That Can Help Burn Fat!
Suppose you were raised on an island
sheltered from American media and advertising, and you were
flown to the U.S. circa 2004 to understand the secrets of
fitness. You'd soon come to recognize it would take mere minutes
to develop an incredible body. You'd hear about the 1 hour
diet which would help anyone lose weight, and then you'd be
exposed to the infomercial for 6 second abs. You'd go home
to your island reporting total fitness takes 66 seconds!
There's so much money being made
in the sale of nutritional supplements aimed at fat burning,
and so many of them promise it's quick and easy, it's no wonder
people are being fooled into believing there is in fact a
pill or supplement that can melt fat.
The newest ads to swallow up radio
and TV air time promise that Americans are fat because of
the evil hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is not evil, but too much cortisol can lead to fat
accumulation, reduction in protein sythesis, etc. A new product
is being touted as the great savior. I don't believe it has
any potential to live up to the expectations of those who
buy into the commercials. I thought I'd share some of the
realities behind what research has really revealed in the
realm of supplementation for fat loss.
No Supplement Melts Fat!
Fat Burning requires fat mobilization
and then the delivery of fatty acids into the mitochondria
of the muscle cell where they can be burned as fuel. That
isn't the result of a supplement, but rather the outcome of
a host of biological processes that can be controlled. In
order, however, to control them, there must be a concern for
supportive eating and physical activity.
If you understand that a "supplement"
is simply "the extra," then you might find value
in adding the following supplements into your present nutritional
regimen, but remain aware that no supplement will do anything
in and of themselves. At best they can serve as a part of
the process of fat release.
You've heard me speak of the
virtues and the importance of ingesting essential fatty
acids (EFAs). Flaxseed oil is valuable in that it contains
both the Omega 3's and the Omega 6's, the two different
structures of fatty acid chains we need to ingest. EFA's
help to optimize insulin sensitivity, modulate the release
and mobilization of lipids (fat), transport oxygen from
red blood cells to the tissues, and keep saturated fat mobile
in the bloodstream increasing the likelihood it will be
burned rather than stored. EFA's are also components of
the membranes of cells, thus they play a vital role in maintaining
fluidity and rigidity of cell membranes. I've written a
great deal about EFA's so for the purpose of this article,
suffice it to say flaxseed oil can be a valuable dietary
aid to anyone seeking fat reduction.
We all know calcium as "the
bone mineral," or more accurately, as the most abundant
mineral in the body. Recent research has revealed calcium
acts to regulate calcitrol, a hormone that has the ability
to flip the fat metabolism switch. Epidemiological studies
show that people who consume large amounts of calcium tend
to show significantly less body fat than people with low
calcium consumption. When epidemiology (study of a population)
suggests something to be true, it must be followed by specific
research in order for a conclusion to be drawn. A preliminary
study found that when two cups of yogurt a day were added
to a lower calorie diet, raising the intake in the test
subjects from 400 mg to 1000 mg per day, the subjects lost
close to 11 pounds over 12 months, significantly more than
the control group (Zemel, M.B. et al. Dairy (yogurt)
augments fat loss and reduces central adiposity during energy
restriction in obese subjects. FASEB 2003; 17, 5: A1088).
Zemel, the head of the study, is mounting quite stunning
evidence that in a low-calorie situation, increasing calcium
mobilizes more fat, has a definitive effect on the reduction
of abdominal fat, and may even help to maintain lean body
mass. (M. B. Zemel Mechanisms of Dairy Modulation of
Adiposity J. Nutr., January 1, 2003; 133(1): 252S - 256).
Is this absolutely conclusive? No. As with most studies
being held up as evidence, viewing the body of research
uncovers some conflicting information. In another study
(Zhang and M. G. Tordoff No effect of dietary calcium
on body weight of lean and obese mice and rats Am J Physiol
Regulatory Integrative Comp Physiol, April 1, 2004; 286(4):
R669 - 677) increasing calcium intake did not appear
to make a significant difference. The research continues,
and I try to look at a preponderance of the evidence to
draw my conclusions. The proponderance of evidence in this
case certainly supports calcium's fat burning role.
In another of Zemel's studies
(Zemel MB et al. Regulation of adiposity by dietary calcium.
FASEB J 2000; 14:1132-8), subjects put on a milk-only
diet for six weeks lost an average of 20 pounds as compared
with only 4 pounds lost per person in the control group
who consumed the same number of calories in a more standard
but lower calcium diet. There's more here than simple theory.
There's biochemistry to support the "calcium increases
= more fat loss" theory.
Studies using genetically altered
mice who displayed the human OB gene (obesity gene) showed
that calcium deficiency leads to increesaes in parathyroid
hormone production. When you increase parathyroid hormone,
you increase your propensity to transport calcium ions into
fat cells which results in greater production of the enzyme
Fatty Acid Synthase (FAS). This creates a biochemical environment
where fat storage is more likely and the potential for the
breakdown of fat as fuel is reduced.
