Muscle Building And Biomarkers: Adjusting Carbohydrates To Improve Gains

Dr. Warren Willey
Written By: Dr. Warren Willey
January 28th, 2013
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
23.4K Reads
Dr. Warren Willey shows you how you can improve your muscle building diet and physique by adjusting macronutrients based upon the biomarker of LDL particle size.

Biomarkers and Muscle BuildingUnquestionably, anyone reading this is looking for ways to better their physiques be it by the attainment of size, the promise of vascularity, and/or the cuts like the pros.  You train hard then try to sleep and recover well.

You take a variety of exceptional supplements available to you from  You turn down your friends when they want to go out and party as you know your lifting will suck the next day if you go.

You sacrifice a lot, work hard and eat right.  It's that last sentence that can get you however - what exactly does 'eat right' mean?

Thousands upon thousands of articles and books are available that try (and a number succeed) in teaching you what that means.

But what about for you?  Having written a few of those articles and books, I can tell you that the hardest part in doing so is writing to the masses, when deep down inside we authors know it would be best to understand each person and their situation in order to really help them 'eat right' for their body.  That is almost impossible to do, so through trial and error, ensuring adequate protein, adding calories and cutting calories, eating carbs and the avoiding carbs - you figure it out the best you can.

What if I was to tell you part of the answer may be found in your blood?  What if there were some labs that would actually allow you to see what your body is doing with food?  What if these lab values called biomarkers could actually help you dial in your diet to perfection for your body?  That is what this short article is about: Biomarkers and bodybuilding. I am only going to cover one biomarker in this article so your computer keyboard does not get drooled on.

Biomarkers: Building a Better Muscle Building Diet

A brief disclaimer: I am still writing to the masses on something very individualized.  I am simply going to tell you about some really cool lab test that help doctors determine disease states and risks, and how doctors like me use them to dial in a client’s body to perfection!

Rule #1 - Ensure Adequte Protein

The first rule in both bodybuilding and weight management of any sort is this: Ensure adequate protein.  That could mean meat, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds; or if you are averse to consuming something that once crawled, walked, swam, or flew: vegetable protein sources.

Rule #2 - It's Not "What" You Eat That Matters

The rule that follows a close second is:  It's not the food you eat, it's what your body does with the food you eat!  That is why some people can eat Taco Bell © and have striations in their quads.

It's why some people do well on high carb diets and others do well on high fat diets.  It is why intermittent fasting works for some and fails for others. What your body does with the food you eat is key for you to know in order to build and perfect the body you need.

I am certain a number of you already know if you are a low carb/high fat person as by eating this way you feel lean, look great, and function well.  Just as you likely know if you avoid carbs you are flat, exhausted, and your training sucks.

It really is what your body is doing with the food or supplements you are consuming that makes you that way.  Now…I am not talking about how you chew your food. I could reword this and say ‘what is your liver doing with the food once it gets a hold of it?’


The Importance of the Liver

As a metabolic physician, the liver is my favorite organ.  It is a metabolic machine.  The liver has many duties as I am sure you are aware, but the one important item for this discussion is its role in lipoprotein and cholesterol production.  Livers process cholesterol differently for different people and it is in this fact that we can determine what your body is doing with the food you eat.

Before I get into what that actually means, you need to understand some basic components of lipid metabolism so you can understand that by measuring certain components of cholesterol, we can learn how your liver processes fat and carbohydrates.

I assume most of you reading this have had your cholesterol checked.  Your High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol and your Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol are important risk modification factors for your heart and total health.  As a low HDL and high LDL are indicative of greater cardiac risk, obesity, and diabetes, we have a number of interventions to help curtail it.

Diet and medication are at the forefront in our attempt to lower LDL and raise HDL.  Fortunately for us, there is more to the story.  The total LDL and HDL numbers are important, but they only tell part of the story.

Just as on the bodybuilding stage - size matters!  Large, buoyant LDL particles are not dangerous; it's the small dense LDL particles that wreak havoc to your heart and vessels.  Measuring these particles in the blood not only tells of cardiac risk, but what your liver is doing with the food you eat.

Adjusting Carbohydrates Based On LDL Particle Size

Someone with a high count of small LDL particles called sdLDL processes carbohydrates differently - or eats too many carbohydrates for their body to handle. When a bodybuilder comes to me for a diet consult I run this biomarker in part to see how many carbohydrates they are eating and how their body is processing them (not to mention I care about their total cardiac risk).

High sdLDL counts are indicative of too many carbohydrates for their body.  Low sdLDL counts mean that their current diet is adequate, and I can start playing with their foods from there.  Of course some of this is related genetically, so I also check something called an Apolipoprotein E genotype.  This is a genetic test to help interpret the biomarkers with a little more individual accuracy (beyond the scope of this article to cover genetics!) 

Studies have shown that certain people that eat a low fat/high carbohydrate diet induce a shift from large to small LDL particles whereas low carbohydrate, high fat diets lower sdLDL and increase large LDL. Using the biomarker sdLDL, I can dial peoples eating plan to perfection.  Someone with a high sdLDL, I cut or change the carbs in their eating plan and along with tracking their lean and fat mass I recheck the lab after a few weeks to see what effect the diet change had on the lab value.

Through this process we are able to not only lower cardiac risk, but I have found that when we learn the right amount/proportion of carbs to fat in the diet via biomarkers, body perfection is achieved.  I have helped seasoned bodybuilders, ones who have been stuck at a weight or a look gain some extra weight and/or lean up beyond their previous expectations using this biomarker.

People new to the sport or just wanting to look good, this biomarker is an excellent way to help them avoid all the trial and error that goes into physique optimization! It truly is not the food you eat, it's what your body does with the food you eat!

There are a number of other lab tests, hormone markers, etc. that are used in concert with sdLDL to peak physiques.  As science in medicine progresses it is really amazing how we can transform that knowledge into our quest for an optimum physique.

These tests are still cutting edge and there are not many doctors that run them.  If you're interested in knowing either for your body morphing or cardiovascular risk, contact me via my website and I will help you find a doctor near you.

In future articles I will tell you about other biomarkers, hormones, inflammation indicators and other testing that can be done to help you reach your bodybuilding goals. The science in this area is amazing and not enough of us 'meatheads' know about them! My plan is to fill you in...

Until next time: Train with your Brain!

Doug Champigny
Posted on: Tue, 04/07/2015 - 18:05

Great article, Dr. Warren - Thanks! Quick question - at my last visit, the doctor said my triglycerides were too high to get a cholesterol reading. Suggestions?

Posted on: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 11:15

Hi,, thats very informative article.... could advise abt diet i would require... i have combination of ectomorph and endomorph body type,, if i eat more, i easlily put on weight around my waist, hips, on the other hand i find t very difficult to put muscle around my upper body specially back, traps.
can u pls advise what diet should be folowed

Holly Blumenberg
Posted on: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 19:20

I am very interested the role that diet plays in the ageing process and inflammation in the body. Also hormones and HRT.

Posted on: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:39

Stellar article, feeling pretty lucky to have info like this dropped right at my feet by M&S

Posted on: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 06:23

Wow, great read. I always thought that building a body that was big and strong was based on what you ate, but I always looked on this as a macro view and not on such a detailed level. Thanks for the great article and great read.