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
Interview by Dave Tate for www.EliteFTS.com
EFS: Eric, give us a little information about your background for the people who do not know you.
ES: 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.
EFS: Eric, you were a powerlifter at one time, right? What did you learn
from your training and what were some of your career highlights?
ES: 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
EFS: Have you worked with many powerlifters and strength athletes lately and
what kind of things are you helping them with?
ES: 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.
EFS: What do you mean by data?
ES: 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.
EFS: So, is this a way to optimize testosterone?
ES: Well that is one of the more important markers, yes. But there are many
EFS: Do many athletes come to see you for advice with anabolics?
ES: 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.
EFS: Fair enough. So what can strength athletes do outside of the gym to
help them get better?
ES: 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.
EFS: Where are most powerlifters going wrong in terms of nutrition?
ES: 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?
EFS: My scores have improved through good diet.
ES: 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.
EFS: What are some basic suggestions?
ES: 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.
EFS: There is always a carb debate out there. What the hell to strength
athletes really need?
ES: 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
EFS: For carbs, what do you mean by activity dependant?
ES: 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.
EFS: Let’s talk about supplements. This is a very confusing topic for most
ES: 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
EFS: 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
ES: 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
EFS: What else do you suggest for strength athletes?
ES: 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.
EFS: Did you publish this information?
ES: 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
EFS: Did you come up with any specific results?
ES: 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
EFS: How did the amino loading impact strength?
ES: 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
EFS: How does this impact the hormones?
ES: It makes more testing available.
EFS: When are the most important times to take the MR and MS?
ES: 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
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.
EFS: What else can be done to enhance recovery with supplements?
ES: 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
EFS: Stop there. What the hell does cortisol do?
ES: 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.
EFS: What besides a shake can one use between meals to accomplish these
ES: 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.
EFS: Doc, thanks for all of your information. How can someone get in touch
with you if they have a question?
ES: 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.
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
Dr. Serrano is a graduate of Kansas State University and earned his medical
degree for Kansas University, currently he is a professor of family practice
medicine at the Ohio State University. One will never have an idea of what
extreme demand exists for Dr. Serrano’s services, which is obvious by
viewing a message log full of inquiries from elite athletes, strength
coaches and related practitioners around the world. He is truly the expert
of experts, the on the elite come to for guidance and information.
Dave Tate is the founder of Elite Fitness Systems. He has been in the
strength and conditioning field as a coach and consultant since 1986 and has
been involved in the sport of powerlifting since 1982. He has logged more
than 10,000 hours of personal training and strength consulting sessions with
novice to elite athletes. Dave’s best lifts are a 935 squat, 610 bench
press, 740 deadlift, and a 2205 total.
Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength
training industry by providing the highest quality strength training
products and services while providing the highest level of customer service
in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and
accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.