There usually comes a time when it may seem like diet and exercise alone have brought about a standstill to your weight loss results. After all, it is a fact; the leaner you get, the more difficult it is to lose that last bit of fat.
This is when things could start going bad. How? Well, for example, you may further cut your calories in an effort to ditch that last bit of stubborn fat, but then find yourself losing muscle mass at an accelerated rate!
Yes, anyone who has trained for a period of time will soon come to know the dedication and monetary investment it takes to achieve and maintain a ripped physique year round.
Which brings us back to our dilemma. When everything else is implemented to the max, and it is still not enough, it may be wise to employ the help of some fat burning nutrients. Which can potentially help you accelerate your progress, enabling you to finally lose that last bit of fat. But be careful, because not all fat burning supplements are safe for everyone to consume.
There are those that contain very potent stimulants (such as caffeine or even stronger related compounds, for example, yohimbe), which may increase your heart rate and blood pressure to unsafe levels.
Seriously, many of them should require a safety label. The popular fat burner Ephedrine was banned because people kept overdosing and bringing about heart attacks, a few people even died, all in the name of quick weight loss.
However, there are also those fat burners that are classified as “stimulant free,” which are WAY safer for most people to use. The majority being derived from foods or herbs as extracts.
In the short term, stimulant based fat burners may work faster, but if long term safety and health is your goal (as it should be!), then you would be wise to steer clear of them as much as possible.
Here are a couple of reasons why stimulant based fat burners might not be the best choice:
- They Lose Efficacy Rapidly: most of the stim heavy fat burners contain caffeine or related methylxanthines (class of stimulants), to which the body rapidly develops tolerance. As tolerance builds up, the regular dose will not be enough to produce effects, and you will find yourself taking more and more. This is why many labels of stimulant fat burners tell you to take just 1 a day to “assess” your tolerance, because they know you will more likely than not be maxing out in about a week’s time. Also keep in mind that even though tolerance increases and beneficial effects become weaker, side effects will be growing stronger with increased dosage!
- Their Safety Is Questionable: stimulants are contraindicated in people with pre-existing heart conditions or high blood pressure, along with a slew of other conditions. This is because they exacerbate these conditions, and can eventually land you in the hospital. You may have read those headlines in the papers about coffee not increasing your risks of developing heart disease, but you would be mistaken if you think that this makes caffeine your new best friend. In fact, studies have shown it is the antioxidants present in coffee that protects you from the harmful effects that caffeine has which actually DOES increase the risk of developing heart disease. In other words, forget the Redbull (no antioxidants)!
- They Affect Your Sleep Cycle: one sure fire way to shoot cortisol levels through the roof? Don’t sleep. Which is what many stimulant based weight loss formulas promotes, especially if you take them too close to bed time. The psychological effects may wean of quicker if you have developed a stimulant tolerance, but your body will still not be able to get restful sleep under the influence of stimulants. For example, some people are also slow metabolizers of coffee and can take all the way up to 24 hours to completely get it out of their system. For these people, it really doesn’t matter if you have coffee early in the morning, it can still disrupt your circadian rhythm.
- Intolerance/Sensitivity: this is due to differences in degradation of catecholamines, usually owing to the presence of a genetic mutation that can result in more or less COMT (catechol-o-methyltransferase) enzyme being produced to aid in the breakdown of catecholamines. Catecholamines are the group of neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine) responsible for stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and also activating the fight or flight (stress) response. Some individuals, possessing an “AA” gene allele for COMT, will not break down catecholamines well (slow metabolizers), and may often become easily agitated and frequently battle with mood swings. These are the stimulant sensitive types of people, and they can experience dangerous changes to heart rate, increased levels of stress, anxiety, panic attacks, palpitations, chest pain and even start hallucinating from using stimulants. All because of an innate inability to break down the catecholamine boost from the stimulants fast enough, causing them to build up to excess levels in their system.
