Dr. John La Puma – Refuel: Shed Fat, Boost Testosterone, and Pump Up Strength and Stamina

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Jonathan: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim Show. I’m very, very excited about today’s show. I’m looking out my window. It is a beautiful, sunny morning in Seattle with the first frost. It is the first frost. We have a glazed yard I’m looking out on. It is quite lovely. What is even lovelier than that is today’s guest, who I just recently met. I think it was about a month ago and I am shocked that we had not met before because his work is spot on, his attitude is lovely, and his personality and mission are just gem-like. I cannot wait to meet today’s guest in person and give him a big high five and potentially even a hug if he is willing because he is just a great guy. He’s been doing work all around the world for many, many years and his message is one that I think will resonate with a lot of you and help you to live radically better.

He is a board certified practicing internist and a New York Times selling author, twice. He’s been on PBS. He’s been on the Dr. Oz Show, he’s worked with Dr. Mike Roizen, he’s just doing all kinds of fun stuff and he combines cooking, nutrition, and he’s got a really interesting message.

He tries to break down barriers for some guys, because sometimes us guys are, I don’t need to see the doctor, I don’t need to worry about my health, give me another beer. So, he tries to help fix that problem and I am just so delighted to welcome him to the show and to introduce him to you. Dr. John La Puma, welcome to the show, brother.

John: Thank you Jonathan. Pleasure to be with you.

Jonathan: Well, Dr. La Puma, before we dig into your new book, which is really exciting because it comes out the exact same day my new book, “The Calorie Myth” comes out. Your book is called, “Refuel” and is just a wonderful complement. So, I would encourage everybody when you go to Amazon to pick up a copy of “The Calorie Myth” or Barnes and Noble, grab a copy of “Refuel” as well, the more the merrier. There is certainly no shortage of bad information in there, so let’s crowd it out with good information.

John, before we dig into that, your story, is just fascinating. Can you tell us a little bit of how you went from little John, to Dr. La Puma?

John: My mom could do that best. I was lucky to go to college and then to medical school, trained in Internal Medicine and get on the fast track in medical ethics where I did the first fellowship in the country for physicians who wanted to train in medical ethics in general Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago. As I helped to develop with Dr. Mark Siegler at the University, the field of medical ethics I became really overweight myself and I spent a lot of time trying to help patients and doctors deal with problems near the end of life, but I found I didn’t pay attention to my own health and didn’t know what to say to my own patients who were overweight. So, I got off that track and went to cooking school, learned to cook, came back and started Chef Clinic and then helped Mike Roizen develop Real Age Diet and cooking the Real Age way, and more recently have been interested in the ChefMD concept of food as medicine, particularly culinary medicine and Mike Roizen and I taught the first cooking and nutrition course for medical students in the country, at SUNY and later I was able to teach culinary medicine in the first clinical course at DMU. So my interest, Jonathan, is really in allowing people to use not just food as medicine, but to take control of their lives in new personal ways that they haven’t before and that medicine really hasn’t given them a shot at.

Jonathan: Dr. La Puma, so you mentioned a great point there which is medicine hasn’t given them a shot at. This idea as food as medicine to many non-physicians, seems radically self-evident, of course what we eat impacts our health, but it seems like there still is some doubt about that in the medical community. Why is that?

John: I think, Jonathan, it’s two reasons. First, nutrition really hasn’t had the very careful hard science look that infectious disease or cardiology or orthopedic surgery has had. We haven’t considered it as seriously I think as a profession as we need to and then the second reason is that a lot of physicians simply haven’t been trained in the power that food can deliver to patients and the meaning that it has for patients and the joy and actually both preventive and therapeutic benefits it can have. So I think that those two reasons together have added up to what we’re seeing in the broader public, the great interest in cooking, in farmers markets, in doing yourself, even the (Inaudible 00:5:33) movements connected to this, so we’re experiencing a renaissance in the power of food as medicine and to combine that with nutrition in a way that actually helps to prevent and treat disease with what I might add is often fantastically tasting delicious dishes. That’s like the best of both worlds.

Jonathan: I love, Dr. La Puma that you use word renaissance and that your message is always one of positivity and deliciousness because it does seem like over the past 40 years, if the mainstream medical community has “taught” us anything is that we should almost fear food and go out of our way to consume as little of it as possible, when it seems that the modern research to your point is actually saying, no, you need to go out of your way to eat more of the right delicious whole natural foods. Is that fair?

John: It is. The right fuel for your body can actually make it a super-efficient machine, which is especially important for men who have not been taught that or brought up in the culture of the idea that food can be fuel that can either be high octane fuel, the kind of fuel that you really want or any one that it really ought not go into anyone’s tank.

