Transcription and intro by E. Reid Ross
Interview conducted by Brendan McGinley
You’ve probably seen Dr Jeffry Life before. He’s been plastered all over the internet lately, and chances are good he’s snuck a picture or two of himself into your email inbox. And every time you’ve seen him chances are even better that you immediately yelled “Faaaaake!” If that doesn’t ring any bells, here’s another clue: He’s the gray-haired, balding fellow with the wizened face that’s normal for a 75-year-old man, set on top of a chiseled torso that’s brawny and ripped like a model in a sexy fireman calendar.
Dr Life is not a mythical creature from the land of Photoshop, however. He’s the real deal. His incongruously muscular physique came not only through the stuff you already know (proper diet, regular exercise, etc), but also through some new advances in the science of aging. And he claims you can do it too through Cenegenics.®
Man Cave Daily: Let’s start out with something basic. Can you walk us through your weekly workout regimen?
Dr Life: My typical workout regimen is to go to the gym in the morning, about 4-5 mornings a week. I do chest on Monday, back on another day, arms on another day, shoulders on another day and legs on another day. Each session takes about an hour, and I usually do 4-5 different exercises. I do four sets of each exercise, and I do anywhere from 8-12, sometimes 15 reps. In the afternoons I ride my exercise bike for anywhere from 45-55 minutes. I do that while I watch TV shows. I watch things like Breaking Bad, 24 or Homeland. Series like like that. And that has really helped me continue with my cardio, which is the dealbreaker for most people.
MCD: As far as your diet, I was looking at your site and it seems to be pretty much a low carb, cardio kind of regimen. Is that accurate?
Dr Life: Right.
MCD: There are just so many diets these days. What do you do when you have people that want to do your plan but either don’t eat that way or can’t eat that way? Could a vegetarian ever look the way you do?
Dr Life: Yeah. The dealbreaker for most everyone in America is what they put in their mouth. I talk to my patients all the time about what they’re eating and how they’re eating. I’m constantly trying to encourage them to eat low-fat protein and lots of vegetables and stay away from food that jump their blood sugars up (like breads, pastas, and potatoes). It’s a constant struggle for most everybody, including myself. It’s a daily battle. In this country there’s bad food everywhere, and it’s so easy to eat bad and hard to eat good. So in my book I talk about strategies so that you can eat healthy, even when you go out to eat.
MCD: Yeah, I’m guessing you’d want to avoid the after-dinner fried chocolate chip burritos.
Dr Life: It’s critically important for our overall health. We have an epidemic of heart disease in this country. Obesity and type II diabetes is killing, just killing Americans. And our kids. I’m very concerned about our children today and the way they eat and their lack of exercise.
MCD: Are you distinguishing between animal fats and other types of fats?
Dr Life: I do genetic testing to see what kind of genetic history you have in terms of the diets you should follow (APOE genotyping). There are some genotypes that should not eat fat. Others, we’ll call them animal fat genotypes, can eat animal fat. If I have a patient that has a family history of heart disease, or has heart disease himself, and he’s a genotype that should not be eating saturated fats, I’m all about keeping them on a low fat diet.
MCD: Is it ever ok to eat fat, in your opinion? I know a lot of people who would gladly trade a decade or two of life rather than give up bacon. One of them may or not be involved in this very conversation.
Dr Life: If their genotype is like 25-30% of people in this country then they can eat fat and not worry about it. So it all depends on the individual’s family history and medical history. I check for evidence of vascular disease and then work really hard on stopping the progression and reversing it. And sometimes I have to put them on a pretty extreme low fat diet. Almost a vegan diet. But not very often.
MCD: So, is the testing you’re talking about the same thing as you would see in a “blood type” diet?
Dr Life: No. The APOE is a genotype. There is a blood type diet which makes some sense as well, but the APOE genotypes tell you if you should not be eating high fat foods. Animal fats. Things like that. Dairy fats.
MCD: How do you come to those conclusions?
Dr Life: I do blood tests. Blood testing includes a genotyping for further risks of cardiovascular disease. And there are a whole bunch of tests that can be done today that really give us a much better idea on young people, people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s , that tells me about their genetic risks for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in this country.
MCD: Hey, at least it isn’t bears anymore. What do you do when you discover someone is at risk?
Dr Life: If I get a patient that has a genotype that puts them at risk for a heart attack, I’m all over that. About the way they should eat and exercise. I check to see if they do have evidence of vascular disease with carotid ultrasound and other studies that I do. My whole goal is to pick up early evidence of heart disease and vascular disease that will lead to heart disease.
MCD: So you’re proactive about things.
Dr Life: Traditional medicine in this country is all about waiting until a disease rears its ugly head, and then treating that disease. My whole approach is to pick up times that the disease has already started way before it presents itself. And then do things to stop that progression. That’s done through the right kind of diet, the right kind of exercise and things that will subsequently reduce vascular inflammation. That’s what my whole practice is all about.
