The conventional approach to dieting is fundamentally flawed. Metabolism Made Simple offers a better solution. You can change your body and your health for the better without quick-fix gimmicks or fad diets. My next guest provides a wealth of readily understandable science, easily followed systems, and repeatable strategies. He exposes the real reasons why many diets fail, and help you avoid the pitfalls on your way to your goals.
What’s up, everybody? Welcome back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty. Today, I’m very excited to be joined by the author of Metabolism Made Simple, Sam Miller, who’s going to coach us into shape with his inspiring expertise.
Hey, Sam. How are you doing? Thank you for joining us today on the Author Hour Podcast. I’m really excited to have you to talk about your book today, but let’s start giving our listeners an idea of you and your personal background.
Sam Miller: For sure. Yeah, and I appreciate you having me. My background is I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for a little over fifteen years now. What I currently specialize in is providing continuing education for health and fitness professionals primarily on the nutrition and physiology side of things and really talking about metabolism. So that’s always been an area of fascination for me, which brought me down the path to why I’m even meeting with you here today, which is because of my latest book Metabolism Made Simple.
I’ve been in the industry for a long time just for my own health and fitness journey. Then really became passionate about helping other individuals and figuring out some of the nuance that exists when it comes to the human body and everything and that just sent me down on several rabbit holes later. Then ultimately brought me to where I am with you today.
The Biggest Challenge
Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s remarkable, man. I’ll be honest with you, I’m very much a generalist when it comes to nutrition and health and working out. I do my running. I do my eating as healthy as I can get it, however, learning anything about metabolism sounds incredible. It sounds very important to me. I’m skimming through your book, I’m like, “Oh, my God.” I’m like slapping my forehead. I’m like, “This just makes so much sense.” What part of the book, would you say that you struggle with the most and potentially reaching the audience in which you want to reach?
Sam Miller: Right. I think what was tough for me, right, as I’ve evolved as a professional, I certainly communicate a bit more with other health professionals. So, I really wanted this book to be more broadly applicable to the general consumer, health and fitness enthusiast like yourself, as well as someone who’s professional. I didn’t want someone to have to have a certain lingo, or language, or certain knowledge that they needed as a prerequisite for the book. I really wanted it to be a gateway to serve as in someone’s quest for additional knowledge or tools, as it pertains to their own health and their own metabolism, nutrition.
As you said, describing the word metabolism, it sounds important, right? It sounds like something that would be this super advanced science and some people are even intimidated by it, or we have these flashbacks to like, maybe like fifth grade, and you maybe overheard a parent or relative or friend saying like, “Well, so and so never gains weight. They must have a fast metabolism.” Or “This just sticks to me and I gained weight, so I have a slow metabolism,” or, “I’m potentially gaining body fat or something,” when they’re displeased or dissatisfied with their health and fitness pursuits.
I wanted to write this book to really make sense of nutrition, because I think it’s an area and an industry where there’s a lot of people arguing about a lot of different ways to do things. There’s a lot of different dogmatic approaches. It’s somewhat contradictory to what I’ve seen in working with countless clients over the years and also helping other health professionals do the same.
So, I really wanted to synthesize that information. If I had to break down that aspect of the most challenging part of the book, or the hardest part to write from your original question, I would say, really holistically, the entire thing, just zooming out to the point where it’s like, how do we make this as simple as possible for a consumer as opposed to speaking to a health professional? That was a challenge in itself, because it required me to go in an additional layer, an additional level beyond what I’ve been used to over the past few years.
I think also just the sections in terms of application because I know that what works for one person can be very different for another. Just as we all have our own fingerprints, we all maybe have our own unique personal preferences, the way we do things and go about life, our metabolisms, actually are very individual based on our health history or past nutritional choices or past exercise choices. So, you as a runner, that has this unique effect on your metabolism in terms of thinking about like water cutting through sand, if it were to run over, and over, and over again that’s what carves a unique path based on where that water’s running.