So, I think that the medical literature has often been filled with analogies to food that identify it as etiologic that is causing disease and medicine hasn’t been focused on that, but there are increasingly powerful new research studies not just in the medical literature, but also in the culinary literature, in the agricultural literature and actually in the biotech literature that point to the power that food can have for calm and conditions, 70 percent of heart disease is preventable within environmental modification, including that of dietary intake, 80 percent of many cancers, probably are preventable with environmental changes, including that in nutrition. Those kinds of data are shocking to people, but in fact food can be some of your most powerful medicine and exercise to your point is often just as powerful, in fact, both ought to be written on prescription slips.

Jonathan: I love that and I love Dr. La Puma that you brought up these other areas of interest because that’s one of the things that has personally shocked me in my own research journey and that is fuel, for example, you mentioned agriculture and culinary art, but things like neurobiology and the cutting edge research on gut bacteria and just gastroenterology in general where there’s nutrition somewhat taught as a vertical and then neurobiology and often neurobiologists don’t talk to nutritionists. If you look at the neurobiology research, and you look at how edible things affect neurobiology in a way that affects appetite regulation and hormone stimulation, you start to see that nutrition and food – it is way bigger than what we may have initially thought.

John: No question about it. I think men and women respond to the idea of nutrition differently and we see that in comfort food for example, when comfort foods are desserts that are chocolate or ice cream or sweets. Men prefer comfort foods that are meals, meatballs and spaghetti and meatballs and meatloaf and roast chicken, large pizzas, that these are comfort foods for men and so what food means to us psychologically is very important to how we metabolize it and how we consume it.

Men specifically respond to food and to programs that are engineered as you pointed out, for their brain, for the idea that food is something that men can think of in the ways that are valuable to us, which are about stamina and strength and being able to take care of ourselves and others. That kind of notion for men is at the central tenant (sp? 10:16) to how men can begin to re-understand what goes in their body comes out as either, for example, testosterone or estrogen.

Jonathan: Dr. La Puma, I’m so happy we’ve bridged this gap here and just talking specifically about your approach specifically to men and you have a phrase you say, men don’t diet, men refuel, because I think for our male listeners this is obviously going to be very helpful, but maybe even more so for our female listeners. Dr. La Puma, I can’t tell you how often I hear our female listeners — who are about 80 percent of our listenership are females — saying I’m focusing on food, I love it, but I just can’t get my husband or my partner to care. I just cannot get them to care. They’re just like — whatever. Your new book is called, “Refuel,” it’s very much focused around talking to men on men’s terms about taking control of their health. How have you found to make men care about their health?

John: The way to make men care about their health is to meet them where they are. What do most men care about and bear in mind, these are big generalizations, but in each of these generalizations, there is a kernel of truth that I think may resonate with listeners and it is to return for a moment — what men care about is getting strong, building stamina, having sex, looking and feeling better, having sex drive. Men don’t care really about their cholesterol levels or their blood pressures, or their blood sugars. They care a little bit about maybe getting a heart attack or a stroke, especially if their dad or their brother or their uncle had a heart attack or a guy at work had a heart attack and kind of begins to bring it into focus.

If you meet men where they are and use the language that they understand, then you can actually reach them about going to the doctor, about getting their blood pressure and blood sugar and cholesterol checked, about having more energy to do the things that you as a woman want to do around the house, outside together in the park, playing tennis, whatever kinds of activities you like to do, but your guy doesn’t have energy for, a way to reach him about that and to reach him about getting to the doctor is for my plan to do it with him, to the refuel plan with him, but actually any kind of program that he wants to do together you as a woman ought to consider doing as well, and speaking to him in ways that he understands. For example, in our program, we found specific phrases that were especially helpful to men that women could use and specific phrases that we found were not, like the encouraging phrases on appearance are, I can tell you lost weight, especially from the side. Men like to hear that. On encouragement, we found, you can do it, or you look great, or I’ll do the shopping for any recipe you want to try. These are helpful things that men want to hear and if a man has a little bit of success that you say, I don’t want to lose you, or the kids really liked your dinner tonight. Those kinds of things are positive for men. They like to hear it, so when they make a little bit of an effort then they get rewarded by the woman in their life, who says, you know what, I recognize that you’re doing something positive for both of us, not just for you.

The way to discourage men are being judgmental, like don’t lose too much weight, or are you really going to eat that? We’ve all had that. We’ve all heard that too, but those aren’t the things that help men or for that matter, help women and negativity kind of squash men when it doesn’t look like they can.

So, the kinds of things we want to say are positive, are reinforcing, are helpful in the sense that you’re in it together and that you’re partners. This of course is a lot easier to say than to do, but it starts by simply saying, look, men need easy, have an easy program.

