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Marc McDougal Interviews John Berardi – Part II
by: Marc McDougal

In part one of his interview with John Berardi, Marc McDougal asked about nutrigenomics, The Dave Tate Project, and the Precision Nutrition Body Transformation Contest. This week Marc and John discuss supplementation, training clients, and a few choice pieces of research.

You’ve competed in both bodybuilding and power lifting, any desire to do either again?

I don’t know. I mean, I come from an athletic background, having run track and field, played university football, and rugby. And after my involvement in these sports, I needed something else to let out my competitive urges. Having always enjoyed my time in the weight room, bodybuilding and power lifting were a natural progression. Nowadays, though, I’ve actually enjoyed spending time doing “athletic stuff” again. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still train hard in the gym. But I’m also out on the track sprinting, doing plyos, and doing other explosive work.

So I think that if get back into competitive sport, I might go back to my roots – competing at the masters level in track and field – or something like that. Scary enough, I’ll be able to compete at the masters level in just one year’s time.

Masters? You’re old as dirt. Remind me to send you a case of Depends for your birthday. Let’s talk supplements. What do you use with advanced clients?

To me, there’s no such thing as a “supplement for advanced clients”. Supplement use should always be based on a needs analysis. After all, why use a testosterone booster if your testosterone is already high? Why use a fat burner if your metabolism is already very fast? Why use something to boost carbohydrate tolerance if your carb tolerance is already high? Instead of taking supplements just because they’re supposed to help with x, y, or z, my clients go through a needs analysis and then take supplements (if necessary) based on their individual needs. Say, for example, they’re an intermittent sport athlete who builds up high levels of lactate. If so, I may have them on Beta Alanine to buffer intracellular acidity and a special cocktail of bicarbonates, citrates, phosphates, and lactates to pull hydrogen ions out of the muscle during high acid conditions. And say, for example, I’ve got an athlete who has a hard time sleeping at night during periods of high volume exercise and/or low food intake. If so, I have them start a combination of Valerian Root and Phosphatidylserine. On this combo, they sleep like babies. Or let’s say, for example, I’ve got a client who’s having trouble with fat loss and they’re taking anti-depressants. If so, I have them start a combination of green tea extract and CLA. This combo has been shown to block the fat gain effects of anti-depressants and stimulate fat loss progress. So, again, these might be considered “advanced supplements.” But, they’re only used with a specific purpose in mind. If you’re not a high lactate athlete, why use Beta Alanine? And if you’re sleeping fine, why use the combo above?

Can you expand a little on the PS for sleep? Is this based on research or just something you have come up with on your own?

Well, there’s not a ton of research on this. However, from what’s available, this isn’t a big leap to take. The current literature demonstrates that sleep quality is negatively impacted by high cortisol concentrations. Therefore if cortisol is high, it’s both difficult to fall asleep and, when you do fall asleep, REM is negatively impacted. Since PS is effective in cortisol regulation/suppression, it can help control evening cortisol levels, leading to better sleep quality. So says the theory anyway. However, theory aside, it seems to really work. Again, nearly every person I’ve worked with that’s following high volume training and/or a calorie restricted diet (AND has complained of sleep problems) has benefited in terms of sleep quality when taking PS – one dose in the evening (5-6pm) and one dose 60 min before bed. Now, I want to be clear – not every insomniac benefits from PS. It’s only those with high evening cortisol levels.

And what about CLA? What isomers of CLA? Any specific product you like? Do you use it for clients who aren’t taking anti-depressants?