The conclusion should not present
calcium as a magic fat burning aid, but it should indicate
that adequate calcium intake is pretty darn important if
fat loss is the goal. Supplementing with calcium and incorporating
low fat dairy products into an overall nutritional regimen
would seem to assist in optimizing fat release.
3. Alpha Lipoic
ALA is a fatty acid that might
have been classified as a vitamin except that by definition,
a vitamin is a micronutrient the body cannot synthesize.
The body is capable of manufacturing Alpha Lipoic Acid and
it does so on a regular basis as an integral part of metabolism.
The research on ALA is legit and extensive and I'm surprised
it hasn't yet been packaged and sold as a fat burning miracle.
It's only a matter of time.
ALA helps us by activating enzymes
which are critical to energy production. It also helps to
break down amino acid chains for protein synthesis. The
body does manufacture enough to support these metabolic
processes, however, high intake of ALA has proven to be
a stunningly effective antioxidant. You've probably heard
of antioxidants. They help to rid the body of free radicals,
little single oxygen molecules that can wreak havoc upon
cells. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and CoQ10 all exert antioxidant
properties, but ALA exerts its antioxidant activity in the
mitochondria of the cell. When we actually "burn fat,"
that incineration of fatty acids takes place in the mitochondria,
the activity center, of the muscle cell. Supplemental ALA
can help to keep the fat burning environment in an ideal
Another unique property of ALA
is its ability to increase glucose storage in muscle tissue
and NOT in adipose tissue. This can lead to greater performance,
increased muscle activity and growth, greater support of
lean body mass, and a further reduction in the likelihood
of fat storage.
4. Acetyl L-Carnitine
You might have heard of L-Carnitine
and heard that it has some fat burning properties in supplemental
form. L-Carnitine is an amino acid that aids in shuttling
fat into the muscle cell to be burned . . . but the body
can synthesize its own and after years of study, I still
don't see the virtue in L-Carnitine supplementation. Acetyl
L-Carnitine is different. It is the acetylated ester of
L-Carnitine. OK, you want that in English?
It is derived from L-carnitine,
and is synthesized in the brain and the liver by an enzyme
In addition to its ability to
transmit signals across nerve cells, and its potential role
in offsetting the destructive symptoms of Alzheimers, ACL
limits tissue breakdown by reducing cortisol levels in the
blood. It also increases Leutenizing Hormone (LH) which
leads to a natural testosterone increase and more recent
research seems to suggest it might actually increase IGF-1
levels. Increasing IGF-1 is one of the properties of Growth
Part of the challenge in supplemeting
with Acetyl L-Carnitine is the low dosages in commercially
sold products. Most people would need to supplement with
at least 3 grams per day to see positive benefit to ALC
supplementation. I personally take two 750 mg capsules twice
L-Glutamine is the most abundant
amino acid in muscle tissue. I've covered L-Glutamine at
great length on many radio shows and have given it significant
mention in my books and programs. It is not miraculous,
but it is highly involved in immune function and digestive
health. So why does it warrant mention in an article about
fat burning aids? Let's not forget, muscle is the fat burning
machine, and if fat loss is a goal, muscle preservation
should be a concern. When the digestive or circulatory system
need additional L-Glutamine, they may rob muscle tissue
in order to get an adequate supply, and muscle catabolism
limits fat burning. Supplementing with L-Glutamine firstly
acts as a muscle preservation insurance policy. In addition,
if we're looking to control cortisol, L-Glutamine supplementation
should be considered. In a research study it was shown that
L-Glutamine directly prevents the cortisol-induced degradation
of muscle contractile proteins (Hickson, et al., "Glutamine
prevents down regulation of myosin heavy chain synthesis
and muscle atrophy from glucocorticoids," Am J Physiol 268
(1995) : E730-E734).
Two other supplements that warrant
mention if we are considering supplements that can limit the
potentially negative effects of high stress (elevated cortisol
levels), and as such can help to optimize the fat burning
environment, are L-Theanine (consider 100 mg twice per day)
and Vitamin C (2.5 - 3 grams per day). These compounds are
contained in many of the commercially sold "cortisol
blockers" but look at the labels. You'll find the amounts
are nearly insignificant.
What should you
take away from this article? Three things:
1. Supplements are the extra
- fat loss is the result of a strategic program incorporating
activity and supportive eating, and with that in mind a
handful of supplements can act as aids.
2. The supplement ads are often
deceptive and the formulas are often inadequate
3. Legitimate research can lead
us to make better choices, but science at any given moment
is simply a "best guess."
I've shared my "best guess"
regarding the supplements that can act as fat burning aids.
Now do what I've always told you. Eat right, train hard, and
enjoy your "downtime." In that lies the true secret
to Physical Excellence.
Phil's BURN! protein formula, ideal
for a fat loss program
Read more about fat loss in
the article, The Fat Loss Trick
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