And actually, I’m so glad you wrote how to pronounce your name, because I might have said it wrong. So I’m very excited you did that. And I’m even more excited to have you here today. Thanks for being on, Josh.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, thank you so much. I’m so excited just to geek out with you and the time that we have together, but thank you again for having me on.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Oh my gosh, of course. So Josh, we started connecting on Instagram and both of us were just really into each other’s posts. I was like, yes, at every single post you made, I was agreeing feverishly. And I really found from your Instagram that you had a really good high level understanding of functional nutrition, but more importantly, the way you speak with people through your Instagram, you really show people that it’s always about the foundations and how to apply on a real level.

How did you become this amazing practitioner? Tell us a little bit about your journey there.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, so my journey started, I grew up not in a home that ate healthy in any way. I grew up on the standard American diet, was an athlete my entire life. And once I actually started cooking for myself and realizing that food influences my performance, it kind of led me down a trajectory of really starting to explore nutrition more. Found that I really enjoyed nutrition, really enjoyed just learning about food and what it does to the body. I suffered with acne as a kid.

Through my teenage years and once I started switching off the standard American diet I realized that my acne had cleared up and my energy was better. My sleep was better. My performance was better So I was like, huh, this is interesting. Let’s explore this further I ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in biology and then went on to get a master’s degree in nutrition at one of the original naturopathic schools of medicine for my master’s of nutrition, which was awesome super good like holistic education, understanding of nutrition.

From there, I’ve really delved deeper into that functional medicine side, because I think there are so many things that we can do from a lifestyle perspective, from a nutrition perspective, habits perspective, that really can influence our health and change the trajectory of our health for the future. So.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Love that, yeah. It’s so interesting because you know that part of my journey into functional nutrition was really through the work of my close friend, Dr. Robert Kachko, who’s a naturopathic physician. When you, the second you said you went to Bastia, I was like, oh my gosh, that’s so cool, because it is, like you said, it’s like that old school, real functional naturopathic approach.

And I think it’s just so special that you got that in your actual degree, versus a lot of us have to get certifications, go to other advanced programs and try to learn that way. So,

You really always viewed nutrition, it sounds like, from that holistic standpoint. There wasn’t like a conversion kind of over into functional for you. It was that you experienced the standard American diet from a personal standpoint, but professionally, is that true you were always practicing functionally?

Josh Kreifels RD

I’ve always been passionate about just the natural approach of health, steering more in the direction of supplements and natural plant-based modalities versus pharmaceutical medications. And so even going back, I worked locally on Supplement Store and really found that using supplements for a variety of reasons, not chronically, but for a short term actually was really supportive for people.

And so I would say my philosophy has always been rooted more in the natural world and then getting the education at best year, kind of push that even further and then to even take that a step further because although naturopathic medicine is still very like functional, there’s an even deeper level in the whole world of functional medicine and that’s actually getting to the root cause and figuring out, hey, why do you have this sort of symptom? Why do you have this sort of challenge or issue that you’re facing? What is that and how do we actually get to that?

Michelle Shapiro RD

Absolutely. And this is, it’s interesting too, because I think of a lot of practitioners like us become practitioners because like you said, we have our own personal experience. For you, you were eating this way as a kid, we’re not feeling 100%.

Would you have put yourself in the category of someone who was looking to kind of optimize your health, or you were feeling like baseline chronic illness not well? Like thinking of like who we’re gearing your recommendations and your experience. And it was a weird question, but I’m just curious how you would have defined your experience.

Josh Kreifels RD

No, that’s good. And my whole journey was really from a optimizing health perspective, although I struggle with acne, and just not really anything major. I did get, this is actually what really led me down the functional medicine approach. I did get bit by a tick in 2020, which led me down this whole caveat of Lyme disease and co-infections and things like that.

And so I’ve never really, I would say, manifested anything that would be indicative of a major chronic disease. However, walking through that with, at the time, my girlfriend, now my wife, just a lot of gut stuff. So she was more on the, okay, having some sort of medical issue, needing to make an adjustment.

I was more coming from a, hey, how can I optimize my health? How can I optimize the way that I’m functioning? How can I optimize my energy, my mood, my sleep? All of these components, which is then obviously down many rabbit holes. And so being able to take that both my own perspective and then in my wife’s two very different trajectories but also so heavily influenced by that root cause approach has been awesome.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, you really took my bait on that question. Thank you. So what I was hinting at is, I think a lot of people are very like, oh, you know, Josh has always been healthy and I don’t know if he’s gonna get it, but like, I just wanna emphasize you do really get it. And just because you’ve been focusing on a specific prototype for yourself in ways of healing, what I just absolutely love about your approach and the business you’ve built with your wife is that you’re focused on the foundations no matter what.

So that means that if someone’s experiencing really deep, you know, symptomatic chronic illness, it’s gonna be some or most of the same recommendations as someone who is just trying to optimize their health. And that it’s, I love that you, the recommendations you were using with your wife still really applied to you and that you can’t get away without those foundations of health. There’s just no way to get away with them. If you’re optimizing or you’re coming from a different place, that’s always gonna be the same.

And I just love that about your approach, Josh. So thank you for taking my bait on that question and you knew where I was going. Not to demean your experience of optimizing your health by any means, but to say that you really, really understand that.

Integrating Personal Training and Dietetics for Metabolic Health

The other thing I want to just bring up is that you’re also, you were a personal trainer prior to being a kind of functional nutrition dietitian. Tell me about that journey too, a little bit.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, absolutely. I was an athlete from kindergarten all the way up through one year of college baseball. And so I was always just super interested in fitness and improving performance. And then being heavily influenced in the gym, obviously being an athlete, you need to improve your muscular strength and endurance and in just your capacity to be able to do more. Stopping playing sports led me into continuing to that trajectory in the gym. I fell in love with the gym. I fell in love with the improvement.

People say iron therapy, like they go to the gym because it’s iron therapy, and that’s really what it was for me. Just being able to go for an hour, hour and a half each day, really establish a discipline surrounding that. I’ve looked at people like men that are in their 40s and 50s and 60s that are in great shape. I’m like, man, what do I gotta do to get to that level? And it really starts with those habits early. And so for me, I just love being in the gym. I love just the lifestyle of it. I made a lot of friends in the gym. So I was like, you know what, I’m passionate about this.