MCD: And you’ve some personal experience with that.
Dr Life: I had vascular disease and coronary artery disease. Had I known what I know now when I was in my 40s , I could have prevented it. So my goal is to find evidence of disease in my patients, and stop it so that they don’t die from a heart attack or a stroke.
MCD: With your own vascular concerns I know you’ve been a proponent of supplements. You use testosterone and HGH, Correct?
Dr Life: That’s correct. When I first started doing this, 11 years ago, I was deficient in testosterone. I was 64 years old. And I found out through blood testing. I had a physician that corrected that for me and it just made all the difference in the world. At that time there weren’t a whole lot of studies out about whether this should be done at all. But over the last 10 years there have been literally hundreds of studies done for testosterone and growth hormone that have shown that it’s men and women with low levels of those things who are at the greatest risk for developing vascular disease and even prostate cancer (for men). So by correcting deficiencies, and getting hormone levels up into the healthy range and being carefully monitored, this really improves people’s overall health, well-being and quality of life. It definitely slows down and can reverse disease.
MCD: Is that approach becoming more mainstream?
Dr Life: It’s a tool that is being recognized more and more. As more studies are being done, we’re seeing that it’s the right thing to do. We do not have to follow the same path of aging that our parents did. I don’t have to age like my dad did. My dad died in his 80s but the last 15 years he did not exercise. He was overweight, had Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. We don’t have to follow that same path. Everyone is going to age. Everything ages. But we don’t have to get old as we age. That’s what my whole philosophy is and what my books are all about.
MCD: That kind of blows my theory (that you were actually a Highlander) out of the water. So you’ve actually seen a positive effect in your vascular health from the supplement regimen?
Dr Life: Yes. Yes, absolutely. The way we assess that is through carotid ultrasound studies. They measure the thickness of the lining of the carotid arteries which represents all the arteries in your body. And as disease sets into the artery that lining of the blood vessel gets thicker. We’ve actually seen the thickness of the lining get smaller as people age when they’re doing the right things: eating right, exercising properly and correcting hormone deficiencies.
MCD: How did you differentiate between the results that came about through your improved diet, as opposed to the effects of the supplements?
Dr Life: Well, that’s a great question and I really don’t know. I think it’s a combination of everything. But I do know there are studies out there that have shown that men with low testosterone are at the greatest risk for developing vascular disease as well as losing muscle mass. They’re the ones winding up in nursing homes. If we can correct that then we can improve quality of life and improve vascular health. The same thing applies to growth hormone.
MCD: Is there any proven science behind what you’re saying?
Dr Life: It’s based on many studies have been done over the last 10 years. In my first book, and my second book as well, at the end I have a list of all the references, and there are over 50 for testosterone. These are all well controlled medical, scientific studies. Then I think there were 100 references on growth hormone.
MCD: Have you looked into any other supplements?
Dr Life: I think there are a lot of other supplements that can really help people improve their health. Cinnamon for one can help control blood sugars better. You know, the biggest problem we have in this country is that our diets are high-glycemic and people walk around all day long with their blood sugars spiking and they end up developing type II diabetes and obesity. And so you know cinnamon has been one of the things that has been shown to help better control blood sugars. Dark chocolate can help improve vascular health. There are a lot of things out there that can do that. So it’s really a combination of that along with the right kind of exercise – doing something daily, not just sitting and watching TV or sitting at your computer all day long. You’ve got to get up and move around. Doing the right kind of resistance training and cardio, eating the right kind of low glycemic diet that keeps your blood sugars under control, and then making sure that your hormones are not crashing and are at decent levels.
MCD: Which hormones exactly? Hopefully not the same ones that made high school such an ordeal.
Dr Life: The key hormones for men are testosterone and growth hormone. And for women it would be testosterone, growth hormone, and estrogen progesterone. Thyroid hormones are also very important.
MCD: Alas, some of the ones I remember are still involved. What should younger people be taking in terms of supplements? In terms of establishing an optimal hormone level, is it still something that’s a concern before a certain age?
Dr Life: What I put in my book is that I think everyone in their 20s needs to have a baseline of their hormones. They need to get a blood test that shows what all their key hormone levels are. And then every five years repeat that test. Typically men in their 40s begin to see their testosterone level starts to decline. Sometimes even in their late 30s . So they’ll be able to see that their testosterone level is dropping and they’ll know why they’re feeling different.
MCD: Are you talking about male menopause? Actually let’s call it something less embarrassing. How does “andropause” factor into all this?
