Okay, so today I don’t just want to discuss supplements, but also touch upon perception and preconceived ideas. See, the title of this post has been worded quite specifically.
“Weight Loss” – when you have over a third of Western civilization trying to come to grips with an Obesity epidemic that – like a mortgage – has a “death grip” on some of the largest populations on the planet (literally – translate the word ‘mortgage’ from its Latin roots, and you’ll find that it actually means “death grip”)… it only makes sense that “weight loss” is one of the most heavily looked up “health & fitness” terms used on search engines like Google and Bing.
However, the problem is just as much a mental one as it is physical; see, the overwhelming majority of people who are overweight and obese are so über-concerned with the number on the scale, that they are oblivious to the reality of what really matters…
Let me explain…
What most people overlook is the difference between *weight* loss, and fat loss! Thing is, you could take someone who weighs 150lbs and is hyper-lean (like 10% bodyfat), then someone else who also weighs 150lbs, and yet, they’re 35% bodyfat! One looks like an athlete, the other looks like a competitive eater…
‘… it basically provides a little boost to your metabolism.’
So, I was going to make the title read: ‘The Six Best Supplements for Fat Loss’… but then we have the other edge of the sword; because now the problem isn’t people’s obsession with the overall number on the scale. No. Now the problem is that anyone coming across this article would be expecting to read recommendations for some kind of “wonder pill” – supplements that will [supposedly] help you ‘melt away the fat’. But sorry – hate to burst your bubble – but no such pill exists!
Still with me? If so, then great – that means that you’re not just looking for some quick fix solution, but some *real* advice and solutions that science has shown will truly help with your cosmetic goals (if we “frame” it that way).
Let’s get into it – what are the six most effective, no B.S. supplements that will yield results when taken at the proper doses (alongside a healthy diet and exercise)? We’ll cover the following criteria for each: effect on the body, the effective dose, timing (when you should take it), as well as any interactions that we should be aware of that may have a negative impact.
At #1 we’ve got the fabled – Green Tea.
We’ve all heard of it. We all know it’s good for you. But what does Green Tea do in the body to promote weight/fat loss? Well, the short answer is that it basically provides a little boost to your metabolism. The slightly longer answer is that the catechins (the active compound of Green Tea) – specifically, epigallocatechin gallate (aka EGCG) – inhibits an enzyme whose release would otherwise slow down the processes in the body that regulate calorie burning.
The problem is – like with far too many supplements on the market, and as you’ve heard me rant about before – is that it/they can typically be heavily *under*-dosed! You want to be shooting for 500mg of Green Tea (at least 50% of which contains the active EGCG compound – the percentage is usually listed on the supplement label), and ideally, you’d want about 2-3 doses per day.
‘… the mitochondria are… essentially the “power houses” of the cell.’
Now, Green Tea can have a stimulatory effect, therefore, you’ll benefit most from taking this earlier in the day (morning & afternoon). It goes really well with virtually all the other five supplements we’re covering today, but the two minor warnings I’ll throw out there are that it can have an inhibitory effect on carbohydrate uptake, as well as iron (although, with the latter, Vitamin C can help mitigate the effect).
Taking the #2 spot, we’ve got L-Carnitine.
This is a compound that typically comes in two [main] forms (though there are more) – you have L-Carnitine, and Acetyl-L-Carnitine; the latter is known more for its nootropic/cognitive effects (in other words, its effects on the brain). However, the “standard” form – L-Carnitine – is best known for its role in optimizing mitochondrial function.
So, okay… what the heck does “mitochondrial” mean? Well, the mitochondria are organelles found inside most cells in the body, that are essentially the “power houses” of the cell. They are responsible for energy release/utilization. And so, L-Carnitine can help the mitochondria better use stored fat for energy!
It should be noted though, that the effects of this are *most* notable in people who are deficient in L-Carnitine to begin with (vegans and vegetarians – mostly), as the compound is already naturally present in most meat sources (and even dairy).
For L-Carnitine to be at all effective though, you need to be consuming at least 2-3g per day (preferably a 1g dose with each of three meals). Consuming the supplement along with your meal will induce an insulin spike, which we actually want (unless you’re Diabetic) as this will improve the L-Carnitine’s uptake into the muscle cells.