Based on our past choices and our lifestyle, we do the same things in terms of our health. If I’ve been, let’s say, I prefer nature walks, and you really like running, or suddenly we have a friend that really enjoys yoga, or Pilates. Those are unique, different stimuli when it comes to exercise and then our nutritional decisions will also play a role in metabolism. Really, trying to write something that wasn’t one size fits all, or there’s not a meal plan at the end of the book, or it’s not necessarily something that we typically see in the exercise and nutrition space was very challenging, because of the level of nuance that’s present within health, fitness and nutrition.
I felt that maintaining that nuance and context in the conversation was very important, because that’s the honest truth. Whereas certain folks maybe only write about one particular diet style, or they only write about one particular way of doing things. That’s largely because it’s to their own benefit, because it’s usually attached to some product or program that they’re promoting. I think that was the hardest thing. For me is how do we still make this widely applicable, but also specific enough where it’s tangible for someone to actually make some changes in their life.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Man, I love that, because I’ll be honest. I for example, in my own health endeavors, if you will, running and then I started taking boxing classes and things like that. So, I started paying attention, especially in the last like three to four years. My father had heart problems, my mother had diabetes, and I grew up. I was born in Iraq, man, where we lived right by the river. So like fish was a huge, like diet, right? As a part of our diet, but so was like bread. Consuming a ton of bread, for example, for me, right? It’s just like a thing. Okay, I need to rethink how I eat, for me.
In your book, what sounds amazing to me, and why I want to indulge in it more, is that it’s like, okay, look at how you internalize all of these things. How you exercise, how you eat, and what you eat, and sifting through that and making the best decisions from that point going forward, as opposed to like you said, it’s not an exterior issue and interior issue and understanding how your own body works, your environment, your health, what are the things that you need to push on and let go of? That for me really simplifies it, like you said.
Honestly, I’m like one of your audience, members, if you will, right? Listening to this stuff and reading through your book, it really brought forth like, okay, I’m on the right path in thinking about how I should see health for me, right? Because if I sit there and compare myself to my boxing instructor. I’m not going to have those same results in which he deploys, right, because his body and his whole ecosystem is different. So, you’ve been in the health industry for some time, what got you into this work? I mean, it’s obviously impressive how long you’ve been in it, and how far you’ve taken it, but what got you into it?
Sam Miller: Right. I love that, in that last part you really focused on, we have to look somewhat internally in our own personal preferences and our status quo in terms of the way we live our lives, in terms of our nutritional decisions, because the problem is, when a lot of people start diet and exercise approaches, we have that keeping up with the Joneses, or looking at the person next door, or the personality on Instagram that we follow. We have this tendency to look for an external solution based on what’s worked for someone else.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yes.
Sam Miller: If we’re constantly looking externally and comparing, as opposed to developing and cultivating our own strategies that work best for us based on the tools that I set forth in the book, we’re constantly looking externally and comparing ourselves. I don’t think we’re ever going to reach that level of optimization or customized routine, which is ultimately the most sustainable one, because it’s the one designed for you. So, if you’ve ever had a fitted suit or you’ve had a dress tailored and it fits your shape really nicely, because you had someone who actually did the alterations. I think we need to have a level of that within nutrition and fitness.
Now there’s some general things like walking and exercise and maybe we all need certain vitamins and minerals and hydration and those are your baseline big rocks that everybody needs to focus on, but from that point, there’s definitely some areas where we might go walk our own path, and there’s a fork in the road. I love that you said that, especially the internal versus external part, I almost wish that I articulated that in the book a little bit further, because that really helped to synthesize some of the ideas that I do present. I think that was huge, in terms of my own personal health and fitness.
I think a lot of us get into our own fitness journey, or start our first diet largely for somewhat selfish reasons. Not necessarily because we’re looking to change the world, right? I can’t say that, hey when I was seventeen years old, or when I started high school that I wanted to write a book, that wasn’t necessarily the case. I had always been a fairly active kid, but I wasn’t always someone who naturally achieved the best body composition, right? I didn’t walk around looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or a model for Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Me and you both, brother. Yeah.
Sam Miller: I always had to work at things and figure out the whole exercise and nutrition thing. It wasn’t something that I necessarily had that skill set at a very early age. A lot of the things that were presented to me, similar to you, our family plays a very large role in terms of our nutritional decisions and exercise choices. I was always playing sports. I was a very active kid growing up, but I didn’t necessarily know a lot in terms of the foods that I should or shouldn’t have been consuming. A lot of that just ties back to education and that education wasn’t really available.