I get it, I understand it, I think I could help people in this area, and so that led me down the path of getting my NASM certification, which I then was working as a personal trainer while I was getting through grad school. And so it actually ended up being a really awesome bridge from the fitness world and the nutrition world and being able to put those two modalities together.

Because even in dietetic school and even in the world of nutrition, there are a lot of nutritionist, dietitians, whatever it may be, that don’t have that firm foundation on physical activity. And so I think being able to bridge those two actually is extremely valuable and helps a lot more people because I now have a skillset in two different lanes.

Michelle Shapiro RD

I have to say I hired my staff Dietitian, Nicki, and she’s a certified personal trainer for a couple years before she was a dietitian, and it’s been a huge asset to my practice. I have to really agree with you is it’s a huge asset for you to have, and I know you could also incorporate the movement element in with your clients comfortably, and I think that’s a really big deal.

What is Metabolism?

So the reason why I’m also asking that question is I’m laying the found work, the kind of ground, found work, the ground work for this conversation we’re gonna have, which is about our metabolism. So again, the reason that I wanted to go back and say, listen to the followers and listeners, just because Josh has an occupied or not a larger body, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a mastery of the subject. And it doesn’t mean that you, I’m not saying anyone would doubt you, but point being, I think a lot of people are nervous to learn about the word like metabolism from people who they don’t perceive as having had that experience.

But I can’t reiterate enough how much you get it and how much you understand kind of the whole system and how it interacts together, even down to this fitness level and movement level that I think other people really miss the mark on. So I’m just hyping you up even more for this and hyping the audience to understand that this is the exact person for the exact topic that I wanted here today, so yay. We are gonna talk about metabolism. When I think of the word metabolism, kind of on a, what I appear in media context, I think of metabolism as being that calories in, calories out.

How would you define metabolism the same as that or differently? When you think of the word metabolism, what do you think of, Josh?

Josh Kreifels RD

I mean, I think certainly calories in calories out is a component of metabolism, but I think if you go upstream further on that, you really have to understand what metabolism means. And it’s really just a conversion of energy from large to small, and then small to large. And so our body on a daily basis is going through a lot of different metabolism. Every system is doing its own metabolism.

And it’s basically just a word for work. All of your cells are working in some capacity and so are they working to promote health or are they working to actually be some sort of disease promotion, if that makes sense. And so when I think of metabolism, I think of the food that we eat is energy and then our body digest that energy and then our intestines absorb that energy and then shuttle that, those nutrients, those macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals into various tissues to then be built back up into new tissues into recovering, into hormones, into catecholamines and all things.

So I think it’s really just taking really broad, taking it narrow and then getting broad again which is, it’s like a little bit annoying that the body does that by the way. Like don’t we just wish we could like eat protein and it would just like be muscle as it’s going down? Like it’s really, it’s annoying and I don’t mean that. I mean that it’s annoyingly intricate where there’s so many pieces and components of our metabolism and so much has to come together for us to extract the energy that we need from food and to put that energy into new processes like you’re saying.

Michelle Shapiro RD

There’s way more kind of behind the calories in calories out than we think, whereby that might be an important component of our metabolism or like the very highest level of what our metabolism looks like. But there’s so much going on behind calories in and behind calories out. So I love how you phrase it in that way, where it’s like we have to get the energy from it. And then we need to put the energy that we get out of it.

Because just eating something with protein or fat or carbs in it doesn’t instantly become energy. You have to actually get the energy from the process of digestion, like you said, absorption, you know, extraction to get that energy and creation. So it’s a very intensive process to get what you need from food, which is why two people could be eating the same exact thing and totally different things can be happening inside of their body. And we’ll talk about what some of those things are too.

The dictionary definition of metabolism is the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. That is way different than the myopic view that we have in metabolism, which is it’s this thing that we get that’s hereditary that makes us lose weight or not lose weight, right? That’s generally how we think of it. So I loved your kind of explanation. When it comes to the genetics of metabolism, this is just a really high level concept question. What do you think of that? When we hear this phrase that people say…

Is Metabolism Genetic?

Listen, you’re genetically prone to obesity or even genetically prone to disease. What does that, does that ring true for you? Does it not ring true for you? Tell me what you think.

Josh Kreifels RD

The whole genetic conversation actually gets me really excited because I think people put too much weight on genetics without understanding the concept of epigenetics. This new world of epigenetics, new in the sense of like probably what the last 15, 20 years that it’s really been more researched and understood. Genetics is basically just indicates who you are. It doesn’t really dictate how you function, how you operate.

What determines how you operate, how you function is really a matter of what your epigenetics are. So these little tags, little markers on your genome that are actually telling that genome whether it’s going to be turned on or turned off. And so this epigenetic component are things that you’re doing in your lifestyle that are actually promoting health or continuing to follow the wagon of what you’ve seen in your family. So let’s say for example, type two diabetes. You may have a family history of type two diabetes.

But just because your family history says that you may be prone to diabetes, doesn’t actually mean that you have to get diabetes. There’s a huge component, obviously lifestyle, the way that you eat, your physical activity, and things like that. So when you talk about genetics and metabolism and things like that, I think people are just so consumed by, oh, my family’s overweight, or my family is genetically predisposed to this, without actually being like, you know what, I can change that trajectory.

Me personally, my family, has history of obesity and chronic heart disease, diabetes and things like that. First I was like, okay, I see that. I’m choosing to go differently. I’m choosing to actually make a difference with my epigenetics to not only influence my health, my kids’ health and for generations to come.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Totally, yeah. And when we think of the word epi-, we think of environment. And I like that you’re using the words to be empowering to people as opposed to when I feel like people fall into that trap, they can feel like everything is genetic and I’m kind of gonna push a brick wall the rest of my life. And then we also both, of course, acknowledge that there are real genetic predispositions for things, but there are still, no matter how high that genetic predisposition is, there’s always at least a tiny little something that can be done.

And that’s what kind of, I think the magic of functional nutrition is, is finding the magic in those tiny little somethings. Because it is true that sometimes the odds can be stacked against you for sure, but it’s unfair to say you need to bootstrap to overcome that and that might very well be the case. So we can be real about that too. But there is always a tiny little something that we can do. And in many ways, there’s big somethings that we can do too.

And I can say that with certainty, you know, I’ve talked about this in other episodes, but I have an aunt who was diagnosed with glioblastoma two years ago. She’s had very to little growth, very little to no growth since then, which is pretty much a huge, huge anomaly, especially because we think of this as being kind of, we know this to be one of the worst diagnoses you can get, stage four brain cancer, and we implemented a nutrigenomic plan.

