You are wasting your time! That’s right. I said it. You are spending countless hours in the gym and hundreds of dollars on organic foods and exotic supplements, and you’re wasting your time!

Before you accuse me of being some grain-eating vegetarian or some anti-muscle hippie, let me explain. I have been training clients and helping them with nutrition for over 15 years. It is truly my passion. I have corresponded with Dr. Eric Serrano for the past ten years, attended and achieved certification in Charles Poliquin’s Biosignature level 1 and level 2, and sat in on lectures by Dr. Suzanne Mack.

Three to five hours out of my typical morning are spent answering emails from clients, athletes, and physique enthusiasts about their nutrition and supplement programs. They detail everything from the side of the plate they put their fork on to the milligrams of sodium in their last glass of water. Their attention to detail is astounding…even to me!

The diets I look at range from carb cycling approaches to cyclic ketogenic diets and everything imaginable in between. My clients will tell me about everything from their Iron Fortress WalMart whey protein (which I quickly convince them to change to Grow) to the latest products that Biotest and Poliquin have to offer. Overall, their approach is usually well laid out. There are no glaring errors in their training programs and they seem intelligently designed.

On the surface, it looks like they should be getting results, but for some reason they’re stuck. Not only has their progress come to a screeching halt, but often times they tell me they feel sluggish or depressed. They can’t figure out why they aren’t “ripped.” In fact, the only thing that is close to being ripped is the seam in their pants from the pressure of their distended abdomens. They are expecting me to offer some elaborate solution such as replacing their strawberries with white grapes or decreasing their sodium by 150 mgs at their last meal, but the simple and effective solution that I pose is for them to fix their gut. At first, I am met with skepticism. They think I’m holding out on some esoteric supplement, but I convince them to try, and they are always amazed and grateful.

Your digestive health is at the apex of your progress both in terms of health and physique. According to the Royal Society of Medicine UK, 90 percent of all chronic diseases are due to infection of the gastrointestinal tract. By fixing clients’ digestive disorders, I have personally witnessed everything from improvements in health to decreases in body fat, surges in muscle growth, and increases in strength. The importance of a healthy gut simply can’t be overstated. No matter what you’re doing, your gut health should come first.

Imagine if you went to a gas station to fill your Bentley up with premium and left the gas cap on while you pumped $50.00 worth of gas “on to” your car. You would feel pretty stupid. Buying the right organic foods and the latest cutting edge supplements but not making sure that your body can take in the nutrients is basically the same thing. By the end of this article, you will have a simple way to check your gut’s health and a four step protocol to ensure your insides are as healthy as your outsides!

It begins with your gastrointestinal (GI) mucosa. It’s a vital link to your health. It filters toxins; blocks bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms from entry; assists in digestion; tries to ensure that large, poorly absorbed food particles are kept out; and attempts to assimilate vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and all the other great supplements it takes in (1). On top of this, it bears the burden of maintaining itself through an extremely high rate of regeneration of the surface cells (1). An interesting side note is that seventy (yes seventy) percent of your nutrition goes toward repairing your immune system and for detoxification purposes (4). It’s no wonder we often feel undernourished when we add in working out and the demands of a physical job. Those processes require a lot of blood!

The body shuttles blood to the plexus of vessels surrounding the intestines. This process better aids digestion when we consume a meal. This is one of the reasons why a nap sounds pretty good after eating a Thanksgiving feast. It is the body doing its best to remove blood volume from the muscles and temporarily use it to do the work of the gut (1).

As we look to today’s stressful society, we are constantly being confronted with stresses. Whether it is our nagging spouse, a stack of mounting bills, our boss at our dead end job, or not being able to hit that 5-lb PR on the bench, our body perceives it as stress. These and other stresses initiate our body’s amazing “fight or flight” sequence. The body then prepares to defend itself in times of stress as a means of survival. Adrenalin is released to deal with the stress, and one aspect of this response is to shut down the gut, shunting blood to the muscles in preparation for immediate defense. This is a necessary reaction. After all, when you think back to where our genetic blueprints came from, it would be far more important to be able to outrun a saber tooth tiger than it would be to digest that last bit of meat.

