Dr. Life – Men, Aging, and Hormone Replacement Therapy, Oh My!
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science to Slim podcast. Today’s show is certainly going to be a good one. If you don’t know my guest by name, you’re about to and you’ll certainly know him by his pictures because they’re all over the internet. I tell you, I can’t check email in the course of a week without seeing our guest’s wonderful smiling face and chiseled physique in front me.
We have none other than a doctor, Jeffrey Life, M.D. Ph.D. the man with the freaking ripped abs at 74, the author of the brand new book Mastering the Life Plan and you can find out more about him at DrLife, don’t put a period in there, it’s just DrLife.com. Dr. Life, welcome to the show.
Dr. Life: Thank you very much, Jonathan. It’s great to be here.
Jonathan: Well Dr. Life, first I’ve seen a bunch of your media appearances. Certainly you’re all over the place, so I’m going to try to take this conversation, if you don’t mind, a little bit in a different direction. I want to get started with certainly you’re known right now at least to my audience for being that guy they see all over the internet who’s just really ripped up and is an older gentleman but there’s also five letters behind your name which are very interesting M.D. as well as Ph.D. Can you tell us a little bit more about you’re…the brains behind the brawn?
Dr. Life: Well, I have a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and I got that about the time that funding was cut back for environmental studies. This is back in the early ‘70s and so I decided to do what I really wanted to do and go to Med School, so I went to Med School and I became a family practitioner and I’ve practiced family medicine now for 35 coming up 40 years now and over the last ten years, I’ve devoted my practice to age management medicine.
Jonathan: Certainly we will get into what that means. I just want to tell our audience a real quick story. It was very wonderful rediscovering Dr. Life because Dr. Life, a previous life now 15 years ago quite some time, was a grand champion in Bill Phillips,’ gentleman who wrote the book Body for Life in his 1998 Body for Life contest and I just mentioned this because Bill, back in the day, use to send out these VHS tapes, remember this was 15 years ago where he would sent out these, this was before YouTube.
If you wanted to share a video, you had to mail people VHS tapes. I remember watching Dr. Life making this radical transformation and it was just a wonderful inspiration for me during that time and since that time, Dr. Life has gone on to create quite the name for himself and Dr. Life, you are most well-known for basically, for lack of better terms, being a ripped up 74-year-old guy, is that fair?
Dr. Life: I think so, but I’m also known for addressing the issues of aging men have in terms of their declining hormones, in other words anatropous, which is the male counter to menopause women have.
Jonathan: The way, correct me if I’m wrong, but the common term people use to describe what you do in part in your medical practice is that hormone replacement therapy?
Dr. Life: That’s right, hormone replacement therapy, so my practice really focuses on getting people on the right kind of exercise tailored to their needs, getting people to eat right so that they can improve their overall health and well-being and then correcting hormone deficiencies.
Jonathan: Certainly when you say hormone deficiency, I know sometimes when people hear about this they’re like, “Oh my gosh.” It’s not the same thing that athletes do but this is very different, right? What body builders are doing is taking their levels of testosterone and other related hormones to 20/30 times normal levels. Your goal is to reset to normal levels, correct?
Dr. Life: That’s right. It’s completely different than what the athletes do. My goal is to restore hormone levels up to a healthy range, to the top end of the healthy range which is you say is about…well the athletes go for 20-30 times at which is insane. It’s crazy. My program is all about maintaining optimal health as people age and now we can do that. We don’t have to follow the same pathway that our parents followed. The second half of our lives can and should be the best part of our lives.
Jonathan: Certainly Dr. Life I want to make sure that folks understand that you’re recommendation, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is in this order, control what you’re putting into your mouth, eating high quality foods, ensure you’re intelligently exercising and then we move on to, if necessary, the hormone replacement therapy but hormone replacement therapy is no replacement for eating properly and doing high quality exercise, correct?
Dr. Life: That’s right. That’s absolutely right, Jonathan. You can get your hormone levels up to an optimal range and if you don’t eat right, if you don’t exercise right, you are not going to improve the way you look and you’re not going to improve your life span and you’re not going to improve your health. It’s going to continue to go downhill, so you need the whole package. You need to make sure you’re not deficient in hormones and you need to do the right kind of exercise and eat the right kind of foods. I tell people what they put in their mouth can either kill them or make them healthier, help them, so that’s basically my whole program.