Now I can’t say that, anything that we do nutritionally for certain is causing influence on that. But I have to say that I do believe that it has had some sort of an influence. So even with the worst odds stacked against you, I just want the listener to know again that there’s always something you can do even in the tiniest way. And I know that was like kind of emotional of a conversation path to go down. But point being that we A, both understand genetic predispositions exist and B, understand the infinite and amazing power that we have to influence those genes too in many situations.

So this is so interesting, especially because I hear a lot right now and very recently, there was a obesity doctor on, I think it was CNN, it was a major news network talking about how obesity is genetic and really the only way to overcome. And again, trigger warning for the word obesity, I’m just using it because this is the context we’re using it in, that quote unquote obesity is genetic and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Metabolism is more than just “calories in, calories out”

What I always found really fascinating about this argument is that the number of people occupying larger bodies has become more over time, right? We know that. So there’s one study that I wanted us to talk about too, which came out of the American General for Clinical Nutrition in 2022. And it showed that basically the way people were eating 40 years ago, calorically, was very similar to how we’re eating now.

And the amount of physical activity we were doing 40 years ago was very similar to what we were doing now. But the kind of number of people occupying larger bodies has gone up and up and up and up. Josh, did you hear about the study? What’s your take? What can you say about that? If we’re eating the same calories as we were before, but our weight continues to go up and take into context that kind of idea that obesity is genetic, how do you grapple with that information?

Josh Kreifels RD

I was actually surprised to see that the calorie intake is pretty close to what it is now as it was looking at the graph in the early 19 or late 1900s, 1990s. But the percentage of obesity is obviously going up and going up rapidly. And so then we have to take a look at, okay, calories in calories out has been pretty much stable in that timeframe.

And so if we’re to look at, okay, if that’s stable, yet we’re seeing a much larger increase in body fat percentage, what else is going on? And obviously then you have to look at, okay, what is the quality of the food? So for most people, the lowest hanging fruit may be calories in, calories out. But when that’s not working, you have to obviously go higher up the tree and figure out, okay, what else is going on under the surface that’s leading to more obesity?

There’s a variety of hypotheses surrounding this in terms of the food supply, the quality of the food. Um, there is no denying that the quality of food that we have today in 2023 is more inflammatory than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, from a variety of sources, whether it’s the increase in seed oils, whether it’s the increase in, um, just, uh, genetically modified foods and things like that.

I actually heard this recently and so I had looked it up. McDonald’s prior to 1990 used beef tallow as their oil for their fryers, which is what gave them the most like flavorable fry. And then in the early 1990s, because of outcry for heart disease and heart attacks, things like that, they were actually led to switch to a seed oil and then that led to not tasting the same. So they actually then add beef natural flavoring to their seed oils.

So if you look at that timeframe, what used to be a healthy fat, beef tallow, then switched over to more of a seed oil, in that timeframe in the 1990s, when seed oils became much more popular and much more mainstream, we’re seeing such an increase in body fat. You’re seeing such an increase in heart disease and diabetes and things like that. Is it just the seed oils? Probably not. Is it at a contributing factor? I would say so.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Oh no. Me too. I would say so too. And it’s so interesting because again, we’re talking about, let’s say all variables for the amount of energy you’re getting from food are the same. And everyone wants to say, you know, it’s all about thermogenesis, the amount you put in, right? Calories in, calories out. But what we’re seeing wildly that I think challenged all of our notions about our metabolism is that the same exact foods that you could be eating in ways of amount of calories, amount of grams of protein and fat could be metabolized so differently in the body that it could literally cause changes in body weight.

And this again is like a wild thing that we’re all like trying to prove and understand. And you know, our guesses are as good as everyone else’s right now, but we can also use our amazing clients to understand and see differences and for sure the types of oils that we’re cooking with. And also just, I think the amount of chemicals within food processing, that we know to be endocrine disruptors. And we think of our endocrine system as our hormonal system, right?

If there’s chemicals in foods that are influencing our hormonal system, our thyroid and the downstream effect of that, that can influence how much energy we extract from food.

Gut Bacteria Can Change Our Metabolism

And another piece of this that I think is really important is that our gut bacteria help us to extract nutrients and the kind of variation of energy consumption that they can make is 8 to 22%.

So that means that two people, if they have different gut bacteria, can get more calories from the same food if their gut bacteria isn’t balanced. So certainly if any of these foods or chemicals in these foods are influencing our gut or influencing our hormones, they’re gonna be influencing our metabolism. Would you agree with that?

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even as a dietitian, one thing that we often look at is gut health. How many people are you seeing now that have SIBO or some sort of gut like infection, CFO, some sort of dysbiosis in some capacity now compared to even when you were in school, even like prior to that, like it’s so prevalent. So what are we doing on a day-to-day basis that’s actually disrupting that bacteria in our gut, which is then obviously influencing how we’re uptaking nutrients.

The gut brain axis is almost its own endocrine organ in itself and so how are we supporting the gut through food? How are we supporting it through lifestyle, through stress, things like that? Yeah, I mean the gut is so a mystery but so fascinating at the same time.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, the gut in our brain, like we’re still getting in there. It’s still like we’re so, it’s gonna take so many more hundreds of years for us to fully understand. And I think it’s so hard for us to fully understand these deeply intricate mechanisms that happen within our body, because they’re also so influenced by our spiritual selves, by our mental selves.

And within the model of kind of modern medicine, we don’t really allow for those deviations. Besides to say, we know stress messes up your gut, but we’re not sure how. Well, we’re starting to understand more of how it does that and that’s really awesome that we’re starting to understand that and how our vagus nerve can influence our gut function and our gut bacteria and the lining of our gut and all this, but it’s truly, we’re like scratching the surface of the amazingness.

I have to say it again, like the annoyingly intricate parts of the human body and all of this is really influential on again, how does our body get nutrients from food and burn them? We talked a little bit about, oh, you know what I had to mention about the gut bacteria that I have to just go back to, is that they actually, for people to lose weight, one kind of method they’ve used is literally stool transplants to kind of get bacteria from one person’s body into another.

So they’ll literally put fecal matter from one person into another, and they will notice changes in their weight as a result without them exerting any kind of willpower over what they’re eating and how it’s changing. Because again, these internal mechanisms are so essential for our metabolism to function properly.

How Does the Thyroid Affect Metabolism?