With the inherent downsides of the stimulant based fat burners in mind, it is important to explore your other options. In fact, burning fat is about so much more than stimulants! Consider the following:
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
This is an omega-6 derivative of linoleic acid, which can be obtained naturally in high levels from foods such as beef and dairy (only grass-fed!). CLA is much more effective when supplemented though, simply because it is difficult to consistently get enough from foods to produce good results in body composition. Supplemental CLA is made from modified sunflower or safflower oil. It is very useful for both building muscle as well as losing fat, which it brings about via various mechanisms. It may reduce appetite, along with promoting the usage of fat for fuel, while simultaneously inhibiting the storage and production of new fat and boosting levels of testosterone. All in all, CLA is pretty impressive for being a fatty acid!
Carnitine is another, now also extremely popular stim-free fat burner. It is an amino acid that can be found naturally in animal foods, with one of the best sources also being beef similar to CLA. Carnitine improves the usage of fat for fuel by the mitochondria in muscle cells, by promoting its entry into the cells. To simplify; in order for fats to be “burnt” as fuel, stores of fat and triglycerides need to be converted into free fatty acids first. Carnitine boosts the metabolism of fat into free fatty acids and then promotes its use as fuel in the mitochondria of cells.
Carnitine is also an excellent adjuvant in the muscle building process, as it can aid in the synthesis of new androgen receptors. These receptors are the sites where hormones such as testosterone and DHT binds to, in order to elicit physical effects such as increasing muscle growth. More receptors = enhanced muscle building, fat burning, sex drive and masculine characteristics. What more could you wish for?!
Sesamin is a type of lignan, given the name because of its high density in (you guessed it, drum roll) sesame seeds. Sesamin lignan is also found in other grain-based foods, such as oatmeal and flaxseed, and its primary utility in fat loss is its ability to raise the activity of liver enzymes that directly promote fat metabolism, and decrease its storage.
Sesamin may also prove useful as an anti-catabolic, helping to spare muscle tissue breakdown on low-calorie weight loss diets. Finally, Sesamin has mild anti-estrogenic abilities, estrogen being a fat storing hormone. Thus, by inhibiting the effect of this fat storing hormone, greater amounts of free fatty acids (FFAs) are able to enter the mitochondria and be burnt as fuel rather than being stored around your belly.
Seaweeds are the “salads of the ocean,” don’t you agree? We wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard about this before (as seaweeds is the sleeper hit among this list), it is clearly one of those natural foods and supplements you are unlikely to consider as a fat burning agent. However, they possess huge potential.
This is thanks in large part to the presence of two compounds, siphonaxanthin, and fucoxanthin.
Siphonoxanthin belongs to the group of compounds known as carotenoids, of which Vitamin A is related, and known for their potent anti-oxidant effects. However, what is not well known is their benefits on fat loss; specifically preventing the development of new fat cells.
This was confirmed in a study which recorded an astonishing 13% reduction in weight of adipose (fat) tissue after just 6 weeks of use (in rodents). Fucoxanthin is also a carotenoid and polysaccharide, which increases metabolism. This could be due to its high iodine content, a crucial nutrient for thyroid function and keep a high metabolic rate.
Hypothyroidism affects millions of people but often goes by undiagnosed, resulting in stalled metabolism and fat accumulation. Most of these people have no idea they are deficient in iodine, and even I suffer from this myself a few years back without knowing. Doctors rarely test your iodine and thyroid panels can come back normal even when you are hypothyroid. Consume seaweeds in your diet, and you won’t have to worry about your thyroid ever again.
Going on the ketogenic diet is a masterclass for weight loss. Why? Because in a ketogenic state, the body is adapted to use fat as fuel and functions optimally under such circumstances. Being in ketosis is basically effortless weight loss; however, that is not to say that the ketogenic diet is easy; in fact, it can be grueling at the start. It is no easy feat to restrict carbs to less than 40g per day (and often, much lower than t
hat), and to have your fat macros equate to about 70-80% of your calories, but the results are clear as day. Your brain functions better, heart and circulatory system are less stressed, and overall fatigue resistance improves. Being in such a fat burning state as ketosis, the body requires less oxygen to run, and hence you can expect a 20-30% increase in energy resources even when eating a calorie deficit. The ketogenic diet is simply KING for fat loss.
