New Year's is right around the corner. For a lot of people, this is the time when they start making goals for the next year. The number one goal is to get in better shape, either through losing fat or gaining strength and muscle.
Supplements provide a "helping hand" when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. They can help increase energy, fat loss, strength gains, and muscle mass when used correctly. One problem many consumers face is trying to decide which supplements to use. There are so many different products on the market it is easy to become overwhelmed.
This article is here to make sure that you do not become overwhelmed, and are instead confident in your supplement purchase. We will be examining both supplements for fat loss and gaining muscle.
The number one New Year's resolution is to lose weight; and who doesn't want to tone up and look and feel great? In order to successfully lose fat, one needs to follow a structured diet and exercise. Once you have those bases covered, you can add in supplements to help further your results. We are going to go over some supplements that will help you reach your fat-loss goal. These supplements are:
Caffeine is one of the most well-known and researched fat-loss products on the market. Caffeine is a plant alkaloid belonging to the drug class methylxanthines, and is found in natural sources such as coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, and other plants.
Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant shown to delay fatigue, improve cognitive performance, enhance energy expenditure and lipolysis (fat breakdown), and decrease food intake. Common dosages of caffeine are 100-200 mg two times a day.
Green Tea Extract
The active ingredient in green tea is EGCG. EGCG has thermogenic effects, and has been shown to assist in weight loss by decreasing dietary fat absorption, appetite suppression, and increasing lipolysis (fat breakdown). Green tea extract usually contains a small amount of caffeine, though it is a weak stimulant. Common dosages of green tea extract are 500-1000 mg per day.
Yohimbine is an alkaloid found in the tree bark of the South African tree Corynanthe yohimbe. Yohimbine has been shown to help promote blood flow and lipolysis in "stubborn" fat areas (e.g., the hips in women). Yohimbine has stimulant properties; therefore one should assess their tolerance to Yohimbine before using a large dosage. The dosage of 0.2 mg/kg has been shown to be effective for fat loss in clinical studies.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a mix of isomers of linoleic acid (commercially sold as a 50:50 mix of cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis-12 isomers). Studies done on humans have shown decreased body fat and/or increased lean mass (though results are mixed). CLA is believed to influence body composition through regulation of fat metabolism. Studies show 3-6 grams of CLA a day to be an effective dosage.
Fish oil contains important essential fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA, which are often lacking in the average American diet, aid in improving body composition.
Like Sesamin, EPA and DHA activate PPARalpha, which increases the body's ability to burn fat by increasing the amount of enzymes involved in breaking down fat and decreases the body's storage of fat by deactivating the enzymes involved in fat storage. Fish oil also has many health benefits. An effective dosage for fish oil is 3-6 grams per day.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 essential fatty acid. Supplemental GLA usually comes from borage oil or evening primrose oil. Like EPA and DHA, GLA is essential to the body because the body cannot make it on its own, and it must be obtained through one's diet.
GLA has been shown to reduce weight regain in those that have recently lost weight. It is believed that GLA increases nutrient partitioning to skeletal muscle and away from body fat. An effective dosage for fish oil is 2-3 grams per day.
Sesamin is a lignan isolated from sesame seeds. A lignan is a molecule that combines with another entity acting as an "activator." In the case of sesamin, it binds to and activates a receptor called Peroxisome Proliferator-Activator Receptor Alpha (PPARalpha).
Activation of PPARalpha increases gene expression of the fatty acid oxidation enzymes and decreases gene expression of lipogenic enzymes. So sesamin works in two ways to make you lean (and keep you lean): increasing fat oxidation and decreasing fat storage. An effective dosage for sesamin is 1500 mg per day (taken as 500 mg 3 times a day).
Strength, Muscle Mass, & Performance
These supplements are:
Protein powders are a great, convenient way to get in your needed protein. In order to gain muscle mass you have to eat sufficient calories, and especially protein.
You can find whey protein in a variety or flavoring ranging from chocolate and vanilla to orange creamsicle and butter toffee. The most important thing when choosing a protein powder to use is finding a flavor you like, because if you hate the way a protein powder tastes you won't drink it.
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Creatine is the most popular and commonly used sports supplement available today. There are numerous studies backed by anecdotal evidence that support the efficacy of creatine supplementation.
Creatine monohydrate, a metabolite of the amino acids methionine, arginine, and glycine, is produced in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. The largest reserves of creatine in the body are found in skeletal muscle.
Muscle fatigue during short-term maximal exercise has been associated with a temporary depletion of phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine functions as a unique high-energy phosphate that recycles ATP, which is essential for generating energy for muscle contraction and relaxation.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that supplementing with creatine monohydrate will boost muscle stores of creatine and phosphocreatine. This in turn affects muscle cell volume (larger muscle size), provides greater energy reserves, and increases strength.
To put it simply, creatine gives the body explosive energy to perform short-term, high-intensity, high-power-output exercise. Additional studies have concluded that creatine supplementation enhances muscular performance during repeated sets of bench press and jump squat exercises.
Long-term creatine supplementation (10 weeks) enhances the progress of muscle strength during resistance training in females. Other studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation significantly extends one's capacity to maintain a specific level of high-intensity, intermittent exercise.
The use of creatine has also shown benefits for swimmers during repetitive sprint performance. The effective dosage for creatine is 2.5-10 grams per day.
Citrulline malate has been shown to increase the rate of oxidative ATP production during exercise and the rate of phosphocreatine replenishment post-exercise.
Increasing the rate of ATP production and phosphocreatine production would aid in delaying fatigue. Decreasing the sensation of fatigue (i.e. burning sensation) would allow one to workout harder and push out additional reps. The effective dosage for citrulline malate is 3-6 grams per day.
Beta-alanine is one of the two amino acids (histidine being the other) that make up the protein carnosine. Carnosine is an important metabolic buffer in skeletal muscle, which means it helps maintain the acid-base balance in the presence of high H+ (hydrogen ion) concentrations.
High H+ levels lead to that burning sensation you get during intense exercise. Beta-Alanine availability is the limiting factor in muscle carnosine. Beta-alanine supplementation increases muscle carnosine levels and aids decreasing muscle H+ levels. Beta-Alanine supplementation has directly been shown to decrease neuromuscular fatigue. The effective dosage for beta-alanine is 1.6-3.2 grams per day.
The BCAAs are different from the other 17 amino acids in that they are primarily metabolized in skeletal muscle and metabolized at a much lower rate in the liver. Because BCAAs serve as a "fuel" for skeletal muscle, supplementing with additional BCAAs to improve sports performance and to treat various diseases and aliments has been suggested. BCAAs have many other roles besides being just a fuel for skeletal muscle.
The metabolic roles of BCAAs include:
- Substrate for energy production
- Substrate for protein synthesis
- Precursor for the formation of other amino acids (primarily alanine and glutamine)
- Metabolic signals (primarily leucine): Stimulates protein synthesis through insulin secretion/activation of the PI3K pathway. Stimulates protein synthesis through activation of mTOR
- Stimulates leptin expression in adipocytes through activation of mTOR
What all this means is ingesting BCAAs primes your body for growth (protein synthesis) and recovery. All of these actions are beneficial to an athlete and should not be overlooked. There is endless research backing BCAA supplementation. There is no set recommended dosage for BCAAs, though most users use between 10-30 grams around their workout.
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The new year is almost here, so it is time to get serious, set goals, and work towards achieving them. Now that you know what the recommended effective supplements are, it is time to put them into action and make the coming year your best year yet!