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Shawn Stevenson

How to Upgrade Your Brain, Boost Metabolism, Maximize Hormones & “Burn” Body Fat

The food you eat matters more than you know.

Steve Maraboli once said, “By choosing healthy over skinny, you are choosing self-love over self-judgment.” And author Paul Khan said, “I live in my body, my house, so I better be good to it.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — health is wealth. If you’re not healthy, you can’t live a truly wealthy life. Even if you had all the money in the world — the biggest house — if you were unhealthy, then does that all matter?

It’s a shame, but a lot of people live their lives in a constant state of being unhealthy without even realizing it. It’s amazing how incredible we can feel if we get the proper sleep we need, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly. My guest today knows this better than anyone.

My guest today is Shawn Stevenson, author of the international bestselling book Sleep Smarter and creator of The Model Health Show which is featured as the #1 Fitness & Nutrition podcast in the United States! He is a personal friend of mine, and I really value his mission to share quality information with the world to help us all be as healthy as we can be. I could talk with Shawn for hours about nutrition, mindset, health, and even relationships — I never want to stop!

He was able to give us a sneak peek of the crazy new information that he’s learned while writing his new book: Eat Smarter: Use the Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain and Transform Your Life.

I’m so excited to share this interview with you, and I know it’ll support your personal growth!

Who Is Shawn Stevenson?

As one of the world’s foremost authorities on the science of sleep (in a world that’s constantly struggling with it), Shawn Stevenson has increasingly found his insight very much in demand.

He wasn’t always an authority on better sleep, though.

He became one after suffering some severe pain and mobility issues at 20. Upon seeking medical advice, Shawn was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. His doctors at the time told him that it was progressive and incurable, that he had the spine of an 80-year-old man, and that he could only expect to get worse as time wore on.

But Shawn wasn’t interested in hearing any of that.

Instead of accepting the doom-and-gloom prognosis of his medical team, Shawn decided to take matters into his own hands. He started taking a more holistic view of his health and incorporated some significant lifestyle changes — everything from a better diet to increased physical activity to a proper amount of sleep.

By applying a total-body treatment plan, Shawn was able to not only halt his condition in its tracks, but in some cases, also reverse some of the effects. At that point, he knew he had a mission: to educate the masses on the importance of diet, exercise, and getting better sleep.

Today, Shawn is the host of the #1 podcast on Apple’s “Health and Fitness” chart, The Model Health Show, which covers everything from diet and exercise to relationship advice. His books have consistently topped bestseller and audio download charts. And he’s been hired as a keynote speaker to deliver his message of total-body health to companies like Hilton, US Bank, Google, MasterCard, and Whole Foods.

I had a chance to sit down with Shawn a few years ago to discuss his book, “Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success.” And then, I had the pleasure of interviewing him again on Episode #895 to discuss the science of sleep in more detail. But today, I wanted to specifically talk about food and how we can best lose weight, boost our metabolism, and stabilize our hormones for a healthy lifestyle. You’re not going to want to miss this one.

The Science of Fat

Did you know that there’s more than one type of fat in your body? It’s true! There are actually five types of fat, and they serve different purposes. Shawn explained what each type does to help us understand why fat is important — especially since fat is highly connected to your hormones.

The first type of fat is white fat, and there are actually three more kinds within that one category. White fats are storage fats — they hold onto energy for use later on. First, there’s the fat you probably think of immediately — the type you find on your stomach, arms, legs, and butt. It’s the kind of fat that you can pinch, and it’s called “subcutaneous fat.”

After that, there’s visceral fat. That right under the subcutaneous fat, and it’s a little tougher. According to Shawn, this is the most dangerous type of fat:

“This is the fat that’s most correlated with heart disease, with Alzheimer’s, with Type Two diabetes. … It’s just putting stress on your core.” – Shawn Stevenson

The final type of white fat is intramuscular fat. Think of a really well-marbleized steak — the fat that you’re seeing is this kind of intramuscular fat. It’s necessary for our muscles to have the energy they need to move!

White fat is important, but you can have too much of it. That’s where health issues like being overweight or obese come into play. But there’s some good news — you actually have fat that burns fat.

The two final types of fat are brown fat and beige fat. According to Shawn, brown fat cells are extremely dense in mitochondria, and they take the energy stored in your white fat cells and actually burn them. And finally, beige fat cells can actually become brown or white fat cells depending on your nutrition intake. These types of fat help burn energy in your body, which causes your fat cells to shrink, which causes you to lose weight.