Jonathan: Dr. Life, so certainly early in my career I was much more plugged in to the body building, fitness scene than more the academic science side of things and that’s of course, I was interested in Bill Phillips’ work and all that kind of fun stuff and certainly being in that realm, I knew a lot of people that took steroids and did the 20/30 times approach, which is not healthy.
One of the things I was always so terrible about doing that was you can’t do that forever and when you stop, really bad things happen like it seems like, “Oh, this was great. I am gaining all this muscle and burning all this fat and I feel great” but then you stop and the train goes off the tracks. Does a similar thing happen with hormone replacement therapy like if you stop, will you be worse off than if you never started or how does that work?
Dr. Life: No, what actually happens is that if you stop, your levels will go back to where they would have been had you never started and that means, actually if it has been a while which you’ve been on the hormone replacement therapy and you stop, your hormone levels are going to get lower than they were when you started this program. People who stop the program will then go back to where they were or where they would be had they never started and they start aging more rapidly and they start increasing their risk for disease and they start gaining body fat, especially belly fat and they start losing their muscle mass and strength.
Jonathan: Dr. Life, what do you recommend? It sounds like the optimal approach in your practice that you’ve seen is that an individual is eating correctly. They’re exercising correctly and of course they must continue to do those things because if they stop doing those things and of course if you stop doing anything, you’ll stop getting the benefits and then they would also augment that with hormone replacement therapy. I can imagine that hormone replacement therapy is not in the financial ball park for everybody, so are we just doomed if we can’t afford it? What do you recommend to those kind of people?
Dr. Life: Well actually, you know, by doing the right kind of exercise and by eating the right way, my patient’s actually increase their own production of growth hormone for sure. Most of my patients come in growth hormone deficient and by eating right and exercising with resistance training and cardio, they can double their own growth hormone production and get their hormone level for growth hormone back up into the healthy range. With testosterone, they can do that to some extent but not once your testicles quit making testosterone, it can’t be restored. Folks, most men 50 and older need testosterone replacement therapy of some sort and this is not really expensive. This can be done inexpensively but the important thing is that if men are replacing their testosterone, they need to make sure they’re being followed by a doctor that knows what they’re doing.
They need to have blood levels check periodically every three to four months to make sure the levels are still in the right range and that they are not making any adverse byproducts. As long as they’re being followed, it’s a very worthwhile program but to indiscriminately take testosterone especially the gels and creams and patches that they promote on TV without being followed carefully is a mistake.
Jonathan: Yeah. I would very much second that if an individual thinks this is something that they’re interested in anytime, Dr. Life I’m curious to get your thoughts on this, because what you just described is a man at a certain point in his life is just not going to be producing testosterone essentially just not happening, so once we start to do that which our brain and our body used to do for us, we’re essentially trying to take over a core and innate bodily function. That’s not easy and that’s not something to take lightly, correct?
Dr. Life: That’s right. That’s very well put, Jonathan, very well put.
Jonathan: When I laugh too because I don’t laugh it, actually it breaks my heart but even things, forget about testosterone production, even more basically energy balance and energy regulation. Some of this focus on this minutia of counting calories so precisely and the idea that the body is this passive receptacle that we must have all this conscious control over, you only need to have that conscious control when the body is no longer operating correctly, in the case of diabetes and your pancreas is no longer secreting insulin.
In that case, you need to inject yourself with insulin and that’s a pain in the butt and it needs to be done with a physician’s supervision. If do it incorrectly, it can kill you. I imagine the same things happen with testosterone replacement. It’s almost like in the case of diabetes, your pancreas stops working so you need to inject insulin. In the case of anatropous, which I would love if you can talk about, your testicles stop producing testosterone and then you could replace it in a similar fashion.
Dr. Life: That’s right. That’s exactly what I do and I make sure that people are clinically deficient in testosterone based on clinical findings and laboratory findings and if they do meet the criteria for a deficiency then I replace their testosterone and my choice, the only way I do that is through injections, weekly injections. The typical anatropous patient who comes to me and he is in his mid to late 40s and they complain of loss of energy. They say they just aren’t feeling like they did a few years ago, their sexual function has declined. They’re not able to get rid of body fat especially belly fat, even though they’re going to the gym and they drag themselves to the gym and they struggle through their workouts and they’re not making any progress.