A study was published a few months back in Lipids in Health and Disease showing that a specific combination of CLA and Green Tea extract was of real benefit for individuals taking antipsychotics. Here’s the abstract:

Weight gain and psychiatric treatment: Is there as role for green tea and conjugated linoleic acid?
Martin A Katzman Leslie Jacobs Madalyn Marcus Monica Vermani and Alan C Logan
Lipids in Health and Disease 2007, 6:14 doi:10.1186/1476-511X-6-14
Dietary supplement use is widespread in developed nations. In particular, patients who utilize mental health services also report frequent consumption of dietary supplements, often in relation to management of adverse events and specifically weight gain. Weight gain induced by psychotropic medications can further compound psychological distress and negatively influence compliance. Here we report on four cases of social anxiety disorder treated with the atypical antipsychotic quetiapine. Self-administration of conjugated linoleic acid and green tea extract may have influenced objective anthropomorphic measurements; each patient had an unexpected decrease in total body fat mass, a decrease in body fat percentage and an increase in lean body mass. Since weight gain is a common and undesirable side-effect with psychiatric medications, our observation strongly suggests the need for controlled clinical trials using these agents.

This study is currently being repeated using more typical anti-depressants and the results are similar.

What supplements do you use personally?

My supplement regimen is pretty basic. I use a basic milk protein blend for my Super Shakes, a high potency fish oil supplement, a green food product, a workout recovery drink, and creatine. Again, for a recreational exerciser like me, this, plus a solid diet, is plenty for maintaining a good body composition. And BTW, I’m about 5’8” and maintain a sub 10% body fat year-round at a body weight of about 185lbs. Here are a couple of pics.

Do you use any nootropics/neurological supps with your clients?

Depends on the clients…for most of my explosive strength and power athletes, absolutely. My favorite combo is piracetam, green tea extract, caffeine, tyrosine, choline, vitamin B6, and policosanol. This combo is designed to facilitate both CNS performance as well as CNS recovery. And my explosive athletes definitely notice a difference.

Any particular form of choline? Phosphatidylcholine, Alpha GPC, bitartrate…

We mostly use phosphatidylcholine. Lecithin also works in a pinch.

Can you expand on the use of policosanol? Is this based on the reaction time research from a few years back?

Policosanol is currently used to lower LDL cholesterol concentrations in the blood. However, it also impacts acetylcholine transport across the neuromuscular junction. This makes it an excellent adjunct alongside choline since choline may increase ach levels and policosanol may increase ach release and/or binding at the neuromuscular junction. The net result is likely a reduction in reaction time.

With beginner clients, do you focus on quality or quantity of foods first?

At Precision Nutrition, we separate people into 3 different nutritional levels. You can call this their “nutritional age,” “nutritional level,” whatever.

Level 1
With Level 1 individuals we focus on basic nutritional changes, teaching people how to make better food choices using the strategies included in the Precision Nutrition Diet Guide.
These strategies include using Gourmet Nutrition style meals, our Precision Nutrition nutrient timing templates, and our Precision Nutrition Super Foods Log.
With these individuals we don’t count calories or anything like that. We just focus on lots of good, clean food and on lifestyle habits through the strategies outlined in our PN system.
Level 2
With Level 2 individuals, we use activity and goal-based calorie calculations to determine calorie baselines. Then we determine food selections based on body type and nutrient-sensitivity. Again, all of this is outlined in Precision Nutrition – this time in the Individualization Guide.
Level 3
With Level 3 individuals we work on high level individualization – things like calorie cycling, periodic very low carb diets, periodic very high carb diets, etc. Of course, each of these is based on the individual’s goals. And again, all of this is outlined in detail in the Individualization Guide of Precision Nutrition.

Note: I always make sure people are careful in calling level 1 clients “beginners” or level 3 clients “advanced” since it’s easy to confuse training experience with nutrition experience. After all, I’ve got high level athletes (Olympians and Pros) who are barely Level 1 clients when it comes to nutrition. And I’ve got beginners in the gym who are strong Level 3 clients when it comes to nutrition. So there’s not a direct correlation between training experience and nutrition level.

I love the way you lay that out. In the past I’ve tended to skip over Level I planning and end up overwhelming people.
You really brought a lot of light to the peri-workout nutrition arena a few years ago, any new advancement or methods you use with your clients you’d be willing to let us in on?

The idea of workout nutrition has advanced quite a bit in the last few 5 years or so. Originally, the idea was to load up on high quality protein and carbohydrate after training to accelerate recovery and boost protein synthesis.

