PHIL KAPLAN'S FITNESS TRUTH - Fat Burning Supplements

Supplements 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 named Cortislim 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.

1. Flaxseed Oil

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.

2. Calcium

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 Acid (ALA)

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 state.

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 (ALC)

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 called acetyl-L-carnitine-transferase.

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 Hormone.

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 per day.

5. L-Glutamine

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).

Controlling Cortisol

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.

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