I also a few years into my health and fitness journey actually had a physical injury in the form of a concussion and TBI that actually impacted my health at the time. What I was seeing in terms of my lab work and how my metabolism was functioning from like a hormonal perspective. That really caused me to have an interest in like, wait a minute, you mean, this isn’t just this thing that exists in a vacuum, and it just runs all the time. It just works the same way for everybody. I think I finally realized that there was a little bit more to the story. There’s a little more nuance there.
My personal health challenges definitely played a role. Similar to you, I believe you mentioned that your father had some cardiovascular risk factors, or heart disease risk factors. That was actually true for my father’s side of the family, as well. I definitely had an interest in that. That actually was something that impacted me even earlier, probably closer to around middle school. I remember my dad having to have a pretty significant heart procedure. I think I actually wrote one of my college admissions essays about that—
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Mine, too.
Sam Miller: In health and fitness and things. Even prior to my own personal struggles and challenges, I definitely noticed things around me. I was fairly observant in terms of what was going on with family. There were times of my childhood, where I remember I’m playing video games sitting on beanbag chairs that were popular at the time and consuming Doritos and things that aren’t really necessarily like the best for you from a nutritional perspective, right? We can probably eat certain foods in moderation, but I do remember that my choices probably weren’t best suited for, what my goals would then be further down the road. I think for me I definitely started as an active kid but didn’t really have that understanding that I wanted.
Then as I wanted to really build confidence, get stronger in the gym, look better, perform better for sports and things. I guess, I just realized I didn’t necessarily have those tools. So, I started exploring, and searching online, and reading articles, and even eventually hiring coaches on my own. What was really interesting is probably more so than any other industry, or I least would put it in the top ten even if there are other industries out there that are somewhat comparable, is that the fitness industry has a lot of misinformation. Things that aren’t necessarily correct based on research and evidence that we have at our disposal.
I would say and not only is there misinformation, but a lot of the good information that’s out there is misapplied. Meaning, let’s say you’re a runner, but you’re following nutritional advice for someone who’s relatively inactive, or they just do fairly restorative exercise or something, or water aerobics, right, very, very different things. So, what’s interesting about the fitness industry is not only do we have this abundance of misinformation, but even some of the good information you can find is often misapplied. I think for me, the spark was first being curious, and really having my own challenges and realizing that like, I didn’t have it all figured out.
Then I think the next chapter was really realizing, hey, this stuff is confusing, because there’s a lot of misinformation here. Then even the smart people out there that are sharing the information they have, there’s not really a lot of context around either how to apply it or here’s the situation where it works. Even using nutrition as an example, we have this unit of measurement called calorie, which everybody pretty much, if you ask most people, they’re familiar with the idea of a calorie or what it is, even if they can’t really break down advanced nutrition concepts.
They’d say, “Oh, on the menu, this has more calories, or this has less calories.” We know that calories are that unit of measurement, but unlike any other unit of measurement. So, for example, if I said, “Hey, you’re going to actually go run a mile of Mount Everest.” Versus, “Hey, you get to go on this nice sunny, one mile run in Kansas.” Those are very different journeys, right? Even though they’re technically both a one-mile run. That’s what we do with nutrition and calories. No one really peels back the layers there to provide like, well, situationally, this is how you would prepare for the Everest experience, versus maybe you just grab your running shoes and a pair of shorts, and you head out for the Kansas experience, right? I think—
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Great analogy.
Sam Miller: I think, that’s the first like, two to three phases from a nutritional perspective of my journey, and also related to health and fitness, and what got me interested in the first place.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s amazing, man. Way to take me through that story, though. I mean — and I love that analogy between the Mt. Everest or just like a flat plane. I mean, you’re 100 percent right. That run is going to be different. Just mentally, and nutritionally look preparing for that, it has to be different, you have to approach it differently. But thinking in that way, first and foremost, is what’s going to lead you to a better outcome. I love that idea, because in a way your book is trying to get you to think in a certain way, in a new way, in a very simple way. But approach, how you see nutrition a little differently so that it can give you the outcome that you’re seeking. This whole book is about metabolism. For those of us who don’t quite fully understand metabolism, what is it? What are the tools to manage it?