Which brings us back to exogenous ketones, energy compounds that resemble what is made from the body’s metabolism of fat for fuel (known as ketone bodies), and which initiate a metabolic cascade favorable to promote fat loss and overall cognition. By using exogenous ketones, you do not need to be quite as strict as you would need to be on a full-fledged ketogenic diet, rather, you can consume small amounts of healthier low GI carbs and still remain perfectly well in fat burning ketosis. Or you can choose to not consume those carbs and exogenous ketones will help you get even deeper into ketosis and burn even more fat. Exogenous ketones are really the most cutting edge on the fat burning supplements market right now.
If you ever used an effective testosterone boosting supplement in your life, there is a good chance it would have contained Tongkat Ali, known traditionally as “Long Jack.” If that name does not give it away, here is what you need to know. 1: it’s actually the abbreviated name of the plant, and 2: it has very potent aphrodisiac effects. You could even call it bushman’s Viagra as this is what it has been used for centuries in South East Asia where it naturally grows.
Well, that’s good and all, but what does it have to do with fat loss? This is where it gets real interesting you’ll see, as a study conducted on rodents and published in 2014 chronicles the effects of Tongkat Ali on reproductive organs. The study shockingly found that in both of its control groups (high and low dosage of Tongkat), an average loss of abdominal fat of 5.7% was recorded. This is significant, because supplements that boost testosterone usually increase bodyweight (from muscle and fat accumulation), but do not specifically target fat of this area.
Now before you run out and get the first Tongkat Ali supplement you can get your hands on, save yourself some time (and lots of money) by picking up a good standardized extract such as the one offered here at Lost Empire Herbs. The market is full of fake Tongkat and even ones mixed with Viagra derivatives, so it is critical you get it from a trusted source.
Tongkat Ali should be given your consideration, especially if you are sensitive to stimulants (have low COMT action), as it does not work by affecting your catecholamine levels. Rather, it exerts its fat loss effects through hormonal mechanisms.
Cordyceps is an interesting supplement, as it is a parasitic fungus, which sprouts small “mushroom” like components out of insects, plants and even other fungi. Of importance, is the fact that it is very safe for human consumption, all while also having potent effects on promoting fat loss. The way it does this is primarily related to improving insulin sensitivity and stress response. Though many people do not understand the relationship that insulin shares with weight loss, for convenience sake it can be explained via two short mechanisms:
- Improving insulin sensitivity allows muscle cells to enhance its uptake of glucose. Insulin insensitive individuals have a hard time getting glucose into muscle cells, so they are instead stored in the liver and subsequently fat cells (as fat).
- Insulin is a “storage” hormone. When it is unable to efficiently do its job, it always lingers in the blood. Thus, a person with insulin resistance has chronically high insulin levels, as glucose is never sufficiently removed from the blood (thus, insulin is always trying to do its job). This prevents fat from being used as fuel, as insulin keeps directing it to storage.
Cordyceps was found in studies to significantly reduce fasting blood sugar, and improve insulin sensitivity by a minimum of 10%, making it extremely useful for fat loss. Also of note, is the fact that the type of Cordyceps used in the study was Cordyceps sinesis; but due to limited availability, Cordyceps militaris is a bioequivalent option (having mostly similar physiological effects), along with being a much more sustainable option to supplement with.
Cordyceps is also a great stress reducer and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that otherwise breaks down muscle tissue and promotes fat accumulation.
Problematic Supplements if You Are Sensitive to Stimulants
Even though the assumption may be that “if it’s natural, it’s safe,” you still have to be careful which supplements you choose if you have a COMT mutation. For example, Rhodiola Rosea is a popular adaptogenic herb which can be helpful for weight loss, but it also inhibits COMT. In high dosages in sensitive individuals, it will most likely precipitate symptoms of stimulant-related side effects. Likewise, Mucuna Pruriens boosts levels of catecholamines, and will guaranteed cause symptoms of increased sympathetic nervous system firing (increased heart rate, jitters, anxiety, and nausea). The takeaway here is that if you already have an overactive sympathetic nervous system, these herbs are not for you no matter how good they might be for others.
Non-stimulant fat burners that can promote healthy weight loss, without the risks that potent stimulants may pose. Be sure to have a solid diet and exercise plan to experience the best of what these fat burners have to offer. Swallowing pills alone will not burn any fat. Stacking a combination of these non-stimulant fat burners yield synergistic effects, and this is the way to go for a safe and accelerated weight loss.
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