Fat-loss Supplements: compounding the 1%

All supplement use without the proper diet and training is a waste of your time and money! If you don’t have those things right, nothing will work. A single supplement cannot compensate for poor eating and training habits. Supplements you can obtain in your local stores will help contribute a pound or two at best to one’s fat loss goals. Also, there is no magic pill for fat loss or building muscle; the stuff that does work like magic come with a multitude of negative health consequences and the stuff found at your local supplement shop will contribute a small fraction to your success if your diet and training are on point. Below are a few fairly safe supplements you can combine and add to your fat loss diet and training regiment to help speed up the process.


  1. A) caffeine & fat burning supplements

Caffeine, and most fat burning supplements whose primary ingredient is caffeine works! Caffeine increases endurance, boosts power output, and increases your metabolism. Caffeine boosts endurance both by 1) moving electrolytes [calcium] out of cells to increase muscle contractile force potential (for submaximal loads) and 2) increasing your tolerance to strenuous activity by increasing dopamine in the brain and reducing the feeling of pain or discomfort, allowing you to work longer at high intensities. This is also why caffeine can become “addictive”, as your brain anticipates and looks forward to dopamine. Although it doesn’t need to be cycled, to keep getting the same effect from the same dose, a period of abstinence will allow the body and brain to reset. Going without caffeine for about a week is typically enough time to allow the receptors to return to normal and allow caffeine to work for you again. Caffeine boosts metabolism by preserving the molecule (cAMP) that stimulates fat to become released to be used for energy; it does this by blocking the enzyme that would destroy cAMP, stopping the release of fats. With the fats now available to be used, more fat can be burned for energy and that energy used to fuel the now more active, more forceful muscle cells. In addition, the longer cAMP can do its job of liberating fat to be used for energy, the body responds by decreasing its dependence on glycogen [carbohydrates] for energy and increasing the amount of lipase (an enzyme that liberates fat to be used by the body).  However, caffeine alone does not guarantee fat loss; even caffeine with exercise won’t do much for fat loss if the diet and recovery are not in check. For the price, caffeine tabs/capsules are a worthy supplement.


  1. B) Ephedrine/Ephedra

Ephedrine is an extract of Ma Huang and acts much like adrenaline in the body. To simplify how the ingredient works, Ephedrine helps the body access fat for energy and increases metabolic rate. Ephedrine also carries the bonus effect of helping prevent muscle breakdown!

              Ephedrine helps the body access more fat to burn by increasing the activity of beta-receptors (in fat cells, beta receptors encourage the release of fat from the cell; in muscle cells, activating the beta receptors promotes muscle protein synthesis pathways and reduces muscle degradation) and inhibiting the activity of alpha receptors (alpha receptors encourage fat storage). Apparent in how most men and women store fat, the fat cells in the midsection of men tend to have more alpha receptors; the fat cells in the hips and thighs of women tend to have more alpha receptors. Stimulating beta-receptors and downregulating alpha receptors causes the body to release more fat to be burned and prevent the reuptake of the now free-fat. When fat is burned for fuel in the body, the result is a higher rate of oxygen consumption (you literally exhale and sweat fat off your body). This increase in oxygen consumption and increase in resting energy expenditure from ephedrine increases the body’s metabolic rate up to 5%, increasing heat expenditure in both fat and muscle cells.

              Ephedrine helps prevent muscle breakdown and may help muscle growth by activating the beta receptors in muscle cells. Although it is unknown how this is accomplished, whether upregulating muscle protein synthesis (building more muscle which can, in turn, burn more fat or carbs for fuel) in fast twitch muscles or preventing the muscle degradation/breakdown, human studies have shown compounds that activate the beta-receptors induce muscle growth and slows/suppresses muscle loss in circumstances that would otherwise cause muscle to atrophy, like a low-calorie, low-protein diet.

A meta-analysis revealed that combining ephedra and caffeine resulted in an additional 2lbs of weight loss per month. Continued use of caffeine and ephedrine/ephedra (which does not need to be cycled off and shows increased performance with continued use) has shown to aid in an additional 11lbs of fat loss and/or improved muscle composition.


  1. C) Yohimbine HCl

              Yohimbine HCl is the concentrated, pure form of Yohimbe; it is critical that you take Yohimbine HCl to avoid the possible side effects of Yohimbe, which include rapid heartbeat, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, frequent urination, and headache. You do not experience these with the concentrated Yohimbine HCl if doses do not become excessive, because only the important extract is kept, not the entire powder form.