But here’s the thing: All of these types of fat are important. In fact, Shawn says that your fat functions like just another organ:

“We tend to think of [fat as] scattered droplets of cells … throughout our body, but it’s really an organ itself. … It’s an organ that has this interconnected communication, and, being that it’s an organ, it produces its own hormones.” – Shawn Stevenson

There’s a keyword here — hormones. Your body is constantly producing hormones. From your brain to every fat cell in your body, hormones are functioning like little messages (Shawn called them “metabolic DMs”) that regulate a ton of the functions our body needs to survive. But are there other influences on how well our bodies can make and use hormones?

“Our fat is actually amazing! It’s one of the most important things that has made us the humans that we are today, is our ability to store energy and to go back and utilize that energy.” @ShawnModel  

Hormones — “It All Goes Down in THE DM”

Bottom line: Your body’s ability to consume energy and use it for various essential processes truly comes down to what you eat. There are many different factors that determine how your body processes the calories you consume to make hormones. Your metabolism isn’t only a function of how efficiently your body uses energy from food — there are plenty of other factors at play. Shawn used a helpful acronym: THE DM.

T: Type of Food

The types of foods you’re eating determine what the calories in that food do to your body. There have been studies after studies that show that calories from processed foods are simply not equal to calories from whole foods.

For example, Shawn mentioned a study in which the two study groups were each given a sandwich — one group received whole-grain bread and cheddar cheese, and the other received white bread and Kraft cheese. And what happened is the group who ate the more processed sandwich saw a 50% reduction in calorie burn after eating.

“Why is that? Because … the processed nature of those foods created some metabolic dysfunction and some confusion for your endocrine system and your nervous system and … cellular communication. So now your body is less apt to let go of that energy.” – Shawn Stevenson

Let’s face it: Processed foods are not good for us. But that’s not the only factor that determines how our bodies metabolize calories…

H: How It’s Prepared

The way food is prepared also has a massive effect on the number of calories that become available to your body. Shawn used spinach as an example:

“Green leafy vegetables — there’s nutrition that’s locked in the inside of the cell wall, and you have to basically crack open the cell wall to extract the calories and some of the nutrients. … Cooking … spinach breaks down the cell wall. … If you’re cooking spinach, calories become more available.” – Shawn Stevenson

So, when you cook spinach, your body is going to be able to extract more calories, and that food will impact your body in a different way.

E: Energy Exchange

When you eat and consume calories, your body actually has to burn calories. It costs energy to lift the food to your mouth, chew it, swallow it, and digest it. That means that when you eat something, you’re going to take in a certain number of calories, but the net caloric intake is going to be less than that.

“On the macronutrient side, proteins are well known to be more calorically expensive to digest. It costs you about 20% – 30% [of the calories in protein] … to digest the protein. So we’ll just say if you consume a hundred … calories of protein, 20 – 30 calories are used to digest that, so you get a net profit of 70 calories.” – Shawn Stevenson

Proteins take up a lot of calories to digest, but carbohydrates only use about 10% – 15% of the calories you consume to digest, and fats consume even less at only 5%. So, when you eat protein, your net calorie intake is actually significantly lowered by the digestion process, and that affects your body’s energy.

D: Digestive Efficiency

Every single human has a unique fingerprint. Likewise, every single human has a unique digestive system. No two people are alike; there never has been and there never will be another person with a digestive system that is absolutely identical to yours. So of course our bodies are going to metabolize calories differently! That’s why there is no one-size-fits-all diet program that’s going to work for everybody. 

“I think the problem is … we put ourselves in this box. … A diet may work for us for a year, and then all of a sudden we’re doing the same things, and it stops working. And we blame us. It’s like, ‘No, I just need to paleo harder. I need to keto harder. I need to vegan harder [or] count calories more. … And these are great frameworks, but … we don’t want them to imprison us because we change.” – Shawn Stevenson

Our digestive efficiency — how well our bodies take the calories we consume and use them to perform necessary functions — changes over time. What works for us when we’re kids is almost certainly not going to work when we’re adults. That’s why it’s important to stay in tune with your body and consult a doctor or nutritionist when you’re unsure how to handle the changes.

M: Microbiome Makeup

This is the newest and biggest factor in how your body metabolizes calories — your microbiome makeup. It sounds crazy, but we all have our own microbiomes made up of trillions of bacteria and viruses that inhabit our bodies. This microbiome is a HUGE factor in our health because all those trillions of little microbes influence our bodies’ processes in ways scientists haven’t even fully discovered yet. For example, scientists can tell if a person is overweight — not by looking at them — but by looking at their microbiome.

“One of the most important things that the research is showing is that one of the most remarkable things in association with fat loss and weight loss is associated with having a higher diversity of microbes in your gut — specifically bacteria. The higher the diversity, the lower your body weight and body fat percentage.” – Shawn Stevenson

So with all these different factors influencing our metabolism, how can we maximize our hormones, burn the extra calories, and maintain tip-top shape?

