#201: Gabrielle Lyon, DO- Protein, Leucine, mTOR and Muscle Growth Science, Strategies w/ Gabrielle Lyon, DO

by Deanna Mutzel, DC



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About Gabrielle Lyon, DO

Dr. Lyon is an Osteopathic physician who specializes in cognition, healthy aging and weight loss. She brings truly integrated education to her approach, having completed a residency in Family Medicine in Long Island and a combined research fellowship in Nutritional Science and Geriatrics at Washington University in St. Louis, with additional training in Psychiatry, as well as Human Nutrition and Metabolism. Offering a cutting-edge focus on the interface between memory, brain health and obesity, Dr. Lyon is a regular speaker for The Institute for Functional Medicine. In private sessions, she emphasizes body composition optimization through muscle health and protein metabolism, so whether you are in search of lasting weight-loss or a higher level of athletic performance, you become equipped with a detailed plan for healthy and effective body change.

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Show Notes


02:18 Lift Weights:  Muscle is the organ of longevity. The only way to keep muscle healthy is to lift weights.

03:21 Dr. Lyon’s Work: Dr. Lyon trained with Dr. Donald Layman, one of the world’s leading specialists in muscle protein metabolism. Her focus is on muscle health, muscle protein synthesis, and optimizing body composition.

03:48 Ageing and Muscle Protein Synthesis: When you are young, muscle growth is driven by hormones, insulin and growth hormone. You don’t need as much protein. As you age, your body becomes more resistant to hormones. Then there are only two ways to then stimulate muscle protein synthesis: exercise or diet.

04:13 Stimulating Muscle Growth with Diet: Diet means the right amount of protein intake at the right times in the right amount to stimulate the lock and key effect.

04:42 Anabolic Resistance: As we age, our bodies become more resistant to tissue activation or mTOR signaling. Our hormones are naturally lower and the amount of protein needed to stimulate mTOR is higher. mTOR is stimulated by leucine. It is an anabolic protein that allows muscle to turn over and to be synthesized.

05:36 Muscle is the Organ of Longevity: It is an organ just like the heart. The healthier your muscle, the healthier your life. It is the largest unit for glucose disposal and the largest site for fat oxidation.

05:56 Eat More Protein: As age, we need to eat more protein at once. We need around 50 grams at one time.  At 65 and up, we need 40 to 50 grams of protein to stimulate the same kind of muscle turnover. There is a tendency to eat less protein as we age.

06:40 Anabolic Resistance: It is on the trajectory of sarcopenia and cachexia. Sarcopenia and anabolic resistance are happening earlier. Usually, it begins in your 40s and 50s, but we are so inactive that it is starting in our 30s. This involves a loss of muscle function and muscle strength and fat infiltrates the tissue.

07:10 Quality of Protein Dictates Quality of Your Health: The Protein and amino acids are the limiting factor for what makes a good diet. You do need high quality fats, lower glycemic carbohydrates, but it is the quality of your protein that determines the health of your diet and the quality of your health.

08:42 Animal-Based Proteins vs Plant-Based Proteins: Soy and wheat protein take over 40 grams to make the initial reaction to mTOR signaling. Whey protein takes 25 grams to do the same. It is based upon the amount of leucine. Vegan proteins are low in leucine and are not digestible, and thus not useable by the muscle.

09:49 Benefits of Methionine/Protein Restriction: Methionine is an amino acid whose pathway is restricted in a ketogenic diet. Dr. Lyon believes that this may be a key reason that the ketogenic diet works so well for some people. It revs metabolism because you are low in an essential amino acid. There may be benefit to periodic protein restriction.

12:20 Increase Protein on Rest Days, NOT Training Days : When you are training, you are stimulating muscle protein synthesis and you are primed to use the foods that you have eaten, so you need less protein. On days when you are not stimulating your muscle, you may need 40 to 50 grams of protein per meal to increase muscle protein synthesis.

13:55 Optimal Range of Protein:  The recommendation is 1.6 grams of protein intake per kilogram. Everyone should be consuming at least 30 grams of high quality protein 3 times each day for minimal stimulation. Higher ends of protein, quality and quanitity, max out the system.

16:25 Time Restricted Feeding/Intermittent Fasting: Dr. Lyon recommends doing this with branch chain aminos, making it not a true fast. If you are doing a water only fast, your first meal should have about 50 grams of protein to feed your muscle. Protein has a satiety and appetite regulating effect.

18:17 Train in the Morning: Dr. Lyon recommends that we do our training in the morning. If you are not going to eat (intermittent fasting) you should train.

18:51 Optimal Meal Timing: Dr. Lyon does not recommend time restricted feeding for everyone. Dr. Lyon starts her weight management patients on a 3 meal a day (containing 30 grams of protein each) program. Don’t do heavy weights or CrossFit in a fasted state.

20:00 Post Workout: Post workout your body is primed to take in amino acids. If you want protein, you only need about 25 grams. A small insulin spike post workout can optimize glucose uptake and amino acid uptake.

20:33 Protein and Insulin Spikes: Protein spikes insulin only as a phase one reaction to get the branch chain amino acids into the cell. It not a long insulin spike and does not elevate blood glucose. It is not a reaction similar to carbs/sugar. Protein does get converted to glucose. Branch chain aminos are more ketogenic.

