My First Go Around With Dr. Eric Serrano (Part 1)

Many people don’t know that Dr. Serrano and I correspond almost on a daily basis. The man is a wealth of knowledge and he shares that wealth, answering any question I ask and forwarding at least a dozen research papers every week. I’ve had the pleasure to visit Dr. Serrano a couple of times at his office in Ohio and even spend some time at his home. And when Dr. Serrano has been in town, we’ve done lunch, dinner, and interviews – three of them to be exact. Most people have seen two of those interviews but not the third. That file has been sitting on my hard drive collecting dust. Not for long! I will unleash the beast soon. In case you missed it, here’s the first interview we did. Enjoy!

JP: Let’s start with protein. How much does one need if they’re training heavy to put on strength and size?

Dr. S: That’s an easy answer. If you’re a male, 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight. The maximum would be 2 grams per pound if you’re training extremely heavy plus doing aerobic exercise. If you’re a female, 0.8 grams per pound is sufficient. These recommendations are for people who are not taking anabolic steroids, of course.

JP: How about for fat reduction?

Dr. S: It’s more important to manipulate fat and carbohydrate levels for body fat reduction than overall caloric intake. In fact, some people do not consume enough calories for true fat loss to occur. The above-mentioned protein ratios apply here as well.

JP: You always hear the casein versus whey debate, and I know that you’ve actually separated proteins for their predominant anabolic or anti-catabolic properties. Can you briefly explain this? What are the best protein powders on the market?

Dr. S: First of all, I do not believe that whey isolates are the best. Let me explain why. When we simplify things, we tend to destroy other things along the way. For example, going from milk to whey destroys many of the growth-support proteins. Taking this a step further, processing whey alters the alpha-lactalbumin to beta-lactoglobulin ratio so that the latter is in greater concentration in the end product. Well, guess what, beta-lactoglobulin is the most allergenic protein of them all!

To answer the casein versus whey question, it depends on the process. There’s calcium, potassium, and sodium caseinate, but I prefer to use milk protein isolate that has all the proteins together or micellar casein which seems to be a superior source. For whey, I favor whey concentrate which is cheap, pure, and better quite frankly. There’s a supplement called ImmunoPro which is not cheap, but has a more favorable alpha-lactalbumin to beta-lactoglobulin ratio and is one of the best products on the market.

To gain size, you want proteins with both anabolic and anti-catabolic properties. Anti-catabolic proteins (such as free-form and branched-chain amino acids) are rapidly absorbed and will prevent the breakdown of muscle while anabolic proteins (such as red meat) will help build muscle.

As far as I’m concerned, the best proteins on the market are Beverly International Ultra Size* which also has beef in it, Biotest Low-Carb GROW!*, Champion Nutrition Met Max*, ImmunoPro as I already mentioned, MD+ Myosin, and a meal replacement powder called Micellean Bioactive Superfood* from VPX which tastes pretty good too. [*Some of these products no longer exist. Alternatives include Beverly International Provosyn, Biotest Metabolic Drive, and Champion Performance UltraMet Low Carb.]

One more thing regarding protein, you can snack on soybeans if you wish, but no time in a male’s life should they consume a soy protein isolate!

JP: Many people are looking for ways to naturally increase testosterone levels. Any suggestions?

Dr. S: Believe it or not, there are some studies on resistance-trained athletes that show that eating too much protein can actually decrease testosterone levels, especially when fat and carb levels are low. There’s a direct correlation between dietary (saturated and monounsaturated) fat and testosterone. In general, the higher the fat intake, the higher the testosterone levels. Olive oil, cheese, and red meat are excellent sources. Many athletes stick to only lean cuts of meat – it’s these guys in particular that can attain an erection but have a hard time keeping it, pardon the pun! Also, a study just came out recently showing that tribulus specifically from Bulgaria (not Japan, China, or India) and from the fruit (not the stem or the roots) elevated luteinizing hormone and testosterone levels.

JP: How can you naturally control dreaded cortisol levels?

Dr. S: Well, every time you eat, you lower cortisol levels. Raising insulin lowers cortisol, that’s a natural response. So, the first method would be to eat frequent small meals. There are certain supplements that will lower cortisol levels naturally, such as rhodiola rosea (600 mg), panax ginseng (2 studies now show that it decreases cortisol levels, but you need a minimum of 1 gram), and phosphatidylserine (400-800 mg). Fats are also very important particularly monounsaturated fats, but no matter who you are and what you do, the best way to decrease cortisol levels is by sleeping at least 8 hours a night! There’s a book called Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S. Wiley & Bent Formby that illustrates this. The process involves circadian rhythms of hormones and the timing of melatonin levels. There were an incredible number of studies performed on this subject, but on average 8 hours of sleep (optimal being 9) is necessary every night. The key is not watching television late at night. One study I recall involved placing people in a dark room and shining a little light bulb behind the knee for 20 minutes to see what would happen. The subjects’ sleeping pattern changed even though they were in a dark room and in only 2 weeks, the melatonin levels of all the subjects were completely altered so you know that the skin has some type of sensitivity to light. That’s why in the summer we stay up longer because there’s more light, and in the winter the opposite occurs. Since there’s less light during the winter months, we feel more tired, stressed, and depressed and we want to go to bed earlier. It makes sense!

JP: How would you go about regenerating the adrenals after say a lengthy period of stimulant abuse?

Dr. S: If you use stimulants or thermogenics for more than 12 weeks, you kill the adrenal glands. It takes about 8 weeks to recover. To regenerate them, you need to take adrenal gland supporters (e.g., Standard Process Drenamin, Metagenics Adrenogen), vitamin C (at least 3 grams a day), DHEA, and fish oil. In fact, the adrenal glands are 60% fat – polyunsaturated fats are important here (they will also decrease cortisol levels). Again, sleep is crucial.

JP: Or how would you cleanse the liver after a steroid cycle which included orals?

Dr. S: Okay, make sure that you have some liver tests (blood work) done by your physician to obtain a baseline. This is one of the few times that I agree to a medium protein diet. In addition, it’s important that you do not smoke, drink alcohol, take Tylenol, birth control pills or other drugs during this time. To clean the liver, you need the right foods. Eggs are useful in this situation – the lecithin found in eggs will help. As far as supplements are concerned, liver tablets (Beverly International Ultra-40), milk thistle, glutathione, and glutamine also helps the liver. Finally, 25-50 grams of vitamin C taken intravenously has been shown to regenerate the liver. I use this approach in my office occasionally when I have a patient with hepatitis A, B, or C and the results are incredible!

JP: Okay, let’s give the reader an example of how you diagnose things. We’ll take the thyroid for example. You’ve mentioned that you check TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3, and triglycerides as well as ask questions about hair loss, constipation, weakness, palpitations, and usage of carbs and caffeine. What exactly do you look for and how do you go about correcting some of these anomalies? How about boosting the thyroid gland? What would you suggest?

Dr. S: Yes, the biggest problem I’ve seen in this area is that some labs return normal and you assume everything is fine so you do nothing. You must listen to the patient! If the thyroid is borderline, meaning that TSH is between 2.5 and 3.0, you can use adrenal supplementation for 4 weeks. If after 4 weeks you do not see results, then I would recommend thyroid medication. Armour thyroid is a natural thyroid that contains both T3 and T4. If you have someone with hyperthyroidism, then putting them on a thyroid medication may actually help to lower their levels.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll discuss issues related to milk and dairy products, the effect of meat on blood acidity, problems associated with food combining, and Dr. Serrano will give you his opinion of whether eggs should be cooked or not.

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