Sam Miller: Great question. Metabolism is essentially a regulator of stress and energy. It’s a part of, if we were to think of an area of science that best describes metabolism, a lot of it has to do with our body’s natural or built-in adaptive physiology. Meaning our body does certain things to help us survive is really the most simple way to put that. Metabolism being a stress and energy regulator, we can see how it ties into something like exercise, which burns energy, and food, which essentially is where we consume energy.
That’s how I frame metabolism in the book, walking us through chapters of—well, how do we even define what energy is? What provides energy? So, for humans, we consume food, plants, do the whole photosynthesis thing and hang out in the sunlight as far as breaking that down, then I look at different components of food, right? What makes something “healthy” right? Which is, I don’t even really pay too much attention to definitions, because I think that is an issue that we have, as people start labeling things as, “Well, I went to Whole Foods. So, it’s ‘healthy,’ Right?” When really, we need to break things down a bit deeper [in] to, okay, maybe we have the energy content, which is the calories. Maybe there are certain vitamins and minerals the food provides; those would be micronutrients.
Rather than labeling something as this is a healthy or unhealthy food, we basically have things that just contain—they’re basically just packaged amounts even if, let’s say you’re eating something that’s totally not processed or packaged, and you’re having fish, for example. You use the example from growing up. Well, that fish may provide protein, which is a macronutrient, maybe there’s a tiny bit of dietary fat in there, that’s normal and that’s okay. In fact, a lot of fish actually contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are quite good for you, those are essential fats that we need just for our overall health.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah.
The Five M’s
Sam Miller: Then we have certain micronutrients. Depending on the fish, it may vary in terms of what vitamins and minerals are provided, but that’d be a great example of rather than labeling fish as just, this is healthy or unhealthy, because obviously, preparation may vary. There’s a lot of other things that can happen to the fish after you catch the fish. We can just look at fish as, okay, these are the nutrients it contains. This is what it’s doing for me. This is how it’s fueling my body. This is how it’s contributing to metabolic health, or potentially maybe some foods that aren’t contributing to that level of health.
To help readers identify what food choices might potentially be best for them. I talk about the Five M’s which really first and foremost, we talk about maximizing adherence, and managing your appetite, because if you’re hungry all the time, and it’s not something you can stick with over a period of time, you’re probably not going to be successful with it when it comes to your nutrition. So, it’s important to understand we’re balancing, making healthy choices, but also incorporating some foods that you enjoy so that you can do it over a long period of time.
In addition to the adherence and appetite management component, we also have to think about trendy topics that are quite important as well. Things like gut health, so for that M, I call that maximizing absorption, because absorption and assimilation are a key feature of our gastrointestinal health is basically getting that energy from the food as well as the vitamins and minerals through the digestive process, and then ultimately fueling our body, so that we can do maybe some of the exercises that we’ve been talking about during today’s podcast.
I also talk about minding our micronutrients. So, micronutrients are things like vitamins and minerals. I would argue that you could probably put water either in more of a macro or micro or just separate category, because it’s so important, but really, we’re just thinking about essential nutrients. We have to be cognizant that like the body needs these things to survive. We can produce certain things or make certain compounds out of other compounds. Although, usually it’s best to just derive them from the diet.
Then last but not least, I talk about mitigating adaptation. In a society where we have a lot of yo-yo dieters and people who will go on again off again. The book is going to come out a couple months before New Year’s resolutions, which I think is important that people maybe grab a copy if they’re considering a New Year’s resolution or particular diet strategy going into January. So, the reason mitigating adaptation is so important is because when we chronically diet or we make repeated dietary attempts, we do see transient changes in metabolism. Meaning, if we are increasing our exercise and reducing our food intake, this creates essentially this calorie gap or energy gap. That in itself can be a bit stressful to use a colloquial term to describe a more complex scientific process of what’s going on in our body.
