It's National Men's Health Week, and with Father's Day coming up this weekend, we thought we'd honor all the dads out there with a special video – just as we did for Mother's Day with tips on women's health. Dr. Gil Blander is the founder and Chief Science Officer of InsideTracker, and he joins me in this special video interview. Gil has nearly 20 years of experience in systems biology, aging, metabolism, and caloric restriction research. In short, he's a smart and passionate guy whom we love to pieces around here!
In this video, Gil breaks down the biomarkers for men's health that InsideTracker tests for. He explains what they are, why they're important, and how anyone can make simple changes that improve these markers. He also shares some surprising insights – like the fact that in the case of testosterone, having more of a good thing isn't good at all: "Like with every marker, you need to be in balance – there is an optimal range," Gil explains. Far too much testosterone can be just as bad as far too little.
Check out the video below for more of Gil's insight – including how he recently lowered his own biological age by 10 years and how you can, too! Share it with all of the men in your life; we're sure they'll thank you.
01:10 - the role of testosterone
02:27 - the importance of metabolic-related markers like glucose
03:20 - the effect of cortisol, the stress hormone
03:45 - the testosterone to cortisol ratio
06:00 - the role of magnesium
07:30 - Gil's top recommendations: everything in moderation
09:20 - intermittent fasting
11:10 - the power of oatmeal
12:06 - Gil's InnerAge
Men and women's bodies have different needs. That's why we've created 2 FREE e-Books to help you understand which biomarkers to optimize — one for men, one for women!
Erin: Alright, I am here with a very special video for everybody today with our founder and chief science officer Doctor Gil Blander. I can't believe we haven't had you on one of these videos before, Gil.
Gil: Hi, hi.
Erin: Hi. Long time no see.
Gil: Yeah [laughs]
Erin: So for anyone who doesn't know, Gil has extensive experience, almost 20 years working in systems biology and other areas of biology. He has a PhD from the Weizmann Institute in Israel which is basically like the MIT or Harvard of Israel, right? I think.
Erin: Something like that. And also did some post doctorate work at MIT in aging which is really interesting and I do want to touch on that actually. But today what I thought would be great, Gil, is to do something for the men out there because we've done so many videos for women's health. And obviously we need to talk about men's health and Father's Day is coming up so I thought what better time than to talk to you about it because you're obviously a man, you're an expert at what we do here at Inside Tracker. So maybe we can start off by talking about some of the markers that we test for that are particularly important for male health.
Gil: Yes. So definitely everyone knows that testosterone is connected to men's health. So I would say that testosterone is not only for performance, it's also for building muscle and being a man and having a beard and being manly, it's also very important for the sex drive. But also too much testosterone might be a problem because if you are in the worst case scenario such as having a disease like prostate cancer, you usually have a very high level of testosterone.
So like every marker you need to be in balance and there is a normal range for testosterone and we have that optimal range based on what are your goals. If you are someone like me, middle age, like to be better, feel better but is not trying to break the world record in a marathon, my testosterone might be okay to be a bit lower than someone that is trying to run the fastest or break his PR.
So testosterone is a very important marker for men's health. And lot of the metabolic related markers are very important for men's health. So even the one's as simple as glucose. Glucose is a good marker for men's health because as high is your glucose or fasting glucose you have a better chance to live shorter.
And again, we're getting back to my longevity quest. So if you're asking what is the marker that is the most important for you to maintain as low as you can or as optimal as you can, that is definitely glucose and it's pretty obvious for everyone, if you have too high glucose you have a problem with metabolism and if it's even higher you might have diabetes and we know that that's not good for the body.
So that's another interesting marker, another one that is a bit more, let's say, interesting is cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, it's a marker that's showing whether you are stressed out or not. And if you have a high stress level all the time, chances are you will see it in your cortisol levels; there are some means to decrease it but it is very important to know it because it's very hard to detect stress. We started looking into a marker such as cortisol.
Erin: And we test a ratio that includes cortisol and testosterone..
Erin: ...which most people probably won't see if they're just going for a regular lab test with their doctor, even though their doctor might calculate for it separately and not tell them. So what can we learn from that kind of ratio
Gil: Yes, so cortisol, as I said, is a marker of stress but is also when you're stressed and that's something that was a development in evolution from the time that we were running in the woods and a bear was running after us and then we had to climb on the tree to out run the bear. So cortisol can kick up very high. And at that moment cortisol takes any energy source and breaks it down in order to give us the power to climb the tree. And that can be also breaking muscle. So cortisol can break your muscle and when you break your muscle you are less manly in a way. So that's the side of the cortisol. When you look at the testosterone, testosterone is doing the opposite. When testosterone is high you are building more muscle.
So basically you have the level of testosterone building muscle, the level of cortisol breaking muscle, and if you look at the ratio you can see where you are more building muscle or breaking muscle. And that's actually the ratio that we can use and this is very useful not only for the athletically active population but also for the middle age man like me because everyone wants to have some muscle and everyone wants to look well, everyone wants to feel good. And when we have more muscle or more lean body then more often you feel better, you feel better and you perform well.
Gil: So I think that this ratio is a very cool ratio we're also looking at the free testosterone and free testosterone to cortisol, again, it's a bit more complex. I don't want to get into that today but we have a few interesting ratios that can help you to understand whether you're building muscle or breaking muscle and more importantly what can you do in order to start building more muscles and breaking less muscles.
Erin: And there's also I know a lot of men have asked about magnesium as well which is important because it goes together with testosterone, right?
