By Stefan Ianev, Head Of Educational Development, Clean Health Fitness Institute
One of the most common questions that I get asked almost on a daily basis is “Are there any good fat burning supplements?” or “Do fat burning supplements really work?”
Like with most things in the health and fitness industry it depends. It’s not as black and white as a simple yes or no. Under the right circumstances fat burners can be a valuable aid in your quest for fat loss provided that you are already pretty lean and both your training and nutrition are on point.
However, on the hierarchy of priorities they would fall right at the bottom of the list if the above haven’t been addressed first. No amount of fat burners would make a difference in the slightest if you are carrying a fair amount of body fat, your training is inconsistent, and you have a crappy diet.
Funnily enough the people that fall into that exact category are always the ones asking about fat burners because they are always looking for a short cut. If that’s you be honest with yourself and focus on what really counts first before worrying about fat burners. If, however you are already pretty lean, you have been consistent with your training and diet, and you want to get rid of that last bit of stubborn body fat or just want a boost to help you train harder and make the process a little easier then read on.
Firstly, let’s begin by defining what a fat burning supplement really is. A fat burning supplement is any compound that increases catecholamine output. Our two primary catecholamine’s adrenaline and noradrenaline bind to beta adrenoceptors.
Beta adrenoceptors are stimulatory receptors that are involved in the fight or flight response and lead to the following physiological functions;
- Increased heart rate
- Increased metabolic rate
- Increased fat mobilization
- Increased blow flow to the muscles
- Increased neural drive
- Increased muscle contractile force and speed
- Increased energy and stamina
All of the above allow you to work harder, delay fatigue, and mobilize more body fat. High intensity exercise by itself causes this response but fat burning supplements compound the effect. As with anything in life tough there is always a trade-off. The downside is that after a while the body become desensitized as the receptors downregulate and the adrenals become depleted of raw material. As a result, you may find yourself getting more tired and fatiguing sooner than normal.
For this reason, fat burning supplements should be saved for when you really need them and cycled off the rest of the time. I am a big believer in cycling supplements but this is especially true for fat burners. In the early stages of your diet or when your body fat is still a little higher you simply don’t need them because your metabolism and energy should still be pretty good at that point. In the later stages as you get leaner and your metabolism and energy levels start to tank fat burners can act as a nice boost.
I typically only use fat burners about 6 to 8 weeks out from a contest when I need to be around 5% body fat. During that period, I still cycle them 3 days on 1 day off, or 2 weeks on 2 weeks off in order to keep my sensitivity high.
The rest of the time when my body fat is around 8% and my calories are at maintenance or above I don’t use them at all unless I’m feeling tired on any given day and I just need a little extra boost.