Tell me also when it comes to our metabolism, how do you kind of play thyroid into the metabolism picture? What role do you believe the thyroid plays in our metabolism? Because I know it’s a big topic too.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, even just touching really quickly on the fecal transplant aspect. This is something that we learned in school, but at the time was only really being used for C. diff patients. But I think the clinical application of it and other scenarios is quite fascinating in the sense of you take two people like you’re talking about, let’s say one person’s 150 pounds and the other person’s 250 pounds.

If you were to fecal transplant the 150 pound person into the 250 pound person, without doing anything, people are losing weight. And so it then goes to play like, wow, the gut bacteria actually has a significant influence on how we’re uptaking calories and things like that. And then obviously like that gut brain access, what the microbiome is wanting to feed on, is it mostly sugars, is it variety of different things? But the thyroid has a huge component to overall metabolism, which actually does end up requiring the gut to be healthy.

The thyroid is basically the body’s thermostat. It controls everything downstream. And so for many people, and this is also something that I’m seeing a lot more clinically, is this hypothyroid or even Hashimoto’s. And so a lot of people are presenting, that I’m seeing, presenting with hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s, but that would actually be secondary to some sort of gut infection or some sort of parasitic infection. And so rather than just addressing, like I’ve seen this a lot, it happened with my wife.

She was hypothyroid, she was given thyroid medication. There was no change in her thyroid lapse. She has a lot of stuff going on in her gut and so it was very clear that she’s not converting inactive thyroid hormone to active thyroid hormone. And so from the functional approach, what is actually being needed to do? The thyroid may be okay, but actually if we go and look at the gut, the gut may be like the missing piece or some sort of barrier that’s not allowing your main driver of metabolism to actually go through its full circle, you know?

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, I do know, Josh, and I totally freaking agree. And I like, let’s use the word circle when we think about that too. And I think about our metabolism again, as it’s like, all right, our, if let’s say we have a gut issue and that influences our body releasing more stress hormones. Stress hormones block the conversion into active thyroid hormone.

So really, again, your metabolism is not this, if we think of our bodies like a car, it’s not like the amount of fuel that’s in the car that matters how the whole car is running. So I wouldn’t worry so much about like what exact foods you’re putting in if the whole thing isn’t running in the first place, right? If you pour really lean fuel into the tank, it won’t really matter if the car is turned off.

So I think of anything that we talk about addressing our metabolism, we’re addressing that whole system of that car. And that’s exactly what you’re saying, Josh, which is that if you’re doing something that like pro protectively influences your gut positively influences your gut, it’s gonna influence ultimately, and hopefully, your thyroid, and then that will have downstream effects.

Because our body is like a big domino effect. Everything happens, one thing clicks off another thing, and that was like exactly in the definition of the metabolism, it’s all the chemical processes that occur to keep us alive, essentially, right? The reason we get energy from food, or excess energy from food, is not because the universe or God’s plans for us were to store all of it and not feel healthy. That wasn’t the game plan, but things get in our way that can influence our body’s ability to do that.

So we’re gonna talk about what those things are too and kind of how our daily routines can help influence that. That’s actually gonna be the meat and potatoes of what you’re gonna take away from this conversation is because Josh, you’re the master of those foundations. I wanna talk about how they look in real time to people with application. So we’re gonna talk about that in a minute, but I’m not done with you yet, Josh. I need you for something else first too.

How Chronic Inflammation Affects Metabolism

I wanna talk about how inflammation can influence our metabolism. So you mentioned seed oils. We mentioned kind of these chemical additives to food that we are speculating probably has something to do with the fact that we’re eating the same amount that we were 40 years ago, but our weight seems to keep increasing. Tell us how you feel inflammation can influence our metabolism.

Josh Kreifels RD

I love this, you put me on a T for this one. There’s this term that I just recently became aware of, but I love it, I think it speaks to just the depth of how nutrition plays a role. This concept of inflammation, where inflammation actually drives up the aging cascade. And so if you think about this principle, you’ve probably heard this before: “Oh, I have a slow metabolism. Oh, I’m 30. I’m 40. I’m 50. I have a slow metabolism.”

In most cases, those like slow metabolisms are just deconditioned metabolisms. So if you imagine right now, trying to get off your couch and go and run a marathon for most people, that’s going to be pretty unrealistic, but if you train for it, you’re actually training up your endurance, you’re training up your body’s ability to be able to handle that load, to then go out and complete a marathon.

When you talk about metabolism, you have to activate your metabolism in a variety of different ways. And what can actually inhibit your next steps or your moving forward is inflammation. And so there’s so many things that we are exposed to on a daily basis that are actually increasing the amount of inflammation that we have in our body, whether it’s psychological inflammation, whether it’s food inflammation, whether it’s just emotional inflammation.

There’s so many things that you end up being in this fight or flight nervous system state that your body’s working so hard to get you out of that you can’t even get from a negative one to a zero. You’re constantly like trying to get from a negative two just back to zero, not even to a one or two. You know what I mean?

So this concept of inflammation, like what do we do to it? How do we address that? It’s not just food. It’s not just eating an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. It’s not just living a non-toxic living with all these endocrine disruptors and things like that. It’s what are you doing with the little habits on a daily basis that are actually moving the needle forward for you to actually change your metabolic age compared to your biological age.

So biological age obviously being something we have no control over, but metabolic age is actually the age at which your cells are, which you can either accelerate the aging process or decelerate the aging process. More body fat is going to accelerate the aging process quicker.

More body fat increases more inflammatory cytokines and things like that. And so by nature of inflammation, you’re actually putting yourself on a hamster wheel of not only more inflammation, but faster aging process, likelihood of more chronic disease. And it’s just this never ending proverbial cycle.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, I think of the inflammation you’re talking about as being like something is igniting it or many things are igniting it and then the fire is already burning. And then you have this issue where in my domino effect of for your metabolism to work properly, you need to press the dominoes and needs to go through this system, through this system. It feels like inflammation is something that can just stop those dominoes from falling. It can stop the whole process or it can really slow the process.

Inflammation can influence, and we’re talking about chronic inflammation, not a one-time event or injury, which is again, your body gets kind of into this state of not functioning properly. And I think of inflammation as being that immune activation, that constant immune activation. Continuous immune activation, continuous inflammation can influence the types of gut bacteria you have. If you have leaky gut, then you can leak hormones out of that.

