The horror of biochemistry

In The DODO Diet we go into a little detail about the complexity of metabolism, I mention how I walked into my Tutor’s office on the day of my Biochemist degree, saw a poster hanging on the wall, and almost jumped out the window when I realised I would have to learn the contents.

In the book I promise a picture of the offending ornament, so here it is, and to give you some sense of scale here’s Dr Gerhard Michal of Roche, the man who put it together in 1965, with one:

biochem poster

“Hmm, that’s on odd poster”

I knew my tutor’s field of research was ridiculously complicated, and I just assumed it had nothing to do with me. Here it is in a little more detail, this is what it looks like from about 10 feet away…

Biochem jpeg

“Wow, that looks complicated, must be some advanced PhD level stuff?”

The picture above doesn’t give you much idea of the level detail though, lets blow up one of those squares. This is G5:


” Hey, that’s Krebs, but … Oh no … Oh, I am completely fucked”

Keep in mind that this poster represents the ‘core’ of the biochemical pathways, the basic stuff. There is in fact a huge amount of chemistry going on in your cells and tissues that’s not on this poster. You’re an incredibly complex and amazing machine, but don’t get too cocky, because so are the bacteria living in your kitchen bin.

The square above shows about one third of the tricarboxylic acid (aka Krebs) cycle. The TCA cycle is a big part of how your body unlocks the energy needed for life from your food and obviously this makes it pretty important, but the above is just 3 small links in a chain, a chain that forms just part of this process.

It’s important but also interesting, because in us and in organism with cells with nuclei this process happens in the mitochondria which are little sausage looking bits of machinery in our cells, in other types of organism, the ‘prokaryotes’, it just happens in the cytoplasm of the cell. The mitochondria were, way back in time, stand alone organisms but they now to much of the energy generating side of the work for us. Here we see in this contrast a little snapshot of how we have developed and got to where we are today.

Who cares!? … Nutritionist? PT? Coach?

Biochemistry is one of the most interesting subjects I know, it is the mechanics of how we work, what could be more interesting than that? It’s amazing then the number of people working in nutrition that just don’t bother with it, or indeed any science grounding. These people are often useless or worse.

If you’re planning to go into nutrition, PTing or S&C and want to be any good at your job then you will NEED to learn at least some a little biochem, so here are some free resources that I wish I had had when I was at Uni.

Biochemistry Free and Easy textbook: here

Kevin Ahren’s amazing and huge video collection of biochem lectures on Youtube: here

If you want to go into a bit more detail here’s a similar – though less complete – version of the poster in an interactive format.

You can also get your own copy by contacting the very helpful people Roche directly.

Drew Price is a Registered Nutritionist and the author of The DODO Diet, a practical guide to tailoring intermittent fasting to your needs be it fat loss, better health or lean muscle and performance gains. He’s pretty bad at remembering his Biochemsitry.

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  1. I'm available for lectures, book signings, clinical and advisory work. If you have questions about the DoDo Diet please use the comments or social media so everyone can benefit.