Phase Shift Dieting 1 – My Beginnings
I was born in Italy, in the mountains close to Pescara. At the tender age of 6 years I emigrated to Canada with the rest of my family. I was brought up by traditional Italian parents, eating the traditional Italian cuisine of middle Italy.
But there was something in me that didn’t like to eat the way that my parents did. I was often chastised by my parents for not eating like a true Italian because I just didn’t care for bread at all and preferred meat, salads and vegetables over pasta.
When I began training with weights just before I turned 14 years old, I quickly caught on to the way of eating and supplements that were being used by the bodybuilders of that day. And that seemed to fit in with my natural bend away from carbs and toward protein.
I used Desiccated liver, Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ oil, a vitamin and mineral supplement, soy protein powder and protein tablets. I had protein shakes almost daily using milk, raw eggs, skim milk powder, soy protein powder, wheat germ oil, and at times I tossed in some desiccated liver and brewer’s yeast.
Since I didn’t use any carbs in my drinks other than what was in the milk and powders, the drinks were pretty brutal and when I mixed up a batch I had no fears that the other members in my family would drink it on me.
I grew more muscular and stronger on my intuitive high protein, moderate fat, lower carb diet but it wasn’t until I attended university at the age of 18 that I began to see why this kind of diet worked for me.
The details of that time in my life are covered in the first volume of a series of books by Randy Roach on the history of nutrition in bodybuilding – see www.musclesmokeandmirrors.com.
One of my early favorite text books, which had tremendous influence on me, is still in my possession complete with the passages I marked-up over 40 years ago. The text was, “Metabolic and Endocrine Physiology an Introductory Text” written by Jay Tepperman and published in 1962 by the Year Book Medical Publishers.
That book started my research that found me almost every day in the research Stacks at the University of Toronto – 5 to 6 underground floors containing several thousand medical and biological journals and books.
The book gave me my first behind the scenes look at the effects of hormones individually and collectively, including testosterone, insulin, growth hormone, thyroid, and cortisol, along with protein and fat metabolism, and subsequently on body composition.
For the average research student, much of this content may have seemed very dry, but for me it was a hidden gold mine, and started my thinking about diet manipulation to affect these hormones and in turn muscle mass and body fat.
Although the whole book was interesting and important, the chapter that interested and perplexed me more than all the others was that on insulin. This interest was fueled by the fact that insulin was discovered in 1921 by Sir Frederick Banting of the University of Toronto. Banting was the first Canadian to be awarded a Nobel Prize and was enormously popular during his lifetime. “His influence could still be felt in the Banting building”, and I took some of my courses in that building.
What captivated me the most was a 23 page section titled, “Endocrine Function of the Pancreas”
I spent as much time on those 23 pages as I did on the rest of the book. Insulin fascinated me since it was a veritable Jekyll and Hyde. Not so much on its effects on glucose, which were prominent in the minds of many since insulin was basically thought of as a hormone that lowered glucose levels in diabetics, but on its effects on body composition, through its impact on carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
I began to learn how lowered insulin and glucose levels resulted in large scale mobilization of stored body fat into the blood. Extremely significant to my future dietary strategy, was the data I found indicating that both too little, and too much insulin had adverse effects on body composition. Too little for too long led to a catabolic state and a loss of muscle mass, and too much led to an excess of body fat due to increased lipid formation and an inhibition of fat breakdown.
In my research at that time I came across papers published in the 1950s and early 1960s showing that fats and carbs had reciprocal effects in the body. Increasing dietary carbs led to an increase in the use of carbs for energy and decreased the use of fat, whereas decreasing carbs increased the use of fat for energy, while at the same time decreasing the use of carbs.
There were also a few studies published during that time that looked at the effects of high fat, high protein, low carb diets on metabolism, not to mention the articles and studies looking at these diets as used by Eskimos.
However, the paper that had the most influence on my views on macronutrient metabolism and how fats and carbs interacted was a paper by PJ Randle published in the April 1963 issue of the Lancet. This paper was titled “The glucose fatty acid cycle: its role in insulin sensitivity and the metabolic disturbances of diabetes mellitus” and spelled out how glucose and fatty acids metabolism interacted and the significance of this interaction. The main take home lesson for me when I read this paper was that dietary carbs inhibited the breakdown and oxidation of fat.
This, along with other papers and books available at that time made me realize that high glucose and insulin concentrations suppress fatty acid oxidation and that there is a preferential use of glucose when dietary carbs are available and this resulted in a preservation of fat stores.
Another one of my majors at university in my honours science course, which I completed and then went on to medical school, was genetics. I found the subject fascinating and it was at this time that I first started thinking about how our genetic structure and the current environment. Evolutionary theories, coupled with the information on the effects of macronutrients on metabolism and body composition formed my early ideas of my innovative phase shift diets.
The bottom line is that in the early to the end of the 1960s I formulated the basic theories behind my phase shift diets and used the diet to propel me into my elite level powerlifing and IPF World and World Games powerlifting gold medals.
What I then attempted to do, and continue to do to this day, is to put our genetics and metabolism in perspective and manipulate both to produce a desired metabolic phenotype by making specific changes in the environment, mostly through macronutrient and micronutrient manipulation.
The principles and theories behind my phase shift diets, as exemplified by my Metabolic Diet and it’s variations, such as the Anabolic Solutions and Radical Diet, are complex and when trying to work out the minutiae, it’s obvious that more research needs to be done. But then that’s the situation today in research in general. We need to do more studies so we can be more confident in what we say is going on and get closer to actual truths.
But the principles behind the diet can be taught, and when learned provide a basis for understanding nutrition and how it affects our metabolism, and how we can manipulate it to maximize health, body composition and performance.
And it’s important at this time in my life to share the knowledge I have accumulated in more than five decades so that others can see more clearly just what it’s all about and how to use the knowledge for improving themselves and for teaching others.