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Elective 2 / Lesson 3

Base Metabolic Rate Baloney

CARRIE: Hi everyone, this is Carrie Brown and Jonathan Bailor and we’re here – and I had forgotten what the damn title of the podcast.

JONATHAN: That’s because remember we’re so creative here that we were like oh, there’s the old name, Smarter Science of Slim and there’s this new book called the Calorie Myth, so our new title will be – the Calorie Myth and Smarter Science of Slim Show. Everyone’s a winner – yay —

CARRIE: I was trying so hard to remember so I could do it right this time.

JONATHAN: It’s just everything. It’s just everything – up with people, everyone’s aware – yay —

CARRIE: Okay, so this is Carrie Brown and Jonathan Bailor with the Everything show.

JONATHAN: The Everything show – Carrie, what specific thing are we going to cover in today’s Everything show, because I know you had been asked some questions by some friends which you thought I could help with.

CARRIE: Yes, and I know absolutely nothing about this, so this is going to hugely educational for me, as well, which I love and that was – I’ve been having questions around resting metabolic rate testing.

JONATHAN: Do you have a specific question or is it just like someone said resting metabolic rate testing, Jonathan go –

CARRIE: It was pretty much that. No should we do it – is that a good thing to do, why would that be a good thing to do, what’s the purpose – all of that.

JONATHAN: Gotcha. Okay, so the high level thing here is what people are trying to do is they’re trying to figure out what their baseline calories out is – independent of exercise.


JONATHAN: So, one might think, yeah, that’s really interesting. Sadly, that thought is a byproduct of calorie myths, because the number of calories you burn daily can’t be something we have to know consciously to be slim and healthy and happy long term, as evidenced by the fact that nobody knew what a calorie was let alone how many they burned in a base metabolic state prior to the obesity epidemic.

CARRIE: That’s a good point.

JONATHAN: And the only reason — so a “expert” who tells you that you need to get this done is saying — so the only reason to have any information is because we’re going to do something with it, right? Learning to knit is only useful if you plan on knitting. Is that fair?

CARRIE: You come up with the –

JONATHAN: Where the hell did that come from it just – seriously what is base metabolic rate and then I’m like knitting – where did that – I’ve actually surprised myself there.

CARRIE: It tickled me because my mother was this extraordinary knitter who could knit at just the most amazing pace while watching TV and I have no idea to this day how she did it. She was a very prolific knitter. So, I liked that analogy a lot. Thank you.

JONATHAN: So, yes the analogy of knitting ties back to the only reason to get knowledge of that type is to use it for something. So, the only reason we would want to get base metabolic rate testing or whatever this is so we could know calories out so we could contrast it to calories in and –

CARRIE: And do some math –

JONATHAN: And do some math, so it might seem like oh, yeah, that’s useful information, great, it’s information is only useful if it helps you to live in an actually healthy way. For example, let me give you one example because that was not phrased eloquently. Weighing yourself is information, but it is information to cause you to live un-healthfully because there are things you can do to manipulate your weight — in fact the most effective way to manipulate your weight down is to do things that are horribly unhealthy and are proven to be fattening long term aka starvation dieting and obsessive exercise. So if we use that data, getting that data is actually bad because it leads us down a path and it focuses our mind on the wrong things. Your base metabolic rate is similar because it’s based on calories. Anything which focuses on calories, in my humble opinion and there’s a lot of science and common sense to back this up – is counter -productive because just like – you can only think about so many things, right, Carrie?

We’ve covered this in other podcasts – on other shows – if you’re thinking about calories, you’re not thinking about something else. Your brain has a fixed amount of capacity – you have fixed amount of attention, you have a fixed amount of willpower. Please, please, please, focus all – any and all effort you’re going to spend on living a healthy lifestyle — should be spent on sleeping more, and eating higher quality food. It should not be spent on gadget X, pill Y, powder Z, or testing Q. Those are all things which maybe if you’re a professional athlete or if you’re trying to get down to 3 percent body fat or if you’re trying to win a gold medal might be completely helpful, but if you let them invade your consciousness prior to getting the basics right they are counter-productive.