And I think I’m like, triggered by the word inflammation, kind of, because it’s like everyone’s kind of hot word, but I think you just actually explained it really well and in a tangible way. And what I like so much about what you’re saying too is that even if you’re in that cycle of chronic inflammation, which is often silent and we don’t notice, there’s so many things you can do to kind of crack into that cycle and get the dominoes kind of rolling again.

But I think that’s probably inflammation on a very chronic and silent level is probably at the core of that kind of puzzle that we were trying to understand with how we’re eating the same calories before, but we’re gaining weight all the time. I think inflammation also can influence two hormones that are essential for regulation of weight, which are leptin and ghrelin. And I think that that is also probably a very big piece of this puzzle too. Do you want to speak into leptin and ghrelin at all? I can too, if you want to.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, just even this concept of just to make clear, not all inflammation is bad. I know you know this, but I’m just saying that for the audience, not all inflammation, we need that immune response, we need inflammation to actually repair and recover. If you are trying to just 100% blunt the inflammatory process, like you’re actually missing out on a lot of value.

So the problem is, and you’re speaking to it, that low grade inflammation where your body’s just constantly working to try to get itself back. In terms of leptin and ghrelin, in terms of your hunger and satiety hormones, what’s interesting about leptin, obviously leptin’s in adipose tissue, the more adipose tissue you have, the more leptin that you have, which can then lead you to be leptin resistant, and your signaling of basically your full, your satiated ends up going away.

Josh Kreifels RD

And so you have both extremes on these hormones where you have too much body fat or you have way too low body fat. The objective obviously is to be somewhere in the middle. It’s not that you look at somebody on Instagram or whatnot and they have shredded six pack. Like that may not necessarily be a depiction of health. Their leptin and ghrelin hormones could be all sorts of out of whack. Same thing with someone who has way too much body fat. So landing somewhere in the middle where you are actually able to pay attention to those hunger and satiety cues.

Are you eating out of hunger or are you eating out of boredom? Do you not know that you’re now satiated and you don’t need any more calories? And so it certainly does play a role in that inflammatory cascade if you’re overly inflamed. Maybe your signaling pathways are gonna be blunted from that leptin and ghrelin hormone, which we obviously need to be functioning well, but yeah.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, I think that’s a really good explanation of it. And I have been pretty obsessed with the Biggest Loser study. And I’ve talked about it on numerous podcasts, except for mine. I’ve never talked about it. But essentially, when they did a study on the contestants of the Biggest Loser, they found that the most successful contestants had the biggest issue with weight regain after. And I think what many people proposed was, hey, this is a problem with when they get back home from the ranch, they just eat whatever they want.

And that really wasn’t the case at all. It was that their metabolism had adapted so drastically. And so had their leptin levels, which is again, that hormone that is gonna signal satiety, so that they basically would eat their resting metabolic rate. Their metabolisms had been destroyed essentially. They were 500 calories lower than they anticipated. And their leptin levels had not recovered. So they were feeling ravenously hungry and they were burning much less than before.

And I think for a lot of people in the intuitive eating, body positivity space, we hear like 98% of diets fail. You should never count calories. You should never do any of this because it doesn’t work. And I think the biggest loser is like kind of a really extreme example of that. And probably one of the only examples that supports that because there’s a lot of different studies that show that different things can help with weight loss. It’s not like a completely lost cause.

It’s much harder than we think, but a big piece of that puzzle is making sure your leptin levels are adjusting with you and not too high or that they’re being, that they’re not resistant. And part of that is really targeting, again, that inflammation is really, really essential. And anything that we’re gonna talk about today to improve your metabolism, we’re actually gonna be targeting inflammation in that same puzzle because there’s such a close tie between the down regulating of your metabolic processes and the up regulating of inflammation. That it’s not, we don’t know if it’s causative, but it’s certainly correlated and we’re finding that.

One piece of the leptin puzzle is reducing inflammation. Another piece is not eating a combination of fat, sugar, and salt at the same time. That seems to be really rough, which concerns me with like the Metafast and Optavia and diets like that, because they have a lot of those inflammatory oils in them that we were talking about. And it has that perfect like brain stimulating combination. So I worry about leptin levels for that reason.

It’s very, which is a distinct concern I have also because those chemicals and it can also alter your thyroid. So what we’re talking about on a kind of really high level that I want to make sure we cover is that whatever we’re going to talk about in ways of implementation, Josh, I want us to not be thinking about what people are doing to affect that fuel tank. I want to think of what we’re doing to affect the car because I want people to understand that what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis influences how our body runs, not only how much weight we lose in that moment.

And you mentioned that really important and cool thing about exercise, which is that the more we exercise, the more ability we have to exercise in the future. So it’s not only that you’re exercising to look good the next day, you’re exercising so that your body learns a building process. Your body learns how to utilize hormones more efficiently.

So it’s like everything that we do is also an instruction manual for our body when it comes to inflammation and improving your metabolism. So your body’s paying attention. So those little things are not only influencing again, how you feel five minutes later, but they’re influencing how efficiently the whole metabolism runs.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, absolutely. And even just quickly to speak on that, this is why you see people that are quote unquote cardio bunnies. I’m just using that term because that is mainstream. But people that only do cardio and don’t spend any time on resistance training, typically you see there not to be much improvement in their resting metabolic rate versus the people that are actually spending time strength training, building up lean tissue. You may be burning more calories in the gym doing cardio in a 60 minute window versus strength training.

But over time, you’re actually going to end up burning more calories with more muscle mass, which muscle mass is the main driver of metabolism and how many calories you’re burning because it’s so energetically expensive to have more muscle. And so improving muscle mass via strength training, via progressive overload over time is going to be the opportune thing for improving your metabolism versus just trying to focus on burning calories.

Michelle Shapiro RD

I love that, yeah. So again, Josh, you just nailed in our point, which is that everything we do, we do for the long game and the short game. We want the short wins, but it’s really about how do we make the system operate more efficiently, not just how do I lose these four ounces today in the gym? Exactly, I love that. And muscle really is essential for that and protein consumption is essential for that.

How to Improve Your Metabolism on a Daily Basis

So let’s get into our day a little bit. I want to like frame us through the day and all these different things we can do and how we should think about How are we supporting our metabolism and improving that whole system? Through the actions we take through the day start me with first thing when you wake up Josh What can you be doing first thing when you wake up that could be improving or hurting metabolism for the whole day?

