elitefts: Eric, give us a little information about your background for the people who do not know you.

Dr. S: I am a family practice doctor in Pickerington, Ohio. I deal with injuries, nutrition, you name it. I see all kinds of patients, but I really like working with athletes, and not just professional athletes. At one point though, I had several hundred pro athletes calling me all the time for help, and I got sick of it. Now I work with fewer professionals at one time and give each one more attention.

I am from Puerto Rico, and I came to Kansas when I was 18 to attend Kansas State. I started out in veterinary school and learned a great deal. However, I had a huge interest in athletic performance so I switched to medicine. I moved on to medical school at Kansas University, and the rest is history. I did play baseball for a while at Kansas State but gave that up to focus on my studies.

elitefts: Eric, you were a powerlifter at one time, right? What did you learn from your training and what were some of your career highlights?

Dr. S: I understand the training demands that strength athletes face because I walked the walk myself. My competitive days were in the early 90s when I wasn’t getting much sleep because I was raising a family, running my practice, delivering babies, teaching at OSU, and covering the ER. I had to be very sharp with my recovery tactics or I was toast.

At 181, I squatted 585, deadlifted 627, and benched 349. I used the Westside system during this time with some modifications. I learned a tremendous amount from you, Dave, as well as Louie Simmons, Chad Ikei, and later on Ian King.

elitefts: Have you worked with many powerlifters and strength athletes lately and what kind of things are you helping them with?

Dr. S: Dave, I see all kinds of athletes ranging from high school football players to some of the best guys in the NFL. I learn from all of my patients daily. The research that I have been able to perform on the highly trained athletes especially has enabled me to collect a great deal of data.

elitefts: What do you mean by data?

Dr. S: I do blood work for everyone and evaluate hormones. Hormones govern success, and their importance is misunderstood by most. I can help people improve their results with nutrition, supplementation, and recovery strategies that naturally optimize the hormonal profile. The traditional doctor may not look at certain markers in depth like I do. This is a specialty of sorts. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of stress. It is perhaps more vital than any other factor and can stem from physical demands as well as emotional, spiritual, or even nutritional factors.  Stress is one of the factors that I can pick up on within blood testing.

elitefts: So, is this a way to optimize testosterone?

Dr. S: Well that is one of the more important markers, yes. But there are many others.

elitefts: Do many athletes come to see you for advice with anabolics?

Dr. S: Oh, yes, and I tell them to take a hike. In some cases, people have used drugs in the past, and as a doctor, my responsibility is to fix them. However, people approaching me to put them on drugs find the exit quickly. I am not into that. Some people believe you cannot achieve great results without drugs, but they are wrong. Having the right training program and mental approached developed by an expert is the foundation for success. Beyond that, nutrition and supplementation are especially crucial for someone to advance their performance each year. You can obtain amazing results without drugs if you apply yourself the right way. Unfortunately, most people do not even scratch the surface of their capabilities.

elitefts: Fair enough. So what can strength athletes do outside of the gym to help them get better?

Dr. S: Nutrition is overlooked by powerlifters especially. Athletes can enhance recovery, performance, and peak power. Even if looking good is not a priority, you can be just as strong with a lower body fat percentage but more competitive in a lower weight class. Field athletes such as football players are getting too fat in some cases. All of that baggage slows you down and may lower peak power over the duration of the game. I do not think linemen in particular should be over 15 percent body fat, and my suspicion is that many in the NFL are over 30 percent.

elitefts: Where are most powerlifters going wrong in terms of nutrition?

Dr. S: Some are eating anything and everything in site—fast food, packaged chips, etc. This stuff is not going to help you get stronger. It will actually lower testosterone and screw up many health markers over time. What were your scores when we first checked them, Dave, and what are they now?

elitefts: My scores have improved through good diet.

Dr. S: To me, health is very important. You do not want to have a heart attack because that will put a quick end to your career. I do not advise strength athletes to be obsessive about food like bodybuilders, who at times need to measure portions. But strength athletes need to make better food choices, use good combinations, pay attention to nutrient timing, and rotate the diet a few times per year. You cannot stay on the same nutrition plan forever. Just like training, it gets stale.

elitefts: What are some basic suggestions?

Dr. S: Lots of good protein! Real food is always going to be superior to shakes. I have made money on shakes in the past by designing them, and I am telling you that they have their place, but you must eat REAL FOOD! I would get somewhere between 1.5–2 g of protein for every lean pound of body weight and split it up over 4–6 meals. With each meal, you need to have good fats such as fish oils (toxin free), olive oil, nuts, avocado, certain cheeses, and natural peanut butter. Even some saturated fat from organic meats is beneficial. Organic stuff has less crap stored in the fat cells of the cow that you do not want in your system.

elitefts: There is always a carb debate out there. What the hell to strength athletes really need?