Gil: Correct but also magnesium is very important to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. And if you look at our population, especially right now, we are connected to computers all day long or connected to our smartphones like glued to it, we are not sleeping well. Because all the time we are exposed to the light and our brain is running around all the time and we are not giving a vacation to our brain and it's very important to give a vacation to our brain. Go outside, walk a bit, no plug, have some relaxed time, stay in bed for an hour before you're going to sleep and stop watching any movie. All of that is very important to allow you to have a healthy night's sleep. And magnesium, in a way, is a mineral that helps you fall asleep but it's also important for the level of testosterone. So definitely magnesium is important. And again, we're testing for magnesium and we can give you recommendation what you should do in order to optimize your magnesium but also what foods are high in magnesium and what foods are not.
Erin: So then that brings us to the next question, right? Which is people now know what these markers are whether they've tested with us or not. If someone has tested with us then they're aware that they get these incredibly personalized recommendations, what they should eat, supplements, how they should exercise, things like that. But regardless, I'd be curious to know what maybe your top recommendations might be that generally even though not always fit but that would help promote male health with regards to these biomarkers.
Gil: Yeah. So I think that it's very important to do everything in moderation. And I mean everyone has some sort of sweet tooth and likes to eat some sweets. And we know that sweet is not the best for us but you need to have it. So when you go to buy an ice cream, buy the smallest one. Do it once week. Don't do it every day. Try to do everything in moderation also in the other direction. We see a lot of athletes or the athletically active population that are coming and talking with me and they say “Yeah, I'm exercising like 5 hours a day and I'm waking up very early at 5 am, going to sleep at midnight because I'm exercising all the time and how come I go to the wall and I cannot improve my best.” And again, it's the moderation. When you exercise you need to take some time to rest and recover and build the muscle, again, we're going back to the cortisol and testosterone.
So I think that moderation is very important and try to do everything in moderation but I think that another very interesting recommendation that I can give to our audience is intermittent fasting. I'm sure that you heard the word caloric restriction. I'm sure that you're aware that every model organism that is under caloric restriction can actually live up to 50% longer. And there is more and more evidence in scientific literature that shows that intermittent fasting is something good, again, in moderation.
So I can give you from my own experience what I'm doing. I'm trying to increase the time that I'm not consuming any food as long as I can. So usually I'm trying not to eat after 7 pm and trying not to eat before 10 am. And then I have only a small window feeding, basically 10 am to 7 pm, only 9 hours that I feed myself. And also then I try to feed myself as well as I can. If you take the example of the car, try to give the premium gasoline for the car, I'm trying to give the premium food for myself.
The benefit of the intermittent fasting is not only that you have less time to eat so you consume less calories which is also very good, it is also because you give time for the body, for the digestion system to clean itself, to be ready and also it makes you more alive. Because again, if you look at the ancient man that was running in the jungles, he didn't have breakfast, lunch and dinner, he didn't have a refrigerator next to him, he couldn't wake up 2 am and open the refrigerator and drink milk. He didn't have that. You had to hunt, you had to gather and you had a lot of time that you didn't eat for 24 hours or often 48 hours. So basically what I'm saying is let's try to go back a bit. Eat less, eat in moderation and try to give our body time to clean itself. So try to do some – even not every day but sometimes give the body time to recover.
Erin: And all of those things will obviously positively affect your biomarkers including those male-specific biomarkers that you talked about.
Erin: You have some food there by the way, Gil that you're eating.
Gil: Yeah, I'm eating oatmeal now. Oatmeal is my choice of food. And the reason for that is that oatmeal has a lot of fiber and fiber can help a lot with all the metabolic related markers such as glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol and a lot of other markers. It also gives you a better digestion and helps a lot with regularity. So I think that if you want to take another recommendation from me try oatmeal every day. It will do a lot of magic in your body. So oatmeal is definitely a very interesting food.
Erin: And speaking of which, you shared your latest InnerAge results with me so for anyone who doesn't know what inner age is, that's our measurement of our biological age versus your calendar age and you're really young.
Gil: Yeah. So I'm struggling like everyone. So InnerAge is a very interesting tool that allows you to see what your biomarkers or your internal body telling you about your age and trying to give you a reason why you should optimize your biomarkesr because you're trying to fight between – there is a fight between your chronological age and your InnerAge and you're always trying to make your inner age lower than your chronological age which is not easy. And I have this struggle from the last few years and always my InnerAge is even a bit higher and a bit lower. And I tested last week and I succeed to decrease my InnerAge by almost 10 years below my chronological age which is great. But I'm consciously optimistic because I know that the next time it might be higher.
What is nice about the InnerAge, again, is that you have all the time the reference point and you're trying to make it lower and if you keep it lower, you will have a better chance to stay healthy, stay in shape and hopefully live longer and have fun at your retirement than not just be in the hospital all day and I'm sure that none of you want to be there. Definitely not me.
Erin: Yeah, definitely not.
Gil: So that's my story about the Inner Age
Erin: And InnerAge obviously for men and women the markers are different. For men we're testing testosterone, right?
Gil: Correct. Correct. And for women we are testing a different hormone that is more related for women. So yeah, so we have – and the idea of InsideTracker is that we're trying to be very personalized. So every recommendation that you have is good for you might be not good for your wife or might not be good for your or friend. Or even if you have a twin brother it might not be good for him. Because we're trying to optimize it specifically for you based on what you eat, what you supplement, your exercise routine and definitely your biomarkers. We're also looking at what your preferences are. So if you don't like fish we won't recommend fish. So we're trying to do all of that and then give you the best recommendations that are good for you, good for your biomarkers and ways to optimize them.
Erin: Cool, well, you're doing a great job and I hope that my InnerAge results are going to come back in a couple of day so we'll see if I can beat you. I don't know, Gil.
Gil: I hope so.
Erin: I'll let you know. Happy Father's Day and thanks for joining us on this.
Gil: Thank you so much Erin.
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