Josh Kreifels RD

Sure, absolutely. So if you think about, obviously your day, you’re thinking about circadian rhythm, not just the dark light cycle, but also movement, also temperature, hormones, things like that. And so when you wake up, you have an increase in cortisol. And so from there, starting the day, the best thing that you could do is get up, get moving, get natural light on your eyes, just to help that brightness, get yourself into that rhythm of that circadian rhythm.

Personally, for me my schedule allows me to work out first thing in the morning. I’ve had to adjust that. Typically, I was a mid-afternoon to evening person, but now just with schedule and marriage, working out first thing in the morning is the best thing for me. And so my morning routine typically looks like, get up, get moving a little bit, head to the gym, get about a 45 minute to an hour workout, come home, eat a big hearty meal, and then get into the office and kind of go about my day from there.

Breaking that up in terms of like hormones and improving metabolism and things like that. Um, I try to have regular protein throughout the day. I think that’s something that really is functional for me. Um, I think that’s beneficial not only just for maintaining muscle protein synthesis, maintaining blood sugars. Um, but I just noticed that if I’m eating protein regularly throughout the day, I feel much better, um, and you probably have some personal experience with that too.

But yeah, from a, uh, metabolism perspective and then in the evening time, like really allowing myself to wind down, improving that circadian rhythm component, light and dark. So evening time dimmer lights, I wear 99% blue light blocker glasses in the evening just to kind of help my body naturally wind down. And then in terms of temperature, because I’m a big sauna and cold plunge guy, sauna.

Michelle Shapiro RD

I was waiting for you to talk about that, by the way. I’m like, where’s Josh’s temperature things? Tell us about them.

How to Use Sauna and Cold Plunge for Metabolic Health

Josh Kreifels RD

I can’t help, I’m so hyped about sauna and cold plunge. These two modalities, the research is wild, but there’s nothing that can impact, in my opinion, health over the long term with such little input like sauna and cold plunge. So in terms of circadian rhythm, it’s probably best to cold plunge if you are going to cold plunge or cold shower beginning of the day, just because you get such an increase in epinephrine, which is your fight or flight hormone. Such an increase in dopamine.

Cold actually has a heating effect, which is kind of weird. Your body actually ends up increasing temperature to kind of regulate. So cold in the beginning, and then either sauna or hot shower at the end of the day. Shower, those are obviously hot, but what actually happens is it does create a cooling effect in your body, which is needed, especially when you go to sleep, because that cooling effect, that lowering of your core temperature actually stimulates growth hormone, your anti-aging hormone, your recovery hormone.

And so if you imagine light and dark, trying to be as bright as you can early part of the day, dim in the latter part of the day, if you imagine trying to be, if you’re gonna do cold exposure, do cold at the beginning, do hot at the end of the day. And then in terms of meals, it’s probably best to eat more of your calories in the first half of your day than it is the latter half of the day. And then allow yourself time to actually digest and rest before going down to bed, where your metabolism is gonna slow down a little bit naturally.

Michelle Shapiro RD

That was a beautiful synopsis, honestly, and extremely helpful for people. And I’m pulling, now I’m gonna pull apart everything you said to Ed. Like, I’m gonna make you give us more because you just gave us so freaking much and I’m greedy and I want more from you. So first of all, it’s so funny because a lot of what we think of as biohacking or a lot of what we think about in functional nutrition is just what I like to call being a person.

So it’s just like, yeah, don’t use your phone at night because it’s putting light in your eyes that your body doesn’t think, like just be a person, you know, like wake up, don’t first jump on your phone, like first notice that you’re alive in the morning, like, you know, notice how you feel, like it’s so funny because we all forget to do this, like I’m not judging anyone, it’s just the, but the humanness of it is actually what’s so potently helpful for supporting our metabolism. And that is so funny. And even this idea again, of I love you saying, take a hot bath at the end of the day too.

Thinking about, again, like our day, we wanna have high energy and heat in the beginning of the day, and then we want soothing, calming, cooling by the end of the day, and that’s what that bath does for us, and we need our internal body temperature to drop by two degrees for us to actually fall asleep, so that bath can really facilitate that.

So again, it’s like you’re emphasizing the humanness of all of this, and that is what is so productive for our metabolism. Anything that is nature involving, anything that is connecting to what kind of our rhythm of our environment is intended to be, is going to be potently supportive for our metabolism too.

So our metabolism isn’t only about limiting calories and doing things like that. It encompasses all of these incredible habits that you’re mentioning too. Also, you have to tell us cold plunging wise, you’re not talking about even a tank. Tell us what you’re doing to cold plunge. I think it’s so cool.

Josh Kreifels RD

Uh, so I have a tank in my backyard, but I also, just because I’m so fascinated by cold plunge and I think that it provides so much benefit. Uh, I’ve just been like, you know what? I want other people to experience the benefit. Let’s just meet at a public park. Uh, I’m blessed to live by a lot of lakes and a lot of fresh water. So every Saturday morning we get a group of people together and hop in the lake for three to five minutes. Which has been super awesome.

And just being able to see people’s trajectory, we’ve had some people that literally first time ever cold plunging are in tears just because they have such an aggressive nervous response. And then they come back because they felt the dopamine hit afterwards, they felt the adrenaline, they felt great after. And so I think just encouraging people to do cold, even if it’s as simple as ending your shower with 30 seconds of cold water, even that is a barrier for people. But that is something that can so tangibly be done.

Even if you’re doing it a couple days a week, start with 15 seconds, start with 30 seconds. Before you know it, after a couple weeks, you’re gonna be standing in and finishing your cold shower with two to four minutes. So I do love getting people in cold, it’s awesome. I’ve seen incredible stress reduction, my body’s ability to respond to stress better.

And honestly, as humans, we just wanna be able to say that we do hard things. And so if I can actively put myself in a position where I’m doing hard things, the hardest piece of cold water immersion is mentally right before you get in.

Michelle Shapiro RD

I can’t, I’ve only done plunges. I’ve never like jumped in a lake before, but I can imagine it’s extremely daunting. I’m here with it. And I’ve obviously done like other cold therapies too, like cryo of course. So Josh, now I’m just like too into the cold. We gotta talk more about the cold plunging situation. So in ways of how we’re relating it to our metabolism inflammation, studies have shown that cold plunging can reduce that overall systemic inflammation?

Are we aware of the mechanism of how it actually does that? Or is it just something that we’re like, we know this works, it’s doing something with the immune system, it’s doing something with body temperature? Are we aware of that? This might be a hard question because I didn’t let you prepare for it, but just out of curiosity.

