Today we are joined by Dr. Loren Bertocci, a biochemist and one of the foremost experts in mitochondrial research as well as the Director of Science at Pangea Biomedical, a company he founded to make high quality supplements for the Masters athlete. He holds an AB in Human Biology from Stanford, a PhD in Physiology from Washington State, and a post-doctoral fellowship in Advanced Radiological Physics from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. His special area of expertise is the biochemistry of skeletal muscle and exercise, where he conducts research to identify and characterize atomic-level triggers for mitochondrial biogenesis.
Dr. Bertocci is also an accomplished weightlifter, having won a Bronze Medal in Olympic Weightlifting at the 2015 Pan Am Masters Championships and currently training to compete at the World Weightlifting Championships in the 65+ category. He also has an athletic background in swimming, water polo, triathlon and track.
Proper training, nutrition, and recovery are the cornerstones of progress, but supplements can help optimize your gains, especially if you are an athlete. The Masters population has special supplemental needs, as various metabolic and muscle building processes begin to slow with age. Dr. Bertocci helps us understand the essential supplements for the “athlete of aging.”
Here is some additional information about the supplements mentioned in the show by Dr. Bertocci:
Tell us about your company.
I started and own Pangea Biomedical. Its purpose is to produce dietary supplements with a product line targeted at active adults aged 40+.
We currently have one product called Origins. Its primary characteristics and features include:
Some limited anti-inflammatory effects;
Some limited effect at attenuating post-exercise muscle damage;
Stimulation of the growth of new mitochondria. Most people notice this as a “gee, doing x for this long a duration is easier than it used to be” kind of effect;
Its effects are noticed proportional to two things; (1) the age of the person taking it and (2) the training intensity of the person taking it.
We have two other complimentary products ready to release once we get Origins up to enough profitability to be able to launch these next two products.
Do you recommend masters supplement with vitamins? Minerals? Things to look for, stay away from.
I am a strong supporter of dietary supplements for masters-aged athletes. There are three major reasons for this:
Market pressures on modern agriculture have resulted in crops with lower levels of minerals, complex oils, and proteins than in ages past. Thus, regardless of how good your diet might be, it is increasingly difficult to have all you need in your diet;
With aging comes an unavoidable reduction in daily metabolic output. In order to eat enough even very good foods to satisfy your real mineral/oil/protein needs, your caloric input would be so large that you would likely gain weight;
Also with aging comes some decreasing capacity to absorb some of the complex molecules you do actually ingest.
The vitamins and minerals that, for most masters-aged athletes, might be most in need of supplementation are:
Vitamin C (ascorbate) because of its role in the ascorbate-glutathione oxidation- reduction cycle;
Selenium (the mineral in the center of glutathione);
Calcium and phosphorus (bone minerals);
Zinc (an important metal ion in the middle of some important metabolic enzymes);
Vitamin D (for anyone who lives a largely indoor lifestyle).
My current dietary regime is representative of what I would recommend for any active masters athlete:
An “age-specific” multi-vitamin (I happen to take Centrum Silver);
Origins with a dose of 4 capsules 2x daily;
An additional 2,000U of vitamin D if you are not normally exposed to a lot of sunlight.
There is an enormous amount of data supporting the use of creatine as a supplement. I personally do not take it because I think my daily protein consumption is sufficiently high that I already consume plenty of its amino-acid precursors. I mention this not only to support it as possibly useful but also to warn against contamination by β-quanadino- propionic acid (aka β-GPA). This molecule is a competitive inhibitor of creatine kinase, the very enzyme required to convert phosphocreatine to free creatine and in the process make ATP. It is not at all uncommon to find β–GPA in the creatine you can purchase.
What supplements do you recommend based on good science?
Obviously creatine – this is addressed above. Beyond that, the following molecules are supported by the largest number of publications in top-level journals (in no particular order):
Resveratrol – this is the closest thing to a magic molecule there is. Its value was originally elucidated as a result of the famous French Wine Paradox study. Its health benefits are numerous;
Quercetin – this is almost as effective as resveratrol;
Pyrroloquinoline quinone (aka PQQ);
Pterostilbene – a naturally occurring derivative of resveratrol with similarly broad beneficial effects;
Ubiquinol – essential but for a somewhat more specific audience – those of us who take statins for hypercholesterolemia;
Others that might be useful:
BCAAs – leucine is required for activated mTOR gene to begin transcription, so an adequate amount of leucine in the diet will allow for the strength training adaptation to proceed maximally. All three of them can lead to the production of succinyl-CoA to anaplerose the citric acid cycle. This will have the effect of allowing acute responses to endurance-type exercise to (also) proceed maximally;
HMB – this is a product of leucine catabolism and has been implicated in several pathways related to muscle protein synthesis. However, insofar as it is a product of leucine catabolism, it is not clear to me that it has any additional value if you already have enough leucine;
A combination of curcumin and black pepper extract – there is a lot of (at least) decent evidence that this combination is an effective anti-inflammatory agent.
What do think about protein intake and the older athlete?
I would say this is a minimum. I consume at least 2g protein per day per lb body weight. Aside from the negatives resulting from possible protein-related fat load, there is no real reason to limit this. If you consume more than you need, you merely deaminate the amino acids and use the carbon skeleton (directly) as a CHO or indirectly to store the C-C bonds as fat.
Should Masters stay away from many supplements? Unfounded claims etc. wasted money and junk?
Generally speaking, there is not much benefit to consuming anything other than what we have addressed already. For the most part, all you do with most supplements is functionally make expensive urine.
Aside from the waste of making expensive urine, there are several factors to consider as you stroll down the aisles at your neighborhood (or online) supplement store:
In most cases, there is no guarantee that the ingredients on the label actually provide nutritional value. In most cases, the people making these kinds of ingredient decisions are not sufficiently knowledgeable about the underlying science for their ingredient decisions to be trusted. The only way to avoid this problem is to assess the qualifications of the scientist(s) making the ingredient decisions. For most non- scientists, this is difficult if not impossible;
There is no guarantee that what is on the label is actually in the container. Currently, in the USA, nutritional supplements are not subject any regulatory oversight;
Similarly, and for the same reason(s), even if what is on the label is actually in the container, there is no guarantee that there are no possibly harmful and/or illegal contaminants;
The only way to avoid the latter two problems is to only consume products with some sort of external certifications. The three most common certification processes are:
USP – a pharmaceutical product produced by a company the follows the “U.S. Pharmacopoeia” standards set up by the FDA. Mostly, this is designed to ensure efficacy in comparison to existing and similar drugs. It does not apply to nutritional supplements. This is the kind of certification common to things like prescription drugs;
GMP – a product produced by a company that follows the “Good Manufacturing Practices” set up by the FDA. Mostly, this is designed to make sure that the end product is not contaminated. This is the kind of certification common to things like multi-vitamins;
BSCG – a product produced by a company that subjects its products to testing by the Banned Substance Control Group. A BSCG certification means the product has exactly what is on the label (or if proprietary, what it is supposed to have), does NOT have what is NOT on the label, and (perhaps most importantly) contains nothing that would trigger a positive USADA test. It is this certification that should be considered to be the “gold standard” for any nutritional supplement you consume. Unfortunately, the vast majority of nutritional supplements are not BSCG certified.
How can people get in contact with you?