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Top 3 Supplements for Aiding in Fat-Loss

Posted November 9, 2010 by

Before I begin talking about the subject matter of this article, please notice the title includes the word “aiding.” I want to emphasize that supplements in general are not miracle pills or powders, and can only assist you in your goals when all other areas of your fitness and nutrition are in place. I like to use the analogy of homework and extra credit—if you don’t do your homework in school (which makes up 99% of your grade), the small amount of extra credit you can perform (1% of your grade) will not make a difference—you’ll still fail out!

The same is true of supplements with regards to your health. Unless the foundation of your healthy lifestyle has been built properly, no amount of supplements are going to make a difference. I understand this may not be what everyone wants to hear—it is human nature to desire to find an easy, no-effort-needed method to achieving goals, but like nearly everything in life, in order to reap the rewards that fitness and nutrition can bring you, you’ve simply got to put in the hard work to get yourself there, period! Even if your diet and exercise programs are in place, don’t expect the majority of your results to come from supplements! You can do just fine without them, and with them you will see a small increase in your results at best, unless you’re using steroids of course!

So, without further tangential rambling on my part, I want to present the top 3 supplements that I feel can aid you in your fat-loss efforts the most effectively and safely.

#1: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

This one may be a surprise to you, as most people probably don’t even know what they are, and those who do usually associate their use with a desire to retain lean mass rather than cut body fat. However, as I have discussed many times in past articles, keeping as much lean tissue as possible on your body is one of the key methods of keeping your metabolism as high as possible, which is the secret to fat-loss. Branched-chain amino acids are special, essential amino acid that, unlike most amino acids, bypass the liver and are metabolized (or “used up”) directly by the muscles. What this means is that when you consume BCAAs, you are guaranteeing that they are going to be used to repair and build muscle. When protein goes to the liver, there is a significant chance it will be used for energy instead of for muscle-building, which means you have to eat a lot more of it… which of course means more total calories!

#2: Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

I imagine many of you are reading this and thinking, “Eating fats to LOSE body fat? Preposterous!” Well, the fact of the matter is that healthy fats do provide many benefits to the body, including aiding in fat loss. You need to keep in mind that dietary fat (the kind you eat) is NOT the same thing as body fat. Sure, if you hypothetically cut out your body fat and ate it (yuck!) then it would become dietary fat in the process, but my point is, body fat within the body is a byproduct of an excess number of calories consumed over a period of time, NOT from eating a specific type of macronutrient. Essential fatty acids are those that must be ingested because the body cannot create them on its own, and include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (LA, an omega-6 fatty acid). EFAs also help reduce water retention in the body, which will aid in weight (not fat) loss and overall give a more toned appearance to the body.

#3: Energy Pills/Thermogenics

I consider your classic diet pills to be only the third most important fat-loss supplement, because the truth is they are way overhyped and for the most part don’t do much more than make you feel like a crack-addict. Were I to hazard a guess, I’d say that about 95% of the fat-loss pills rely almost exclusively on caffeine in one form or another for their energy, which you could get just as effectively (and way more cheaply and enjoyably) from drinking some coffee. Caffeine has been shown in some studies to raise the temperature of the body (thermogenisis), but in other studies has had no effect on core temperature. The other major ingredient used to produce energy, typically labelled as “non-stimulant” is the vitamin b complex. The third major category of pills fall under the label of thermogenics.

There is a distinct difference between energy pills and thermogenics. Energy pills would be used to indirectly aid in fat-loss—that is, they would increase your energy so that you can perform exercise for longer and at a greater intensity, which would burn more calories. Thermogenics on the other hand purportedly aid in fat-loss directly, by increasing the body’s temperature to increase the metabolism. The infamous ephedra/ephedrine is probably the most well-known, true thermogenic on the market (although now only sold as an asthma medication). My major issue with thermogenics is that they can be quite unsafe if not used responsibly, and there isn’t a lot of information on how to use the appropriately, which leads to most people using them in an unsafe manner. Most of the thermogenic supplements have a quick adaptation period—that is, after the first couple of uses, the “stimulating” feeling goes away, often encouraging the user to increase dosage. However, more is not better and this can lead to the complications I was referring to above.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use supplementation to aid your fat-loss goals, you need to keep in mind that unless your diet and exercise program are in check, you are just wasting your time and money. Hiring a personal trainer is a great way to establish a great foundation to lead you down the path to your fitness goals.