Dr. S: Carbohydrates are activity dependant. If you are not doing anything, then you do not need much of them. The best time for powerlifters to consume carbs is post training. I would avoid all refined carbs like pasta, bread, cookies, candies, and sugar. That crap will not help you reach your goals. The best sources of carbs are sweet potatoes, rice, fruits, and plenty of vegetables. The fiber from vegetables is important for both health and performance.

elitefts: For carbs, what do you mean by activity dependant?

Dr. S: This gets into rotating the diet. Let’s say a football player is in the off season phase. He may not need much by way of carbs if he is primarily weight training and running a couple days per week. He would need more during the season since he has practice daily and games each week.

Powerlifters will not use much glycogen (stored carbs) during the average training session. For years, “experts” have touted the importance of carbs for energy during exercise. However, they ignore the fact that the body will use a combination of raw materials, not only carbs, during exercise. Endurance athletes will burn more carbs than someone who is weight training because the energy systems are different. Assuming the session is about one hour, an intense lifting session may burn through 100 g of stored carbs at the most. Strongman and functional training may burn a little more. Be conscious of that if you are trying to replace what you use each session.

elitefts: Let’s talk about supplements. This is a very confusing topic for most people.

Dr. S: You get what you pay for out there. I will tell you from experience that I have lab tested tons of supplements, and many do not match what the label claims. Fish oils are one of the worst. If you buy cheap crap, the likelihood of them being contaminated are very high. Supplement companies are in business to make money, and if they are offering very low prices, they may be cutting corners on the raw materials. I am familiar with all of the raw pricing because I am monitoring what goes into the alpha omega and other products. We have the raw products tested before the product is put together to ensure the quality standards. I know of other companies who buy the cheapest raws that they can find. They are full of toxins and no one else wants them. But the companies feel that they can deliver more “value” perception. They count on consumers thinking that more capsules for a lower price is better. I aim to change those approaches and explain that quality is vital. Otherwise, do not even bother taking them.

My attitude has been to make things significantly better than anything else out there or not at all. I will not compromise quality to make more money. I have had all of these people tell me that I should cut the strength down and lower the prices to get this stuff into major store chains. That is bullshit and is not going to help anyone. I do pretty well as a doctor and only got involved in supplement design so that my patients have effective items to use.

elitefts: Ok, sounds good. I tell people the same things when it comes to equipment—you get what you pay for. What do fish oils do for a strength athlete?

Dr. S: Fish oils have many benefits. Essential fats help lower joint inflammation and other nagging joint/tendon pain. I’m not saying that taking alpha omega is going to get rid of these problems, but it has certainly helped my patients in this regard. Fish oils lubricate joints if they are put in the right ratios. People forget that essential fats build the basis for natural testosterone production. If you are taking test boosters to increase your levels but you aren’t taking fish oils, then you are taking a backwards approach.

elitefts: What else do you suggest for strength athletes?

Dr. S: My patients have had great success with amino acid loading (100 percent MR and Muscle Synthesis). This combination took years to develop, and I tried so many combinations of amino acids before arriving at these formulas. All of these geeks come to my office with research papers telling me how this and that compound does this based on the research. So, they come up with a formula combining several other ingredients and just expect it to work. This does not pan out because amino acids compete for absorption. After all, absorption and ultimately utilization is the key unless you just want expensive urine.

My point is that without a real trial to prove something works, I do not believe in it. I ran extensive trials on aminos measuring body comp, performance markers, recovery, and hormonal blood profiles. Some of the subjects are guys who you train with at Westside. This is important because the response of an experienced strength athlete is different than Joe Average for many reasons. All of this information was of great use to me and still is. I also put the 100 percent MR and Muscle Synthes is to the test with larger scale trials among my patients with great results.

elitefts: Did you publish this information?

Dr. S: No. The formal study structure has its place but is not practical for what I do in the office. I select a variety of patients to participate in the trials so I can see what results will be produced in unique situations. As you know, Dave, I work with many elite powerlifters. Their feedback is especially important because the more well-trained and experienced the athlete is, the tougher the burden is on the supplements to produce results.

I like to vary the dosages and the amounts of time that the subjects will use certain supplements. Over time, this information is very important to me.

elitefts: Did you come up with any specific results?

Dr. S: Yes. Lean body mass went up big time. Even the very experienced trainees who have a harder time gaining muscle saw increases from 5–15 pounds of new muscle over an eight week period. Out of the 14 patients, 13 were very satisfied with their results in that particular trial. Since then, the feedback that I have received from countless others has been positive.

The reductions in body fat really surprised me. Initially that was not the goal but I’ll take it! After looking back at my research, I saw a connection between free form amino acid usage before exercise and fat loss. The Muscle Synthesis is the only true free form amino acid formula out there. It spares muscle during exercise and essentially forces the body to use a combination of available fuel sources including stored fat. Over four weeks, patients lost on average of eight pounds of body fat.