Then, based on some interesting research, coaches started using fast-digesting protein, fast digesting carbs and BCAA in post-workout drinks taken immediately after training. Finally, many of us found that this combination of nutrients seemed to work best when ingested during the workout, instead of after. To date, this latter intervention has pretty much been the state of the art in the research world and in the athletic world. Sure, you can find some dissenters. However, I imagine these folks don’t spend much time with elite athletes. Hang in elite circles and you’ll find many athletes following some form of workout and post-workout nutrition strategy that involves fast digesting protein/carb drinks. Indeed, all my athletes now use the following guidelines:

Sip a drink containing 500ml of water, 30 g of carbohydrate (maltodextrin and dextrose), 15g of protein (whey protein or whey hydrolysate), and 3g of BCAA per hour of training.

And for my athletes trying to gain weight, I have the do the following:

Sip a drink containing 1L of water, 3-5g of creatine monohydrate, 0.8g carbs per kg of body weight, and 0.4g protein per kg of body weight immediately after training.

If you’re training smart, eating well the rest of the day, and using workout nutrition appropriately, there’s not a lot else on the nutrition or supplement side that’ll appreciably boost recovery or post-exercise protein synthesis.

Good info. Give us some insight on your PhD dissertation, and when/where the data will be published.

Well, my dissertation work focused on the topic of workout nutrition. And the bulk of it focused on nutrition for workout recovery. Simply put, we were interested in examining whether protein/carbohydrate nutrition taken in early during recovery would lead to better (vs. carbohydrate alone) muscle glycogen resynthesis, better subsequent performance, and a lessened stress hormone response during recovery and subsequent exercise. The first in a series of studies looking at this was done at Yale University with Dr. Tom Price in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology. And in it we used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine whether liquid carbohydrate-protein (C+P) supplements, ingested early during recovery, enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis versus isoenergetic liquid carbohydrate (CHO) supplements, given early or an isoenergetic solid meal given later during recovery (PLB). Here’s the abstract:

This study assessed whether liquid carbohydrate-protein (C+P) supplements ingested early during recovery enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis vs. isoenergetic liquid carbohydrate (CHO) supplements given early during recovery or an isoenergetic solid meal given later during recovery (PLB). Two h after a standardized breakfast (7.0kcal/kg; 0.3g/kgP, 1.2g/kgC, 0.1g/kgF), 6 male cyclists participated in 60-min intense cycling (AMex). Pre- and post-exercise, vastus lateralis glycogen concentrations were determined using nMRS. Immediately, 1h, and 2h post exercise, participants ingested C+P (4.8kcal/kg; 0.8g/kgC, 0.4g/kgP), CHO (4.8kcal/kg; 1.2g/kgC), or PLB (no energy). 4h post exercise a solid meal was consumed. At that time, C+P and CHO received a meal identical to breakfast (7kcal/kg) while PLB received 21kcal/kg (1g/kgP, 3.6g/kgC, 0.3g/kgF); total energy intake during the 6h was identical between treatments. After 6h recovery, glycogen measurements and cycling protocols were repeated (PMex). Absolute muscle glycogen utilization was 18% greater during AMex (C+P: -42.75+5.24 mmol/L, CHO: -37.08+7.59 mmol/L, PLB: -53.78+11.59 mmol/L; p=0.302) relative to PMex (C+P: -38.40+4.37 mmol/L, CHO: -31.16+3.78 mmol/L, PLB: -40.33+1.47 mmol/L; p=0.292) but there were no statistical differences between groups. During 6h recovery, muscle glycogen resynthesis was greater in C+P (+28.62+2.10 mmol/L) vs CHO (+22.20+1.19 mmol/L, p<0.05) or PLB (+18.50+7.67 mmol/L, p<0.05). Cycling performance was similiar (p=0.282) among treatments during both AMex (C+P: 37.61+0.63km, CHO: 37.03+0.60km, PLB: 37.24+0.34km) and PMex (C+P: 36.31+0.83km, CHO: 36.38+0.80km, PLB: 35.34+0.45km). These results suggest that C+P supplements, given early after exercise, enhance glycogen resynthesis relative to CHO and PLB. However, this did not influence performance in this type of exercise bout.

