Before we get into what to take to get ripped to shreds—so you look like you were run over by a riding lawnmower—you should know who we are. Nothing is worse than taking time to read advice, only to find out the author is a muscle-less schlub with the cuts of a circus fat man.
We've both competed in bodybuilding, and together we have more than 45 years of in-the-gym experience. We are both drug free—no steroids whatsoever—and Jonathan is 35 years old while Steve is 48. We've written countless bodybuilding books and e-books (our homepage is X-Rep.com), and we both work for IRON MAN magazine. You may have seen our photos, but here are recent one-minute videos of us so you know that we not only talk the talk but walk the walk as well.
Okay, if you're ready to get shredded, you obviously will need a sound diet and training approach. We supply that in our e-book X-treme Lean, and you can also find info on both of those subjects here at Bodybuilding.com.
Supplements, on the other hand, are a little trickier because when it comes to getting lean, most people just think that popping the most popular fat burner is enough. Not quite. There are supplements you can use along with your fat burner to get blindingly ripped much faster—shredder superchargers, so to speak—and even your fat burner should have a key compound to stoke the fat-melting fires...
What is the key ingredient? Forskolin. While caffeine is mandatory, green tea extract is grand and yohimbine is great, the latest research says forskolin, or coleus forskohlii, is a very real fat-to-muscle condition magician—with no serious negative side effects.
Positive side effects, other than ramping up fat loss, are lower blood pressure, more high-density lipoprotein and—get ready—more free testosterone! Yes, forskolin stimulated the production of the active form of that key anabolic hormone—which is also known to burn belly fat! The amount in the study was 250 milligrams of 10 percent forskolin twice a day. [Godard, M.P., et al. (2005). Med Sci Sports Exer. 37:S39.]
The next question becomes, When should you use a fat burner and with what? When your dieting down to reach X-treme lean condition, you should always use your fat burner before your weight-training workout, and if you do separate cardio sessions, you should use it before those as well.
One thing to keep in mind is if you take the recommended dosage and feel jittery, cut back on the number of capsules you take at once. Getting the shakes signifies that you're overstressing your nervous system, and that means stress hormones like cortisol can skyrocket. Cortisol burns muscle tissue—not good (more on controlling that in a moment).
Related Cortisol Articles:
- Cortisol Smackdown! - By Bodybuilding.com
- The Implications Of Cortisol Release! - By David Robson
- All About Cortisol! - By Shane Giese
- Other Cortisol Articles...
So before your workout, be it weights or cardio, take your fat burner, but stack it with the following three supplements for a real fat-burning firestorm...
These are also known as nitric oxide supplements, the key ingredient being the amino acid arginine. You aren't really taking nitric oxide, you are taking precursor compounds that allow your body to produce NO. These open up blood vessels, getting you a bigger, fuller pump in the gym.
You may be thinking, Looking bigger in the gym is great, but how does that help burn more fat? By opening up blood vessels. When blood can flow more freely, you can melt more fat. (That's especially important prior to cardio.) According to bodybuilding researcher Jerry Brainum...
"Studies show that NO aids fat oxidation, a.k.a. burning, in muscle, heart, liver and fat tissue. It also inhibits the production of fat in fat cells. A substance called AMPK is known to stimulate fat burning. Giving arginine to obese rats doubled the level of AMPK mRNA levels in their fat tissue."
That's a fat-loss double whammy: NO can inhibit fat from accruing and enhance the adipose burning. [Sellman, J.E., et al. (2006). J Appl Physiol. 100:258-65.]
The problem with a lot of vasodilators is they have caffeine. If you stack them with a fat burner, you may O.D. and get those muscle-burning jitters we mentioned (plus, too much caffeine can constrict blood vessels). That being the case, you may want to look for a vasodilator without caffeine.
Jonathan Lawson & Steve Holman.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
The essential amino acid L-leucine has proven itself in recent studies to be the primary spark for protein synthesis and muscle anabolism. BCAAs have it in abundance, but these muscle-building aminos do more than allow you to pack on size faster. Back to top bodybuilding researcher Jerry Brainum. In a feature in IRON MAN magazine, he explained why BCAAs are so important. Here are some of the highlights...
- Levels of testosterone, a major anabolic hormone, were higher when the men took BCAA supplements.
- The results showed that with BCAAs, cortisol levels and levels of an enzyme released during muscle breakdown called creatine kinase, were both reduced compared to when the same subjects didn't get BCAAs.
- Studies also show a relationship between the oxidation, or burning, of fat in muscle, and the subsequent oxidation of BCAAs.
- Recent studies show that taking essential amino acids, including BCAAs, does kick start anabolic effects in muscle if taken prior to exercise because the increased blood flow fostered by training promotes greater amino acid entry into muscle.
- It turns out that BCAAs appear to promote the activity of all three anabolic hormones—GH, testosterone and insulin—which may contribute to the muscle protein-sparing of BCAAs.
Derek Beast Charlebois
Anabolic effects, fat burning, hormone boosting—now you see why BCAAs are key for your fast fat-to-muscle transformation. We've recently discovered a high-potency BCAA product that we really like because it not only has the branched-chain aminos—leucine, valine and isoleucine—in generous amounts but glutamine, a key recovery and immune-boosting amino, and vitamin B6, which helps your body use BCAAs more efficiently and effectively. We're so convinced of BCAAs importance that we take it before and after our weight and cardio workouts.
This soy lipid is the last on the list, but it's a biggie—maybe the most important of all of the other supplements mentioned. Why? Because PS has been shown in countless research studies to decrease cortisol output. [Fahey, T., and Pearl, M. (1998). Biol Sport. 15:135-144.]
Remember cortisol? We mentioned it earlier—it's a stress hormone that forces your body to shovel muscle into the energy furnace—it's a true mass murderer. That means when your cortisol is high, all of the other supplements above become less effective—and some are rendered completely useless (like flushing your money down the toilet). Cortisol also subdues growth hormone and testosterone, two of your most anabolic hormones, so controlling it will make those anabolic compounds more powerful.
What About Fat Burning?
You've no doubt seen the TV commercials that show the relationship between high cortisol and belly fat. While it doesn't quite work the way those ads portray, high cortisol levels do cause extreme carb cravings, which can build ugly body fat stores. Cortisol also stops the fat-burning process in its tracks. It's a protective mechanism so expendable muscle can be annihilated as fat is preserved for famine, or starvation (Gee thanks, Mother Nature).
PS is all natural, and 600 to 800 milligrams has been shown to blunt cortisol output by more than 30 percent. Bonus: It's also been shown to boost mental acuity and focus, so you can generate more intensity.
Here's a summary of everything you should take prior to any workout when you're on a serious fat-to-muscle mission...
- Fat Burner (preferably with forskolin)
- Vasodilator (or nitric oxide precursor—without caffeine if your fat burner has a lot)
- Branched-chain amino acids (2 to 5 capsules—take after you work out as well, if you can afford it)
- Phosphatidylserine (600 to 800 milligrams)
That should put you on the fast track to getting inside-out shredded before you can say "Let 'er rip!"
Note: For more on fat burning diets, training and supplements, visit www.X-tremeLean.com.