Supplements are a contentious issue when it comes to fat loss. Many products suggest rapid results and a fat burning effect but what really works? A lot of the time science and research is used to back up a lot of the claims of supplements. However a lot of these studies are animal based. Unsuprisingly rats do not have the same internal workings as a human though it has not stopped sports supplements companies marketing their products on patchy science.
What follows are supplements that have been shown clinically to have a net increase in metabolism and thus potentially enhance fat burning potential.
1. Caffeine- Yes, caffeine stimulates fat breakdown. How? Well, it stimulates catecholamine production which in turn increases the breakdown of fat cells. This in turn increases the availability of circulating fatty acids. These will be reabsorbed by the body if not burnt- if active though you can mobilize them for energy. This is what happens initially when we become active, caffeine gives us a shunt in the right direction a bit like exercise. One word of caution though you can become tolerant to the effects of caffeine as the receptors that are stimulated to break down fat by the catecholamines become less receptive with over stimulation (yet another reason that activity does not always denote increased fat burning… but that is another post). None the less if not overused it is a useful pre training supplement to help enhance training intensity.
2. Fish Oils- specifically Omega 3. If you consider the range of benefits of enhanced Omega 3 intake then I feel that they pretty much could acheive world peace within 6 weeks. In regard to studies clinically proven the metabolic enhancing effect of fish oils then a study by Eric Noreen at the 2003 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Conference indicated that in individuals who supplemented with different fat sources. The fish oil groups saw daily resting metabolic rate increases of 141 to 448 calories, whereas the safflower group’s decreased (Safflower is predominantly Omega 6- common in most vegetable based cooking fats). As an added bonus, the fish oil group also lost a little bit of fat mass while gaining some lean body mas- it appears that all fats are not made equal. In relation to fat loss this clearly means taking fish oils and sensible fat intake may be all the difference in your nutrition and training programme.
3. Protein Supplementation. Now I include this here as still most people consider protein powder as a “supplement” whereas in truth it is a processed dairy product. Increased protein intake upregulates your metabolism increasing protein turnover and therefore enhancing metabolic rate. Now rather than suggesting increasing your protein intake this can be done with shakes or normal food). I want to question the quality of a lot of protein powders. Commonly, they are processed- not a bad thing all the time. Often though they contain a large amount of unnatural sweetners which can have as much as an insulin stimulating effect as normal sugar, not what you necessarily signed up for if you didn’t need the excessive insulin stimulation which can drive fat gain. The quality of the protein is another major question. A recent study found heavy metal contamination in a number of off the shelf protein powders. Again not what you signed up for. Quality though is a contentious issue when you are using a whey based protein powder as it is a dairy product- with a large number of people experiencing issues with lactose it may not always be the best choice escpecially if the source of the product has not been ideal. Vegeterian protein powders can be useful- hemp, pea and rice protein all contain amino acids- blends of them may be best though to get your full protein profile. In turn though if you want to focus purely on quality there are gluten and additive free whey proteins which are organically sourced which may be the best option if your main issue is quality of the protein source that you are consuming.
All in all these supplements stand up in the research- that is in human research not rats!