Over time, if you’re frequently stressed out, this constant release of adrenalin will keep the gut from doing its job (2). With food these days, we have a lot to deal with—refined sugars, starches, and other processed foods; synthetic chemicals (artificial colors/flavors/preservatives; pesticide residues, fertilizers, and herbicides); antibiotics, hormones, and other drugs; alcohol; caffeine and other stimulants; chlorine; fluoride; and parasites and other invading organisms. I think you can see where I’m going with this (4).

It is these challenges that help to destroy the gut’s ability to keep out things that we wouldn’t want in. When stuff gets in that isn’t supposed to, we are left with what experts term “leaky gut syndrome” (2).

Leaky gut syndrome is a low level inflammatory process that many believe to be the beginning of disease processes in the body. Food particles sneak in that are poorly digested and too large in size so they are improperly handled. These stealth particles can cause allergic responses that formerly weren’t present (5). Toxins are allowed to enter that would normally have been filtered out. Worse still is that the mechanisms for absorbing nutrients is impaired in such situations, and deficiencies arise making the long term situation worse. Undesirable microbes enter the body across the weakened defenses of the inflamed and stressed mucosa wreaking their own varieties of havoc. The list continues to grow, and before you know it, you’re looking at the start of chronic disease (2).

Now that you have a sense of what begins to go wrong, let us look at what we can do to fix it. The best approach I have found to date is one that I picked up at Charles Poliquin’s Level 2 Biosignature Modulation seminar. It originated from Jeffrey Bland and is simply named the four “Rs.” The 4Rs stand for remove, replace, re-inoculate, and repair. The terms are fairly straightforward, but I will walk you through the specifics.
Step 1: Remove

The first step of the program focuses on taking out allergic foods. Sometimes an allergic reaction to a food is obvious. If I eat regular white eggs, my nose runs, my eyes water, and I sneeze. Other times, the reaction may be a little more subtle, and sometimes a reaction to the food may not appear for hours or even days. An example that comes to mind is wheat. Some people don’t notice any symptoms for about 24 hours, and others might not notice anything for two days. In rare cases, symptoms may not appear for a week. This can make the job of determining what you are allergic to very difficult.

To help out, here is a more complete list of common allergenic foods that I’ve given my clients:

·        Cow’s milk

·        Wheat gluten (gliadin)

·        Gluten (in wheat, oats, rye, and barley)

·        Yeast

·        Egg whites

·        Cashew nuts

·        Egg yolks

·        Garlic

·        Soya beans

·        Brazil nuts

·        Almonds

·        Corn

·        Hazelnuts

·        Oats

·        Lentils

·        Kiwi fruit

·        Chilli peppers

·        Sesame seeds

·        Sunflower seeds

·        Peanuts

If you think you might be suffering from a food allergy but aren’t sure which food is causing the problem, start by cutting out all of the above foods. Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions (although not necessarily delayed) include:

·        Spinach

·        Shrimp

·        Oranges

·        Chicken

·        Strawberries

·        Tomatoes

·        Pork

·        Beef

For a more accurate list specific to your body, I recommend the LEAP MRT food allergy test. The program includes the testing of 150 foods and chemicals for reactivity (2).

Step 2: Replace

Start with an HCL protocol. If you need to know how to do the test, visit Charles Poliquin’s website.

Additionally, you will benefit from adding in enzymes. Choose an animal source over vegetarian. There are many good ones out there. Another trick that I picked up from Dr. Eric Serrano is to add in aminos at this stage. They will help speed tissue and gut regeneration by increasing protein synthesis and reducing rate limiting factors. I like MR and MS by SST or Density by Beverly (3).

For an excellent resource to determine whether HCL and/or enzymes is the best choice for your gut’s needs, try taking an HCL/enzyme questionnaire. It only takes a couple of minutes to fill out.