CARRIE: And what are those four basics again – one more time —

JONATHAN: One more time – sleep, which is the most ignored factor as evidenced by the fact that people will often give up sleep in an effort to be healthier. Let me give you an example. This is not what I think, but it is common for people to think this because they’ve been given bad information. My New Year’s Resolution is to get healthy so I’m going to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and jog.

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: The thought process there is it is healthy to give up sleep to do cardiovascular — to do high impact cardiovascular exercise. Both of those thoughts are wrong. Giving up sleep is never healthy and doing high impact cardiovascular exercise is not good for your health.

CARRIE: Got it.

JONATHAN: So sleep is number one, high quality food, is number two, did I say four things – we talk about water and high quality exercise, but the basal metabolic rate testing at baseline is — here’s calories out for you and Carrie let’s unpack this a little bit because this is horribly inaccurate, and it has to be horribly inaccurate because the number of calories you’re burning is not something that any test that happens at a given point in time it’s — for example, if we take a person, Sally, and Sally eats 45 total grams of protein in a day, 15 with breakfast, 15 with lunch and 15 with dinner, and they’re all from lower quality sources, say they’re from legumes, which is not a complete protein source. Sally will not — through her protein intake, trigger a metabolic process known as muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is just the technical term for your muscles and your lean tissue in your body regenerating itself.


JONATHAN: Your body can literally rebuild itself over time and this helps us to avoid. We’ve all heard of osteoporosis, which is how your bones can deteriorate over time if you don’t eat properly. There’s a similar condition known as sarcopenia, which is your muscles wasting away over time – but when we eat sufficient quantities and qualities of protein not only do we avoid this, but we can actually rebuild up to 250 grams of ourselves per day. Our body can rebuild itself. That process of muscle protein synthesis can burn, just doing it, because you’re building tissue — it’s like a child, when a child is growing, we know that a child requires a massive amount of energy because it’s literally building a new person.

When people, adults, or anyone eat protein at sufficient qualities and quantities, usually animal based protein, a complete protein in doses of 30 grams to 50 grams, they trigger this process known as muscle protein synthesis. Sally, will not trigger that process. Now, let’s say Sally ate 30 grams of high quality protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because of that dose and that quality she would trigger the metabolic process of muscle protein synthesis three times in that day. Top protein researchers in the world estimate that triggering muscle protein synthesis three times in a single day can burn 500 to 700 calories.

CARRIE: Just that process.

JONATHAN: Just triggering that process. So, Sally, who let’s geek out with math here for a second — before she was eating 45 grams of protein a day, there’s 4 calories in a gram of protein, so that’s approximately 180, I’m doing this on the fly, 180 calories from protein.She doubles that. She goes to 360 calories from protein. By eating 180 more calories of protein, she will net burn 500 more calories over the course of that day because eating more protein actually caused her body to burn hundreds more calories –

CARRIE: Got it.

JONATHAN: So, let’s say Sally –

CARRIE: Working any of this out is just — you can’t do it. That’s impossible.

JONATHAN: So, Sally, last week, gets her test taken for whatever hundreds of dollars it costs and then this week she eats more protein. How useful is that number now?

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: It doesn’t make any sense at all.

CARRIE: It doesn’t – the more you talk about it, the more ridiculous it seems.

JONATHAN: And besides that, things like your liver – your liver burns 400 to 600 calories per day thinking there’s a reason we get tired after a day where we have a lot of intense mental activity. Your brain is incredibly energy hungry. It burns – so if you have a day where you just watch and trash TV all day – your brain is going to burn significantly fewer calories than a day when you’re engaged in some deep intense mental activity. So, your base metabolic rate and that’s the problem again, Carrie, is anything that makes it seem like this is a mass equation that we can precisely measure and precisely manipulate is wrong.

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: That’s not – it’s making a mechanical a non-mechanical process.