The program I designed for men that we tested in a beta test and presented at Stanford and South by Southwest that the “Refuel” book is about is very simple. Men need easy. We put men on two days a week of 50 grams of carbs or less, 3 liters of citrus water every day, and 5 minutes of high intensity interval training, 5 minutes of aerobic and strength every day. We went through three phases and taught them simple sleep and stress habit changes and men were blown away. Their energy levels went through the roof, 75 percent of them had sleep quality, 75 percent had increase muscle mass, 57 percent improved erectile function, which as I pointed out is what men really care about and the men who had a woman who was willing to help, who could help with the shopping, who could maybe help with the idea that dinner could be for everybody, that we don’t have to eat separately of course, who could exercise with their man, actually did even better. They did even better than the average 11 pound weight loss of over 24 days and it was because women were partners and I think that, Jonathan, is what men are looking for.If they have a simple, easy plan and they have a woman to help them, they do even better.

Jonathan: Dr. La Puma, those tips are extremely helpful and those results are astounding.

Before we close, I want to get a little bit more metaphysical and get your opinion on something because this is has been my personal experience and that’s what you just described is obviously true in the sense that men want to be winners, right? That’s kind of what testosterone does. The more testosterone you have in a sense – these are all gross generalizations, right, but there’s a kernel of truth as you said – makes you want to win. It’s kind of a competitive hormone.

So often, I recall a specific story where I was with a group of friends and this was a different time in my life, so I was eating slightly differently, but in this specific context, we were all eating and I said, oh, I want this other thing, which is healthier and the other men said, hey, be a man, what are you doing? There’s almost this stigma where if you take care of your health, which is really what enables you to be the best man and of course the best woman as well, but, the best man you can be — men make you feel like you’re being less of a man. What’s the deal with that?

John: There can be that problem, Jonathan, and I think it’s because men don’t like the idea of getting smaller and the whole idea of the language and dieting is about eat less and exercise more and if you’re choosing a salad, everybody else is having theprime rib. That feeds into eat less exercise more. As you know, eat less, exercise more doesn’t work. Men respond to very gender specific behavioral strategies and they don’t know for the most part that the fat pack inside their bellies is converting the testosterone their testes make into estrogen and when they learn that and learn a little more about how their bodies work and how they can build muscle and hold on to that testosterone, then they become a little more interested in proteins and (Inaudible 00:18:50) played and healthier fat and more green vegetables and protein and vegetables at every meal and trying the three liters of citrus water a day and using a six inch plate at home because it looks full. They become more interested. If we can teach them a little bit about how their bodies work, it’s amazing how men respond and then what they become competitive about is who can eat the slowest.

Jonathan: I love that. I absolutely love that. Well, Dr. La Puma, it’s very easy to tell that there is a wealth of very, very great clinical evidence based work here and also some really practical and helpful immediately useful tips in the upcoming book, which is coming out New Year’s Eve, correct?

John: That’s right. Together we’re going to hit the New York Times list — together Jonathan.

Jonathan: I love it and the book is called, “Refuel” correct?

John: You bet and we’re going to be helping men all year long. I just cannot wait to help men get on the right track and help women get on the right track with them because men and women who do this together, or a woman who’s willing to help her man get fit, boy that’s a winning combination.

Jonathan: Dr. La Puma, I want to highlight something and I bet our female listeners would also be well-served to read this book because if nothing else, it’s a bit like “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” If you can understand how your man is thinking, you could probably help him and then help the whole family as a result even more effectively.

John: Absolutely, and I know that we both know Christiane Northrup, is a OB/GYN in Maine and she said it was the one book that women should give to men in the New Year and apparently Dr. Oz has said the same thing. We’ll see, but I’m so grateful for their support and I do think that women will learn a lot if they read this book and nudge men in a way that men actually want to be nudged.

Jonathan: I love it. I love it and where can we learn more about the book, potentially pre-order it, all that fun stuff?

John: Oh, please come to my website, which is drjohnlapuma.com, or refuelmen.com, and of course the book is going to be everywhere, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound — we’d love to have you on our team and help make this something that is a movement that helps men get healthy for men and for women together.

Jonathan: I love it. Well, Dr. La Puma, thank you so much for this message of simplicity of science, of positivity and of helping people where they’re at, which is great. It’s not a bunch of shoulds and you should do this, it’s much more sensitive and therefore, much more effective. So thank you for all the work you do to help so many live so much better, Dr. La Puma. It’s much appreciated.

John: Jonathan, what a pleasure to speak with you.

Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation as much I did. Again, our guest today is the brilliant and caring Dr. John La Puma. Check him out drjohnlapuma.com or just do a web search for that and especially check out refuelmen.com, because that’s where you can learn about his book, which comes out the exact same day as “The Calorie Myth,” this New Year’s Eve. So, be sure to grab them both and remember, this week, and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.