Dr Life: The difference between menopause and andropause is that andropause creeps into a man’s life. It’s very insidious. It creeps in and it’s very, very subtle. Men develop belly fat and lose muscle mass even though they’re working out. Typically they’ll go to their doctor and the doctor will say, “Well, you know, you’re just getting older. Just suck it up. It’s part of the aging process.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.
MCD: Do tell.
Dr Life: With women menopause happens pretty abruptly so women can tell you almost to the month when they started noticing a change. But with men it’s very (again) insidious. So I think guys need to find out what their testosterone levels are every five years. Then when they start noticing a change in how they feel, they can tie that in with the decline in their hormone levels. At that point they need to see a doctor that specializes in correcting these deficiencies and who is able to follow up with these patients appropriately with blood work every 3-4 months. That to me is the key to healthy aging. When you combine that with the right kind of exercise and the right kind of nutrition it’s a win-win across the board.
MCD: Supplements can get pretty spendy. For folks that can’t afford them or don’t have access to them, what would you recommend for sort of a natural way to increase testosterone?
Dr Life: The right kind of exercise. Lifting weights and resistance training not only helps maintain testosterone levels but is also very important in maintaining healthy growth hormone levels. Most of my patients when I first see them are typically patients in their 40s . When I first see them their growth hormone levels are low and I don’t start them on supplements until they prove to me that they can’t increase it on their own. And most everybody can improve their own growth hormone production with the right kind of nutrition — eating 4-5 low glycemic, small meals a day.
MCD: Along with exercise…
Dr Life: And the right kind of exercise. Mostly strength training and cardio. Exercise can increase men’s production of growth hormone and prevent them from becoming deficient. So, what I talk about in my books is that most people can correct their own deficiency by just eating right and exercising right.
When men get to a point where their testicles just cannot produce any more testosterone they really need to see someone about testosterone replacement therapy. And it does not have to be really expensive. Growth hormone, on the other hand… Very few people truly need growth hormone, but those that do really need it. And it is very expensive.
MCD: Let’s talk about something fun to close things out. Do you get recognized a lot as the guy from people’s email? As the guy from the ads on everyone’s websites?
Dr Life: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, definitely. All the time. Especially at airports, people talk to me and they say, “Hey, you’re the guy in the commercial, right?”
MCD: I can imagine some of them asking to sit their wives on one of your biceps to take pictures while you flex. Any good stories?
Dr Life: Once I was at an airport, sitting at the bar having a club soda, and a guy sat next to me. We got to talking about aging and healthy aging and he says, “Hey I have to show you something.” He reaches down to his briefcase and pulls out this ad of mine with my picture. He said, “Have you seen this guy?” Then he turns to hand it to me and at that moment he realized I was the guy. It was really quite comical. It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget. So yes it happens all the time. And it’s pretty neat. I never dreamed that this would happen to me back when I first started this journey in 1988.
MCD: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Dr Life: I wish I had started this when I was in my 40s . Or 30s . The first 60 years of my life I ate badly and drank too much alcohol. I didn’t exercise hardly at all and I paid a price for that. I developed vascular disease. So my mission is to get people in their 40s and not let them go down the same path I’ve gone down. So far I’ve been able to dodge the bullet. I feel better today, at age 75, than I did in my 40s .
MCD: I’m sure a lot of guys take a look at you and think, “no way. That’s impossible.”
Dr Life: Men tend to have the attitude of, they don’t want to go to the doctor. They just want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to their health. But more and more men are becoming aware that they could do things now that will impact their quality of life as they age. And to help maintain their sexual function. And avoid abdominal obesity, which is the biggest cause of all these problems.
MCD: Beer bellies aren’t so jolly, is what you’re saying.
Dr Life: Because abdominal fat is different than fat under your skin. Abdominal fat just takes on a life of its own and makes all these bad hormones that cause diabetes, cancer, erectile disfunction, alzheimers disease… all these bad things.
MCD: If we make all these changes, will that pesky belly fat disappear right away?
Dr Life: No. For someone who has a big belly, and also subcutaneous fat, if they start on this program they’ll start losing fat everywhere, but that fat is the last to go. Your body just hangs onto that until the last. As men get leaner their bellies will get smaller, but when you have to get down below 15% body fat to finally start losing your belly. And if you gain back fat, it starts back in your belly first. So it is very stubborn. But you can definitely get rid of it by just following the right diet and doing the right kind of exercises, especially cardio.
MCD: You’re living proof.
Dr Life: In my last book I talk about how important it is. At my age it’s just amazing what, how it makes your life so much better. Being lean, and energized.
E. Reid Ross loves the ladies, and by “ladies” we mean “microwaveable burritos purchased in bulk.” Feel free to friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his supple body of work over on Cracked.com. He and a few pals also blaspheme old comics at RealToyGun.com.
Ezra most recently interviewed the lovely Carly Brooke in Going Natural: Featured Creatures.