CARRIE: Apart from the fact that it just seems completely impossible because your rate would differ every day.

JONATHAN: That’s exactly right and it’s just the wrong model. It’s a bit like saying, follow these steps, and you can make another person love you because that’s like — that’s not human relationships work. You can’t say, like if you do this, this will predictably happen.

CARRIE: Right. It just doesn’t work like that.

JONATHAN: It doesn’t work that way, right or same thing with making money. You know you’ve met a scam artist if they say, Carrie, give me this amount of money and I guarantee you, I will put it in this stock market and I guarantee you I will get this rate of return in this amount of time. If they say that, they’re a scam artist because that’s not how the –

CARRIE: That’s not how it works.

JONATHAN: That’s not how the stock market works. It’s a dynamic adaptive system. Relationships are dynamic adaptive systems. Your biology is a dynamic adaptive system.

CARRIE: Whoa – that answered that.

JONATHAN: And Carrie, but let’s keep it going. Let’s keep it going because for example, if we did need to understand our base metabolic rate to be healthy, if we did need to understand the base amount of calories out so that we could consciously match it, wouldn’t it follow that we would probably also need to know for example, the amount of Vitamin C we excrete in our urine per day?

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: Because if we didn’t, how we could know how could we be guaranteed to take enough Vitamin C in if we didn’t know Vitamin C out.

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: Or what about phosphorous?

CARRIE: (Inaudible 00:13:53) makes a mockery of everything actually doesn’t it? It just – yeah.

JONATHAN: But it’s true, what about these electrolytes we always hear about? So, if you consciously needed to know calories out, it wouldn’t be like your body just says, you know what, you need to think about calories, but not anything else. Your body is either you need to think about mission critical functions or you don’t and the answer is you don’t, just like do you know how much water — do you know how much you sweat per day? No. Well, then how could you possibly understand, how could you possibly keep a balance of water in your body because your brain is smart and it’s designed to take care of those things for you. You want to make —

CARRIE: You make it sound so simple. And it is – it is – it’s just amazing to me how complicated we make the world.

JONATHAN: Here’s what – we don’t, the challenge is we are – there is so much money to be made in complexity? Right? If it’s not complicated, what the heck can I sell you?

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: I can’t – if your brain takes care of this for you, well how —

CARRIE: How am I going to make any money?

JONATHAN: How am I going to make any money off it? And it’s not that people are trying to be bad or —

CARRIE: They’re just trying to make a living.

JONATHAN: They’re just trying to make a living, right, so the other thing not to completely make a mockery of this, but the other thing to keep in mind is your, we always talk about your dear cats —

CARRIE: I love my cats.

JONATHAN: Mr. Mcluferson who –

CARRIE: Mr. McHenry.

JONATHAN: Okay, I’m sorry, Mcluferson is the name of my giant teddy bear.

CARRIE: Mr. McHenry.

JONATHAN: Mr. McHenry.

CARRIE: My youngest.

JONATHAN: Your youngest cat, so Mr. McHenry I believe does not have a weight problem.

CARRIE: He does not have a weight problem.

JONATHAN: Mr. McHenry is a fit and a delightful feline.

CARRIE: Anextraordinarily energetic feline.

JONATHAN: So, Mr. McHenry and I’m sure Mr. McHenry is a very intelligent as well.

CARRIE: He is very smart.

JONATHAN: So, Mr. McHenry, despite how intelligent Mr. McHenry is, I hope this doesn’t offend you Carrie, I am going to make — I’m – hold on – I need to move away from the mic here, so Carrie doesn’t smack me, I would assume that you would agree that baseline human brains are more capable than feline brains.

CARRIE: I would imagine they were designed that way, yes.

JONATHAN: Okay, so, but Mr. McHenry — not only does Mr. McHenry not know — is it a he?

CARRIE: It is a he.

JONATHAN: You know it’s 2014, who knows.

CARRIE: Smart brains (Inaudible 00:16:37)

JONATHAN: So, Mr. McHenry, bless his heart, not only does he not know his base metabolic rate —

CARRIE: He does not know that.