There is no way to put this into a statistic, but my patients have consistently told me that they felt much better during training and were more energetic in nature. Many asked me what stimulants were in the products. I told them none and explained that the aminos, when put together correctly, stimulate the brain. Think of it as brain food. Stress levels are also lowered when you use amino acids and leads to a more anabolic environment.

elitefts: How did the amino loading impact strength?

Dr. S: It had a huge impact. Strength athletes rely on the nervous system to support their success. You have to focus on training the brain, not just the muscles. As you get stronger, recovery becomes more of an issue. Yes, soreness is one gauge. But the more important factor when it comes to strength, peak power, and speed, is that the nervous system has to be repaired before the muscles. As a result, those who challenge the nervous system with training may have a smaller window of time for the muscles to repair before the next bout of exercise. This makes amino loading even more important.

elitefts: How does this impact the hormones?

Dr. S: It makes more testing available.

elitefts: When are the most important times to take the MR and MS?

Dr. S: Your window of opportunity is definitely pre- and post-workout. This is a topic where much confusion exists. However, the sequence that I have come up with has worked very well and can be easily adjusted to fit individual needs.

Thirty minutes before training, I would start drinking the 100 percent MR and take your muscle synthesis caps. A 200 pound guy would need approximately three scoops and 15 caps. The dosages vary based on the length of the sessions, lean body weight, and a few other factors. This amino loading will help to kick start an anabolic environment perfect for training. Stress levels go down, muscles have an abundance of an alternative energy source, and lean muscle will be protected from being broken down.

During the workout, blood flows into the muscle to act as a nutrient super highway. However, the consumption of food sources right after training activates digestion, which requires blood flow to the stomach. This is counterproductive, as you want the highway to accommodate new nutrients to the muscle at 100 MPH! Yes, insulin is important as it is highly anabolic and opens the muscles to new raw materials. But you can achieve an insulin spike to support your goals with 100 percent MR and Muscle Synthesis immediately after your last set.

Now back to digestion—the introduction of any food source drives blood away from the muscles. It also deteriorates much of the amino acids available in any food or traditional protein shake source, not to mention the time it takes for food sources to digest. As a result, little active amino acids ever get to the muscles. In 99 percent of cases, it is too little too late to make a dramatic difference.

elitefts: What else can be done to enhance recovery with supplements?

Dr. S: I’m glad you asked because that is one of my latest areas of research. Between meals, I have used amino acids to provide more raw materials for muscles to repair and positively impact the hormonal environment by lowering cortisol levels.

elitefts: Stop there. What the hell does cortisol do?

Dr. S: Cortisol is not all bad. You need it to function normally, but in high amounts, it gets in the way of our goals. We are a highly stressed society, and our stress levels are rising due to many health epidemics including obesity and diabetes. Athletes must manage cortisol so that they can optimize recovery because cortisol obstructs testosterone levels in many ways. I have also consistently found that the higher the cortisol levels, the higher body fat percentage. Increases in cortisol ruin insulin sensitivity and set off a chain reaction facilitating a fat storing environment, especially in the midsection for men.

For those wanting to gain more muscle, they must also keep cortisol in check so that new growth is not obstructed. This is one reason why frequent meals are important, but not everyone can consume six meals per day. Most are lucky to get three. Being a practical man, I came up with some solutions.

elitefts: What besides a shake can one use between meals to accomplish these goals?

Dr. S: A shake would be better than nothing, but not as good as amino loading for several reasons. People build up allergies to shakes. They must be rotated. The refinement process will also eliminate many good elements, and digestion creates another challenge.

MR and Muscle Synthesis between meals and around training boosts fat burning by virtue of activating metabolism. Amino loading perfectly mimics the consumption of food as far as the brain is concerned. Thus, the metabolism is revved up to burn this incoming “food.” However, the MR and MS have minimal caloric value, making stored fat the only available fuel source for a fired up metabolism.

elitefts: Doc, thanks for all of your information. How can someone get in touch with you if they have a question?

Dr. S: You have a better chance of getting hit by lighting than catching me on the phone. Call Scott Mendelson at (614) 868-7521, and he can deliver messages to me.

Dr. Eric Serrano MD is the ace sought out by elite athletes around the world for help with the most difficult of problems. Now he is here to edit and contribute to a no holds barred newsletter and multimedia community unlike any ever created. Doc S Spends a large part of his time promoting the health of his every day family practice patients in Pickerington; a suburb of Columbus Ohio. Amongst the thousands of patients are elite athletes from around the globe who will travel to the ends of the earth to consult with Dr. Serrano.

A wide array of athletes from the NFL, NHL, MLB in addition to countless elite amateurs make up Eric’s elite client list of athletes. His cohesive expertise comes from years of practicing medicine and his career as record-breaking powerlifter. As an athlete and family man Eric understands the needs of his clients and pushes himself to stay on the cutting edge of training, supplementation, nutrition, injury rehabilitation and performance enhancement.