Their thinking is kind of cloudy and they’re really afraid that they’re losing their edge and verily this man has low testosterone levels and within just a couple of weeks of correcting their deficiency, they start thinking more clearly. Their energy levels come back. Their sexual function comes back. Their zest for life comes back and then I just continue to keep their levels at a healthy level throughout their life span. That’s really it and make sure they’re doing the right kind of exercise and nutrition.
Jonathan: Dr. Life when you say healthier levels, it’s an interesting question because just about every television appearance you’ve ever made people like, “Yeah. Here’s Dr. Life who is in his 70s and has the body of a 30 year old.” My question is, given the fact that you are replacing testosterone levels, do you literary have the body of a 30 year old, meaning in many ways we described the body as a reflection of the hormonal balance within it, right?
A woman’s body is different from a man’s body due in large part to a different hormonal balance. If you get a sex change and you start taking different hormones, your body changes, so when someone says, “Dr. Life you’re 74 years old, you have the body of a 30 year old” don’t you literary have the body of a 30 year old, thanks to the hormonal balance in your body?
Dr. Life: Well that’s really a great question. I can answer it this way. I discovered a few years ago that I have heart disease and I developed this over the first 60 years of my life. I had been able to stop the progression of that disease, so, my arteries are not like a 30 year old but they’re staying healthy enough for me to do everything I want to do. As far as my strength and muscularity, I think I’m ever bit like a 30 year old. I compete with 30 year olds and I do fine.
My face doesn’t look like a 30 year old but it looks more like my age but the rest of me, if you look at just from my neck down, I look like I’m in my 30s and people say that’s amazing. Well, I tell you Jonathan, no one is more amazed by it than I am. I think this is unbelievable. You know when I won the Body for Life contest in 1998, the after picture I thought this is as good as I will ever get. I better relish the moment and since then, I’ve actually continued to get better and better and it’s just amazing to me because it kind of goes against everything that we’ve been taught about aging. Traditional medicine kind of buys into this aging as part of life and you just got to suck it up and deal with it but we don’t have to do that these days. We don’t have to follow the same paths that our parents followed. We now have a technology to know how so that we maintain youthfulness and the beautiful thing about this is the better you look, the healthier you are and the longer you’re going to be productive for society.
Jonathan: Dr. Life, I think it’s a really good example of this concept of aging and the concept of age is really a blunt instrument because we all know on some level but if you’ve spent 60 years on this earth and you’ve slept well and you have low stress and you’ve had great relationships and you’ve had great sex and you’re eating high quality food, and you’re getting exercise, we know intuitively that even on a cellular level you may have more robust cellular structure and you will certainly have a different hormonal balance than someone who’s 20 years younger and has lived a different life, so given that, why are we so hung up on these numbers?
Dr. Life: You’re talking about the numbers of aging?
Dr. Life: I don’t know. I don’t know. You know Satchel Paige, who was a famous black pitcher way back in the early 1900s, used to make lots of quotes and one of the quotes he made was “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” and I think about that and I think how old will I be if I really didn’t know and I’d have to say the way I feel.
If I didn’t look at the mirror, I would say 35 or 40. In America, we get hung up on age and there’s this bias against older people. It’s not like that in other countries. Japan is totally different, the older you get the more respect you have but there’s no reason, I’m not against aging. This is not anti-aging. Everything ages but what I’m against is getting old. My whole idea is to not get old as you age.
Jonathan: Certainly, you can get old way before you age. I know plenty of people in their 30’s who, you know, my father and mother could run circles around, so you are absolutely right and Dr. Life, let me see what you think about this question here. I’m sure you’re out there. You’re meeting with clients and there is all these different approaches nowadays to fat loss and let’s focus on fat loss here for a second. Certainly losing excess fat is good for our health but let’s just focus on fat loss for a moment because there’s all this debate about this is more effective than that and that is more effective than that and I’ve always been fascinated that left out of that conversation is the entire arena of what I would consider physique competitors. If you look at the Bill Phillips, the individuals who what you did literally compete on stage to see who can look the best.
