The most peeled gym goers at your local weights emporium are typically extremely dedicated individuals. They have often forgone many of life’s simple pleasures in pursuit of single digit body fat percentages.
Diet, cardio and intensive weight training protocols are the norm, all while heavily depleted and living on broccoli and steamed fish.
Now whilst this level of shred is not the pursuit of everyone, and forgoing most of your beloved rituals in life is not on the cards for most, if you are simply trying to cut down to a reasonable body fat percentage then there are a range of supplement regimes that can help get you there with a little less torture!
To this end, the purpose of this article will be to delineate a range of useful supplements to use while shedding the spare tyre, along with the best way to utilise them.
Step 1 - Optimise
The first thing to do at the start of any cut is to optimise the amount of time your body is in a fat burning state. This isn’t an infomercial gimmick either. Your body is constantly burning fuel to produce energy to keep you alive, well and active.
What you are consuming largely determines what is burnt for fuel and so nutrient timing becomes an essential element of optimising your fat burning windows. Consume carbohydrates as fuel, burn glucose, consume fats, burn fats.
So by the same logic, by maximising the amount of time spent utilising fat for fuel, you will find a host of benefits including maximising time without insulin or glucose present, leading your body to burn fat as its primary fuel source. This is the main priority that will dictate a successful diet-the amount of time spent burning fat throughout the day.
Now enter supplements!
Step 2 - Supplementation
Now obviously, for fat loss to occur there are some fundamentals that are a given, as no supplement will burn fat while in a calorific surplus. Therefore, you must be consuming a diet rich in nutrient dense foods, high in protein and of course, in a calorie deficit. Starting moderate, say 10% below maintenance calories will suffice for the first several weeks. Now the fundamentals are covered, we are in a deficit and you are using primarily healthy fats as your primary macronutrient throughout the day to keep insulin at bay, you can start utilising supplements to maximise your progress.
So which supplements are most effective? Let’s go through that now for you and break down which are best, when to use them and why!
L-Carnitine is a conditionally essential nutrient that is typically synthesised from Lysine and Methionine and is derived from food sources that are primarily meats. At times your body’s production of L-Carnitine may be outstripped by your body’s demand for it, thus making supplementing with L-Carnitine a very smart move, with a mountain of data on its ability to aid with fat loss.
Its primary mechanism is the transport of long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells to be burnt as fuel. This is obviously an attractive feature when in a dieting phase! Being a relatively inexpensive supplement, 3-5 grams per day split up into several dosages is the ideal protocol to implement Carnitine into your cutting phase and keep your carnitine pool at its maximum. Some of the more researched forms include L-Carnitine Tartrate and Acetyl L-Carnitine. Both have their own strengths. The Tartrate element of the first form of L-Carnitine, for example, attaches to androgen receptors and has promising data for optimising hormonal activity. Acetyl, on the other hand, has excellent absorption as it has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and excite neural activity as well leading to slight improvements in focus.
Medium Chain Triglycerides are found in oils such as coconut oil and are a perfect natural partner to L-Carnitine. Because MCTs bypass the regular triglyceride metabolism processes and are directly metabolised in the liver to produce ketones for energy, MCTs a great source of dietary fats that are incredibly difficult to store as actual body fat!
Another reason they are a perfect stack with L-Carnitine for fat loss is that MCT consumption is linked to Mitochondrial biogenesis; that is, the formation on new mitochondria. While L-Carnitine transports fats into the Mitochondria to be burned as fuel, MCTs create more Mitochondria to burn more fat! The perfect partnership for fat burning!
With dosages from 3 to 6 grams split into 1 gram with each meal, CLA accompanies our fat burning stack nicely by minimising the formation of new fat cells, increasing our basal metabolic rate and contributing to our Omega pool. CLA is an Omega 6 conjugated linoleic acid and has tons of research showing the benefits of supplementation everywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years! Over all, it has been shown to decrease fat mass, improve body composition and be a generally inexpensive, health promoting supplement to add to your supp cupboard in your fat loss campaign!
Synephrine (AKA Citrus Aurantium or Bitter Orange Extract) is a beta receptor antagonist, stimulant, appetite suppressant and overall metabolic stimulating compound. Synephrine increases calorie burn up to an estimated 65 calories over the concordant 75mins after consumption of about 50mg. When combined with Naringin and Hesperidin, this calorie burn was tripled to 180 calories for 75 mins post consumption.
Synephrine also works synergistically with caffeine to enhance its fat burning effects, which means adding this powerful compound to your regimen will significantly aid in weight loss and indeed increase the rate your body burns calories which is the only known way to burn fat.
Anything that stimulates thermogenesis is known to increase your basal metabolic calorie burn, and thus make generating a deficit, significantly easier. Keeping daily consumption to around 200 mg is best to keep Cortisol at reasonable levels during dieting phases and use sparingly around exercise to also enhance athletic output and thus more calorie burn again!
Supplements to Lower Cortisol
This has been covered in significant depth in my article “5 Supplements to Conquer Cortisol”. These include Turmeric, Schisandra, Rhodiola, Withania etc and are all very powerful compounds. Anything that lowers Cortisol may have a favourable impact on sleep quality, hormonal profile and lipolysis. These are very important to consider during a dieting campaign and thus supplements to lower Cortisol should also be added during a fat loss phase as it is during these times of metabolic stress that Cortisol management becomes extremely important to maintain consistent fat loss throughout your whole campaign.
Supplements to Increase Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is an incredibly anabolic hormone, thought to be even more anabolic than testosterone itself. However, during a cutting phase, the presence of insulin blocks Carnitine Palmitoyltransferase from transporting Fats into the Mitochondria to oxidise (burn as fuel).
This means as long as Insulin is present, fat burning stops in its tracks, for hours at a time. Therefore, supplements to increase insulin sensitivity should definitely be incorporated into a dieting campaign. These supplements are covered in considerable depth in my article “Supplement to Increase Insulin Sensitivity”. They include, in a brief summary, Chromium Picolinate, Apple Cider Vinegar with and before most meals containing carbohydrates, Berberine and CLA. For more information, see my other article on the 4 Supplements to Improve Insulin Sensitivity for more information.
Supplements to Stimulate the Metabolism
Finally, we have the metabolism itself. The body’s metabolism of fuel into cellular energy and the rate this energy is burnt is of incredible importance for long term body composition, hormonal profile, general health and wellbeing. Maintaining a fast basal metabolic rate should be a priority for anyone especially seeing as its rate is calorie dependant. So during a cutting phase, when calories are dropped for weeks on end, the metabolism slows with it. Making supplementation to optimise the metabolic rate is, therefore, an obvious priority. These supplements include Withania at dosages of 250-500mg per day, Coleus Forskholi at 250-500mg per day, Yerba Mate at 1000-1500mg per day as well as healthy dosages of Vitamins and Minerals such as Iodine (can be sourced from Iodised salts, seafood, sea vegetables, kelps and seaweed) Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium, Tyrosine and Vitamin B2, B3,B6 and B12.
Diet and exercise are the King and Queen of the deciding factors that will dictate whether you are gaining or losing fat.
However, an advanced supplement regimen may help to optimise the rates we lose fat when combined with the fundamentals of nutrition and training in a calorie deficit and I hope I have provided a very thorough catalogue of useful supplementation to keep you throwing those spare tyres on the fire all year round in this article!