Step 3: Re-inoculate

This is the step where you introduce probiotics. An effective course should include bifidobacteria and lactobacillus acidophillus. In addition to your probiotics, be sure to include adequate “prebiotics.” Prebiotics are usually a carbohydrate (such as an oligosaccharide). They can be some other type of macro though. Prebiotics are nutritionally classified as soluble fiber. To some extent, many forms of dietary fiber exude some level of prebiotic effects.

Some great probiotic formulas are HMF Replete or Poliquin’s Proflora Excellence. Be sure to take your probiotic at the end of the day, and if you happen to be on antibiotics, follow the rule of twos by Dr. Suzanne Mack—take two capsules of probiotic either two hours before or two hours after the antibiotic at least twice daily (4).

Step 4: Repair

Now you’re ready to start rebuilding. This is the fourth and final step. You will need to supply the nutrients that your body needs for gut cells. Special attention should be paid to glutamine, zinc carnosinate, B5, and essential fatty acids. Additionally, if your gut is inflamed, you will benefit from deglycerated licorice (DGL), aloe vera, slippery elm, mucin, marshmellow (root), n-acetyl glucosamine, and quercetin. The best product out there hands down is Designs For Health’s GI-Revive, which not only contains the aforementioned supplements but a few others as well (4).

Now that you have completed the gut repair protocol, you’re ready to test your results! According to Dr. Mack, a healthy 70-kg male will poop about five cups of soft poop daily in one or more bowel movements (or think tank sessions as I like to call them) (4). If you addressed the 4Rs, you should hit the goal every time. This being said, Biosignature practitioners, including myself, use three basic tests to check our results:

Test 1: The zinc taste test

For this test, take one teaspoon of zinc sulfate and hold it in your mouth. Swish it around for about five seconds. It should taste like the inside of a three-day old plastic protein shaker...awful! If not, you should replenish zinc. Charles Poliquin recommends starting with 120 mgs a day for eight weeks. Then cut to 15 mg/day every five days until a maintenance dose of 30 mgs is reached (4).

Dr. Serrano added that if you go over 50 mgs, it may be necessary to supplement copper as well. Anyone taking insulin should work with their doctor to determine the correct dose (3). Zinc is needed for HCL production so be sure to check your levels regularly (1). The two work in synergy.

Test 2: HCL test

This is the test that I made reference to earlier. Whether you burn or not, you shouldn’t exceed 1400 mgs. It could take anywhere from a month to a couple of years for your HCL levels to restore, but stay with it. You need HCL to digest your food (4)!

Test 3: The poop test

This last test gets a little gross. You guessed it. You need to evaluate your stool. What you will be checking for is the transit time for either corn or beets. The reason one chooses one of these options should be fairly obvious. When you eat corn or beets, they have a way of showing back up later.

Eat 3–5 cups of corn or 1–3 cups of beets at your evening meal. Note when the first and last sign of the item is in your stool. Normal transit should be between eight and twenty hours approximately (4). If you have diarrhea but are not seriously ill (vomiting or a fever), use saccharomyces boulardi three times a day until it is resolved. On the flip side, should you be constipated, take a cocktail of 500–3000 mgs of vitamin C (this dose is actually taken three times a day), 1–3 caps of aloe vera, and 300–1500 mgs of magnesium glycinate (although any form will work) at bedtime to get things moving. They can be taken together or separately (4).

Remember, your body’s top priority is to remain healthy (1). Seventy percent of your immunity is clustered around the gut (1). By keeping the gut healthy and the immune system strong, you will be well on your way to better health and better gains in the gym! By giving the 4Rs a go, you will be getting the most out of your food and supplements, and your body and bank account will both thank you.


  1. Lipski E. Digestive Wellness: Completely Revised and Updated Third Edition.
  2. Hyman M. Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss.
  3. Serrano E. Correspondence.
  4. Mack S, Poliquin C, Schauss M. Biosignature Level 2 Seminar.
  5. Bland J. Intestinal Toxicity and Inner Cleansing.