It seems like these individuals, given the fact that their career is predicated on looking a certain way, would know the most efficient way to do that and wouldn’t do things that didn’t help their goals. Do you think sometimes, let me give you a concrete example, meal frequency. Meal frequency is getting debated back and forth and back and forth and back and forth nowadays, however, in my experience in the physique world, there is no question about how frequently you should eat, so why in your estimation is there this disconnect?
Dr. Life: Well, you are absolutely right. The body builders have known for 30 plus years what people need to do to get rid of body fat and increase muscle mass at the same time. They are really experts on this and yet the entire medical community has ignored what they’ve been saying for 30 years or 40 years. The entire community of nutritionists have ignored it and now we are beginning to start thinking finally, that maybe these guys know something that no one else knows and the secret is, eating protein with each meal and having several small meals a day and that’s the answer, frequent small meals.
You don’t necessarily have to count calories. Make sure the carbohydrates you eat are not jacking up your blood sugars and if you have any kind of history of heart disease or a family history of heart disease, make sure that you don’t eat a lot of saturated fat but have protein with each of your five to six small meals a day and you will drop body fat and you will not lose muscle mass and it just works like a charm.
Jonathan: It’s amazing because now I was speaking with one of the premier protein researchers in the world, Dr. Donald Layman over at the University of Illinois. This gentleman has written extensively and just amazing research on why protein eaten at regular intervals has such a profound impact and it’s amazing that we’re now at the cellular level, starting to understand that through the amino acid leucine and through the MTOR pathways we trigger muscle protein synthesis and we literally trigger our body to build new tissue.
Not only does this help us to avoid things like Sarcopenia, which is like osteoporosis for our muscles and to build new metabolically active muscles but the sheer amount of energy, it takes to fuel muscle protein synthesis. Dr. Layman was telling me that they estimate that up to, if an individual is keeping themselves in a “anabolic state” taking this frequent doses of sufficient protein so that they get their leucine levels up high enough that literally, up to a third of the calories they burn throughout the course of the day could be expended, simply rebuilding their body from the inside out.
Dr. Life: That’s right.
Jonathan: Folks don’t understand that people are going to get so amped up at about burning calories on the treadmill. Not to say that’s bad and not to dissuade people from walking. Walking is wonderful for you but there’s a lot of other ways that our body uses energy, right?
Dr. Life: That’s right. That’s right. In fact, most of the energy that you use is just maintaining your metabolism, taking care of all the things that are going on throughout your day and then as you say, a bunch of calories are burned up just metabolizing foods and protein eats up the most calories by metabolizing protein. A high protein diet really is the answer to dropping body fat and maintaining muscle mass and avoiding Sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass as you say, as people age and it turns out it’s the number one reason men and women in this country end up in nursing homes because they’ve lost so much muscle mass and strength that they become frail and their kids can’t take care of them anymore and they typically will say, “You know dad, we just can’t take care of you anymore. We’re going to put you in this home just for a little while to build up your strength.” Well that’s the kiss of death.
As you go into that little home and you’re just sitting around watching TV and no movement, no exercise and you just keep going downhill and so, traditional thinking in the scientific community is that Sarcopenia is unavoidable, that people cannot avoid losing muscle mass as they age but that is absolute nonsense. I have demonstrated and my patient’s, that as people age, they can increase their muscle mass no matter what age they are and their strength and if you eat right and train right and protein and small meals throughout the day are the key part of that.
Jonathan: It does certainly seem Dr. Life a bit absurd to say that just age like the active aging must cause one to lose muscle tissue because again, I think that’s conflating the state of the body with the number because certainly if someone who is 40 has higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone than they did when they were 20, which is completely possible through living a healthier life when you are 40 than you did when you are 20, well then, logic dictates and biology dictates that that 40 year-old would have an easier time gaining muscle that would seem than the 20 year-old.
Dr. Life: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
Jonathan: Dr. Life certainly you focus quite a bit on testosterone which wouldn’t make individuals think that you focus quite a bit on men, which I suspect is generally accurate but what have you seen in terms of women and aging?
Dr. Life: I should tell you that women are 30 years ahead of men when it comes to hormone replacement therapy. They’re 30 years ahead but the problem that has happened to women is that physicians have just doled out estrogen and progesterone and never look the blood levels and I’m afraid the same thing can happen to men with all these transdermal preparations that are being touted on TV now.