Josh Kreifels RD

No, it’s good. So conceptually, this is where my brain goes. If you imagine what’s happening when you’re emerging yourself in cold water, your blood supply obviously is shunted to the core to protect your vital organs. And so what happens in the periphery is you end up getting vasoconstriction, which is where your blood vessels constrict, that blood comes back. And then when you allow yourself, once you’re out of the water to actually warm back up, that blood is then pushed back out to the periphery.

And so what you actually end up doing is creating your own kind of pump of pushing the blood in and out and also moving the lymph. Lymphatics is super important in lymphatic drainage and stagnant lymph and everything like that is super important for inflammation and detox and drainage. So when you’re getting in the cold, not only are you having this like crazy immune response, which dopamine is very anti-pain.

So people that have a lot of inflammation or pain, like the increase in dopamine, 250%, can actually kind of block those pain receptors. But also you’re pushing new blood to the periphery, which contains all the nutrients that you’re getting from your digestion. And so if you’re getting antioxidants, if you’re getting different vitamins and minerals, you’re actually able to push that out manually by getting into cold. That would be my thought process behind why it’s like so beneficial for anti-inflammatories, that vasoconstriction, vasodilation component. And then moving the length.

Michelle Shapiro RD

And that fresh blood, that fresh, fresh blood, we love that. I think also there’s so many elements of Eastern medicine I hear in what you’re saying too, because I often think of Eastern medicine, TCM and Ayurveda as being very important components are stagnation and flow. And I think about cold therapy as stimulating that very much too. And I also think of it being again, of the elements. It’s like you’re connecting with nature in that way.

There’s this really important component with our metabolism, which is this hormetic stress piece, which is also what cold therapy does. Like you said, your body kind of likes doing hard things. Part of the being a human to help your metabolism thing is that your body likes to do hard things occasionally, not constantly. It doesn’t like to do hard things constantly. It likes to kind of dip its toe in the hard things, in the lake of the hard things, and then take its toe out.

And part of that, again, is exercising to exhaustion, occasionally, not constantly doing something like pushing your body again into cold and I think, and back out of it. It’s almost like your body also learns, I can do this and then I cannot do this. So you get the benefits again in the moment, like we’re saying, and then also up for in the longer term because your body just learned that it can do something and it learned how to do it, which is really cool. And you get the benefits of it.

How to Know if You’re Pushing Yourself Too Much or Too Little

So again, when it comes to metabolism, that’s always where my brain is going, not what helps me right now, what helps me overall. So I knew I was like, I’m like, I gotta do cold plunging with Josh, it’s not even a question. Amazing, so cold and sauna. And then, you know, it’s interesting because for myself, I can’t work out in the morning because I, like, my cortisol gets really crazy in the morning, my blood pressure gets really low in the morning, so I am a person who works out in the afternoon, so I know for myself, if something is making my body not feel good, it’s probably, and not feel good for a prolonged period of time.

And in a way that makes me feel unsafe, in again, a way that I’m not recovering from, that’s how I know it’s gonna hurt my metabolism. So for you, you’re like working out earlier in the day works amazing for you. For me, working out earlier in the day is disastrous and that’s okay. So part of the knowing the game of your own metabolism and what’s gonna help your body versus hurt it is also knowing what makes you feel better. Like you said, Josh, you feel good when you work in the morning and how your body’s recovering from that. So,

Josh, how would you advise people find out what’s gonna be helping their individual metabolism versus hurting their metabolism? Like, when do we know we’re pushing ourselves past exhaustion or we’re pushing ourselves for that good stress? Like, what’s the difference in your head?

Josh Kreifels RD

I think if you think in terms of recovery, if you’re spending two or three days super, super sore, like you’re probably over exerting. If you’re spending like you may be sore the next day, that’s good. You’re intending to break down the muscle when you’re working out.

In terms of metabolism and how to figure that out in terms of what’s best for you in the day, for me, working out in the morning is a, it’s more of a schedule have to. I think I probably feel my best between 12 and two, historically, that has been kind of my sweet spot. That’s when I worked out during grad school.

But out of necessity in my schedule, I’ve moved that to the morning. And so I think really understanding what’s going to fuel you for the day. Do you feel just absolutely drained after your workout and you can’t function? Well, then it’s probably not going to be that smart to do that in the beginning part of your day because you need to be a contributing citizen of society. But also at the same time, because of the stress that workouts are, you probably shouldn’t be doing a workout within a couple hours of going to bed.

Just because your body’s gonna have that natural response of your cortisol is up, your body’s going through that adrenaline in kind of that natural cycle of hormones and things like that. And so if you imagine the natural circadian rhythm, cortisol is highest in the morning and then it tapers off towards the end of the day, what you don’t want to happen is you start to taper your cortisol and all of a sudden you work out and you spike it again before you go to bed.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, I mean, I have to tell you, I just have to so wholeheartedly agree on a personal note. And this is the truth for a lot of my clients who experience sleep disturbances, but I go to sleep about 8.30, nine o’clock the latest these days. I know it’s so weird. And exactly, yeah. My new vibe is like eight to four, but like I can’t see anyone in my life or speak to them if I do that. So like I have to, like, you know, my friends finish working at eight, my husband finished

Michelle Shapiro RD

But if I work out even at four, I’m up all night. Like I’m the type person where, like exercise is very energizing for me, like because of that cortisol, I have a very like tricky cortisol game that I have to play. So I really have to work out in that like 11, 12 o’clock, like right, you said right in the square middle of the day.

And I think it’s really important to notice again, how these habits influence you. If something is throwing off your sleep, if you’re not recovering well, it’s not gonna be helping your metabolism in the longterm. Recovery is essential for our metabolism to function. Sleep is essential for our metabolism to function. So again, I’ll say it, anything that gets in the way of you being a human or as Josh said, a functioning member of society is not going to be supporting your metabolism longterm.

So scorching your metabolism also through exercising too much and eating too little will absolutely have a negative adaptive effect on your metabolism overall. So the things that make you feel good and not like dopamine feel good. Not like rush to your brain, oh, kind of good, but just like, hey, I feel even and good and solid.

Those things are probably going to be promoting your health in the longterm. And I know it’s hard because this is an intuitive process and a lot of us are not comfortable tapping into how we feel, but part of learning what’s going to work for your personal metabolism is learning these tools, applying them and being a little bit of a guinea pig to see what’s going to work and what isn’t. And I can tell you that so fascinatingly, and I’m gonna, in a hard way too, like I have clients who have sleep apnea and it’s almost impossible for them to lose weight when they’re not wearing their mask.