‘… these will… “turn on” genes… and even “turn off” genes that impact fat storage…’
There aren’t really any negative interactions with other compounds, vitamins, minerals or medications to note; however, if you buy very poor-quality products, you may find that your body could emit a slightly fishy odour! I found this out once when I bought a pretty shit L-Carnitine supplement in Spain that cost all of about €5… I’d always thought that this side effect was just rumour, but alas, it is true! So, don’t skimp on this one – fork out for a reputable brand and get the good stuff! (Which you want to be doing with all supplements anyway!).
Next up, and this is a supplement that has numerous other benefits also… we have Omega-3 at the #3 spot!
While Omega-3 is best known as a superb anti-inflammatory, super healthy fatty-acid; another amazing impact of this compound is its ability to affect gene expression! See, Fish Oil – one of the most widely available sources of Omega-3 – provides two forms of it, known as: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These will go right ahead and “turn on” genes in the body that are responsible for increasing fat burning, and even “turn off” genes that impact fat storage – a win/win!
Again, like with a lot of these supplements, we’re looking for doses in the range of up to 3g (in this instance, about half derived from EPA and half from DHA). But what you want to be super savvy with is checking the amount of EPA & DHA that your Fish Oil / Omega-3 supplement is actually giving you! Some will tell you that the capsule contains 1000mg of “liquid”, yet you’ll then read only 240mg of EPA and 170mg of DHA… Now, I’m no math-whizz, but that sounds like I’m getting heavily short-changed on the active ingredients… surprise, surprise!
So really, you’ll want to see roughly 750mg of each, that you would then take twice per day. (Just a quick run through the math there: 750mg of EPA + 750mg of DHA will give you 1.5g in a single dose, so then you’ll take a second dose to get in 3g total [of the two combined] for the day).
‘… the fat gets released… bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-boom!’
Again, there is a very high degree of synergy when it comes to taking Omega-3 and these other supplements, but do note that if you are taking *fat blockers* then you’re essentially going to be wasting your money as these will BLOCK the Omega-3s, thus rendering them completely and utterly useless. Also, they don’t pair too well with Omega-6 (so avoid consuming various nuts or sunflower oils around the same time).
Next up, and some of the more supplement-savvy of you out there may be wondering why this didn’t come up sooner, but we have: Caffeine at #4.
Now, until about five years ago, it seemed as though every “fat burner” on the market had caffeine as its main ingredient. However, the reason it comes in so far down my list is the same reason why the “fat burner” segment of the market has been evolving: the stimulant factor.
Thing is, although Green Tea can be stimulatory, its effects are fractional compared to caffeine. And as a result, many supplement companies out there have started introducing Stimulant Free products to their range (which I’m a huge supporter of).
If you’re sensitive to caffeine, then off the bat, this is probably a no-go. However, if you can tolerate doses up to 200-300mg, then you’re going to find that this reaps dividends in terms of fat-burning potential!
But wait, doesn’t caffeine just give you a buzz and help you focus? Well, yes. But it does so much more than that. See, the fat cells in the body have receptors that adenosine will normally attach to, which will pretty much bring a halt to fat’s release from adipocytes.
So, when we introduce caffeine into the equation, it basically takes adenosines place and as adenosine can no longer attach, the fat gets released, and bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-boom! We’re able to maximize fat burning through the simple release of fat from the cells.
‘… can almost *double* the amount of fat released from fat cells!’
If you’re hyper-sensitive to caffeine, but open to trying it, I would suggest getting in one or two smaller doses of no more than 100mg, and assessing how you feel. If you tolerate caffeine quite well, then a dose of two to three hundred will be best. However, like with what we said about L-Carnitine before, this all works best if you’re “deficient”… in other words, if you don’t typically guzzle half a dozen cups of coffee a day, then you’ll benefit more than if your tolerance to caffeine is akin to Bob Marley’s tolerance to marijuana!
Some notes of caution should be heeded regarding [fairly obvious] health implications such as the impact on blood pressure (if yours is high, then skip the caffeine!), as well as sleep (if you suffer from insomnia then [also] skip the caffeine! And instead, read my post: Bio-Hack Your Sleep – 5 Ways to Better ZZZs).
