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Ask the Scientist

Dr. Jeff Golini Ph.D

Jeff Golini is the owner of All American Pharmaceuticals and EFX Sports. He is a former competitive bodybuilder based in Venice Beach, but he’s also been in the supplement industry as a formulator, patent creator and manufacturer since the 80s. He has a PhD, and lives in Montana where he owns and runs a supplement factory. Jeff’s most famous for coming up with the idea of adding acid buffering ingredients to creatine monohydrate to help ease the damage the stomach acids have on the creatine you consume. This novel idea has created a massive following of buffered creatine users all over the world! FacebookInstagram, YouTube  

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Is Liver a Good Protein Source?

Decades ago, bodybuilders relied on desiccated liver tablets as a healthful, concentrated protein source but were beset by its side effects

When I first got into powerlifting and bodybuilding back in the early ‘80s, very few supplements were on the market for athletes. Products such as crash weight gainers and nasty-tasting protein powders were among the most popular choices among a limited selection. But the older lifters taught me one so-called secret that I continued to use for my entire career: desiccated liver tablets. Not just any type of liver, but pure de-fatted Argentine beef liver.

Argentine beef liver was thought to be the best because the cows from the Pampas region lived a—pardon the pun—pampered life. This Argentine region was supposed to be very fertile, with organic natural alfalfa, wheat, and oat grasses growing everywhere. The livestock grazed on a smorgasbord of natural foods, roaming freely around the pasture and consuming these micronutrient-rich grasses, free of the stresses of farm life and introduction of hormones or other drugs.

The entire liver of these cows was pressed into tablets after being defatted and then concentrated in a process called freeze drying.

So what was the big deal with desiccated liver tablets? Well, each 2-gram tablet contained 80 percent protein (1.6 grams protein) along with high amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, choline, inositol, niacin, folic acid, and PABA. It also contained calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc. The amino-acid profile was crazy rich in essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids.

What’s more, these liver tabs contained additional substances such as cytochrome P-450, nucleic acids, and certain growth and anti-estrogen factors that helped keep testosterone levels high. But before jumping online to place an order, realize that these liver bombs smelled terrible and were horse tablets to try to swallow.

Benefits for the Bodybuilder

The type of iron found in Argentine livestock liver is called heme iron. Iron is an essential mineral and great for bodybuilders, especially in this form. In your body, iron becomes part of such critical things as hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout your blood to tissues and organs. The myoglobin enables your muscle cells to store this oxygen.

We used to take 100 of these tablets daily, broken into dosages of 20 tabs between five meals. They did appear to help build muscle size, increase energy, and improve stamina. But there was a significant side effect: gas. The effect was terrible all day long from ingesting this many tablets.

I really felt good on my cutting diet and never lost muscle even though my calories were restricted. It helped maintain a positive nitrogen balance while supplying key amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, and special compounds that all contributed to muscle growth.

So what happened to this secret weapon in the intervening years? As with anything, athletes were looking for and continue to seek new and improved supplements to try, and sometimes they forget about the old proven things that actually work. Who knows if these liver tabs will ever make a comeback, but if you can tolerate the side effects (and taste!), they may be as good for building muscle today as they were a few decades back.