Just because sleep is so essential for metabolism, I’m telling you, like these are people who are diligent executives. They know every calorie going into their mouth. They are on top of it and still unable to lose weight. So if you get those essentials of humaneness down, often it makes an environment where your metabolism can function more properly.

And we know that’s because all of the kind of foundations of existence, our blood sugar and nervous system, sleep, the food that we’re eating, the nutrients we’re getting, are essential for our whole body to function and a big leg of how our body functions is how we get energy from things and how we dispose of the energy we don’t need from things essentially too.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, absolutely, nailed it.

Protein is Key for Metabolism

Michelle Shapiro RD

Yeah, just the foundational stuff that Josh and I love. What did we miss, Josh? What do you think is also important for people in ways of, you know, let’s do like a one minute ordeal on how you feel food can influence someone’s metabolism, not only in the short term, but in the long term. Are there certain nutrients that you think are really important for long-term metabolic changes?

Josh Kreifels RD

I am a huge advocate for protein. I know we hit that a little bit, but protein is essential for lean muscle mass. It’s essential for, in my opinion, anti-aging because muscle mass is very helpful for the anti-aging process. I also, it’s a bit controversial, I would say, in the, even the dietetic space is being so very meat forward, but I do believe that animal protein is a very, very, spectacular source of nutrition.

When you think about not only just proteins, healthy fats, things like that, but also the micronutrient composition. And so for me and the way that I coach clients is, is for most people increasing protein, seeing their energy actually adjust, seeing say tidy improve. And then from there, we can actually start manipulating, um, different variables and factors to actually influence weight loss. Um, I have to say it because we’re both dietitians, but I believe that nutrition really is the foundation of health.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Me too.

Josh Kreifels RD

Like you can’t exist without food. And so really being able to take the foods that you’re eating, understanding metabolism, understanding how to get the most out of your food so that you can give the most is so, so important. So if you’re doing everything right, but your nutrition is off, like you’re gonna be swimming upstream.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Totally. And when we think about that definition of metabolism being the composition of the chemical processes that give you energy to be alive, think about the food that you’re consuming and what’s going to happen when it goes down, what chemical processes are going to be influenced. And really, is it a hard process again? And is it a good kind of hard process? Like that or medic. I think of like eating meat as it is an energetically intensive process to break down meat.

You have multiple organ involvement versus like something like a blueberry. It’s not as much of a big deal I feel like versus meat, like you have protein and fat. So you got to get the liver involved. You got to get gallbladder involved. You have a whole other slew of things. But what you’re getting from that food is the nutrients necessary for all those systems to run. And for all those systems to run, again, we need nutrients for metabolism to function properly.

So cutting yourself away from nutrients is also going to put a huge damper on that system as our system will slow down completely to compensate for the fact that it doesn’t believe it’s getting those nutrients in the future. And all of those nutrients are, we could have an entire episode on B6. I mean, each one of those nutrients are responsible for these energy and chemical processes that change throughout our body too. So I certainly believe animal protein is a huge hack for our metabolism because we’re getting so much from it.

And it also is very energy costly to break it down. But if I think of something like a processed piece of meat, it’s energy costly, but not in a way that we love. Because what is gonna be happening is that our body, again, is going to be also creating new kind of chemical processes that may eventually lead to some inflammation in the body too. So there’s, it’s like, is it hard to digest in a good way where your body’s working for it? Or is it hard to digest in a way where your body’s like, get this out of my body, this doesn’t feel right, you know?

Thinking about that when it comes to our metabolism too. And I think that’s a message I didn’t know we were gonna kind of take from this is that doing things that are kind of hard, but feel okay, and feel good in the longterm are great. And then doing things that are either really, really easy, like eating some highly processed food or not moving is probably not supportive for our metabolism.

And then overall doing things that feel good and normal and human is going to get us there, I think, which is like a big, weird message I didn’t know we were going to land on, but we have landed there.

Eating for Performance over Pleasure

Josh Kreifels RD

No, it’s good. One of the shifting points for me when I was doing the standard American diet to going into more of a whole foods based diet was this concept of eating for performance versus eating for pleasure. Now I’ve found because of that, when I’m like, okay, like for me, if I’m eating a steak and some sweet potatoes or whatnot and like some homemade compound butter, I actually look at that meal and be like, you know what? I can see that I’m providing my body a lot of value by this meal. And so I’m more excited to eat it.

And so when I went from a pleasure to more performance based, I noticed that my taste buds actually changed. And now I find pleasure in the foods that were more performance based for me before.

Michelle Shapiro RD

That’s awesome. And I also like this idea of pleasure being something that is like a satisfaction factor as opposed to like that drug like opioid, dopamine-y kind of pleasure, which it does feel different. It feels different eating. Like I have, I always say there’s like one food in the world that can really light me up, which is gluten-free Oreos. Like I eat them and I’m like, oh my God. Like you almost feel your hands like moving towards a thing. I’m like, this is like real. Like it’s very intense what they’ve done with them.

It doesn’t influence me doing it. I just like, and like get this away from me because I’m like, oh my gosh, and I’m not that type of person. I feel very comfortable around food. I don’t care if I have food in my house. There’s just certain things that again, create that specific pathway. And that’s not what I would call in the human pathway. You know, that’s the superhuman pathway.

And we wanna maybe avoid the superhuman pathways. Josh, I can’t thank you enough for getting also kind of weird with me and going in different directions we didn’t anticipate and you still were so on and provided so much value for everyone. So thank you so much. Where can people find you? Where can people work with you? Because I know they’re gonna be running to your page after this.

Josh Kreifels RD

Yeah, this was so much fun and we could geek out for hours. So I sincerely appreciate you having me on. Best way to find me is on Instagram @joshkreifelsred or on my website, I do one-on-one coaching as well as have a firm foundational course. So if any of this, all the foundational principles that we talked about today, you wanna dive deeper in.

That is my passion, is to help people with those foundational principles. So that course is available on our website. Reach out to me, ask questions. But again, Michelle, thank you so much.

Michelle Shapiro RD

Oh my gosh, it was a freaking ball. Thank you, Josh. Please go follow him. And again, King of Foundations, which I think is the coolest thing ever. So check out his course too. Thank you. And I’m sure we’ll have you back in the future.

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