Women really need to maintain optimal hormone levels as they age and when they start into menopause, they really need to go on bio-identical estrogen and progesterone and this will slow their aging process down and maintain great health. Women need small doses of testosterone until… This whole idea that I’m talking about applies equally well to women. Women need to eat the right foods and do the right kind of exercise and make sure their hormones are not declining.
Jonathan: Dr. Life, I’m sure that no one has seen this and I’m sure no one’s heart breaks more than you when you see this. What are the number one things both men and women should look out for, so they listen to the show, they hear about hormone replacement therapy. They think to themselves that sounds promising and they do an internet search, oh, my gosh, I can’t imagine it’s a mine field. What do they need to look out for?
Dr. Life: They need to look out for quick fixes. They need to look out for doctors that want to prescribe and not follow them carefully. They need to get baseline levels of their hormones, blood levels and then they need to be, if they’re deficient and put on hormones they need to make sure that they are being followed closely every 3 months or so with blood work. It needs to be managed properly. Most people do not need growth hormones.
Most people can make their own growth hormone, enough on their own if they do the right kind of exercise and nutrition and so as they get blood work and it shows a low growth hormone level or low IGF1, that’s not the end of the world. They don’t necessarily need to go right on growth hormone. They can correct that on their own. Men and women in their 40’s and 50’s that are menopausal or going through anatropous probably need for women estrogen and progesterone and men need testosterone and you need to find someone that knows how to do this and is very conscientious and follows your labs.
Jonathan: It sounds like that’s the key to what, two key take a ways that we had, please add a third if I missed it. The first take away, what you put in your mouth and how you move your body prior to number one. Done. Easy.
Dr. Life: Absolutely, eat what you put in your mouth is the deal maker or the deal breaker for everybody.
Dr. Life: If you don’t eat right, you are doomed no matter what else you do.
Jonathan: I love it. You’re moving your body and then if you are in need potentially of hormone replacement therapy, this is not something to take lightly. This is not something to do it yourself. This is something where you are essentially saying, “I am going to take over that which used to be monitored by my hypothalamus and by all sorts of complex neuro circuitry,” so please don’t think that you can just buy something off the internet, slap it on your ass, and then you’ll be okay. Please don’t do that. What do you think Dr. Life?
Dr. Life: You know you bring up a really good point. There are a lot of supplements that are not FDA approved that people can buy on the internet. There are touted to increase growth hormone levels, increase testosterone levels, sheer nonsense. There is really nothing available over the counter that will increase growth hormone levels or increase testosterone levels.
Jonathan: When you say over the counter, I would imagine you don’t necessarily mean over, you mean like pills, powders, and potions because certainly, the food we eat which we can buy over the counter fortunately can have an impact on our hormone levels.
Dr. Life: I’m talking about the pharmaceutical counter.
Jonathan: Absolutely, certainly that the butcher’s counter might be a different story.
Dr. Life: That’s right.
Jonathan: Well Dr. Life, I so appreciate you sharing your time with us. Certainly, you are a very busy man. You’ve got your brand new book, Mastering the Life Plan and folks can learn more about you and your work at DrLife.com no period in between Dr. and Life, and Dr. Life just to close, what’s next for you?
Dr. Life: Well, I’m working on a book now on Nutrition and Diet and I’m building a website that should be operational in a couple of weeks, two to three weeks, that will be very informative for men and women and I’m still practicing medicine here in Las Vegas with Cenegenics Age Management Medicine and I plan on continuing to do that for a little while. I devote every part of my day, every day to eating right and training right and it has become a way of life for me ever since Bill Phillips.
Had I not done the Bill Phillips’ program 15 years ago and then followed it with a Cenegenics program 10 years ago, I would not be here. I would be dead. There is no question about it, so, I become so passionate about getting this word out. People can make changes in their life at any age that will profoundly affect their longevity, and their health, and their quality of life, and their productivity and this is the time to do it now.
Jonathan: Dr. Life certainly, you are being the change you want to see in the world and for that, I tip my hat sir, because there’s really no better way to teach than to live by example. Thank you so much for what you represent. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Life: Thank you, Jonathan. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and your audience.
Jonathan: Thank you again and listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did and remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.