22:55 Protein Causes Cancer? Studies use obese mouse models that are already at risk for cancer. There is mTOR in every cell. In muscle, the leucine that stimulates mTOR is targeted for muscle protein synthesis. There is no evidence that this relates to cancer. Overconsuming carbohydrates or overeating drive insulin mediated mTOR, may be related to cancer. Grazing and chronic feeding of carbs throughout the day raise insulin. Fasting 4 to 5 hours between meals is beneficial.

26:20 What We Think about Protein is Wrong: You should be eating about 150 grams of protein a day. It is protective. Humans used to be more active and stimulating our muscles. The more sedentary you are the more protein you need.

27:00 Get the Dose Right: It is not a percentage of calories. The lower your calories, the higher your protein needs. Otherwise, you go into starvation mode. You need to protect your muscle by eating protein.

28:31 Protein and Your Kidneys and Bones: If you have a compromised kidney, the load of the protein is high. If you are healthy, protein helps GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate). Bone is made of protein.

29:16 Train Your Body to be a Little Hungry: When you don’t snack, you allow your body to reset the metabolic pathways reset, the mTOR signaling resets. Then when you eat again, you have an opportunity to maximally stimulate your muscle protein synthesis. Snacking destabilizes blood sugar.

30:46 Getting Enough Amino Acids: Glutamine is primarily for the gut. Branch chain amino acids feed the muscle first. If you get the muscle protein right, with enough to feed a muscle, then you get enough arginine for NO2, enough creatine, enough taurine, and enough methionine. Use food as medicine. As you age, feed with a purpose.

34:30 What about the Liver? People with NASH/fatty liver have high blood levels of amino acids. It is a metabolic marker of insulin resistance. Should you add more protein to a liver that is struggling? Amino acids go through the liver first. Reducing carbs is the highest priority for this group. They can do well on a ketogenic diet to start. The liver metabolizes all the amino acids. Branch chain amino acids make up roughly 20% of the protein. When the liver kicks out the amino acids, it makes up 70%. Unless someone has cirrhosis, Dr. Lyon does not worry about protein.

36:52 Bone Broth is Not a Protein:  Bone broth is high in proline and glycine, but devoid of branch chain amino acids. Branch chain aminos is a bolus amount. Have it all at once to get the amino acid load in the bloodstream to get the metabolic triggering effect that you want.

38:09 Cooked vs Raw Branch Chain Aminos: Cooking methods do not make a difference in changing protein digestibility. There is a denaturing with eggs, but it does not change the amount of the amino acid. Mike and Dr. Lyon both eat raw eggs.

39:40 Dr. Lyon’s Favorite Exercise: Her choice is the sumo deadlift, full body movement.

39:56 Dr. Lyon’s Desert Island Herb: Vitamin C is her choice for its antioxidants, cancer prevention and more. However, she ponders whether she could survive without ashwaganda.

41:05 Dr. Lyon’s Morning Routine: When she first awakens, Dr. Lyon does 20 minutes of transcendental meditation. She journals her thoughts, intensions and gratitude. In the morning she journals about how her day went to program her day.

42:28 Dr. Lyon’s Elevator Pitch: Everything we know about protein is wrong. You need at least 30 to 50 grams of high quality protein 3 times a day. It will protect you for life.









  1. Please keep sending me information. I just found out l have progressive fibrosis of the liver. Meeting with the Doctor on Monday. I will see what my step is.

  2. Hi Mike, greetings from England! I have listened to all of your podcasts, (and also those of Danny Lennon over at Sigma Nutrition who covers very similar issues to yourself), but have never been moved to comment before – until now. I have to say, this one was just amazing – super practical tips, and chock-full of great insights. I’ve listened to it 3 times now, and note down new ideas each time – eg I love the tip about 50g of protein to break the fast on intermittent fasting days. Dr Lyon is a great communicator, and unlike many guys and gals out there, she certainly looks the part – more people need to appreciate the healthful aspects of being well-muscled in my view! Would love to hear more from her in future, or indeed her mentor Donald Layman – I find this whole area of protein, leucine, MTOR-C and AMPK to be one of the most interesting in the field of nutrition at the moment, eg alternating between strongly stimulating MTOR then switching to trying to strongly stimulate AMP-K during a fast, to reap the benefits of both systems. One area in particular I would like to hear more on at HIH would be the area that Dr Lyon touched on – ie methionine restriction. I have heard a lot now from various credible sources about the benefits of doing this on a pulsatile nature (I myself do 16-18 hour fasts 3 times per week on my non-training days – I wonder if this would count?) A big area for you to look into though would be researchers such as Dr Joel Brind who are contending that exactly the same effect of methionine restriction can be achieved by instead supplementing with 8g of additional glycine per day. Glycine powder is very cheap, so I just add 8g into my 60g whey protein isolate shake (was 30g prior to hearing this podcast!) each day after breaking my fast. I would love to hear more on this area, as I believe this has potentially huge implications to improve health at low cost – and easier than restricting methionine, which as Dr Lyon states is present in pretty much all animal protein! Just my thoughts anyhow – keep up the good work Mike!!

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