JONATHAN: But he can’t know it.

CARRIE: He can’t know it.

JONATHAN: Like just the smartest elephant in the world could never be taught calculus, simply because an elephant’s brain can’t do calculus, there is no other species on the planet that can even conceptualize what base metabolic rate is yet, they avoid obesity. How is that possible?

CARRIE: And Mr. McHenry does know the word treats —

JONATHAN: I just made a (Inaudible 00:17:22)

CARRIE: Wait, wait and he does come running and he does eat them and he doesn’t gain weight was my point.

JONATHAN: Yes, so if it’s almost as Mr. McHenry — it’s almost as if he and all sentient beings have a portion of their brain which is shared, which is called their hypothalamus, which is designed to balance out life sustaining functions automatically.

CARRIE: That was my point.

JONATHAN: Carrie, and just like always you are like five steps ahead of me.

CARRIE: He does not (Inaudible 00:17:56) about treats, because his body automatically regulates what he eats and how many calories he does and all of that stuff and he’s (Inaudible 00:18:07) more about this stuff.

JONATHAN: And it’s a very interesting time we live in Carrie, because one of the coolest things I see on the horizon is this quantified self-movement. It’s incredibly fascinating to me there’s a lot of these devices people are starting to wear which tells them, they’re like odometers on steroids, right? It tells them how many steps they’re taking, all this kind of fun stuff and while that is interesting, and I think it can be helpful, let us all keep in mind that it seems that the more information we get, the sicker and sadder we’ve become.

CARRIE: I think it’s just because we’re focused on the wrong things.


CARRIE: And, if we let our bodies do their job and do what they were designed to do and do what they can do very, very well —

JONATHAN: Exactly.

CARRIE: We’ll get on a lot better.

JONATHAN: Absolutely and that’s why I think – it’s not like information is bad and we should all just be ignorant, but it’s about being very clear on the information that matters. For example, if there was something you could wear on your wrist that told you how many servings of non-starchy vegetables you ate today, I’d be like everyone should buy it. Every single person in the world should buy the vegetable band and if there’s anyone out there that is currently on that, I’m happy to serve on your board of directors. The vegetable band, right there. TM. I don’t think anyone’s working on the vegetable band.

CARRIE: I don’t think they are either.

JONATHAN: But you can imagine, for example, having some sort of technology that allows you to understand I ate non-starchy vegetables, I ate nutritious protein, helping you understand the quality of foods you’re eating —

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: And maybe for example — dinner you should eat this because you haven’t yet eaten eight servings of non-starchy vegetables and that’s your goal. If that would be helpful, but saying that oh, you’ve exceeded your calorie count for the day, don’t eat dinner at all, like that’s just measuring, it’s giving you useless information and counter-productive information.

CARRIE: So, as usual, it’s all about or it needs to be all about quality, not quantity.

JONATHAN: And it needs to be about appreciating Mr. McHenry and his fluffiness.

CARRIE: He is an exceedingly fluffy cat.

JONATHAN: And he is all about quality rather than quantity, isn’t he?

CARRIE: Yes he is.

JONATHAN: Well, Carrie I think we have beaten this (Inaudible 00:20:31) into the ground.

CARRIE: Don’t spend money on base metabolic rate. Don’t waste money on it.

JONATHAN: If it involves —

CARRIE: Buy more kale.

JONATHAN: Exactly. If it involves calories, run the other direction –

CARRIE: Buy clams.

JONATHAN: The wrong, and this yes.

CARRIE: Crab meat, crab meat’s expensive, buy crab meat.

JONATHAN: Are you like just thinking about words that begin with C and K right now?


JONATHAN: Because you said clams, crab and kale.



CARRIE: So, I was thinking about I don’t know what I was thinking about.

JONATHAN: I feel like this is Sesame Street. This episode is brought to you by the letter C. Folks, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.

CARRIE: See ya.

This week we hear why measuring about your base metabolic rate is baloney.