In the pursuit of lean muscle, smart nutrition and intense training are your most important weapons. You simply can't shed body fat without hard work in the gym and kitchen. However, a well-formulated fat burner can increase the effects of that hard work, giving you extra ammo in the war against body fat.
The supplement market is flooded with fat burners that work by increasing metabolism and thermogenesis, boosting energy, suppressing appetite, or blocking carbohydrate and fat absorption. Just swallowing a pill, however, won't deliver the best possible results. Maximize the effectiveness of your fat burner and get the most burn for your buck by following these seven steps!
Get On Track
Like everything in life, you get out what you put in, and getting lean is no exception. You can't simply pop a fat burner and make up for poor nutrition and a lack of training. There are no magic pills.
A high-quality fat burner will, however, make your journey easier. Many products are not only designed to increase fat-burning, but also curb your appetite and boost your energy. To get the most from these effects and really torch calories, it's critical that you first get on track with a well-designed fitness program, like James Grage's 9-week Rewired Trainer.
Choose The Right Fat Burner For You
There are dozens of products on the market to choose from, so finding the right fat burner for you and your goals isn't always easy. However, there are some general guidelines that can help. Fat burners generally fall into two broad categories: stimulant-based and stimulant-free.
Stimulant-free formulations are ideal for those who are sensitive to ingredients with stimulant effects like caffeine, synephrine, tyramine, and yohimbine (or yohimbe). In the stimulant-free realm, look for products containing fat-burning green tea extract (standardized for epigallocatechin gallate or ECGC) and acetyl-L-carnitine, and appetite-suppressing ingredients like caralluma fimbriata extract, or phaseolus vulgaris (white kidney bean), and cynara scolymus (artichoke) extract.
Stimulant-based fat burners will contain a combination of one or more of the following: caffeine, synephrine, tyramine, and yohimbe. These ingredients aim to increase energy, suppress appetite, and increase fat release from fat cells (to be burned as energy). You'll also likely find ingredients common to stimulant-free formulations in this class of fat burners.
* Ratings as of article's date of publication
Timing Is Key
Since sticking to a clean, calorie-reduced diet is essential for fat loss, take advantage of the appetite-suppressing properties of your fat burner by taking it 30 minutes prior to breakfast and lunch. If you don't work out in the evening, or you prefer a stimulant-free product, then take a dose 30 minutes before dinner. This will not only ensure you feel satiated after meals, but will also help to increase your metabolism.
Since fat burners elevate your metabolism, you'll find that you sweat more when taking them. Also, stimulants like caffeine tend to have a diuretic effect, so you may find yourself visiting the men's (or ladies') room more often. These conditions can lead to a state of dehydration and slowed metabolism.
Drinking at least 3-4 quarts (or liters) of cold water per day will not only keep you hydrated, but has also been shown to increase metabolism and support fat loss. It's recommended that you drink at least 1 cup (250 ml) of water with each dose of a fat burner to ensure optimal absorption and hydration support. If you're training in a hot environment and sweating for long periods, you may need to double your water intake.
Cycle Your Fat Burner
The body becomes desensitized to some ingredients over time, and this is exactly what happens with stimulant-based supplements. Furthermore, overuse of stimulants can lead to high levels of cortisol (that unwanted hormone that breaks down muscle and causes fat storage), especially under the stress of dieting. To avoid these counterproductive effects, you should cycle on stimulant-based supplements for 3-4 weeks and then take two weeks off. Use a stimulant-free product for the next two weeks between cycles.
The best way to know if you need to cycle your fat burners is by assessing how you feel when you're on them. If after several weeks you find that you no longer get the "kick" you used to from a regular dose, then it's time to take a break—not more product.
Don't Shrug Off Sleep
One of the most essential but often overlooked steps on the road to a lean and muscular physique is adequate deep sleep. In fact, some people turn to fat burners to get the energy to work out because they're constantly in a state of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately this approach can lead to increases in blood cortisol and decreased testosterone, which will significantly hold you back in terms of muscle gains and fat loss. Sleep is necessary for repair, recovery, and hormonal balance. You've heard it before because it's so important: Get eight hours of deep sleep nightly.
If you find that your fat burners are hindering your sleep, don't take anything stimulant-based after your lunchtime dose. Notably, you should also limit any other sources of stimulants to before 6 p.m. If you work out at night, make sure your pre-workout supplements are caffeine- and stimulant-free.
The 1-2 Pre-Cardio Punch
If you're looking to really get your metabolic furnace going, take a fat burner containing caffeine and green tea extract first thing upon waking, and again 30 minutes before your cardio session. Most people attribute the thermogenic benefits of green tea to its caffeine content, but that's not entirely correct. Biochemically, green tea's dramatic effects are due to the interaction between its high content in catechin-polyphenols (ECGC) and caffeine, and their impact on sympathetically released norepinephrine (NE). The synergistic action of these compounds inhibits the breakdown of NE.
Norepinephrine is a key player in fat mobilization, lipolysis, and appetite suppression. Past research has shown that those who took green tea extract before cardiovascular training had far greater fat-burning effects than those who took a placebo. The addition of caffeine assists in the mobilization of body fat to be used as fuel, enhances focus and motivation, and has been shown to reduce exercise-associated muscle pain. You'll work out harder and longer, and enhance your ability to burn fat.