Traditionally, this is a time when hard-lifting athletes start to let their physiques fade into the ether along with the mercury of the summer temps. But letting your waistline widen too much for the winter ultimately keeps you from realizing just how lean and athletic you can look and leaves you like the majority of America: scrambling for a solution come Jan. 1. But if you adopt the right fat-burning stack at this time of the year — especially when combined with the right training program and diet — you can get through the winter within arm’s reach of your best shape ever. You just have to know what to look for.
Categorical Fat Burning
Fat-burners are an easy sell. The main premises (or promises) of these supplements are acutely increased fat metabolism or energy expenditure, impaired fat absorption, increased weight loss and enhanced fat oxidation during exercise, or in some cases long-term adaptations that promote fat metabolism.
A plethora of ingredients are considered to aid in fat loss and optimize body composition. Many of these fat-loss supplements tend to contain caffeine while others contain 5-HTP or green tea extract. However, some other lesser-known supplements are effective fat-loss agents when used properly and in the presence of a reasonable diet.
The most popular and widely used supplement on this list, caffeine is a powerful fat-burning tool. Upon ingestion, it’s rapidly absorbed and increases in plasma concentrations, with effects generally observed within 30 to 60 minutes. In short, caffeine boosts your awareness and focus, improving your mental approach to training and acutely increasing strength levels. Caffeine is effective for enhancing sport performance in trained athletes when consumed in low to moderate dosages but doesn’t generally result in further performance enhancement when consumed in higher dosages.
Caffeine’s key effect is to increase sympathetic nervous system activity, which liberates fatty acids from the adipose (fat tissue) and/or intramuscular stores. This occurs indirectly through increased circulating adrenaline levels, which can potentially enhance the availability of fatty acids for oxidation. Even an early study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that administering a high dose of caffeine (8 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight) significantly increased resting metabolic rate in the three hours after ingestion. Interestingly, in the final hour of measurements, fat oxidation was significantly higher after caffeine ingestion compared to placebo.
This exotic-sounding compound comes from the bark of a West African tree and works through different mechanisms than caffeine to help you get shredded. Yohimbine acts upon the adrenergic receptors of fat cells, which regulate thermogenesis. Yohimbine can potentially induce fat loss through the release of adrenaline, which itself is an activator of beta-adrenergic receptors, but also by helping your body to release more fat during activity.
A 2006 study published in Research in Sports Medicine examined the effects of yohimbine supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in professional soccer players. The 20 top-level male athletes were allocated to two randomly assigned trials. Subjects in the yohimbine group ingested tablets that contained yohimbine at a dose of 20 milligrams per day in two equal doses for 21 days. Subjects in the placebo group ingested an equal number of identical-looking pills that contained cellulose. Perhaps not surprisingly, the percentages of body fat and total fat mass were significantly decreased in the yohimbine group after the supplementation protocol versus the placebo group. One thing is certain: Some people may be more sensitive to yohimbine than others, so individual tolerance should be explored before taking a full dose.
Forskolin is produced by the Indian Coleus plant (Coleus forskohlii) and has been studied in research to alter cell metabolism. Although human studies are currently limited, the data point to positive outcomes. In a study published in Obesity, 30 obese men supplemented with a forskolin extract or placebo for 12 weeks. Forskolin ingestion caused reductions in fat mass — 11.2 percent versus 1.7 in the placebo group — and an approximate 4 percent reduction in body fat. Further, when researchers at the University of Memphis had overweight college-age women supplement with 500 milligrams per day of forskolin for 12 weeks, subjects experienced greater reductions in fat-free mass than a placebo group. Data indicate that forskolin acts on fat loss by boosting testosterone and thyroid hormone production, which elevates overall metabolism. Based on the science, forskolin appears to be well tolerated and has a favorable impact on weight loss and body fat loss.
Green Tea Extract
The Calorie Killer
Relied upon for multiple health benefits, green tea extract has gained acclaim as a powerful ally in the quest for a leaner midsection. And for good reason.
A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effects of acute green tea extract ingestion (366 milligrams per dose on the day before and immediately before exercise) on substrate metabolism during moderate-intensity exercise in humans. Fat oxidation rates during a 30-minute cycling session at 60 percent of VO2 max were significantly higher (17 percent) following green tea extract ingestion versus a placebo.
In a similar study published in the Journal of Health Science, subjects consumed 218 milligrams per day during a three-month training period and exhibited a 24 percent higher fat oxidation rate during exercise compared to a placebo group; no effect was seen at a lower dose (70 milligrams per day) over three weeks. The secret? EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, a compound that allows norepinephrine to speed up key processes in the body, including all-day calorie burning.
These findings suggest that higher doses (500 to 1,000 milligrams) of green tea extract have very favorable effects on enhancing fat oxidation during exercise.
The Hormone Helper
Structurally similar to the fat-burning heavyweight capsaicin, raspberry ketones work by increasing various enzymes, adipokines and hormones (like norepinephrine) that are associated with fat loss. They’ve gained popularity thanks to various media sources and continued published science. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that raspberry ketones contributed to improvements in lean mass and fat mass, waist and hip ratio and energy levels. Although the results are promising, there’s currently a lack of human data. Still, it makes raspberry ketones an appealing strategy for fat loss.