We essentially have this thing called metabolic adaptation. If we diet over and over and over and over again, or we try to restrict calories, perpetually, basically, think of that friend that’s always on a diet, anytime you see them, anytime you talk to them, they’re posting about it, always on a diet. That’s not necessarily the best thing. We want some seasonality in our nutritional approach. So, one of the things I move into, aside from the five M’s is really this tool of looking at your nutrition in seasons. Let’s say, you were preparing for a race, because you’re a runner. That might be a time to fuel your body with a bit more food and increase your calories. Whereas, let’s say you want to take a little bit of a break or an offseason, or you’re only running two or three days a week, because you’re doing it more for recreation and enjoyment, maybe stress relief, and just the overall feeling, because you like going on a run, which is totally fine.
We might just reduce your nutritional intake a bit, because that’s going to be different than training for a half marathon or something like that, right? Where you’re very, very active all the time or maybe you’re doing whether it’s Ironman or some form of event, maybe a Spartan Race or something, right? There could be something that’s creating an additional energy demand or energy requirement. So, by understanding metabolism and some of the main pillars that are such a key component of metabolism, we can make better choices in our daily life to basically align these things, right, whether that’s matching our nutrition to our exercise or vice versa.
That’s how I think about metabolism from both a definition perspective and the tools to manage it. One of the reasons why I wrote the book is to really put the five M’s and some of these other tools on paper, so that other individuals could figure out, okay, this is how I go through this process, or this framework for making decisions rather than—even every time I still go to the grocery store, I see all these different magazines in the checkout line with all the different diets that someone should follow. Well, now instead of picking up that magazine, and just following something for twelve weeks, you could potentially create an approach that’s actually going to be sustainable for you and work for your metabolism over a longer period of time.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right. I think that’s what I love the most about your book. It kind of brings it back to the ideas that hey, look. All of these diets, all these external things that are trying to get you to do something that may be unnatural for you. Various people have all kinds of things, whether it be health, money, or it could be stress, or it could be I want to work out, here’s the big thing, right? I want to work out. I don’t have the time. It’s not that you don’t have the time, right? It’s, where’s it in your priority list? You know what I mean? If you don’t have the time now, when will you, right? Who’s going to get your butt up off the couch?
Sam Miller: The fact that you mention some of the other social determinants of health, I think is super important, because we don’t know—I have access to maybe the same thing. So maybe if you do grow up near a river and fish is plentiful, well, maybe fish is going to be a great protein source for you and your family. If you’re in a different area, and or maybe let’s say, your parents were vegan or vegetarian, or based on your spiritual beliefs, you prefer not to eat red meat or something like that. Then let’s not include that in the nutrition plan. We just have to understand, but this is also where we can reverse engineer solutions, right? Red meat does have protein as well as, B vitamins and zinc and other nutrients.
If we’re going to exclude those, and let’s say we’re vegan or vegetarian, we just have to know that particular diet styles may have certain nutritional deficiencies. It’s all about creating the approach is going to work best. Yes, there are social determinants that are playing a role in terms of our foundational health. We have to be aware of what’s accessible to us and what’s realistic, because we can always change health behaviors and evolve those others—over time and that’s why you may revisit this book multiple times, because what works for you when you’re twenty-seven years old, might be different than when you’re thirty-two, from when you’re forty-nine. The same fundamental truths like the science of our metabolism, and the overall function hasn’t really changed.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Changed, right.
Sam Miller: We’re still—we’re functioning with similar technology that we had to like our ancestors. Whereas you might go and get a new MacBook, or maybe when the new iPhone, or whatever Galaxy phone comes out, people will go rush and get that new smartphone. Well, unlike those smartphones and computers, our body doesn’t necessarily get that software update or hardware update. It’s really just responding to stimuli in our environment. So, understanding that our environment plays a role with our nutrition is incredibly important.