At #5, we have a naturally derived compound called Yohimbine.
Yohimbine is the active compound extracted from Yohimbe, which is a tree bark native to West Africa. Its effect on the body is virtually the same as Caffeine – in so far as promoting fat release goes – but via a different biological mechanism in the body.
Some research has even shown that – when taken before exercise – yohimbine can almost *double* the amount of fat released from fat cells! Now, that’s pretty damn significant.
Dose-wise, it is important to distinguish between reading the amount of Yohimbe provided versus Yohimbine – as the latter is an *extract* of the former, you’ll see that the product you take may say that it contains 200+mg of yohimbe, however, you want to be more concerned with the amount of yohimbine as a) this is the active compound, and b) the amount will be nowhere near the hundreds of milligrams, but will/should be about 5-10% of the total, thus yielding anywhere between 10-20mg, which is the kind of dose you want. You would take this about half an hour before exercise for best results.
Again, like with caffeine though, there can be some adverse side effects; in the case of Yohimbe, you’re looking down the barrel of potential nausea and dizziness. Like with any supplement (or medication), these effects won’t be felt by everyone, but if in doubt, consult your doctor first!
And finally, at #6 we have: CLA.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is another widely available supplement, but again, is commonly found at ineffective doses.
Now, the science backing this particular supplement has only in recent years actually produced results that show positive results in humans (before it was only anecdotal as all the studies that had yielded such “amazing” results had been show in pigs and rats!). What they’ve found is quite an unbelievable two-for-one effect that most of us would want to jump on straight away; CLA has been shown to simultaneously enhance fat loss while boosting muscle growth/strength!! That’s not just a win/win… that’s virtually cheating!
‘This is definitely pause for concern…’
But again, you won’t see results unless you’re getting in the scientifically proven dose to actually yield results! So, you’ll want to get in at least 1g of CLA with each meal for a total of 3g per day (if you just have it with breakfast, lunch and dinner).
There are products on the market that sell a ridiculous dosage per capsule, and you’ll find a lot that only provide 250mg per capsule and suggest taking just 3-4 per day. That’s B.S.! Stay informed, look for 1g doses that you’ll want to take three times per day.
Like with the Fish Oil / Omega-3, you’ll want to avoid taking CLA with any form of fat blockers! But also, there’s a very hyped “herbal remedy” known as resveratrol (which has some health benefits), but when these are ingested together they will inhibit each other, so they’d both become useless.
Unlike Omega-3, however, CLA is an Omega-6 fatty acid, so you may want to consider taking these two separately, as they’re not so synergistic together (if you remember what I wrote earlier about Omega-3s).
The final note of caution with this one is for any Diabetics out there reading this… Now, the science here has dug up mixed results, however, it has been shown that CLA can affect Insulin Sensitivity, and in some cases, the effect was that Insulin Resistance increased! This is definitely pause for concern – especially if you are Diabetic, Pre-Diabetic, or have Metabolic Syndrome and/or already have Insulin Resistance in some form or another.
Like with Yohimbine and Caffeine – it earns a place on the list because these negatives won’t affect everyone, and so, you’re better off knowing and consulting your doctor first than just making an uninformed decision about taking it.
But there you have it: The Six Best Supplements for Weight Loss. For the most part, you’re perfectly safe taking L-Carnitine, Green Tea, and Omega-3s (Fish Oils), but take caution with CLA, Caffeine and Yohimbine. This list all works highly synergistically, but you’ll want to take some with meals, and some at other times. Ensure you get in the adequate doses that I’ve outlined for you, and you should start seeing some great results with your pursuit for *fat loss*!
Remember – it’s not the number on the scale that matters as much as the percentage of overall bodyfat that you’re carrying! If you’re unsure, there are scales that come with bio-impedance sensors (that can measure bodyfat levels, albeit with a margin of error of anywhere from 3-10%); otherwise, try checking with your gym (or Personal Trainer – if you have one), and they should have callipers (which are a more accurate method of bodyfat measurement). Knowing these numbers will help you more than stressing over the weight on the scale!
In the meantime, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO