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Fry the Fat

Here’s how you burn fat: You run. Fast. Often.

Here’s another way to burn fat: You train with weights, increasing lean muscle mass, which keeps metabolic rate higher. Even better, you intersperse sets of weight training with cardio to keep your heart pumping faster through your entire workout and beyond.

Here’s another way to burn fat: You take caffeine, which actually transports fat from its cozy fat-cell lair into the bloodstream to be burned as fuel for the body. You follow that up with any of a suite of other fat burners, some of which raise your metabolism, and some of which don’t. Because, while some people like the breathless pounding feeling of a stimulant-based fat burner, the truth is, fat-burning supplements don’t need to make your heart race in order to work. In fact, a more advanced approach is to combine ingredients that aid fat loss through a number of mechanisms.

The following 10 ingredients work via a number of angles to attack body fat. From blunting hunger to burning more calories, from freeing up more fat from fat cells to helping carry that fat to where it will be burned away for good, from turning on the thyroid to turning on genes that encourage greater fat loss. By knowing what the most popular fat-burning ingredients actually do, you can pick out better products to get the job done right.

Capsaicin is the natural plant chemical that gives spicy peppers, like chili peppers, their heat. Much like green-tea extract (see Page 46), it increases calorie burn because it raises norepinephrine levels, which in turn ramps up metabolic rate without affecting heart rate or blood pressure. One study by Japanese researchers found that consuming capsaicin with a meal raised calorie expenditure by more than 30 percent. A study from the University of Oklahoma found that subjects who took a supplement that contained capsaicin and caffeine burned more calories during exercise and after. An added benefit of capsaicin is that it reduces hunger and food intake so you not only burn more calories but also consume fewer.

Take: Look for capsaicin or cayenne-pepper supplements that list Scoville thermal units or heat units and take enough to supply 40,000 to 80,000 units. Take 30 minutes before meals two to three times per day, with one dose 30 to 60 minutes before workouts.

Carnitine is an “amino-acid-like” molecule that’s formed from several amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is a critical component of the complex transporting system that brings fat into the mitochondria in cells, where it gets burned away for good. That makes carnitine an important ingredient to take when taking other supplements that release fat from fat cells. Several studies confirm that supplementing with carnitine increases the amount of fat that the body burns.

Take: The amount and the form of carnitine will depend on when you take it. Regular L-carnitine or L-carnitine L-tartrate are best taken with food that spikes insulin levels, like whey protein and carbs. So take 2 to 3 grams of either of those forms with preworkout and postworkout meals. Acetyl-L-carnitine is better absorbed by the body, so if that’s the form you choose, take 1 to 2 grams between meals.

Photo by Robert Reiff

Conjugated Linoleic Acid
CLA is a naturally occurring healthy omega-6 fat. Numerous research studies confirm that it enhances fat loss while simultaneously boosting muscle growth and strength. One study presented at the 2006 Experimental Biology Conference reported that subjects taking 3.4 grams of CLA per day without diet or exercise for six months not only lost roughly 5 pounds more body fat than subjects who consumed olive oil, but their fat loss also came primarily from the abdominal region. In addition, the subjects taking CLA gained about 1 pound of muscle mass without doing any exercise. A University of Saskatchewan (Canada) study discovered that subjects taking 5 grams of CLA while following a seven-week weight-training program without dieting gained significantly more muscle mass and muscle strength while simultaneously losing more body fat than subjects taking a placebo.

The primary way CLA works is by inhibiting an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase. LPL allows fat cells to take up fat from the bloodstream and store it as body fat. By inhibiting LPL, CLA prevents the body from storing fat and instead encourages it to burn fat. Burning more fat for fuel also spares the burning of amino acids from muscle fibers, which helps maintain and build more muscle.

Take: 2 to 3 grams of CLA with meals two to three times per day

Fish Oil
Fish oil is one of the richest sources of the essential omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. These healthy fats provide a laundry list of benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, enhanced brain function, improved mood, better joint recovery and even enhanced muscle growth. One of the main ways these fats deliver these results is by producing beneficial prostaglandins, which reduce inflammation in the body. More recent evidence shows that these omega-3 fats also directly turn on genes that increase fat burning while turning off genes that normally increase fat storage. There is even new evidence to suggest that they boost testosterone production.