This study was published in the ACSM’s MSSE journal – here’s the citation:

Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Berardi JM, Price TB, Noreen EE, Lemon PW. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jun;38(6):1106-13.

Interestingly, although we didn’t find a performance effect in this study, we admittedly used a crude performance indicator. As a result, we followed-up with a better study looking at performance specifically. And we saw some pretty amazing results: Here’s the abstract:

We have demonstrated that liquid carbohydrate-protein (C+P) supplements (0.8g/kg C; 0.4g/kg P) ingested early during recovery from a cycling time trial enhance glycogen resynthesis vs liquid carbohydrate (CHO) supplements (1.2g/kg) given early during recovery (1). In this study, we assessed whether the same C+P supplement could enhance the second of two 60 min efforts on the same day. Two hours after a standardized breakfast, 15 trained male cyclists participated in a 60-min best effort time trial (AMex). After 6 h recovery, subjects repeated the best effort time trial (PMex). Results showed that both groups performed more poorly during PMex. However, performance and power decrements between efforts were reduced (p<0.05) with C+P (-0.30+0.50 km and -3.86+6.47 W) vs CHO (-1.05+0.44 km and -16.50+6.74 W). In conclusion, liquid C+P ingestion immediately after exercise better maintains subsequent same day, 60 min best effort cycling performance relative to isoenergetic CHO ingestion immediately after exercise.

This study has been submitted and is pending review – so look for it in the pipeline soon. Now, for those weight trainers in the group, we also replicated this study using a resistance training model in which we had subjects do a strenuous bout of isokinetic leg extensions and 3 different speeds. Although performance 6h and 24h later was not impacted by the nutritional intervention, muscle soreness was reduced and mood (as assessed by the Profile of Mood States) was improved at both time increments when the subjects ingested C+P vs. CHO and PLB. Interestingly, we saw the same thing in the performance studies so there seems to be some mental benefits and reduction in muscle soreness (as well as attenuation of CK – a marker of muscle damage) associated with the C+P drinks.

If you don’t mind me asking, what journal was that submitted to?

I’ll tell you once it’s been accepted for publication.

Fair enough! That about does it for part 2 of this interview — stay tuned for another round with John Berardi next week.

About John Berardi, PhD, CSCS

Dr. John Berardi is one of North America’s most popular and respected authorities on fitness and nutrition. He has made his mark as a leading researcher in the field of exercise and nutritional science, as a widely read author and writer, and as a coach and trainer who has helped thousands of men and women, from soccer moms to Olympic athletes, achieve their health, fitness and performance goals. John earned a doctorate in Exercise and Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario and currently serves as an adjunct assistant professor of Exercise Science at the University of Texas . He also provides nutrition consultation services for athletes and sports teams including a number of Canadian Olympic programs (Speed Skating, Bobsleigh, Skeleton, Cross Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Canoe, and Kayak), the University of Texas Longhorns, and numerous individual professional football, hockey, and baseball players. He has published more than 300 articles in major health and fitness magazines, including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Women’s Health, Oxygen, and more. He is the coauthor, with Michael Mejia, of Scrawny to Brawny (Rodale, 2005), and author of The Metabolism Advantage (Rodale, 2006). He also contributed special sections to Nutrient Timing, by John Ivy, Ph.D., and Robert Portman, Ph.D. (Basic Health, 2004). In 2005, John created a performance nutrition program for athletes and fitness enthusiasts called Precision Nutrition. The Precision Nutrition kit includes a nutrition guidebook, a recipe book, and instructional CDs and DVDs, and is also supported by the well-attended Precision Nutrition online forums. This program is designed to teach the principles of optimum sports nutrition to everyone from elite athletes to the recreationally active and has made a huge splash in the sports nutrition industry. Formerly, John was a competitive powerlifter, bodybuilder, track and field sprinter, and rugby player. In addition to his doctoral degree, he holds certification as a strength and conditioning specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. President, Precision

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