The Key Is Diversity

Here’s the bottom line: It all comes down to diversity. It really is the key to helping your body maintain a healthy metabolism!

In fact, diversity is so important that Shawn hesitated to share too many specific tips. He knows what foods work for his body, but the truth is, everyone is so different that it’s important to figure out what works for you. He did offer a few tips, however. Here are a few things you should get into your diet:

  • Green leafy vegetables: Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and bok choy help your body to produce massive amounts of satiety hormones. In other words, they make you feel full so you’re not tempted to overeat. In fact, Shawn told me about a study that showed that every serving of vegetables you eat leads to about a third less fat on your waist!
  • Supplements, but in moderation: While supplements are not inherently bad for you, they are the cause of 20% of all liver-related hospital visits, according to Shawn. Our livers simply can’t keep up with the amounts of supplements we consume.

However, Shawn did say that it’s a good idea to get some omega-3 fatty acids into our systems. It turns out that many of us have way too much omega-6 fatty acid in our systems in relation to omega-3s, and when that ratio is off, it can cause extra inflammation. But if we can correct the ratio by consuming omega-3s, we can reduce that inflammation. Cold-water fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but if you don’t do fish, supplements are a great way to go.

  • Olive oil (and other non-processed oils): Olive oil is one of the top things we can eat! It’s also full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly helpful for us.
  • Water: Shawn listed water as a macronutrient because it is so essential for our overall health and wellbeing.

“Water makes everything work better. Every single hormone we talked about is operating in a water medium. Your mitochondria is based on water. All your neuro-transmitters are based on water. … And when you become deficient, which most people are just habitually through the day, … this wide superhighway starts to become these dark back alleys like where Batman’s parents got killed, you know what I mean? And so how do we fix this? Drink! Drink the water.” – Shawn Stevenson

If you’re wondering how much water you should be drinking — the truth is, it really comes down to what’s right for your body. But Shawn gave a helpful tip: A good place to start is to take your weight and divide it in half — that number is the amount of ounces of water you should drink in a day. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, you want to drink about 75 ounces of water each day to stay hydrated and healthy.

Why You Should Listen to This Shawn Stevenson Podcast Episode Right Now…

Shawn shared so much fascinating information that I didn’t even have time to share here! He is one of the most knowledgeable people out there when it comes to diet, nutrition, and health, and I want to acknowledge him for working so hard to get this information out to the world. I also want to encourage you to pick up his new book Eat Smarter. It will teach you everything you need to know about maximizing your health through food!

That’s important because the truth is, America is the sickest we’ve ever been. According to Shawn, we are the sickest nation in history, and that’s never been more apparent than right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The CDC report found that 94% of the folks who lost their lives with this virus had an average of 2.6 pre-existing chronic diseases. … We have to get our people healthier. We see [that] the number one risk factor is … having pre-existing lifestyle-related chronic diseases. … I want to make sure we have access [to information.] That’s one of the things that changed my life … — just getting access, getting exposure. And we could provide that for everyone.” – Shawn Stevenson

We may be sicker than ever, but there is hope. Get out there, educate yourself, and start making those little changes that are going to make you drastically healthier. And, of course, make sure to consult your doctor before making any major changes!

Thank you so much for joining me today! I hope you learned something from this episode — I know I did. If you got value out of this episode, please share a screenshot along with your biggest takeaways on Instagram! And make sure to tag Shawn, @shawnmodel, and me, @lewishowes, so we can hear from you!

Make it a great day, guys!

To Greatness,

Lewis Howes - Signature

“It’s shocking when you find this data out, how deeply food impacts your levels of empathy and your ability to connect with other people.” @ShawnModel  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • How do we burn belly fat?
  • How does our body burn the fat we’ve stored?
  • What are hormones and why are they so important?
  • How do you get a healthier microbiome?
  • What are your thoughts on fasting?
  • What are the top oils that we should be eating?
  • How much water should we be drinking each day?
  • What are the foods we should be eating to have better moods and a higher chance of quality intimate relationships?

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Why our fat is actually an amazing tool for our body to use.
  • The five different types of fat and how our body uses each one of them.
  • The history of calories and why they have become a prison to us.
  • How viruses have helped human evolution.
  • Why it is so important to diversify the foods you eat.
  • The new mindset Shawn had to adopt after his injury.
  • Why we need to treat the root of chronic diseases, not just the symptoms.
  • Plus much more…

Show Notes:

Connect with
Shawn Stevenson

Transcript of this Episode

Music Credits:

Music Credit:

Kaibu by Killercats

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