A lot of the things you outlined, really just speak to that. I think part of it is really self-awareness. Also taking some time, and just pausing to realize like, “Okay, I do need to do a bit of self-assessment.” That’s why some of the other tools in the book are really geared towards creating awareness around current practices, and then providing some tools for tracking in terms of changes that might need to be made over time, so that you can create that approach that works.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that, man. I love that your book is not a diet book. It’s really more of a self-examination in a way, your environment examination, and seeing how you can enhance the metabolism in your body in a way that makes sense for you. I love that. I can’t wait to dive deeper into the book. Writing a book, man—first of all, congratulations. I mean, it’s such a huge feat. I have a feeling somewhere inside of me, this is not going to be your last book. I feel like there’s another version of this in the future, but if there’s one thing that someone can take away from the book, what would you hope that thing is?
Sam Miller: One thing. Man, that’s tough.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Maybe, two.
Sam Miller: You caught me on the other book, although I think after going through this process, I’m like, maybe we just see, maybe this one is just—
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Maybe this is the one.
Sam Miller: This is like the firstborn child, but at the same time, it’s like maybe I’m happy with one. Maybe this one is good, maybe just better than an audiobook or something afterwards.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: There you go.
Sam Miller: Jeez! One thing. I think part of it is just understanding the malleability of both metabolism in the human body and understanding the role that our choices play. Ultimately, what is our metabolic status quo or overall metabolic health? So, if we can understand that it’s malleable and adaptive and can change, that is, it’s a little scary in a way, but it’s also very empowering. I think it also takes people out of that fixed mindset or idea that I was born this way, or I’m always going to be overweight, or I’m always going to be the skinny kid that doesn’t have muscle, etc. etc. etc. I think once we realize that we can make changes that will lead to adaptations. Really, your body is the ultimate adaptation machine which is amazing.
I actually refer to coaches, oftentimes. I remind them of like, “Hey, you guys are adaptation managers.” I think if there was just one thing, although this is hard, and if you ask me a week from now, I’d probably give you a different answer, because there’s just so many key points from the book that I think people need to extract and take away. My one thing for today would really just be understanding the malleability aspect and the adaptive nature of metabolism, rather than looking at it as this static being, and understanding, “Hey, it’s okay. It will change over time.” You know, your exercise plays a role here. Your nutrition plays a role here, even your non-exercise movement, going for a walk, all of these things are going to influence metabolism.
Really, what we need to do is, rather than stressing about that, just understanding that that allows us to look at our toolkit that we have. Then make the choices that are best for us. That’s my one thing. Although, ask me again, in a few weeks, I might change it for you, but I think that’s super important. A lot of people have that misconception, even dating back to like childhood. So that’s definitely one thing that I think would be super important to change that perception that people have.
Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah. Sam, that was a very good one thing. Let’s be honest here. I mean, understanding that your body is malleable and that you can enhance these things in making the right choices, and making the choices that are right for you, right? That’s what it all comes back to. That’s so powerful. If that’s the one thing people get out of the book. I think that is a very powerful thing to get out of it, although, there’s plenty of expertise, plenty of advice. Sam, I learned so much today. I immediately used the advice that you laid out in your book for a healthier future, man. This has been such a pleasure. I’m so excited about what you’re doing. The book is called Metabolism Made Simple: Making Sense of Nutrition to Transform Metabolic Health. Besides checking out the book that is releasing real soon, where can people find you?
Sam Miller: Yeah. I appreciate that. Metabolism Made Simple does have its own little website. If you want to check that out, it’s www.metabolismmadesimple.com and that has a little bit of my bio on there, as well, and just a little bit more information about the book and can link you in the appropriate directions. So, check that out. Right now, we’re targeting a November release, which I’m super excited about. It’s coming up really, really fast. Faster than I thought it would. It’s this weird, it’s a little bit of hurry up and wait and a little bit of you have a lot of speed, but a lot of patience at the same time.
Outside of the book I have my personal brand site is sammillerscience.com. It’s my name, Sam Miller and the word science.com. I’m also on Instagram with that same handle, @sammillerscience, and my podcast also goes by the same name. We’re over 400 episodes of health, fitness and nutrition content. The podcast is geared to be a little bit more of that intermediate to advanced content that you’re looking for, but I think the book is a great starting point. I also do post quite a bit of digestible content on social media, as well. I’d recommend checking those out. If today’s podcast or the book or any of that content resonates with you, there’s definitely plenty of channels to follow for more no-cost information that would be helpful for your overall health journey.