              Yohimbine HCl has a reputation for speeding up the process of fat burning in the stubborn fat areas; for men, the lower belly, love handles, and lower back; for women, the butt and thighs. It does this because it works on the alpha-receptors of fat-storing cells, filling them up and not allowing them to store fat. This will allow fat to be burned as fuel for your weight training or cardio for a longer period of time. Additionally, Yohimbine HCl will slightly stimulate an increase in adrenaline in the body, giving you a slight energy boost and releasing more fat from fat cells by activating the beta-receptors (mentioned earlier).

              The one stipulation to using Yohimbine HCl for fat loss is that its effects are negated when there is elevated blood sugar (and hence, insulin) present in the body. For this supplement to work, you need to be in a fasted state (no food or near baseline levels of blood sugar/insulin in the body).


  1. D) Acetyl-L-Carnitine

              Carnitine, a non-essential amino acid, is a key player in the process of moving released fats into the muscle cells to be utilized as fuel; multiple studies have shown that when carnitine levels in the muscles have increased, the muscle retains more glycogen (stored carbohydrates in the muscle cells) during exercise while still increasing output. The higher the concentration of carnitine in the muscle tissue, the more likely that muscle will use fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. Carnitine will also help allow you to work harder, longer, as it reduces muscle lactate (the muscle burn when doing high reps, long cardio, or multiple sprinting bouts). Due to poor absorption, oral Carnitine supplementation must be taken with food/drink higher in carbohydrates and will still take 3+ months to see results (enhanced fat metabolism). Sadly, the best fat loss results with Carnitine are seen with intravenous supplementation. If your dieting strategy will have you dieting for 3+ months, Acetyl-L-Carnitine could be a beneficial, cheap fat loss supplement.


  1. E) Apple Cider Vinegar

              This supplement is anecdotally and scientifically (via rats and human studies) shown to aid in losing fat. A handful of well-done human studies show a dose-dependent aide in fat burning without participants changing their diet. Apple Cider Vinegar is supposed to reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity, reduce appetite, and increase metabolism. Although there have been studies both supporting and refuting some or all these claims, personal experience with using copious amounts of it (more than the 1-2 tablespoons per day) has made me a believer.

              Depending on your level of dedication to fat loss, you may find its effect of killing hunger signals worth the nauseous feeling you may get. Knowing what it feels like to have below average levels of circulating blood sugar from doing a very low carb diet, I can safely say Apple Cider Vinegar does have the effect of lowering blood sugar levels in the body. When coupled with other supplements (those that help to release stored fat, transport fat into muscle cells, and metabolize fat for energy) and diet strategies (a low carb, moderate protein, moderate fat diet), Apple Cider Vinegar can boost the amount of fat that is burned. I would consume 2 tablespoons before each meal, before every cardio session, and before weight training; essentially any time in which I could increase the chances my body would use fat for fuel. The best human study to date showed Apple Cider Vinegar, with no other dietary change, induced a 4lbs weight loss after 12 weeks. Alone, four pounds may not seem like a lot, but along your fat loss journey, every pound counts. And for the price, this is something worth considering.


  1. f) Waist trainers

Waist trainers, like everything else described, won’t do anything without a consistent, well rounded healthy diet and training. Once you have those things in place, waist trainers can be used to…train your waist. Waist trainers when not abused will do what your inner ab muscles are supposed to be doing, wrapping around your midsection and keeping everything nice and tight. Due to less active lifestyles, we unknowingly allow our ab muscles to relax and stay in a relaxed position for far too long. It often gets to the point that we don’t know how to properly use our abs to support normal and athletic activity. For the purposes of aesthetics and obtaining a desirable body, a waist trainer can be used at any time for any amount of time; the longer the better. It is a very uncomfortable physical state to be in though and depending on how flexible yours is, it may inhibit your normal movement. However, having something wrapped around you that is forcing your waist to be smaller will encourage your body to make room in that area. Be careful though, as a too tight waist trainer can cause organs to shift and deform your internal body. If one chooses to go this route, buying multiples is probably a good idea; one for when you do cardio training, one to wear the remainder of the day, and a few more so you don’t have to wash and dry them daily. With that said, there are limits to the effectiveness of waist trainers. If you find yourself unhappy with the results of a good, consistently followed diet; cardio and weight training; smart supplementation use; and the use of a waist trainer, the final factor may either be your rib cage or the top of your hip bones.


Author Credit: Atlas Konsulting

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