Take: 2 to 3 grams of fish oil with meals two to three times per day

This is the active compound in the herb Coleus forskohlii, which is a member of the mint family. Forskolin enhances fat loss by activating the enzyme adenylate cyclase, which leads to a cascade of events, including activation of the enzyme hormone-sensitive lipase. This allows fat stored in fat cells to be broken down for use as fuel. The same biochemical pathway that forskolin uses to target fat cells also allows it to enhance thyroid-hormone production to keep metabolic rate turned up, as well as relax blood vessels and boost testosterone production. A University of Kansas study reported that overweight men who took forskolin for 12 weeks lost considerably more body fat and had higher levels of testosterone than a placebo group.

Take: Use a Coleus forskohlii supplement standardized to 20 to 50 milligrams of forskolin per dose and take two to three times daily between meals.

This water-soluble dietary fiber is derived from konjac root. When mixed with water, it expands in size far beyond its original volume, which significantly curbs hunger by filling the stomach and giving a sense of fullness. Glucomannan also delays stomach emptying, slowing the digestion and absorption of all nutrients, including carbohydrates. Slower digestion of carbs leads to more stable blood glucose levels and prevents major spikes in insulin, which further helps to prevent fat storage. Glucomannan also binds to bile acids in the gut and carries them out of the body in the feces. This causes the body to convert more cholesterol into bile acids and results in lower levels of blood cholesterol and other fats, which further helps prevent fat gain. Research from the University of Connecticut reported that men and women supplementing with glucomannan while following a cardio and weight-training program for eight weeks lost about 10 pounds of body fat.

Take: 2 grams of glucomannan about an hour before meals

Green-Coffee Extract
Green-coffee extract is derived from unroasted coffee beans. Not roasting the beans not only keeps them green but also preserves a critical component for fat loss — chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid works synergistically with the caffeine in coffee beans to burn up the fat that caffeine frees up from the fat cells. Several clinical studies confirm that supplementing with green-coffee extract leads to significant fat loss.

Take: 200 to 400 milligrams of a product standardized to about 50 percent chlorogenic acid two to three times per day between meals, with the first dose in the morning before breakfast, and on workout days take one dose 30 to 60 minutes before workouts

Green-Tea Extract
Green-tea extract is a super supplement. Research confirms that it’s not only effective for fat burning but also provides a host of health benefits. Green tea helps you shed body fat by boosting the number of calories you burn each day. The main active ingredients are catechins, particularly the one known as epigallocatechin gallate. EGCG inhibits an enzyme that normally breaks down norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter and a hormone related to adrenaline that speeds up processes in the body, including calorie and fat burning.

Take: 500 to 1,000 milligrams of green-tea extract standardized for EGCG two to three times per day, with one of those doses 30 to 60 minutes before workouts on training days

Phase 2: Phaseolus Vulgaris (White Kidney Bean) Extract
No matter how strong your will when dieting, you’re almost guaranteed to break down and cheat, and more often than not, those cheat meals will consist of starchy foods. When this happens, it’s nice to have a plan B that can prevent you from veering too far off your diet. Phase 2 may be that plan B. A patented standardized extract of Phaseolus vulgaris (white kidney beans), this extract inhibits the activity of the alpha-amylase enzyme, which breaks down starches (from foods like pasta, potatoes, breads and cereals) into smaller units for digestion. This helps to prevent these carbs from being absorbed by the body. Clinical studies show that when the extract is taken about 30 minutes before meals, it not only reduces the amount of carbs absorbed, which keeps blood glucose and insulin levels lower, but also leads to significantly greater fat loss in subjects compared to those taking a placebo.

Take: 1 to 3 grams about 30 minutes before eating high-carb meals

Raspberry Ketones
Raspberry ketones are aromatic compounds found in red raspberries that have a similar structure to capsaicin and therefore work in a similar manner to burn body fat. In fact, researchers at Ehime University School of Medicine in Japan reported in a 2005 study that raspberry ketones were effective at promoting fat loss by enhancing norepinephrine levels. Another study by these researchers found that subjects taking raspberry ketones orally or by a patch lost significantly more fat than those taking a placebo. Another way that raspberry ketones may work is by activating hormone-sensitive lipase, which causes fat in fat cells to be broken down and released into the bloodstream so that it can be burned for fuel by other tissues of the body, like muscle cells.

Take: 100 to 200 milligrams of raspberry ketones twice daily before meals